Summary of 2016 Interim Committee Recommendations – Part 1 (of 2)

by Kate Meyer

The Legislative Council is meeting October 14th, 2016, to review and approve bills recommended by interim study committees during the 2016 interim.

This week’s article summarizes the bills recommended by the following committees:

  • The Committee on Cost-benefit Analysis of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado,
  • The Water Resources Review Committee,
  • The Wildfire Matters Review Committee, and
  • The Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission.

Next week, LegiSource will summarize the remaining committees’ recommended bills and report on the actions taken by Legislative Council.

Committee on Cost-benefit Analysis of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado

The Committee on Cost-benefit Analysis of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado (Marijuana Analysis Committee) met three times during the 2016 interim. At its bill request meeting on August 17, 2016, it requested 10 bill drafts be prepared; however, the committee was only allotted five bills.

Before the September 21, 2016, meeting to vote on the bills, Sen. Holbert withdrew his request regarding local zoning authority (Bill 1). When the meeting to vote on bills started, the committee was down to nine bills. At that meeting, Rep. Willett withdrew his request to create a standing statutory interim marijuana committee (Bill 4); Rep. Singer withdrew his request to separate alcohol and drug related DUI crimes to better collect statistics regarding drug related DUIs and provide appropriate sanctions for drug related DUIs (Bill 5); and Sen. Aguilar withdrew both her request to create local government authority for marijuana consumption clubs (Bill 7) and her request to define the term “assist” for purposes of assisting another in growing marijuana under Amendment 64 (Bill 9). Thus, the Marijuana Analysis Committee was left with 5 bills.

The Marijuana Analysis Committee voted 5-0 to move the five remaining bills to Legislative Council. Those bills are:

Bill A: The bill requires the public school capital construction assistance board, when evaluating applications for financial assistance under the “Building Excellent Schools Today Act” (BEST), to consider the extent to which retail marijuana excise tax revenue credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund is derived from each county of the state. The bill also defines the term “technology” to give high priority to BEST applications for projects that are designed to incorporate technology into the educational environment. This technology covers hardware, devices, or equipment necessary for individual student learning and classroom instruction, including access to electronic instructional materials, or necessary for professional use by a classroom teacher.

Bill B: The bill creates the grey and black market marijuana enforcement grant program (grant program) in the division of local government in the department of local affairs (division). The grant program awards grants to reimburse local governments, in part or in full, for training, education, law enforcement, and prosecution costs associated with grey and black marijuana markets. A rural local government with limited law enforcement resources has priority in receiving grants. The general assembly may appropriate money from the marijuana tax cash fund or the proposition AA refund account to the division for the grant program. The division shall adopt policies and procedures for the administration of the grant program, including rules related to the application process and the grant award criteria. The division shall include information regarding the effectiveness of the grant program in its SMART presentation beginning in November 2019.

Bill C: The bill directs the department of education, by July 1, 2017, to create and maintain a resource bank for public schools to use without charge. The resource bank consists of materials and curricula pertaining to marijuana use; and upon request of a public school, to provide technical assistance in designing age-appropriate curricula on marijuana use. The bill authorizes the costs to be paid from the marijuana tax cash fund.

Bill D: The bill adds acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of debilitating medical conditions treatable by medical marijuana.

Bill E: The bill makes it a level 2 drug misdemeanor for a person not licensed to sell medical or retail marijuana to advertise for the sale of marijuana or marijuana concentrate.

To view the bill and resolutions considered by the WMRC, please visit the committee’s website. For questions concerning the legislation, please contact Michael Dohr or Jerry Barry.

Water Resources Review Committee

The Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC) met 5 times over the interim, including meetings in Alamosa, Grand Junction, and Steamboat Springs. The WRRC heard presentations on a variety of water issues, including Colorado River compact compliance, rising groundwater in the South Platte River basin, Colorado’s Water Plan, and lead in drinking water.

At its final hearing on September 20, 2016, the WRRC considered four bills and one resolution. After amending two of the four bills and the resolution, the committee voted to recommend all five measures to the Legislative Council. The measures are:

Joint Resolution A: Aquatic nuisance species, which include such pests as zebra and quagga mussels, have negative effects on fisheries, water ecosystems, and water storage and distribution systems. The primary overland vector for the spread of these species is watercraft conveyances (boats and their trailers). A variety of state and federal agencies perform inspection and decontamination services to limit the spread of these species, depending on the jurisdiction of the particular body of water, though state agencies performed the bulk of the 3 million inspections and nearly 50,000 decontaminations performed in the past 8 years. This resolution encourages various federal agencies to provide funding to implement the State of Colorado Zebra and Quagga Mussel Management Plan.

Bill A: Over time, reservoirs tend to fill up with sediments and consequently lose their storage capacity. The bill appropriates $5 million from the Colorado water conservation board construction fund to the Colorado water conservation board to make loans and grants to enable the recipients to dredge existing reservoirs located in the South Platte River basin to restore the reservoirs’ full decreed storage capacity.

