DENVER — If the Democratic package of gun control measures last year sparked the fire of disaffection in rural parts of the state, another bill passed at the end of last year’s session, an increased renewable energy standard for rural electric providers, served as additional fuel.
Senate Bill 252 even led to a short-lived rural secession movement in 11 counties, where voters felt a Denver-centric legislature controlled by Democrats didn’t represent their interests.
Now Republicans are aiming to repeal the pieces of legislation that so angered rural Coloradans, starting Wednesday with legislation that would do away with the new standard that will force rural electric associations, or “REAs”, to draw 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020.
Really, they’re just trying to keep that fire of discontent burning at the outset of an important election year.
Business leaders and REAs complained that the bill would force them to drive up consumer costs, although the legislation caps potential rate hikes at 2 percent.
Senate Bill 35, which would do away with the new mandate, is sponsored by Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, who has no illusions about the bill surviving its hearing Wednesday afternoon before the Senate State Affairs committee, known inside the Capitol as the “kill committee”, where the Democratic senate majority sends much of the legislation it intends to vote down quickly.
“They’ve sent seven of our first 14 bills to the kill committee,” Harvey said Monday. “That’s not very bipartisan.”
In an press availability with reporters Monday, Senate President Morgan Carroll said that Democratic lawmakers went on a statewide listening tour that included stops in several rural communities and heard few complaints about the stronger renewable energy standard.
“When we spoke with the folks who were both initially for [Senate Bill 252] and against it, everyone’s really asking that we leave it on status quo and folks feel like we can come into compliance with it,” said Carroll, who said that voters appreciated the 2 percent cap on costs.
“The two biggest things we heard in the rural parts of the state were access to rural internet and, depending on the region of the state, transportation.”