Ending a Strange Discriminatory Practice on our Lakes and Waterways

March 21, 2017

By Rep. Kim Ransom

An unlikely issue is taking flight this year at the Colorado State Capitol – access for seaplanes to state-controlled waters.

For Colorado – a land-locked state – this may seem a rather odd issue. But Colorado is home to a substantial number of large, beautiful lakes in state parks, which could be attractive to the nation’s seaplane pilots and help bring tourism and other aviation related dollars into the state – were it not for state law.

What makes this legal prohibition particularly startling is that Colorado is the only state that does not allow these aircraft to land in their waters. You read that right. All 49 other states grant seaplanes the freedom to access public waters like other motorized users. Colorado is discriminating against an entire class of water users, limiting the right of seaplane owners to fully enjoy their property in the state, and infringing on their right to access public waters.

Initially, the prohibition was justified on the grounds of safety and security; following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, virtually all forms of air travel in the nation were severely restricted, and seaplanes were no exception. However, most every state reevaluated its laws and realized there were better ways to combat terrorism than by grounding American citizens. Safety concerns have also been addressed, as experience demonstrates that the training, regulations, and industry procedures that pilots were subject to have resulted in an exceptional safety record, with a major safety study recording only three seaplane-on- boat incidents over a 13-year period (1983-1995). By comparison, in a single year 960 boat-on-boat accidents were recorded.

With safety and security concerns addressed, the State of Colorado’s prohibition against seaplanes now rests on the threat of aquatic invasive species – in particular the Quagga and Zebra Mussels. The threat of these nuisance species to waters and water infrastructure is, to be fair, a real one. Introduced to the United States in the late 1980’s by water carried in container ships headed to the Great Lakes from Northern Europe, these pernicious mussels quickly spread throughout the States, mainly via boats. From the Great Lakes they crossed to the eastern U.S., clogging pipes and wreaking havoc on waterworks. Since that time, extensive efforts have focused on limiting and preventing the spread of these species in the west. This included an education campaign directed toward boat owners and inspection protocols.

Colorado regulators have used the quagga- and- zebra mussel threat as their reason to prohibit seaplane access. However, seaplanes have never been identified as a principal avenue for the transfer of these species. There has not been a single documented case of a seaplane introducing an invasive mussel to any water, and in fact, some of the states in which seaplanes are most active and least restricted – Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming – remain free of the aquatic scourge. A real study has never been conducted, but some scientific data suggest that part of the reason may be that these mussels cannot survive in-flight conditions where they become dehydrated (the mussels die if desiccated beyond 30%) – something likely to happen when hanging onto outboard pontoons at 100 mph. Despite the reduced risk that seaplanes represent, the seaplane community, as a responsible user of waterways, has been deeply involved and proactive in nationwide Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) prevention programs, including an intensive partnership with the “100th Meridian” initiative, a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The community has developed an extremely successful inspection and decontamination protocol, including educating and certifying seaplane pilots to recognize the hazard.

And yet, Colorado maintains its ban. Efforts by the state’s seaplane community to simply sit down with state officials to work out an acceptable protocol for ANS mitigation have been met with deaf ears and stubborn resistance. At issue seems to be the state government’s refusal to relinquish any control over the inspection process by giving pilots a portion of the responsibility to inspect their own planes, and by trusting them to follow through on the flight plans they have filed after inspection at an airport.

Because attempts to work out any remaining differences with the bureaucracy in pursuit of the restoration of their rights have proven futile, the seaplane community in Colorado is now pursuing the legislative route. A bill is expected to be introduced, as it was in 2016, to relax Colorado’s ban on seaplanes and to restore to seaplane owners the same treatment afforded other motorized water users. What seems like a common sense, good government fix could prove to be a heavy lift owing to the bureaucracy’s reluctance to bend or share power, and instead restrict the liberty of law-abiding citizens under the auspice of ‘protecting the environment’. Nevertheless, the state’s seaplane community remains hopeful that its own proactive and successful effort to protect the water will be recognized, and that the State of Colorado will join the rest of the nation in treating them fairly.

Rep. Kim Ransom is from Douglas County and represents House District 44.

Colorado’s hidden $33 billion business tax government will not talk about

March 13, 2017

By Sen. Jack Tate

Does Colorado have an invisible $33 billion tax on employers that is holding back economic expansion and job creation? According to a recent report, that amount is the estimated annual cost of compliance imposed on Colorado employers by federal regulations.

To get an idea of the magnitude of this compliance cost, consider that it is fifty times the size of all corporate income taxes paid by Colorado employers.

Two decades ago, the U.S. Small Business Administration began sponsoring a periodic study by an independent team of economists to come up with an estimate of the annual costs imposed on American businesses by the thousands of federal regulatory mandates. By 2013, those costs added up to an estimated $2.02 trillion according to the team’s 2015 report. The non-profit Competitive Enterprise Institute arrived at the similar cost estimate of $1.86 trillion. That translates to at least a $33 billion compliance cost for Colorado’s business sector — an amount over fifty times the state government’s annual corporate income tax bite. This ever-growing cost functions just like a destructive tax policy: it discourages capital investment and job creation.

The ground breaking SBA study of compliance costs confirmed that small business is impacted disproportionately by regulatory mandates on employers. For example, the per-employee cost of new environmental regulations is $3,574 for companies of less than 50 employees compared to $1,014 per employee in companies with 100 or more employees. For manufacturing firms, that difference between large and small firms is over $14,000 per employee.

That estimated $33 billion compliance burden on Colorado employers is a hidden tax no one in government wants to talk about. Advocates for government regulation want to talk only about the promised benefits of new standards, new goals and new targets, not the costs of those regulatory mandates.