Bill B: Numerous irrigation districts have been formed under the 1921 irrigation district law, which has seldom been amended. The bill updates the law by removing inconsistencies and updating antiquated provisions; clarifying the definition of landowners entitled to receive water, vote in district elections, and serve on the board of directors; increasing dollar figures and, in subsequent years, adjusting for inflation; defining “agricultural land”; revising election procedures; clarifying how irrigation district assessments are collected and held; and modernizing procedures for selling surplus property. The bill also clarifies that water acquired in excess of an irrigation district’s own needs can be leased for all beneficial purposes, rather than only for domestic, agricultural, power, and mechanical purposes, and that the provisions of the 1921 irrigation district law are in addition to powers conferred on irrigation districts in other statutes.

Bill C: After the passage of House Bill 13-1044 in 2013, the water quality control commission developed standards for the use of graywater, which is wastewater from laundry, baths, sinks, and showers. To facilitate scientific research on graywater use and collection conducted by institutions of higher education, the Bill C creates a scientific research exemption from the commission’s graywater standards.

Bill D: Some of the statutes concerning the state engineer date back to 1889 and read like it, too. The bill updates the language of the statutes concerning the state engineer and the state engineer’s department to conform to modern drafting conventions. The bill also restructures the fee that the state engineer may charge for rating certain types of water infrastructure from $25 per day to a flat fee of $75; increases the amount of time for filing comments on a substitute water supply plan from 30 days to 35 days after the state engineer mails notice of the plan; and repeals outdated requirements concerning certain fees, oath of office, and certain state engineer duties.

The bills and resolutions considered by the WRRC can be accessed on the committee’s website. For questions concerning the legislation, please contact Tom Morris or  Jennifer Berman.

Wildfire Matters Review Committee

The Wildfire Matters Review Committee (WMRC) conducted two field tours (one in southern Colorado and the other along the I-70 Corridor) and met twice at the state capitol during the 2016 interim. On those trips and at those hearings, the committee heard from a diverse array of persons and entities affected by wildfire in the state. Issues discussed included wildfire prevention and suppression; forest health, air quality, and watershed protection; biomass utilization and the wood products industry; emergency response coordination; and the financial and other costs wildfire has on communities in Colorado.

On September 19th, 2016, the WMRC voted to recommend the following:

Bill A: Under current law, the borrower in a reverse mortgage transaction is relieved of the obligation to occupy the subject property as a principal residence if the borrower is temporarily absent for up to 60 days or, if the property is adequately secured, up to one year. Bill A adds a third exception to the principal-residence requirement to cover situations in which a natural disaster or other serious incident beyond the borrower’s control renders the property uninhabitable. The maximum time allowable for a temporary absence under these circumstances is five years.

Resolution A expresses the General Assembly’s support for the continued research, development, and application of biochar (a solid material obtained when organic matter is heated in an oxygen-limited environment) from Colorado’s forests. The resolution discusses the environmental and economic benefits of utilizing biochar as a reforestation and fire prevention tool in state forests. The resolution also highlights the current uses of biochar and the support of the General Assembly in continuing research of its uses, including fuel load removal and reforestation processes.

Memorial A concerns the need for Congress to fund catastrophic wildfire response costs outside of federal forest management agencies’ normal budgets. This memorial is similar to former years’ memorials asking Congress to appropriately fund the rising costs of wildland firefighting and address the issue of “fire borrowing”, which occurs when agencies take funds away from forest health and fire prevention activities to help pay the costs to fight current wildfires.

To view the bill and resolutions considered by the WMRC, please visit the committee’s website. For questions concerning the legislation, please contact Bob Lackner or Kate Meyer.

                    Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission

The Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission met once during the 2016 interim for an annual briefing from the Fire and Police Pension Association (FPPA) and to consider two bills recommended by the FPPA Board of Directors (Board) for introduction during the 2017 legislative session. Based on the Board’s recommendations, the commission approved the following two bills:

Bill A: To assist FPPA employers in establishing a deferred compensation plan, the Board is currently authorized to develop a master deferred compensation plan document for use by employers to establish individual plans. The bill authorizes the Board to develop a multi-employer deferred compensation plan document to allow employers to join a multi-employer plan.

Bill B: Current law specifies that an employer in a statewide pension plan administered by the FPPA may modify its status in the plan through a vote of the members of the plan. In some cases, a modification must be approved by 65% of the members employed by the employer, and in other cases, a modification must be approved by 65% of the members employed by the employers who vote in the election for the modification. The bill creates a uniform approval standard by requiring that any modifications be approved by 65% of the members employed by the employer who vote in the election for the plan modification.

Both of the bills that the commission considered are available for review on the commission’s website. For questions concerning the FPPA, contact Nicole Myers.