By Marianne Goodland
State Capitol Correspondent
State House lawmakers wrapped up their work on the 2023-24 state budget as contained in Senate Bill 214, with Republicans winning some key concessions that added amendments to the budget.
Among the amendments added: $354,701 to pay for the costs of replacing the Indian mascots at the Yuma School District.
Most significantly, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, agreed to carry the amendment, along with Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron. McLachlan was one of the House sponsors on Senate Bill 21-116, the measure that mandated the mascot changes. In this matter, she took a decidedly different position than the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, who advocated against a similar amendment when the budget bill was in the Senate.
While the amendment was intended to divide up the funds among the 26 schools that had to replace their mascots, sources told this reporter the money is supposed to go only to the Yuma schools.
The $38.5 billion budget for 2023-24 swelled by more than $105 million, based on the work during the past week. That pushes the budget out of balance, at least temporarily. During the next week, the Joint Budget Committee will work to resolve the two versions of the budget for final approval by the General Assembly.
House Republicans added seven amendments, including the Yuma schools amendment, to the budget. That also included $5 million for the community crime victims grant program within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and $30 million for the Colorado Crime Victim Services Fund in the Department of Public Safety.
The Republican amendments adopted by the House were part of a deal between the two parties to halt filibusters by Republicans that had been going on for the better part of two weeks over gun control and bills tied to abortion, gender-affirming care for transgender individuals and outlawing deceptive advertising by pregnancy centers.
Republicans had threatened to have the 622-page budget bill read at length, a reading that would have taken at least 14 hours and which they could have sought twice. Democrats agreed to the amendments in exchange for Republicans giving up their demand that the bill be read in its entirety. It also gave lawmakers the Good Friday/Easter weekend off, given that Democrats threatened to require everyone to work the weekend if the bill was read at length.
Agreement from the House on changes to the bill allowing consumers the right to repair agricultural equipment is the final step before House Bill 1011 heads to the governor for signing.
A conference committee, which was given permission to work on amendments not previously considered, recommended the bill clarify “fair and reasonable terms and costs.” Under the recommended amendment, which was adopted by the Senate on March 30, parts for agricultural equipment shall be sold to an owner or independent repair provider, so long as the sale is fair to both parties and does not discourage or disincentivize repairs made by the owner or repair shop.
The amendment also addresses the agreement made by John Deere in January, stating that an agricultural equipment manufacturer that enters into such agreements is still obligated to meet the requirements of the law.
The House is expected to vote on the latest version this week.
The renewal of the state’s pesticide applicators act is now awaiting action from the Senate Appropriations Committee, after a bill that would extend the act for 11 years won a unanimous vote from the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on April 5.
The hearing, however, was as much focused on what the renewal doesn’t include: allowing local governments to pass their own ordinances or regulations on pesticides.
Senate Bill 192 is sponsored by Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, who chairs the ag committee and is not in favor of lifting state preemption, and Sen. Kevin Priola, D-Henderson, who is expected to advocate for allowing local government control.
Priola, a former greenhouse owner, was a Republican until last year, when he announced he was switching parties because of the January 6 insurrection, among several issues.
He’s aligned with Gov. Jared Polis on the preemption issue.
That issue put a representative from the Colorado Department of Agriculture in an uncomfortable position during the April 5 hearing. The department is in charge of regulation of pesticide applications.
Sen. Rod Pelton, R-Cheyenne Wells, asked Department of Agriculture Plants Division Director Wondirad Gebru about the department’s position on statewide pesticide control.
Gebru initially said the department supports SB 192, which maintains statewide regulation. But under repeated questions from Pelton, Gebru said the department had not taken a position on that issue.
Democrats are expected to introduce a bill to allow for local government regulation of pesticides in the coming weeks. Much will depend on the bill’s first committee: if assigned to the Senate ag committee, it has virtually no chance of passage. However, if assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, it would likely win enough votes to make it to the Senate floor.
Gov. Jared Polis has signed a number of bills sponsored by northeastern Colorado lawmakers in the past several weeks.
The governor signed House Bill 1007, a bill requiring public and private higher education institutions to print Colorado and national crisis and suicide prevention contact information on student identification cards. The law was sponsored by Sen. Byron Pelton, R-Sterling.
A Pelton bill clarifying the rules around National Guard service also was signed by the governor. National Guard members are entitled to the equivalent of 15 days of leave from their employer when called to service or for training. House Bill 1045 clarifies that to three weeks, based on the employees’ regular schedule, and would be most important to first responders who work rotating shifts.
Holtorf’s bill to extend the deadline for the high-cost support mechanism (HCSM), funding tied to rural broadband, is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Currently, funding from the high-cost support mechanism to 11 rural telecommunication providers will end on December 1, 2023. The law would extend that to Sept. 1, 2024.
The HCSM is a 2.6% charge on phone services that in turn provides universal service funding for basic telecommunications service, as well as money for broadband deployment. Among those receiving the funds: Phillips County Telephone and the wireless provider Viaero.