Efforts in the state Legislature to acknowledge those compliance costs are resisted. A case in point is what happened to the 2003 legislation aimed to curtail mushrooming regulatory costs in Colorado. Senate Bill 03-121 established a process for requesting and conducting a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) for new rules which impact small firms or damage Colorado’s competitiveness to a substantial degree.

What happened to that 2003 mandate? The numbers tell the story. Since 2004, state agencies have published 5,616 new and amended rules, described in an average of 15,000 pages each year. Now, what percentage of those 5,616 rules promulgated since 2004 have been subjected to a Cost-Benefit Analysis? The answer, sadly, is less than 2 percent.

No one is suggesting that the benefits of a new government regulation never outweigh the costs. The point here is more fundamental: When imposing new regulations on the business sector, state lawmakers and regulatory advocates always crow about assumed benefits, but they hardly ever even acknowledge compliance costs, much less try to quantify them.

In truth, this hidden tax is the unacknowledged “elephant in the room” obstructing Colorado’s economic growth. Because those cumulative costs have never been measured or examined adequately, no one — not even professional economists — knows the real impact of cumulative compliance costs on job growth and business expansion. Furthermore, who is evaluating the regulations of the past?

Obviously, one of the main reasons there is so little organized resistance to regulatory mandates is that corporations have been bullied to look upon regulatory compliance as simply a “cost of doing business.” The cost of compliance with any one particular rule is simply factored into the cost of the product or service sold to consumers, suppliers or the government. To left-wing politicians and some government bureaucrats, the idea that entrepreneurs will be discouraged from starting new firms and some small firms forgo expansion or even be driven out of business by compliance costs is simply dismissed as “collateral damage.”

Every signal coming out of Washington, D.C. is telling us to expect a major push for business deregulation as a major pillar of a new business expansion strategy. Colorado should be an active partner in this effort. We should welcome the new opportunities for regulatory reform and for a more skeptical attitude toward the regulatory “collateral damage” inflicted on small business, which is the primary engine of job growth, economic expansion and distributed wealth creation.

Sen. Jack Tate serves District 27 in the Colorado Senate and chairs the Senate Business Committee.

This article originally ran in the Colorado Statesman.

Important issues face 71st General Assembly

March 9, 2017

By Senate President Kevin Grantham

As the first session of the 71st General Assembly gets underway, I find myself turning to our state’s constitution for guidance, the preamble of which laid the groundwork for our continued growth and priorities. Justice, tranquility, and liberty are values all Coloradans hold dear, values that Senate Republicans will continue to fight for this legislative session. Our state is growing at an unprecedented rate, and every day new folks are choosing to call Colorado home. With this surge in population, we cannot afford inaction on some of our state’s most pressing issues any longer, and Senate Republicans will make certain that the needs of every Coloradan are our top priority. To that end, Republicans in the legislature will continue to prioritize adequate funding to ensure the safe and secure condition of our bridges and roadways, we will reach across the aisle to spearhead creative solutions to solve the housing crisis in our state, and as part of our ongoing endeavors to create a better economic climate for all Coloradans, we will work tirelessly to repeal burdensome regulations and hidden taxes on job creators in our state. This session, Coloradans can rest assured that Senate Republicans will be steadfast champions for those values that unite us.

Our state’s bridges and roadways are in shambles, and endless gridlock and congestion not only affect every Coloradan, but also impose upon commerce and cost our state and taxpayers. We can no longer wring our hands waiting, it is time to address adequate transportation funding in Colorado. Our current infrastructure needs exceed nine billion dollars, including three and half billion in shovel ready projects on the priority list awaiting funding. With more and more people moving to our state every day, our roads will only continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate and our time in traffic will rise. It is time to develop real solutions to improve Colorado’s infrastructure and ensure the safety of every family, every time they travel our state roads and bridges. Those solutions must and will respect the needs and priorities of Coloradans. Senate Republicans will not write a blank check at the taxpayer’s expense. This session, we will address our transportation needs, while ensuring the protection of the will of Colorado taxpayers.

With over 100,000 new residents last year alone, but only about 25,000 new houses built, Colorado is in the midst of a housing crisis. Home ownership is a crucial component to achieving the American Dream, and Senate Republicans want to remove barriers and help every Coloradan start on a pathway to accessible, affordable housing. In that vein, we will fight to mitigate back end costs and encourage builders to build. Currently, demand for new condos and homes far outweigh the supply, we will seek to end that discrepancy. Every young person, every new family, every transplant and native deserves the opportunity to own a home and Senate Republicans want to provide that opportunity.

Though a perpetual objective, regulatory reform and the promotion of a healthy economy and strong business climate is no less important this session than any other. Senate Republicans are committed to reducing regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles that inhibit business startups, stifle job creation, and limit growth in Colorado. Our state averages 15,000 pages of new rules and regulations every year. These hidden taxes are job killers and we would be remiss as public servants to allow such fatal detriment to our economy to occur on our watch. We will work with small businesses—the engine of our economy—to repeal these redundancies and ensure that job creation in Colorado is a top priority for this body.

‘We the people,’ it is the phrase that will guide your Senate Republican leadership team this session. ‘We the people,’ it reminds us for whom we work, it reminds us that we are stronger together, it reminds us of the guiding principles on which our state was founded and of the values—justice, tranquility, and liberty—which we all hold so dear. This session, we will fight for Colorado roads and bridges, for accessible housing, for more jobs and less regulation. We will fight for our future. This session, Senate Republicans will work for the people, that is our guarantee.

Sen. Kevin Grantham serves District 2 and is President of the Colorado State Senate.

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