Kerr pushes pair of bills through final House votes

DENVER – A proposal to hold deadbeat drivers accountable sponsored by Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, cleared its final test in the Colorado House 44-19 Monday. Two representatives were not present for the morning votes in the House.

Kerr’s HB 1164 would require drivers to appoint their insurance companies to act as their agents in the event that an at-fault driver cannot be located. The bill creates an incentive for insurance companies to locate the deadbeat drivers.

“This policy holds at-fault drivers accountable for their actions,” Kerr said. “Without this bill, at-fault drivers and their insurance companies will continue to be able to evade responsibility for their actions by simply disappearing, even when they have a liability policy in force, leaving injured people without the ability to be reimbursed for their damages.”

Kerr introduced the bill to put an end to at-fault drivers’ attempts to avoid their financial responsibility to accident victim. In many such cases the injured victim, doctors and the trauma centers – and often the state – are left holding the bag for damages and medical bills, according to proponents of the bill, which is sponsored in the Senate by Lois Tochtrop, D-Adams County.

Also Monday Kerr’s HB 1267, which would make leasing solar panels more affordable for homeowners, moved to the Senate after a final 50-13 House vote.

“By working to streamline government, grow business and protect the environment, this bill is a smart choice for Colorado. Homeowners will benefit from the affordability of leasing solar panels, the solar industry will benefit from an increase in business, and Colorado will benefit from an increase in green energy usage,” Kerr said.

HB 1267 will bring more solar panel installation jobs to Colorado.

By leasing, homeowners avoid the expensive up-front costs of purchasing solar panels and offers the benefit of clean energy. Homeowners who sell their house can assign the lease to the new owners.

Under current law, homeowners who purchase solar panels are exempt from the property taxes on them, but those who lease panels are not. Kerr said his bill would “create a level playing field by treating leased and owned panels the same.”

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, is carrying the bill in the Senate.

Earlier this month, a plan to trim the “fat” from state government failed to muster enough votes to make it out of committee and its sponsor, state Sen. Mike Kopp R-Lakewood-South Jeffco, said the bill, which had bipartisan support, died because of “hyper-partisan” politics.

Kopp’s Senate Bill 165, dubbed a “Blueprint for a Leaner Government”, would have sought out and identified “redundancies and waste” in state government, Kopp said.

SB 165 would have created two bipartisan study groups to examine state agencies and functions and regulatory duties to find more efficient ways of doing business.

But Kopp’s measure failed a crucial test, falling 3-2 in the State Affairs Committee.

“While the bill had bipartisan support, the hyper-partisan State Affairs Committee killed the bill and provided no credible rationale for doing so,” Kopp wrote in his Weekly Capital update.

Kerr’s bill to shore up PERA moves to state Senate

DENVER – A bill to shore up Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association – PERA – is headed to the governor’s office after Tuesday’s bipartisan 36-29 vote in the House, where it was sponsored by Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood.

Senate Bill 1 authorizes several stop-gap measures to stem the depletion of PERA funds and is expected help the fund avoid insolvency in the near term.

More than 400,000 state, school and local government employees in Colorado participate in the retirement program, including delaying retirement for current employees who are not yet vested in PERA.
The bill also reduces PERA’s Cost of Living Adjustment to reflect the Consumer Price Index, but guarantees a 2 percent increase for all retirees, active and inactive participants after one year. The bill also would call on employers will be asked to contribute an additional 2 % (1.5% for schools) and employees will be asked to contribute an additional 2% until the fund is solvent.

“This bill represents the necessary work that needs to be done to protect the retirement future of Colorado employees. Even in these tough partisan times we can come together in a bipartisan manner and do what’s right for PERA retirees,” Kerr said.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by President Brandon Schaffer, D-Longmont, and Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction.

House Bill 1, introduced by freshman Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, cleared its final vote in the House last week and moves on to the state Senate.

The bill, which would require large Colorado utilities to increase power generated by use of renewable sources.

Tyler’s bill would increase the mandated requirement – the state’s Energy Standard – from 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020. That would require nearly a third of the power generated by utilities such as Xcel to come from sources such as solar and wind, in the next 10 years.

“This bill represents a huge step forward into the future of renewable energy usage and sets a precedent for Colorado and other states to become less dependent on fossil fuels,” Tyler said “The benefit of renewable energy forms is that they occur naturally:Colorado is not lacking in sunshine, for instance.”
Colorado voters approved the Renewable Energy Standard in 2004 with the passage of Amendment 37, which set a goal of 10 percent by 2015. That standard was doubled and the deadline extended to 2020 by the state legislature in 2007.

State Sen. Mike Kopp, a Republican who represents south Lakewood as part of his south Jeffco Senate District 22, will introduce his “Blueprint for a leaner Government” in the Senate.

“It seeks to streamline and eliminate wasteful bureaucracies so that government costs taxpayers less money in these recessionary times,” according to Kopp.

The measure would create two bipartisan study groups. One would examine “all bureaucratic state functions” to determine which are necessary and which duties could be either eliminated or farmed out to the private sector. A second group that would include business owners would examine regulatory duties of state agencies, compiling a list of regulations that are “outmoded, wasteful and top-heavy,” according to Kopp.

Session off to fast start for Lakewood-area legislators

LAKEWOOD – State legislators from the Lakewood area are waist-deep in pushing a number of bills addressing issues ranging from the size of state government to clarifying when late-fees can be added to property tax payments.

A bill by Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, that would extend college savings account benefits through “Lifelong Learning Accounts” passed the House Education Committee 13-0 Monday.

Kerr’s HB 1040 is intended to help Colorado’s workforce to develop and upgrade their job skills by encouraging adults to further their post-secondary educational goals through the use of 529 savings plans. It also would allow employers’ matching contributions to the accounts.

The bill would give adults in the workforce the chance to upgrade their skills and achieve their career goals and earning potential, Kerr said.

“Our Lifelong Learning Accounts will allow people to invest in their own continuing education. Times have been tough, but Colorado will be trained and ready for jobs in our growing recovery.”

The bill moves to the Finance Committee.

State Sen. Mike Kopp, who represents south Lakewood as part of his south Jeffco Senate District 22, will introduce his “Blueprint for a leaner Government” in the Senate.

“It seeks to streamline and eliminate wasteful bureaucracies so that government costs taxpayers less money in these recessionary times,” according to Kopp.

The measure would create two bipartisan study groups. One would examine “all bureaucratic state functions” to determine which are necessary and which duties could be either eliminated or farmed out to the private sector. A second group that would include business owners would examine regulatory duties of state agencies, compiling a list of regulations that are “outmoded, wasteful and top-heavy,” according to Kopp.

Freshman State Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood/Golden, introduced bill that provides “a little breathing room” for people who opt to pay their property tax by mail.

Tyler’s HB 1046, which last week cleared the House Local Government Committee 10-0, requires county treasurers to record as “on time” any un-postmarked payments received within five days of the due date.

“This bill will make life easier for those who pay their property taxes on time,” Tyler said. “It’s just another example of how House Democrats are continuously looking out for the citizens of Colorado.”