Colorado Legislature

Two former governors, Roy Romer and Bill Owens, joined current Gov. John Hickenlooper at the state capitol to urge lawmakers not to go too far in reducing the numbers of standardized assessments school children take. This comes as legislators are debating several bills to lower the number of exams.

Republican Bill Owens said it's important to have standards and test against those standards to see if students are learning what they should, and to evaluate schools and teachers.

"Our friends from the left and the right for differing reasons, don't want to test, don't want to measure, don't want to have accountability," said Owens. "This is stunning to me."

A bill to expand farm-to-school programs in Colorado initially cleared the state House Tuesday, but it still faces objections from some lawmakers who call it unnecessary.

House Bill 1088 [.pdf] would set up grants to help farms and ranches meet federal safety standards to they could sell their locally produced food to schools.

"This program boosts our economy, it creates jobs, and we have schools right now who want to buy more local food from our farmers and the supply chain does not exist," said bill sponsor Representative Faith Winter (D-Westminster).

Democrats in the House unexpectedly delayed a vote on an American Indian mascot bill after they realized Republicans had enough votes to stop it.

House Bill 1165 [.pdf] would set up a state commission to review American Indian mascot names associated with high school and college athletic teams. Without approval, schools would have to switch their names or face fines.

“You can’t honor people based off of words, based off of racist intentions that required extermination,” said bill sponsor Representative Joe Salazar (D-Thornton).

The annual Colorado budget is making its way through the statehouse. It cleared the Senate on a vote of 21 to 14, passing largely along party lines, with three Democrats joining Republicans to support it. What are the dynamics in play?

Mountain Edition - April 2nd, 2015

Apr 2, 2015

Good afternoon, it’s Mountain Edition.

The top official for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs visits disabled vets in Snowmass.

The former owner of an embattled dog sledding operation appears in court.

And, it’s fire season in Colorado. Local firefighters are preparing at specific locations.

Potholes are forming on local streets. We’ll tell you why the deep caverns are particularly pronounced in the high country.

State lawmakers spend nine hours debating the budget.

A bipartisan measure to reduce testing for students in Colorado's public schools is not proceeding as planned through the statehouse. Senate Bill 215 [.pdf] was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Thursday. No longer, it was pulled from the calendar before the hearing.

"We just need to make sure we get the policy right," said state Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), a sponsor of the measure along with Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood).

The sponsors are unsure of when SB 215 will get a hearing. The bill would eliminate mandatory assessments in the 11 and 12th grade and reduce redundant tests in the earlier grades. It has been billed as the major school testing reform bill of the session.

As they prepare to write the annual budget, there's mixed news for Colorado lawmakers. The latest revenue forecast shows the economy will remain strong, but there is a lot of uncertainty going forward, especially when it comes to low oil prices and how it ripples through the state's economy.

"On net low oil prices are good for the national economy, but for areas where you have energy production, energy production states, on net it has been negative in the past," said nonpartisan Chief Legislative Economist Natalie Mullis. "Colorado is a third tier energy producing state and it does have a dampening effect on our economy."

The executive director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Tisha Schuller, recently announced that she's leaving the state's largest trade organization for the energy industry.

In a statement released by COGA, Schuller said it was a "wild ride" and that she was honored to have represented the state's oil industry. While remaining in her position until the end of May, Schuller sat down to talk about the future of the industry and why she decided to leave her position.

We're just past the halfway mark for the annual 120-day legislative session. As lawmakers (and the reporters that cover them) enter the home stretch, what's the scuttlebutt under the gold dome? Which bills are being delayed? How is the Governor handling split legislative control?

For insights we picked the brains of reporters who work the halls on daily basis at the capitol.

Trying to get more information on the health impact of oil and gas drilling is a topic that lawmakers will soon be taking up at the statehouse. It comes after the Governor's Oil and Gas Task Force finished their work and issued several health related recommendations.

"I get a little bit concerned and annoyed when people try to use health as the basis of what they don't like about oil and gas," said Dr. Larry Wolk the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

He said he understands the concern, but worries the state doesn't have enough hard data.

After five months of meetings, and coming up with nine recommendations, the work of Governor John Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Task Force is getting mixed reviews from lawmakers at the state capitol.

