Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series examining the issues Summit County's lawmakers, Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R - Hot Sulphur Springs) and Rep. Millie Hamner (D - Dillon) will be addressing during the 2013 legislative session.
DENVER - Settled into a new chamber at the state Capitol this month, Republican Randy Baumgardner is resuming his work on bills that didn't survive during his last term.
Among them is SB-003, a measure that would extend the state renewable energy tax credit to projects that capture methane, a greenhouse gas estimated to be approximately 23 times more potent than carbon, from coal mines to generate electricity.
"This was a win-win for the state of Colorado," Baumgardner said.
In 2012, the bill encountered opposition from environmentalists and Democrats, who said methane didn't qualify as a renewable-energy source.
The measure garnered support in the House last year, but was postponed repeatedly when it went to the Democratically controlled Senate and died on the calendar.
For Baumgardner, who introduced a new version of the bill early this session, the argument against methane as a renewable resource isn't valid. He argues opponents were concerned it would pull tax credits away from wind and solar projects.
"I'm supportive of wind, I'm supportive of solar, but I'm also supportive of new technology that's coming along," Baumgardner said. "That's what this bill is. All it's about is new technology."
The measure is in line with Baumgardner's position throughout the campaign season. He stated publicly several times his belief that incentives for renewable-energy projects should be distributed fairly among various energy sources.
A project in the North Fork Valley showed methane vented from mines there can generate enough electricity to power hundreds of average American homes.
Baumgardner is also renewing his efforts to reduce fees for drivers who are overdue on their vehicle registration, although he's admittedly less than optimistic about the bill's prospects this session.
"My constituents request every year that I run it, and I do run it," he said. "I know it's going to die in committee."
The bill, if it did pass, would overhaul a fee increase secured in legislation carried by Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs when he was a state Senator in 2009. Revenue from the increased late charges - the rate for tardy registration was raised from nothing or $10 depending on the county, to $25 per month with a cap of $100 - is dedicated to improving state roads and bridges in Colorado.
But Gibbs defended the current fee structure, saying Colorado roads need the funding.
"Right now, we are funding our state transportation needs at only half of what it takes just to continue our current system quality," he said. "That doesn't even account for the huge population growth we have in our state. With half of our roads in poor and failing condition, this bill significantly shortchanges what little dollars we have left to make needed safety improvements for our state and local roads and bridges."
The money, earmarked under the title Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery (FASTER), was tapped in 2011 to provide emergency culvert repairs on Highway 9 in Blue River when the road, a central thoroughfare of the town and its only reasonable connection to Breckenridge and the rest of the county, flooded during the spring runoff.
Baumgardner is also sponsoring legislation requiring annual fire department inspections of marijuana cultivation buildings and leading a resolution encouraging the U.S. Forest Service not to limit the water available to ski areas to make snow.
The Denver Post contributed to the reporting of this story.