Colorado

Commentary & Community

Colorado Oil and Gas Production May Face New Restrictions

Colorado is one of the top oil- and natural gas-producing states in the nation. But a ballot measure may have a dramatic impact on the future of this industry. Proposition 112 would impose new setbacks that opponents contend would kill much of the state’s energy development. Supporters counter that these new rules are necessary to protect the public.

 

The oil and gas industry has a long history in Colorado. With the advent of the shale revolution, which led to a significant oil and gas output thanks to hydraulic fracturing, Colorado’s energy production underwent a renaissance during the past decade. This increased production has led to conflicts with some municipalities and residents over pollution claims and noise complaints.

 

There have been a variety of legislative efforts to curb oil and gas production in the state. These range from local laws to citizen-led initiatives, although many have failed to gain traction or have been shut down in the courts. Proposition 112 is the most significant of these proposals. It would mandate that any new oil and gas development be set back 2,500 feet from homes, schools, playgrounds, rivers, creeks, and anything else local governments determine as a “vulnerable area.” Currently the state imposes a 1,000 feet setback from high-occupancy buildings such as schools, 500 feet from occupied homes, and 350 feet from playgrounds.

 

The supporters of Proposition 112 argue that oil and gas production, especially when it involves hydraulic fracturing, poses a variety of health threats to the public. These setbacks, they argue, will ensure that these hazardous operations are not too close to people.

 

Opponents of Proposition 112 say that these setbacks would essentially end almost all new oil and gas production in the state. They contend that few areas would be left to explore for oil and natural gas after the setbacks are put into place. They point out if that happens it could lead to tens of thousands of jobs being lost, the state’s economy taking a big hit, and tax revenue going down. They also argue that Colorado has strict regulations on oil and natural gas development, so a new setback rule is unnecessary.

 

Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor oppose Proposition 112. If the voters approve it, there will likely be a legal fight prior to its implementation.

 

Do you think that oil and natural gas production should face stricter regulation?

Colorado Landowners Seeking Compensation for Value Lost to State Regulations

 

States and local governments routinely pass laws and enact regulations that reduce property values. Under a proposed initiative for this year’s Colorado ballot, they may have to compensate landowners when they do so.

 

The “Colorado Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Amendment” would mandate that whenever the state enacts regulations that diminish property values, the state must provide just compensation. This would be an addition to the state constitution’s requirement that the state provides compensation when it takes or damages private property.

 

A group of ranchers and farmers is backing this amendment. They are primarily concerned about another proposed constitutional amendment that would severely limit landowners’ ability to explore for natural gas and oil on their land. They contend that it is only fair that if the state is going to enact a law that restricts their ability to use their land to make money, then the state should compensate them.

 

Opponents of this amendment say that it would make it almost impossible for the state and local governments to function. They argue that routine zoning laws could trigger lawsuits. These opponents contend that many laws meant to protect the public reduce the property value of individuals, so it would be a huge financial burden if governments must compensate these owners.

 

The secretary of state is reviewing this amendment to determine if it has enough signatures to be placed on November’s ballot.


Do you think that the government should compensate landowners if government regulations reduce the value of that land?

 

Colorado Voters Set to Vote on Banning Prison Slavery

 

The constitutions of both Colorado and the United States ban slavery and involuntary servitude, but they contain one exception – those who are being punished for a crime can still be forced to work without pay. This year, Colorado voters will face a ballot amendment that would end this practice in that state.

 

Under Colorado’s constitution, if someone has been convicted of a crime it is legal for the state to put that person to work without paying him or her. Half the states allow such unpaid labor for convicts, while the other half ban it.

 

Legislators voted to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would, if passed, ban slavery and involuntary servitude completely in Colorado. They placed an identical amendment on the ballot in 2016, but voters narrowly defeated it.

