State Gov

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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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bill to ban conversion therapy hits the House floor once more

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, says "We have a responsibility to protect Colorado children from the harmful and discredited practice of gay conversion therapy." - COURTESY IMAGE
  • Courtesy image
  • Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, says "We have a responsibility to protect Colorado children from the harmful and discredited practice of gay conversion therapy."
Due to Vice President Mike Pence’s support of groups that practice conversion therapy — which attempts to convert LGBTQ people through practices that have been deemed harmful by multiple mental health associations — the topic has begun receiving some more attention.

As we reported in Queer & There, conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is still legal in 45 states, and Colorado is one of them. However, the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee has once again moved a bill to ban the practice (introduced by Rep. Paul Rosenthal).

That means that our state representatives will soon vote on HB 1156, which would prohibit registered mental health professionals from recommending or performing conversion therapy for patients younger than 18 years old.

Basically, the bill ensures that parents of LGBTQ youth will no longer be able to force their children into physician-practiced conversion therapy in order to change their identity.

One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, expressed support for this bill, saying, “We can not allow one more young person to be targeted and hurt by these dangerous and discredited practices and are hopeful House Bill 1156 will continue to progress through the legislature with bi-partisan support, as it has the last two years.”

Unfortunately, the hopes for bi-partisan support may be unfounded, as all six Republican members of the committee voted against the bill. It is possible that the House of Representatives as a whole will be less divided, but this is the third bill of its kind in three years to come to a vote, and each time it has floundered. But since the Republicans only have a one-seat majority on the floor, it isn't an impossible feat.

At this point, HB 1156 has only jumped the first hurdle, so it remains to be scene how the rest of the race will go.

One Colorado encourages supporters to contact their representatives before the bill comes up for vote, saying “It's time for Colorado to send a message that we support LGBTQ young people and don't want this happening in our state.”

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Media oppose mediation proposal for public records

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 4:42 PM

Public records can play a key role in finding out what your government is up to.
  • Public records can play a key role in finding out what your government is up to.
A bill that would allow those who request public records and the records custodian to mediate a solution is opposed by several agencies who serve as watchdogs for the public interest.

Here's a comprehensive rundown of the proposed law and why media outlets oppose it, written by the director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, of which the Independent is a member.
By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

Groups representing Colorado journalists and citizen requesters of public records are voicing concerns about a legislative proposal to resolve records disputes through mediation.

Although generally in favor of some kind of alternative to litigation for challenging denials of public records, they’ve concluded that HB 17-1177, without substantial revisions, would create additional impediments for people seeking government information under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).

Both the Colorado Press Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association oppose the bill as introduced by Reps. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, and Alec Garnett, D-Denver, as do Colorado Ethics Watch and Colorado Common Cause. All four organizations participated in the CORA Working Group, a stakeholders’ committee that discussed litigation alternatives last year but did not recommend a specific proposal.

Wist also participated in the CORA Working Group, which came up with a separate bill on digitized public records. In an interview earlier this month, Wist told the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition the goal of HB 17-1177 is to encourage both requesters and government entities to resolve CORA disputes outside of the court system. Litigation currently is the only remedy in the open-records law.

“I’m trying to create incentives for parties to resolve cases without suing,” Wist said. “I hope that people never have to sue to gain access to public records, period.”

But Peg Perl, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, said the bill seems to presume that CORA disputes often wind up in court when, in fact, there aren’t a lot of open-records lawsuits in Colorado. What frequently happens, she said, is that records requesters just give up when they think a denial is improper because suing can be expensive and intimidating.

“The number one goal of citizens making requests is to get the actual documents and to get them in a timely manner,” she said. “To the extent that we favor some sort of mediation or ombudsman, it’s to facilitate disputes so that citizens or organizations get access to records. It’s not about getting fines or punishing the government or getting huge attorney-fee awards.”

Requesters worry that HB 17-1177 will let government entities drag out the CORA process, if they want, because the bill doesn’t specify a timeline for bringing mediation. It also doesn’t set any limits on the cost of participating in mediation, only stating that requesters and custodians would split the cost evenly.

Although the bill would penalize both sides for not participating in mediation, Perl said the measure ignores the reality that records requesters and records custodians are not on equal footing when a dispute arises. Unlike the government, she said, “the citizen has no access to the records, no access to the attorney general or another government attorney, no power to negotiate … The custodian is holding all the cards.”

