Legislative Update: Legislature in Final Quarter
Even as it continues to introduce new bills, the General Assembly approaches its final 32 days of the session. Controversial issues such as the “Red Flag bill” (a bill to remove guns from persons deemed a threat to themselves others), the complete remake of the state’s Oil and Gas regulatory structure (SB 181), a family leave insurance bill, and a bill to follow the National Popular Vote have resulted in late hours, early mornings, and harsh words both at the Capitol and in the media. Recall petitions are in the works, and some voters are likely questioning their choices last November. The aggressive agenda of November’s “Blue Wave” has literally taken the breath away from close observers. The assault on the oil and gas industry which rewrote the mission of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) and changed its composition brought dire predictions of lost jobs and tax revenues to the state and local governments. While time will tell how significant the impact on Colorado’s economy might be, it is indisputable that the more stringent permitting rules and influence of local government land use controls will prove daunting for small operators. And job loss may manifest itself in support services before actual cutbacks in operational positions.
Climate concerns have been an overriding theme for much of the legislature’s action, with two bills directing a more robust climate emissions inventory, company reporting of emissions, and unfettered authority to the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt measures to position Colorado to meet an 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2050 and a target of 100% renewable energy by 2040 or sooner. Proponents of the measures tout thousands of new jobs that will develop in the clean energy sector with little evidence to back up those claims. Some of the impetus for these actions will come from the Public Utilities Commission which is likely to see significantly more direction from the legislature in the upcoming Sunset Review bill. And, Xcel Energy (Public Service Co. of Colorado) is pushing legislation to enshrine its Colorado Energy Plan in statute which will bolster the other climate bills.
Everyone under the Capitol dome from legislators to lobbyists and staff need to rewind and start again at a slower speed if policy-making is to receive the careful vetting Colorado citizens deserve.