Senate passes renewable-energy bill after long, bizarre debate |

Senate passes renewable-energy bill after long, bizarre debate

Lynn Bartels
The Denver Post

Lawmakers referenced the movies “Alice in Wonderland” and “Ishtar” during a sometimes bizarre debate on a renewable-energy bill that tied up the Senate for a day and a half.

Republicans argued that the Democrat-sponsored measure mandates that large utilities rely more heavily on “taxpayer-subsidized energy sources,” mainly wind and solar.

They also argued that the bill is designed to benefit union workers.

Democrats countered that the legislation will help create long- term jobs and make America less reliant on foreign energy sources.

Shortly before noon Friday, House Bill 1001 passed the Senate 21-13, failing to get a single Republican vote. The same happened when the measure passed the House last month.

Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, said its passage was perfectly timed, as Tim Burton’s movie “Alice in Wonderland” was released on Friday.

“It is the story of a girl traveling through a strange land with distorted realities and bizarre characters,” Cadman said. “That’s what our constituents are seeing. In your minds you are living a fairy tale, imposing on your constituents a mandated government-subsidized nightmare.”

But Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, said the better movie to bring up was the 1980s bomb “Ishtar,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. The movie poster shows the pair standing in sand in North Africa.

“For us right now to go back on our commitment to renewable energy is the equivalent of putting our heads in the sand,” Johnston said.

Under House Bill 1001, Xcel Energy and other investor-owned utilities serving Coloradans would have to draw 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, rather than the current 20 percent.

The bill also emphasizes small-scale, home-based energy production. The Governor’s Energy Office has predicted the program could result in as many as 100,000 homes with solar panels, small wind turbines or other energy-producing devices.

A provision in the bill requires that solar-panel installers be certified, a move Republicans said was intended to drive business to union members.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Democrats Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village and Bruce Whitehead of Hesperus, deemed by people in both parties to be the most vulnerable senators in the November election.

That led to speculation that the length of the debate, which surprised even Republican leaders, was fueled in part by partisan politics.

Senate Republicans were particularly upset that every amendment they proposed was rejected by the majority Democrats.

“Apparently it’s a perfect bill because no adjustment is allowed,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

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