GREELEY — The Weld County Board of Commissioners has become the latest in a growing chorus of voices urging Gov. Jared Polis to veto House Bill 21-1266, which is sitting on his desk awaiting action.
“This bill was changed significantly with a 25-page amendment that was distributed to impacted stakeholders less than 24 hours prior to the committee hearing, and less than 48 hours before Sine Die,” says a letter sent from the commissioners to Polis. “Without involving all the industries impacted by this legislation- such as, oil and gas, electric utilities, and others- this language was agreed to by the proponents of a bill that you had previously committed to veto, even expanding requirements and regulations beyond what was included in the original bill in some cases.”
Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, who until this year served as House District 63 Representative in the statehouse knows all too well what the last few days of a session are like, and how bills are rushed through the process. But in this case, Saine said it was done in a sneaky and underhanded way, excluding those who would be impacted most from the discussions and testimony before a committee.
The problem stems from another bill — Senate Bill 21-200 — that was scrapped earlier in the session after Polis promised to veto it.
According to the Colorado Sun in April, SB 200 “would set firm caps on emissions for key sectors of the economy and give the Air Quality Control Commission power to enforce those caps.”
“We’re not willing to give dictatorial authority over our economy to one unelected board that lacks the broader mandate and expertise,” Polis told the editorial board of The Gazette in Colorado Springs when asked if he would use his veto power to stop the policy from becoming law.
However, in the meantime, lawmakers worked behind closed doors to take key elements from SB 200 and slide them into HB 1266 at the 11th hour, Saine said. They didn’t remove, however, the part that originally led Polis to threaten a veto.
The strict emissions enforcement for reductions in the oil and gas, industrial and electric sectors remained, as did the creation of an ombudsman and environmental justice board.
“It is unacceptable to put a subject matter that couldn’t pass on its own merit in another bill without a full vote from the state legislature or testimony by the people,” Saine said.
The bill initially passed the House without the added amendments on May 13. It was passed on second reading in the Senate on June 7th with the added amendments. It was passed on third reading the morning of the 8th and then quickly sent back to the House, where it passed for the final time along party lines (38-27).
It was turned over to Polis for his signature on June 23.
Weld commissioners are equally frustrated by the bill’s title and what they believe is a violation of the single-subject rule.
“The new language added to the bill through this amendment does not apply to only disproportionately impacted communities,” Weld’s letter states. “The new language applies statewide — the entire state is not defined as a ‘disproportionately impacted community’ — and therefore, as stated in Article V, Section 21 of the Colorado Constitution, this act shall be void.”
Article V, Section 21 says in part: “No bill, except general appropriation bills, shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title.”
“We are asking you to exercise your authority as Governor to veto this legislation, open a thorough and thoughtful stakeholder process over the interim with all affected parties and encourage the legislators to present meaningful climate solutions that are collaborative, attainable, and effective,” the letter concludes.
Weld is not alone in its frustration with the rushed-through, waning-hours process. As reported by Colorado Politics, nearly twenty chambers of commerce, utilities, energy and other trade and business associations have signed on to a similar letter to Polis urging a veto.
“Sausage making and deal making going on behind the scenes is not fair to voter or the business community,” Saine said. “You will see versions of this letter coming from everywhere across the state.”
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