State Gov

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Colorado Ethics Watch announces closure effective December 31

Posted By on Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 11:56 AM

Luis Toro: Closing Colorado Ethics Watch on Dec. 31.
  • Luis Toro: Closing Colorado Ethics Watch on Dec. 31.
Colorado Ethics Watch will close its doors on Dec. 31 due to funding difficulties, executive director Luis Toro tells the Indy.

"We’ve always been teetering on the brink of extinction for the whole time, and it finally happened," he says.

The agency, who serves as a watchdog over various government activities, opened on Aug. 1, 2006. It's been funded largely through national grants.

Toro says while he hates to see the office close, other groups have stepped forward to promote transparency and ethics in government.

"The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition has been doing a lot of great work on transparency, on open meetings and open records," he says. "I have confidence they’ll be up to the task."

In addition, citizens themselves have become more active. "Other people are stepping up and filing complaints," he says. "A record number of complaints were filed with the state Ethics Commission this year, and we didn’t file any of them. It’s not the case that if Ethics Watch doesn’t do it, nobody will."

Ethics Watch has three staffers, including Toro, a researcher and a part-time communications director.

About funding, Toro says, "It’s been harder to justify getting those grants to be here full-time when other people are starting to step up and do this work."

He noted the non-profit decided to announce its closing now, because it's been engaged in reviewing proposed legislative bills and "we figured we’re going to have to tell people when they approach us on bills."

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Gaebler to chair Colorado Municipal League's policy committee

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 10:49 AM

  • Griffin Swartzell
Our own City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, who's serving her second term representing District 5, has just been selected to chair the Colorado Municipal League (CML)'s policy committee. And that's kind of a big deal, considering CML readily influences state lawmaking on matters affecting local governments (which is many, many matters). So, now if you get Gaebler's ear, know that she's got hands up at the Capitol too.

This gig is a step up for Gaebler who previously served on CML's executive board. (Remember when her District 5 opponent, Lynette Crow-Iverson, misrepresented her voting record there to score points on the campaign trail?) According to a news release, CML's executive board president Carol Dodge selected Gaebler for a term as policy committee chair that starts immediately and expires in June of next year.

Here's what the release says about the policy committee:

With over 125 members representing municipalities and municipal professionals around the state, the CML Policy Committee is the primary policy-making body for the League. Positions on issues and legislation taken by the Policy Committee are sent to the CML Board, which will set CML’s legislative agenda and official positions on legislation or policy issues.

Neat. And here's CML's 2017-2018 policy statement, to get an idea of what they're all about:

And for the true policy wonks, check CML's legislative page to see what bills the group supports/opposes/follows and sign up to receive their Statehouse Report to stay up-to-date on what's going on under the Gold Dome. All that will get active again once the next legislative session begins on January 10, 2018.

“Residents expect municipal government to operate efficiently, effectively, and transparently. To do this we must have the autonomy and voice to make decisions that support and protect our municipalities” Gaebler says in the release. “I’m honored to serve as the policy committee chair and advocate for the important issues facing cities and towns across Colorado."

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Mental Health Colorado addresses crisis at mental hospital, state needs

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 12:12 PM

UPDATE: DHS, which oversees CMHIP, literally on-boarded a new spokesperson the day we posted this blog. Nourie Boraie, formerly with the Senate Republicans' press office, told the Indy on Monday that the "ban on breaks" referenced in the Chieftain article linked below lasted just a day. "Obviously it's a difficult situation but our goal is to prioritize staff recruitment and retention," she says. "We're definitely working hard to make sure things move forward in positive light." Five representatives from DHS were present at the Mental Health Colorado meeting.

——-ORIGINAL POST: 12:12 p.m. THURS., SEPT. 7, 2017———-
The Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo (CMHIP) treats pretty challenging patients — some referred from community health centers and some referred from the court system (if they're found "not guilty by reason of insanity" or their competency to stand trial is questioned, as in the case of Robert Dear Jr., the admitted Planned Parenthood shooter, who's currently committed to CMHIP). But the 449-bed, state-run hospital needs some help of its own.
  • CMHIP's campus.

The Pueblo Chieftain's Peter Roper has been following this protracted story that took a dire turn earlier this summer when state inspectors found that CMHIP was short about a hundred staffers, with about half of those being open nursing positions. That nearly caused the hospital to lose Medicare funding, which accounts for about 13 percent of its overall budget. (The specter of getting shut out of federal insurance is what closed a 20-bed addiction treatment program around that time.) To prevent further cuts, the Department of Human Services (DHS), which oversees the hospital, came up with a personnel plan to show the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) a good faith effort to address the staffing crisis that's been known and documented for years now.

