High altitude water storage, judicial discipline among topics of bills sent to Colorado Legislature
Legislative Council OKs 29 items from interim committees
The Colorado Capitol on May 9, 2022. (Pema Baldwin for Colorado Newsline)
Colorado’s Joint Committee on Legislative Council has approved a slate of bills put forward by various interim committees to be introduced and considered in the next legislative session, ranging from a bill to create a new office for youth eating disorder prevention to one that would create a new task force to look into high altitude water storage.
The Legislative Council, which is made up of nine senators and seven representatives, is required to review bills put forward by the committees that meet outside of the legislative session. The bills they approve then get introduced in the session as a committee bill.
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The council approved two items from the Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline, which was formed last legislative session in response to allegations of a quid pro quo to deter a former Judicial Branch chief of staff from going public with evidence of alleged misconduct.
“Senate Bill 22-201, which created this particular interim committee, did make some important changes in statute concerning flow of information about judicial discipline and, for the first time, codified independent funding for the commission. But statutory change alone did not and could not address the fundamentals of the system,” state Rep. Mike Weissman, an Aurora Democrat, said.
The Colorado Legislative Council approved 29 items to be introduced to the General Assembly in the upcoming session in January: three from the Youth Advisory Council, two from the Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline, five from the Oversight Committee Concerning Tax Policy, one from the Pension Review Commission, two from the Sales and Use Tax Simplification Task Force, five from the Transportation Legislation Review Committee, four from the Treatment of Persons with Behavioral Health Disorders Committee, two from the Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee and five from the Wildfire Matters Review Committee.
Both items passed out of the interim committee unanimously to be considered by the Legislative Council.
“These constitute meaningful and necessary changes to our judicial discipline process. They reflect all of us grappling hard with the 17 different points in our charge,” Weissman said.
One of the items from the interim committee, a concurrent resolution, would ask Colorado voters in 2024 to change some constitutional framework for judicial discipline. Primarily, it would make judicial discipline matters public and create an Independent Judicial Discipline Adjudicative Board that would replace the role of “special masters” in imposing sanctions.
The other item, a companion bill, fleshes out some of the details from the concurrent resolution.
Bills to address water storage, wildfire mitigation
The Legislative Council approved a bill from the Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee that would create a task force to study the feasibility of high altitude water storage and whether snowmaking would result in meaningful storage. The task force would submit its report by June 2024.
The task force would focus on whether the idea could “augment water storage in a creative way,” Democratic state. Sen Kerry Donovan of Vail said. “That will be a very interesting bill to see what thoughts it produces.”
The council also approved a bill that would make the Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee a year-round committee.
“If we could move it to a year round committee, then there will be that consistency of focus and consistency of knowledge base that will then allow the General Assembly to be much more engaged with Colorado’s water future,” Donovan said.
Of the five bills presented by the Wildfire Matters Review Committee and approved by the council, two concern workforce development.
“We’ve heard for the past couple of years in this committee how workforce issues are becoming a real problem and felt like it was time to move forward and assist,” Rep. Lisa Cutter said during a Sept. 28 meeting. “We’ve put a lot of funds towards wildfire mitigation programs over the past few years, and now our workforce is lagging. If we don’t have the workforce to accomplish those programs, then it’s not going to make any difference.”
One bill would direct the Colorado state forest service to develop materials on work opportunities to be distributed in high schools, provide partial reimbursements for interns at wildfire mitigation entities, create a new forestry program within the community college system and appropriate money from the general fund to recruit educators.
Cutter said the committee will continue to “listen and refine” the bill to make sure it is compatible with existing programs.
Another bill from the committee would create a timber, forest health, and wildfire mitigation industries workforce development program within the state forest service. It would provide partial reimbursement for interns through an income tax credit.
Youth bill to create office on eating disorders
The council approved three bills from the Youth Advisory Council, which considers issues concerning the state’s young people.
“We have some very bright and intelligent young people that put forward these ideas. I think they are very eager to see these policies and ideas advance with bipartisan support. By no means are these bills in their final form, and I think they’d be really willing to consider any changes to make sure they do pass with that broad base of support,” Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, a Democrat who served as the vice chair of the Youth Advisory Council, said.
One would establish an office of disordered eating prevention within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that would have wide authority to work with other departments to provide and compile resources, collaborate with advocacy groups and educate the public, particularly young people, on disordered eating prevention methods. It would also create a grant program until 2027 to support research on the topic.
This would take an “upstream approach to eating disorders and make sure we’re doing the most we can to not only prevent eating disorders in our state but be a trailblazer across the country in spearheading this public health effort,” committee member Aimee Resnick, who lives in Centennial, said during a Sept. 30 bill discussion when the committee voted on which bills to put forward to the Legislative Council.
In 2015, Colorado had the fifth-highest rate of disordered eating in the country for young people.
Another bill would create a committee within the Department of Education to develop a uniform practice for schools to identify students who may need treatment for substance abuse. The third bill put forward by the committee and approved by the Legislative Council would require school boards to adopt a policy to address disproportionate disciplinary practices in public schools.
The Colorado Legislature convenes for its next session on Jan. 9, 2023.
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