Politics

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Gov. Polis signs final bills into law, announces five vetoes

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5.

At a June 3 appearance in Colorado Springs, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said this year's legislative session delivered victories for health care and education.

He emphasized that 95 percent of the 454 bills he signed "were bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats working together to make Colorado better."

Polis vetoed five bills on May 31, three of which concerned state occupational licensing requirements. The vetoes drew consternation from lawmakers in Polis' own party, including Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge. Duran sponsored House Bill 1212, which would have extended a program requiring managers of homeowners associations, or HOAs, to have state licenses.

“We are greatly disappointed that the work we have done to protect homeowners’ biggest investments in their lifetime — their homes — has been undone," Duran said via a statement from the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Colorado Legislative Action Committee. CAI is an international membership organization for homeowners, HOA managers and businesses that provide services for HOAs.
"Managers of HOAs will no longer have to be licensed, which means they are not required to have background checks, demonstrate any knowledge of core competencies, show they understand Colorado HOA law or get continuing education," Duran continued.

On the other hand, Polis' vetoes drew rare approval from some conservatives.

“Governor Polis is right to veto legislation that makes it harder for Coloradans to find work," said Jesse Mallory, the state director of libertarian and conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Mallory was quoted in a statement from the group.

"Too often occupational licenses—government permission slips to work—are misused to protect entrenched interests, slamming the door on the dreams of would-be entrepreneurs," he added.

With his veto statement, Polis issued an executive order directing the Department of Regulatory Agencies to review existing and potential laws around HOAs and their managers, and recommend strategies for "efficient and effective" regulation.

"Before any unregulated occupation is to be regulated, or any regulated occupation is to be continued, the state should complete its due diligence to ensure that regulation will, in fact, ensure consumer safety in a cost-efficient manner," Polis wrote in his veto letter. "This bill does not meet that threshold."

Similarly, Polis vetoed Senate Bills 99 and 133, which would have required licenses for sports agents and genetic counselors. Both bills were sponsored by Democrats.

"Licensing in the United States over the years has at times prevented minorities and the economically disadvantaged from having the ability to access occupations," Polis wrote.

He also vetoed Senate Bill 169, which would have made changes to the budget submission process for information technology projects, saying that it limited the governor's ability to manage state contracts.

House Bill 1305 would have given tribal governments access to state databases for conducting background checks in child welfare cases. In his veto letter, Polis said the bill contained errors that would have forced tribes to comply with state child protection requirements. So in place of the bill, he issued an executive order allowing tribal governments access to the state databases while leaving out those mandates.

"In Colorado, we respect our government-to-government relationship with the Tribes," Polis wrote. "We also are committed to making resources available to assist the Tribes in conducting their governmental responsibilities."

In other news, here's some highlights from the list of bills Polis recently signed.

EDUCATION

House Bill 1032: "Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education" appropriates money ($1 million annually) for the state’s grant program for schools that want to add comprehensive sexual education, closes a loophole that allowed private contractors to collect government money for teaching abstinence-only classes in public schools and ends an exemption for charter schools to the requirements. It also prohibits schools that have sex ed courses from teaching religious ideology, using shame-based or stigmatizing language, employing gender stereotypes, or excluding the experiences of LGBT individuals.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and Sens. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Don Coram, R-Montrose
House Bill 1110: "Media Literacy" creates an advisory committee to make recommendations for ways to teach K-12 students how to read news critically, and discern fake news from the real thing. It allocates $19,800 from the state's general fund to the Department of Education for this purpose.
  • Sponsors: Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Evergreen, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood
Senate Bill 007: “Prevent Sexual Misconduct At Higher Ed Campuses” requires higher education campuses to adopt policies on sexual misconduct based on minimum requirements set out in the bill. It provides for oversight and requires training on the policies.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Pettersen and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Reps. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora

LGBT RIGHTS

House Bill 1039: "Identity Documents For Transgender Persons" makes it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to change the gender on their birth certificates (without court order, surgery or doctor recommendation).
  • Sponsors: Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City
House Bill 1129: "Prohibit Conversion Therapy for A Minor" prevents licensed mental health and medical professionals from attempting to change a minor’s gender identity or sexual orientation through therapy. Democrats, who won control of the Senate last fall, were finally able to pass this bill on the fifth annual attempt.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Esgar, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

