Legislative Affairs - Bill Tracking
Colorado Legislative Update - March 31, 2020
Yesterday, the Colorado General Assembly convened for a few minutes in each chamber to extend the Covid-19 emergency recess. At the state legislature, as with the rest of the country, it is unclear when they will be able to take up regular business again. Today should have been Day 83, but instead is now its 16th day of recess. The legislature is in jeopardy of not completing work on the vast majority of bills introduced this session, with 432 left in limbo at this time.
There is almost certainly no way to start working again until the pandemic begins to subside, given the need for the public to participate in the lawmaking process and the large number of at-risk citizens participating as legislators, lobbyists, nonpartisan legislative staff, and stakeholders.
The House and Senate must reconvene to pass several constitutionally-required bills for the state to function: the annual budget (Long Bill); and the school finance bill. (A third constitutional requirement, the rule review bill, has already been passed and signed by the Governor). June 30th, the last day in the state fiscal year, is the presumptive deadline for these critical bills to pass.
If the state Supreme Court says the legislature cannot hit the “pause” button, and they cannot reconvene in time, every single bill that has not passed through the legislature will die.
At that point, the Governor or the General Assembly itself would likely call a special session once the state of emergency has been lifted. The scope of legislation would depend on the Call issued by the Governor or the Legislature, and bills would be required to fall under those topics.
One week ago, Saturday March 14th, the state legislature went into recess due to the coronavirus threat. They passed House Joint Resolution 20-1007 stating that the legislature will return on March 30th to reevaluate the situation. That was the 67th legislative day of the 120-day session.
The House and Senate also passed House Joint Resolution 20-1006 requesting guidance from the State Supreme Court regarding the nature of the 120-day session. The question is, if in a state of emergency, it is required the 120 days be counted consecutively (which would mean an end date of May 6th) or if only days on which the Senate or the House of Representatives are convened are counted.
Many of the legislative priorities, including constitutional mandates such as passing an annual budget, await a response from the state's highest court. For now, the fate of the 465 bills (out of 563 introduced) still working their way through the legislative process are in limbo, including the 34 bills your state association is monitoring. CACD is currently tracking the following bills on behalf of the conservation districts: LINK
All of the bills CACD has been working on have been put on hold by the recess, including the State Budget (originally scheduled to be introduced this coming Monday, March 23rd) and HB20-1115 Sales Tax Exemption For Farm Fencing Material, a bill that CACD introduced this year out of the Delta Conservation District.
Please review the bill tracking sheet and send any comments you have to your CACD Watershed Board Member or CACD Executive Director Bobbi Ketels. We remain ready to re-engage when the legislature reconvenes.
The latest budget forecast is speculating that the state will have little new revenue to spend on this year's budget, fiscal year 2020-21 starting July 1st. We will work diligently to prevent any cuts to existing conservation district budgets. Unfortunately, record low oil prices and the slowing of new oil and gas permits due to SB19-181 will likely lead to a lack of severance funds for Matching Grants and Conservation Techs moving forward. We will continue to work with our partners at Colorado Department of Agriculture to address these needs.
We will continue to pass along more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.
Below is the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts Bill Tracker for 2020. Positions are set by the CACD Legislative Committee based on the updated Policy Book, with advocacy and lobbying activities carried out accordingly.
The Colorado General Assembly meets for 120 days each year, from January to May. An average of 650 bills are introduced each legislative session, including the Long Bill, the annual budget bill containing general and severance funding for conservation activities under the Department of Agriculture.
Please review and share. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact us at 719-686-0020.
If you do not see a bill on here that you feel has an impact on conservation districts and landowners we invite you to reach out us.