Politics

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

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
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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Friday, March 29, 2019

Red-flag bill passes Senate, heads back to House with amendments

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 5:21 PM

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A bill that's divided Coloradans on either side of the gun debate is now just a vote away from heading to Gov. Jared Polis' desk.

House Bill 1177, titled Extreme Risk Protection Orders — better known as the "red-flag bill" — passed the Colorado Senate on March 28 on a vote of 18-17, with Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo the lone Democrat opposed. It now heads back to the House, which must approve the Senate's amendments. The House voted 38-25 in an initial vote March 4.

The bill would give judges the power to remove firearms from a person who "poses a significant risk to self or others," within two days of a household member or law enforcement officer petitioning the court.

The Senate's amendments, which don't substantially change the bill, include adding the requirement that a law enforcement officer serving such a protection order provide a notice with "referrals to appropriate resources, including domestic violence, behavioral health, and counseling resources."

“We at Ceasefire have worked for three years to bring this concept into law, and feel gratified that the Colorado General Assembly has embraced this life-saving measure,” Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action, said in a March 28 statement. “This is a significant step for a state that has suffered numerous horrific firearm tragedies."

The bill's House passage has already led to an uproar in Republican-majority counties across the state. The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted March 12 to become a "Second Amendment Preservation County," vowing not to "appropriate funds, resources, employees or agencies to initiate unconstitutional seizures in unincorporated El Paso County." Around two dozen other counties have issued similar resolutions.

At a press conference March 26, Gov. 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.

The bill has been championed by nonprofit Mental Health Colorado, which has not taken a position on how counties should enforce it.

"We haven’t taken a position on the counties’ position or the enforcement of the law," interim CEO Nancy VanDeMark told the Independent. "Our position is really based on the suicide rate in Colorado and the association between suicide, deaths by suicide, and firearms, and the need to intervene in our suicide rate in the state."

Colorado 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.

Republicans opposed to the bill argue that risk protection orders don't provide due process and jeopardize Second Amendment rights.

The state senators from El Paso County split along party lines, in accordance with most of the rest of the Assembly. Republican Sens. Dennis Hisey, Paul Lundeen, Owen Hill and Bob Gardner all opposed the bill. Democratic Sen. Pete Lee voted in favor.

Republican House Reps. Shane Sandridge, Dave Williams, Larry Liston, Tim Geitner, Terri Carver and Lois Landgraf were opposed. Democratic Reps. Tony Exum and Marc Snyder were in favor.

Here's a draft of the bill as it currently stands:
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Final campaign finance reports filed before April 2 city election

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 5:21 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
UPDATE:

Money has poured into the Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs coffers to fund support of Issue 1, which would give local firefighters collective bargaining authority, though not authority to strike.

The election is Tuesday, April 2, and ballots must be returned to the City Clerk's Office by 7 p.m.

The firefighter committee has raised $639,123, according to its March 29 campaign finance report, more than twice as much as the vote "no" effort, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, which reported raising $303,967.

That makes the issue campaign valued at $1 million in contributions to the two committees.

The firefighter group received donations from firefighter groups in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Bernardino and Cal Fire in California; from Miami and Jacksonville, Fla.; Portland, Oregon; Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pa.; Fairfax, Virginia; Chicago; West Metro in the Denver area; New York state firefighters, and the International Fire Fighters Association.

To update other candidates' filings:

Council candidates and the amounts raised — Randy Tuck, $11,570; Regina English, $600; Tom incumbent Strand, $39,351; Tony Gioia, $27,457; and Val Snider, $12,787. Dennis Spiker hasn't filed a report in the last cycle.

Mayoral candidate Juliette Parker has raised $17,250, of which $8,000 came from loans from herself to the campaign.

Mayor John Suthers has raised a total of $228,211, and spent all but $87,081. In the latest reporting period, the largest donor was The Broadmoor with $5,000.

