Mid-session sees important bills moving through the Colorado Legislature

Last week began with another delayed flight by United Airlines, which caused me to arrive in Denver at noon, after I was scheduled to be there at 8 a.m.

Consequently, I was unable to attend the annual Conservation Youth Corps Award Ceremony, where my constituent, Auston Craig of the Southwest Conservation Corps-Four Corners, was honored. I truly regret my failure to present Auston his award.

State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and I were named Legislators of the Year by the Youth Corps, and former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar received the Champion for Youth Award.

Our legislative week began in the House Ag committee with a presentation regarding the impact of climate change on Colorado. Climate change is affecting our weather across the state. There was some good news in the presentation because we have improved our statewide air quality in some areas. However, future forecasts for our state include temperature increases, wildfire risk, drought and more turbulent weather, unless we take drastic steps to reverse this trend. We must recognize climate change will affect us and all future generations.

In the House Judiciary Committee, we voted on two bills. House Bill 1041, which would have eliminated our court-approved and legislative-enacted concealed-weapons permit system, was defeated on a 7-4 vote. I saw no valid reason to eliminate the training and background-check elements of the system, which is administered by county sheriffs. Another bill, HB 1084 will establish a comprehensive legislative system addressing the theft of motor vehicles and motor-vehicle parts. This bill was approved with unanimous support.

Today, the Joint Senate and House Agriculture Committee received an update on Colorado’s wind turbine industry. Those of us on the Western Slope who have not traveled to Lincoln and Bent counties may not be aware of the hundreds of wind turbines now generating electricity. In addition to making a substantial contribution to our electrical needs, these wind turbines support more than 600 jobs in Colorado with significant impacts in the counties where they have been installed. In Bent County, the Twin Buttes project contributes $291,233 in property taxes. The county leased turbine sites also have benefited from generous royalty and lease payments, providing farmers and ranchers a significant second source of income. In Lincoln County, there are a total of 336 wind turbine towers. These projects have provided nearly $7 million in sales and use taxes. These two examples show that wind energy creates jobs and positively affects the lives of the people in places where wind turbines are installed.

I am critically aware of the impact of federal decision-making on the economy and people of the 59th District. Two bills heard in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee illustrate the need for strong bipartisanship among Western Slope representatives. Rep. Bob Rankin’s HB 1150 seeks to establish a coordinator within the Department of Local Affairs to present a unified regional response to federal land decisions. I voted with the Western Slope caucus, not my party, to advance this bill for further discussion in the House of Representatives. It needs substantial refinement and may be broader in scope than necessary, but I fully support a state voice in the federal-land-management process.

Finally, I want to highlight HB 1028, similar to a controversial bill from last year. It confronts the federal government’s attempts to link federal permits, such as ski area and grazing permits, to the surrender of privately held water rights. While I struggled with this statute last year, I believe we must speak forcefully against this federal interference with private-property water rights. When this bill comes to a committee vote, I will vote in its favor and continue to speak on behalf of the residents of the 59th District. I believe the federal government cannot remove, detract or diminish private-property rights without just compensation.

I remain honored to be your representative.

McLachlan represents House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale counties and part of Gunnison County. Call McLachlan at (303) 866-2914 or email mike.mclachlan.house@state.