Over the past few weeks I have written about several of the bills I am sponsoring. They all are still moving through the legislative process.
HB 1014 that will provide funds for the Division of Real Estate to review appraisal and certify Land Trusts passed second reading in the Senate last Friday and will heard on third reading in the Senate next Tuesday. Since this bill started in the House and then moved to the Senate, once this bill passes third reading the next stop will be for the governor’s signature.
Senate Bills 43, 80 and 55 have all passed out of the Senate and are waiting to be heard in the House. These are the bills that merge San Juan Basin Technical College and Pueblo Community College, allow for the collection of rooftop precipitation, and extend the life of and provide other funding opportunities for the Family Resource Centers. They all passed out of the Senate with only minor amendments and shouldn’t encounter any problems in the House. A subcommittee of the Colorado Water Congress had proposed some changes to the rooftop collection bill that I didn’t incorporate into the bill in the Senate. I agree with part of their suggestions and will work on an amendment for the House sponsor to offer when the bill is heard there. I didn’t want to hold the bill up in the Senate for minor changes.
Senate Bill 124, the bill to extend the funding of energy-related projects in the Departments of Agriculture Value Added grants program, was heard in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee last week. Everyone on the committee was supportive of the program, but a couple members were concerned that too much was being spent on feasibility and research and too little on actual construction. They were concerned because the list of the funded projects provided to the committee didn’t show the amounts of the grants. It showed more studies than actual construction projects. However, in terms of the dollars spent, they are evenly split between the construction and research. I explained to the committee that the $500,000 per year that had been going into the fund was never going to build a lot of projects and that helping determine which projects were feasible was a critical step that needed to happen before building the projects. The goal is to help rural communities become more sustainable by adding value to the products they produce and utilizing local resources. If adequate research isn’t done to determine if a project is feasible, scarce resources can be wasted.
Senate Bill 106 which extends funding for the Water Supply Reserve Account was passed out of Senate Appropriations last week and will now be coming to the floor.
This funding has been critical to moving water projects forward in all basins of the state and this bill extends that funding into the future. Support for the program is good but we would pay for the program with excess dollars in the Operation Account of the Severance Tax Trust Fund. With the decline of natural gas prices, severance tax dollars that flow into this fund have also declined. We created a mechanism last year that proportionately allocates the available dollars between each programs paid for from this fund. This could result in a reduction of one third to one half of the funds of all of these programs. But having this process in place does allow this bill to move forward.
Next week, we will start debating the necessary changes to balance the current year’s budget. The process will be similar to what we usually do every year for the following year’s budget. The decline in revenues has been so great this year that it is necessary to have a process that allows the whole Legislature participate. Once that is done, we will move on to next year’s budget.