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Controversial issues surface in first full week of legislature

3:51 PM, Jan 13, 2014   |    comments
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KUSA - Gay marriage, marijuana, fracking, and press freedoms are among the controversial issues being tackled in the first full week of Colorado's 2014 state legislative session.

The hot topics are being heard in Senate committees, which provides an open opportunity for anyone who wishes to make public comments about the bills.

9NEWS' basic guide to being a citizen-lobbyist in the Colorado legislature

Below are some of the most interesting bills to be heard in the week ahead:

TUESDAY, JAN. 14:

SB 19 - "Status of Taxpayers Who May File Joint Returns

Issues: Same-sex marriage / tax equality

Hearing: 1:30 p.m., Senate Finance Committee (Room 354)

As first reported by 9NEWS, this bill would enable same-sex couples to file joint tax returns on their Colorado income taxes. The bill accomplishes this by instructing state law to defer to taxpayers' federal filing status.

The bill would not legalize gay marriage, but enable same-sex couples to marry in other states that allow same-sex marriage, then file jointly in Colorado.

Supporters argue this is a way to remove one of the key inequalities between civil unions and marriage.

Opponents argue that the idea runs counter to the voter-enacted gay marriage ban in the Colorado state constitution.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 15:

SB 9 - "Disclose Separate Ownership Mineral Estate

Issues: Fracking / property rights

Hearing: 1:30 p.m., Senate Judiciary Committee (Room 352)

This bill would require a disclosure form to be provided to buyers in real estate transactions; making them aware that just because they are buying property does not mean they will also own the mineral rights beneath the land.

Buyers would still need to investigate on their own whether they have ownership of any oil and gas beneath their property.

The goal of the disclosure is to limit the possibility that landowners could be surprised to see fracking operations established on their land without their consent.

SB 34 - "Strengthen Press Shield Law" 

Issues: Press rights / first amendment / law enforcement

Hearing: 1:30 p.m., Senate Judiciary Committee (Room 352)

SB 34 would significantly strengthen the state's shield law for journalists.

While strengthening some of the existing requirements that must be met in order to compel journalists to reveal their sources, the bill would add a requirement that the information must not have been obtained in confidence by the reporter.

The bill comes in response to attempts to compel Fox News reporter Jana Winters to reveal her confidential source of mental health information about the suspect in the Aurora theater shooting case.

The source in her report was promised anonymity because providing the information violated a gag order in the case.

SB 37 - "ATM Withdrawals Of Public Benefits" 

Issues: Marijuana / safety net

Hearing: 1:30 p.m., Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee (Room 353)

This bill would add marijuana stores to the list of places where public benefits cannot be withdrawn.

Benefits such as unemployment payments are commonly issued on debit cards that can be withdrawn using an ATM, though current state law bans these withdrawals using an ATM located at gambling establishments, firearms dealers, and liquor stores.

SB 35 - "Renewable Energy Std Repeal SB13-252" 

Issues: Energy / environment / rural issues

Hearing: 1:30 p.m., Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee (Room 353)

This bill would repeal SB 252 from last year.

The controversial bill, signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper, requires a certain amount of renewable energy to be purchased by rural electricity providers in the State.

In general, Democrats argue it's an important environmental requirement, while Republicans argue that it is overly burdensome on rural Coloradans' electric bills.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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