 

Supporters of this amendment say that the current language allowing prisoners to be forced to do unpaid work is a relic from another time when the dignity of all people was not recognized. They say it will be a positive symbolic change for Colorado to ban slavery in all cases. Opponents of changing the language note that prisons offer a variety of work programs that are aimed at rehabilitating prisoners. They say that amending the constitution may affect the legal status of these programs.

 

Do you think that prisoners should be forced to work without pay? Or do prison laborers deserve to be paid for their labor?

 

Who Can Regulate Oil and Gas Production in Colorado?

 

Colorado is one of the top energy producing states in the U.S. This oil and natural gas development has come with some pushback, however. Local governments are attempting to impose restrictions on oil and gas producers. State courts have generally struck down these local rules, saying such regulatory power lies with the state government. This issue could come to a head on November’s ballot.

 

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, oil and gas production has thrived over the last decade in Colorado. Some residents have pushed their local governments to enact new setbacks for oil and gas drilling rigs or imposes other restrictions on how this energy development can proceed. Some activists are also working with local governments to restrict or ban hydraulic fracturing, which they contend is dangerous.

 

When cities or counties enact these rules, the energy companies affected have argued that the state government has the authority to regulate oil and gas drilling. They have generally found sympathy from the state’s judiciary, which has ruled that state laws and regulations pre-empt local efforts to enact rules government energy production. The state Supreme Court struck down two high-profile city ordinances that would have banned oil drilling or placed a moratorium on it.

 

Currently, some Coloradans are collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would enshrine the state power over energy production rules in the state constitution. They say it is necessary to end any confusion that exists over whether or not local governments have this regulatory power. They further contend that there should be one set of rules for energy production across the state, not a hodge-podge of local regulations. Opponents of this measure counter that doing this would remove any potential for local elected officials to respond to their constituents’ concerns over oil and gas drilling.

 

The backers of this initiative have until early August to collect enough signatures. If they do so, Colorado voters will have the chance to decide in November at what level of government energy production rules should be made. 

 

Do you think that the state government should set uniform rules for oil and gas production in Colorado? Or should local governments have the power to set oil and gas drilling rules that are tailored to meet their unique circumstances?

 

Colorado Overhauls Pension System

 

 

Colorado’s pension system has a big problem – it doesn’t have enough money to pay its promised benefits. Reforms enacted during this year’s legislative session may be enough to fix these problems, but they will bring changes to the way state employees plan for retirement.

 

At the beginning of this year, the gap between what the state government promised its retirees and what its pension system had available to pay those promises was between $32 billion and $50 billion. If lawmakers did not find a way to close this gap, retirees would face large benefit cuts in the future.

 

Governor John Hickenlooper and legislators crafted a bipartisan bill that changed the state retirement system in a number of ways:

  • The percentage of pay that state employees must contribute as their share of paying for the pension plan will go up from 8% to 10%.
  • The retirement age for both teachers and state government workers will go up to 64. Currently, teachers can retire at 58 and state employees at 60.
  • More workers can opt out of the pension plan and instead choose to use something like a 401(k) for their retirement.
  • Current retirees will not have a cost-of-living raise for the next two years.
  • Once that two-year freeze is over, the cost-of-living increase will be 1.5%, down from 2% currently.
  • The state will pay $225 million a year to the pension system to meet its unfunded liabilities.
  • There will also be a .25% payroll tax that the state government and school districts will pay that will go towards meeting pension obligations.

 

These reforms come on top of 2010 legislation that also attempted to shore up the pension system.

 

Some unions representing state employees did not like all of the changes, such as raising the retirement age to 64. The proposal also came under attack from some conservative commentators, who say that it does not go far enough to fix the state pension system’s problems.

 

Do you think that it is fair to ask state employees to retire at 64 instead of 58 or 60? Should retirees’ cost-of-living increase for their pensions be lowered to 1.5% to help shore up the pension fund?

