- Jerry Sonnenberg
Jerry Sonnenberg Member of the Colorado House of Representatives
from the 52nd district
Incumbent 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) 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.
Born and raised in Sterling, Colorado,  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.
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.
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.
A former precinct chairman for the Logan County Republican Party, Sonnenberg was first elected to the legislature in 2006, facing no opposition either in the Republican party primary or the general election. Out of 24 first-term house members elected in 2006 — the largest freshman class since Colorado statehood — Sonnenberg was the only one elected without any electoral opposition.
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. During his first term, Sonnenberg was also appointed to the state's Correctional Industries Advisory Committee.
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, 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. Sonnenberg intends to introduce the legislation again during the 2008 session. Sonnenberg also sponsored legislation to allow state inspectors to inspect livestock records in order to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, and to increase funding for rural district attorneys.
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 Sonnenberg also sits on two interim committees — on transportation and on allocation of severance tax and federal mineral lease revenues.
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. 
For the 2008 session, Sonnenberg sponsored legislation to limit the power of the Colorado Department of Wildlife to purchase land, 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, and failed to pass a House committee. Sonnenberg did credit the measure, however, with leading to the DOW's formation of a landowners’ advisory group and a meeting with the DOW and landowners in northeastern Colorado.
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. 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.
Sonnenberg also introduced a bill, authored by students from Sterling High School, to except school fundraisers from sales tax. 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. Ultimately, Sonnenberg's measure was passed by the legislature, with Sterling High School students testifying in support of it, and was signed into by Gov. Ritter.
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; 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.
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 and announced his intention to introduce legislation providing additional funding for road repair and water storage in the 2009 legislative session.
In February 2008, Sonnenberg announced his bid for re-election to a second two-year term in the state house. He faced only unaffiliated write-in candidate Dan Conn in the general election. Sonnenberg emphasized water, infrastructure, and rural development issues during his campaign. Sonnenberg's re-election bid was endorsed by the Denver Post, the Sterling Journal-Advocate, and the Windsor Beacon.
In July 2008, Sonnenberg hired Jonnie Walker, a "lifelong friend" who had worked for him occasionally over the past 35 years, 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. Walker had previously contributed to Sonnenberg's legislative campaigns, and Sonnenberg's decision to hire him was questioned by his opponent Conn.
Facing only a write-in opponent, Sonnenberg received 98.6% of the votes cast to win a second term.
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. Sonnenberg plans on sponsoring legislation regarding urban renewal authorities, and legislation mandating reparations from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for game damage to agricultural land, a proposal which was weakened in House committee. Sonnenberg also proposed legislation to allocate a portion of sales tax revenue directly to transportation; his legislation was a major portion of Republicans' alternative proposals to a registration fee increase proposed by Democrats.
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. Sonnenberg also introduced a bill to allow heavier trucks on Colorado roadways, arguing it would increase transportation efficiency for farmers. Sonnenberg was also a vocal opponent of new rules on oil and gas drilling passed by the legislature.
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.
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Members of the Colorado House of Representatives 68th General Assembly (2011–2012)
Speaker of the House: Frank McNulty (R) • Speaker pro Tempore: Kevin Priola (R) • Majority Leader: Amy Stephens (R) • Minority Leader: Sal Pace (D)
Republican (33) • Democratic (32) • Colorado General Assembly • Colorado House of Representatives • Colorado State Senate
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