House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst tells the Colorado Statesman she had a good reason for condemning a crucial water-rights bill to the kill committee for it to die a thousand deaths.
Several bizarre and conflicting reasons, but this one sent our forehead slamming in the keyboard, repeatedly.
“It’s not our job to protect those water rights,” Hullinghorst said.
You read that correctly, Hullinghorst says it is not the Colorado General Assembly’s responsibility to protect our most precious resource from federal water grabs, like the pending plan to assert control over groundwater on lands adjacent to national forests.
The legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling is a third-year effort to block these blackmail schemes, like the government demanding water rights from ski resorts if they want to continue leasing national forest lands.
Even though she has supported the bill in previous years, Hullinghorst said she sent the measure to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee “because she wanted to see the issue addressed more broadly, and that she believed State Affairs was the appropriate committee.”
She also said the bill was unconstitutional.
Then came the ultimate surrender:
As to how the General Assembly can protect the water rights of those affected by the directive, Hullinghorst said “it’s not our job to protect those water rights. It’s a matter for the courts and it will be well-handled there.”
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner doesn’t believe it’s a job for the courts, and neither does the U.S. Senate, which passed legislation last week on a 59-41 vote that recognizes Colorado’s long-standing authority to manage water according to state law and protects against federal takeovers.
Sonnenberg was furious at the stunt pulled by Hullinghorst, as are we.
He told The Colorado Statesman last week that it was just politics. “I don’t get it,” he said. “It’s politics at its worst, when we don’t defend Colorado water rights owners.”