RMFU: Colorado Session Is Over: Here Are The Bills Worth Your Attention

It was another busy session for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union as bills impacting water, hemp, food safety, and rural Colorado remained topics of discussion throughout the session. One highlight for rural Colorado was the Legislature’s ability to fulfill the campaign promise of Governor Jared Polis to provide free, full day kindergarten. After much debate on how to fund the expansion, the Joint Budget Committee set aside $175 million during the March budgeting process to be appropriated to the bill, HB19-1262, which then passed the full legislature by the end of April.

Another major bill to pass this session reforms the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to regulate rather than foster the oil and gas industry. After months of debate and nearly 200 considered amendments and hours of public testimony, SB19-181 passed and was signed into law on April 16. A final substantial effort this session is the potential legalization of sports betting to generate revenues to fund the Colorado Water Plan. After a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case overturned a federal prohibition on sports betting, HB19-1327 seeks voter approval in the November election to approve the legalization, and allow the taxation, of sports betting under the authority of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission.

This session saw additional emphasis placed on supporting and expanding local food markets to increase access to healthy Colorado foods. First, RMFU members rallied together to bring a local concern to their Fort Collins legislator, resulting in the passage of HB19-1191 with unanimous support. The bill prohibits local governments from denying a permit for a farm stand based solely on the size of the land on which it sits. Next, HB19-1132 garnered bipartisan support through both chambers to connect Colorado agricultural producers with local school districts to expand access to healthy school lunches. Last, HB19-1202 reforms the membership of the Food Systems Advisory Council and shifts it to the authority of Colorado State University rather than the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA). The current membership of the council will be absolved, and a new 22-member council will be appointed.

Many additional bills were passed to protect the agricultural industry and workforce. First, HB19-1113 enhances the accountability requirements for mining operations to protect Colorado’s water resources from potential contaminants. Next, SB19-139 expands access to drivers licenses for individuals unable to show proof of U.S. permanent residency. HB19-1329 clarifies wholesale fertilizer sales for use in agricultural and livestock production are exempt from state sales and use tax. Last, SB19-220 and SB19-240 aim to position Colorado as a leader in the emerging hemp market.

Unfortunately, SB19-067 to provide financial support to rural businesses in the start-up phases of development did not pass, but we anticipate the idea to return again next session.

Overall, it was another successful legislative session for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. We continue to work with sponsors on the development of a young and beginning farmers tax credit program to ease the transition of agricultural assets through increasing financial benefits of and access to the program. We anticipate a bill to be introduced in the 2020 session. Here is a full list of legislation tracked by RMFU during the session.

HB19-1102 Nonanimal And Lab-grown Meat Misbranding
Status: Postponed Indefinitely (killed) March 1
Position: Support

This bill defines misbranded food as “meat” or a cut of meat that does not come from animals and declares that lab grown meat is misbranded as “meat” or a cut of meat if not labeled “lab-grown” or “artificially cultured”.

HB19-1113 Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts
Status: Governor signed April 4
Position: Support

This bill requires a mining operation demonstrate an end date for any water quality treatment necessary to ensure compliance with applicable water quality standards as part of their reclamation plan. It also requires all reclamation bonds include financial assurances in an amount sufficient to protect water quality, including costs for any necessary treatment and monitoring.

HB19-1114 Agriculture Commissioner Farm Produce Safety
Status: Governor signed April 4
Position: Support

This bill allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to adopt and enforce federal food safety regulations if federal funding is provided. The bill authorizes the commissioner to enter and inspect farms, farm records, and farm facilities during regular business hours, issue cease and desist orders for violations, and impose administrative penalties.

HB19-1132 School Incentives To Use Colorado Food And Producers
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

This bill creates two grant programs to encourage the purchase of Colorado grown, raised, or processed products for use in federally subsidized meals in public schools and residential child care centers. The State Board of Education may adopt rules for the program, and the Department of Education may monitor to ensure program integrity, and to annually reallocate money among eligible participants to maximize the amount of grants awarded. The eligible local education provider must apply to the department by December 1, 2019, or each year after, to participate in the program

HB19-1191 Allow Farm Stands On Any Size Principal Use Site
Status: Governor signed April 12
Position: Support

This bill specifies a local government may pass ordinances that facilitate the operation, health and safety of a farm stand, but may not limit or restrict the operation of farm stands based on the size of the land.

HB19-1202 Food Systems Advisory Council
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

The bill moves the Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council from the Department of Agriculture to Colorado State University and modifies its membership, purpose, and duties. Twenty-two new members are to be appointed by August 31, 2019.

HB19-1241 University of Colorado Training And Scholarships Rural Physicians
Status: Died on the House calendar
Position: Monitor

The bill would have established a scholarship and support program for the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Rural Track Program.

HB19-1262 State Funding For Full-day Kindergarten
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

This bill fully funds full-day kindergarten programs through the school finance formula.

HB19-1327 Authorize And Tax Sports Betting Refer Under Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

Conditional upon voter approval, this bill decriminalizes sports betting and places it under the authority of the Division of Gaming in the Department of Revenue and the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission. The bill creates a new tax on sports betting with generated revenues to fund the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan.

HB19-1329 Wholesale Sales Agricultural Fertilizer Tax Exempt
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

This bill includes the sale of fertilizer for use in agricultural and livestock production as wholesale sale products, which exempts them from state sales and use tax.

SB19-004 Address High-cost Health Insurance Pilot Program
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

This bill creates a one-year pilot program to create a healthcare cooperative in Eagle and Garfield counties for individuals with household income more than 400 percent but not more than 500% of the federal poverty level.

SB19-009 Financial Incentives For Rural Educators
Status: Governor signed March 25
Position: Monitor

The bill removes the limits on the number of stipends that the Department of Higher Education may award teachers in rural areas and increases the stipend amount for prospective teachers.

SB19-067 Rural Development Grant Program Creation
Status: Died on the Senate calendar
Position: Support

This bill would have created the Rural Development Grant Program in the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to provide grants to early stage rural businesses to be used for developing prototypes, proof of business concepts, or proof of business models.

SB19-139 More Colorado Road And Community Safety Act Offices
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Support

The bill requires the Department of Revenue to make identity documents available to individuals unable to show permanent residency status at ten offices across the state by July 1, 2020. These documents are currently issued in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction.

SB19-181 Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations 
Status: Governor signed April 16
Position: Monitor

This bill modifies the composition and the regulatory charge of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), expands the regulatory charge of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), imposes new requirements on oil and gas operators, and provides additional regulatory authority over oil and gas operations to local governments.

SB19-220 Hemp Regulation Alignment With 2018 Federal Farm Bill
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

The bill modifies the definition of industrial hemp to conform with the federal definition and authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to submit a hemp management plan in accordance with requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill.

SB19-240 Industrial Hemp Products Regulation
Status: Pending Governor’s signature
Position: Monitor

This bill requires a wholesale food manufacturer that produces an industrial hemp product to pay the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) a registration fee of $300, regardless of its gross annual sales. CDPHE may convene a stakeholder group to study the regulation of industrial hemp products and make recommendations for legislation to the General Assembly by December 1, 2019. The bill also authorizes local governments to charge a fee to license and regulate the business activities of industrial hemp processing.

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.