Budget, hemp and broadband dominate final days

Friday, May 5, 2017 8:46 AM
Senator Don Coram

The last two weeks of the 71st General Assembly is underway. I don’t think it can come fast enough. Patience is wearing thin on the members. With days left in the session and over 100 bills still to be heard, it has taken on a life much like a carnival.

The only thing we are required to do is pass a budget. That has not happened yet. The sticking point seems to be that money was taken from the Hospital Provider Fee to go to the General Fund in order to balance the budget. The antidote for this was supposed to be SB 267.

This bill would have changed the fee to an enterprise fund and would not count against the TABOR cap. The wheels started falling off of SB 267 Monday and its passage was doubtful. It might turn into a standoff and neither will pass by the May 10 session end.

Should that happen, we will be called back for a special session.

The coal rolling bill I referred to in a previous column passed the House and is on its way to the governor. I am glad this is behind us.

SB 117, a bill that would recognize industrial hemp as an agricultural product for which decreed water rights could be used, cleared the House last week and is on its way to the governor. It was one of the most important bills I ran this year.

I ran the bill because of a conversation I had with a Rocky Ford farmer I met during a Water Resource Review Committee last summer. The irrigation company had denied him the use of his water from Pueblo Reservoir because the Bureau of Reclamation considered it a Schedule 1 drug.

Hemp is a recognized crop in the 2014 Farm Bill and is a legal farm commodity passed by the voters in Colorado. The Colorado State University experiment that is raising hemp also uses water from Bureau of Reclamation dams.

This clarification was vital for the Colorado Hemp industry to reach its potential. In spite of opposition from the Colorado Farm Bureau and Colorado Water Congress, this measurer cleared the General Assembly by a 99 to 1 margin. I am honored to have support for this issue.

I introduced my last bill of the session this week. The bill has been a six-month process working with stakeholders, local communities and the governor’s office to increase broadband capabilities in rural Colorado. It might look strange that a redneck Republican from rural Colorado and a Boulder Democrat can reach a consensus on anything, let alone a difficult issue such as broadband. Wish us both luck.

Although Rep. K.C. Becker and I have been known to have our disagreements, we have never been disagreeable. I respect her opinion and I think she feels the same. I believe that is what is lacking in politics today.

Thank all of you for indulging me this session and I look forward to candid conversations back in Southwest Colorado.

Don Coram, R-Montrose, represents State Senate District 6. Contact Sen. Coram by phone at (303) 866-4884 or by e-mail at