Representative wraps up year in House
It is good to be back home! The General Assembly adjourned the week before last, after 118 days of voting, meetings, hearings, debate and lobbying activity. The session was a very productive one, in my opinion, with the high point for me being the day I was able to cast a “yes” vote on the budget deal worked out between the House and Senate leadership and the governor. During the campaign period, promises were made that the Legislature would develop a plan for dealing with the state’s crippling budget crisis, and that is exactly what we got accomplished this session.
This fall, voters will be asked to approve two questions, Referendum C and Referendum D. Referendum C allows the state to keep the incoming sales tax revenue allowed under TABOR for five years, rather than refunding the portion of the revenue stream in excess of the current TABOR cap. The money will be spent to meet K-12 and higher education, health care and transportation needs throughout the state. Referendum D is a companion bonding measure that addresses the statewide transportation backlog specifically.
Budget reform is vitally important to our district. I’d like to offer two real-world examples of what I mean: The first relates to funding for state colleges. During the budget process I brought an amendment designed to get Western, Adams and Mesa State their full allocation of funding as established by statute. Half of the required amount was already built into the budget, but the schools were still $3.7 million short. The choice was whether to fund drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs or higher ed. My amendment made it partway through the process, but failed in conference committee. The choices being made at the state level will continue to be this difficult if the budget reform measures don’t pass.
Another example relates to a bill that I carried as chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources. This bill appropriated the remaining dollars in the Endangered Species Trust Fund in order to pay the state’s obligation under the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The capital account in that fund is now zero. This fund depends on appropriations from the state’s General Fund, and currently there are no available dollars to replenish the account.
In addition to the budget negotiations, water was the subject of much debate. Bills to protect basins of origin, establish a south metro water conservation district, extend the time period for well users on the South Platte to find augmentation sources and clarify the current statutory language regarding recreation water rights all failed. However, two water bills that Sen. Jim Isgar and I carried did pass: One increases the flexibility during droughts for temporary loans of agricultural water for instream flow purposes, and the second extends the watershed protection program checkoff on your tax return for another three years.
As your representative I also ran a bill to require compensation for damages on private lands when mineral rights are developed and the surface user is not party to a lease. This bill created a firestorm of controversy and subsequently died in committee. I plan to run a bill again next year to even the playing field and promote up-front negotiation between the industry and surface users on the issues of damage compensation and facility siting. I will be coordinating with all the interested parties this summer to develop the language.
This letter doesn’t begin to do justice to the long list of issues that we tackled this year. Education, health care, corrections, water, land use, affordable housing, workers rights and teen drinking were all the subjects of proposed legislation. Some issues were tabled; on others, progress was made.
The next step for me will be to try and catch up on all the things I didn’t get done during the session, visit people throughout the district, and serve on a couple of committees. In addition to working on oil and gas issues during the interim, I will be vice-chair of the Water Resources Review Committee, and will be sitting on a committee to study rural issues.
As your representative, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the process now, and have a much better idea of what to expect next year. I hope that you will continue to call or write or visit with me to keep me informed regarding the issues that come up. It was truly an honor to work at the capitol and represent House District 61. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
Kathleen Curry is the state representative from House District 61. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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