The plan immediately instituted mandatory overtime, a freeze on employee leave and, until the hospital rescinded it under pressure, a ban on breaks. An employees' union has spoken out against working conditions they call "punitive" and "intentionally hostile." Needless to say, new recruits aren't exactly flocking to join their ranks.

All this prompted Mental Health Colorado, a nonprofit that works to "promote early intervention, expand access to affordable services, and eradicate stigma and discrimination," to convene stakeholders to brainstorm solutions not only for CMHIP, but also for the shortage in mental health professionals overall.

Mental Health Colorado President and CEO, Andrew Romanoff. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mental Health Colorado President and CEO, Andrew Romanoff.
President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, Andrew Romanoff, tells the Indy that attendees acknowledged that CMHIP is in a "vicious cycle" where the staffing shortage has increased the burden on existing staff, which drives up turnover, making it a less attractive place to work — thereby perpetuating the staffing shortage. "We discussed not just recruitment but retention," he says. "How do we improve conditions, reduce their case load and increase pride in the profession?"

Himself a former state lawmaker specializing in health policy, Romanoff disclosed a few proposals that surfaced during the Sept. 5 meeting: loan forgiveness for professionals who commit to putting their degree to work in underserved areas; financial incentives to work with the toughest patients, not the easiest (as is currently the case); and paying health care professionals and social workers better overall.

"Unless you're really bad at math, nobody goes into this field to get rich," says Romanoff, who grew up with social worker for a mother and a prosecutor for a father. "But we want [workers] to make enough to support a family and maybe even buy a house."

"Nobody's under any illusions that the state is overflowing with dollars dedicated to any particular solutions here," he continued, adding that Tuesday's conversation touched on the potential for state/federal matching grants, employer-funded scholarships and public-private partnerships as potential financiers.

"We're also looking at ways to save money, and make care more efficient," Romanoff says. For example, the state will cover the cost of detox, no matter how often a patient needs it, but won't cover actual substance abuse treatment. "We're paying to treat the symptoms but not the underlying disorder [which] is penny-wise but pound-foolish," he says, hinting that legislation to make in-patient care for substance abuse a Medicaid benefit could surface in the next session.  

Personnel issues in the mental health field are, of course, not unique to Pueblo or even Colorado. They're nationwide.

"More people are seeking mental health care, and with that increase in demand, supply hasn't followed," Romanoff says. It's not that mental illness has become more common, though, it's that access to care expanded — in part because people are more comfortable seeking care now that society is beginning to address stigma and in part because mental health care is now defined as an essential benefit under the Affordable Care Act.

Expansive and complex though the issue may be, CMHIP is pursuing immediate fixes like training correctional officers to supervise patients, asking for paramedics to step in and holding hiring fairs.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hickenlooper, in bipartisan bromance, releases health care proposal

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 11:34 AM

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, have teamed up to draft a proposal to stabilize individual health insurance markets that, nationwide, have seen insurers drop-out and premiums go up over the past year.

Now, you might be thinking, "Hmm... health care reform... Doesn't the Republican majority in Congress still want to 'repeal and replace?'"

Ding, ding! They sure do, since it's a seven years-long promise and all, but you'll recall that despite controlling both chambers of the legislative branch with a willing executive in the White House, Republicans have failed to accomplish anything on the health care front.

In addition to embarrassing, their failure has been destructive. As the Indy has reported, all this uncertainty around policy has created instability, most acutely in the the individual market, where people who don't have employee or government sponsored insurance must buy their plans. About 13 million Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, get coverage through the exchanges that were set up under the Affordable Care Act. This year, because of all the jockeying in Congress, premiums for insurances plans offered through Connect for Health Colorado, our own state exchange, are projected rise an average of 27 percent. That could be a huge hit in the wallet for the about 13,400 El Paso County residents who enroll through the exchange.

That's why governors, who have experience implementing health care policy on the state level, are taking matters into their own hands. The Hickenlooper-Kasich proposal, which has the support of six other governors, is addressed to Congressional leaders of both parties. It recommends "immediate federal action to stabilize markets," "responsible reforms that preserve recent coverage gains and control costs" and "an active federal/state partnership that is based on innovation and a shared commitment to improve overall health system performance."

Check it out yourself for the specifics.

(Don't have time to read the whole plan? Highlights are: fund cost sharing reduction payments; keep the individual mandate for now; fund outreach and enrollment efforts; and commit to federal risk sharing mechanisms.)