House Bill 1176: The "Health Care Cost Savings Act of 2019" creates a task force to analyze the costs of alternative health care financing systems, such as single-payer, and make a report to state legislators. Polis signed the bill, but noted his concern that the bill's appropriation (around $100,000) wouldn't be enough to hire an analyst. He directed the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to let him know in October whether legislators should request more money next session.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette
House Bill 1279: "Protect Public Health Firefighter Safety Regulation PFAS Polyfluoroalkyl Substances" bans firefighting foam that contains certain toxic, man-made chemicals: those classified as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. (An amendment to the bill makes an exception for when PFAS-containing foam is "required for a military purpose.") The bill also requires manufacturers to disclose when personal protective equipment contains PFAS.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, and Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs, and Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Dennis Hisey, R-Colorado Springs
Senate Bill 077: "Electric Motor Vehicles Public Utility Services" requires public utilities to facilitate charging stations and to support the adoption of electric vehicles.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver

COURTS AND PUBLIC SAFETY

House Bill 1324: "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" adds protections against lawsuits viewed by First Amendment advocates, media organizations and others at infringing upon free speech. Specifically, it allows defendants accused of libel or slander to ask a judge to dismiss a civil case on the grounds that they were simply exercising their constitutional right to free speech or to petition the government.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Cutter and Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Sen. Foote
Senate Bill 179: "Enhance School Safety Incident Response Grant Program" adds funding to an existing state program, which funds nonprofit-led school safety training for law enforcement and school districts. The bill appropriates $1.16 million to the Department of Public Safety for the program.
  • Sponsors: Sen. Lee and Rep. James Wilson, R-Salida
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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mental Health Colorado "scores" state lawmakers

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 5:03 PM

TERO VESALAINEN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com
Each legislative session, political groups and advocacy organizations release "legislative scorecards," which assign lawmakers a "score" or "grade" based on the way they voted on issues.

Mental Health Colorado, a nonpartisan 501(c)3 organization that advocates for mental health, led the pack this year in releasing its scorecard May 21. El Paso County representatives and senators got scores that ranged from 38 (Republican Rep. Dave Williams) to 100 (Democratic Reps. Tony Exum and Marc Snyder, and Sen. Pete Lee).

Obviously, the legislators scored worst by certain organizations will probably end up scoring highest with others. For example, Williams got an A+, 93 percent rating last year from libertarian group Principles of Liberty. Lee earned an F from that group as a state representative.

Using data from Colorado Capitol Watch, Mental Health Colorado assigned scores based on state lawmakers' votes on eight bills that were part of its legislative agenda. They were:

House Bill 1009: "Substance Use Disorders Recovery" expands the state’s housing voucher program to include people with substance use disorders. It also requires that recovery facilities have a state license, and creates an “opioid crisis recovery fund” for settlement money the state receives from suing pill manufacturers.

The bill appropriates $1.1 million next year to multiple state agencies.

House Bill 1044: "Advance Behavioral Health Orders Treatment," according to Mental Health Colorado, "allows Coloradans to create a psychiatric advance directive to specify their preferred methods of treatment in the event of a mental health crisis that prevents them from making decisions for themselves."

House Bill 1193: “Behavioral Health Supports For High-risk Families” provides access to intensive substance use treatment to women up to one year after giving birth, and creates pilot child care programs for women in treatment.

This bill appropriates $500,000 next year to the Department of Human Services.

House Bill 1269: The “Behavioral Health Care Coverage Modernization Act” is intended to strengthen enforcement of parity laws for both commercial insurers and the state’s Medicaid system, with the goal of making sure Coloradans can get mental health and substance-use help just as easily as physical treatment.

The bill appropriates around $420,000 next year to multiple state agencies.

House Bill 1287: "Treatment for Opioids and Substance Use Disorders" directs the Department of Human Services to implement an online behavioral health capacity tracking system to show available spots at mental health facilities and substance use treatment programs across the state. It also creates a grant program to fund substance use treatment programs in underserved areas of the state.

This bill appropriates $5.7 million next year to multiple state agencies. Most of that money comes from the Marijuana Cash Tax Fund.

Senate Bill 10: "Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools," according to Mental Health Colorado, "updates and improves the School Health Professionals Grant Program and includes an additional $3 million in time-limited funding to schools to increase the presence of school health professionals to support the behavioral health needs of students."

The bill appropriates $3 million next year from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to the Department of Education.

Senate Bill 222: "Individuals At Risk Of Institutionalization" creates incentives for providers who treat individuals with severe mental health or substance use disorders, and creates a "safety net system" to expand high-intensity behavioral health treatment programs.

This bill appropriates $370,000 next year to multiple state agencies.

