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Rippy bill sheds light on need for cave protection

Colorado’s caves would again receive the legal protection they once enjoyed if a bill being introduced by state Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, becomes law.

A bill protecting caves from vandalism and defacing is among those Rippy is introducing at the start of this year’s legislative session.

Rippy said Colorado once had a law making it a misdemeanor crime to damage caves, but it was removed about 25 years ago during an effort to clean up the state’s legal statutes.



As a result, when people damage caves, either on organized tours or in wild caves, there are no legal consequences, he said.

He said the goal of the legislation isn’t to make felons out of violators. Rather, it’s largely aimed at educating people, and enabling cave operators to advise visitors that caves are protected by law.



Introducing the measure also gives Rippy an opportunity to promote Glenwood Caverns and other caves in the state, he said.

Colorado has two commercial cave operations ” Glenwood Caverns, and Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs.

Steve Beckley, owner of Glenwood Caverns, is happy that Rippy is introducing the cave bill.

“I’m real excited about having it in place, not as much for myself but more for the caves in the state, to protect them,” he said.

“The caves are such a delicate ecosystem that they need protection and not to have people going in and vandalizing them,” he said.

A law would help protect Glenwood Caverns, he said. He said it also could deter spray painters and other vandals who might target other caves such as Hubbard Cave on the rim of Glenwood Canyon.

Beckley said many states legally protect caves, and he was surprised Colorado has no cave protection law in place.

“It is such an important resource,” he said.

Rippy doesn’t expect much opposition to the cave bill.

“I always try to have one fun bill, one that doesn’t have all the contentions that other ones might,” he said.

Rippy also is considering introducing a bill that would let communities place a use tax on items that are shipped out of state. The tax would have a cap of 2 percent and require voter approval.

Proponents would have to identify a specific use for the revenues, such as parks, open space or mass transit, Rippy said. The money couldn’t simply go into a city’s general fund.

Currently, Rippy said, people who buy something but have it shipped out of state pay no local or state sales tax.

In places such as Aspen and Vail, these sales can be commonplace, and often involve big-ticket items such as antiques and jewelry. Rippy said. Yet the communities gain nothing from these sales.

“I think it’s an unintended gap that exists out there,” Rippy said.

Rippy’s idea would boost revenues while not costing locals any more, he said.

He said the idea came from an Aspen shop owner who wanted to see more money directed to RFTA so it can buy more clean-running buses.

As with some other bills he is considering, he won’t decide whether to submit them until he is sure Gov. Bill Owens supports them.

“I want to make sure if I pass a bill the governor doesn’t veto it,” he said.

One bill Rippy will introduce would allow the state Banking Commission to adopt a uniform application form for auto loans.

Such a form already is used for mortgage applications, and saves time when borrowers go from lender to lender, Rippy said.

Rippy also is introducing a bill to reform the Colorado Certified Capital Company (CAPCO) program, which makes venture capital available to startup businesses. Originally created in 2001, it’s a well-intentioned program with several shortcomings that the bill addresses, Rippy said.

Rippy’s bill would increase spending in rural Colorado from $25 million to $40 million. CAPCO’s total funding is $100 million.

Rippy also plans a bill to expand the public’s ability to obtain information from the Colorado Benefits Management System. The system provides information on Medicaid and food stamp eligibility through county human service departments. Rippy’s bill would also make the information available at Denver Health hospital, and through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.

CHIP aims to provide health care to every child in the state, but currently isn’t enrolling additional children due to budget limitations. Under Rippy’s bill, CHIP staffers could at least refer the public to other forms of assistance, he said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

dwebb@postindependent.com


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