Representative Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, has an assertive voice that conveys conviction with every word. But it's sometimes difficult to discern the conviction behind the conviction.
Take the issue of which level of government should regulate industry. Sonnenberg testified last week in front of a US Congressional committee assessing hydrofracture drilling for oil and gas. The Committee is examining the need for federal regulation of the practice. This is not a "one size fits all" kind of industry, said Sonnenberg. The feds should butt out and let the states regulate. But when Colorado's counties and municipalities took up the local control flag, Sonnenberg responded with a 'not on my watch.'
HB12-1356 ends severance tax for local governments ending fracking
The Representative from Northeast Colorado is sponsoring HB12-1356, which will eliminate severance tax collections for any city or county that puts a moratorium on fracking. Citizens up and down the front range are complaining about air pollution, water pollution, toxic waste pollution, noise pollution, and the high risk of drilling in or near SuperFund sites such as Rocky Mountain Arsenal or the Lowry Bomb site. Some cities and counties are trying to be responsive to these concerns with moratoriums.
Tough luck and shut up, says Sonnenberg. Mineral rights are property rights and no local government can refuse drilling rights once mineral rights are purchased or leased . If local governments want their severance tax money, they must let the drilling begin. Even Representative Marsha Looper, R-El Paso County, in a tough primary race against House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-COSpgs, can't stomach Sonnenberg's overreach. She objected to the bill's disallowance of local severance tax collection even from existing wells.
The bill will help Logan County and Sterling, Sonnenberg's homeland, because they will receive a portion of the severance tax dollars relinquished by the no-drilling counties and cities. Lobbyist reports show no oil and gas companies supporting the bill. Apparently, this is Sonnenberg's baby.
Drug testing for welfare recipients top Sonnenberg bill
In an earlier show of conviction, Sonnenberg, along with State Senator Greg Brophy, R-Wray, sponsored HB12-1046 requiring individual welfare recipients to pay and pee for a drug test before they can receive any state cash benefits. The original bill focused only on those seeking welfare benefits. It was amended by House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, to include all statewide elected officials, as they too receive cash from the state.
Ferrandino added that anyone receiving "corporate welfare" should also be subject to testing. Sonnenberg objected, saying he didn't know what Ferrandino was referring to. The Denver Post opined that Ferrandino meant companies with employees receiving state contracts. But the allusion may have inadvertently touched a tender spot for Sonnenberg.
Sonnenberg gets $591,968 from farm subsidies
According to the Environmental Working Group, a website that tracks federal farm subsidies, both Sonnenberg and Brophy have received substantial chunks of dough from the federal government from 1995-2010. Sonnenberg's total federal farm subsidy over fifteen years is $591,968 and Brophy's is $103,647.38, not chump change by any measure.
Sonnenberg received conservation, disaster, and commodities subsidies. His top year was 2005 when he took in $70,880. He snagged $45,484 in 2010. Brophy received most of his subsidies for wheat and corn. His top year was 2001 when he took in $18,714. He only received $4681 in 2010. State Senator Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, has picked up $8826 since 2002 and Representative Wes McKinley, R-Walsh, received $2,295 since 2009.
So far, the federal government has not instituted drug testing for the farm subsidy program. It is possible for Sonnenberg to offer a House resolution requesting drug testing in the farm subsidy program during the 2013 General Session. He is sure to win his seat in November as he's running unopposed. PEN, CCW