 

Governor Wants Changes to Colorado Pensions

 

Colorado has a $43 billion pension system, paying or promising retirement benefits to scores of state employees. However, this pension system faces trouble with its $32.2 billion in unfunded liabilities. In other words, the state’s politicians have promised retirees a more generous retirement package than what these politicians have actually saved money to give them. Unless the state acts, either taxpayers will be forced to cover this large gap or retirees will see their benefits drastically reduced.

 

Governor Hickenlooper’s recently released budget suggests a few options to deal with this issue. His budget has proposed reducing employees’ guaranteed cost-of-living adjustment from 2% to 1.25%. He would also like to require employees to pay an additional 2% into the pension plan, which would bring their total contribution up to 10%. In return, state employees would receive a 3% pay increase in the next fiscal year.

 

This plan takes elements from a plan put forward by the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, the board that manages the state pension system. The board’s recommendations included increasing the retirement age for newly-hired state employees, cap cost-of-living adjustments at 1.5%, and increase the amount that state agencies pay into the system on behalf of employee retirement.

 

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, supports a reform that require the state to assume a lower rate of return for pension investments. Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg has suggested the state consider moving to a retirement plan that is similar to a 401(k), which relies not on a defined benefit (like a pension) but instead on a defined contribution from the state.

 

Legislators will take up the issue of pension reform when they convene in January.

 

Do you think that Governor Hickenlooper is right to require state employees to pay more into their retirement system? Or should Colorado end traditional pensions and move state employees to something like a 401(k)?

 

Supreme Court Tackles Gay Rights and Religious Liberty

 

Should a business owner be free to turn down certain work based on his or her religious convictions? Or should gay and lesbian individuals be protected by law from business owners who discriminate against them?

These are the questions at play in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this term.

 

At issue is a Colorado bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding reception. The owner cited his religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado commission that enforces that state’s law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. After a court fight, the Colorado Supreme Court decided against the bakers, concluding that he did discriminate against the gay couple. The court held that forcing a baker to make a cake infringed neither upon his free speech nor upon the exercise of his religion.

 

There is no nation-wide law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, twenty-one states (including Colorado) have such laws. The heart of this case is when laws protecting homosexual individuals from discrimination conflict with the religious-based beliefs of business owners who disapprove of homosexuality or gay marriage.

 

In Masterpiece Cakeshop, the baker contends that the state law forcing him to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage theme would be a mandate that he condone an activity his religion teaches him to condemn. Those on the other side of the issue say that if a business owner can cite a religious belief to circumvent anti-discrimination laws, these laws will become toothless.

 

The Justice Department has filed a legal brief supporting the baker’s position. This brief backs anti-discrimination laws, but says that these laws cannot be used to force people to advocate for beliefs that they do not hold. Some observers contend that this brief is part of the Trump Administration’s wider agenda that is hostile to gay rights.

 

Arguments for this case will be held at some point during the Supreme Court’s 2017 term, with a decision expected in late spring of next year.

 

Do you think that a business owner has a right to refuse service on the basis of religious beliefs? Or do you think that it is important to ban discrimination regardless of someone’s motives?

 

Colorado Senate Bill 021

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 021, Use Marijuana Revenue to Subsidize Housing and Services for Mentally Ill Criminals: Passed 35 to 0 in the state Senate on May 10, 2017.

 

To establish a rental housing voucher and supportive services program for released prisoners who have a behavioral or mental health disorder. The money would come from marijuana tax revenue.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 021!

 

 

Colorado House Bill 1222

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 1222, Create Family Caregiver Support Fund Tax Check-off: Passed 27 to 7 in the state Senate on April 18, 2017. 

 

To create a family caregiver support fund in the state treasury and, if space on tax forms permits, allow taxpayers to designate tax funds to provide money for the fund. Money remaining in the fund at the end of a fiscal year would go to Easter Seals Colorado.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado House Bill 1222!

 

 

Colorado House Bill 1288

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in [State], check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 1288, Create Mandatory Jail Terms for Certain DUI Offenders: Passed 34 to 0 in the state House on May 1, 2017. 

