On Tuesday, State Representative Christine Scanlan (D-Dillon) advanced a bill to help protect and preserve Colorado’s rivers and streams for future generations. House Bill 1241 improves a state income tax return check-off program by allowing voluntary contributions to the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund.
The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Reform began working to find possible solutions to the tangle of contradictory provisions in Colorado’s State Constitution. The first thing that should go? TABOR. It’s crippled the state’s ability to handle changes in the economy.
Chaired by Senate President Pro-Tem Abel Tapia (D-Pueblo), the committee also includes Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont), Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield), Rep. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood), Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) and Rep. Al White (R-Hayden).
Recommendations were scheduled to be presented on the 7th to Rep. Romanoff.
The Select Committee will work with former legislators who have a unique understanding of Colorado’s constitutional quagmire, including for U.S. Senator Hank Brown, former Senate President Stan Matsunaka, former Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson, former Senator and JBC member Penfield Tate.
On Wednesday, the full CO Senate gave initial approval to House Bill 1160, which would expand homegrown energy opportunities for agricultural producers and rural communities statewide.
Sponsored by Senator Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) and Senator Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus), the bill requires power providers with more than 5,000 customers to credit those customers who produce excess energy in their homes or businesses. Residential customers who generate up to10 kilowatts and commercial or industrial customers who generate up to 25 kilowatts of renewable energy would be able to make up for their retail electricity consumption with the generated electricity.
This bill now heads to Gov. Ritter’s desk for signing.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 1310, which is designed to stop predatory lenders from unfairly targeting Colorado’s most vulnerable populations.
Sponsored by Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver), the bill would help people who take out short-term – or payday – loans pay the loan back without getting caught in an endless cycle of debt. The problem? Payday loans are short-term (usually two weeks) and made for a small amount ($300-$500). Payday lenders can charge $60 for a $300 loan for two weeks, resulting in an APR of 521 percent. House Bill 1310 caps annual interest rates at 45% for all payday loans. It also changes current practice on finance charges: the proposed legislation allows lenders to charge a maximum finance fee of $60 one time per twelve months.
On Thursday, the House Transportation & Energy Committee voted 8 to 5 to continue Colorado’s transformation into a world leader in renewable energy production. House Bill 1164, sponsored by State Representative Judy Solano (D-Brighton), will allow Colorado to take full advantage of its solar resources by opening the market to large – or utility – scale solar energy production. Colorado’s San Luis Valley, which is experiencing an economic downturn, would especially benefit from passage of HB 1164. The San Luis Valley has been identified as one of the best solar energy producing regions in the nation, and this type of legislation could spur tremendous economic growth. Estimates suggest that even one large scale solar plant could lead to as many as 250 new high-skilled jobs and as much as $2 billion in private investment.