State Gov

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Coloradans conflicted on Trump's Supreme Court pick

Posted By on Wed, Feb 1, 2017 at 1:03 PM

Neil Gorsuch's nomination has been met with support and resistance. - COLORADO LAW
  • Colorado Law
  • Neil Gorsuch's nomination has been met with support and resistance.

Wednesday, while some Coloradans celebrate the nomination of Colorado’s own Justice Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, others are adamant that Gorsuch’s track record doesn’t reflect the state’s values.

Gorsuch, a fourth-generation Coloradan, was born in Denver, but now lives and works in Boulder. He serves on the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals while working as a visiting professor for The University of Colorado’s law school.

CU Chancellor Philip D. DiStefano offered his congratulations in a press release yesterday, saying, “[Gorsuch’s] time spent teaching, advising and mentoring our students has been invaluable to our campus. He has embodied our goals at CU Boulder for ensuring student success and developing tomorrow’s leaders.”

Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, too, congratulated Gorsuch on the nomination, though the language of their statements differed. Gardner said in a statement, “I'm enthusiastic about the native Coloradan's nomination and will work to ensure that his confirmation process is fair, thorough and expedient.” A spokesperson for Bennet, however, said, “Michael takes seriously the Senate's responsibility to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations. He intends to review Judge Gorsuch's record carefully in the coming weeks.”

Not all Coloradans are quite as thrilled as CU and our Republican senator. One Colorado, the state’s leading LGBTQ-rights organization, released a statement condemning the nomination yesterday evening, citing Gorsuch’s support of religious exemption cases, which would allow businesses and individuals to refuse service to someone based on religious beliefs.

“A Supreme Court that would rule in support of religious exemptions would certainly open LGBTQ Americans up to discrimination,”  Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, stated in a press release, “and open up a can of worms that could allow individuals to ignore child welfare, domestic violence or other laws that someone could contend [are] contrary to their religion.”

ProgressNow Colorado, an online progressive advocacy organization, also criticized the nomination. Executive Director Ian Silverii stated in a press release, “On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back women's rights, environmental protections and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace.”

Both One Colorado and ProgressNow Colorado also mentioned that Gorsuch has been endorsed by multiple anti-LGBTQ organizations, a warning sign for progressives.

There has been national outcry against the nomination as well, coming from Greenpeace, the Latino Victory Project and NARAL Pro-Choice America, among others.

However, with recommendations on the pages of The New York Times and The Denver Post, it is hard to say whether Gorsuch’s history will call his impartiality into question enough to keep him off the Supreme Court.

In either case, his nomination comes at a tumultuous time in our political climate, and it is doubtful he will skate into that coveted seat without public resistance.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

CO legislative leaders propose deal to bring more affordable housing

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 11:12 AM

Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran - COLORADO HOUSE DEMOCRATS
  • Colorado House Democrats
  • Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran
You've probably at least heard of the "construction defects bill."

Considered a top goal for the state Legislature, some form of this bill has appeared in Colorado's legislative session for years. It's almost a ritual at this point. Early in the session, representatives and senators often say that this is the year the bill will pass. But it doesn't.

Still, it would seem this year will be different.  The new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Crisanta Duran, and the new Senate president, Kevin Grantham, are cosponsoring the bill this session, having arrived at a compromise.

So why is this such a big deal? Because it's thought that getting the bill passed will lead to more building of affordable, multi-unit housing like apartments, condos and townhomes.

Why? Because builders and developers say that such projects are too risky currently — they say they are too liable for problems. The construction defects bill is meant to limit their liability, and entice them to build more multi-unit projects. Here's a story I wrote about that back in 2014. And here's one from 2015.

Anyway, the flip side of this is that HOAs and homeowners say that they should be able to sue if something is wrong with their homes.

According the the House Democrats, here's the deal:

Duran Brings Bipartisan Construction Defects Deal
New Speaker Says Bill Will Drive Down Insurance Costs to Spur Condo Builders


(Jan. 11) – The new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Crisanta Duran, began the 2017 legislative session this morning by announcing a bipartisan compromise on construction defects reform, a perennial sticking point in the legislature.

In her opening day speech after being formally elected by the 65-member House, Speaker Duran said that she and the new Senate president, Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, had agreed to be prime sponsors of a bill intended to tackle the sticky issue of insurance, one of the issues identified by stakeholders as impacting new home starts.

The bill, with the co-prime sponsorship of Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, and Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, is scheduled to be formally introduced this afternoon.

“By targeting insurance rates we’re addressing the problem without reducing consumers’ right to protect the property that they spent their life’s savings to buy,” said Speaker Duran, D-Denver.