Senate Bill 223: "Actions Related to Competency to Proceed" requires the Department of Human Services to develop an electronic tracking system for defendants whose mental state may not allow them to stand trial. It also requires DHS to convene a group of experts to create placement guidelines for referring defendants to restoration services, and work with a higher education institution to develop and provide training for mental competency evaluations.

This bill appropriates $6.5 million from the state's general fund this year, and $9.1 million next year to multiple departments.

Here's how our local legislators scored. (Committee votes were included as well as votes of the full House and Senate, which is why some lawmakers who voted for the same bills have different scores.)

• Rep. Terri Carver (R): 90

Carver voted for all of the bills except HB1009.

• Rep. Tony Exum (D): 100

Exum was absent for HB1009 but voted for all of other the bills.

• Rep. Tim Geitner (R): 67

Geitner voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Rep. Lois Landgraf (R): 82

Landgraf voted "no" on HB1009 and SB10.

• Rep. Larry Liston (R): 66

Liston voted "no" on HB1269 and SB10. He was absent for HB1009.

• Rep. Shane Sandridge (R): 63

Sandridge voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Rep. Marc Snyder (D): 100

Snyder voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Dave Williams (R): 38

Williams voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269, HB1287, SB10 and SB223.

• Sen. Bob Gardner (R): 82

Gardner voted "no" on HB1009 and SB10.

• Sen. Owen Hill (R): 44

Hill voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Sen. Dennis Hisey (R): 80

Hisey voted "no" on HB1009.

• Sen. Pete Lee (D): 100

Lee voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Paul Lundeen (R): 88

Lundeen voted "no" on HB1009.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Gov. Polis travels to Colorado Springs, Pueblo for bill signings

Posted By on Tue, May 14, 2019 at 11:21 AM

Gov. Jared Polis speaks at Sierra High School on May 4. - DEREK KUHN
  • Derek Kuhn
  • Gov. Jared Polis speaks at Sierra High School on May 4.

After stopping in Pueblo to sign several health care and agriculture-related bills, Gov. Jared Polis will visit Centennial Elementary School in Colorado Springs on May 14 to sign three bills passed by the state Legislature.

They include:

House Bill 1013: Sponsored by Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, this bill extends through 2028 the state's existing tax credit for child care expenses to low-income families, equal to 25 percent of child care expenses for taxpayers with a federal adjusted gross income of $25,000 or less. The credit is capped at $500 for a single dependent or $1,000 for two or more dependents.

Senate Bill 176: "Expanding Concurrent Enrollment Opportunities" — sponsored by Sens. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village — requires school districts to offer opportunities for qualified high school students to enroll in college-level classes that can be applied to both a high school degree and a college degree. They may include academic courses, career and technical education, or apprenticeship and internship programs.

House Bill 1147: "Revise Traumatic Brain Injury Program" makes changes to the Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund, which provides services for people with brain injuries and funds research and education. Currently, the fund receives revenue from surcharges on DUI convictions, speeding and not wearing a helmet. The bill increases the surcharge assessed for speeding convictions, and expands the types of brain injuries that can be treated, among other changes. The bill's sponsors include two El Paso County Democrats, Rep. Marc Snyder and Sen. Pete Lee.

The bill signing at Centennial Elementary, located at 1860 Chelton Road in Colorado Springs, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. May 14.

Before that, Polis plans to sign House Bill 1132, "School Incentives to Use Colorado Food and Producers," at Milberger Farms in Pueblo at 2 p.m.

He'll also sign House Bill 1174, "Out-of-Network Health Care Services," and House Bill 1326, "Rates for Senior Low-Income Dental Program," at 1 p.m. at Pueblo Community Health Center.

Polis' first stop in Pueblo is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Crossroads Treatment Clinic, where he'll sign four bills:

• Senate Bill 174, "Dependent Tuition Assistance Program Eligibility";
• Senate Bill 001, "Expand Medication-assisted Treatment Pilot Program";
• Senate Bill 065, "Peer Assistance Emergency Medical Service Provider";
• House Bill 1287, "Treatment for Opioids And Substance Use Disorders."
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Friday, May 10, 2019

Stand for Colorado plans rallies statewide to protest "radical" legislation

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 11:24 AM

COURTESY OF STAND FOR COLORADO
  • Courtesy of Stand for Colorado
Democrats were able to push through more legislative priorities this session in the state Assembly than they have in many years. Some predicted after the November election that Coloradans would see overreach from lawmakers who wouldn't need to prioritize bipartisanship with a trifecta of power in the state House, Senate and governor's office.

