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Bente Birkeland

Capitol Coverage Reporter for Rocky Mountain Community Radio

Bente Birkeland has covered Colorado politics and government since spring of 2006. She loves the variety and challenge of the state capitol beat and talking to people from all walks of life. Bente's work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American Public Media'sMarketplace, and she was a contributor for WNYC's The Next Big Thing. She has won numerous local and national awards, including best beat reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. Bente grew up in Minnesota and England, and loves skiing, hiking, and is an aspiring cello player. She lives in Lakewood with her husband.

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COLORADO SENATE REPUBUBLICANS

New claims of sexual harassment have been brought up at the Colorado legislature involving Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate. Both, in comments to us, strongly deny any wrongdoing, although they refused to answer our specific questions directly.

Another woman has filed a formal complaint against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock for sexual harassment.

On Tuesday state Rep. Steve Lebsock went on the offensive regarding the sexual harassment allegations against him, claiming he was being blackmailed in an effort to force him to resign his House seat.

“This is a story about blackmail and coercion and extortion, is what this is,” he said.

A flood of lawmakers are now calling for the resignation for Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, in the wake of our reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct.

Meanwhile, a second woman has come forward with additional allegations that raise questions about Lebsock’s behavior at the State Capitol.

Colorado’s Speaker of the House is calling on Democratic Representative Steve Lebsock to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment.

Nine legislators, staffers and lobbyists are alleging that Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, harassed, intimidated or made unwanted sexual advances against them. And in response to our reporting, a top Democratic leader is calling on Lebsock to “do the right thing and resign.”

colorado.gov

Colorado is a global player for both the import and export of goods and services. Some of this business is drummed up by international trade missions. Gov. John Hickenlooper recently returned from India and is already hinting of possible partnership announcements at the start of 2018.

A project to create a passenger rail line from Fort Collins to Pueblo – and even further – is still in its early stages. The Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission in charge of the project briefed state lawmakers on Thursday.

Jacob Riger, the vice-chair of the Commission said the group would spend part of next year establishing a preferred route for the line.

Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo has added his name to the list of people vying to become Colorado’s next governor.

STEPHEN BUTLER / FLICKR - CREATIVE COMMONS

Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled his 2018 budget proposal Wednesday. It would put more money into education, public safety and a rainy day fund.

President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency. Colorado lawmakers are poised to take more action on the topic than ever before.

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Turnout is expected to be low for the Nov. 7 election. That’s largely because there is no statewide ballot question to help generate excitement for or against an issue.

About one third of Colorado cities and towns are holding elections on Nov. 7. The most common question voters will face is whether to allow their community to explore other options for receiving broadband.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is back from a two-week trade trip to India. The focus was tech start-ups and entrepreneurship.

A group of Colorado lawmakers are working to lower health insurance premiums for residents on the individual market created in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. Rates are predicted to rise 34 percent on average next year. There are concerns that healthy people will opt out of coverage and that could cause rates to rise even higher as the insurance risk pool thins out.

Bob Collins, a small business owner and the father of three in Thornton, said the rise will cost him $18,000 to cover his family next year. That’s a significant increase to what he pays now.

The U.S. Senate passed the budget for next fiscal year with no Democratic support. Colorado’s two senators voted with their respective parties.

November election ballots are being mailed to voters across Colorado this week. There’s no statewide ballot question this year.

Amazon

The Denver region is submitting its bid for Amazon’s second headquarters on Monday. The giant internet company announced last summer that it was building a second headquarters outside of Seattle.

Colorado’s Senators are weighing in on the possibility that President Trump will decertify the Iran nuclear deal this week in favor of a tougher policy.

STEPHEN BUTLER / FLICKR - CREATIVE COMMONS

Lawmakers examining state water issues are wrapping up their work ahead of next year’s legislative session.

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