Among the critical voices is Democratic Senator Matt Jones of Longmont.

"What they were charged to come up with is strong community protections, they got an F+, they're talking about how it's really a B, it's not," Jones said.

A bill attempting to reduce teen pregnancies and provide state funding for intrauterine devices has passed its first test at the capitol. House Bill 1194 would provide $5 million for clinics across the state that offer long-term reversible contraceptives to low-income women and teenagers. Colorado has been running the program with a private grant, which will run out at the end of June 2015.

"Our teen birth rate has dropped 40 percent over the last four years and 34 percent drop in abortions," said Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

State Senator to visit Basalt and Aspen on Saturday

Feb 19, 2015
Kerry Donovan Campaign

Colorado State Senator Kerry Donovan will be in Aspen on Saturday talking about her time at the State Capitol, so far. The Freshman Democrat has gotten behind measures to aid rural economies and one to overturn a ban on larger gun magazines. I spoke with her yesterday.

Your Evening News - January 21st, 2015

Jan 21, 2015

Aspen Reviewing Powerhouse Plans

The five finalists to fill a city owned building in Aspen will find out in March whether they’ve been chosen. The City is in its final stretch of its process to find a tenant for the Old Power House.

The finalists for the space include a brewery, a science center, a media “powerhouse,” a performance and event center and a proposal called “The Gathering Place.”

Right now, the groups are answering a series of questions such as how they would use the building, whether it’ll create center of community and if there’s a market for the services offered. Assistant City Manager Barry Crook says City Council prioritized the criteria.

“How would you produce a memory making experience that would have a visitor relating their visit to others in an enthusiastic way? Why is this location necessary to your plan? How would you activate the grounds, integrate it with the existing trail system and the river?”

The previous tenant, the Aspen Art Museum, paid just a dollar a year in rent. City Council hasn’t decided whether a new tenant will be charged the same price. Council is scheduled to choose a new tenant by the end of March.

While oil and gas development is a hot topic, state legislators are waiting for a report from the Governor's Oil and Gas Task Force, mostly holding off on introducing energy related bills. The task force is charged with crafting recommendations to help mitigate the impacts of drilling to communities, and harmonize local and state regulations.

"I have told some members of the task force, you don't have to send something if there's not a problem," said Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling). "I want to know before you send me a solution, the problem we're trying to fix. And if you can't agree on a problem, don't send me legislation just because you're a task force."

Mountain Edition - January 8th, 2015

Jan 8, 2015

Good afternoon and welcome to Mountain Edition.

The upper Roaring Fork Valley saw a dramatic rescue this week, after three elk fell into an icy pond.

A local ski guide gets caught in an avalanche; it’s a reminder that avalanche season is in full-swing.

A new climate report shows Aspen has seen temperatures warm over the last several decades.

Much larger fines are looming for oil and gas companies who don’t follow the law.

And, Basalt inches closer to deciding how to redevelop parts of downtown.

When the seventieth session of the Colorado General Assembly convenes Jan. 7, 2015 there will a new speaker of the house. The previous leader in the Colorado House last session was Democrat Mark Ferrandino of Denver. He was term-limited. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst , a Democrat from Boulder, will be the next speaker of the house.

Colorado Senate District Five: A "Pivotal Race"

Oct 1, 2014
Creative Commons/Flickr/Vox Efx

In November the Republican party in Colorado is aiming for control of the State Senate and one key race is in the 5th Senate District. It includes Pitkin and Eagle Counties. The seat is up for grabs because Senator Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village is term-limited. Three candidates, each new to state politics, are urging voters to turn out to the polls and, so-called “dark money” is flowing into the race. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

There’s often a divide between Colorado’s rural lawmakers and those representing larger communities along the urban Front Range. That dynamic was apparent during the 2014 legislative session with Republicans routinely blaming Democrats for waging what they said is a "war on rural Colorado."

People living in many parts of rural Colorado still don’t have access to high speed Internet. It’s a problem for schools and businesses, and in eastern Colorado it is making it harder for farmers to take full advantage of the latest technology even as state lawmakers passed legislation to try and even the playing field.

Pages