Lawmakers balk at immigration bill

Republican Rep. Baumgardner asks Ag panel to delete most of new bill

DENVER – A Republican lawmaker backed away Monday from his second attempt to pass an Arizona-style immigration law.

Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, previously killed his own Arizona-style bill that would have let police stop suspected illegal immigrants. He recently introduced a scaled-down version, House Bill 1309.

On Monday, Baumgardner asked the House Agriculture Committee to delete most of his new bill. It now merely tells employers to produce documents that their employees are legal and with fines of up to $25,000 if they repeatedly ignore requests by state regulators.

The last-minute rewrite irritated Eddie Soto, who drove from Durango to testify against HB 1309.

“Is that normally the way the Legislature works? You throw a bill away and then come up with a new bill? It doesn’t seem democratic,” Soto said.

The new version of HB 1309 passed 8-5 and now faces a vote of the full House.

Also Monday:

b One of former Gov. Bill Ritter’s favorite government offices would see major changes under a bill the House Agriculture Committee approved 8-5.

HB 1312 changes the Governor’s Energy Office from a group focused on renewable energy to a smaller office that will promote all forms of energy, including gas and oil.

The sponsor, Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, said Gov. John Hickenlooper supports his plan, but no one from Hickenlooper’s energy office testified Monday.

Environmentalists came out in large numbers to oppose the bill, but Republicans such as Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction saw it as a chance to promote traditional energy. The state government should back natural-gas cars, Scott said.

“We’ve missed the target, in my humble opinion. The largest polluter in this state is Mother Nature, number one, automobiles, number two,” Scott said.

The bill is now headed to the House Appropriations Committee.

b A bipartisan group introduced a bill to repeal last year’s “Amazon tax” on Internet sales. HB 1318 would require out-of-state retailers to notify their customers that they owe use taxes, which are the same as sales taxes and are levied on customers who buy goods from out of state.

But the bill would take away the state revenue department’s ability to subpoena business records and enforce the tax.

A leading foe of the Amazon tax, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, introduced the bill. Her co-sponsor is Democrat Sue Schafer of Wheat Ridge.

A hearing has not been scheduled yet.

b A bill to cut business personal property taxes died 3-2 in the Senate State Affairs Committee. The House had previously passed HB 1141, which aimed for a two-year suspension of the tax. Local governments opposed it because they would have lost $190 million per year.

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