The bill will allow insurers to go to court to apportion defense costs equitably among liability insurers who are required to defend a defect claim through an expedited process. The legislation seeks to address one of the root causes making it harder to build more condos, without compromising consumer rights.

In other highlights of her opening day speech, Speaker Duran said she was involved in “promising discussions” with members of both parties in both chambers to devise a comprehensive statewide plan to upgrade Colorado’s crumbling, overburdened transportation system.

“Anyone who’s been on I-25 at rush hour, anywhere from Fort Collins to Pueblo, knows the need is real,” she said, adding that the emerging plan “will provide new resources and will benefit our entire state.”

Speaker Duran also noted discussions about education funding and a long-term solution to the state’s chronic budget problems.

She closed with an appeal for “an inclusive Colorado” where bullying of people because of their gender, race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation is off-limits.

Speaker Duran is the first Latina speaker in Colorado history. She presides over a House where Democrats expanded their majority to 37-28, a six-seat swing, in the November 2016 elections. 



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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Colorado small businesses support LGBTQ consumers, new poll shows

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 12:09 PM

Small Business Majority, a national organization with an interest in the economy of small businesses, released a Colorado-focused poll of 400 small business owners in the state, which reveals how our “mom-and-pop” community feels about denying service to LGBTQ individuals based on religious beliefs.

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  • Shutterstock
The short version: Most small business owners polled don’t think religious beliefs are a good enough reason to discriminate against LGBTQ customers.

In answer to “Do you believe that a business owner should be able to deny goods or services to someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender based on the owner’s religious beliefs?” 65 percent of respondents said no, 28 percent said yes and 8 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

The numbers kiltered a little bit lower on the "no" end when the question was rephrased to specify goods and services related to a same-sex wedding. To that, 61 percent responded that, no, they didn’t think a business owner’s religious beliefs should enable them to refuse service. 33 percent said yes, and 6 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

Last March, the Colorado House of Representatives considered a bill that would allow business owners to deny services to anyone based on personal religious beliefs. While a Democrat-led committee shut it down, it had considerable support from big players such as Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt and Rep Patrick Neville, both Republican.

But whatever their personal beliefs, the small business community of Colorado seems to have spoken. While 400 is by no means a perfect sample of every business in the state, the poll did keep its sample balanced.

48 percent of respondents were male, with 52 female — there was no option for gender neutral or gender unspecified. 28 percent identified as Republican, 20 percent as democrat, a whopping 46 percent as Independent, and the remaining 8 percent coming in as “other” or “don’t know/refuse to answer.”

A follow-up question asked all independent/other/don’t know respondents, “do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican or Democratic Party?” Surprisingly, given the results of the poll, 32 percent of these people said they were closer to Republican, compared to the 24 percent who said they leaned more Democrat.

It’s heartening to know that many Republicans and those on the conservative end of the spectrum responded in favor of LGBTQ persons’ rights to goods and services provided by all businesses. Considering the 2016 Republican party platform is blatantly anti-LGBTQ, as is our Vice President-elect, this goes to show that not everyone on the Republican spectrum agrees with the extremes.

Some extra demographic data was collected that lends its own insight, and respondents answered other questions on the topic, so check out the full report on Small Business Majority’s website.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Seven initiatives make state ballot, two fail

Posted By on Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 3:39 PM

click image RICHARD MASONER / CYCLELICIOUS FOLLOW
  • Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious Follow
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office has disqualified two proposed November ballot initiatives aimed at reining in the oil and gas industry.

In addition to not having enough valid signatures to qualify, one of the measures, Initiative 78, contained several “potentially forged signatures,” according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The questionable petitions have been sent to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office for further investigation.

All of this year’s citizen-driven ballot measures need 98,492 valid signatures from voters to qualify for the ballot.

Initiative 75 aimed to give local governments the authority to regulate oil and gas development, a power largely reserved to the state currently. Initiative 78 would have created mandatory setbacks for oil and gas development of 2,500 feet from occupied structures or “areas of special concern.”

The backers of the two failed initiatives have 30 days from the date of rejection of their petitions to appeal the decision in Denver District Court.

The other seven citizen-driven initiatives that turned in petitions were approved for the November ballot. They are:

Amendment 69/ColoradoCare - ColoradoCare would amend the state Constitution to bring a tax-funded health insurance system to Colorado. Everyone not already covered under federal insurance like Medicare would be eligible for coverage, which would include copays for certain services but no deductibles. ColoradoCare would replace private insurance for Coloradans, though those who still want to purchase private insurance (while also paying the tax), would be free to do so.

