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Oil and gas legislation speeding its way through Colorado legislature

The oil and gas reform bill was introduced Friday and has already made it to a committee hearing. Meanwhile, some of the other bills from Friday are still waiting around to find out when its their turn to be heard.

DENVER — Colorado Democrats have opened an express lane at the State Capitol.

Except, the bill they put through the lane Tuesday has 395 people signed up to testify, and we all know you can't take 395 items through an express lane.

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The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee is currently hearing debate on SB19-181, the oil and gas reform package that would make changes to how the industry operates and gets regulated.

The bill involves changing the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission mission statement to say it will "'regulate' development of the natural resources of oil and gas in the state of Colorado in a manner that protects public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources." The current statement says the commission's mission is to "foster responsible development of Colorado's oil and gas natural resources."

The bill also changes the makeup of the commission to include fewer members from the oil and gas industry (one instead of three), and add one that has a background in public health.

It would also change the requirement for forced pooling to occur, from one mineral rights owner agreeing to be pooled to requiring approval of 50 percent of the mineral rights owners.

It also clarifies the control that local governments would have over issue permits and regulating above ground requests of the oil and gas industry.

The bill makes several other changes, but it's not clear if the lawmakers voting in the committee on Tuesday night have a full grasp. The fiscal note, written by the non-partisan Legislative Council Staff, that describes the financial impact and explains the bill in layman's terms, wasn't completed until 45 minutes before Tuesday's hearing. Normally, these documents are provided 24-48 hours before a committee hearing, if not much earlier.

The bill was introduced on Friday and assigned to its committee for a hearing today. Meanwhile, eight other bills were also introduced in the Senate on Friday, but three of those bills don't have a committee hearing date yet, including SB19-175. That bill address penalties for drivers who cause serious bodily injury to "vulnerable road users," including law enforcement outside of their vehicle, pedestrians and scooter riders.

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The other five bills introduced on Friday have committee hearing dates between March 14 and March 25.

The one that has the earliest hearing on March 14 is SB19-173, which has a longer waiting period than the oil and gas bill, creates a committee to study how private retirement accounts can make more money.

"We have many issues, big issues that this legislature is looking at, and it is the leadership teams who put the calendar together. That's their purview and when they tell us this is when your bill is going to run, we got to be ready to go," said Sen. Angela Williams (D-Denver).

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Williams is sponsoring SB19-182, the bill to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. That bill was introduced on Monday and gets its first hearing on Wednesday.

"This is not a new conversation, it has taken place at least four other times at the Colorado State Legislature, but we have 120 days in session, and did you know today we only have 60 days left? We're halfway," said Williams."

Yet the other bill that was also introduced on Monday doesn't have the same urgency. SB19-183, dealing with the consolidation of school districts, doesn't have a committee hearing yet.

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