Schools, horses, camels and coal

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 2:29 PM

The first day of spring has arrived and the legislative session is more than halfway over. Last week, we had our first late night of debate on the Senate floor. We have already had some late-night committees, but the first of many late nights is behind us.

We had a great deal of debate on SB 71, a bill that deals with a local school district equally sharing property tax revenue with charter schools. Some school districts currently do this and some do not. SB-71 would mandate this position statewide.

Durango School District 9-R has been used as an example of a district that has been very successful with the equally shared property tax revenue plan that was proposed. I applaud Durango for what it has done, and I would hope that other schools use Durango’s example as a blueprint on how the plan works.

Other smaller districts have indicated that they would want to help fund the charter schools of their districts but do not have the resources to do so. I am a strong believer in the public school system, as well as charter schools. After hundreds of emails, phone calls and hours of debate, I decided this issue was best settled by the local school districts, charter schools and citizens of the district to proceed.

I am a firm believer in local control, and a statewide mandate may not be what serves your community best. I trust you will make the right decision. In the end, SB 71 passed the Senate with Democrats and Republicans on both sides. Now the bill is off to the House for further debate.

The next big issue facing us will be transportation funding. House Bill 1242 has been introduced and debate has started in the House. It is totally uncertain what HB 1242 will look like by the time it comes to the Senate. Some bills of this magnitude start out looking like a magnificent horse and then end up looking like a shaggy camel.

HB 1242, if passed, would go to voters in November to vote on a temporary sales and tax-rate increase. All the revenue collected would go to fund only transportation infrastructure. The bill states that of the tax revenue collected from the temporary increase, $300 million annually will go to the state highway fund for use by the Colorado Department of Transportation; and of the remaining new revenue, 70 percent will go to counties and municipalities in equal amounts; and 30 percent will be dedicated to a newly created multi-modal transportation options fund.

In the end, it will be up to the voters to decide if they want to raise taxes to fund this proposal, should this referred measure be approved by the General Assembly.

Another option for transportation funding and education is pending legislation by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling). Sen. Sonnenberg has been listening with other legislators in hopes of resolving the transportation and education issues without a tax increase. I cannot provide any details at this time, but hopefully, there will be a draft to review before my next column in a couple of weeks.

In my last column, I complained about leadership killing a bill that, as amended, solved a huge problem throughout Colorado, “coal rolling.” Coal rolling is altering the computer and injection system on diesel pickups so as to create a cloud of black smoke to intimidate and harass walkers, bikers, outdoor restaurant-goers, etc. This is not harmless fun; it creates health and safety concerns for young and old alike.

Good news, leadership has listened to my concerns and the new drafted bill will be available before the end of the month.

Don Coram, R-Montrose, represents State Senate District 6. Contact Rep. Coram at (303) 866-4884 or at During the legislative session, Sen. Coram and Rep. McLachlan share this column on alternate weeks.