Politics

Monday, July 15, 2019

Locals protest inhumane immigration detention centers, raids

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2019 at 4:23 PM

PHOTOS BY LILY REAVIS
  • Photos by Lily Reavis
Chants of “No hate, no fear; immigrants are welcome here,” echoed through the streets of downtown Colorado Springs on Friday, July 12, as over 200 people attended the city’s Lights for Liberty protest.
The event happened the same day the Trump administration announced that large-scale immigration raids were planned for 10 major cities, including Denver, starting on July 14. That never materialized; however, a small number of coordinated federal raids targeting undocumented migrant parents and their children launched Sunday, July 14, The New York Times reported. 
wire_demonstration_church.jpg

The Friday demonstration was one of nearly 800 that took place across the world in protest of inhumane living conditions faced by migrants in the United States. “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps” is the self-defined human rights coalition responsible for organizing the international protests.
wire_demonstration_crowd.jpg

The event began at 7 p.m. outside of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, 27 E. Vermijo Ave. A diverse group of protesters joined the march, including mothers and their young children, students from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and roughly a dozen members of High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church (HPUUC).
wire_demonstration_crowd2.jpg

Jerima King, an immigration activist who was arrested in June 2018 while protesting family separation laws, spoke about her time volunteering at shelters in Laredo, Texas

“Who are these detainees? They are people so desperate that they cross rivers and deserts and turn themselves in to border patrol,” she said. “People are crossing [the border] on their own because they are not allowed to petition for asylum at points of entry.”
wire_demonstration_damien.jpg

Another speaker, Sanda Dangle, said: “We can’t be quiet anymore. We need to fight what’s going on.”

The protesters marched north up Tejon Street, eventually turning east on Platte Avenue and looping back to the sheriff’s office via Nevada and Vermijo avenues. Several passing cars showed their support by honking their horns and cheering, though others expressed their disagreement with Lights for Liberty.
wire_demonstration_lizcroddy.jpg

The demonstration ended with a candlelight vigil and final speakers outside of the sheriff’s office. During the vigil, a volunteer read the names of migrants who have died while in U.S. custody at the border.

Clare Twomey, the pastor at Vista Grande Community Church, urged the crowd to continue fighting for migrant rights.

“[Migrants’] stories do not belong to us, but they allow us to understand what it means to be human,” she told the teary-eyed crowd. “[This protest] is worthless if that’s all we do... Our liberation is bound to those who are currently in cages.”
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Conservation Colorado grades state lawmakers on environmental issues

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2019 at 5:22 PM

TONY WEBSTER VIA FLICKR
  • Tony Webster via Flickr
Back in May, we reported on nonprofit Mental Health Colorado's release of its 2019 legislative scorecard, which assigned scores to state lawmakers based on how they voted on mental health-related bills.

If voting records on environment-related legislation (such as the notorious "oil and gas bill," Senate Bill 181) play a role in whom you choose to help elect, you also might appreciate this scorecard from Conservation Colorado.

The Denver-based nonprofit gave state lawmakers "scores" based on how they voted on "priority bills that affect Colorado’s land, water, climate, and communities." (Conservation Colorado isn't affiliated with a political party.)

The rankings are based on five bills related to "climate and clean energy," the oil and gas bill, two transportation bills, and five bills related to "land, water and wildlife." Most were approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.

Environmental issues appear to be more polarizing then mental health, based on a comparison of the two scorecards. While Mental Health Colorado assigned scores across the spectrum, most lawmakers got either an A+ or an F when it came to conservation.

Spoiler alert: Three El Paso County Republicans (Tim Geitner, Dave Williams and Shane Sandridge) got big, fat zeroes from Conservation Colorado. For voters who don't like environmental regulations, that could, of course, be a good thing.

Here's a handful of included bills you maybe haven't heard of (and you can view the rest at Conservation Colorado's website):

House Bill 1026: "Parks and Wildlife Violations of Law" increases fines for violations of laws enforced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife — such as possessing live wildlife without a license, fishing without a license, or hunting without a hunter education certificate. It also changes the way fine revenue is distributed.

