Marijuana, Fires Dominate Final Legislative Day
DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Banking for marijuana businesses and property tax forgiveness for disaster victims headlined the final day of the Colorado Legislature on Wednesday, though the last hours were lacking the drama of many past sessions.
Since the Jan. 8 start of the session, Colorado lawmakers have mostly behaved as many expected in an election year: Muted. They had a number of bills to decide, but there wasn’t a lot of controversy.
One of the biggest ticket bills remaining near the end of the session was a spending plan to boost per-pupil funding for schools next year. The bill was passed Tuesday by the Senate and Wednesday by the House, which sent it to the governor with a standing ovation.
“I think this is something that we can all be proud of,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Frisco.
“That’s going to help districts across the state that had to increase class sizes and cut gym and music,” said Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino.
Childcare in Colorado is the fifth most expensive in the country. A bill providing tax credits for low income families passed.
“This is the most aggressive investment and move we’ve done to address childcare affordability,” said Sen. Morgan Carroll, a Democrat representing Aurora.
Lawmakers were still working to finalize a banking plan for marijuana businesses and decide whether to forgive the property taxes of people whose homes were destroyed during last year’s floods and wildfires.
Those debates were expected to be quick, albeit grueling, as lawmakers try to finalize details on proposals at the 11th hour of the 120-day session.
The property tax forgiveness plan was the first bill introduced in the House this year and lawmakers have been struggling to find a way to make it work. As introduced, the bill would have the state paying a full year of property taxes on homes destroyed by historic floods and wildfires.
However, the Senate changed the bill so the state would only foot the bill for the portion of the year after the properties were destroyed.
“What they truly did was an insult to disaster victims,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who requested a bicameral committee to iron out differences before day’s end.
Both chambers were also trying to finalize legislation budgeting involving more than $17.6 million in liability claims from victims of the Lower North Fork Fire in 2012, The blaze began with a state prescribed burn in the foothills southwest of Denver, making the state liable for damages.
Among the fire legislation was a bill creating a state firefighting fleet.
“I am unbelievably proud of what we’ve done in references to our water, our air, our land, and precious Colorado lives,” said Sen. Steve King, a Republican representing Mesa County.
The marijuana banking plan would create the world’s first financial system for the pot industry, with co-ops acting as uninsured credit unions if the Federal Reserve Bank agreed to allow the business to access merchant payment systems.
The state House and Senate have to settle a dispute over whether industrial hemp growers also should have access to the co-ops.
Lawmakers have either settled or avoided more divisive measures.
They passed a budget for next year and have decided not to pursue a controversial debate on giving communities more authority to regulate oil and gas drilling.
Jessica’s Law passed which increases penalties for sex offenders and the Medina Alert, to help catch hit and run drivers.
“So if a hit-and-run in Fort Collins or Denver or Grand Junction and the person trying to get away with that, we can can now access the statewide alert system and that gets that many more eyes looking for that person,” said Rep. Brian Delgross, a Republican representing Loveland.
All House members and many senators face re-election this November.
With contributions from Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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