An independent analysis by Colorado Health Institute estimates that ColoradoCare would bring in $36 billion in its first year and cover 4.4 million people. It would be run by a board of directors and would likely go into effect in 2019, after a preliminary period where it would charge a tax of .09 percent. When running, it would be funded mainly by a 10 percent income tax, two-thirds of which would be paid by employers, and one-third of which would be paid by employees. The self-employed would pay the full 10 percent tax.

Additionally, ColoradoCare would seek waivers to gain access to federal and state funds that currently flow into the health care system, including Medicaid dollars. There has been widespread bickering over the impacts of Amendment 69, with conservative leaders — and many liberals as well — opposing the ballot question.

Minimum wage — This Constitutional amendment would raise the minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 by 2020.

click image VICTOR
  • Victor
Medical aid in dying — As the title suggests, this change to the Colorado Revised Statutes would allow a terminally ill, mentally-competent adult to obtain a life-ending prescription. The patient would need to be within six months of death, and would self-administer the lethal dose. There are protections written into the law to ensure the patient is mentally sound, and is freely choosing to die.

Amending the Constitution — Interestingly, this Constitutional amendment aims to make it harder to amend the Constitution in the future. First, it would require more signatures to place a measure on the ballot, setting that figure at “at least two percent of the registered electors who reside in each state senate district for the amendment to be placed on the ballot.”
Once on the ballot, the amendment would need to be approved by 55 percent of the votes cast rather than a simple majority.

Primary/Presidential primary elections— Try not to get confused by these two initiatives aimed at changing the Colorado Revised Statutes. Initiative 98 would allow unaffiliated voters to vote in a primary without joining a political party. However, the initiative gives political parties a loophole that would still allow them to exclude unaffiliated voters. The parties would be able to forgo a primary election and select all their candidates through an assembly or convention, so long as 75 percent of the party’s state central committee agreed to the move.

Initiative 140, on the other hand, would create a primary election for presidential candidates in Colorado, to be held before the end of March. Unaffiliated voters could participate in the election. 
click image CIGARETTE
  • cigarette

Tobacco tax— Initiative 143 would amend the state Constitution to triple the taxes on a pack of cigarettes (taxes would go from 84 cents per pack to $2.59 per pack). Taxes on other tobacco would increase 22 percent. The money collected by the taxes would be used for a variety of programs including smoking cessation, medical research, mental health funding and other causes.
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Addressing our high rate of suicide

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 1:23 PM

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  • SHUTTERSTOCK
Suicide is a huge problem in Colorado and the trend doesn't seem to be letting up. 

Back in February, I wrote a story about youth suicide following the deaths of four local teens. Recently, another rash of teen suicides in our county has led to more concern. If the trends tell us anything, suicide will continue to be a problem. Check out what I wrote a few months ago:
Colorado has the distinction of having the nation's seventh highest suicide rate. The statistics get a little trickier on youth suicides, though that number is also high. (We're third in the nation for youth suicides, ages 10 to 18, though Kirk Bol, interim vital records registrar for the Colorado Center for Health and Environmental Data, says statistically there is no real difference between the rates of the top 20 states.)

El Paso County isn't exactly a role model. While statistically speaking, there's no difference between the county and state suicide rates, it's reasonable to assume that El Paso County is nowhere near the low end for the state — and our rate has been going up. Between 2012 and 2014, the county recorded 24 youth suicides (ages 10 to 18) for a rate of 9.39 deaths per 100,000 youths, while the state had 140 youth suicides, for a rate of 7.41 deaths per 100,000 youths.
On the bright side, several things are being done to combat the problem locally and statewide. Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention is offering these free suicide prevention trainings to the public: Penrose Library 6/14 6-7 p.m.; Tri-Lakes YMCA 6/17 10-11 a.m.; East Library 6/27 6-7 p.m.; Tri-Lakes YMCA 6/28 6-7 p.m.; Fountain Library 7/8 6-7 p.m.; and Sand Creek Library 7/27 6:30-7:30 p.m.

On the state level, Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed a bill that will change how health providers address mental health conditions that can lead to suicide. Read on for more on the bill: 
Implementing Zero Suicide in Colorado
Hick Signs Pettersen Bill to Implement Successful National Zero Suicide Model

(June 10) – A bill by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood to implement the Zero Suicide model in order to reduce the rate of suicide in Colorado was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper this morning.

“Whether you know someone personally or know a family going through the loss of a loved one, suicide is something that has touched everyone,” said Rep. Pettersen. “This week my brother would have turned 44 years old. I often wonder if the health professionals who were in contact with him at the time had been trained in prevention if he would still be here today.”

“I’m so happy to know that the Zero Suicide model, which has been shown to decrease suicide by 80 percent, will be implemented in Colorado. Suicide is a complex problem in Colorado and demands a proven solution.”

