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 lawmakers are headed back to the state capitol much sooner than expected. Gov. John Hickenlooper has called for the first special legislative session in five years. It’s to fix an error on a bill that prevented cuts to rural hospitals and set aside money for roads.

Merchandising giant Amazon wants to open a second headquarters – called Amazon HQ2 -- outside of Seattle. Colorado is pulling together what it hopes is a winning bid, but it’s a competitive venture.

“This has gotten the attention of the nation for that matter -- and North America, so we’re competing internationally,” said J. J. Ament, the CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.

Colorado is joining a lawsuit trying to block President Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

Bente Birkeland/ Capitol Coverage

Coal mining has been a mainstay in many parts of western Colorado. But the jobs are going away. The recent closure of a mine – and a soon to be closed power plant in Montrose County – could cut tax revenue as much as 70 percent. Both local and state groups are laboring to find a replacement economy in a region that’s not used to rapid change.

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 Rural communities on Colorado’s Western Slope are struggling to thrive. On Monday morning, we told you how the loss of coal jobs in the towns of Nucla and Naturita in Montrose County are forcing many there to make tough choices. Should they stay and pursue new careers – or pack up and move away? Today, Bente Birkeland visits another county that’s beginning to turn the corner after its recent coal downturn.

Colorado’s Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne has formally kicked off her campaign to run for Governor. She joins a crowded Democratic primary race.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled a bipartisan plan today aimed at stabilizing the individual health insurance market. He and Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio spearheaded the effort.

Colorado is a resilient state. The unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation and the population along the Front Range is booming. It’s easy to see the impact of a strong economy in Denver. Construction cranes are up all over the city and it’s harder than ever to find affordable housing.

But it’s a different story in many parts of western Colorado.

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About 800 people were in Denver last week for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual Energy Summit. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet discussed the future of the industry.

Governor John Hickenlooper is denying that he and Ohio Governor and former GOP presidential candidate John Kasich are exploring a possible unity party presidential bid in 2020.  The speculation comes from national media sources, including CNN, which say Hickenlooper would run as Vice President. 

Gov. John Hickenlooper has unveiled new recommendations related to oil and gas drilling in the wake of a fatal home explosion that killed two men. However, the measures aren’t enough for some.

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It is no longer illegal to break into a hot vehicle to rescue a child or dog. A new law went into effect earlier this month that waives liability for a good Samaritan.

An effort to better track drugged driving arrests in Colorado is now in effect. The measure requires law enforcement to document what substances are contributing to DUI’s beyond alcohol.

Bente Birkeland

The head of the Democratic National Committee joined Colorado leaders – including Gov.John Hickenlooper – in calling for universal health care and putting forward a united front on health care reform. It’s part of a national bus tour called Drive for Our Lives. The bus is stopping in states where members of Congress, for instance, Sen. Cory Gardner, voted to repeal Obamacare. 

Colorado lawmakers want to improve how public schools integrate digital learning in and outside of the classroom. A report released Monday highlights priorities and says combining technology with traditional teaching improves test scores and engages students.

After President Trump tweeted that the U.S. military would no longer “allow or accept” transgender people to serve, troops on the ground were left with uncertainty. Military leaders say the policy won’t change until top Pentagon officials figure out how to implement it.

Emma Shinn is a 41-year-old Coloradan and veteran. She served in the Marine Corps for 20 years before retiring in 2014. When she served there was a ban on transgender people. Last year, she transitioned.  

With summer here, people are flocking to the outdoors, including the trails, campsites and reservoirs of the Colorado State Parks system. Last year, the parks hit a record number of visitors – 13.5 million.  But Colorado is struggling to keep up with the demand.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is rolling and green, nestled deep in the Rocky Mountain foothills. Just 45 minutes from Denver, this is the state’s fourth most popular state park. It stays that way for most of the year.

The state office that focuses on energy efficiency will no longer be funded starting in July. A special last minute request from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office to save state funding for the Colorado Energy Office failed along party lines Tuesday.

A last-ditch effort to save Colorado’s Energy Office takes place Tuesday. During the legislative session, state lawmakers cut state funding for the office that oversees weatherization and other energy saving programs for residents. 

The list of Democrats wanting to be Colorado’s next governor is growing. Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder said he’ll run against his colleague Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, along with other high profile opponents.

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