House Bill 1050: "Encourage Use of Xeriscape in Common Areas" prevents homeowners associations from prohibiting drought-tolerant landscaping in common areas. (There's already a law protecting individual property owners in HOAs who want to xeriscape.) It also requires special districts to allow such landscaping in open space and park land.

House Bill 1113: "Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts" essentially tells hardrock mines they can’t say that water quality can be maintained only through treating water for an indefinite period; they must show that their reclamation plan will lead to an end date for such measures. They must also provide financial assurances "in an amount sufficient to protect water resources, including costs for any necessary water quality 
protection, treatment, and monitoring,” according to the bill's fiscal note.

House Bill 1231: "New Appliance Energy And Water Efficiency Standards," according to Conservation Colorado, "sets new energy and water efficiency standards for many household appliances sold in our state, benefitting Colorado consumers, businesses and our environment."

House Bill 1264: Under a conservation easement agreement, a property owner agrees to limit the use of their land to serve a conservation purpose, in exchange for a state income tax credit. This bill, "Conservation Easement Improvements," extends the state's Conservation Easement Oversight Commission and the conservation easement certification program, and makes various changes to the process.

House Bill 1314: "Just Transition From Coal-based Electrical Energy Economy" creates the "Just Transition Office" to provide benefits for former employees of retired coal plants, award grants, and receive utility reports related to coal plant retirement.

Senate Bill 181: "Protect Public Welfare Oil & Gas Operations" makes major changes to the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado. It 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.

Senate Bill 236: This bill, "Sunset Public Utilities Commission," will "help Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission — the regulatory body responsible for determining which resources to use to power Colorado’s grid — drastically reduce these emissions by directing utilities in the state to generate more carbon-free electricity and consider the 'social cost' of carbon when planning future energy projects," according to the nonprofit. The bill requires a $1.1 million appropriation to multiple state agencies.

Here's how El Paso County legislators scored, on a 100-point scale.

• Rep. Terri Carver (R): 15

Carver opposed all of the bills except HB 1026 and HB 1113.

• Rep. Tony Exum (D): 100

Exum was excused for HB 1231, HB 1314, SB 236 and HB 1264, but voted for all of other the bills.

• Rep. Tim Geitner (R): 0

Geitner opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Lois Landgraf (R): 8

Landgraf opposed all of the bills except HB 1050. She was excused for HB 1026.

• Rep. Larry Liston (R): 15

Liston opposed all of the bills except HB 1264 and HB 1050.

• Rep. Shane Sandridge (R): 0

Sandridge opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Marc Snyder (D): 100

Snyder voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Dave Williams (R): 0

Williams opposed all of the bills.

• Sen. Bob Gardner (R): 8

Gardner opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Owen Hill (R): 8

Hill opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Dennis Hisey (R): 17

Hisey opposed all of the bills except HB 1264 and HB 1050.

• Sen. Pete Lee (D): 100

Lee voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Paul Lundeen (R): 8

Lundeen opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, July 5, 2019

Deputy DA Michael Allen announcing candidacy July 11

Posted By on Fri, Jul 5, 2019 at 2:58 PM

Michael Allen: All the murder trials he handled ended in convictions. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Michael Allen: All the murder trials he handled ended in convictions.
District attorney candidate Micheal Allen filed his candidacy on July 3, after the Independent reported his opponent, El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller, expressed outrage over several early endorsements for Allen.

"This is a very important job and requires somebody to have strong background in public safety and prosecution, and I'm that person," Allen tells the Indy.

Allen, who's a Republican, will officially kick off his campaign at 11:30 a.m. on July 11 at the Alamo Square Park at Pioneers Museum. Those who will be on hand and who have (or will) endorsed him include Colorado Springs Mayor and former DA John Suthers, District Attorney Dan May, former District Attorney Jeanne Smith, Detective Joe Somosky (who's president of the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association), the CSPPA's executive director Sherryl Dillon.