Colorado has the seventh highest suicide rate in the nation and the Zero Suicide model has been shown to decrease suicide by up to 80 percent when implemented in health systems. More than 30 percent of people who die of suicide are receiving mental health care at the time of death and 25 percent go to the Emergency Department in the month before death, demonstrating that coordinated care by professionals trained in the Zero Suicide model can have a significant impact.

SB16-147 creates the Office of Suicide Prevention which will collaborate with health agencies and private healthcare systems to foster the national Zero Suicide model. A wide variety of health and behavioral health systems (including community mental health centers, HMOs, hospitals, substance abuse treatment facilities, and the statewide crisis services system) will be encouraged to adopt suicide prevention best practices known as the seven tenets of Zero Suicide: leadership, training, identification and assessment, patient engagement, treatment, transition, and quality improvement. 

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Republicans bury hospital fee bill

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 4:55 PM

Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs
The Colorado Senate Finance Committee, which includes Sen. Owen Hill from Colorado Springs, defeated House Bill 1420, which would have set up a mechanism that would allow hospitals to benefit from fees they collect to help fund Medicaid.

The committee, dominated by Republicans, got accolades from the extreme right-wing Americans for Prosperity, largely funded by the Koch Brothers, but it got raspberries from the hospital industry.

The AFP's release:
DENVER — Today the State Senate Finance Committee voted against HB-1420 in a 3-2 vote. If this bill had passed, it would have undermined Coloradans' Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) by taking fees that the Colorado hospitals collect, and putting them into an "enterprise fund" instead of the general fund, where they trigger taxpayer funds.

In reaction to today's vote, AFP Colorado State Director Michael Fields released the following statement:

"We applaud the state senate for killing a convoluted scheme today in HB- 1420, that would have denied taxpayers their refunds in future years without even giving Coloradans a say. We are now hopeful that the state can get down to the business of addressing the real state budget issues that will not be fixed by enterprising the hospital provider fee. Our network of 127,000 Colorado activists will continue to stand strong for the best interest of all Coloradans."

This is the second year in a row that the legislature has voted down this legislation. AFP Colorado thanks Senators Hill, Holbert and Neville for standing up for taxpayers.
The hospital association said this:
GREENWOOD VILLAGE, COLO. – May 10, 2016 – “The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) is extremely disappointed that our legislative leaders couldn’t come to a compromise on the Hospital Provider Fee enterprise this year – despite bipartisan support and no testimony opposing the bill in its final committee hearing – and in effect, didn’t listen to their constituents or the broad organizational support through the Fix the Glitch coalition who strongly advocated for this change,” said Steven J. Summer, CHA president and CEO. “However, we are grateful to Speaker Hullinghorst and Senator Crowder for their leadership on this issue, as well as to the many others – including our member hospitals and health systems – who supported this important effort. Our hospitals recognize the critical nature of the priorities in their communities that are subject to budget constraints this year – including health care, education and transportation.

Because the legislature was unable to fix this glitch this year – even though it was within their purview to do so – CHA is committed to finding a long-term solution that supports the vital services provided by our members as well as the broader fiscal, education and infrastructure needs of Coloradans. Otherwise, we risk facing detrimental health care budget cuts – mostly on the backs of our rural hospitals – in the years to come.”

About the Colorado Hospital Association
The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) is the leading voice of Colorado’s hospital and health system community. Representing more than 100 member hospitals and health systems throughout the state, CHA serves as a trusted, credible and reliable resource on health issues, hospital data and trends for its members, media, policymakers and the general public. Through CHA, Colorado’s hospitals and health systems work together in their shared commitment to improve health and health care in Colorado.
We suppose Hill and his cohorts would, if they could, follow the lead of Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who led that state's GOP-dominated legislature to not accept the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, while at the same time giving huge tax breaks to businesses and farmers. As a result the state faces huge revenue shortfalls and severe cuts to transportation and health care.

Here's what the Colorado Springs Business Journal had to say about the hospital fee legislation and the Senate President, who we're embarrassed to say is from Colorado Springs, in a recent editorial: (Thank God for term limits.)
Colorado’s leaders have found a solution to the state’s thorny budget problem. It’s simple; it’s legal and it has the support of nearly every business group from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce to the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

The solution: Move the hospital provider fee from the general fund to its own enterprise fund. Since it has a dedicated use — to match federal Medicaid dollars on a one-to-one basis — it doesn’t belong in the general fund. Since it’s a fee, not a tax, that hospitals pay to reduce their uncompensated debt and charity care, it doesn’t belong in calculated revenue limits under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. And there are $60 million reasons why the change is vital.

