DENVER — A bill to nearly double the marijuana sales tax revenue that goes to school construction is on its way to the full Senate.
That happened after the measure, HB1070, cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, a bill that would dedicate at least $35 million more a year to the state program that provides grants for school construction projects.
That new money would be on top of the $40 million that already goes to the program, known as the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, Act.
"Voters who supported marijuana legalization were told that a meaningful chunk of that money would go toward building or rebuilding public schools, but the original pot of money set aside for that work has been shrinking," said Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, who is sponsoring the bipartisan bill with Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, and Reps. David Young, D-Greeley, and Cole Wist, R-Centennial.
"Maybe we were a little conservative in the sums we originally set aside for school construction grants because we just weren't sure what that revenue picture would look like over time," Scott added. "But today we have a better understanding of what we're bringing, so we can feel comfortable lifting the old cap and directing more of those dollars where voters wanted them spent."
The measure, which cleared the Colorado House on a 60-3 vote earlier this month, now heads to the full Senate for debate.
In an unrelated matter, the GOP-controlled Senate gave final approval on a 19-16 party-line vote to a measure changing how pooling orders can be done for oil and gas drilling projects.
Under SB230, introduced by Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, the state agency that oversees the oil and gas industry can authorize more than one drilling unit in a pooling order, also known as "forced pooling." It involves a drilling site that goes through multiple areas owned by different mineral rights owners, even if some of those owners don't agree.
Under current law, a nonconsenting mineral rights owner who is forced to be part of a pool is liable for the expenses of those drilling wells even though they didn't agree to be part of a drilling project.
Supporters of the bill said it gives mineral rights owners more time to decide to be part of a drilling pool.
"We understand the complexity of pooling procedures and believe that these new measures will create a system that is more understandable and fair for all involved," said Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council.
But Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, said the measure offers no deal to mineral rights owners who don't want to extract oil and gas deposits.
"This bill is a sweetheart deal for oil and gas," Jones said. "It's a big giveaway of money from regular people's property to oil and gas corporations that likely aren't even headquartered in the state. People need to know that this thing called forced pooling is a form of condemnation. It's corporate eminent domain."
The measure heads to the House, which Democrats control.