And, if you're just swooning at how reasonable and pragmatic and bipartisan these popular governors' partnership is, you'll be tickled to know there are, indeed, rumors that they're toying with a "unity ticket" in 2020. Each governor has been coy about it in the press, saying there are no ulterior motives to this joint health care proposal... Which is exactly what you would say if you were running for president.

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UPDATE: Meet (some of) the candidates at partisan town hall at Colorado College

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 10:03 AM

  • Georgia Democrats
Trevor Dierdorff, chair of the El Paso County Republicans, says the candidates from his party didn't really get a fair shake.

"[The student organizer] didn’t email me his request until after hours last Friday," Dierdorff wrote to the Indy. "I’m afraid that participation will be very light as he was trying to get a couple dozen very busy candidates to come to an event on Labor Day Weekend with only one week’s notice. He should have been reaching out to campaigns at least six weeks prior."

———————-ORIGINAL POST 2:23 P.M. Wednesday, AUG. 30, 2017———————-

We're sure you're busy, but we're also pretty confident you care to inform yourself about the people running to represent you at the various levels of government. So, this may be just the right chance to hear from nearly all of the Democrats in one fell swoop. (Insert idiom about multiple birds and fewer stones here.)

The Colorado College Democratic Student Club is sponsoring a candidate forum they're calling "State of the State" (not to be confused with the Governor's annual address.) It's this Saturday, Sept. 2 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at the Kathryn Mohrman Theatre in Armstrong Hall on the campus of Colorado College. If you've never been, just plug 14 E Cache La Poudre St. into your preferred mode of navigation.

Steven Ortega, the student organizer, says by email he had hoped that candidates from both political parties would participate — both for the sake of fairness and to comply with a college policy stipulating that campus events featuring candidates for elected office give equal opportunity to both sides of the aisle. To that end, early this summer he asked both party chairs (Electra Johnson for the Democrats and Trevor Dierdorff for the Republicans) to invite their slate of candidates, but only Johnson followed through.

There's currently no GOP-affiliated student group at Colorado College, a famously progressive-minded institution.

Ortega comments, "As you can probably imagine, it makes complying with college policy on events like these a touch awkward for CC Dems, since in the past the college Dems and [Republicans] would contact their respective party's officials/candidates. We're working on developing a similar relationship with CC Centrists, a new student group, but political events would undeniably be simpler to put on if there was a Republican group on campus again."

Kit Roupe, secretary for the El Paso County Republicans, says that GOP candidates for all these state and local offices have made plenty of public appearances. "We have had candidates speak already, including the 5th Congressional and [Gubernatorial] candidates at our Lincoln Day Dinner two weeks ago," she wrote the Indy by email. "I know personally the candidates have attended local events and were at the El Paso County Fair Republican booth in July."

The GOP keeps a web calendar that lists opportunities to meet candidates running for elected office.

As for this Saturday, the hosts have provided a commendably thorough rundown of what to expect:

5:30-6:30 p.m. Candidate Tables

Candidate tables may remain open for the duration of the event and a number will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis in Armstrong Hall outside of the Kathryn Mohrman Theatre. Candidates may bring their own tables should they so choose.

6:30-7:00 p.m. State House and Senate (30 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Tony Exum, Graham Anderson, Liz Rosenbaum, Terry Martinez


• What topics or issues will you principally focus on if elected?

Q&A: Audience

7:00-7:20 p.m. CD5 (20 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Stephany Rose Spaulding, Betty Field


• What topics or issues will you principally focus on if elected to Congress?

Q&A: Audience

7:20-7:40 p.m.  Secretary of State (20 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Jena Griswold, Gabriel McArthur


• What is the core mission of the position you’re running for, and why is it relevant to the community in-and-around Colorado College?

• What topics or issues will you focus on if elected?

• What steps will you take, if any, to expand Coloradans' access to the ballot?

Q&A: Audience

7:40-7:50 p.m. State Treasurer (10 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Steve Lebsock

•What is the core mission of the position you’re running for, and why is it relevant to the community in-and-around Colorado College?

• What is your assessment of the fiscal health of Colorado's state pension fund, and what, if any, steps does PERA need to take to ensure that it meets its future obligations?

Q&A: Audience

8-8:30 p.m. Governor (30 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Cary Kennedy, Noel Ginsberg, Mike Johnston (by proxy), Jared Polis (by proxy)


• Hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking," has become an increasingly large part of Colorado's economy in recent years, with over 900 injections wells currently in operation across the state, according to EPA data. However, in light of the fatal explosion of an abandoned flowline in Firestone this last April, public scrutiny of the practice has also increased. If elected, would you support additional safety regulations on fracking, and what role do you see for the practice in Colorado's energy landscape?