If a requester doesn’t participate in mediation but prevails in a lawsuit, HB 17-1177 would limit the amount of court costs and attorney fees that he or she can be awarded. It also establishes a penalty for records custodians who refuse to mediate and end up losing in court.

If the parties mediate but can’t resolve a dispute without court action, the bill would entitle a prevailing requester to mediation costs, court costs and attorney fees. But if, after a failed mediation, a court finds that a denial of records was proper, the records custodian could be awarded court costs and reasonable attorney fees.

The proposal also bars the awarding of court costs and attorney fees to records requesters in any action initiated by a custodian who claims that disclosure would “cause substantial injury to the public interest.”

Wist said both parties “should have some skin in the game.” But Steve Zansberg, an attorney who represents the press and broadcasters associations, said the bill “imposes significant penalties on records requesters who do end up in court, whether after mediating or not, that effectively deny citizens their right to challenge records denials without having to mortgage their homes.”

Russell Weisfield, an open-government advocate who sued Arvada in 2014 over the city council’s use of secret ballots, said he never would have brought that Sunshine Law case if he risked being held liable for the government’s legal costs. (Under both the Sunshine Law and CORA, as currently written, governments can recover court costs and attorney fees only if a lawsuit is found to be “frivolous, vexatious or groundless.”)

“The potential costs would have been more than overwhelming!” Weisfield wrote in an email to Wist and the CFOIC. “… Faced with such a possible fate, I would have instead not challenged the government and sued.

“In other words, this bill would have the effect of making government more opaque, not transparent.”

Zansberg, who also serves as CFOIC president, said both media associations appreciate the bill sponsors’ commitment to creating “another path for resolving CORA disputes and we are continuing to discuss possible alternatives with them.”

Although the associations can’t support HB 17-117 as introduced, he said they “fully support efforts to facilitate alternative means to quickly and cheaply resolve public records disputes so ordinary citizens need not hire a lawyer to go up against the Colorado attorney general or a county attorney in court.”

Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, said her organization also would like to see ways to resolve CORA disputes without litigation. But HB 17-1177, she said, “will make it more difficult to access public records, the opposite of what we should be trying to achieve.”

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, but it likely will be delayed to give the sponsors more time to work on possible amendments.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bark beetle in local forests impacts hundreds of millions of trees

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 1:40 PM

  • Photos Courtesy Colorado State Forest Service
  • Damage is evident on Wolf Creek Pass.
The condition of Colorado's forests is pretty pathetic, according to a new report on damage caused by the bark beetle.

The report was handed out today at the state capitol building and can be found here.

The Colorado State Forest Services news release:
Over the last seven years, the number of dead standing trees in Colorado forests increased almost 30 percent, to an estimated 834 million trees – or nearly one in every 14 standing trees. And this trend of increasing tree mortality – which is most observable in spruce-fir and lodgepole pine forests impacted by bark beetles – may result in forests conducive to large, intense wildfires like the 2016 Beaver Creek Fire that burned through beetle-kill timber northwest of Walden.
Grand County also is showing significant stress from a bug invasion.
  • Grand County also is showing significant stress from a bug invasion.
The 2016 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests distributed today ... at the State Capitol, highlighted this and other observed forest trends for the state. The theme of this year’s report is “Fire and Water,” focusing on how wildfires and unhealthy forest conditions impact human populations, water supplies and forested environments.

“When so many trees die and large wildfires follow, our forests quickly turn from a carbon sink into a carbon source,” said Mike Lester, State Forester and Director of the CSFS. “Beyond the implications for our atmosphere, forests in poor health have implications for our water supplies, public safety, wildlife and recreation opportunities.”

Highlights from this year’s report include:

· Colorado’s decades-long mountain pine beetle epidemic resulted in almost 3.4 million acres with some degree of tree mortality; an ongoing spruce beetle epidemic has thus far resulted in 1.7 million impacted acres.
· Approximately 80 percent of the state’s population relies on forested watersheds for municipal water supplies.
· Risks ranging from severe wildfires and insect infestations to long-term droughts are likely to be amplified in the future, as climate model projections predict statewide warming between 2.5 F and 6.5 F by 2050.
“With increasing changes in our forests, now is the time for determining how we will manage for projected future conditions,” said Lester. He says that actions the CSFS is taking now to address these threats include forest management efforts focused on watershed protection and reducing wildfire risk; providing seedling trees for restoration efforts; wood utilization and marketing; and insect and disease detection, surveys and response.

