Online marijuana sales, green energy tax credits, growth caps: Summit County officials weigh in on a slew of statewide bills

Commissioners were mostly supportive of several proposals winding through the state legislature — though some prompted concern

Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun
The Colorado Senate on the first day of the 2023 legislative session, Jan. 9, 2023, in the Capitol in Denver. Summit County commissioners recently endorsed, and raised objections to, a slew of bills winding through the state legislature.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Allowing online marijuana sales, investing in green energy tax credits and removing government growth caps. These were among several bills currently winding through the state legislature that Summit County’s elected officials decided to weigh in on.

During a Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting on April 11, commissioners discussed a range of legislative proposals by Colorado lawmakers, choosing to outright endorse some while raising concerns with others. 

House Bill 23-1279, which would allow for online retail marijuana sales, aims to repeal a state prohibition on “selling retail marijuana or retail marijuana products over the internet or through delivery,” according to a summary of the bill. 

All three commissioners, Elisbathe Lawrence, Josh Blanchard and Tamara Pogue endorsed the bill, which was introduced March 30. 

“It still requires all the same ID, verification, etc. It’s really an efficiency standpoint,” said Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, adding that the bill could help reduce long wait lines outside of marijuana retail stores and that similar measures exist in California and Michigan.

House Bill 23-1259, introduced on March 26, would create a “prerequisites for a person to challenge a violation by a local public body of the open meetings law for an executive session” and allow local governments to “recover costs and attorney fees in an action for a violation by a local public body of the executive session provisions if the prerequisites are not met or if the local public body has cured the violation,” according to a bill summary. 

County commissioners endorsed the bill, which has faced backlash from transparency advocates in the state who say it will erect more hurdles for the public to challenge what they may believe to be unlawful closed-door government meetings. 

House Bill 23-1287, the short-term rental legislation, would clarify a county government’s role in regulating the short-term rental industry. Summit County commissioners have already taken steps to use their authority on property owners, passing a package of regulations on short-term rentals in February

“We are certainly supportive of this,” Lawrence said of the bill, introduced on April 5. 

House Bill 23-1272, introduced on March 30, would extend “tax credits for the purchase or lease of electric vehicles” and create new credits for “industrial facilities to implement greenhouse gas emissions reduction improvements,” among other green-energy incentives, according to the bill’s summary.

Lawrence said she’s “supportive of this bill,” though she questioned if it would pass. 

On some bills, commissioners did not take a strong stance for or against — though some did garner critiques from commissioners. 

House Bill 23-1270, introduced on March 30, would create a new fund “to reimburse state agencies and local governments for the costs of responding to urgent incidents that do not rise to the level of disasters or emergencies,” according to the bill’s summary.

Commissioner Pogue called the legislation “a well-meaning bill,” but added she did not want to endorse it yet and said, “I think it needs more time.”

House Bill 23-1190, which has faced several amendments after being introduced on Feb. 10, would allow local governments to intervene in the sale of apartments or other multi-family properties through the “right of first refusal.” That could push governments to the front of the line when it comes to buying housing that comes on the market, according to a Colorado Public Radio article.

Pogue expressed frustration with the bill as it stands currently, adding, “It’s been amended to the point where it’s not really significantly meaningful.” 

According to Pogue, the bill would bar housing units that have been built in the last 30 years from a government’s right of first refusal. Pogue said this would significantly restrict Summit County’s ability to use that authority, given that much of the county’s housing stock is older. 

While Pogue said the county should probably take a position that seeks to amend the bill further, she added, “I don’t know if it’s worth fighting for with a 30-year prohibition.”

House Bill 23-1249, introduced on March 24, would effectively raise the age for when children can be prosecuted in Colorado from 10 to 13 years old, except in the case of a suspected homicide, according to the bill’s summary. 

Pogue said there are “still conversations to try and continue” on the bill but raised concerns that it currently does not provide enough funding for the youth services the bill aims to have counties provide. 

On one bill, commissioners were opposed. 

House Bill 23-1255, introduced on March 24, would remove a local government’s ability to implement caps on new residential housing being built and “forbids the enactment or enforcement of any future local housing growth restriction, unless the local government has experienced a disaster emergency,” the bill’s summary reads. 

“It would basically take away any ability we have to regulate short-term rentals,” Pogue said. 

“As it is now, I’m super against this bill,” Lawrence added.

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