•A Colorado Public Radio assessment of Colorado's public school system found that our state ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of funding per student. Does this funding shortfall impact the quality of K-12 education in Colorado, and if so, what will you do as Governor to increase funding for our public schools?

• A 2015 report by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice found that African-Americans were the target of 12.4% of arrests and court summonses in Colorado, despite making up only 4.2% of our state's population. To what extent do you believe this disparity is a reflection of bias in our state's judicial system, and if it is, what will you do as Governor to reduce such bias?

• A report by the Denver Post found that the city of Denver saw an average of 2.9 jobs created per every unit of housing in the city since 2010, contributing to rising rents in the capital, and other cities with similar labor markets, at a time when Colorado has seen an 8% increase in its homeless population since 2013. As governor, what actions will you take, if any, to make Colorado's cities more affordable places to live?

A recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll of rural America found that two thirds of those surveyed rated local job opportunities as only "fair" or "poor," sentiments that are often echoed in rural Colorado. If elected, what steps, if any, will you take to create greater economic opportunity in Colorado's rural communities?

Q&A: Audience

8:30-9:30 p.m. Attorney General (30 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Phil Weiser, Brad Levin, Michael Dougherty, Joe Salazar (by proxy)


•What is the core mission of the position you’re running for, and why is it relevant to the community in-and-around Colorado College?

•A report by the Drug Enforcement Administration released in 2016 indicated that Colorado has seen a 350% increase in the rate of drug overdoses since 2011, largely tied to heroin usage throughout the state. If elected, what, if any, steps will you take to address the opioid crisis in Colorado?

• Data from the Prison Policy Institute indicates that Colorado imprisons 364 people out of every 100,000 in our state, a rate of incarceration much higher than the state had during the peak of its violent crime rates in the 1980s and early 1990s. As attorney general, would you seek to reduce the size of our state's prison population, and if so, how would you go about doing so?

Earlier this year, the Colorado State Court of Appeals released a decision requiring that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission consider public health, safety, and welfare when reviewing requests for oil and gas extraction permits. However, since then, the State of Colorado has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of our state. As Attorney General, would you continue to appeal the State Court's decision regarding the COGCC?

Q&A: Audience

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ed Perlmutter drops out of Governor's race, other candidates react

Posted By on Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 1:57 PM

  • Wikipedia
Representative Ed Perlmutter, who currently represents Colorado's Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, won't be seeking the Governorship after all. He said he would about three months ago, but now that the Democratic field has gotten quite crowded, the Congressman told media at a Tuesday press conference that the demands of running a campaign "is more than I can give." He also won't be seeking re-election to Congress, meaning more political jockeying will come to the liberal-leaning Denver Metro area in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm election.

An experienced and prominent politician, Perlmutter's front-runner status was complicated when his colleague in House, Rep. Jared Polis from Colorado's 2nd, entered the race last month. Polis, a millionaire from Boulder, has the ability to self-fund a campaign and, arguably, more cred with the party's progressive wing. He released this statement after Perlmutter dropped out: "My friend Ed Perlmutter has always been a tireless champion for working families. I want to thank him for his amazing dedication to Colorado and his candidacy for governor. As a trusted and effective colleague, I look forward to continuing our work together for the remainder of the congressional session."

Another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former state treasurer Cary Kennedy, had this to say: "Congressman Perlmutter has been fighting for Coloradans for decades. I hope we continue to see his leadership in Colorado on whatever path he chooses. I wish him and his family the very best and will miss seeing him on the campaign trail."

In addition to Kennedy and Polis, former state legislator Mike Johnston and businessman Noel Ginsberg are seeking the Democratic nomination for the chance to replace term-limited John Hickenlooper. On the Republican side, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, Mitt Romney's nephew Doug Robinson and former state legislator Victor Mitchell are competing.
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Jared Polis, local Dems to host town hall at Library

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 12:34 PM

Still reeling from the surprising results of the general election in November, then the municipal election in April? Well, wrap it up already. There's more coming down the pike.

On Saturday, July 1, head over to Library 21c (1175 Chapel Hills Drive) for a panel discussion featuring U.S. Representative Jared Polis (candidate for Governor), professor and pastor Stephany Spaulding (possible candidate for Congress in District 5) and small business owner Liz Rosenbaum (candidate for General Assembly in House District 21).

