Federal and State Government News – August 2018

Hold onto your hats (and wallets)—campaigns are underway!

If you have been watching your mailbox and observing the young people standing around grocery stores holding clipboards, you have probably figured out that we are entering an election cycle. The 2018 General Election will be held November 6 to elect a new Governor, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General, members of the Colorado House of Representatives (all 65), half of the state Senate, and assorted other state and local officials.

Candidates are seeking financial contributions to run their campaigns and votes from registered electors in their respective districts. The June 26 primary election weeded out several potential candidates to determine who would be the face of the two major political parties on the November ballot. In addition, in several districts minor party candidates such as Libertarian, Green Party, and Independent candidates (not affiliated with a party) will also appear.

CMA has participated with other statewide business organizations in interviewing candidates to identify those who support mining or are open to learning more about our industry.  We will continue to talk with these candidates prior to the election and work with them (should they win) to provide a better appreciation for the role mining plays in Colorado’s economy.

Newly-elected legislators will get a look at the Capitol and preview their new offices on November 9 when they begin orientation. Phase 2 of that process is scheduled for Dec. 3-5 and Phase 3 takes place Dec. 17-18. SURPRISE! This year the legislative session convene Friday, January 4, a departure from previous years with a later mid-week start date.

Ballot Initiatives Matter

In addition to a lengthy list of candidates, the ballot may see several proposed changes (both statutory and constitutional amendments).

Two competing initiatives address transportation funding. Initiative #153 calls for an increase in the state’s sales and use tax from 2.9% to 3.52% for a period of 20 years. Initiative 167 (Fix our damn roads) requires CDOT to issue transportation bonds to construct and maintain roads and bridges (no transit) without increasing taxes.

Oil and gas issues also present competing measures. Initiative #97 requires a 2500-foot setback for all new oil/gas facilities from occupied structures and “vulnerable areas”, effectively sterilizing more than three quarters of private land in the state. Initiative 108 amends the state constitution to require compensation for any diminution in fair market value resulting from governmental action. Initiatives #178-181 basically restate existing law with regard to property rights and local government authority over oil/gas operations.  Initiative #97 is drawing the most attention (and concern) because of the potentially devastating effect on Colorado’s economy both in terms of lost jobs and revenues to state and local governments. Controversy also surrounds one firm circulating petitions that has reportedly left the state over disputed bill payments. Learn more.

Legislators Looking to the Future

Although it seems that the legislature just adjourned, in fact it has been eleven weeks and plans are underway for the 2019 session. With the question of which political party controls the two chambers and the Governor’s office up in the air until November 6 (and maybe a few days afterward), draft legislation is being formulated by interest groups, interim legislative committees, and stakeholders.

The Water Resources Review Committee has begun its cycle of interim meetings to receive briefings on a wide range of topics related to water rights, water quality, and watershed protection. Meetings are scheduled for August 6-7 at the Capitol and again August 23 at the fall Colorado Water Congress conference in Vail.

An interim committee devoted to studying alternatives to the Gallagher Amendment (property tax ratio) met at the Capitol and in Glenwood Springs, and is planning additional meetings in Pueblo (Aug. 17), and at the Capitol August 21 and Oct. 3.  The committee is exploring potential solutions to the loss of revenue for local governments and special districts resulting from a disproportionate ratio between residential and non-residential real property. Little can be done absent constitutional amendment.
Individual legislators who are returning (for example, Senators who are not up for re-election) are also meeting with stakeholders to discuss issues of particular interest such as health care.

New Regulations Coming Out of State Agencies

CDPHE held the first stakeholder meeting to plan for TENORM regulations on July 11. Future meetings are being delayed until a contractor is hired by the department to work with the rule development, likely in September. Initial efforts will be focused on receiving public comment concerning areas of discussion set forth in authorizing statute including setting an exempt level; setting regulatory limits for landfill disposal; setting regulatory limits for beneficial reuse; setting regulatory limits for radioactive materials licensing; implementing limits/levels; other issues identified by the stakeholders. Public comment is being accepted from August 1 through Oct. 31. Comments should be sent to Jennifer Opila.

The Air Quality Control Commission anticipates a request for proposed rulemaking on California Vehicle Standards (low emission vehicle) requirements for Colorado at is August meeting. At the July meeting Tesla representatives touted Zero Emission Vehicles (zev) as well.  The Commission has discussed the issue during the past couple of years, but the Governor’s recent Executive Order gave new strength to the Commission’s desire to move toward a California-type program.

Washington News

Changes proposed for Endangered Species.  At the US Fish and Wildlife Serivce (FWS) three proposed rules published in the July 25 Federal Register address procedures and criteria for listing species as threatened or endangered, for designating critical habitat and the procedures for inter-agency (Section 7) consultation, among others. A 60-day public comment period will end September 24, 2018.

Safety Improvement Technologies for Mobile Equipment at Surface Mines, and for Belt Conveyors at Surface and Underground Mines

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of the Regulations for Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of the Regulations for Prohibitions to Threatened Wildlife and Plants

In Congress, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) has introduced H.R. 6344 to amend the Endangered Species Act to allow the federal government to work with private landowners on voluntary conservation measures and reimburse them for their costs.

Also in the July 25 Federal Register, MSHA announced six public stakeholder meetings concerning Safety Improvement Technologies for Mobile Equipment at Surface Mines and for Belt Conveyors at Surface and Underground Mines. The location closest to Colorado is Reno, Nevada with a meeting scheduled at 9 am August 21. MSHA will also host a webinar August 16. Comments will be received by the agency until December 24, 2018. Learn more.