Fort Lyons re-purposing effort heads to Hickenlooper

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper toured Fort Lyon Correctional Facility in southeast Colorado earlier this year.

DENVER — Legislation to turn the shuttered Fort Lyon Correctional Facility into a statewide center for the homeless is on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose administration made the proposal a top priority.

Last Friday, the Senate Appropriations Committee killed the original proposal, House Bill 1261; the chairman, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, argued that appropriating $6 million in general fund dollars for the project violates the state constitution’s single-issue requirement.

Hickenlooper’s office disagreed; shortly after H.B. 1261 was killed, Sen. Angela Giron successfully helped lawmakers in the House tack the provision onto Senate Bill 210, which changes how state corrections officers’ pay is calculated — a popular bill that was hard for lawmakers to vote against.

That strategy proved sound; the amended bill was re-passed by the Senate Monday night on a 21-14 vote and is on its way to the governor.

Most Republicans opposing the proposal took issue with the strategy. Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, who sits on the six-member Joint Budget Committee that voted against the Fort Lyon plan, said the bait-and-switch “lacked legislative integrity.”

It’s one of several big end-of-session wins for Hickenlooper’s legislative team.

The governor had made it a priority to find an alternative use for Fort Lyon, which he chose to close two years ago in order to balance the state budget amidst severe revenue shortfalls.

Earlier Friday, the Senate killed two Democratic oil and gas bills aimed at tightening rules and water testing requirements for the industry; Hickenlooper opposed both bills and his lobbyists locked down three Senate Democratic no votes, just enough to kill the proposals.

And the Senate gave initial approval to a controversial proposal to set a marijuana blood limit — five nano-grams of Delta-9 THC — above which a driver would be presumed to be driving under the influence of drugs.

The legislation, which Hickenlooper and Colorado law enforcement believe is key as the state moves ahead with legal marijuana, will head to the governor’s desk after a final Senate vote on Tuesday.

With two days remaining in the legislative session, the governor’s office is looking to check a few final items off of it’s to-do list: working out a deal on House Bill 1267, which raises fines on oil and gas companies that cause spills; and the final passage of two other marijuana bills that will set up a regulatory framework and put a taxation plan for legal pot on the November ballot for voters to approve.