That's right, all Dems, but you'll only have to wait three days for fireworks.

Liz Rosenbaum for HD21 (left) and Stephany Spaulding for CD5 (right) - COURTESY LIZ ROSENBAUM
  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
  • Liz Rosenbaum for HD21 (left) and Stephany Spaulding for CD5 (right)

According to event organizer, Ryan Barry with the progressive group, Unite Colorado Springs, the format will work like this:
It will be run as a town hall, which [sic] each speaker introducing themselves and their platform, followed by a long period of audience Q&A. ... Representative Polis will have to leave after an hour, however the rest of the panel will stay longer to answer questions. Come prepared to discuss healthcare, inequality, LGBTQ rights, environmental issues, or any number of other concerns. All questions will be initially presented to the Congressman, however each panelist will have a chance to respond briefly if they feel the questions are applicable. 
The discussion will be moderated by Matthew Barad, founder of Keep Colorado Green, a statewide youth organization working to stop climate change. It'll begin at 1:30 p.m. sharp, we're told.

Barry also said via email to the Indy that Polis's team reached out about hosting the event, then he himself reached out to the others. Spaulding's primary opponent, Betty Fields, was invited too but can't make it. Her Republican opponent, Rep. Doug Lamborn, incumbent in C D5, was invited but never responded. Lamborn's Republican primary opponent, State Senator Owen Hill from District 10 was not invited. Rosenbaum's opponent, Rep. Lois Landgraf, incumbent in HD 21, was not invited. No other gubernatorial candidates were invited.

  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
The setting at Library 21c will feel extra familiar to Liz Rosenbaum whose business, Her Story Cafe, used to operate there, before recently relocating to 6050 N. Carefree. Perhaps competing with the downtown Poor Richard's (owned by liberal city councilor Richard Skorman)
  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
, Her Story Cafe is the place to go to talk progressive politics over a plate of classic diner food surrounded by the iconography of female activists throughout history. ("Her Story" Cafe — get it?)

Rosenbaum, whose bid for county commission fell short last year, encourages that atmosphere of civic pride and engagement at this new location. "We've got candidates in here all the time to meet with constituents, and activists do meetings here too," she tells the Indy.
CD5 candidate Betty Field listens. - COURTESY LIZ ROSENBAUM
  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
  • CD5 candidate Betty Field listens.
Notably, Her Story Cafe is on the north side — not in HD 21. "There's just not a lot of options for small businesses in the area, otherwise I'd totally be there," she says, adding that'd be a focus of hers as state representative. "I want to help set up an environment where there's enough community support for small businesses there."

Anyhoo, have a happy weekend of town halls, BLTs and whatever else one does in the summertime!

Editor's note: The original version of this article stated that Stephany Spaulding is a candidate for Congress. She is, in fact, considering a run, but has not yet declared.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court to hear appeal of Colorado baker who denied service to gay couple

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 4:58 PM

  • Shutterstock
Many Coloradans in particular remember the turbulent beginnings of the 2012 court case of Craig and Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop. It caused a big stir, locally and nationally, as it fed into the hotly debated topic of same-sex marriage.

A refresher: In 2012 a Lakewood-based baker, Jack Phillips, refused to bake a cake for a gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig. The couple planned to marry in Massachusetts — one of only a handful of states at the time with full and legal marriage equality — and wanted Phillips to provide the cake for the reception.

Phillips cited the First Amendment, claiming that his right to religious freedom and freedom of expression trumped Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws, though he initially lost the battle in a Colorado court and before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Well now the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Phillips’ appeal: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and we can likely expect a ruling sometime next year.

Another piece of LGBTQ-related news to come out of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday: A ruling in favor of same-sex couples was handed down in the case of Pavan v. Smith, which concluded that states cannot legally treat same-sex couples different from their heterosexual counterparts when it comes to issuing birth certificates to their children.

All this, of course, has happened at the tail-end of Pride Month, and on the two-year anniversary of marriage equality — a nice, hefty reminder that the struggles for equality fought by the LGBTQ community are far from over. However, we can celebrate two victories Monday, and hope for another in case of the baker.
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Friday, June 23, 2017

One Colorado releases scorecard of LGBTQ issues from 2017 legislative session

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 11:27 AM

For those who haven’t been keeping up with state LGBTQ politics, or those who tried to keep up and found themselves distracted by the massive political upheavals happening on a national level, One Colorado has your back.

