Water, special needs, private property on the docket

Friday, May 19, 2017 9:57 AM

The first half of the 71st General Assembly is one-third of the way through. I have been successful on several bills so far. Three of my bills in one day has been the most.

The one thing that makes the Senate a little easier is the consent calendar. If a bill is unanimous in committee, it can be sent to the consent calendar, where all those bills listed are voted on as a group. It is certainly a time-saver.

In my last report, I talked about a bill changing the appellate process for decisions from the Ground Water Commission. The new language would mirror the process for appealing surface-water cases.

I ran this bill last year in the House and it passed by a 60 to 5 margin. Senate leadership prevented this from reaching the floor. This year, there is a new Senate president and it was passed by a 35 to 0 margin. It is scheduled for House Judiciary. Hopefully, it will receive the same positive votes as last year’s bill.

House Agriculture committee Chairwoman Jeni Arndt and House ranking Agriculture Committee member Jon Becker are the House sponsors. I am confident they will do a good job.

Testimony has shown that over the past decade, some farmers have spent around $900,000 on water engineers and attorneys. Litigation designed to break a farmer is the fastest way to force a family to sell out through this currently onerous process. It will no longer be a tool of wealthy investors to subject hard-working families to spend unnecessary funds on frivolous and unnecessary expenses.

I just brought HB 1078 through committee and to the consent calendar, changing the Family Support Loan Program though Health and Human Services. Even though HHS inherited this program a couple of years ago, it is in support of this change and testified that this program has been around for nearly 25 years and the program has not been adequately operated. HB 1078 will reallocate any leftover money to community boards that give grants to families with expenses that accommodate special-needs children and relatives. These special-needs people can be provided better services by eliminating this ineffective loan program.

The one bill that has been the most controversial so far has been a bill curtailing the forfeiture of property owned by drug dealers, etc. This has been a tool used by police, sheriffs and district attorneys to help defray the cost of enforcement. Even though this bill was sponsored by a Republican, it was Republicans who killed it.

It is my opinion that if your local drug dealer gets caught, perhaps the forfeiture and sale of property, such as weapons, automobiles and other tangible assets, should be sold to help defray the costs to our communities for prosecution, task forces and other needs rather than having the local taxpayer shoulder the burden of protecting our communities from illegal activities.

Another bill that is creating lots of conversation is SB 35, which deals with increasing the penalty for destruction of personal property in the oil and gas industry.

This legislation is already in statute and is currently treated as a misdemeanor. The proposal is to change it to a Class 6 felony. Opposition has called this attack on their First Amendment right of free speech and the right to assemble for peaceful protest.

I am in full support of the right to peaceful protest, but do not believe that damaging equipment or cutting locks on pipelines is peaceful. By closing valves or adjusting them, what you are doing is changing pressure on pipelines.

Your reckless actions are putting innocent people’s lives in harms way. One case is in litigation now.

Don Coram, R-Montrose, represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Rep. Coram by phone at (303) 866-2955 or by email at During the legislative session, Sen. Coram and Rep. McLachlan share this column on alternate weeks.