Legislative Update: November 2021

Halloween may be over, but still plenty of scary things happening!

More candidates line up to run for the new 8th Congressional District in Colorado, which stretches from the north Denver suburbs up into Greeley. Current and former legislators are among those who have tossed their hats into the ring. And in the 3rd Congressional District which includes much of the Western Slope, one candidate has withdrawn her candidacy. State Senator Kerry Donovan, considered to be the leading Democrat to challenge incumbent Lauren Bobert for the seat, announced today that she is pulling out of the race due to the newly drawn district boundary which leaves both her home and the family ranch she operates inside the 2nd Congressional District represented by Congressman Joe Neguse. Donovan has said in previous conversations that, although she could legally live outside the 3rd CD while running, she doesn’t believe that would be taken well by the voters in the district.

Other changes in the state legislative districts (not yet approved by the Supreme Court) have veteran State Senator Bob Rankin in the same district as State Sen. Don Coram whose term is up in 2022. Rankin’s term does not end until 2024. All this will lend an aura of musical chairs at the Capitol in January as several other legislators must decide whether to challenge their colleagues in the 2022 primary elections if the maps are allowed to stand. The Colorado Supreme Court will rule whether to accept the legislative maps submitted by the independent Redistricting Commissions by November 15.

At least one legislator spoken to said she had formally started her campaign until she saw the final maps submitted by the Independent Commission to learn if she still lived in her district. Unlike congressional candidates, state legislators must live in the district they represent.

Although getting a late start, interim legislative committees completed their work by the end of October with a handful of draft bills being recommended to legislative leadership for introduction in January. The Water Resources Review Committee decided to recommend one of three anti-speculation bills, prohibiting the purchase of water rights to hold for investment appreciation. In discussion, however, committee members indicated that significant additional work is needed on the measure and the inclusion of provisions from the remaining two bills is possible.

An issue which was not put forward for a vote in the water interim committee directed the State Engineer to identify headwaters of rivers and tributaries in the state. Once identified, the clerk of each Water Division would be required to invite public comment on any application or action that affected the headwaters. The purported goal was to provide more scrutiny of actions which would impact headwaters and to mitigate those impacts in advance. The sponsor indicated that, while she was not ready to move forward at present, she would be back during the 2022 session with a more complete bill.

The Tax Policy Oversight committee rejected a proposal to apportion property tax treatment of short-term leases (e.g., Air BnB) between residential and non-residential categories. The issue, however, is far from dead and may resurface in the regular session.

And, while the official interim committees met to finalize their work, a wide range of advisory committees and task forces geared up to implement actions approved by legislators over the past three sessions in areas such as climate, environmental justice, and just transition for coal communities. Those reports and recommendations will make their way to the legislature in the upcoming months.

The 2022 legislative session, also known as the second regular session of the 73rd General Assembly, convenes on January 12 and will run for 120 days (absent any rescheduling due to COVID). CMA will sponsor its annual legislative reception January 13 to welcome legislators back and provide CMA membership an opportunity to meet informally with our policymakers.