Colorado’s largest LGBTQ rights organization has just released its 2017 scorecard to let you, the informed voter, know how state lawmakers voted on issues related to the LGBTQ community.

The bills taken into account: HB-1013, a religious exemption bill that would allow businesses and individuals to refuse service to someone based on religious bias; SB-283, another such bill to allow business and individuals to claim exemption from non-discrimination laws (yes, really); HB-1122, which would have made it easier for transgender Coloradans to change their gender on their birth certificates; HB-1156, a statewide ban on conversion therapy; HB-1188, which added disability and sexual orientation to protected categories of current harassment statues; the amendment to the budget that would defund the Healthy Kids Colorado survey; and the confirmation of Heidi Hess to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.


To see how all state legislators voted on these issues, and to learn more about the issues themselves, take a look at One Colorado’s scorecard. And remember the names of those who failed to score 100 percent. The 2018 election isn’t very far away.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Birth control bill signed into law, allows Colorado women a one-year supply

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 8:23 AM

  • Courtesy PPRM

Colorado women no longer need to worry about making that tedious monthly trip to the pharmacist in order to prevent pregnancy. Thanks to a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D), Senator Kerry Donovan (D), Rep. Lois Landgraf (R) and Sen. Don Coram (R), which Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law on Monday, Colorado citizens can now stock up on a year’s supply of birth control (after a three-month trial, which isn’t a bad deal).

This should lead to fewer unintended pregnancies, especially for those in rural areas who have limited options for nearby pharmacies.

As we reported in April, this very bill failed to pass through the house and senate last year, so its success comes as a pleasant surprise for Coloradans who utilize birth control.

HB 17-1186 was widely supported by advocates of reproductive healthcare, including Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. See the organization’s full press release below:

DENVER, CO—Women in Colorado will now be able to fill birth control prescriptions for a one-year supply, after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed HB 17-1186 into law today, amidst dozens of supporters dressed in pink at the Colorado State Capitol.

“This law is a great example of how we can work across the aisle to bring meaningful changes to people’s lives,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This is an important step in supporting women across Colorado, especially those in rural areas.”

“This is a big celebration for a big change in women’s lives. It means fewer trips to the pharmacy, fewer unintended pregnancies and healthier outcomes for Colorado women. This legislation will empower women and their families across Colorado,” said Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

A 2011 study by the National Institutes of Health indicates that access to a 12-month supply of hormonal birth control can reduce unintended pregnancies by one-third. Until now, insurers have only allowed women to receive one- to three-month supplies of contraception at a time.

The bill (HB 17-1186) was sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Gunnison), Rep. Lois Landgraf (R-Fountain) and Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose) and had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

“This is a great new law, a simple change that comes with big results. At a time when women’s rights are at risk nationally and in other states, Colorado has shown it is moving forward, not backward,” said Rep. Pettersen.

“Women in rural Colorado will see great benefits from this bill. They will be able to access the birth control they rely on, exactly when they need it. This means more time left in their busy days and less likelihood of unintended pregnancies,” said Sen. Donovan.

Rep. Landgraf and Sen. Coram cited common sense reasoning and a goal of reducing unintended pregnancies in their support of this bill.

“Nine out of ten women in this country use birth control at some point in their lives. This bill breaks down a barrier to care that will have an incredible impact on women’s lives,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado. 

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Colorado State Senate votes against re-appointment of lesbian Civil Rights Commission chair

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 3:49 PM

  • Shutterstock
Heidi Hess, an open lesbian and the Western Slope organizer for LGBTQ-rights organization One Colorado, has been voted out of her seat on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

In an 18-17 party-line vote, Republican members of the state Senate decided not to confirm her re-appointment by Gov. John Hickenlooper, which, according to The Denver Post, was originally recommended for approval by the Senate State Affairs Committee. For four years, Hess has served on the Civil Rights Commission, and currently acts as its chair.

Republicans defended their vote, claiming she advocates for suing businesses.

“It is extremely rare for a governor’s appointment to not be confirmed,” said One Colorado’s executive director Daniel Ramos in a statement. “In fact, when she was first confirmed in 2013, current senators Baumgardner, Crowder, Grantham, Hill, Lambert, Lundberg, and Marble all voted for her.”

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission investigates complaints regarding discrimination in employment and education, a bitter irony pointed out by One Colorado. Ramos suggests that discrimination regarding Hess’ sexuality led to this vote, and says: “This vote reaffirms why the Colorado Civil Rights Commission exists in the first place.”