There’s only one man standing in the way: Sen. Bill Cadman. Cadman, who represents a portion of Colorado Springs in the General Assembly, is the Senate president. It’s his job to make sure legislation gets a vote — but he has said he doesn’t support this change and believes it’s illegal.

His stance is in direct opposition to at least two prominent fellow Republicans. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman released a legal opinion earlier this month saying there were no legal barriers to the enterprise fee designation. Springs Mayor John Suthers, who preceded Coffman as attorney general, concurs with her opinion. Supporters say they have enough votes in the full Senate to pass the change.

Some political insiders believe Cadman has become too close to Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ conservative political action group that believes any change to TABOR is a threat to the state. When he became Senate president, Cadman credited AFP and its influence. He also made sure every senator had a copy of AFP’s legislative agenda on the first day of the session.

It’s interesting that Cadman thanked a political action group instead of voters who trusted him to act on their behalf. It shows where his loyalty lies — not with Colorado Springs.

This isn’t just legislative sleight-of-hand designed to increase spending. Without removing the provider fee, the state will have to cut $60 million from its budget because of TABOR.

It’s almost certain that there will be cuts to higher education, harming low- and middle-income families already struggling to pay high tuition and fees at state institutions.

But for Colorado Springs, Cadman’s recalcitrance has added implications.

The city is currently celebrating Gov. John Hickenlooper’s announced plan to place a National Cyber Intelligence Center here. It’s good news for Colorado Springs, already home to more than 80 cyber companies.

But without state money, it can’t happen. The Springs’ share of a $5 billion industry, its jobs, its research and development, the cyber defense the nation demands to keep networks safe — all could disappear.

By following AFP’s agenda, Cadman’s ignoring the will of local Republicans who put him in office. He’s damaging the state’s ability to educate its children, meaning that high-paying, high-tech jobs won’t be available to Colorado natives.

He’s harming the chances for the Springs — the area he represents — to bring together cybersecurity leaders, researchers, businesses and community leaders to create a national center.

The numbers are clear: Without changes to the state budget, Colorado soon will only be able to pay for Medicare and prisons.

Why is Sen. Bill Cadman standing alone? The answer: He isn’t. He’s standing with Americans for Prosperity, and against business development and higher education in Colorado Springs.


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Monday, March 28, 2016

Check it out: Colorado is getting new driver licenses

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 5:47 PM

Colorado driver licenses are ugly as sin. Of course, I may just think that because my own card is home to seriously the worst photo anyone has taken of me in my life

Ahem.

Anyway, no word on whether the state plans to hire competent photographers, but it will be changing up the design of our state IDs. You won't have to replace your old ID any time soon, but the next time you need a new one, it will probably look like this (only with a worse photo):

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Read on for the details:

Colorado DMV to begin statewide rollout of new design for driver licenses, instruction permits and identification cards

March 28, 2016 – DENVER – The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will start a two-week statewide rollout of the newly designed driver licenses, instruction permits and identification cards beginning April 6, 2016.

Offices will be closed one day prior to issuing the new design to allow for the installation of new equipment and for training. Please refer to the DMV website for up-to-date closure information for specific offices. In addition, closure information will also be posted at each office.

Colorado residents can continue to use their current valid driver licenses, instruction permits and identification cards through their expiration date. The current design will continue to be issued at offices until they have converted to the new equipment and software associated with the new design.

The DMV encourages customers to attempt to renew their driver license or identification cards online at www.colorado.gov/vroom. The new design will be available through online renewal beginning in mid-April.

Customers obtaining a newly-designed card in an office will receive an updated temporary paper document that will contain a removable section with an image that resembles the card. The temporary document will be valid for 30 days to allow for the physical card to be produced and mailed.

The new design features a more colorful background showcasing Mount Sneffels located between Ouray and Telluride. The State Capital is pictured on the reverse. The card also includes laser engraving of the customer’s information and primary photograph in grayscale to enhance the security and safety of the document.

The Littleton, Aurora and Frisco state driver license offices have been piloting the new design since the beginning of March.

For more information on the new card design, please visit www.colorado.gov/dmv/newlook.  

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Transgender bill dies in Senate Committee

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 11:34 AM

click image 800px-transgender_pride_flag.svg.png
A bill that would have granted more rights to transgender people who were born in Colorado has failed in a Senate committee on a party-line vote.

Republicans nixed the 2016 Birth Certificate Modernization Act (House Bill 1185), which would have allowed trans people with a Colorado birth certificate to change the gender on the document without undergoing surgery and without going through lengthy court proceedings. The document would not be marked as amended.

Current law requires that a trans person undergo some sort of sexual reassignment surgery, get a court order for a name change on their birth certificate, get a legal name change, and file forms and documents with the state before receiving a birth certificate that is marked as amended.

