Jerry Sonnenberg

Jerry Sonnenberg
Jerry Sonnenberg
Member of the Colorado House of Representatives
from the 52nd district
Assumed office
January 10, 2007
Preceded by Diane Hoppe
Personal details
Born Sterling, Colorado
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Vonnie
Profession Farmer, Rancher
Religion Christian

Jerry Sonnenberg (born May 1958[1]) is a legislator in the U.S. state of Colorado. Elected to the Colorado House of Representatives as a Republican in 2006 (the year before 2007), Sonnenberg represents House District 65, which covers much of northeasten Colorado, including Sedgwick, Phillips, Logan, and rural Weld counties.[2]



Born and raised in Sterling, Colorado, [3] Sonnenberg graduated from Sterling High School, then attended Northeastern Junior College and graduated from the Colorado Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program at Colorado State University. Sonnenberg is married; he and his wife Vonnie Constance have four children: Ashley, Afton, Joshua, and Ryan.[4]

A farmer and rancher since 1979, Sonnenberg has managed and operated his 3,600-acre (15 km2) family farm and held a variety of jobs, including news photographer, funeral home assistant and truck driver in a family owned-and-operated trucking business. He has served as the president of the Logan County Farm Bureau, the chairman of Logan County Right to Farm Committee, and has sat on the Colorado Water Congress Policy Committee, the Logan County Planning Commission and the boards of the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Republican River Conservation District.[4]

Sonnenberg also worked as a substitute teacher in Sterling Public Schools for five years, as well as a part time instructor in the Farm Business Management department at Northeastern Junior College for two years. He served as chairman for the Colorado preschool pilot program, on the Sterling Schools Building Accountability Committee, and on the board of the Sterling Baseball Organization, and has coached and umpired Colorado high school baseball and other sports. Sonnenberg has also worked as director of music ministry at Sterling's First Christian Church and choir director at Sterling's Berean Church.[4]

Legislative career

A former precinct chairman for the Logan County Republican Party,[4] Sonnenberg was first elected to the legislature in 2006, facing no opposition either in the Republican party primary[5] or the general election.[2] Out of 24 first-term house members elected in 2006 — the largest freshman class since Colorado statehood[6] — Sonnenberg was the only one elected without any electoral opposition.[7]

2007 legislative session

During the 2007 legislative session, Sonnenberg sat on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, and the House Transportation and Energy Committee.[8] During his first term, Sonnenberg was also appointed to the state's Correctional Industries Advisory Committee.[9]

Sonnenberg's top-priority legislation during the 2007 session of the Colorado General Assembly was a bill restricting the ability of Colorado governments to obtain water rights through eminent domain. The bill was denounced as unconstitutional by the Colorado League of Municipalities,[10] and only narrowly passed the state house. Senate sponsor Brandon Shaffer modified the Senate version of the bill, which passed by a wide margin, to call only for a study on the issue; Sonnenberg publicly called Shaffer a "turncoat" for amending the Senate bill and then refusing to call for a conference committee to reconcile the two versions of the legislation.[11] Sonnenberg intends to introduce the legislation again during the 2008 session.[12] Sonnenberg also sponsored legislation to allow state inspectors to inspect livestock records in order to prevent the spread of mad cow disease,[13] and to increase funding for rural district attorneys.[14]

After the 2007 legislative session, Sonnenberg was recognized by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers as one of its "Outstanding Legislators of 2007" for his support of lower taxes and private property rights[15] Sonnenberg also sits on two interim committees — on transportation[12][16] and on allocation of severance tax and federal mineral lease revenues.[17]

2008 legislative session

In the 2008 session of the Colorado General Assembly, Sonnenberg sits on the House Agriculture, Livestock, & Natural Resources Committee and the House Transportation and Energy Committee. [18]

For the 2008 session, Sonnenberg sponsored legislation to limit the power of the Colorado Department of Wildlife to purchase land,[19][20] by requiring that any purchase be matched by a sale of other assets of equal value. The bill was opposed by the Department of Wildlife,[21] and failed to pass a House committee.[22] Sonnenberg did credit the measure, however, with leading to the DOW's formation of a landowners’ advisory group[23] and a meeting with the DOW and landowners in northeastern Colorado.[24]

Sonnenberg also introduced legislation to allow special districts in Colorado to retain tax revenue that otherwise would have been diverted because of tax increment financing; the bill also died in committee.[25] Other bills, to create a sales tax holiday for school supplies and to enhance funding for special districts that provide emergency services, also died in committee.[26]

