GOP Reverses Pre-Majority Democrat Initiatives
Senate Republicans took advantage of their newfound majority this last week by reversing, on initial action, gun laws passed in 2013 and rural area renewable energy mandates also imposed in 2013. The action, is likely shortlived, however, as the measures face an uphill battle in the Democrat controlled House.
In 2013, the Democrat controlled legislature passed a law that forced rural electricity providers to join their urban counterparts in getting 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Republicans have long argued the mandate was unfair. Senate Democrats, led by Senator Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), argue that the standard has helped lower the cost of renewable energy, which they say now is cheaper than coal or natural gas to produce electricity. The proposed change only affects rural areas, leaving Xcel Energy and other urban providers to comply with the renewable energy standard. The Senate passed Senate Bill 44 on a party-line 18-17 vote. The bill moves to the House where it faces one of the sponsors of the 2013 legislation, Representative Dickie Lee Hullinghorst, now Speaker of the House. NCLA opposed the 2013 measure.
The passage of a myriad of gun control measures in 2013 spelled the demise of three State Senators and contributed to the shift in majority to Republicans in the 2014 election cycle. This week, Republicans went to work on reversing several of the gun control measures and began bring a few Democrats into the fold in the process. Republicans efforts to reverse several of the measures were defeated in the Democrat-controlled House this week but they found success in passage of a measure repealing the expanded background check requirements on private and online gun sales.
Hickenlooper Oil and Gas Panel Floats 57 Ideas
After months of hearings and enduring changes to the political landscape, the Governor’s oil and gas task force began the process of floating and winnowing ideas for addressing concerns about drilling in Colorado. The task force is charged with making recommendations to the Governor and to the Legislature by February 27th setting the stage for vibrant debate in March on the volatile issue.
The task force has 57 proposals before it with two-thirds vote of the commission required to include the proposal among the list of recommendations from the task force. The proposals run the gamut from increased state oversight of oil and gas operations, a study of health impacts to increased local control of operations and disclosure of drilling chemicals.
Increased state oversight of operations garnered a sufficient amount of task force member support to move to the next phase in the process. A measure which sought to increase setbacks for operations depending upon the number of wells and tanks, however, was rejected by 57% of the task force on a straw vote.
The task force was formed last year by Governor Hickenlooper in a deal that kept four measures off the November ballot, two of which would have restricted hydraulic fracturing. Congressman Jared Polis was behind the two restrictive measures and has indicated he will pursue ballot initiatives in 2016 if he is not satisfied with the task force recommendations and legislative action on the issue.
The legislature will receive the recommendations from the task force in March and will consider any legislative action necessary.