Breaking news April 17, 2007

The Colorado Senate HB 1069 (Pinon Canyon Expansion Bill) introduced by Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, and Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas. Heard by Senate and passed on Tuesday, April 17th! The tally was 30 for - 3 against (2 absent). Now it is on to Governor Bill Ritter's Desk.

"If the federal government prevails, we will see gradual soils that are compacted and polluted, wildlife displacement and destruction of habitat, our tributaries will be polluted, plants will be destroyed, our dinosaur trackways will be obliterated," said Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden. "Significant and permanent destruction will occur and continue to occur and will keep occurring.

"If the federal government prevails, we will see gradual soils that are compacted and polluted, wildlife displacement and destruction of habitat, our tributaries will be polluted, plants will be destroyed, our dinosaur trackways will be obliterated," continued Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden. "Significant and permanent destruction will occur and continue to occur and will keep occurring."

"I urge you all to vote with Senator Kester today to send a very strong message to the federal government that Colorado is our home." Fitz-Gerald added. "That they have enough of our land for training, and that they should go no further. Colorado has paid its price, and that we stand together as Republicans and Democrats to protect the heritage that is so special, that is Colorado."

"Freedom isn't free, and there are times in America when the public interests must supercede the private one," Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said. "Some of our citizens will pay a disproportionate cost to support our national defense. Some of our ranchers will pay that cost in having to sell their land. I'm not saying that it is fair. It seems to me that patriotism is about accepting your cost even when it is disproportionate." Morse lacked the votes to kill the measure and failed in an attempt to tack an amendment onto the bill that would have delayed it.

His parting words of advice to supporters sitting in the Senate chambers during the debate, which included Southeastern Colorado ranchers and Hoehne Future Farmers of America: "I need to remind you that the process hasn't started yet," said Morse, "So as you take (Tuesday's) victory, remember it's a hollow victory. It doesn't do what you hope it does because the process hasn't started yet. You must be involved in the process, so stay as committed at the federal level as you have at the state level, and show up and participate and bring your issues to the Army's attention so they can be fully debated, fully considered, and fully implemented in the plan."

Under the bill, the state would not give its consent to the federal government to solely own any land it obtains through condemnation. Under Colorado law, as with all states, the federal government is automatically given sole ownership rights to land it takes. The measure requires a final Senate vote before it goes to Governor Bill Ritter. That vote could come as early as today.

Breaking news April 12, 2007:

1. The Colorado Senate will hear HB 1069 (Concerning the Pinon Canyon Expansion) on Tuesday, April 17th at 1:30 pm on the Senate floor.

* Supporters are requesting as many people as possible to come to the Capital to witness this event and then for as many as possible to also go on to Pueblo.
* Our presence will support the Senators that will debate the bill on our behalf.
* Please call your friends and neighbors to come join us at the Capital! and then follow us to Pueblo for the town meeting later that evening.

2. The Fort Carson town meeting in Pueblo
will be held on Tuesday, April 17th, from 4pm to 7pm

* After the vote in the Senate, we will go to Pueblo to the Convention Center for the Fort Carson town meeting for discussion of the Fort Carson expansion and the potential Pinon Canyon expansion.

Breaking news April 10, 2007

Pinon Canyon HB 1069 Passes Senate

Colorado Senate State Veterens & Military Affairs Committee passed the bill on April 9, 2007 and sends the bill to the floor of the Senate in the immediate future. Maybe in the next two weeks. A big thank you to Rep McKinley and Senator Kester, to those that made the drives to attend the hearing along with everyone of you that have been sending letters or making calls of support to our legislators.

If you would like to help support the passing of HB1069, send thank a big you to our Senators that voted in favor and send an e-mails and letter and make a phone call to the Senate!

The four members that voted in favor of the bill were:

* Senator Groff, Chairman
* Senator Sue Windels
* Senator Chris Romer, Vice-Chairman
* Senator David Schultheis

Contact information for the rest of the Senate can be found here.

March 26, 2007

House Bill 1069 with amendments was approved by the House of Representatives March 26. The original Bill tells the Army it can't force landowners to sell their property to triple Pinon Canyon Maneuver training site.

Colorado law gives consent to the federal government to condemn land for certain purposes, such as building post offices or courthouses. HB 1069, introduced by Walsh rancher and Democratic Rep. Wes McKinley, would withdraw that consent when it comes to Pinon Canyon. Attorneys Terrence Carroll, D-Denver, and Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, said the bill was unconstitutional. “We don’t have the authority, as a legislative body, to tell the federal government it can’t exercise eminent domain over a particular area of land,” Carroll said. Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, argued that the takeover would cost the state money and benefit El Paso County at the expense of agricultural areas. Rep. Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, D-Pueblo West said “It sends a message to the Colorado delegation that, not only are a lot of people against the expansion, but there are a lot of people who are concerned about taking land in one area of the state to benefit another area of the state,”.

Carroll and Lambert moved to limit the bill’s scope to giving the state some control over how the Piñon Canyon site is used. Attorney Carroll said “Under the U.S. Constitution, states retain jurisdiction over the land where federal property is unless they cede that jurisdiction.” Carroll’s idea is to tell the federal government “if you condemn this land, we retain jurisdiction over it so you have to consult with us before you use it.” Carroll said the change would also eliminate the Army’s ability to ignore the state’s desires, because the “consent” language in the original bill could be disregarded. The amendment passed 45-19 on March 23.

The Bill was sent to Senate even though lawmakers acknowledged their bill lacks the power to stop eminent domain if the Army moves ahead with the expansion. The vote of 56-9 passed the amended Bill.

Ranchers say the Army hasn't proven the need for more land and say the Bill sends a strong message of Colorado's concern about expansion initiatives. This Bill could make it harder for the Army to win approval.

Last month Fort Carson was given the go ahead to do an in-depth environmental study for the proposed expansion area.

Senator Ken Kester and Representive Wes McKinley have verified the committee assignment and the date of the committee hearing for HB 1069. It will be heard by the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, at 1:30 pm on April 9, 2007.

They ask that as many as possible attend the hearing and that many plus more to attend the full Senate consideration that will likely occur after the committee approves the bill.

##