Session heats up as end approaches

With only a little more than a month left in the session, the legislative crunch is intensifying. After the Joint Budget Committee removed funding last month for renovating Berndt Hall at Fort Lewis College and other Western Slope projects, the entire House erupted in outrage.

The Herald editorial board also wrote in opposition to this plan (March 21). While I was pleased to be able to help secure $5 million in funding for Western Slope, I, along with many of my colleagues, was extremely frustrated by the FLC situation. This spurred a completely bipartisan effort to find a solution. By March 28, we had a plan to amend the long bill and to get Fort Lewis the funding it needed. I want to thank Rep. Ed Vigil, a Democrat and Rep. Libby Szabo, a Republican, and the other members of our coalition for preserving funding for the construction of Berndt Hall.

As the newest member of the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, I do not believe that Gov. John Hickenlooper has failed to recognize the urgency of the recommendations for a Colorado wildfire air fleet. As a member of the committee, I received the special report, Colorado Firefighting Air Corps, and listened to the presentation of Paul Cooke, who complimented the governor’s response and cooperation. The governor’s office is now working with the Senate to determine whether we have the funds to enact these recommendations. The report can be viewed at http:/dfs.state.co.us.

The rest of the week has been a tale of victory and defeat. House Bill 1313, to extend vaccination requirements to include not only dogs, but also cats and ferrets in counties that have voted for rabies-vaccinations requirements, passed the House with strong bipartisan support. Another bill of mine, HB 1080, passed the Senate and is on its way to the governor’s desk. I am sponsoring it with Rep. Don Coram to create a sales-and-use tax exemption for southern Colorado Ute Indians. My bill to incentivize geothermal energy production, which I am sponsoring with Sens. Roberts and Schwartz, also passed the Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature. I am hoping to be able to have a bill signing for this bill in Pagosa Springs.

I was planning to introduce a bill this session regulating off-road vehicles, which are currently unlicensed and not allowed on state highways or most county and municipal roadways. After my most recent stakeholder meeting, which included industry advocates, law enforcement, environmental advocates and state agencies, I concluded that there was no core consensus on what regulation should be adopted. This bill will have to wait another day.

On April 3, we debated SB 103, a bill to phase out low-efficiency plumbing fixtures, which I fully support. The bill will save 40,000 acre feet of water or 13 billion gallons by 2050. As Colorado’s population continues to grow, the strain on our water supply will only increase. This is in an important step to meet our future water needs.

The bill was supported by the Colorado Water Congress, an organization that is deeply concerned with the future of our state’s water. We must all consider ways to conserve our water, avoid waste and encourage individual responsibility for our future. Many of my colleagues across the aisle spoke against the bill at length, arguing that increasing the number of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures in Colorado represents the beginning of the end of our freedom. I believe this was an effort to champion what they see as a winning campaign issue: the “war on rural Colorado.” While I understand their motivation, the so-called assault on rural Colorado is little more than a political slogan. I do not believe that there is a war on rural Colorado, and this is a catch phrase designed to highlight and exaggerate the voting records of each party. Much like myself, most of the state representatives I work with on a daily basis are committed to working across the aisle to make life better for all Coloradans.

McLachlan represents House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale counties and part of Gunnison County. Call McLachlan at (303) 866-2914 or email mike.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.

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