All other commissioners on the seven-member team hail from Colorado Springs, Denver or Pueblo. Hess, from Clifton, gave voice to an underrepresented region of the state, which raises questions as to where the next commissioner may call home.

At this time, it is unclear who will become the new chair of the commission and who will be appointed to take Hess’ place.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Coal rolling ban passes legislature

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 7:07 PM

click image A truck 'rolling coal.' - SALVATORE ARNONE, WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
  • Salvatore Arnone, Wikipedia Commons
  • A truck 'rolling coal.'

In what's sure to bring joy to cyclists, pedestrians, and many drivers, the Colorado legislature has passed a bill banning so-called "coal rolling," the practice of purposefully spewing black soot on others from the modified exhaust systems of vehicles.

Senate Bill 278 is headed to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk. It will make coal rolling punishable by a $100 fine. Of course, it's hard to say whether the new law — which comes after several failed bills attempting to ban it — will actually stem the practice. Notably, laws intended to protect cyclists, like the 3 feet to pass law, are not always abided by.

Nevertheless, the law is a victory for all those who have choked on the fumes of a coal rolling truck. Here's the take on the bill from the Colorado House Democrats:

Finally, Action to Crack Down on ‘Coal Rolling’

(May 2) – Third time’s a charm for a bill to make “coal rolling” illegal in Colorado.

SB17-278, sponsored in the House by Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, prohibits those who modify the exhaust systems on their vehicles from intentionally spewing thick clouds of black soot onto other motorists or pedestrians. The bill, requested by law enforcement agencies, makes this disruptive behavior a traffic infraction punishable by a $100 fine.

“Some people apparently do this for fun,” Rep. Ginal said. “But it’s really harassment and a threat to public health and safety with complete disregard for the environment and an assault on people who do not want to breathe in massive amounts of carcinogens or block the view of the police and other drivers. This annoying behavior is relatively new, and there are no laws in statute to control it.”

The 2016 version of the bill died in a Republican-controlled Senate committee. But Rep. Ginal persisted, reintroducing the bill twice this year with the bipartisan sponsorship of Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose.

After today’s 40-25 House vote, the bill is headed to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk. 

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

El Paso County commissioners oppose a statewide sales tax to fund infrastructure

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Commissoner Mark Waller and his colleagues oppose a statewide sales tax hike. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • Commissoner Mark Waller and his colleagues oppose a statewide sales tax hike.
An idea to raise sales taxes statewide to fund transportation got a kick in the shorts on Tuesday when the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the measure, which isn't even an approved bill yet.

State lawmakers are pushing through a measure for the November ballot that would raise sales taxes by .62 of a percent to fund the state's deteriorating highways.

But county commissioners here are cool to the idea.

Commissioner Mark Waller set out five reasons why he's opposed:
"It's just not the right mechanism for our community," he tells the Indy. "We're already incredibly sales tax heavy. Number two, all the dollars we're sending to Denver aren't coming back. "Number three, when I started in the legislature in 2009, the general fund budget was $7 billion. Today, it's close to $11 billion dollars. All the state leaders complain that we have a revenue problem. No we don't. We have a spending problem. I think we have an obligation before we ask taxpayers for money to find some general fund dollars. Four, [Interstate 25 north of Monument] doesn't make it on the list if we support it. They're not even creating a prioritization list to go to voters with. Lastly, this is about funding critical transportation infrastructure needs. If that's truly what it's about, why did they put the multi-modal piece in it? I don't think that's appropriate."

Waller admits money is needed for the state's roads, bridges and highways. "There is no doubt that our transportation spending is woefully lacking," he says. But a tax increase isn't the way to go, he says.

He also predicted the measure would fail, because it would need to win in El Paso County, and it won't. "I don't think this community has the appetite to pass a tax increase," he says.

Commissioner Stan VanderWerf complained, too, about the I-25 project not being guaranteed funding in the tax package. The four-lane road, which needs widening, has become a productivity issue for the economy. "We are talking about thousands of man years [spent stuck in traffic]. This is a prioritization problem, not a revenue problem."

Other commissioners expressed similar concerns.

In a related development, the county issued this news release about an effort to advance the I-25 widening project:
Members of the newly formed I-25 Gap Coalition, representing cities, counties, business and economic development interests up and down the I-25 corridor between Denver South and Colorado Springs, will hold a press conference to discuss plans to advocate for accelerating transportation improvements in the gap between Castle Rock and Monument.

What: Media Announcement and Interview Opportunities

When: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.

