Capitol Connection: January 16, 2015
The 70th General Assembly Kicks Off in 2015
The first gavel of the 70th General Assembly came down Wednesday, January 7th ushering in a new batch of legislative leadership, as well as a record number of new legislators – 29 – who took their initial oaths of office. Throughout the upcoming weeks, we will be introducing you to each of the new legislators in our Capitol Connections.
House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, Senate President Bill Cadman, and Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll were all sworn into their leadership positions and mentioned the collaboration that would be coming out of the Capitol through bipartisan legislation. After the recent elections, we now have a split legislature with the House controlled by the Democrats and the Senate controlled by the Republicans.
The Legislative Policy Committee (LPC), this year chaired by Mark Trenka of the Denver Metro Association of REALTORS®, convened for their first meeting of the year today to begin their work on your behalf. The 2015 Policy Statements, approved by the Board of Directors, establish guidelines by which the LPC acts to support legislation which ensures economic vitality, provides jobs and housing opportunities, preserves the environment, protects property owners, and builds better communities. LPC members actively participate in various subcommittees to review and recommend action on specific bills that fall within these guidelines. There are 37 committed REALTOR® members on the LPC this year – representing local boards and associations across the state. Both Commercial and Residential REALTORS® are represented.
Governor Hickenlooper Delivers State of the State Address
Once again, Governor Hickenlooper has kicked off the Legislative Session with a State of the State Address defining pertinent issues he believes should be addressed and goals he has for this upcoming 120 days. Governor Hickenlooper noted that “despite the considerable challenges Colorado has faced- the state of our state is strong.”
Some key issues he discussed were: the formulation of a statewide Water Plan by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, increasing funding for both K-12 and Higher Education while simultaneously streamlining student testing to accurately assess the education level of our students, pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy to achieve energy independence, and finding a compromise between those cultivating the energy industry and maintaining our healthy environment and peaceful coexistence. The Governor asked for bipartisan cooperation to help achieve these goals.
For the full text of Governor Hickenlooper’s State of the State Address, click here.
HB 1063 Patent Troll Legislation
The LPC discussed and voted to SUPPORT HB15-1063, Prohibited Communications Concerning Patents, in today’s meeting. Across the U.S. in 2012, patent trolls sued productive companies over 5,000 times, the highest number of suits ever recorded. That year, patent trolls were responsible for filing 61% of all patent litigation in the U.S. Lawsuits filed by patent trolls have increased from 22% in 2007 to 40% in 2011. The bottom line is that patent trolls are taking advantage of flaws in our current patent system.
The bill prohibits a person from making a written or electronic communication with another concerning a patent if:
– The communication falsely states that litigation has been commenced against the recipient or an affiliated party;
– The communication threatens litigation and there is a consistent pattern of such threats having been made but no litigation is filed; or
– The allegations in the communication lack a reasonable basis because of specified deficiencies.
Currently, those targeted have been paying out the requested amounts to be able to avoid entering litigation, and we hope this helps prevent this from affecting any future Colorado businesses, including brokerages and Multiple Listing Services.
SB 22 Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant
CAR LPC voted to SUPPORT SB15-022 Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program. This bill, recommended by the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, transfers $9,800,000 from the General Fund to the Wildfire Risk Reduction Cash Fund in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) July 1, 2015. It changes terminology to expand references to hazardous fuels and specifies treatments for the removal or reduction of vegetative fuel. Where feasible, the DNR is required to encourage a grant applicant to use veterans in wildfire mitigation activities.
Summit County was a recipient of the grant a few years back, and used it to create a wood-chipping program that allowed residents to dispose of the trees that had been mitigated off of their property to further be used as woody biomass. The bill passed through the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee and moves to the Appropriations Committee next. The only change the first committee made was to extend the program from 2017 to 2020, and it changed the language around the veteran work program to include any veterans in Colorado Corps programs.
HB 1057 Fiscal Notes on Ballot Initiatives
The LPC reviewed HB15-1057, The Statewide Initiative Process, and voted to SUPPORT this bill. The bill requires the director to prepare an initial fiscal impact statement for each initiative submitted to the title board and to further summarize the abstract into a 2-sentence fiscal impact summary. When preparing the initial fiscal impact statement, the director is required to consider the proponents’ fiscal impact estimate, which the proponents are strongly encouraged to submit along with the initiative for review and comment. The bill also requires the designated representatives of the initiative proponents to appear at all review and comment meetings. If either designated representative fails to appear at a review and comment meeting, the initiative is considered withdrawn, but the proponents are permitted to resubmit the initiative for another review and comment meeting.
We see this as a reasonable approach to further educating voters on the ballot initiatives and their impact to the state fiscally if they are ratified into the Constitution. In addition, this will keep out of state interests from being able to add initiatives to our ballot without participating in the meetings and the process of getting onto the ballot.
REALTOR® Day at the Capitol: Tuesday, February 17th
Don’t miss the 2015 REALTOR® Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 17 at the McNichols Civic Center Building and the State Capitol. This is a great opportunity for you to learn about and discuss important policy issues affecting the real estate industry this upcoming year, as well as hear from legislative leaders and network with your legislators. Pre-registration is $55 and includes lunch and an afternoon program. For more details, or to register today, please click here.
Transit Alliance Spring 2015 Citizen’s Academy
The Transit Alliance is hosting their annual spring 2015 Citizen’s Academy from April 1, 2015-May 16, 2015. This is a great opportunity to discuss transportation, community development, and sustainability in Colorado. The class is limited, so please get your applications in to take part! More information, as well as the application, can be found here, and the deadline for applying is Friday, March 13th at 5PM.