Legislation ends with little action on energy

The 2017 Legislative Session drew to a close May 10 after an eventful last few days, as is typical for the State Legislature. During the session, 788 bills and resolutions were introduced by the 100 legislators representing the people of Colorado.

In the introductory remarks made by leadership on the first day of the Legislative Session, shared priorities by caucus leaders included transportation funding, construction defects reform and fixing the hospital provider fee. As the Republican Senate and Democratic House moved forward, it was clear that not all legislators were in lockstep with these priorities, and the bipartisan proposal for transportation funding was killed in a Senate committee. With many tough negotiations and long hours, however, both construction defects reform and the hospital provider fee fix were accomplished through compromise solutions. While other major issues came to the forefront during this session, energy policy was not significantly changed over the 120-day period.

Senate Bill 301, by Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) and Representatives KC Becker (D-Boulder) and Lori Saine (R-Firestone), was introduced late in the session as a compromise bill between the Senate Republicans and the Colorado Energy Office to reauthorize the latter’s funding, which was set to expire July 1. Senate Republicans shared concerns that the office maintains too narrow a focus on renewable energy, to the exclusion of other resources. The bill would have funded the office for an additional four years and expanded its focus from “clean and renewable energy” to “energy.” The bill also would have increased the annual registration fee for plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles, and would have repealed obsolete and underutilized programs housed within the Energy Office. Another key provision of the bill would have required the Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission to adopt rules allowing investor-owned utilities to submit plans to acquire natural gas reserves to meet long-term supply needs.

Because the bill was so broad in subject matter, its title, “Concerning Energy-Related Statutes,” could have allowed for any and every energy-related issue to be amended into the single bill very late in the session. IREA kept a close eye on this piece of legislation to ensure that nothing detrimental to our members was quietly added at the last minute. Though the bill was an agreement between two groups prior to introduction, it was not an agreement among all groups, and no compromise was reached before the last hours of session. It instead died as the last action on the calendar, leaving the Energy Office without state funding. The Energy Office does receive federal funding and will continue, albeit with diminished resources.

IREA takes positions on legislation that will directly affect our members and rates. We supported House Bill 1116, from Representatives Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) and Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik (R-Thornton), which continues funding low-income energy assistance through the Department of Human Services, Energy Outreach Colorado and the Colorado Energy Office for the next five years. This bill was signed into law in June by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Additional funding to the low-income energy assistance program is provided through donations. IREA matches the donations our members make to Energy Outreach Colorado dollar-for-dollar, up to $75,000 per year. For information on how to contribute to this program through your monthly bill, or to make a one-time payment, go to www.IREA.coop/community-involvement/energy-assistance/.

IREA also supported Senate Bill 229, by Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) and Representatives Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough) and Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs), which was signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper in June. The bill adds public utility service vehicles to the list of public services vehicles drivers must take additional care to avoid when passing on roadways. Commonly referred to as the “move over” law, the bill also increases penalties if death or bodily harm is caused by a driver not following the law.

For more information about Intermountain Rural Electric Association’s legislative advocacy efforts, please visit www.IREA.coop/community-involvement/political-advocacy/.