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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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.

Friday was the last day for Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign, veto or let bills become law without his signature. He only vetoed two bills passed during the legislative session, and the final bill he signed was controversial.

Colorado is ramping up efforts to try and prevent marijuana from being diverted to the black market. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two bi-partisan bills into law Thursday.
 
"I think we’re protecting neighborhoods from the violence often associated with organized crime," said Hickenlooper. "We’re no longer the Wild West. I don’t think it’s good for Colorado to have the loosest laws."

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Colorado is ramping up efforts to try and prevent marijuana from being diverted to the black market. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two bi-partisan bills into law Thursday.

An audit released this week shows the Colorado Office of Film Television Media failed to properly award incentives for a number of projects.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a host of bills into law on Monday, including a measure to increase the fine for rolling coal.

One of the biggest trade shows in the outdoor industry is still looking for a new home after the Outdoor Industry Association decided to leave Utah after two decades. Colorado has thrown its hat in the ring as a new potential site for the event, which brings together many of the world’s largest outdoor companies.

“One of the things we’re going to have to focus on is how a blended economy really works,” said Luis Benitez, head of Colorado’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry.   

One of the most significant pieces of legislation to come out of this year’s legislative session was signed into law Tuesday. Senate Bill 267 avoided deep cuts to hospitals and put about 2 billion dollars into road funding. 

 

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the state’s roughly $26 billion budget into law on Friday. 

Bente Birkeland

State lawmakers may come back to the capitol sooner than expected. Gov. John Hickenlooper is considering calling a special legislative session to, among other things, address transportation funding.

Despite some setbacks, Colorado lawmakers are praising the now completed 2017 legislative session. Lawmakers avoided major funding cuts to hospitals and took a step toward jump-starting condominium developments. But they failed to send a measure to voters that sought to raise the state’s sales tax to fund road infrastructure repair.

Bente Birkeland spoke with Democratic Speaker of the House Chrisanta Duran about some of the major pieces of legislation that passed through the Democratic House and Republican Senate.

A last-minute bill to require oil and gas companies to map information on all of their flow lines and gathering lines is making its way through the statehouse. It’s in response to a house explosion that killed two people in Firestone.

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