The 2023 legislative session wrapped up Monday, May 8. During the last few days and nights of the session, lawmakers made decisions on how and who will determine how Colorado’s communities will govern local land use matters. Secondly, after procrastinating months with the knowledge that Coloradoans will experience massive increases in property tax assessments on their homes, Governor Polis and Democratic leaders are rushed through a scheme to use taxpayer refunds generated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights limiting statewide spending to “buy down” property tax increases created by increased property values and protecting school districts, local governments and special districts who rely on property tax revenue.
The General Assembly have made two critical decisions that affect Coloradoans in their everyday lives leaving us to ask ourselves two questions:
- Will suburban democrats disregard the forceful and almost unanimous opposition from local governments and residents (called Nimby’s) to pre-empt local government land use authority as it pertains to residential zoning and community planning?
- Should Coloradoans (especially those who rent) give up constitutionally guaranteed tax refunds generated from state income and sales taxes to pay for their own (or in the case of renters, others) property tax relief? Ironically, homeowners shouldn’t be surprised they face rapidly increasing property tax bills as they repealed the Gallagher amendment just two years ago that provided constitutional protections for residential property taxpayers at the expense of other taxpayers?
We can’t predict the answers to those two questions, but majority democrats have been desperate to appear to be solving the property tax crisis every homeowner will discover when they soon receive their new notice of valuation shortly, and subsequently their property tax bill next January. Voters must vote to enact this scheme but may also elect to vote to put a hard limit on property tax collections as proposed by a different citizen-initiated ballot measure.
SB23-213 which covered the land use issues pertaining to local government was killed in the Senate on the final night of session. The bill reflected a momentous change in public policy as Governor Polis clearly declared that “housing policy is climate policy”. However, lawmakers, already having passed 55 bills addressing climate, air quality and oil and gas are increasingly interested in pursuing strategies directly affecting citizens including efforts to ban the sale of gasoline fired lawn and garden equipment.
It’s in that context that I want members to understand the depth of issues that face both everyday Coloradans and Colorado’s business community. Fortunately, no mining legislation was proposed, the environmental community has devoted its significant influence with legislative democrats in changing Colorado’s air quality and oil and gas laws.
I want to thank CMA’s lobbyist Dianna Orf for all her efforts in representing CMA every legislative day at the capitol this year. Dianna and I have talked frequently about the changing climate at the legislature, and I am grateful for her efforts to speak forcefully for CMA as well as keep our membership thoroughly informed about legislative activities.
I also want to thank CMA Vice Chair for Government Affairs Jim Sanderson (Government Affairs) and Chantell Johnson (Water Quality) for their leadership and coordination particularly as we addressed a state discussion regarding Waters of the United States that could have been a legislative issue, at the same time a policy discussion convened by Governor Polis. I also want to thank Government Affairs committee members for meeting faithfully weekly (even on holidays) and their coordination and cooperation at the state capitol on a daily basis.
We don’t need to look far to outline our work following Sine Die, air quality and the Colorado River Basin. HB23-1294 Pollution Protection Measures created a legislative interim committee on Ozone Air Quality. And SB23-295 created the Colorado River Drought Task Force which will be developing recommendations for legislation that will provide tools to address drought in the Colorado River Basin. The Ozone Air Quality Interim Committee and the Colorado River Drought Task Force will be meeting several times during the 2023 interim.
Our workload could be affected ironically by the U.S. Supreme Court’s anticipated Sackett decision which could affect aspects of WOTUS, and whether Colorado water quality (and attorney general) will push to regulate “gap waters” perhaps not covered under a Court decision altering the current regulatory structure governing this topic.
Looking forward, we also plan to review and revise policy positions we’ve taken in the past as recent legislation has altered many of the elements of the programs regulating Colorado’s environment. An emerging issue needing addressing for the first time is legislator’s interest in limiting who can acquire natural resource, water, or land assets.