Legislative Update: Put Aside the Sandals and Sunscreen. Summer Vacation is Officially Over!

Even as committees begin to discuss potential legislative recommendations for 2024, changes within the legislature itself will play a key role in the coming year. In the House, Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez resigned from the legislature following election to the Denver City Council. Sen. Dominic Moreno who has served as Senate Majority Leader, will resign September 1 to serve as Deputy chief of Staff to newly-elected Denver Mayor Mike Johnston. That means that new representatives for HD 4 and SD 21 must be appointed by vacancy committees for those districts, and the Senate will vote on a new Majority Leader. The competition for the Majority Leader’s position has drawn at least three candidates within that body.

As the 2023 General Assembly wound down, additional committees, task forces and other study groups were added to the standing Interim Committees we normally see, such as the Transportation Legislation Review Committee. Among the new Committees which CMA members have expressed interest or concern with are the Ozone Air Quality Interim Committee, the Colorado River Drought Task Force, and two committees focusing on water quality—the Permit Fee Stakeholders group established by SB 23-274 and the Waters of the US/Dredge and Fill group organized by CDPHE and the Governor’s Office.

The stakeholder group discussing development of regulations for water permit fees (previously set by statute) has held two meetings via Zoom which focused on the process and timeline for developing regulations to be presented to the Water Quality Control Commission. A regulation will be presented to the Commission at its November meeting for hearing in May 2024, with the second phase of the regulation to be proposed in November 2024 for rulemaking in May 2025 with billing starting July 2025. The division has identified budget shortfalls due to inflation particularly in the Commerce & Industry sector of the Clean Water program. Those fee impacts may be addressed in the first phase of the rulemaking. The next virtual meeting will be September 20 from 1:30–3:30 pm. More information on the proposals can be found at https://cdphe.colorado.gov/water-quality/water-quality-engagement/water-quality-fee-setting-rule

A task force established by the Governor’s Office to address the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning Waters of the U.S. and its implications for a state dredge and fill program continues its discussions. Following issuance of an enforcement discretion policy by CDPHE which outlined various exemptions and exclusions for activities not under a federal 404 permit, stakeholder meetings with the various sectors were held July 26 with written comments solicited by August 25. Another meeting will be convened in late September. CMA anticipates a legislative proposal in the 2024 General Assembly.

The Colorado Drought Task Force held its first meeting July 331, as required by statute. The session was held via Zoom and addressed organizational issues. Chaired by Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry, the 17-member group will meet to develop legislative recommendations to management of the drought-impacted Colorado River within the state. The task force was created by statute in the 2023 General Assembly and must deliver its recommendations to that body by December 15, 2023. The effort is being managed by The Landon Group who acts as facilitator for the meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for August 10, and will be a virtual meeting. Future meetings will include both in-person and virtual settings with two public hearings to obtain public comment.

The Water and Agricultural Resources committee, which now meets year-round, has held two field trips, and will soon publish its hearing agenda for the August 23 meeting in Steamboat Springs. The committee will meet at the Capitol September 11–12. Any legislation recommended by the committee must be requested for drafting by September 12 and will be voted on at the committee’s final meeting October 31. The six-member Tax Policy Oversight committee has scheduled two meetings in August and two in September, although meeting topics have not been released.

Ozone air pollution, high on the priority list for the 2023 General Assembly, is the focus of a special interim committee established under HB 23-1294. The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for August 25, although no agenda has yet been released. The twelve-member committee is to develop policy, technical and financial solutions to improve ozone air quality in Colorado. The committee does not have authority to formally introduce legislation; however, it is anticipated that recommendations discussed will likely find their way into bills sponsored by individual committee members.

Also in the air quality realm, at its August 17–18 meeting the Air Quality Control Commission will continue consideration of a new Regulation 28 to address GHG emission reduction in large (over 50,000 sq. ft.) buildings. The regulation comes from a task force in response to legislation in 2021 requiring large building owners to add more energy efficiency and electrify heating and cooling to reduce GHG emissions from hearing and cooling by 7% in 2026 with a 20% reduction by 2030.

Dianna Orf
CMA Lobbyist