Legislative Update: Moving forward, but is it progress?

The legislature has been in “real” session for almost one month. After returning on February 16, 410 bills were introduced, and hearings began. Bill topics varied from mitigation and suppression of wildfires to social equity and criminal justice reform, with a wide range in between. But the “big ticket” items in terms of policy such as transportation and tax policy remain to be introduced. We are certain that changes to various credits and exemptions important to mining and other extractive industries is on the way while major environmental and energy legislation remains waiting in the wings. For example, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals last week handed down its decision denying a Department of Justice request to hold in abeyance any action on the stay concerning the new WOTUS rule, making the June 22 Trump administration rule applicable to Colorado as well as the rest of the nation. That leaves unanswered the fate of a proposed dredge and fill program for Colorado to protect state waters, those waters governed by state law by no longer covered under jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers 404 permits. CDPHE has notified previous stakeholder participants that it will reopen discussions on the topic.

Also under continued discussion among parties is the vague funding program for transportation. Support by various business organizations for increased fees along with General Fund monies, and pushed by legislative leadership, a clear and concise proposal remains on the drafting table.

A new Air Toxics bill has emerged, which directs the air quality control commission to consider, at least every five years, adding new types of covered air toxics and adjusting the applicable emission thresholds. It requires notification of impacted communities within three miles of the facility and requires fence line monitoring. Although it appears primarily directed at petroleum refineries, CMA will watch it carefully particularly with the broad authority allowing the Air Commission to enlarge requirement by rule.

A new bill to privatize Pinnacol Assurance was introduced (similar to at least two previous attempts) and awaits hearing. And a new bill on civil liability for employers seeks to overturn the holdings of a recent Colorado Supreme Court case by allowing a plaintiff to bring direct negligence claims against an employer or against a principal that admits liability for the actions of its agent.

The legislature still has 96 days in which to wreak havoc, so hold onto your hats!