A productive week at the Capitol

On balance I would have to say it was a productive week at the Capitol in Denver.

The bills I have introduced are all moving along fine and I was able to amend a couple of others.

The biggest challenge for me so far this session has been trying to draft a bill to clarify the legislative intent of the bills we passed two years ago concerning wildlife protections in regards to oil and gas regulation. Almost everyone who has been involved in the over year-long process to promulgate these new rules has agreed the intent of these rules is a bit uncertain.

Representative Kathleen Curry and I have been working hard to clarify what our intent was. The challenge is to find a balance that protects the property rights of the surface and mineral estate owner and still be able to protect wildlife. We had hoped to have a bill drafted by now, but so far that balance has been elusive. Threatened and endangered species can already trump private property rights and it makes sense to have reasonable protections to keep from adding others species. But restrictions designed to protect deer and elk, for example, shouldn’t occur without the consent of the landowner nor should they be the basis for stopping the issuance of a permit. Others may not agree, but I feel strongly about this.

Last week, my Senate Bill 09-055 passed committee. This bill makes changes to the existing Family Resource Center statutes. The Family Resource Center Program was created in 1993 to address the gaps in human services throughout Colorado’s communities. The program is designed to help low income and vulnerable families to become self-sufficient households through multiple programs that are designed to serve the particular need of the community in which operate. There are several Resource Centers in my district and I appreciate the work they do.

The bill makes some changes to the statues to more clearly define the Center’s primary function: to work with public and private entities to connect families to services that will encourage early-child development and family support systems. The bill would also extend their statutory life, which was set to end next year. The bill also allows the Centers to apply for funding from the Colorado Works Statewide Strategic Use Fund, which was created last year by the legislature. They are currently prohibited from applying for these funds. The money from this fund will go toward community-based programs and services that help TANF-eligible families become self-reliant.

Also last week I passed a bill to extend the funding for the Water Supply Reserve Account. These funds come from the operational account of the Severance Tax trust Fund. When I carried the bill that created this account in 2006, we set it up for four years. The money in this account has gone to help address the shortfall between current water supplies and future water needs in each of the water basins of the state. Each water basin had a water roundtable that determines which entities get this funding. The roundtables have brought people together that hadn’t worked together in the past to foster better communication, cooperation and consensus. The Colorado Water Congress was having meetings in Denver last week, which allowed several of the local chairmen to testify on the bill. They all pointed out the benefits of this funding to their parts of the state. Even though the source of funding for this program is severance tax not general fund the competition for these funds is great. The $10 million I am requesting in the bill may have to be reduced later in the session when we know what others bill may have passed which use these same funds. Also in March we will get a new revenue forecast, which will include severance taxes.

Here’s hoping we get some more snow soon.