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Don Coram: The race to wind up the legislative session

Sen. Don Coram

With three weeks left in the session, the Senate exercise seems to be gaining momentum – that is, flying off the handle and jumping to conclusions. We have had three highly debated bills since my last report.

Transportation Committee heard SB 21-200, which expedites the current plan for reduction of greenhouse gases. Environmental groups are all-in with the elimination of fossil fuels much sooner than previously planned. Local governments, chambers of commerce and energy producers have voiced strong opposition.

Most surprising was the opposition of the Colorado Energy Office and the strong opposition by Gov. Jared Polis, who has said that if SB 21-200 passes, he will veto it. Neither the House nor the Senate will have the two-thirds majority to override a veto. The governor’s opposition is that it gives the appointed Air Quality Control Commission far too much power over the Colorado economy. That is an opinion I share.

The other issue that might be heard by the time this article reaches press is SB 21-087, the Agricultural Workers Bill. Senate leadership assigned the bill to the Business and Labor Committee. Not a lot of expertise on this committee in regard to agricultural production.

To quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Farming is easy when your plow is a pencil, and the corn field is a thousand miles away.” Farming is not a 9-to-5 job. Fifteen dollars an hour is not an uncommon wage, but overtime will actually end up costing most farm workers take-home pay. Common sense and good business people will compensate by having a new employee come on shift after eight hours instead of paying overtime.

To require a tent be sent up for shade for their 15-minute break every four hours is ridiculous. To crawl out of an air-conditioned tractor with stereo, microwave, refrigerator and driven by GPS to take a break in a tent is laughable. Seriously, do you think the tent would ever be used? Having tents available for our livestock employees, in our high-mountain ranges when in many places a road does not even exist, is once again absolutely beyond any practical thinking. This is looking for a solution to a problem that does not exist.

There is a lot of interest in the proposed Public Option for Health Care. Constituents throughout my district have been asking when this bill be heard in committee. Checking the Friday calendar, it was not scheduled. Checking the Monday calendar, it was slated for committee that day. I was quite surprised and disappointed to learn that some of those who wanted to testify remotely were denied that opportunity. In order to testify remotely you had to register 24 hours before. Some tried but were unsuccessful. I am concerned that this “one-size-fits-all” option will lead to the loss of hospitals and medical staff in rural Colorado. To lose your medical license if you do not treat patients covered by this plan is extortion. A big concern is whether you are covered by this plan if you have an incident outside the boundaries of Colorado. That question has not been answered.

For two years, I have expressed my displeasure with appointments to boards and commissions. A bill I co-sponsored with Sen. Jeff Bridges passed this week. It moves the Broadband Commission from Department of Regulatory Affairs to the Office of Information and Technology and reduces committee members from 16 to 11, which amounts to an amendment of an existing law. The original statute read that no more than five members of the commission could be from one party. What has been happening is five Democrats, five unaffiliateds and one Republican have been appointed, most hailing from along the I-25 metro corridor. And some of the unaffiliateds who were appointed had been registered Democrats until as little as 38 days before. Our proposed amendment stated that a minimum of three from each major party and three who are unaffiliated, with geographical diversity, should be appointed. Bridges announced that the governor did not like the amendment, but fairness prevailed and the amendment passed unopposed.

Sen. Don Coram is a Republican representing Distrrict 6 in the Colorado General Assembly.

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