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Controversy, where none belongs

It seems to happen to every legislator at least once in their time at the Capitol.

A bill you are certain to be non-controversial becomes far more complicated and contentious than you expected. This is the case with a bill I am sponsoring, House Bill 1051. HB 1051 establishes an annual reporting requirement for water providers. These entities, ranging from municipalities to special water districts, already collect much of this information and by statute are required to report it every seven years. My bill would move that requirement up to yearly reporting so we may better examine water conservancy efforts. After different interests cited numerous concerns about the bill, the Colorado Water Congress created a subcommittee at my request to work out the kinks in the bill. While we have achieved some success, there is still much work to be done. I will continue to pursue this bill. The long-term stability of our water is too important to Colorado. It all begins with good data and this bill will establish guidelines for information to be collected on a regular basis.

Another bill many legislators thought to be non-controversial is House Bill 1188, or the “rafting” bill. As many of you know by now, that turned out not to be the case. I had a meeting this week with the commercial rafting industry that supports HB 1188, as well as farmers, ranchers, and landowners opposed to the bill. While I understand both sides of the argument, I have some real concerns with the bill as it’s drafted. Allowing our rivers to be declared “navigable” could have unforeseen legal consequences and may open the door to federal regulation of Colorado’s rivers. Our rivers belong to Colorado, not the federal government. We must keep it that way. It is incredibly disheartening to see the issue reduced to a fight between rafters and landowners. They have always been able to reach agreements appropriate for both parties. In my opinion HB 1188 does not preserve that agreement; it endangers it.

A Joint Agriculture and Natural Resources committee meeting called for the support of federal legislation being introduced by Sen. Mark Udall. The “Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2009” is a federal measure to protect good samaritans from liability and facilitate voluntary cleanups of abandoned hardrock mines. Abandoned and inactive mines represent some of the worst threats to water quality in Colorado. In some cases “Good Samaritans” (parties who did not contribute to the pollution and are not legally liable for cleanup at a mine site) volunteer for the cleanup of abandoned or inactive mines. However, current law deters some Good Samaritans from doing so because of potential liabilities under the Clean Water Act. The Animas Stakeholders Group is one such organization working on cleanup of abandoned mines in our community.

Discussion about art in public buildings quickly turned into a larger debate about the priorities of funding during difficult times. One percent of capitol construction funding is currently reserved for the development and placement of public art in public buildings. On college campuses in Colorado, some of the capitol construction projects are funded through student fees. I supported a measure brought forth by Sen. Schwartz to exempt projects funded through student fees from the 1 percent requirement. Without this amendment, the students would have to pay the extra 1 percent through increased student fees to fund these projects. Although I recognize the importance of public art, I could not justify that extra charge for students. The cost of higher education in this state is already too costly for many Colorado families.

As always, thanks for reading.