After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in political science, Allen, 47, earned his law degree from the University of Kansas. He then worked as a prosecutor in Johnson and Douglas counties and in the Kansas Attorney General's Office before joining the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office in 2011.

As a senior deputy district attorney, Allen supervises a team of prosecutors and prosecutes cases himself.

"The vast majority of my caseload is homicide cases," he says. Allen has tried eight murder cases since joining the DA's Office. "Each one of those defendants has been convicted and is in prison," he says.

Asked why he's running to succeed May, who's term-limited from seeking a fourth term, Allen says, "I'm committed to public safety and doing this job well. That's the biggest thing that motivated me to do this."

Beyond contributing minor amounts to some candidates, Allen has served as a precinct leader and a delegate and has helped with others' campaigns. He's never run for public office, however.
Asked about Waller's objections to his securing endorsements prior to becoming an official candidate, Allen says, "I'm honored to have an organization like the PPA supporting my candidacy, an important voice in public safety. I'm not going to get into negative campaigning, although he's choosing to do so right out of gate."

An Illinois native, Waller, also a Republican, earned a degree in political science at Southern Illinois University, a master's degree in space studies at the University of North Dakota and graduated from University of Denver law school.

He served in the Air Force on active duty from 1993 to 2000 and in the Air Force Reserves from 2001 to 2009. He deployed to Iraq in 2006.

Waller worked as a prosecutor in the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Pueblo, and served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2009 to 2014.

He was appointed to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners in July 2016 to replace Amy Lathen, who resigned, and was elected to a four-year term in November 2016.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Immigration raids, fines in the forecast this Fourth of July weekend

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 5:36 PM

Donald Trump speaks on immigration policy in 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center. - GAGE SKIDMORE VIA FLICKR
  • Gage Skidmore via Flickr
  • Donald Trump speaks on immigration policy in 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

As the administration of President Donald Trump prepares to carry out immigration sweeps in 10 cities this weekend, National Public Radio reports that the Department of Homeland Security is also issuing notices to undocumented immigrants saying they are subject to fines, some up to $500,000.

Ingrid Encalada Latorre, an undocumented immigrant in sanctuary at a Boulder church, was one of those issued a fine.

“After 3 years of no word from them they send me this letter with only 30 days to pay and it’s a lot of money for me," she said in an emailed statement via American Friends Service Committee Denver, an advocacy organization. "Really I will not get any benefit from this money, not a work permit or residency. What they want to do with these letters is to intimidate us and scare us."

The Immigration and Nationality Act includes a provision passed in 1996 that allows the government to fine any migrant who "willfully fails or refuses" to comply with an order to leave the country, up to $500 per day (now adjusted to $799 for inflation). However, the provision has not been enforced in this manner by other administrations, according to media reports.

After receiving a notice of intention to fine (NIF), the immigrant "has 30 days to respond, and is granted procedural rights to establish a defense if they believe a fine should not be imposed," reads an emailed statement from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson.

An ICE [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Supervisor will review all possible evidence to determine if a NIF was properly issued, and will make a final decision – in coordination with the local Field Office Director – that may be appealed with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

If the alien fails to respond to the NIF, or exhaust all procedural avenues without being granted any relief, then the penalty becomes a unappealable order, and will be assessed as a formal debt to the government.

The total number of people fined was not available from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As for the immigration sweeps, Trump has said that they would begin after the July 4 holiday if Congress did not make changes to asylum law:


Media outlets have reported that those sweeps will target recently arrived migrants in 10 U.S. cities.

When asked whether Denver would be affected, ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock emailed this response:

"ICE does not conduct raids. ICE performs daily, targeted immigration enforcement operations, which maintain the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and also help improve public safety by removing criminal aliens from local communities.

"ICE deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement operations daily nationwide as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety, and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls. These operations involve existing and established Fugitive Operations Teams."

