Lawmakers approve aid for fire, flood victims on session’s final day

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DENVER — Lawmakers entered this year’s legislative session pledging to help victims of last fall’s catastrophic floods, making legislation to forgive property taxes for those Coloradans whose homes were damaged the first bill introduced in January.

Now, 120 days later, that legislation, House Bill 1001, turned out to be the final bill lawmakers passed before adjourning sine die.

That bill almost got tangled up in yet another squabble between the House, which passed a bill offering property tax relief for an entire year, and Senate, which changed the measure so that it only reimbursed homeowners for property taxes paid since the flooding occurred.

In the end, the House version won out.

Legislation aimed at compensating victims of 2012’s Lower North Fork Fire, agreed to just last week, nearly hit a snag on Wednesday too, with a previously unaccounted fire victim coming forward who wasn’t included in the original package.

Lawmakers from the House and Senate had to go to a conference committee to resolve the accounting snafu, voting to appropriate an additional $569,000 from the state’s excess reserve fund to cover the additional victim’s compensation.

“This was a terrible tragedy and I want to offer my condolences to the Lucas and Appel families for their loss,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, one of the bill’s sponsors. “I hope this bill will provide a sense of closure to the victims and help them move forward with their lives.”

As lawmakers worked out the final kinks on these bills and legislation to create a credit co-op for marijuana businesses, lawmakers in both the House and Senate spent most of Wednesday afternoon and evening paying tribute to all the members serving their final terms in the General Assembly.

Among those moving on: House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver; former House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Colorado Springs; former House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray; Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley; Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton; and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass.

“I’m really going to miss the people the most,” Ferrandino said.

“It’s an amazing place and there are amazing people on both sides of the aisle. I think if more people came down here and saw how they work and interact with each other, I think they’d have a lot more respect and admiration for their government.”