Where: 100 Third Street, Castle Rock, 80104, County Admin Building, Douglas County Hearing Room


* Roger Partridge, Douglas County Commissioner
* Congressman Mike Coffman (CO-06)
* Mayor John Suthers, City of Colorado Springs
* Mark Waller, El Paso County Commissioner
* Dirk Draper, President & CEO, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC
* Frank Gray, President & CRO, Castle Rock Economic Development Council

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

UPDATE: 'Clarifying discrimination' bill killed on Senate Floor

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 1:52 PM

UPDATE: The state Senate has officially voted down SB-283, which would have allowed businesses to refuse service to someone based on any belief — religious or otherwise. Three Republicans joined all Senate Democrats to defeat the bill.

Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, the state's leading LGBTQ rights organization, said: "We are thankful that all the Senate Democrats and Senators Tate, Coram, and Martinez Humenik saw this bill for what it was, a thinly-veiled attempt to give businesses permission to ignore Colorado's non-discrimination laws."

—ORIGINAL POST 1:52 P.M. THURS., APRIL 13, 2017—

  • Shutterstock
Last week, the Colorado Senate Committee of State, Veterans, & Military Affairs passed SB-1188, a bill which adds physical or mental disability and sexual orientation to the categories described in our state’s existing harassment statue — a victory for those who belong to either minority group.

Now, that same committee has considered and passed another bill that affects LGBTQ citizens, though this one sends a different message.

SB-283, "Clarify Discrimination And Right To Disagree," while not technically a religious exemption bill, would offer the same protections. Namely, that if a business or business owner disagrees with someone’s message/lifestyle/choices/beliefs, they can deny service to that customer.

A common example: a Christian baker is asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Should they be allowed to deny that service because they do not agree with marriage equality? According to SB-283, the answer is yes.

The difference between this and a standard religious exemption bill is that SB-283 widens that scope. Rather than just citing religious beliefs, it actually encompasses any kind of disagreement, which is just ambiguous enough to allow for multiple avenues of discrimination.

The bill specifies that it is not a discriminatory practice for a private business to decline to contract to provide goods or services:

• That convey a message with which the business chooses not to associate itself or with which the business owner disagrees; or

• For an event that conveys a message with which the business chooses not to associate itself or with which the business owner disagrees.

While it is unlikely the bill will make it out of the Senate alive, it is still important to consider what bills like this, and their continued introduction, mean for our community.

As we have previously reported, the Small Business Majority, a national organization with an interest in the economy of small businesses, conducted a poll of small business owners in Colorado. The majority (65 percent of 400 polled) do not think businesses should have the right to deny services to LGBTQ customers, no matter their religious beliefs.

It stands to reason, then, that a bill which narrows the definition of discrimination even further would face similar opposition from the small business community.
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Friday, March 10, 2017

Birth Certificate Modernization Act moves forward

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 2:41 PM

For many transgender people, an inaccurate birth certificate spells disaster. - LANE V. ERICKSON // SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Lane V. Erickson // Shutterstock
  • For many transgender people, an inaccurate birth certificate spells disaster.
LGBTQ rights in Colorado have jumped another small hurdle on a very long track, as the Birth Certificate Modernization Act has passed out of a House committee and will soon be voted on by the House as a whole.

This bill, HB17-1122, would ease requirements for changing gender on one’s birth certificate. Currently, the state requires that a court order indicating transitional surgery, and a court order indicating a legal name change, are required to change gender on a birth certificate. An outdated set of requirements, to be sure, and needlessly restrictive.

Many transgender people choose not to surgically transition, through reasons either personal or financial. And for these people, having an inaccurate birth certificate could result in being denied opportunities to jobs and housing. Considering transgender homelessness and unemployment rates are high across the country, it is vital we provide transgender and gender nonconforming people with as many opportunities as we can.

Under the new bill, all that would be required to change gender on one’s birth certificate is a written request (either from the person themselves or their parent/guardian if that person happens to be a minor) and a statement from a medical or mental health care provider stating that someone has undergone some kind of transitional treatment. There are more narrowly defined guidelines that you can read for yourself, but those broad strokes capture the idea.

The fact that this bill and the bill to ban conversion therapy (the destructive practice of attempting to alter someone’s sexuality or gender identity) have both passed out of committee suggest that there might be hope for them out on the floor.

However, since the House is still Republican-dominated, and it is rare (though not unheard of) for Republicans to vote favorably on LGBTQ issues, both these proposals may end up as they have in years previous, postponed until someone introduces them again at the start of the next legislative session.

For now, you can contact your representatives to share your thoughts on the Birth Certificate Modernization Act before it goes to vote.

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