Sonnenberg also introduced a bill, authored by students from Sterling High School, to except school fundraisers from sales tax.[27] The bill was killed in committee, but later revived by House Democrats after pressure from Sonnenberg. A similar but narrower measure was introduced by Rep. Joe Rice, and the two legislators agreed to work to reconcile the two bills.[28] Ultimately, Sonnenberg's measure was passed by the legislature,[23] with Sterling High School students testifying in support of it,[29][30] and was signed into by Gov. Ritter.[1]

During debate on the state budget, Sonnenberg offered an unsuccessful amendment, mirroring one of his defeated 2007 bills, to increase funding for rural district attorneys offices;[31] he also unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate 21 jobs within the Oil and Gas Commission created to monitor compliance with new environmental rules, arguing that the positions should have been attached to the original 2007 legislation that enacted the new rules.[32]

During the session, Sonnenberg sponsored 11 bills, of which seven passed. Following the session, he expressed concern over the legislature's failure to provide addition transportation funding[1] and announced his intention to introduce legislation providing additional funding for road repair and water storage in the 2009 legislative session.[33]

2008 campaign

In February 2008, Sonnenberg announced his bid for re-election to a second two-year term in the state house.[34] He faced only unaffiliated write-in candidate Dan Conn in the general election.[23][35] Sonnenberg emphasized water, infrastructure, and rural development issues during his campaign.[36] Sonnenberg's re-election bid was endorsed by the Denver Post,[37] the Sterling Journal-Advocate,[38] and the Windsor Beacon.[39]

In July 2008, Sonnenberg hired Jonnie Walker, a "lifelong friend" who had worked for him occasionally over the past 35 years,[40] and was facing accusations of engaging in sexually explicit Internet chat with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, to work on his farm during the summer harvest season. Because of Walker's restraining order, a judge had to grant special permission to work on the farm, where Sonnenberg's two teenage sons also worked.[41][42] Walker had previously contributed to Sonnenberg's legislative campaigns, and Sonnenberg's decision to hire him was questioned by his opponent Conn.[43]

Facing only a write-in opponent, Sonnenberg received 98.6% of the votes cast to win a second term.[44]

2009 legislative session

For the 2009 legislative session, Sonnenberg was named to seats on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee.[45] Sonnenberg plans on sponsoring legislation regarding urban renewal authorities,[46] and legislation mandating reparations from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for game damage to agricultural land, a proposal which was weakened in House committee.[46][47] Sonnenberg also proposed legislation to allocate a portion of sales tax revenue directly to transportation;[48][49] his legislation was a major portion of Republicans' alternative proposals to a registration fee increase proposed by Democrats.[50]

Sonnenberg sponsored legislation to allow betting on "historic" horse races at three locations statewide; his bill was killed in favor of an alternative proposal to expand simulcast betting.[51][52] Sonnenberg also introduced a bill to allow heavier trucks on Colorado roadways, arguing it would increase transportation efficiency for farmers.[53] Sonnenberg was also a vocal opponent of new rules on oil and gas drilling passed by the legislature.[54]

Following the legislative session, the Colorado Union of Taxpayers named Sonnenberg a "Taxpayer Guardian;" his 90 percent rating on their legislative scorecard identified him as one of the most fiscally conservative legislators in the state.[55]