————-ORIGINAL POST 5:21 P.M. FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019—————————————

Not all candidates had filed their campaign finance reports on time for this round of filings for the April 2 city election where voters will elect a mayor, three at-large City Council members and decide Issue 1, which would give firefighters the right to collectively bargain but not to strike. Reports were due March 29.

Here's what we know.

• Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, which opposes Issue 1, has raised a total of $345,516. It's spent $303,967.

• Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs did not file a report, but previously reported raising $537,025.

Other organizations' reports:

• Community Leaders of America pumped $5,000 into Mayor John Suthers' reelection campaign and $1,000 in the coffers of Wayne Williams, who's seeking an at-large City Council seat. The organization is the national caucus of Republican mayors and city council members and was formed, according to the group, "in response to the lack of a national strategy to elect and support Republicans to the offices of mayor and city council." City elections here are nonpartisan.

• Sierra Club has raised $66,000 and spent $12,500 on canvassing and $44,233 on "voter mail education" but did not disclose which candidates it supports.

• The same is true of Americans for Prosperity, which reported it raised no funds but provided values of $24,042 each for mailers and door hangers and canvassing for unidentified candidates.

• Together for Colorado Springs raised $4,140 from John Weiss, owner of the Independent and other newspapers, for ads that appeared in the Indy. The report doesn't say who the ads supported, but T4CS ads endorsed Bill Murray and Terry Martinez.

Mayoral candidates:

• John Pitchford has raised $105,424 and has $82,624 on hand.

• Suthers, Juliette Parker and Lawrence Martinez did not file reports by 5 p.m. on March 29.

Council candidates:

• Incumbent Bill Murray has raised $3,100.

• Wayne Williams, former Colorado Secretary of State, has raised $55,652.

• Gordon Klingenschmitt, former state representative, has raised $12,387.

• Terry Martinez has raised $33,947.

• Athena Roe has raised $825.

Candidates who had not filed a report include Regina English, Randy Tuck, incumbent Tom Strand, Dennis Spiker, Val Snider and Tony Gioia.

The election is four days away. It's being handled by mail. You must return you ballot by 7 p.m. on April 2. For information, go here.
 
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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Police internal affairs transparency bill headed for governor's desk

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 12:58 PM

Alexis Acker after being thrown to the floor face first. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Alexis Acker after being thrown to the floor face first.
In 2015, the Independent asked for the internal affairs file for Tyler Walker, a police officer accused of smashing 18-year-old Alexis Acker, handcuffed behind her back, to the floor in Memorial Hospital's emergency room.

The city paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit with Acker.

But the Colorado Springs Police Department refused to release the IA file for Walker, who later left the department, saying disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.

Likewise, with one exception, the CSPD has denied the Indy's requests for IA files using that same reason.

Soon, that argument won't wash, if Gov. Jared Polis signs House Bill 1119, which will require law enforcement agencies to disclosure internal affairs files after the investigation is complete.

According to The Denver Post, the bill cleared its final legislative hurdle on March 27 and is on its way to Polis' desk. It's unclear whether Polis will sign the bill.

As reported by the Post, current law allows police agencies to disclose IA files only if the release would be in the public interest. If the requester disagrees, he or she must file a lawsuit.

From the Post:
Most agencies in the state deny the release of those records — other than the Denver Police Department, which has been releasing most internal affairs records for about 12 years — often citing their release as being “contrary to the public interest.”

According to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, the bill, if passed into law, will bring Colorado in line with 14 other states.

The CFOIC, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association, Common Cause of Colorado and the Independence Institute support the bill.

CFOIC reports that opponents of the bill include the Fraternal Order of Police of Colorado and the county sheriffs’ association, but taking a neutral position were the police chiefs’ association, district attorneys’ council and the Colorado Municipal League.

In an interview in February, Mayor John Suthers told the Indy, "Whatever the law is, I assure you, as long as I'm mayor of Colorado Springs, we will comply with it."

Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, sponsored the bill with Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver. Foote, a former prosecutor, noted that "transparency should be the default position," the CFOIC reported, and said the bill would help build trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

The only internal affairs report released by the CSPD in recent memory dealt with Ryan and Jeremy Brown, brothers stopped by officers for no apparent reason. Ryan Brown made a video of the stop and, with the ACLU of Colorado, alleged he was stopped and held at gunpoint because he's black. The city later settled a lawsuit with Brown by paying $212,000

But the bill doesn't require agencies to release files of incidents that occurred before the effective date of the bill. So the Tyler Walker file and others that predate the bill will remain under wraps forever.
 
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Gov. Polis signs hospital transparency bill

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 12:21 PM

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Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill March 28 requiring greater financial transparency from hospitals, which the bill's sponsors say will increase competition to keep health care costs down.

Titled "Hospital Transparency Measures To Analyze Efficacy," and sponsored by Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, along with Sens. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, House Bill 1001 will require hospitals to disclose costs and expenditures to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), which will create an annual hospital expenditure report to be posted online. The report must include uncompensated care costs by payer group and a breakdown of different categories of expenses.

Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, sponsored House Bill 1001. - COLORADO HOUSE DEMOCRATS
  • Colorado House Democrats
  • Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, sponsored House Bill 1001.
The new responsibilities for HCPF outlined in the bill entail a minimal workload increase for the department, but won't require any additional funding, legislative staff found.

Hospitals will have to provide the following information to HCPF:

• the cost report submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,
• an annual audited financial statement,
• the total number of available and licensed beds,
• inpatient and outpatient statistics,
• charges by payer group,
• contractual allowances (the difference between what hospitals bill carriers and what they are paid),
• bad debt write-offs,
• charity write-offs,
• a breakdown of operating expenses,
• a balance sheet,
• staffing information,
• and information on acquisitions and sales.

The bill passed the House on January 31 with a vote of 39-22, and the Senate (with several amendments) on March 14 with a vote of 34-1. The House voted to approve the Senate's amendments on March 18. The governor signed it on March 28.

“The high cost of health care is harming both Colorado consumers and businesses. Hardworking people are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of health care, particularly in rural Colorado where we’re seeing some of the highest premiums in the country,” Rep. Kennedy said in a March 18 statement. “By requiring hospitals to be transparent about their spending, we can increase competition in a way that will reduce costs for all.”

Rep. Tony Exum, the Democrat who represents House District 17 in Colorado Springs, is among the bill's cosponsors.

All state senators from El Paso County, including Republican Sens. Dennis Hisey, Paul Lundeen, Owen Hill, and Bob Gardner, as well as Democratic Sen. Pete Lee, voted in favor of the bill.

Republican House Reps. Shane Sandridge, Dave Williams, Larry Liston, Tim Geitner, Terri Carver and Lois Landgraf were opposed in the final House vote. Democratic Reps. Exum and Marc Snyder were in favor.
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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Gov. Polis unveils new state logo

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 11:44 AM

Gov. Jared Polis unveiled a new state logo to replace the one implemented by his predecessor, John Hickenlooper, at a press conference March 26.

The new logo features a green pine tree to the left of a blue and red letter "C" with blue mountains and a yellow background in the center.


The former state logo, which features the white letters "CO" overlaying a green, snow-capped mountain, was implemented in 2013 following a campaign by Hickenlooper's office. A team of designers created three possible logos, which were displayed on a public website.

The redesign ultimately cost $1.1 million in private donations and $1.5 million in pro-bono work, the Associated Press reported at the time.

The winning logo proved to be a tough sell.

Critics complained that it looked like the warning sign for carbon monoxide, and mourned the loss of the former accepted logo — the ubiquitous red and yellow "C" on Colorado's state flag. Republicans even lodged an effort in the state Assembly to refer the logo to voters, but a Democrat-led committee defeated it.

Despite protests, the logo soon adorned the state government's department websites and official messaging.