 

Under current law, a person who commits a fourth or subsequent DUI offense commits a class 4 felony. If a court sentences the person to probation, the bill requires the court to order as a condition of probation one of two possible punishments: The offender would be required to serve between 90 and 180 days in a county jail, or between 120 days and two years in a county jail under alternative sentencing programs that allow the offender to be imprisoned only for certain purposes. The bill further requires that the offender be required to complete all of the following: between 48 and 120 hours of community service, an alcohol and drug driving safety education program at the offender’s expense, and possibly other conditions of probation.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado House Bill 1288!

 

 

Colorado House Bill 1367

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Arizona, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 1367, Authorize Marijuana Clinical Research: Passed 35 to 30 in the state House on May 10, 2017.

 

Create a marijuana research program. The bill would create multiple licenses governing possession of marijuana for research purposes and growing marijuana for research. The bill makes appropriations of $226,000 for enforcement and legal compliance.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado House Bill 1367! 

 

 

Colorado Senate Bill 301

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 301, Repeal and change certain energy-related programs: Passed 18 to 17 in the state Senate on May 10, 2017 and failed in the state House on May 10, 2017

 

To repeal certain energy-related programs, including the wind for schools grant program, the renewable energy and energy efficiency for schools loan program, certain programs for which the Colorado energy office is responsible, the green building incentive pilot program, the Colorado Clean Energy Finance Program Act. The bill removes certain responsibilities of the Colorado energy office and transfers others. One program change removes certain authorities related to energy-specific license plates to a nonprofit corporation, Natural Capitalism Solutions. The bill would increase the registration fee on electric motor vehicles.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 301!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 305

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 305, Restore primary elections for U.S. President and allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primaries: Passed 33 to 2 in the state Senate on May 10, 2017 and 65 to 0 in the state House on May 9, 2017

 

To conform state election laws with the results of voter-approved ballot initiatives in 2016. The bill would restore the party-based primary voting system for the U.S. Presidential election. The bill requires the general assembly to pay for any presidential primary elections. The bill also provides for unaffiliated voters to receive ballots for primary elections.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 305!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 183

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 183, Spend $100,000 on grants related to the commissioning of the U.S.S. Colorado nuclear attack submarine: Passed 29 to 6 in the in the state Senate on May 8, 2017 and 65 to 0 in the state House on May 9, 2017

 

To conform state election laws with the results of voter-approved ballot initiatives in 2016. The bill would restore the party-based primary voting system for the U.S. Presidential election. The bill requires the general assembly to pay for any presidential primary elections. The bill also provides for unaffiliated voters to receive ballots for primary elections.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 305!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 284

 

Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 284, Mandate physicians give specified information to patients at least 24 hours before an abortion: Passed 19 to 16 in the state Senate on April 13, 2017

 

To require a physician whose patient has elected to have an abortion to provide verbal and written disclosures that must include any pending disciplinary or legal action against the physician, a detailed description of technical elements of the method of abortion selected, a list of physical and psychological risks associated with abortion, information on reversing certain abortion methods, and details on alternatives to abortion. Providers must also provide an opportunity to view or decline to view ultrasound images and listen to the fetal heartbeat. The disclosures would also require physicians to provide patients with a list of ultrasound providers nearby with particular emphasis on providers that do not charge a fee. Patients could refuse to sign the disclosure if they feel they have not been properly informed.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 284!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 040: Change rules governing public disclosure of government documents

 

Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 040, Change rules governing public disclosure of government documents: Passed 35 to 0 in the state Senate and 39 to 26 in the State House on May 10, 2017 

 

To alter the reasons why a custodian of records may deny a request to examine public records. The bill would allow custodians of records to deny requests if the record related to physical or digital infrastructure in specific ways, including details of vulnerabilities. The bill also clarifies when a custodian must provide records in digital formats to those requesting the records.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 040!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 300: Order study of health insurance options for high-risk individuals to be conducted by health insurance commissioner

