Colorado’s legislative Flood Disaster Study Committee approves seven new bills #COleg #COflood

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Alex Burness):

“Our goal is to empower local governments and the state government to act swiftly and without any red tape,” said Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Blackhawk, one of the bipartisan committee’s 12 members.

One of the bills approved Tuesday will create a grant program aiming to help repair water and wastewater facilities damaged by natural disasters. Another water-related bill, which will allow any irrigation ditch’s head gate to be relocated due to changes in the natural flow of the ditch, passed earlier this month and was unanimously re-approved at the committee’s latest meeting…

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Colorado’s highway department $110 million to repair roads and highways damaged by flooding. The grant is part of the $450 million in emergency road repair funding that was secured for the state thanks to bipartisan legislation passed in October.

From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels/Kurtis Lee):

The “biblical” floods and ferocious wildfires that Coloradans coped with last year got a starring role Wednesday at the opening of the 2014 legislative session.

Legislative leaders outlined the efforts of those who helped, the devastation left behind and the legislation that will be introduced to try to deal with the twin disasters…

The first bill introduced in the House, by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, establishes an income-tax credit for taxpayers who own property destroyed by a natural cause as determined by a county assessor…

Lawmakers introduced more than 100 bills Wednesday, the opening day of the 2014 session. Here are some of them:

House Bill 1: Establishes an income tax credit for a taxpayer that owns property that was destroyed by a natural cause as determined by a county assessor.

House Bill 2: Creates a natural disaster grant fund and directs the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment to award the grants from the fund to local governments. The bill appropriates $12 million to the fund.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Victoria A.F. Camron):

September’s flooding damaged Erie High School so extensively that the St. Vrain Valley School District could spend $850,000 to make repairs.

Chief operating officer Rick Ring said during Wednesday night’s school board meeting that most of the damage was caused by “expansive soils,” so the district’s insurance company won’t pay for the repairs.

Ring and other district staff members have been meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but there’s no guarantee that agency will reimburse the district, he said.

During the flooding — which hit Erie before the storms moved to the mountains — the soil beneath the school raised up, pushing up the electrical conduits and the plumbing in the school’s crawl space, Ring said after the meeting.

A small sewer line also broke during the storm, he said.

From the Holyoke Enterprise (Marianne Goodland):

Water, voter representation, animal abuse and eminent domain rights for oil pipeline companies top the agendas for the two legislators representing northeastern and eastern Colorado. The 2014 session also marks the end of the House and Senate careers of Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, respectively, although both seek new elected offices in November.

Sonnenberg’s legislative agenda includes a bill based on the “Phillips County Proposal.” That proposal arose last year during unsuccessful efforts by 11 counties, all but one in northeastern Colorado, to secede and form a 51st state.

The bill suggests House representatives be elected by county rather than by district. “Rural Colorado would have a more appropriate voice in the legislature,” Sonnenberg said this week.

Sonnenberg acknowledged that getting Democrats to support such a bill in the legislature would be an uphill battle, and there are constitutional issues as well. “However, I think the argument can be made that in a sovereign government, each county could have their own representation,” he said.

But if successful (and it would require a vote to change the state’s constitution), Democrats “would have to have more rural-minded members to represent rural Colorado, and that would be a challenge,” Sonnenberg said.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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