Will Polis' new logo pass muster? That remains to be seen.

Here's some thoughts from Twitter so far:




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Monday, March 25, 2019

Affordable housing bill gains momentum in State Assembly

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 10:39 AM

The Commons, a permanent supportive housing development proposed by Homeward Pikes Peak, will need tax credit funding. - COURTESY OF EBERSOLDT AND ASSOCIATES
  • Courtesy of Ebersoldt and Associates
  • The Commons, a permanent supportive housing development proposed by Homeward Pikes Peak, will need tax credit funding.
A Democrat-led bill that would double the amount of state funding for affordable housing is gaining momentum in the state Assembly.

House Bill 1228, sponsored by Reps. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, was approved by the House Finance Committee on March 22 and now heads to the Appropriations Committee. It would increase the amount of available Affordable Housing Tax Credits from $5 million to $10 million annually for the next five years.

“We need to help ease the housing crunch. This bill will help seniors and hardworking people across our state,” Titone said in a March 22 statement. “Access to affordable housing can help grow the middle class and our economy.”

Colorado's Affordable Housing Tax Credit program was originally established in 2001. It's modeled after the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, created in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan's administration. In return for providing capital for affordable housing developments, investors who purchase the credits receive a dollar-for-dollar break on their taxes.

The state's program was later renewed in 2014 and 2016, and most recently 2018, with legislation that extends it through 2024.

Since 2015, the state Affordable Housing Tax Credit program has created more than 4,700 affordable units and generated $1.9 billion in economic impact, according to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), which supports the bill.

CHFA awards both state and federal tax credits to affordable housing developers that meet stringent application requirements and respond to a demonstrated need.

Combining state tax credits with 4-percent federal tax credits in the same application cycle has made the state credits about as competitive as the 9-percent federal tax credits, which are allocated in a separate application cycle, says Steve Johnson, CHFA's community development director. Traditionally, the 9-percent federal credits have been more competitive because they provide a deeper subsidy.

Currently, only about one in three projects that apply for tax credits through CHFA end up getting them, Johnson told the Indy in early March.

The investment necessary just to apply can be staggering for developers, especially nonprofits. Beth Roalstad, the executive director of housing nonprofit Homeward Pikes Peak, said pre-development costs for the nonprofit's permanent supportive housing project had already amounted to about $50,000 before the application was submitted to CHFA. She learned in March that the project would not be awarded tax credits due to a technical error in the application.

Roalstad plans to reapply in June, this time for the 9-percent federal tax credits.
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Friday, March 22, 2019

PAC tied to Republicans enters Colorado Springs' city election

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 2:45 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
There are a couple new players in the April 2 city election:

Community Leaders of America, a political action committee, filed with the Colorado Springs City Clerk's Office March 21, listing a Republican operative as its representative.
Staci Goede has served as CFO at Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C., for 17 years, according to LinkedIn.
Goede declined to speak to the Indy, saying she would have another person get in touch to answer questions about the purpose of the committee. It's worth noting Community Leaders of America registered as a political committee, and not an issue committee.
We'll update if and when we hear back from the PAC.

Together for Colorado Springs Political Action Committee also registered with the City Clerk's Office. The organization was active in the city's 2017 election supporting candidates. The PAC placed an ad in the March 20-26 Indy supporting Bill Murray and Terry Martinez for Council.

The last campaign finance filing prior to the election is due March 29, four days before the election.

The April 2 ballot has one question: Issue 1, which would give firefighters authority to collective bargain but not to strike. Voters also will elected three at-large City Council members and a mayor.

In other election news:

• The NAACP Colorado Springs Branch will host a candidates forum at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at Sand Creek Library, 1821 S. Academy Blvd. The forum will entertain candidates for mayor and at-large Council seats.

• As of March 19, voters had returned about 18,000 ballots and ballot counting has begun.

If you have an item of interest for our campaign roundup blogs, contact zubeck@csindy.com
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