 

Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 300, Order study of health insurance options for high-risk individuals to be conducted by health insurance commissioner: Passed 35 to 0 in the state Senate on May 10, 2017 and 40 to 25 in the state House on May 10, 2017

 

To direct the commissioner of insurance to study options for providing health insurance to people who pose high risks for insurers. The bill would require the study to examine ramifications for providing that insurance, including impact on business and consumers, federal rules, options for funding, financial sustainability, and other considerations.  The bill would require the study be produced for the joint budget committee and other committees before October 1, 2017.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 300!

 

Colorado House Bill 1143: Audit government communications with Medicaid recipients

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 1143, Audit government communications with Medicaid recipients: Passed 63 to 0 in the state House on February 21, 2017

 

To audit correspondence between the government and recipients of Medicaid for readability, understandability, and accuracy.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado House Bill 1143!

 

Cottage food freedom; raise fees on food sellers & electricians; reduce duplicative employer reports; ban asking job-applicants for salary history

 

 

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Colorado earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

Senate Bill 058 Expand the Colorado Cottage Food Act: Passed 65 to 0 in the House on 4/14/2016

 

To expand provisions which allow homemade food producers to sell certain items directly to consumers.

 

House Bill 1114 Ease employment reporting requirements for businesses: Passed 65 to 0 in the House on 4/14/2016

 

To eliminate certain employment verification standards that duplicate other requirements and employer mandates.

House Bill 1401 Increase licensing fees paid by retail food establishments and add new licensing requirements: Passed 42 to 11 in the House on 4/8/2016

 

To increase the annual licensing fees paid by retail food sellers and to create a new license for retail food establishments that prepare or serve food that is pre-packaged or does not require time or temperature control for safety.

 

House Bill 1073 Increase the licensing requirements that electricians face: Passed 35 to 0 in the Senate on 3/28/2016

 

To add requirements for continuing education for electricians who seek to renew their license to do business. It would also expand enforcement at the local level.

 

House Bill 1166 Ban businesses from asking prospective workers about their salary history: Passed 34 to 31 in the House on 3/28/2016

 

To make the act of asking a job applicant's his or her salary history an unfair employment practice prohibited by law.

 

Mandate multicultural schools; criminalize false charity reports; expand police ‘profiling’ ban

 

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Colorado earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 1036 Require civic and multicultural education in public schools: Passed 36 to 29 in the House on 5/2/2016

 

To require public schools to provide instruction on US and Colorado history and governance, including material on the history, culture, and contributions of the American Indians, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans.

 

House Bill 1334 Expand subsidies for real estate developers: Passed 34 to 31 in the House on 4/14/2016

 

To authorize the Board of County Commissioners of any county to enact ordinances, resolutions, or other forms of binding law to create programs that subsidize low-income housing developers in unincorporated areas of the county.

 

House Bill 1318 Make it a crime to make false statements in a charity's financial reports: Passed 53 to 11 in the House on 4/14/2016

 

To make falsifying a charitable organization's financial reports or registration documents a second degree perjury offense.

Senate Bill 144 Allow military personnel who are under 21 years old to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun: Passed 21 to 14 in the Senate on 5/2/2106

 

To approve concealed carry permits for certain military personal who are not otherwise old enough to apply.

 

House Bill 1295 Create the Chicano special license plate: Passed 34 to 31 in the House on 4/14/2016

 

To create the Chicano special license plate. A person can use the plate if they provide a certificate confirming a donation to an organization chosen by the Department of Revenue based on the organization's provision of services to the Latino community.

 

House Bill 1263 Expand the definition of "profiling" by police officers: Passed 26 to 9 in the Senate on 3/31/2016

 

To add gender, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to those categories which the police must generally not use in performing their duties so that they do not "profile" suspects

 

Copyright © 2018 Votespotter Inc. All rights reserved.