Communities get tax power for roads in newly signed bill

State parks are to generate their own electricity, and unincorporated parts of counties can tax themselves to improve roads under more bills Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law Tuesday.

Continuing his final week of bill signings from the 2010 Legislature, the governor approved a measure that drew some heated debate by lawmakers during the session that ended last month.

Republicans objected to requiring the Colorado Division of State Parks to generate enough renewable energy by 2020 to power its own needs and those of visitors.

Introduced in part by Western Slope Sen. Gail Schwartz,  D-Snowmass Village, the so-called Re-energize Colorado Program called for under House Bill 1349 is designed to lower the state’s power costs at its 42 parks and help generate jobs near those facilities. The improvements are to be funded by whatever grants and donations the division can get.

Democrats who sponsored the measure said it would help reduce the cost of government, while Republicans argued it would take business away from rural electric cooperatives.

“With this law, Colorado is leading by example, committing to state parks being a net-zero energy consumer in state government,” another of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Randy Fischer of Fort Collins, said in a statement.

The measure passed the House in April on a 39-26 party-line vote, including support from Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Democrat-turned-unaffiliated lawmaker from Gunnison. The Senate approved it in May on a 24-10 vote. There, only three Republicans supported it, including Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.

Ritter also signed a measure that would allow communities in unincorporated parts of counties to join special districts to improve local roads, but only if residents approve a sales tax increase to pay for it.

HB1243, sponsored in part by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, allows communities that aren’t part of established metropolitan transportation districts to join those districts if residents agree to pay whatever sales taxes that residents of the districts already pay. The districts would cover the cost of the election, and revenue from the added sales tax would go to improve roads in the areas joining them.

Those and five other measures signed by the governor Tuesday brings his total to 414 bills signed so far this year. Ritter has vetoed five bills. He has until Friday to sign remaining measures. Today, he plans to approve a bill altering how enterprise zones operate and another one to reduce speeds on state highways where wildlife frequent in an effort to reduce road kill.


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