Economic development, PILT and Methane gas up for debate

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Where to write ...

• Senate District 8 Jean White

200 E. Colfax

Denver, CO 80203

303-866-5292

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• House District 57 Randy Baumgardner

200 E. Colfax

Denver, CO 80203

303-866-2949

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The 68th regular session of the Colorado General Assembly is one month old and local legislators are busy moving bills through the house and senate that could affect Craig and Moffat County residents.

Colorado House District 57 Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, co-wrote six bills up for debate this session and is a sponsor of dozens more.

One bill of interest is House Bill 12-1014, which modifies the penalty for late vehicle registration.

Under current law, residents who do not register their vehicle face a $25 per month charge with a maximum penalty of $100.

Baumgardner said his bill does away with the accumulated monthly fees in favor for a one-time $20 penalty. The county of registration and the state will split the fee equally.

Additionally, the bill gives the County Clerks the authority to either uphold the penalty or waive it in certain circumstances.

“(That authority) is important because they (county clerks) need the flexibility to waive or not waive that late fee when dealing with idle or farm vehicles,” Baumgardner said. “In other words, if you’ve had a car parked in the barn for the last four years, you’re not going to have to pay the $100. At most, you’re going to pay a $20 late fee to register.”

Baumgardner said he has another “popular” bill that hasn’t been introduced yet, but will force state agencies to be accountable to the public about their spending.

“State agencies, like the Department of Transportation and (Parks and Wildlife), have been able to draw money out of the general fund and not have to tell the legislature what it is using the money for,” Baumgardner said. “Basically, it is going to be an accountability measure for the taxpayers.”

HB12-1160, concerning methane gas, is another bill Baumgardner is excited about.

It passed out of committee Monday and if approved by the House and Senate, HB12-1160 will allow utility companies to capture methane gas at coal mines and turn it into electricity.

District 8 State Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, was also busy during the legislative recess, co-writing five bills up for debate in 2012.

One that’s near and dear to White’s heart is Colorado Senate Bill 12-031 concerning Federal Mineral Lease Districts.

SB12-031 provides amendments to Colorado House Bill 11-1218, which was co-sponsored by Baumgardner and signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper last year.

The bill was originally introduced to provide an avenue for Colorado counties with large expanses of un-taxable, federal lands to maintain payment in lieu of taxes and federal mineral lease money.

In Moffat County, PILT and federal mineral lease dollars are typically used to fund capital improvement projects.

Although the bill passed during the last session, Ken Salazar, secretary if the United States Department of the Interior, challenged the autonomy of federal mineral lease districts from their parent counties.

White teleconferenced with the Feb. 7 Moffat County Commission meeting to provide local officials with an update on the progress.

She said her new bill addresses the autonomy concerns by making mineral lease districts a subdivision of the state.

Additionally, the new legislation allows municipalities to join federal mineral lease districts and allows those districts to hold funds in an account for large-scale projects down the road rather than forcing them to spend the money it receives each calendar year.

Betsy Cook, director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, said she is also keeping tabs on a number of bills that could adversely affect business development in the region, particularly in regards to enterprise zones.

Enterprise zones were created to provide incentives for people looking to start a business in rural regions. Additionally, under current law, individuals and businesses that make a donation to non-profit economic development groups, such as the EDP, receive a credit on their income tax statement.

If passed, the bills could eliminate enterprise zones altogether.

“We are an enterprise zone,” Cook said. “Almost every rural community that’s on a state highway has an enterprise zone.

“It’s not the be all, end all. We’re not going to have a lot of businesses come here just because of the enterprise zone designation, but it is a nice arrow to have in our quiver.”

In addition, Cook said she has jumped on the SB12-129 bandwagon.

SB12-129 would provide funds for bringing broadband Internet access to rural communities, which could make Craig an attractive location for destination neutral businesses.

“That would be such an amazing tool for me to recruit with,” Cook said. “Destination neutral businesses that rely on fast Internet speeds have so little overhead, and therefore tend to pump more money into the community through taxes.”

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