Colorado State Policy May Update
The leaves have begun popping, songbirds are returning, flowers are blooming, and rivers are starting to flow. Spring is in full effect across The Centennial State, and I think we're all collectively in celebration for that fact. Like many of you, getting outside in my neighborhood has been vital to keeping me healthy throughout all of this. As the state slowly begins the reopening process, and we're all champing at the bit to get out to the river, it's essential to continue to take caution before embarking on your adventures. This months newsletter will provide you with some insight on what is happening at the state legislature, and right here with American Whitewater.
1. Legislation To Keep An Eye On
The Colorado Statehouse has been closed to the legislature since March 16th. This has created a truly unprecedented situation throughout all branches of the Colorado state government. Traditionally, the legislative calendar runs 120 consecutive days, and was scheduled to end on May 6th this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor's shelter-in-place order, the Statehouse has been closed to all business and all legislation has come to a grinding halt.
Currently there are over 500 bills in the legislature that are in limbo with their fates still uncertain. Last month, I provided you with an idea of some of the important pieces of legislation that will impact Colorado's rivers. This month is going to be a bit different because the statehouse has been closed, and while it's looking more-and-more likely that the session will be returning, but only for constitutional duties like passing the budget. In Colorado, the state legislature is tasked with creating a balanced budget on an annual basis. With the impact of COVID-19 wreaking havoc on state budgets across the country, Colorado is in a similar situation as many other places. The state is expected to see a $3 billion windfall in revenue over the next couple of years, which will create a difficult task to develop a balanced budget for a $32 billion operating budget for the state. Cuts will be required which will impact all agencies, and nearly every state program. We are monitoring closely the impact this will have on the programs like the Colorado Water Plan grants, which are overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
What is likely to happen at the legislature:
Given the circumstances that we're in, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that due to the national emergency that is in place, these unforeseen circumstances are far out of the control of the government, and that the legislature can return to work when it is safe. The state legislature has identified May 18th as the date that they will return to the Capitol and resume work. The largest hurdle that must be cleared for the remainder of the session is passing a budget. The Colorado fiscal calendar will expire on June 30th, and typically the state legislature would have proposed and passed a budget in early-to-mid March. The Legislature will likely pass a budget by May 31st, so that it can be passed along to Governor's council for review. Once approved, the legislature will tidy up their work, leaving hundreds of bills abandoned, and end the session before the remaining 52 days of the legislative session are completed.
This legislative session has been anything but normal. We're lucky enough that the majority of water focused bills had already worked their way through the legislature and have already been signed into law. It's highly unlikely that any other major legislation will be pursued this session as elected officials are eager to get-in-and-get-out to avoid running the risk of spreading COVID-19 around the statehouse. For the remainder of the session, we're told there will be very little in-person public involvement, and it's likely that American Whitewater won't hold any further capitol visits until the 2021 session begins next January. I'll be sure to provide more information on this once we get more clarity in next months newsletter.
2. Utilize your voice
As we have discussed in the past, these types of moments are perfect to engage with your elected officials about the issues at hand. American Whitewater continues to provide guidance materials for how the river community should be approaching recreation at the moment. This is a fantastic resource to pass along to your local, state, or federal legislator as a way to engage in a conversation. Let them know how current policies are impacting you, and your river buddies. Always remember the cardinal rule of talking to officials, be nice, be empathetic, and listen.
If you need a reminder about what was discussed in our legislative training, or you'd like to share this info, please use our digital training. This video is a synthesized version of what was provided to you in-person, and will give you plenty of reminders about utilizing your voice and engaging in with your local officials.
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
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
American Whitewater Policy Resources - Here are a collection of resources from American Whitewater and friends of the organization that will surely help you step up your game as an advocate
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!
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to river protection, stewardship, and the continued growth of the river community. As we start to step out of our homes and head back out on the river, remember to keep it local, keep it chill, and enjoy yourself. In these times more than ever we need to get outdoors for our mental and physical health, and we can continue to do this in a fun and responsible way that works in-line with government agencies, and respects local areas.