Colorado State Policy April Update
...and just like that Spring has officially sprung! Flowers are beginning to bloom after a long winter, the temperatures are starting to warm up, and slowly but surely, we're all thawing out. This change couldn't come soon enough after the vast majority of Coloradans are currently staying close to home due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is facing the world at this moment. If you're anything like me, you're working from home by blowing up your raft in the backyard or working while sitting in your kayak in your living room. In these uncertain times, there is a lot of different information about how best to approach recreation, with that in mind, we have put out some info for you to take into account before you head over the mountains or to another state to go paddling.
This month's update is going to be a little bit different because the Colorado State Legislature has been in a prolonged recess due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In this months update we
- Will highlight some legislation that has already passed through the statehouse
- Provide a brief update with what is going on with the legislative session
- Share some policy resources for assistance during this time
1. Legislation To Keep An Eye On
This section is usually set aside to take a look at legislation that is currently working its way through the State House, but has not passed through both chambers. Since at the moment all legislative matters are suspended, here are a few bills that we're excited to see pass out of the statehouse
HB20-1037 - Augmentation of Instream Flows: This bill authorizes the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to augment stream flows to preserve or improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree.
- What it means for you: This bill will put more water in the river. Originally created with the Cache La Poudre in mind, to sure up flows through town and all the way to Greeley. This bill was amended during the legislative process to take the entire state into account, and has real interest in being utilized on The Upper Gunnison River, as well as a few other rivers across the state.
- Current Status: Passed through the House with a 62-1 vote, passed through the Senate with a 31-1 vote. This bill was sent to the Governor for his consideration on 3/23/2020.
HB20-1095 - Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans: The bill authorizes a local government master plan to voluntarily include goals specified in the state water plan and to include policies that condition development approval on implementation of those goals.
- What this means for you: Encourages local governments to take the State Water Plan's goals into account when a city or county is developing a master plan for the future. This is important because recreation/environmental protection are pillars of the Colorado Water Plan, and highlighting ways to conserve water at the municipal level will be critical for development in the future.
- Current Status: Passed the House Chamber with a 40-22 vote, passed the Senate Chamber with a 20-15 vote. This bill was sent to the Governor for his consideration on 3/23/2020
HB20-1157 - Loaned Water For Instream Flows To Improve Environment: This bill allows for water right holders to voluntarily loan a portion of their water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to provide instream flow protections.
- In the arid west, where the prior appropriations doctrine rules supreme, this is a new step that allows for environmental protection and adequate flows to be prioritized in a way that is unprecedented for the state.
- Current Status: Passed the House Chamber with a 60-0 vote, passed through the Senate Chamber with a 28-6 vote. Signed by the Governor into law on 3/20/2020
2. Legislative Session Update (updated 4/2/2020)
Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, there will be no capitol visits taking place at the legislature. As things currently stand the State House has been closed since March 14th, after Both chambers agreed on a two-week hiatus of the legislative session. With the two-week hiatus coming to a close on Monday, March 30th, the House and Senate convened (with very limited legislators appearing) to issue a 3-day recess. This 3-day recess is the legal amount of time that they can call a break in the legislative session without needing a quorum present.
The reason the legislature is hoping this 3-day pause will work is so that they can hear back from the Colorado Supreme Court on how the rest of the legislative session will play out. Historically, the Colorado legislative session runs for 120 days starting no later than the second Wednesday of the year (this session started on 1/8/2020). A schedule that has never been interrupted by an event such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In the late afternoon of Wednesday, April 1st, in a 4-3 split decision, the Colorado Supreme Court answered the question "do those dates have to run consecutively?" The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the 120-day amendment is "ambiguous" and that due to the global public health pandemic that the legislature can extend its legislative calendar. This provides greater clarity for legislators on both sides of the aisle, and will ensure that the legislative session will be seen out entirely. The legislature must approve a budget by July 7th, and having this extension will ensure that appropriate time and effort will be able to be directed at budgetary concerns, as well as other large legislative matters.
3. Resources (Adding a few extras for any business owners, seasonal workers, or people in the nonprofit industry who may be impacted by COVID-19)
Colorado COVID-19 Info - Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provide the most robust information regarding these uncertain times and how you can do your part
Colorado Resources for Employees & Employers - A wealth of information to help assist workers and companies through this economic downturn
Small Business/Nonprofit Resources - Outfitters, guiding services, nonprofits, and a myriad of other small businesses are being impacted right now. Check out these resources to see what may fit your business or nonprofit going forward
Message from AW Membership Director - We know that these times are uncertain for a lot of folks. Be sure to read this important message from our membership director
Down River Equipment "How To" Videos - Our good friends at Down River Equipment have tons of "How To" videos for building and maintaining your raft set up. Since we're all sticking closer to home, it's a great time to do repairs and adjustments to our gear. Check out all the different things they can help you with
Colorado Policy Pathways - American Whitewater's approach toward working on policy at the state level in Colorado
Colorado Find My Legislator - A great tool to give you the best contact information to contact your state legislator
Outdoor Alliance Advocacy 101 - If you're curious about how to get more involved at the federal level, check out this great series from our friends over at Outdoor Alliance
Become an American Whitewater Member - We can't do this work without our members. Join AW today and help protect river recreation across the country!
As always, a big thank you to each and every one of you for your continued support for river recreation! These are some strange and uncertain times that we've been thrown into. Remember to stay in touch with the community, stick close to home on your adventures, and wash your hands! Now is the time that it's important to recognize our impact, and work as a community to protect each other, the wild places we love, and the rural communities that we travel through.