CNN reports that according to ICE data, deportations increased about 13 percent between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, when 256,085 people were deported. In 2012, Barack Obama's administration deported more than 400,000 people.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Waller: DA candidate cries foul after major player endorses unannounced candidate

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 5:19 PM

Commissioner Waller: Seeking the DA post. - COURTESY OF MARK WALLER
  • Courtesy of Mark Waller
  • Commissioner Waller: Seeking the DA post.
El Paso County Commission Chair Mark Waller, a Republican, filed to run for 4th Judicial District Attorney in 2020 on June 17. That's recorded in Secretary of State records, and he remains the only candidate to declare or file.

So imagine his surprise when he learned that some heavyweight  political players, including term-limited incumbent DA Dan May, also a Republican, have come out in support of someone else.

That's what happened when the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association issued an email on July 3 to an undisclosed list of recipients advocating for Michael J. Allen, a deputy DA serving under May.

Waller calls the endorsements the result of "backroom dealings" for which, he says, voters have a low tolerance.

The CSPPA's email obtained by the Independent outlines Allen's credentials and announces the CSPPA board voted to support him in the 2020 election. The email said the board favored Allen, a Republican, as early as February but solidified the endorsement after meeting with him again on June 28.

The CSPPA did not meet with Waller. "They never called me, never asked me for an interview," Waller says.
There's no rule or requirement that endorsers give all candidates equal time, but it's common practice to interview more than one candidate seeking a certain office.

Add to that some peculiarities in the email, such as claiming that Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has already endorsed Allen when he has not, at least not yet.

Mayor Suthers: No endorsement yet. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mayor Suthers: No endorsement yet.
Asked to confirm his endorsement, Suthers, who served as DA from 1989 to 1997, tells the Indy via email on July 3, "I haven’t endorsed Mr. Allen yet, but intend to do so at his campaign kickoff." He didn't elaborate on why he's backing Allen.

Sheryl Dillon, the CSPPA executive director, said in the email:
In addition to the PPA, Mr. Allen has been endorsed by Mayor Suthers, District Attorney Dan May and the Teller County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr. Allen has been a prosecutor for 15 years, and has been with the 4th Judicial District for the past eight years. He’s prosecuted DV, DUI, TA and homicides cases, and is held in very high esteem by PPA members having a major crimes background. He is described as an ethical, sharp trial attorney who is highly supportive of police. Mr. Allen has testified before the state legislature opposing bills moving drug convictions from felonies to misdemeanors, recognizing the impact that decriminalization has on area crime rates.

We hope you will join us in supporting Michael as he kicks off his campaign in the coming weeks.
While the email says the Teller County Sheriff's Office has also endorsed Allen, it's not kosher for a government agency to pick sides in political races. The Indy contacted the Teller Sheriff's Office and Commander Greg Couch says that Sheriff Jason Mikesell endorses Allen, but the office has taken no position in the race.

We tried to ask several questions regarding the CSPPA's email, but Dillon said, "We are not prepared to give any statements at this time."

According to campaign finance records, Allen, of Monument, has given small contributions to GOP committees and Republican candidates, including Sheriff Bill Elder. State records show he's never run for public office in Colorado. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in September 2005, and in Colorado in December 2010.

Waller is dumbfounded by the endorsements of a candidate who isn't even a candidate yet.
"This is absolutely unbelievable. It's shocking," he says, "that an organization would endorse a candidate before the candidate's in the race. It's unfortunate that we're in a circumstance that people feel that backroom deals have to happen to create success for candidates.

"This is why [President] Trump ran," he adds. "This is why I served as deputy director in Colorado for Trump [his campaign] — to put some integrity and transparency back into the process, because we can't have politicians and labor unions engaging in this kind of behavior."

Waller, who served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2009 to 2014 and served as a prosecutor as well, points out that while the CSPPA's email notes Allen is ethical, the email "is full of lies and inaccuracies. That doesn't speak to integrity at all."

All that said, Waller claims he's not bothered by the sitting DA and a former DA endorsing a person who could wind up a primary election opponent.

"I'm not worried about this at all," he says. "I think the voters will be able to see right through this. They don't like people choosing the successor in backroom deals."

