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Colorado Floods Prompt Lawmakers To Cut Red Tape

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
Members of the Colorado Air National Guard's 240th Civil Engineering Flight use a tape measure to measure the size of damage to a bridge affected by floodwaters in Loveland, Colo., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013.

The legislative session beginning Jan. 8, 2014 could see several bills in response to September’s historic floods.

A bipartisan committee studying the impact of the floods is crafting bills that would make it easier for communities to fix damaged roads and bridges, and for irrigation companies to relocate their diversion structures.

Lawmakers say the proposed bills are aimed at removing bureaucratic red tape to help communities struggling to recover while also preparing for future disasters.

“This is what we’ve learned in this last year about catastrophe,” said committee co-chair Rep. Dave Young (D-Greeley). “These little tweaks -- sometimes significant, sometime minor -- will help us be better prepared so that we can respond more quickly and more effectively to the needs of people when they are so dramatically affected by these events.”

The committee approved two bills and debated seven others. One would allow counties to shift some of their general fund dollars to their road and bridge funds for infrastructure repair – something not permitted under current law.

The other approved bill would allow changes to the point of diversion to damaged irrigation ditches without having to go through the lengthy administrative process of water court. The goal is to allow farmers to continue producing crops as quickly as possible, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling).

Other ideas under consideration include waiving or reimbursing property taxes for people whose property has been destroyed, and not requiring out-of-state disaster workers who travel to the state to help to file or pay Colorado income taxes.

Rep. Young says the committee will meet the day before the session begins to finalize support for the bills. It’s not clear how many of the nine bills will be advanced during the 2014 session.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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