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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A news outlet publishes a story that a Republican politician dismisses as "fake news." Sounds familiar, right?

But in this case, there's a twist. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel in Colorado is accusing state Sen. Ray Scott of defamation and threatening to sue. If filed, legal experts said it would be the first suit of its kind, potentially setting a legal definition for what is considered fake news and what is not.

In the last decade, Democrats have attempted to repeal Colorado's death penalty four times. Their latest attempt on Feb. 15 was amid contentious debate. Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-Denver)  was behind the effort. She knew the odds were against her, but even before the hearing, she said she wanted to raise awareness to the moral and social issues surrounding the death penalty.

“There are a lot of people willing and wanting to learn more and more about the problems with it, the challenges of it, and we need to keep that message going,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll lose the battle, because the battle is long-term.”

Lawmakers serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear a measure to repeal Colorado's death penalty Wednesday. 

UPDATE: 2/16/17. The Senate Finance committee passed SB-153 on a 4-1 vote. The bill now heads to the full Senate.

Original post 2/14/17:

A proposal to study whether it's viable to create passenger rail from southern Colorado to Fort Collins has cleared its first hurdle at the state legislature.

The state Senate initially passed a bill on Monday that would require law enforcement officers in Colorado to be U.S. citizens. The debate touched off a broader discussion on immigration.

In the midst of an ongoing national fight about the future of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a measure to replace Colorado’s health care exchange is igniting passion in Denver. On Feb. 7, people rallied outside the State Capitol to protest repealing the Affordable Care Act, while in the capitol, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 3, the Repeal Colorado Health Benefit Exchange Bill.

Law enforcement officers in Colorado would be required to be U.S. citizens under a new measure that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 6.

Gov. John Hickenlooper will be in Cuba this weekend to try to build up a trading relationship with that country. 

There’s mixed reaction to the Trump administration’s freeze of Environmental Protection Agency awards and grants and what it means for Colorado.

Colorado’s new select committee on energy held its first hearing Thursday. As Bente Birkeland reports, Republicans created the committee to help handle the increased workload that could come from changes from the Trump administration.

 

One of the first contenders for the 2018 gubernatorial race in Colorado has announced his candidacy.

 

Hundreds of people filled the state capitol Wednesday for opening day ceremonies as lawmakers return to work. 

Improving roads, easing traffic congestion and making broadband available to all parts of Colorado are some of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top priorities for the upcoming legislative session that begins Wednesday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is entering his second to last legislative session as governor. He said he’s very aware of his time in office being limited, and that colored his discussion on his goals for the upcoming legislative session.

Democratic Sen. Lucia Guzman, representing Denver, is the only legislative leader returning to her role, but it’s something she didn’t expect.

Courtesy of Kevin Grantham

Republican Sen. Kevin Grantham will lead the state Senate in 2017, where his party held onto its one-seat majority. He represents district 2 and says he’s the first rural senate president in over four decades.

Republican Kevin Grantham will lead the state Senate in 2017, where his party held onto its one-seat majority. He represents District 2, located in north-central Colorado and includes northwestern Denver suburbs,  and says he’s the first rural Senate president in over four decades.

Republican Patrick Neville is only serving his second term in office, but he recently rose to the highest position in his caucus —  house minority leader.

Crisanta Duran will serve as the top lawmaker in the state House of Representatives next session, leading the 65-member chamber as speaker of the house. She will also be the first Latina to serve in that role in state history.

Colorado’s economy is starting to stabilize and showing signs of moderate growth according to the latest economic forecast released earlier this week.

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