Whether you believe that overreach did in fact occur probably depends, at least in part, on your political beliefs. But Kim Monson, host of radio talk show Americhicks, says the "Stand for Colorado" rally she's planning goes beyond simple party divides.

"Most people across the spectrum... JFK Democrats, unaffiliated libertarians and conservatives, generally they want to be left alone to live their lives," Monson says. "When you look at all these issues that we'll be talking about, what you see is the heavy hand of force. And that is something that is antithetical to the rugged western Colorado spirit."

The goal of the rally is to raise awareness around legislation passed this session, which Monson believes demonstrates overreach by lawmakers.

A Facebook event promoting the rally — scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. May 10, on the steps of the state Capitol in Denver — had 154 people "Going" and another 840 "Interested" as of the morning of May 10.

A long list of speakers will discuss several pieces of legislation, including the National Popular Vote law, oil and gas law, red-flag law, sex-ed law, vaccination bill (which failed) and more.

Stand for Colorado supporters will also hold concurrent rallies in Grand Junction, Gunnison, Alamosa, Woodland Park and Montrose. People hoping to refer the National Popular Vote issue to the November ballot will be at all locations collecting signatures.

Brita Horn, former Routt County treasurer, will address House Bill 1322, Expand Supply Affordable Housing. The bipartisan bill, which takes $30 million a year from the state's unclaimed property trust fund for affordable housing initiatives, amounts to "raiding the piggy bank," Horn says.

According to the Great Colorado Payback website (which you can search to see if you have any unclaimed property), the fund includes "abandoned financial assets such as stocks and dividends, mutual funds, checking and savings accounts, unpaid wages, securities, life insurance payouts, uncashed checks that are without activity for a certain period of time, as well as the contents of safe deposit boxes for which the rent has been expired for at least five (5) years."

House Bill 1322 passed the House on a vote of 45-18, and the Senate 23-12. Its sponsors included Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Perry Will, R-New Castle, along with Sens. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Don Coram, R-Montrose.

“I am thrilled this bill has now passed both chambers with bipartisan support," said Roberts, who was quoted in a May 3 statement from House Democrats. "This a responsible way to support affordable housing without raising taxes."

The Colorado Apartment Association, which opposed a bill that would have allowed local rent-control measures, also endorsed HB1322.

But Horn thinks the bill is a bad idea.

In the event of another Recession, Horn says, "people are going to start looking in [the unclaimed property trust fund], looking for their money to get back — and with interest — and we're going to be so depleted it's going to be an unfunded liability... When that happens, it's going to be on the backs of the taxpayers to backfill it."

Joining Horn at the state Capitol will be Monson, Monument Mayor Don Wilson, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and more than a dozen others. Visit standforcolorado.com for a full list of Denver speakers, and locations for the other rallies.
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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

School security guard and D-2 part ways over Polis town hall incident

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 9:57 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
The security guard involved in an incident at a May 4 town hall meeting featuring Governor Jared Polis at Sierra High School no longer works for Harrison School District 2, a district spokesperson said in a statement.

The guard, who has not been named, attempted to remove LaDonna Robertson from the town hall after it ended when she displayed a piece of cloth with a "recall Polis" message. A video of the incident shows the guard grabbing Robertson's arm and pulling her across several auditorium seats. Robertson later told Richard Randall on KVOR radio she had recently had back surgery, and the incident aggravated that. She also said the guard's grasp bruised her arm.

In a statement, D-2 public information officer Christine O'Brien said:

The District conducted an internal investigation of the incident which occurred near the end of the event. In the future, Harrison School District Two will require community partners to provide security for political events. The security employee involved in the incident is no longer employed by the District. As this is a personnel matter, we will not comment further.
She also said the district was "pleased to partner with the Colorado Springs Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal to offer one of our high school auditoriums as a venue for the CEO of our state, Governor Jared Polis, to speak with our community." (The Southeast Express also served as a sponsor.)

"These groups had a shared objective to offer our students and residents the opportunity to hear from and respectfully engage with our elected official" O'Brien continued. "The organizers had established rules for the Town Hall meeting and unfortunately, some of the attendees chose to be disruptive rather than follow the rules that were clearly outlined."
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Thursday, April 25, 2019

President Trump to speak at AFA graduation

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 10:44 AM

President Trump will make his first graduation speech at the Air Force Academy in May. - COURTESY WHITE HOUSE
  • Courtesy White House
  • President Trump will make his first graduation speech at the Air Force Academy in May.
President Donald Trump will speak during the 2019 graduation at the Air Force Academy on May 30, KOAA News is reporting.