Much of what the CSFS accomplishes is through key partnerships with other agencies and organizations, including those with the U.S. Forest Service, Denver Water, the Northern Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities. The agency also offers or assists with many programs and resources for communities working to become fire-adapted, including Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs), Firewise Communities/USA® and the online Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal.

Each year, forest health reports provide information to the Colorado General Assembly and residents of Colorado about the health and condition of forests across the state, including recent data, figures and maps. Information for the reports is derived from an annual aerial forest health survey by the CSFS and the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, as well as field inspections, CSFS contacts with forest landowners and special surveys.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Panel looks for retired judge's replacement

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 2:45 PM

With the departure of an El Paso County judge due to forced retirement, it's time to think about seeing a new face take the bench.

The Colorado Judicial Department sets out that process in a release:
The Fourth Judicial District Nominating Commission will meet March 14, 2017, at the El Paso County Judicial Building to interview and select nominees for appointment by the governor to the office of county judge for El Paso County. The vacancy will be created by the retirement of the Hon. Jonathan L. Walker, effective Feb. 15, 2017.
To be eligible, the applicant must be a qualified elector of El Paso County at the time of investiture and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado. The current annual salary for this position is $152,466. The initial term of office of a county judge is a provisional term of two years; thereafter, the incumbent county judge, if approved by the voters, has a term of four years.
Application forms are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Justice William W. Hood III, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203; and the office of the district administrator, Danny Davis, 270 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, CO 80903. Applications also are available on the court’s home page at
The original, signed application and an identical copy stored as a PDF must be filed with the ex officio chair no later than Feb. 27, 2017. Late applications will not be considered. Any person wishing to suggest a candidate to fill the vacancy may do so by letter to be submitted to any member of the nominating commission, with a copy to the ex officio chair, no later than Feb. 21, 2017.
The members of the nominating commission for the Fourth Judicial District are: Jack Donley, Larry Gaddis, Beth Lieberman, Juan Moreno, and Mary Linden, all of Colorado Springs; and Daniel Nicholson and Philip Mella, of Woodland Park.

Here's the notice regarding the retirement of county Judge Jonathan Walker recently.
Pursuant to Rule 34 of the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline (“Colo. R.J.D.) and based upon his consent, on November 8, 2016, El Paso County Judge Jonathan L. Walker was temporarily suspended with pay pending the outcome of the preliminary investigation and related formal proceedings related to this matter.

A Statement of Charges was filed on November 23, 2016. Judge Walker filed an Answer to the Statement of Charges on December 17, 2016. A hearing with three special masters was set for February 27, 2017 through March 1, 2017. The Statement of Charges and Answer asserted the following summarized claims and defenses:

a. The Judge engaged in undignified and disrespectful conduct, including harassment, toward three female Judicial employees, in violation of Canon Rules 1.2 (promoting confidence in the judiciary), 2.3 (bias, prejudice and harassment), and 2.8 (undignified conduct toward court staff). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting that his actions were misconstrued and that one staff member’s allegations were in response to a Judicial Branch evaluation of the staff member’s performance issues.

b. The Judge retaliated against another Judicial staff member once he learned that the staff member had been interviewed as part of an investigation into his conduct in violation of Canon Rule 2.16(B) (prohibition of retaliation) and 2.8(B) (undignified conduct toward court staff). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting he and this staff member did not get along and the staff member was a poor performer.

c. The Judge improperly modified plea agreements in a number of cases without informing the parties, violating his duty to promote confidence in the judiciary and avoid the appearance of impropriety and unfairness, in violation of Canon Rule 1.2 (promoting confidence in the judiciary) and 2.2 (impartiality and fairness). The Judge admitted that he modified plea agreements but asserted that his modification was lawful.

d. The Judge failed to disqualify himself from cases where his personal attorney was representing a litigant, in violation of Canon Rule 2.11 (disqualification). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting that he instructed a staff member to place his attorney on the recusal list and the staff member failed to do so without advising him. On the two occasions that his personal attorney appeared in his courtroom, the Judge asserted that he acted in conformance with his duty to disqualify himself.

Because Judge Walker has agreed to retire from the bench effective February 15, 2017, the Commission requested the dismissal of the proceedings pending against him. On February 9, 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the recommendation of the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline for the termination of disciplinary proceedings involving Judge Walker.

The Court ordered that the conclusion of these proceedings should be made public. The Commission's records in other respects remain confidential.

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