Grand lawmakers set agendas
Ryan Summerlin January 16, 2013
State legislators representing Grand County plan to introduce bills concerning energy, marijuana facilities, criminal justice reform, homeowners insurance and more during the 69th General Assembly, which convened Jan. 9.
Both Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, are sharpening writing tools for crafting a wide range of bills reflective of House District 13 and Senate District 8, respectively.
Levy, an attorney who is vice chair of the Joint Budget Committee and Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House, has planned a series of bills that address criminal-justice reform, such as an overhaul of drug sentencing laws. One bill she plans to introduce would ramp up treatment programs for personal-use drug offenses – based on amount of possession – in an attempt to free up a system bogged down with cases she says would be better served by treatment. Levy said she expects bi-partisan support on this piece of legislation.
Another bill discourages high bail settings for crimes at low risk for repeat offenses. Oftentimes, people sent to jail who ultimately are not found guilty have bail set higher than they can afford, Levy said, keeping them incarcerated. Levy’s proposed bill would have judges apply risk assessment when determining bail.
Yet another justice-related bill would create a diversion program for adults.
“I think over the last 30 years, Colorado’s been wasting money on the criminal justice system and not getting good outcomes for the money it’s been spending,” Levy said. “All the money we should be spending on higher education is being put into the prison system.”
Her bills, she said, aim to introduce new tools that ease some of the burden in the judicial and prison systems, yet “keep communities safe and hold people accountable for crimes they commit.”
Meanwhile, Levy is also drafting a bill concerning problems homeowners have in the wake of losing homes to wildfire. Insurance companies, Levy said, often give the depreciated value for lost items and homes. Her bill, she said, will aim to “give homeowners the protections they’re looking for when they buy insurance without it being overburdensome on insurance companies.”
Bills Levy expects will be controversial concern the concealed carry law and another about the death penalty. Currently, concealed weapons are not allowed in K-12 school buildings, and Levy hopes to extend the same provisions for buildings of higher education, she said. Another bill would aim to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. Levy plans to sponsor the Senate bill in the House if there appear to be sufficient votes to pass, she said. She told the Denver Post repealing the barely and arbitrarily used Colorado death penalty could save the state money, which could be redirected to solving cold cases and treating the mentally ill as well as repeat offenders.
Other bills on Levy’s drawing board address energy-efficiency rebates for consumers on the co-op level, protecting workers from employment discrimination, reinstating a tax credit for forest health on private property, resource mobilization in Colorado in response to disasters, and rules about prescribed burns in Colorado to help avoid fires like that of the devastated North Fork.
Levy is also a commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws and a member of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.
Baumgardner plans to take part in crafting legislation for marijuana grow facilities in the wake of the legalization of personal possession of small amounts of pot in Colorado.
Working closely with the Colorado Department of Health, Baumgardner said any law likely would include mandates addressing certain criteria, such as annual fire-marshal inspections at marijuana-related facilities.
Another bill on Baumgardner’s list is one that would establish methane-gas capture at coal mines put to beneficial use in rural electricity to be counted as compliance with the state’s renewable energy standard.
A draft bill Baumgardner plans to carry in the Senate concerns small businesses and would require all legislative measures to have fiscal-impact statements concerning effects to small businesses.
Baumgardner is also introducing a bill that would prohibit landowners from demanding any water rights from water rights owners as a condition of obtaining a right of way in order to use those water right. Another bill would allow counties and towns to collect taxes on vehicles bought at actions rather than auctioneers collecting the taxes, and would reduce the soon-to-be-introduced maximum $100 late fee on license plates to $25.
Former state Rep. Baumgardner was elected to the state Senate in November and said he is adjusting to the new role. A rancher, he serves on the committees of Business, Labor, and Technology, Capital Development, and Transportation.
A firm believer in gun rights, Baumgardner plans to speak at a debate concerning possible Democratic-proposed gun-control legislation this session, at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 at Denver University.