DENVER – House Republicans tried to drown a bill that would let the Environmental Protection Agency into Coloradans’ bathrooms to mandate low-flow toilets, faucets and shower nozzles – but the Democrats prevailed and the measure will likely pass Friday.
If so, it travels next to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 103 sponsored by Sens. Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) and Randy Fischer (D-Fort Collins) would prohibit sales of plumbing fixtures that do not carry the “WaterSense” seal of approval and meet EPA standards.
If approved, the measure would prohibit the sale of traditional water fixtures – not EPA approved – by September 2016. It applies to replacement plumbing fixtures in existing homes and buildings as well as outfitting new construction.
Fischer said his bill would save 13 billion gallons of water per year and would help farmers and ranchers, but Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) disagreed.
“This doesn’t help agriculture,” Sonnenberg said. “All this bill does is say, ‘business, you can no longer sell (an) item because we know better what works for you than you do.’”
“And as a consumer, you don’t even get a choice,” Sonnenberg said.
“This bill doesn’t save water, it doesn’t conserve water,” said Sonnenberg. “Since the amount of water in urban systems remains constant, all this bill does is let the government tell you what toilet to use.”
The bill sparked serious debate over the bill’s merit or lack thereof.
Fischer argued that the bill was “cost neutral” and that new fixtures would save money.
However, Sonnenberg countered that it would create a huge financial burden for owners of older homes and those living in suburban and rural areas where water and sewage lines were built to accommodate traditional toilets.
Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose) recalled problems he had encountered since installing a low-flow toilet in his home – from having to flush two or more times and dealing with blocked sewage lines.
“This is a blatant example of tyranny of the Democrat majority forcing their Denver-centric solutions on all of Colorado,” said Coram, referring to Denver Water’s previous attempts to push this bill through the legislature in recent years.
“Democrats insist on furthering this war on rural Colorado,” Coram said.
Democrats doused Republicans’ amendments to respect the local control of municipalities and counties to opt in or out of the plumbing imposed regulations, exempt communities that use well water and septic systems, and postpone the measure to assess public opinion around the state.
Whether or not the measure passes or gets flushed away, Rep. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) offered a reality check reminiscent of law enforcement’s summation of gun-control laws rammed through last year.
“This is what you call unenforceable legislative action,” said Scott, who noted that Coloradans can order plumbing fixtures online from “113 million outlets in America.”
Democrats and Republicans cracked jokes about the underlying issue throughout the debate, complaining there was too much BS and hot air in the chamber, and that supporters of the bill should be required to take urine tests, presumably for drugs.