It will be Trump's first appearance at the Academy's graduation,  which normally rotates speakers among the president, vice president, Air Force secretary and Defense Department secretary.

The last time a president spoke was in 2016 when President Barack Obama was the speaker.

Trump's visit could be seen as a friendly place for the president, who's pushed for a Space Force, which Colorado Springs hopes to land the headquarters for. El Paso County also is known for its Republican dominance in politics.

The Academy confirmed in a news release that Trump will give the graduation address.
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Measles cases at 25-year peak; Colorado avoids outbreak so far

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 10:12 AM

The number of measles cases in the United States is at its highest since 2000 — the year measles was "eliminated from this country," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced April 24.
news4-2.jpg

So far this year, the CDC has recorded 695 cases of measles in 22 states. That includes just one adult case in Colorado.

"The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks — one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018," the statement reads. "The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States."

As reported in the Independent on April 24, Colorado's immunization rates are among the lowest in the country. Some researchers say the state is vulnerable to a measles outbreak, because 90 to 95 percent immunization rates are needed to maintain “herd immunity” — protecting citizens from an outbreak — but the state’s kindergarten MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) fully immunized rate for the 2017-18 school year was 88.76 percent. El Paso County’s was 83.22 percent.

In schools (not kindergartens) MMR fully immunized rates were slightly higher. Across Colorado, 94.46 percent of students are fully immunized. In El Paso County, that number shrinks to 92.14 percent.

State lawmakers recently introduced House Bill 1312, as an effort to boost the state's immunization rates by essentially making it less convenient for parents to get non-medical vaccine exemptions. The bill was set for a vote of the full House on April 25.
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

University of Colorado faces backlash over presumed pick for president

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 2:16 PM

For nearly three years, Mark Kennedy has served as president of the University of North Dakota, but he made a name for himself as a Congressman in Minnesota. - PUBLIC DOMAIN
  • Public domain
  • For nearly three years, Mark Kennedy has served as president of the University of North Dakota, but he made a name for himself as a Congressman in Minnesota.

Since the University of Colorado Board of Regents named Mark Kennedy as the only finalist for the position of president of CU’s four-campus system (which includes local UCCS), blowback has been monumental. On April 14, a group of CU stakeholders including professors, students, community members and more — more than 4,500 people total — released an open letter to the Board of Regents condemning their choice.

Why? Because Mark Kennedy, former Republican member of Congress, has a voting record that seemingly goes against values CU ostensibly supports. This open letter reads, in part:

Colorado’s reputation as an open and inclusive place to live, work, and study would be damaged by the choice of Mr. Kennedy as President of the University of Colorado. As a member of Congress, Mr. Kennedy voted against stem cell research and against grants for colleges serving Black and Latinx students, and he voted twice against marriage equality. This record runs contrary to the Regents’ commitment to cutting-edge research and to “building a community of students, faculty, and staff in which diversity is a fundamental value.”

A protest was held on the CU-Boulder campus on April 15, and demonstrations will likely continue as Kennedy plans visits to CU campuses throughout the week of April 22. United Mexican American Students y Movimiento Estudiantil Chincanx de Azlán and CU Young Democratic Socialists of America have begun planning a major demonstration on April 26, when Kennedy is slated to appear at CU-Boulder. A comprehensive Facebook page has even been created: CU Against Kennedy, encouraging use of the hashtags #studentsagainstkennedy and #CUagainstkennedy.

Kennedy’s seemingly imminent appointment has even gotten the attention of a major nonprofit organization. On April 18, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains released a statement from its CEO Vicki Cowart, in opposition to Kennedy. “I am alarmed by a litany of his congressional votes on civil rights,” Cowart’s statement says. “Congressman Kennedy voted yes on increasing federal funding for health care providers that refuse to provide or even refer patients for abortion care, voted yes on banning family planning funding for providers abroad who counsel patients on abortion options, and has been a full-throated supporter of the extremist anti-choice movement.”

The statement also mentions his record on same-sex marriage, pointing out that he cosponsored a “Marriage Protection Amendment” during his time in office.

"His background does not rise to the level of president of Colorado’s flagship university that values diversity, human rights, academic research, science, and educational freedom of thought,” Cowart says. “The regents should vote no."
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Gov. Polis signs major oil and gas bill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 5:51 PM

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Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 181 into law on April 16, setting into motion major changes to the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado.