We heard back on our call to Allen and have the story on his candidacy here.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, June 21, 2019

Business district now admits Scheels sales figure "was wrong"

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 3:08 PM

Aquariums are one attraction that appear in some Scheels stores. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • Aquariums are one attraction that appear in some Scheels stores.

A low-ball estimate of annual sales expected from the proposed Scheels All Sports store in north Colorado Springs, "was wrong," says an attorney representing the Interquest North Business Improvement District (BID).

The Independent reported on June 14 that the BID, controlled by Nor'wood Development Group via seats on the board, submitted a document on May 16 that stated Scheels' annual sales would total $20.4 million. That's a third of the $60-million estimate previously provided to the city in support of a $16.2 million sales tax break for Scheels. City Council approved the incentive in February. The city also confirmed June 13 the $60 million is correct.

Three days after the Indy's blog post, Russell Dykstra, with Spencer Fane LLP law firm in Denver, wrote the city an email on behalf of the petitioner, Nor'wood — which is owned by developer David Jenkins — in which it corrected the figure.

"Of note, the prior information as to the impact of the Scheels store in relation to comparable commercial property in the Interquest North Business Improvement District was based on erroneous information (the projected annual sales amount was wrong) and should be disregarded," Dykstra wrote.

He then notes that Scheels stores "can do sales of $60 million a year or more," which would mean the BID would receive "$750,000+ per year from the PIF (public improvement fee, which is collected like a sales tax) alone."

Read the email here:

Two businesses oppose the exclusion, arguing that removing Scheels from the BID means Scheels wouldn't have to pay 51 mills in property taxes and the 1.25 percent PIF. Together, those levies would bring in roughly $1 million a year — an amount that the remaining BID members would have to pay.

Tim Leonard owns Deepwater Point Co., a development management company that represents the two opponents, BWR Investors LLC, owner and operator of the Burger King, and Riverside Restaurant Group LLC, owner of the Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.

Both lie within the BID and oppose excluding Scheels.

Leonard notes in an outline provided to the Indy that if the BID continues to collect its mill levy and PIF, with Scheels in the district, it would receive $2.8 million a year toward payment of bond debt of $972,000 per year. (The BID has issued debt totaling $11.3 million that's earmarked for public improvements such as sidewalks.) He further notes the BID's fund balance this year would swell to $4.1 million.

But, Leonard also says, if the mill levy and PIF were lowered to 5 mills and 1 percent, respectively, the district still would collect ample funds, $1.25 million a year, to meet its debt payments.

"So the issue is not whether Scheels should be subsidized by all the smaller businesses," Leonard says, "but why does the Board not lower the mill levy as its tax base expands?"

Councilor Bill Murray: Council didn't know about opposition. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Bill Murray: Council didn't know about opposition.
Leonard has said his clients and other businesses in the BID were not notified of the exclusion request prior to a May 28 briefing by city staff to Council. According to a certificate of mailing recently submitted to the city, Spencer Fane mailed notices to all BID members on June 13.

That's two days after Council was originally slated to consider the exclusion request (June 11) but delayed it after receiving a June 6 letter from Leonard expressing opposition. Councilor Bill Murray has said Council wasn't told of any opposition until it received Leonard's letter.

Now, Council is poised to make a decision on the exclusion on June 25.

The BID is controlled by Nor'wood through seats on the board. Hence, Nor'wood controls issuing debt, which Nor'wood, in turn, has purchased through entities created by Jenkins and his son, Chris, president of Nor'wood. Those entities are Enterprise Fund No. 6 and Enterprise Fund No. 8. The Nor'wood-controlled board also sets the BID's property tax rate.

We reached out to Dykstra, inviting him to explain how the $20.4 million sales figure came to be submitted to the city in error, and asking him to comment on any part of the exclusion request he wishes. We'll circle back when we hear something.

We've invited Nor'wood and Scheels to comment a couple of times in recent days and never heard back.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

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
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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."
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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."
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , ,

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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

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."
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Gov. Polis signs major oil and gas bill

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

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Recent Comments

All content © Copyright 2019, The Colorado Springs Independent

Website powered by Foundation