Colorado Senate Updates: Democrats Pass Oil And Gas Regulation Overhaul

Mar 13, 2019

Colorado's Senate has passed a contentious bill to grant more local control over oil and gas drilling operations.

The Democrat-controlled chamber voted 19-15 along party lines Wednesday to send the bill to the House, where Democratic Speaker KC Becker is a sponsor of the legislation.

The bill would make public safety the top priority of state regulators and give local governments authority over the location of new wells. Currently, production is the primary goal, and the state determines well locations.

Republicans fought ferociously against the bill, which was rushed through the Senate by Democrats.

They argue it will eliminate jobs, hurt rural economies and deter investment in Colorado's multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry.

Supporters say wells are being drilled too close to neighborhoods and environmentally sensitive areas.

Senate tentatively Oks hospital transparency bill

Colorado's Senate has tentatively endorsed legislation requiring hospitals to disclose many of their expenditures to help lower health care costs.

The Senate voted Wednesday. Another vote will send the bill to the House, which has approved it, to consider Senate amendments.

Sponsors include Democratic Rep. Chris Kennedy and Sen. Dominick Moreno and Republican Sen. Bob Rankin.

It would require hospitals to provide financial reports to the state, which would compile annual reports on uncompensated care costs.

Kennedy says hospital care accounts for nearly 40 percent of total health care costs in Colorado.

He argues the legislation would, in part, allow policymakers to better understand why rural health insurance premiums, which reflect cost, are some of the highest in the nation.

Immigrant driver license expansion endorsed

The state Senate has endorsed legislation to expand a program allowing residents who are in the country illegally to obtain drivers licenses.

The Senate tentatively approved the bill Wednesday. Another vote sends it to the House.

The bill would increase the number of Department of Motor Vehicles offices offering special drivers licenses from three to 10 by July 2020.

Colorado first issued the licenses in 2014. More than 61,000 licenses have been issued since then.

The limited number of DMV offices offering the licenses has produced months-long wait times for applicants.

The program was created to help Colorado's $8 billion agriculture industry and make roads safer by licensing drivers.

It's paid for by fees paid by license applicants than are higher than those charged U.S. citizens.