HB 10-1188: Rafting bill faces uncertain outcome in State Senate

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From The Denver Post (Jessica Fender):

Opponents of the bill have upped their lobbying firepower, started a full-court press on committee members scheduled to hear the legislation later this month and made the vote much tougher for some lawmakers who once favored the legislation. The turning tide has bill-backers threatening to put the question directly to voters with a 2010 ballot initiative if they fail in the legislature.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, said the bill has so stirred tensions among river users and property owners that she doubts a long-standing and sometimes uneasy truce — where local companies and residents work out private agreements — will ever return. “This reopens a wound that we had a couple of Band-Aids on. Now we’re scratching the heck out of it,” she said. “People are angry on both sides. There’s the threat of lawsuits and ballot initiatives.” Viewed by some as the swing vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee, slated to hear the bill March 17, Hudak has faced more pressure than many of her colleagues, including a robo-call to her constituents from bill supporters…

Meanwhile, scores of private rafters, kayakers and anglers have clamored to be covered by the bill. That outcry should give lawmakers pause, said Jim Idema, head of the Creekside Coalition formed in 1994 to fight off a ballot initiative to open private land to river users. “To bestow a navigation right on a single class of citizens is not going to sit well with the rest. They will be coming up behind and saying what about us?” Idema said. “Time has allowed the senators to say, ‘Now wait a minute. The implications here are very, very broad.’ ” Idema’s group opposes the bill, but he’s not counting on its slowed progress as a sign of sure defeat.

The legislation’s first blow in the Senate came with its committee appointment, said sponsor Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton. HB 1188 landed in the judiciary committee, which focuses on the legal aspects of bills, instead of the business affairs committee, which may have been more sympathetic to arguments that the bill would save business owners and protect tourism…

The sudden turbulence surprised Bob Hamel, who heads a rafting industry group and saw a sportsman governor and a Democrat-controlled legislature as his industry’s chance to settle a long-standing dispute in their favor. He’s nonetheless confident of public support, though opponents argue Coloradans are just as eager to prevent the government from taking private property. “We didn’t think it would be an easy fight, and if we lose, there are huge potential risks,” Hamel said. “But if this goes to the open public, these people have no idea what’s coming their way.”

From The Pulse – Of Colorado Farm Bureau (Garin Vorthmann):

The controversial right-to-float bill has been scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee for March 17. Watch for more information. Keep up the good work and contact your Senators asking for a NO vote.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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