The new law grants local governments broad powers to regulate oil and gas operations, including to “zone land use for mineral resource development, to site, monitor, and inspect oil and gas facilities, and to impose fees and fines,” according the bill’s fiscal note.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will move from “fostering” the oil and gas industry to “regulating” it, and will add new rules aimed at protecting health and the environment. The law makes that a full-time, seven-member board appointed by the governor with the Senate’s approval. Only one board member can hail from the oil and gas industry.

The bill first passed the Senate on March 13 with a vote of 19-15, and passed the House on March 29 with several amendments, one of which requires that local regulations are “reasonable” in scope. The Senate approved House amendments on April 3, sending the bill to the governor's desk.

The law's opponents — who argue that it could hurt state and local economies supported by the oil and gas industry — are already seeking to recall certain elected officials that supported the bill and to overturn the new law.

Weld County Commission Chair Barbara Kirkmeyer, along with John Brackney, a former Arapahoe County commissioner, have filed ballot initiative language with the Colorado Secretary of State. Once that's approved, they'll need to gather nearly 125,000 petition signatures to refer an initiative to voters.

Their ballot initiative would remake the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission into a board selected by retired judges from a list of nominees. (Senate Bill 181 lets the governor appoint the board with the Senate's approval.)

Under the ballot initiative, the Commission would also have to adopt the rules that were in place on Dec. 31, 2018. SB181 changed those rules to protect public health and the environment.
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State bills aim to increase transparency in campaign fundraising

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 11:15 AM

This 2014 attack ad was paid for by a 527 ("dark money") political group.
  • This 2014 attack ad was paid for by a 527 ("dark money") political group.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold is championing two bills she developed with state lawmakers to change Colorado's system for enforcing fair campaign practices.

After all, she "ran for office to reform money in politics," notes a release from her office announcing the introduction of both bills.

The first, House Bill 1318 — dubbed "The Clean Campaign Act of 2019" — would prohibit foreign governments and corporations, as well as any person who is not an American citizen, from contributing to state election campaigns. It also requires "Paid for by" disclosures on campaign communications, and tightens rules related to independent expenditure committees, or IECs, that raise money for political candidates before they officially declare an intent to run for office. It's sponsored by Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, along with Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Mike Foote, D-Lafayette.

More than $82 million was donated to IECs — which Griswold calls "Colorado's version of a SuperPAC" — during the 2018 election cycle in Colorado, the release says. Of that $82 million, 75 percent came in donations of $100,000 or more, and over 80 percent came from corporations or sources that are "hard to trace."

“Too often, Coloradans feel that their politicians are beholden to big money special interests, and that the rich and powerful are allowed to side-step the rules,” Griswold is quoted as saying. “Right now in Colorado, a $50 contribution to a candidate is more transparent than a $50,000 contribution to Colorado’s version of a SuperPAC. It’s time to put democracy back in the hands of everyday Coloradans."

The second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 232, is titled "Campaign Finance Enforcement" and is also sponsored by Foote and Weissman. It codifies the rules put in place after a U.S. District Court judge determined in 2018 that Colorado's campaign finance enforcement system was unconstitutional. The rules include procedures for filing, reviewing and investigating complaints of unfair campaign practices.

Interestingly, the system ruled unconstitutional was created through a ballot initiative. It mandated that every complaint of a campaign finance violation get a hearing, and did not include a mechanism for filtering out bad complaints, according to the National Law Review.
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Friday, April 12, 2019

Governor signs bill requiring disclosure of police internal affairs files

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 5:43 PM

The robot the CSPD used to breach the door of a resident's home in 2012. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The robot the CSPD used to breach the door of a resident's home in 2012.
Gov. Jared Polis signed into law House Bill 1119, which requires law enforcement agencies to disclose internal affairs reports after an investigation is complete, the Colorado Independent reports.

That means the public can find out which officers are accused of and punished for use of excessive force or other violations.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado Springs Police Department have routinely refused to release internal affairs files, including those involving officers involved in a May 2012 incident in which police set off an explosive device in Ronald Brown's house, which resulted in a $160,000 lawsuit settlement, and a November 2013 incident in which an officer slammed a teenager, Alexis Acker, to the floor, breaking a tooth and causing other injuries, for which the city paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit.

The only internal affairs file released locally in recent years involved Ryan Brown, who alleged he and his brother were stopped by police just because they're black. The city settled a lawsuit filed on Brown's behalf by the ACLU of Colorado for $212,000 but denied wrongdoing. The IA investigation cleared the officers involved.