HB1185 had already passed the Democrat-controlled House, with five Republicans joining Democrats in supporting it. It died in the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee in the Republican-controlled Senate. A similar bill died in a Senate committee in the last session.

The LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado released a statement on the bill's failure from Executive Director Dave Montez that read in part:

Today the Republicans on the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee of the Colorado Senate had the chance to, yet again, do the right thing for transgender Coloradans. Despite the fact there was no testimony in opposition to the Birth Certificate Modernization Act today, the Republican members of the committee chose to play politics with our families.

"It was our hope that at least one Republican senator on the committee would side with the five Republicans in the Colorado House of Representatives who voted in favor of House Bill 1185 because it upholds the Republican ideals of freedom, privacy, and limited government.

"This much-needed legislation would simply have brought Colorado law in line with existing policies at the federal level, and in doing so would have protected the privacy of transgender Coloradans and protected them from discrimination. Not only did dozens of transgender Coloradans and their families ask the committee to pass this bill today, but the Office of the State Registrar — which is the department in charge of issuing birth certificates — came out firmly in support of House Bill 1185 because of the its importance for transgender Coloradans. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bill would end gay conversion therapy

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 8:34 AM

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver
  • Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver
Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, is at it again.

Last year, he sponsored a bill to ban gay conversion therapy for minors. It died in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where Republicans have the majority. Among those voting to kill the bill was Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs. But Rosenthal has once again introduced a bill to ban the archaic practice, and it has passed a voice vote in the Democrat-controlled House.

Gay conversion therapy is exactly what it sounds like — an attempt to convert gay people, especially minors, into heterosexuals. It's been widely discredited, and is widely considered to be damaging.

Of course, that may not stop the Republican-controlled Senate from killing this bill again.

Here is what the Colorado House Democrats have to say about the bill:

House Votes to Ban ‘Conversion Therapy’
Rosenthal Bill Ending Archaic Anti-LGBT Practice Second Reading


(March 14) – The House gave voice approval this morning to a bill by Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” and therefore to ensure that no more Colorado teens are subjected to this harmful practice. Over the loud objections of Republican members of the House, the bill proceeds to a third reading.

“Colorado families have a right to know that a therapist will not put their child’s well-being in danger,” said Rep. Rosenthal. “So-called gay conversion therapy is an imposition of a therapist’s own view on the child. We heard in committee from several adults who still bear the scars from a therapist who tried to force them to be someone they are not. Let us protect our children from this harmful practice.”

“This bill is about therapy that provides acceptance, understanding, coping and support—not trying to change someone into someone else,” said Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City.

“Conversion therapy” is a dangerous and discredited practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or suppressing a person’s gender identity. The practice has been rejected by every mainstream mental health professional association. HB16-1210 prohibits physicians specializing in psychiatry and licensed or registered mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with patients under 18 years of age. Studies have shown that minors being subjected to this practice are at a higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and suicide.

During the bill’s hearing before the House Public Health Care &Human Services Committee, several individuals testified about the negative impacts of having survived “conversion therapy.” Republican members of the Committee compared being LGBT to drug use or alcohol addiction multiple times.

The approval sends the bill to the House floor for a third reading. 

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Disclosure laws for police body cams

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2016 at 3:44 PM

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There's a nifty website where you can find out how each state stacks up on laws regarding police body cams, and other related laws.

Find that website here.

It shows that in most states, police public records are exempt from public disclosure, and that's true in many respects here in Colorado. Hence, the Independent has been unable to obtain various Colorado Springs Police Department records, including those of past internal affairs investigations of Officer Nicholas Ryland, who reportedly has a past record of use of force, as alleged by the attorney in the case of an Alzheimer's patient who was bullied by police. See our report on that here.

Specifically, Colorado's law governing criminal justice records allows police agencies to withhold records the release of which would be contrary to the public interest, and the agencies themselves are authorized to make that call.

Some time ago, the CSPD asked the public for input for its body camera program, which gets under way in full steam later this year. That final survey report isn't done yet, but according to a preliminary report below, the department hasn't yet made a decision on when the footage from body cams will be released or whether the CSPD will inform someone who's caught on the footage that it will be released prior to doing so.

In addition, 94 percent of respondents to the survey "think the cameras will show CSPD officers usually handle the public appropriately."

Read the report here:



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Monday, February 29, 2016

GoCode Colorado Roadshow here Wednesday

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 1:19 PM

Get your geek on! The GoCode Colorado Roadshow will be coming to Colorado Springs on Wednesday, March 2.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams will be joining local techies to talk about this year’s GoCode challenge at Episouthcentral, located at 1604 S Cascade Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m. Drinks and food will be provided at the free event, where questions will be answered about this year’s challenge.

