From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels):
Three Republican lawmakers walked out of an ag committee hearing Wednesday morning in protest over the handling of a water bill scheduled to be heard Thursday afternoon.
Senate Bill 115 would give the legislature a say in the “Colorado Water Plan,” an executive order Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper issued last year charging the state to address water needs in urban and rural areas. A draft of the plan is due in December.
Mike King, director of the Department of Natural Resources, and James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, met with the bill sponsors Tuesday to discuss their concerns about the bipartisan proposal, which gives the legislature veto power over the plan. Eklund admitted that during the meeting he got “a little hot, maybe too hot.”
“I don’t like being lectured or dictated to,” said Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who was at the Tuesday meeting.
King and Eklund’s concerns over the bill stems from earlier legislation passed in 2005 that attempted to depoliticize water talks by creating roundtables in each of the state’s nine water basins. Those basin roundtables have met almost 800 times since then.
“We need to respect the work they’ve done and continue to make sure that the people who live and use and recreate in these areas have the primary say in the future of Colorado’s water plan,” King said.
“I’m passionate about this because it’s important that we honor the work of these basin roundtables,” Eklund said.
Eklund was at a joint House and Senate ag committee Wednesday to talk about the water plan. Upset about their meeting earlier this week, Coram walked out and was joined by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, and Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction.
“I have the utmost respect for James Eklund, but I don’t have respect for the process,” Sonnenberg said. “We have three branches of government, and it’s important that the legislature be involved in a statewide water plan.”
SB 115 is sponsored by Coram and Sens. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins. It is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee at its 1:30 p.m. meeting Thursday.
More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.