The new law doesn't require the release of past internal affairs files, but rather only those that arise from incidents that occur after the new law became effective.

The law allows identifying or contact information of confidential informants, witnesses and victims to be redacted from the reports, as well as the home address, personal phone number and other personal information of the officer.

Other information is protected as well, spelled out in the bill you can find here.

Sheriff Bill Elder is opposed to the law and issued this statement:
The language in House Bill 19-1119 is too broad. The accessible records should only refer to completed internal investigations that resulted in a sustained finding and/or disciplinary action. My concern would be that defense attorneys could use not sustained or unfounded internal investigations against an officer to undermine a legitimate case. The other concern is the amount of staff time that it will take an agency to comply with the many requests now that this bill has become law.
Mayor John Suthers couldn't be reached for comment but has said the city will follow the law.

The bill became effective upon signing by the governor.
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Gov. Polis signs "red-flag bill" into law

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 5:33 PM

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——UPDATE MONDAY, APRIL 15——

Via a spokesperson, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder gave the following comment:

There is a mental health crisis in this country, in this state and our communities. The Red Flag Bill does nothing to address the underlying mental health of an individual, it only violates in my opinion, the right of a citizen to possess firearms. As I previously stated, I am exploring all available legal options and am committed to vigorously challenging the constitutionality of this law.


——ORIGINAL POST 5:33 P.M. FRIDAY, APRIL 12——

With the signature of Gov. Jared Polis, the "red-flag bill" became law on April 12 — making it legal for law enforcement to seize the firearms of those determined to pose a risk to themselves or others after a court issues an "Extreme Risk Protection Order."

"A strong majority of gun owners, non gun owners, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats agree: Extreme Risk Protection Order Laws save lives and are consistent with our 2nd amendment rights," reads an April 12 post on Polis' official Facebook page.

In fact, more than half of the state's counties, including El Paso, issued resolutions opposing the bill, claiming it violates Second Amendment rights and constitutional due process.

The new law allows an individual to petition the court to remove firearms from a family or household member they feel could endanger themselves or others. A judge would have to hold a hearing that day, or the following day, to determine whether to issue the protection order.

A second hearing must be held within 14 days to determine whether the person's weapons should be kept for up to 364 days. During that time, the person could not legally purchase, possess or receive any firearms.

The law's supporters say it's needed to address Colorado's high suicide rate. The state has the 10th highest suicide rate in the U.S., with 20.3 suicides per 100,000 people in 2017. El Paso County's rate is slightly higher, at 22.8 per 100,000. Half of all suicides were by firearm in 2017.

"While we still need to do more to help those in a mental health crisis access the help they urgently need, this bill provides a highly targeted tool to judges, families, and law enforcement to reduce gun violence, prevent suicide, and protect families and first responders," Polis' Facebook post reads.

Republicans attempting to force recall elections of state Democrats cite the red-flag law as a motivating factor.

At a press conference March 26, Polis said counties had the right to exercise discretion over how to enforce the law, The Colorado Sun reported. He dodged questions over whether he agreed with Attorney General Phil Weiser's earlier statement that any sheriff who would disregard a court order to remove someone's firearms should resign.

Lawmakers were mostly split along party lines in voting on the bill, though Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, a Democrat, opposed it.
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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Colorado attorney general, state lawmakers to hold town hall

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2019 at 5:15 PM

COURTESY PHIL WEISER CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy Phil Weiser campaign
Attorney General Phil Weiser, Sen. Pete Lee and Rep. Marc Snyder will host a community town hall April 11 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Manitou Arts Center, 513 Manitou Ave. in Manitou Springs.

To RSVP click here.

As you ponder what questions to pose, here's the latest news from Weiser's office and the two state Democratic lawmakers:

Weiser (Colorado attorney general):

• Defended the controversial "Extreme Risk Protection Orders" bill, or "red-flag bill," which was approved by the state Senate on April 1 and headed to Gov. Jared Polis' desk. Weiser testified that sheriffs who refuse to enforce the bill should resign, the Colorado Sun reported.
• Signed on in support of Baltimore's lawsuit against the Donald Trump administration's proposed changes to the "public charge" rule, which could penalize immigrants for having enrolled in public benefit programs.
Joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary protection from deportation for immigrants who crossed the border without documentation as children.

CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Lee (District 11 state senator):

• Introduced Senate Bill 223, "Actions Related to Competency to Proceed," on March 29. The bill would require the Department of Human Services to develop an electronic tracking system for defendants whose mental state may not allow them to stand trial. It would also have DHS convene a group of experts to create placement guidelines for referring defendants to restoration services, and work with a higher education institution to develop and provide training for mental competency evaluations.
• Introduced Senate Bill 222, "Individuals At Risk Of Institutionalization," on March 29. The bipartisan bill would create incentives for providers who treat individuals with severe mental health or substance use disorders, and create a "safety net system" to expand high-intensity behavioral health treatment programs.
• Sponsored House Bill 1225, "No Monetary Bail For Certain Low-level Offenses," which passed the Senate on April 8. (The bill now heads to Gov. Jared Polis' desk.) It would prohibit courts from imposing bail on defendants charged with most traffic offenses, petty offenses, or comparable municipal offenses.

Snyder (District 18 state representative):
COURTESY CHARLOTTE CHANCE BUNDGAARD, TRYSTAN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Charlotte Chance Bundgaard, Trystan Photography

• Sponsored House Bill 1274, "Board County Commissioners Delegation Subdivision Platting," which passed the House on April 8. (The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.) It would allow boards of county commissioners to delegate certain responsibilities involving land use determinations to county administrative officials — while still requiring public notice and opportunities to submit comment.
• Sponsored House Bill 1147, Revise Traumatic Brain Injury Program, which passed the House on March 29. (The bill headed to the Senate, where Lee is a sponsor, for approval.) It would make changes to the Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund, which provides services for people with brain injuries and funds research and education. Currently, the fund receives revenue from surcharges on DUI convictions, speeding and not wearing a helmet. The bill would increase the surcharge assessed for speeding convictions, and expand the types of brain injuries that can be treated, among other changes.
• Sponsored House Bill 1256, "Electronic Filing of Certain Taxes," which passed the House on April 8. (The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.) It would cut down on paper returns by requiring certain non-individual taxpayers to file tax returns and make payments electronically, once the Department of Revenue establishes an electronic system (but not sooner than for the tax period beginning Jan. 1, 2020).
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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Equal Pay Day at Colorado Senate

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2019 at 5:23 PM

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April 2 is Equal Pay Day, and Coloradans seized on the opportunity to highlight a Senate bill scheduled for a vote. Members of the Colorado Women's Bar Association, the Women's Lobby of Colorado and 9to5 Colorado gathered on the steps of the state Capitol with signs demanding equal pay.

The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, sponsored by Sens. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, would allow people to bring a civil case of wage discrimination based on sex in district court. Current law gives the sole authority to enforce wage discrimination to the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics director.

The bill would also prohibit employers from looking up a prospective employee's wage history, relying on prior wages to determine their wages at hiring, or retaliating against a job candidate for failing to disclose their wage history. Employers would be required to announce employment advancement opportunities companywide and to disclose the pay ranges for job openings.

The proposed legislation — likely to pass with the Democrats' trifecta of control — has met opposition from business groups, including the National Federation of Independent Business and Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

While a full vote on Senate Bill 85, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, was postponed until April 3, the Senate passed a resolution reaffirming women's right to equal pay.


The resolution officially recognized April 2, 2019, as Equal Pay Day (the day that symbolizes how far women must work into the year to earn what men earned the previous year). The day was first originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996.

"We recognize that the problem of pay disparity impacts different communities across the state more significantly," the resolution notes. "Asian women's day of equal pay would be March 5; white women's day of equal pay would be April 19; black women's day of equal pay would be August 22; Indigenous women's day of equal pay would be September 23; and Latina women's day of equal pay would be November 20."

The resolution passed on a vote of 30-3, with Sens. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Rob Woodward, R-Loveland, opposed. The House passed a similar resolution with unanimous support.

"Numbers can say whatever you want them to say," Marble argued on the Senate floor before the vote. "Not all white men make the same as every white man in a job. It’s diversified across the board."

Gov. Jared Polis chimed in later on Twitter:

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City election happing today!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2019 at 2:37 PM

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Vote. Today.

But don't mail your ballot today. Now, you'll have to deliver it. Go here to find out more about drop-off sites for today's election.

The Colorado Springs city election wraps up today at 7 p.m.

As of the morning of April 2, only 74,067 ballots had been counted so far of nearly 268,000 mailed.

Voters are electing a mayor and three at-large City Council members for the nine-member panel, and deciding Issue 1, which would authorize collective bargaining, but not a strike, for firefighters.

More than $1 million has been pumped into the election of various candidates and campaigns for and against Issue 1.
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