GOP targets taxes, illegal immigrants

Hot-button bills have short life expectancy

DENVER – Senate Republicans introduced controversial bills on immigration and taxes Wednesday, and Senate Democrats moved quickly to shut them down.

The tax and immigration bills were among the roughly 50 bills legislators introduced Wednesday.

Senate Bill 54 would allow local police to arrest anyone they have probable cause to believe has entered the country illegally.

Senate Bills 56 and 73 seek to restore tax breaks that Democrats suspended last year, including the so-called Amazon tax on Internet sales.

Taxes and immigration were heated topics last year, but the introduction of the three bills in the Senate means their days are short.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, assigned all three bills to the Senate State Affairs Committee, which traditionally is used to dispose of unwanted bills quickly.

“I was disappointed it was assigned to State Affairs,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, the sponsor of the Amazon bill, SB 56.

Republicans control the House, so the bills could have had a friendlier reception there. Democrats control the Senate.

The immigration bill, by Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is not as strong as Arizona’s 2010 law, which commanded local police to enforce immigration laws.

The Arizona law created a national uproar. Opponents of illegal immigration held it up as the ideal state law, but President Barack Obama said it would undermine trust between citizens and police.

Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, is the House sponsor of SB 54.

“We greatly admire what Arizona has done in this area. Our bill is a serious effort to bring strict enforcement to Colorado,” Balmer said.

But the bill’s committee assignment means it probably will not make it into Balmer’s chamber.

Immigration activists are focusing on what the bill would do to Colorado’s national reputation.

“Bottom line, we have to learn from Arizona,” said Julien Ross, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “I think we’ve seen pretty clearly that the economic consequences of similar legislation have been devastating.”

More than 40 groups canceled meetings or conventions in Arizona after the law was passed, according to a CNN story.

SB 54 is the first of four or five Arizona-inspired bills that Republicans are planning to introduce.

“What we’re trying to do is make Colorado a safer place,” Balmer said.

Every Senate Republican except two – Ellen Roberts of Durango and Jean White of Hayden – signed on as co-sponsors. Twelve of 33 House Republicans are co-sponsors, including Ignacio Rep. J. Paul Brown.

Legislators began to introduce more bills Wednesday after a slow first week of the session.

Lundberg’s SB 56 would say the state’s use tax does not apply to purchases from out-of-state merchants. It would cancel out last year’s Amazon tax law.

SB 73, by Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, would repeal all of the 2010 tax bills that Republicans dubbed the “dirty dozen.” They include taxes on candy and soda, energy used in manufacturing and food wrappers and napkins.

Local lawmakers presented two new bills Wednesday.

Brown introduced House Bill 1081, which includes propane-powered vehicles in the list of cars eligible for tax credits.

SB 50, by Roberts, would require governments that condemn property that has a conservation easement to pay the fair market value of the land without the easement.

Finally, the first of several anticipated beer bills made an appearance Wednesday.

SB 60 would allow restaurants to serve low-alcohol beer. A recent bill banned the sale of 3.2 percent beer in restaurants, taking restaurant owners and even some legislators by surprise. SB 60 would undo the change. The sponsors are Sens. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, and Jean White, R-Hayden.

jhanel@ durangoherald.com

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