Legislative Update: The Legislative Train is Rolling Faster

The General Assembly is approaching the 1/3 milepost on its 120-day journey to May 8, and as of February 13 has introduced 463 bills. In the past two weeks there has been a marked acceleration in hearings and floor votes on measures to address housing, guns, and health care. International controversy carried over from the Special Session when Palestinian protestors interrupted proceedings on the House floor, and again when the Speaker declined to admit families of Hamas victims to the Chambers, fearing disruption.

The Governor’s priority bills to provide affordable housing are being introduced in bits and pieces, rather than the omnibus legislation we saw in 2023. One of the first bills, prohibiting local governments from restricting residential occupancy has already passed the House. A second measure, establishing requirements to construct Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on a single-unit lot is scheduled for its first hearing February 27. Sometimes referred to as “granny flats” the structures would be incentivized through loans, grants, and buy-down of interest rates to encourage their construction or conversion.

At the top of CMA’s legislative action list are two bills to establish a state dredge and fill program. One bill has been introduced by Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, while the second is still under development for sponsorship by House Speaker Julie McCluskie. The Kirkmeyer bill places the dredge and fill program in the Department of Natural Resources, while the McCluskie version would be managed CDPHE. Both bills address Colorado’s so-called “gap waters” no longer covered by federal 404 permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers following the Sackett decision.

CDPHE’s top legislative priority (Environmental Justice/Cumulative Impacts) was reported on in previous issues of Rock ‘n’ Coal. Upon application and approval by the AQCC, it would allow local jurisdictions who believe they are cumulatively impacted by harmful air pollution to request limits on any new or increased sources of air pollution. The request would follow development of an Environmental Equity Cumulative Impacts Analysis for two or more regions of the state for use by any state agency in permitting decisions.

CMA is reviewing multiple draft bills that are being pushed to improve air quality both in the Front Range ozone non-attainment area and statewide. Those bills would address off-road vehicle standards, non-road equipment, VMT reduction, adoption of California vehicle standards, and control of indirect emissions sources such as warehouses. Other bills seek additional controls for oil and gas drilling and refinery emissions. Another ozone reduction bill provides financial assistance to repair high-emitting vehicles in the non-attainment area and establishes a rebate program for lawn and garden equipment to replace the current tax credit. That bill also expands the clean fleet vehicle program to include light duty trucks.

A bill to ban future permits for oil and gas drilling is raising dismay. A circulated draft is drawing opposition from business organizations and others concerned about the economic implications and the affected property rights of such a drastic measure.

Another ban is proposed on the sale of products containing intentionally added PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals). These chemicals are used in a wide range of industrial and consumer products to repel water and grease, lubricate moving parts, and extinguish flames. CMA is concerned about potential removal of safety and personal protective equipment and mechanical parts if there is not adequate available substitution.

Supply chain issues were also a concern as CMA reviewed a Railroad Safety bill recommended by the interim Transportation Legislation Review Committee. The introduced bill limits all trains to a maximum length of 8,500 feet, although we understand the original intent was to address only trains carrying hazardous materials, the bill authorizes a union representative to enter a railroad’s place of operation to investigate a reported safety violation. That authority raised concerns about potential entry to a spur line on an industrial facility owned by a third party.

Two more bills requested by the Department of Natural Resources are waiting in the wings; one would reintroduce wolverine in Colorado, while the second would address the details of a carbon management program, including direct air capture.

CMA’s Government Affairs Committee meets weekly during the legislative session to review introduced bills and drafts that could impact members’ operations. The committee then prioritizes the bills for action, depending on degree of impact and availability of resources. For additional information concerning any of these bills, contact CMA.

Dianna Orf
CMA Lobbyist