  1. ^ a b c Jones, Callie (15 May 2008). "Ups and downs at the Capitol". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-06-06. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b "State House District 65". COMaps. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  3. ^ "Representative Sonneberg". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Biography". Elect Jerry Sonnenberg. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  5. ^ "Election Summary Report - 2006 Primary". Weld County. Retrieved 2007-11-21. [dead link]
  6. ^ Romanoff, Andrew (10 January 2007). "Opening remarks by House Speaker Romanoff". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on 2007-12-02.,2777,DRMN_23906_5270417,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  7. ^ Editorial Board (7 October 2007). "State House races". Denver Post. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  8. ^ "House Committees of Reference". Colorado General Assembly. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  9. ^ "Rep. Sonnenberg Appointed To Correctional Industries Advisory Committee". Elect Jerry Sonnenberg. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  10. ^ Mason, K.C. (30 January 2007). "Sharks circle Sonnenberg's water bill". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2007-11-21. [dead link]
  11. ^ Mason, K.C. (28 April 2007). "Water debate a Legislative fight". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2007-11-21. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b Barrettt, Carol (12 June 2007). "‘Food grows where water goes’". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2007-11-21. [dead link]
  13. ^ Mason, K.C. (16 March 2007). "Sonnenberg, Brophy at odds over cattle feed bill". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2007-11-21. [dead link]
  14. ^ Mason, K.C. (23 February 2007). "Sonnenberg seeks more funding for rural DA offices". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  15. ^ Barrettt, Carol (24 October 2007). "Taxpayer group honors Jerry Sonnenberg". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2007-11-21. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Transportation Legislation Review Committee 2007". Colorado Legislative Council. Retrieved 2008-04-27. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Allocation of Severance Tax and Federal Mineral Lease Revenues". Colorado Legislative Council. Retrieved 2008-04-27. [dead link]
  18. ^ "House Committees of Reference". Colorado General Assembly. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  19. ^ Barrettt, Carol (8 September 2007). "Judge rules family can keep house". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2007-11-21. [dead link]
  20. ^ Mason, K.C. (12 January 2008). "DOW takes heat for buy up of private land". Craig Daily Press. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  21. ^ Yates, Phillip (28 January 2008). "Gunnison's Kathleen Curry opposes bill restricting DOW". Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  22. ^ Mason, K.C. (8 February 2008). "Sonnenberg loses cause against DOW in 5-8 vote". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-02-08. [dead link]
  23. ^ a b c Mason, K.C. (14 May 2007). "With session’s end, legislators back at home". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-05-14. [dead link]
  24. ^ Staff Reports (21 August 2008). "Sonnenberg, DOW to host landowner meeting". Greeley Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  25. ^ Staff reports (5 February 2008). "TIF-related bill is killed". Denver Business Journal. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  26. ^ Mason, K.C. (23 February 2008). "Not much luck in passing bills for local reps.". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-02-28. [dead link]
  27. ^ Jones, Callie (8 January 2008). "Students write bill to kill tax on fundraisers". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-01-09. [dead link]
  28. ^ Mason, K.C. (11 April 2008). "Bake sale bill alive at Capitol". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-04-11. [dead link]
  29. ^ Boyle, Rebecca (23 May 2008). "Inside Politics: My Encounter With The Lion". Fort Collins Now. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  30. ^ Jones, Callie (24 May 2008). "Students’ bill: From idea to law". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  31. ^ Mason, K.C. (28 March 2008). "Local Reps. upset with proposed state budget". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-03-28. [dead link]
  32. ^ Mason, K.C. (29 March 2008). "Budget moves to Senate". Craig Daily Press. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  33. ^ Miller, Stacie (31 May 2008). "Sonnenberg: Now is the time". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-06-14. [dead link]
  34. ^ Staff Reports (19 February 2008). "Sonnenberg announces re-election bid". Greeley Tribune. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  35. ^ Staff Reports (9 April 2008). "Fleming teacher Dan Conn announces candidacy for State Senate District 65". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-04-11. [dead link]
  36. ^ Waite, Sara (16 October 2008). "District 65 candidates get candid". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-11-01. [dead link]
  37. ^ Editorial Board (17 October 2008). "Post's picks in Colorado's House of Representatives". Denver Post. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  38. ^ Editorial Board (27 October 2008). "Where We Stand: State Representative District 65". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2008-11-01. [dead link]
  39. ^ Norris, Wendy; Bob Spencer (3 November 2008). "State candidate endorsement watch". Colorado Independent. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  40. ^ Hershberger, Forrest (9 August 2008). "Hiring draws fire". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  41. ^ Kosena, Jason (9 July 2007). "Colorado Republican House member looks to hire accused sexual predator". Colorado Independent. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  42. ^ Shockley, Paul (15 July 2007). "Judge OKs Walker work on lawmaker's farm". Grand Junction Free Press. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  43. ^ Hamilton, Amy (8 July 2007). "Internet predator suspect Walker seeks OK to work for friend". Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-08-07. [dead link]
  44. ^ "Colorado Statewide Cumulative Report - 2008 General Election". Colorado Secretary of State. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  45. ^ "House Republican Committee Assignments Announced" (Press release). Colorado House Democrats. 18 November 2008. 
  46. ^ a b Mason, K.C. (6 January 2009). "Legislative session about economy". Fort Morgan Times. Retrieved 2009-01-10. [dead link]
  47. ^
  48. ^ Staff Reports (15 January 2009). "Sonnenberg introduces transportation funding bill". Fort Morgan Times. Retrieved 2009-02-08. [dead link]
  49. ^ Mason, K.C. (20 January 2009). "Searching for highway funds". Sterling Journal-Advocate. Retrieved 2009-02-08. [dead link]
  50. ^ Ingold, John (8 February 2009). "House GOP's new plan for roads, bridges has olive branch to Dems". Denver Post. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  51. ^ Mason, K.C. (20 February 2009). "Will legislature save live racing?". Sterling Jornal-Advocate. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  52. ^ Bartels, Lynn (5 February 2009). "And they're off!". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  53. ^ Mason, K.C. (20 March 2009). "Area legislators put trucking bills in motion". Sterling Jornal-Advocate. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  54. ^ Hanel, Joe (14 March 2009). "House passes gas, oil rules". Durango Herald. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  55. ^ Marcus, Peter (18 August 2009). "Conservative group flunks Legislature for raising taxes during the recession". Denver Daily News. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 

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