2015 Colorado legislation: SB15-064 (Application Of State Water Law To Federal Agencies) dead #coleg

Photo via Bob Berwyn
Photo via Bob Berwyn

From The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Woodland):

SB 64 sailed through the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee on an 8-1 vote. That included a “yes” vote from Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, whose district includes the Eagle County ski areas, as well as Crested Butte and Aspen. Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, also voted in favor of SB 64.

On the Senate floor, the bill picked up four more votes from Democrats, and passed on a 24-11 vote.

But instead of going to the House Ag Committee, where the previous versions had passed easily the last two years, SB 64 was assigned to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. And true to its reputation as the “kill” committee, the bill died on a 5-6 party-line vote. One of those “no” votes came from Rep. Mike Foote, D-Denver, who voted in favor of the 2014 version.

Sonnenberg was furious. He told The Colorado Statesman last week that it was just politics. “I don’t get it,” he said. “It’s politics at its worst, when we don’t defend Colorado water rights owners.”

This week, House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, defended her decision to send SB 64 to the State Affairs committee, and why she made that decision on a bill she’s supported for the past two years.

Hullinghorst said Tuesday she sent the bill to State Affairs because she wanted to see the issue addressed more broadly, and that she believed State Affairs was the appropriate committee. She said she changed her mind on the bill because of a legal opinion from Legislative Legal Services, although Legal Services issued the same opinion for the 2013 and 2014 bills.

“I believe that issue has been well-vetted, and we’ve had lots of good talk about it. But as a matter of fact, we have memos from Legal Services that tell us on two specific constitutional issues, that this bill is unconstitutional,” Hullinghorst said this week.

The first issue, according to the Legal Services memo, is that the federal government has preemption powers in this area. Preemption means that when a federal and state law conflict, the state law is considered invalid.

Second, the memo said the bill is considered special legislation since it is done for one specific agency. Hullinghorst said that bothered her more than the preemption issue. “I used my prerogative, I changed my mind.”

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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