Donovan Simpson Sonnenberg

Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail; Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa; and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling

The Senate Agriculture Natural Resources Committee on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a $2.5 million stimulus measure promoting food grown in Colorado.

But before it did so, the panel first had a bit of fun at the expense of Sen. Cleave Simpson, the freshman Republican lawmaker from Alamosa who was making his first appearance before the ag committee.

Along with Greenwood Village Democratic Sen. Jeff Bridges, Simpson is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 21-203. That bill, part of the $800 million-plus Colorado Recovery Plan state stimulus package, is relatively straightforward: It provides $2.5 million to the Colorado Proud program housed within the state Department of Agriculture.

That program is charged with marketing Colorado-grown produce and convince Colorado consumers to buy food produced by Colorado farmers and ranchers.

The program and bill both won plaudits from the CDA and the Colorado Farm Bureau, with representatives from both organizations testifying in support of the bill. But the measure faced a wave of opposition, or at least that’s what Ag panel chair Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, told Simpson.

According to Donovan, there were 24 witnesses signed up in strident opposition to Simpson’s bill. As it turned out, there weren’t any.

The pranks didn’t stop there either. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, quizzed Simpson on accountability or transparency measures in the bill. Upon learning there were none, Sonnenberg said he simply couldn’t support the legislation and moved it kill it, a motion the Ag panel backed.

Much to Simpson’s relief, the panel voted to reconsider and unanimously advanced the bill on to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I’m going to remember this day for quite a long time,” Simpson said.

Sonnenberg laughingly predicted “payback's gonna be heck.”

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