For the unfamiliar, GoCode is an award-winning, statewide business app challenge, in which teams from cities across the state compete to develop apps that solve real business problems. Hosted through the Secretary of State’s office, the challenge brings together teams of developers and entrepreneurs.

Judges whittle the field of teams, and the two best teams from each location are sent to a mentor weekend (this year’s is in Boulder), where they meet with some of the state’s top entrepreneurs, lawyers, and others. Finally, the three top teams are selected, and each are awarded a $25,000 prize to keep their app and business idea going.
Registration is open for the challenge, which begins on the weekend of April 1-3, at http://gocode.colorado.gov/.

Still want to know more? Check out their commercial:


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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rep. Priola targeted by ProgressNow

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 12:34 PM

Rep. Kevin Priola
  • Rep. Kevin Priola
Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Brighton, is the target of a negative campaign by progressive organization ProgressNow Colorado

The organization says it is targeting Priola due is his "hypocrisy." Here's what they're referring to: Priola asked for a delay on a legislative vote so he could take his child to the doctor. When he returned, he voted no on the bill. The bill in question provided parental leave for workers who need to attend school activities for their kids. 

Here's what the organization has to say about their campaign:

Campaign Launched To Hold Kevin Priola Accountable for Parental Leave Hypocrisy

DENVER: After the narrow passage of legislation reauthorizing Colorado’s parental leave law for school activities in the state House of Representatives, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, launched a voter education campaign highlighting the vote by Rep. Kevin Priola of Adams County against this important bill—a vote taken after Priola hypocritically requested leave from the legislature to take his child to a doctor’s appointment.

“Kevin Priola’s vote to take away the parental leave rights Colorado families had for years proves he is not looking out for the best interests of the citizens he represents,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “It’s critical for me as the father of a Colorado public school student that I be there for my son’s educational needs. Parental leave for children’s academic needs was the law in Colorado for years, and it didn’t hurt the economy. How can Kevin Priola look Colorado parents in the eye after voting to take away their right to be there for their kids?”

As part of ProgressNow Colorado’s accountability campaign, voter education phone calls were launched throughout Adams County calling attention to Priola’s vote and hypocrisy yesterday afternoon. Click here to listen to the recorded message, as delivered to thousands of voters in Adams County:

Hi, this is Alan Franklin, calling with an important update from the Colorado legislature. Representative Kevin Priola wants to take away parental leave rights for parents to attend school activities, even though parental leave was the law in Colorado for years. But that’s not the worst part. Priola actually requested to delay the vote on parental leave to take his child to a doctor’s appointment. Then he voted against parental leave for your kids. Call Representative Priola at 303-866-2912 and tell him enough is enough. Stop the hypocrisy. Paid for by ProgressNow Colorado.

“By requesting a delay in the vote on parental leave to attend to his own child’s needs, then voting against parental leave for everyone else, Kevin Priola has become a poster child for right-wing hypocrisy,” said Franklin. “The ‘party of family values’ is showing their true colors by fighting to take away parental leave rights Colorado families have enjoyed for years. As Kevin Priola seeks higher office, voters in Adams County need to understand whose side he is on—and it’s not the side of middle class families.”

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tourism is on the rise

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 2:06 PM

Cathy Ritter is excited to sell Colorado. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Cathy Ritter is excited to sell Colorado.
Colorado State Tourism Office Director Cathy Ritter offered encouraging news at a breakfast this morning at Springs Orleans.

Ritter is new to her position and is currently touring the state. She previously worked in private industry and was the State Tourism Director of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism from 1999 to 2003. She moved to Colorado in July from Washington D.C.

Ritter noted that Colorado rates 5th or 6th in states that people would most like to visit, but is the 17th most visited state. She aims to close that gap. A recent national ad campaign called "come to life" has been a part of that effort. It features beautiful photos, inspiring phrases, and poetic writing. Normally, she says, the state advertises in target markets, but additional funding from the state legislature enabled a larger reach this past year. 

Apparently, it worked. Ritter noted that the state saw a 64 percent increase trips that were influenced by marketing (an additional 2.5 million trips).

That follows a general uptick in visits to Colorado. While 2015 numbers are not yet available, Ritter says that in 2014, Colorado saw a record 71.3 million visitors.  El Paso County visitors alone spent $1.2 billion.

Aside from major campaigns, Ritter says the state: offers local tourism offices matching grants; has volunteer-driven welcome centers along the borders; is No. 1 in spending on agrotourism promotion and marketing; does innovative social media marketing; and pursues press coverage about Colorado travel. Press coverage of the state is thought to have been worth $42 million in fiscal year 2015. It generated 1.4 billion impressions.

