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Government Affairs Monthly Report

02-12-2017

Steamboat to Consider Property Tax Money for Fire Protection

City officials have started meeting with the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District to lay the groundwork for a possible ballot initiative that would ask Steamboat voters to pay for their firefighting and EMS services with a new property tax.

The move would create a unified fire district with all district residents paying the same tax for emergency services. Currently, residents in a donut-shaped district just beyond the city limits pay a property tax to help fund the equipment and firefighting personnel, which are owned by the city and based in Steamboat. City residents help fund fire and EMS services through a sales tax, but they do not pay a property tax dedicated to those services like the residents of Silver Spur, Steamboat II and other county neighborhoods just beyond the city limits.

City officials have gone as far as to create a list of pros and cons regarding the formation of a fire district that includes city residents. The list of pros includes having a funding source that is not as volatile as city sales tax, getting second homeowners to pay their fair share for the services and creating a stable funding source to support a new fire station.

The cons identified by city officials and the district include the district seeing unanticipated costs due to the transfer of assets, as well the potential for a more complicated process of the district putting a new fire station on property owned by the city.

City Council will likely decide sometime in the next few meetings whether they will create a citizen committee to explore putting the question on the ballot.

Rural Broadband Funding Clears First Legislative Hurdle

Broadband funding for rural areas of Colorado has been a continued topic of discussion at the State Legislature in recent years and many are hopeful that this bill will provide the funding necessary to fix this important issue. SB18-002, sponsored by Speaker Duran (D-Denver), Senators Coram (R-Montrose) and Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Representative K. Becker (D-Boulder), is a bi-partisan bill that will expand the broadband network in rural areas to underserved citizens. This legislation changes a state telecom fee, the High Cost Support Mechanism, to reallocate funding to provide additional resources for broadband infrastructure.

According to the Denver Post, "1 in 4 rural households still lack access to broadband internet, leaving wide swaths of Colorado unable to compete for residents and businesses." This bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Business, Labor, and Technology this week and will now move on to the full Senate early next week. CAR’s Legislative Policy Committee is in support of this legislation.

Since CAR is a statewide association, they support legislation that will provide access to internet broadband speeds around the state allowing rural members to operate their businesses. This bill will allow the rural members and businesses of our state the opportunity they deserve to share the same capacity for economic development, business recruitment, and job creation as the front range and urban areas.

State News: House Bill Tying Affordable Housing Fund to Shopping Bags Dies in Committee

During the annual session of the Colorado General Assembly, sometimes non-traditional ideas come forward that at the very least merit full discussion in a committee hearing. HB18-1054, sponsored by Representative Rosenthal (D-Denver) and Senator Court (D-Denver) was just such a bill.

1054 was a creative attempt to address two problems with one piece of legislation. The house bill would have referred a measure to the voters that levied a flat plastic bag tax of $0.25 per visit regardless of how many plastic bags were used at the supermarket. The measure was intended to reduce the use of environmentally damaging plastic bags and use the tax revenue to fund grants and loans for building or retaining affordable housing. Colorado customers enrolled in the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) and restaurants were exempted. On January 19th, CAR's Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) took a neutral position on this bill.

This legislation was heard on Wednesday, January 31st in the House Local Government Committee. Representatives, on both sides of the aisle, debated if this was an appropriate and sustainable source of funding for affordable housing. Legislators questioned the approach of doubling the tax on consumers, asked whether or not the revenue would dwindle if the measure proved to be a true deterrent for using plastic bags, and cautioned that future legislatures could raid the proposed bag revenue for other purposes outside of affordable housing. Ultimately, the creative approach to fund affordable housing died in the Local Government Committee on an 11-2 vote.

Federal News: CFPB Acting Director Update
In the case of English v. Trump, where the President’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director appointment was challenged, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has again held in favor of the President and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director, Mick Mulvaney, currently serving as CFPB Acting Director.

The court denied English’s motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to oust Mulvaney, which has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Recall, English was appointed to the Acting Director position by former CFPB Director Richard Cordray before he resigned. In December, the same court also denied English’s request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the President appointing and Mulvaney serving as Acting Director. Mulvaney will continue to serve as Acting Director pending the litigation and until a new CFPB Director is nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

Federal News: NAR Comments on Appraiser Qualifications
On January 12, 2018, NAR submitted a comment letter to the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) in response to the Fourth Exposure Draft concerning proposed changes to the AQB's Real Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria. NAR agreed with the AQB's removal of the degree requirement for Licensed Residential appraisers, the basic appraiser qualification, and to instead require completion of 150 AQB Core Curriculum credit hours. NAR also agreed with the AQB's increased flexibility for successful completion of the education requirements for Certified Residential appraisers.

NAR is concerned with the AQB proposal to reduce the experience hours for appraiser classifications and the impact that could have on the quality of incoming appraisers. In addition, NAR asked the AQB to allow for prior work experience to count towards the education requirements.

The full NAR Comment Letter can be found here: http://narfocus.com/billdatabase/clientfiles/172/3/3079.pdf