Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rep. Morgan Carroll Introduces HOA Due Process & ADR Bill

Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, has introduced a bill that would force homeowner associations to submit disputes with members to an impartial decisionmaker and encourage them to use alternative dispute resolution procedures.

HB 1135, which is also sponsored by Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, provides that associations could not impose a fine for violations of the planned community's covenants unless it has a written fine policy in place.

It also specifies that no fine can be imposed unless "the policy includes a fair and impartial factfinding process . . . [that] guarantee[s] the unit owner notice and an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision maker." The bill makes clear that a person with a personal or financial stake in the outcome of the dispute with a unit owner cannot be an "impartial decision maker."

The bill would also authorize, for the first time, covenants to specify that mediation could be used to resolve disputes between associations and unit owners.

It also forbids enforcement of covenant provisions that conflict with aspects of federal fair housing law that permit disabled persons to modify their home to accommodate their disability.

Bill to Authorize Tax Deduction for Wildfire Mitigation Efforts Introduced

Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, and Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, have introduced a bill that would give landowners that reside in areas adjacent to wildlands a tax deduction for amounts spent on wildfire mitigation.

HB 1110 would grant the deduction from state taxes for up to 50 percent of the landowners' direct expense or $2500 or the landowner's federal taxable income, whichever is the lesser amount. It would also allow the deduction only for expenses incurred consistently with a community wildfire protection plan approved by a city, town or county government.

Among the co-sponsors of the bill are Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, and Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne. Republican House co-sponsors include Reps. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs, Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud, Tom Massey of Poncha Springs, Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch, Victor Mitchell of Castle Rock, Ellen Roberts of Durango and Al White of Steamboat Springs. Senate GOP co-sponsors include Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch, Scott Renfroe of Greeley and Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield.

Bill to Encourage Electric Coop Conservation Measures Introduced

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, has introduced a bill that would require the state's rural electric cooperatives, including Intermountain Rural Electric Association, to devote a percentage of their revenue to efforts aimed at helping their customers conserve energy.

HB 1107, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, Gwyn Green, D-Golden, Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, and Judy Solano, D-Thornton, is likely to draw loud protest from the cooperatives.

Among the mechanisms for encouraging conservation authorized by the bill is financial incentives to the ratepayer, technical advice and conservation education.

The bill would require the cooperatives, as well as the state's municipal utilities, to devote one percent of revenue to promote conservation in the first year after it goes into effect. The amount of revenue required to be dedicated to that purpose would rise to two percent in subsequent years. Utilities could exempt themselves from the requirement in any year in which their electricity sales, measured by kilowatt-hours, declined by three percent from the previous year.

The bill would allow the cooperatives and municipal utilities to partner in an effort to provide a common conservation program and permit the utilities to make the required dedication of revenue by means of a contribution of the specified percentage to the Governor's Energy Office for use in developing and promoting conservation programs on its behalf. However, the utility could be required to pay a fee for that service.

The bill has been assigned to the House Transportation & Energy Committee. No Senate sponsor has signed on to the bill yet.

Levy was a driving force behind several energy-related bills last year, including one that requires the state, as well as cities and towns, to adhere to generally accepted energy conservation standards when constructing or renovating public facilities.

Committee: Censure Bruce

The special committee formed by House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) to investigate "the kick" recommended that Rep. Douglas Bruce (R-Colorado Springs) be censured and required to apologize to the Rocky Mountain News photographer he assaulted.

The incident, which happened in the House chamber last Monday morning before Bruce was sworn into office, has been the talk of the Capitol all week. Bruce was apparently praying during the chamber's opening convocation when the photographer kneeled in front of him to take a picture. Bruce then appeared to kick (or, as Bruce described it, "nudge") the photographer's knee.

The hearings indicated that Bruce has little sympathy for his argument that the photographer was invading his privacy and being rude and that the rookie Republican from El Paso County was "trying" to "protect" the "honor and decorum" of the House by kicking the photographer.

Committee co-chair Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, pointedly rebuked Bruce.

"I cannot justify in my mind that you have more power or authority than say the pope or the president or the Rev. Billy Graham, that you can decree that no one will photograph you during prayer,” King said. “And rather than showing your spirituality to the public, you showed violence. In that regard, Republican or Democrat, sir, I will show you no quarter on that.”

King also said his 13-year old son would have been fined and expelled from school if he had done a similar deed on the campus and that he would not hold his son to a higher standard than a state representative.

If the full House adopts the recommendation, it appears Bruce will become the first member censured in the 131-year history of the General Assembly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Net Metering Bill Introduced

Rep. Judy Solano (D-Thornton) and Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) have introduced a bill that would allow customers of rural electric cooperatives to get a lower electric bill from the utility if they generate renewable energy at home or a business.

HB 1160 requires the electric cooperatives to grant credit for the retail value of the electricity generated by, for example, solar panels or windmills to a homeowner or business owner that installs and uses those facilities.

The House took up a similar bill last year, but sponsors were not able to move it through the Senate.

Gov. Bill Ritter expressed support for the concept in his recent State of the State address.

Adverse Possession Overhaul Introduced

A bill that would make it harder for people to win a court order awarding ownership of land belonging to others has been introduced in the legislature.

HB 1148, sponsored by Reps. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, and Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, arises from a controversy over a successful "adverse possession" claim by former Boulder County judge Richard McLean and his wife.

In that case a landowner lost 1,400 square feet of land after McLean and Edith Stevens successfully convinced a state court that they had regularly used the land for 25 years without protest from Don and Susie Kirlin and prior owners.

The bill would change existing law to make clear that adverse possession plaintiffs must demonstrate a "good faith" belief in their ownership of the land and prove their claim by "clear and convincing evidence" instead of the "preponderance of the evidence."

The bill has drawn 32 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, including Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, Assistant Minority Leader David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Majority Caucus Chair Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and 17 co-sponsors in the Senate, including 10 Republicans and Democrats Betty Boyd of Lakewood, Bob Bacon of Fort Collins, Dan Gibbs of Silverthorne, Chris Romer of Denver, Paula Sandoval of Denver, and Suzanne Williams of Aurora.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rep. Victor Mitchell Says "No" to Second Term

Count Rep. Victor Mitchell, R-Castle Rock, among those who are serving their last sessions at the Capitol.

Mitchell, who is in his first term, announced today that he will not seek re-election this fall.

"My business commitments are increasing and require substantially more time than had been anticipated," Mitchell said in his announcement. "My passion for government service remains, as I've always believed that those who benefit from our wonderful economy should give back in gratitude. I'll just have to postpone devoting full time to it."

Reps. Ray Rose, R-Montrose, Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, Stella Garza-Hicks, R-Colorado Springs, and Dorothy Butcher, D-Pueblo, have also either announced their decision not to seek re-election or are expected to do so.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Other New Leadership Appointments for 2008 Session

Several leadership appointments other than those highlighted in earlier reports here were made by the respective caucuses at the General Assembly in the several month period preceding the opening of the session.

These include:

Sen. Abel J. Tapia (D-Pueblo) - president pro tempore of Senate
Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora) - Senate majority caucus assistant chair
Rep. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) - House majority whip
Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) - House majority caucus assistant chair

Sen. Tapia becomes the first hispanic member of the Senate to hold the post of president pro tempore in more than a century.