Ritter says she will be working with communities to develop a blueprint for generating tourism across the state. She put together a similar plan for Illinois during her time there, focusing heavily on community meetings. She says the approach worked.

"Everybody got it, and it was everybody's plan," she says. 

Ritter is spending a few days in the area touring some of our top destinations. She said she's been impressed by Pikes Peak, the Air Force Academy and the United States Olympics facilities, among other attractions. She also expressed excitement about Gov. John Hickenlooper's recent "16 in 2016" announcement, that he'll be working to complete or build 16 top trail projects this year. Among the 16 is the long-unfinished Ring the Peak trail that circles Pikes Peak.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cybersecurity sets up camp in COS

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 3:58 PM

Cyber is the new hot thing. - EGUIDRY
  • eGuidry
  • Cyber is the new hot thing.
It's unclear exactly what this means, but Gov. John Hickenlooper announced during his state of the state address today that Colorado Springs will host the National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center.

A news release issued by the city follows, but it doesn't really explain what this center is, and whether it's sanctioned by anyone other than locals who are cooking up a label to hype to business and academic interests.

We also don't know if it's tied to the Pentagon, National Security Agency, CIA and FBI, or if it's only ginned up by local folks with hopes of achieving national prominence.

Nor does the news release say anything about the number of jobs the center will bring and where, exactly, it will be located, though it seems apparent it will be housed by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs will be the home of a National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center, a planned national resource which will be “the country’s foremost authority on cybersecurity research and development, training and education,” Governor Hickenlooper announced today. The vision for the Center will be advanced through collaboration between federal, state and city government, the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs and the regional technology community.

Under the proposal, the Center would be housed in Colorado Springs, on UCCS property. The city was chosen as the location because of its “impressive concentration of assets, private sector interest and connection to the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs’ cybersecurity program,” said Hickenlooper, who also recognized the region’s “highly qualified workforce already plugged into this burgeoning industry.”

Hickenlooper recognized both Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and UCCS Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak for their collaboration in advancing plans for the Center.

“I have said often that Colorado Springs has what it takes to become the cybersecurity capital of the nation,” said Suthers. “With our concentration of technological experts, both military and civilian, our outstanding educational institutions in UCCS and the Air Force Academy and our available workforce, we are ready to embrace this opportunity and look forward to the positive impact that such a designation will have on our City’s economic vitality.”

“I am proud of UCCS cybersecurity programs and the university’s outstanding faculty. UCCS students are excellent and will build the workforce of the future,” said Shockley-Zalabak. “We look forward to continued collaboration with Mayor Suthers and other public officials as we advance this exciting initiative.”

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New education commissioner has interesting past

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2016 at 1:26 PM

Richard Crandall
  • Richard Crandall
The Colorado State Board of Education has unanimously appointed a new Commissioner of Education, Richard Crandall.

Interestingly, Crandall was previously the Director of the Wyoming Department of Education before he was booted out of office by the Wyoming Supreme Court. Crandall was appointed in summer of 2013, following state legislation that took oversight of the education department from an elected superintendent (Cindy Hill) and gave it to an appointed director (Crandall).

But when she found herself stripped of her powers, Hill sued and won. Hill got her job back and Crandall was sent packing in summer 2014.

Crandall, a moderate Republican, also served as an Arizona state legislator from 2007-2013, where he was the education chairman in both the state Senate and House. Chalkbeat Colorado notes that Crandall "played a key role in ushering in major changes to education policy in Arizona, including backing the state’s adoption of the Common Core state standards and crafting a teacher evaluation law."

Chalkbeat also noted that Crandall is very aware of the challenges in Colorado, particularly around standardized testing. That challenge will only be greater because the nation's most important education law was recently rewritten to shift more power and responsibilities to states from the federal government. Chalkbeat notes:

Crandall signaled an openness to move Colorado away from the Common Core and its membership in PARCC, the multi-state testing effort. At the same time, he praised the importance of high academic standards and the value of comparing test results from several states.
The 48-year-old Crandall has also served a school board member and the president of Mesa Public Schools.

A press release also notes that:

[Crandall] is currently the president and founder of CN Resource, which provides oversight and audit services of USDA child nutrition programs for state education agencies. He is also the chief financial officer and partner of Crandall Corporate Dietitians, the nation’s largest provider of consulting dietitian services to long-term care and assisted living facilities. Crandall, age 48, is studying for a doctorate in education from Northern Arizona University and holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Brigham Young University. He is a licensed school nutrition specialist and a certified public accountant. 
Crandall has seven children and six step-children. He replaces Robert Hammond, who retired last summer.


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