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Lawmakers hit the ground running

Dozens of bills introduced at the start of new session
Colorado lawmakers already have introduced dozens of bills at the start of the legislative session that began Wednesday. Some of the more hot-button issues will revolve around gun control, marijuana and renewable energy.

DENVER – Lawmakers introduced a flurry of bills at the start of the legislative session this week, ranging from measures cracking down on medical marijuana to rolling back gun-control laws and renewable-energy mandates.

Several controversial measures were introduced by Republicans in an attempt to spark a conversation. With Republicans now controlling the Senate, those bills are likely to pass floor debate in that chamber. But Democrats still control the House, where many of the measures are unlikely to pass.

Taking a shot at gun control

Of the nearly 120 bills introduced at the start of the session – which began Wednesday – Republicans have introduced at least four measures around firearms, including two that would repeal laws passed by Democrats in 2013.

One measure, House Bill 1009, would repeal the ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds. Another bill, House Bill 1050, would eliminate a background check requirement for private sales and transfers, as well as related fees.

Other perennial firearms measures would extend the right to use deadly force against an intruder at businesses and another that would allow citizens to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, acknowledged that many of the firearms attempts won’t survive the legislative process.

“The reality of this place is it’s more than just the numbers you can get to in the chambers; it comes down oftentimes to a smaller number in a committee or two, and that’s obviously where all bills go, but not all bills survive,” Cadman said.

Renewable-energy standards

Republicans also are energized to roll back renewable-energy standards, pointing to a 2013 Democratic-pushed measure that placed a mandate on providers in rural Colorado.

At least two measures already have been introduced to ease the mandate, which requires that rural electric co-operatives must increase their use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2020.

The measures introduced so far are Senate Bill 44, which would reduce the standard to 15 percent, and Senate Bill 46, which would allow utilities to count each kilowatt-hour of electricity obtained as 3 kilowatt-hours to meet the standard.

Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, said rolling back the mandate is a critical issue, pointing out that ratepayers in Southwest Colorado have reported increased rates as a result of the law.

“The Rural Electric Association and our co-ops have just said that it’s going to be really hard for them to do that in the time they need to,” Brown said.

Medical marijuana crackdown

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are eager to crack down on the state’s medical marijuana system, especially as it pertains to caregivers.

Colorado law allows patients to appoint a caregiver to grow medical marijuana for them, but there is no registry system for those caregivers.

Senate Bill 14, which came out of the interim Marijuana Revenues Committee, would require caregivers to register with the state or face penalties, including being prohibited from ever registering as a caregiver.

Another marijuana bill, House Bill 1036, would require medical marijuana centers to display a sign warning women about the possible dangers of smoking marijuana while pregnant.

Tough on crime and safety

In addition to getting tough on marijuana as a safety issue, lawmakers also are taking a look at broader issues around crime.

At least three measures have been introduced to address human trafficking, child sex abuse and trafficking for purposes of prostitution.

Several other measures take a look at alcohol, including a resurrected bill that would create a felony penalty for multiple DUIs. Another measure temporarily would ban powdered alcohol, which comes in pouches and can be added to water or mixers.

Water issues

And while water won’t be the centerpiece issue of the Legislature this year, several lawmakers already are taking a look.

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is taking another stab at curbing phreatophytes, a deep-rooted plant that takes in significant amounts of water, draining resources. He also has introduced a bill that would require a study of alterative methods to lowering the water table in areas that are experiencing damaging high groundwater levels.

Also, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, introduced a measure that aims to promote water conservation in government land use planning.

Many of the water issues play into a larger plan that is being developed for the entire state.

“Colorado’s Water Plan, how that’s going to affect Western and Southwestern Colorado, is certainly front and center,” Coram said.


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