Legislative Update: Not in session, but work goes on

It is an odd time for legislative involvement. Officially, the General Assembly is in a temporary adjournment until February 16. Some legislative committees continue to work, however. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) of course meets year-round, and almost daily from November through May or June planning, and later wrapping up, the state’s budget. Committees of Reference (those standing committees with oversight responsibility for Executive Branch agencies and programs) have also met to review each agency or program’s achievement related to the previous year’s goals and top priorities for the coming year. So, the Joint Committees on Transportation & Energy, Agriculture, Finance, Education, Health, Business Labor & Technology, and Judiciary have met, or will meet, prior to February 16. Sunset Review hearings for State regulatory boards and programs that were scheduled for review in 2021 for recommendations on continuation or termination have also met. And of course, the Audit Committee and the Capitol Development Committee (both year-round committees) continue their work. Presumably, none of this counts against the 120 day limit for the legislative session, leaving ample time for the body to conduct regular business in the remaining 117 days remaining (they met for three days following convening on January 13).

Much of the legislative participation has been conducted online via WebEx, an interactive platform allowing legislators, agency officials, staff, and members of the public alike to dial in via personal computer and appear on a large screen in the committee hearing room. Public testimony on issues under discussion (such as SMART Act hearings and Sunset Review) can be presented in person (although not encouraged), via WebEx, or submitted online to a legislative committee Dropbox. In this way, proceedings are as close to “normal” as possible while not having the Capitol filled with large crowds. What will happen on and after February 16 is anyone’s guess. The online participation is authorized to continue throughout the session with staff hired for each committee to handle the technical issues that invariably arise.

On February 16, all the bills that have been drafted for the 100 legislators will be introduced in a few days’ time, assigned to committees, and scheduled for hearing. Committee work to pass, amend, or kill those bills will likely move quickly. Last year the abbreviated session led to many bills being scrapped mid-process due to lack of time and available funding. Many of those efforts will return, along with new ambitious goals in the areas of environment, energy, healthcare, wildlife (reintroduction of wolves), PUC reform and the perennial issue of transportation funding. This year, however, Colorado’s business community is pushing new funding sources and spending along with legislative leadership.

On the regulatory front, it appears that the DRMS projected rulemaking for hardrock minerals will be delayed with more stakeholder meetings, DRMS revisions to the December redline draft release in March or April, and a rulemaking scheduled for June or July. The deadline for comments on the proposed rules and any alternative proposals is February 18. Check the DRMS website for any schedule updates.

The Air Quality Commission will hear the Environmental Defense Fund petition for rulemaking on a proposed cap and trade program at the February 19 Commission meeting. The agenda lists the following:

“The Environmental Defense Fund will request that the Commission set a hearing to consider revisions to Regulation Number 22, Part A to establish GHG reporting requirements for fuel suppliers and importers based upon the emissions resulting from the combustion or oxidation of the fuel distributed or sold in Colorado, as well as a new Regulation Number 22, Part C that would establish an emission limit across most of Colorado’s major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, while enabling the use of an emissions trading system for compliance with that limit.”

The following information was provided concerning public comment:

“General Public Comment of approximately an hour will be held at the beginning of this meeting where you are invited to provide oral comments on any air pollution issue of your choosing and may end early if all commenters that are registered and in attendance have had an opportunity to speak. Oral public comments will not be accepted following agenda items for this meeting. General public comments. If you wish to provide oral public comment, in addition to registering to attend the meeting you must also fill out the Google Forms linked above, which will be activated at 8:00am on February 9, 2021.”

Go to the Commission’s website.