Bente Birkeland

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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Water
4:05 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Draft Water Plan for Colorado Unveiled

Governor Hickenlooper releases the draft water plan for the state. It's open now for public comments.

Governor John Hickenlooper unveiled a draft of the state’s first ever water plan on Wednesday. The goal is to create a comprehensive water strategy to protect rural farm economies and bring more water to millions of people along the Front Range.The plan has been a decade in the making and supporters say it will help the state meet water demands as the population grows.
 

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Capitol Coverage
8:07 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Lawmakers to Consider Physician-Assisted Suicide

Colorado is one of several states that will take up the issue of physician-assisted suicide. The topic is once again in the national spotlight with the recent death of Brittany Maynard. The terminally ill 29 year-old moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s Death with Dignity law.

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Capitol Coverage
7:53 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Restoration at the State Capitol

Restoration efforts inside the state capitol
Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Colorado’s state capitol is getting a major upgrade. A two-year renovation of the building’s signature gold dome was recently completed – and on the inside, work is underway on both the House and Senate chambers. As with any remodeling project, workers have uncovered some interesting surprises along the way.
 

The state capitol opened in 1894 and several restoration projects have been undertaken since then. The most recent work began because of a radiator…

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Sand Creek Massacre
6:45 am
Thu December 4, 2014

In Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of Sand Creek, Governor Hickenlooper Apologizes

Tribal leaders and others gather outside the state capitol to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.
Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Governor John Hickenlooper has apologized on behalf of the state of Colorado for the Sand Creek Massacre. The Massacre happened in the early morning of November 29th, 1864.  U.S. Calvary soldiers converged on a sleeping group of mostly women, children and elderly Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. The 150 year-old event is one of the most notable incidents of violence against Native Americans in the history of the west.
 

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Oil & Gas
12:20 pm
Sat November 22, 2014

Agreement Reached For Colorado's Roan Plateau

Colorado's Roan Plateau
Courtesy of EcoFlight

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 3:25 pm

The Bureau of Land Management, environmentalists, and the energy industry have reached an agreement on a proposal to drill for oil and gas on the Roan Plateau. The new plan cancels 17 out of 19 oil and gas leases that were issued in 2008. Two previous leases at the top of the plateau, and a dozen at the base will remain in place.

"These measures allow us to protect the plateau but harness some of the energy resources," said Governor John Hickenlooper.

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Capitol Conversation
5:07 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

Capitol Conversation: A Divided Statehouse

Colorado's statehouse will have divided control in January. Republicans gained a one-seat majority in the state senate, while Democrats held onto their house majority. Bente Birkeland talks to statehouse reporters about what that means for some key issues lawmakers hope to tackle.
 

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Election 2014
11:10 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Hickenlooper Wins Re-Election

Hickenlooper declares victory, narrowly, at the state capitol on the day after Election Day.
Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Democratic incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper narrowly won re-election after a race that was too close to call on Tuesday night. Hickenlooper faced off against former Congressman, Republican Bob Beauprez. It’s the second time Beauprez has lost the Governorship. Democratic Bill Ritter defeated him in 2006 by a much wider margin of double digits.

Many pundits were surprised at the intensity of the race, which was a nail biter until the end. The race wasn’t called by major news outlets until about 9:30am, more than twelve hours after polls closed.

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Election
4:25 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Final Debate for Hickenlooper and Beauprez

With early voting well underway Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates staked out their positions one last time during their 8th and final debate hosted by KCNC channel 4 and Colorado Public Television last Friday night. Among the routine topics – things got heated over the issue of public safety.
 

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Elections
4:42 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

Will Colorado's Growing Latino Voting Bloc Cast Ballots this Midterm Election?

Two volunteers at a Senator Mark Udall field office in heavily Latino Adams County. They were there to help rally the Latino vote and knock on doors.
Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Latinos make up about twenty percent of Colorado’s population and continue to be a highly courted voting bloc during this election. It’s a group that more frequently votes for Democrats, but Latinos also turn out less often in midterm elections, and both political parties face challenges in attracting them.
 

Republicans have long been trying to make inroads with Latino voters, especially in competitive states like Colorado, where a small number of votes could swing key races for the U.S. Senate and Governor.

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Election
3:43 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Amendment 67: 'Personhood' Returns to the Ballot

One of this November’s statewide ballot questions may look familiar to Coloradans. For the third time since 2008, voters will decide the fate of an amendment dealing with the issue of personhood. But this time around supporters are taking a different approach.
 

Amendment 67 would change the state’s criminal code and wrongful death act to include the term “unborn human beings” when referring to a “person” or “child.” Backers say it stems from the 2012 case of Heather Surovik, who shares her testimonial on the Personhood USA website…

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Elections
6:46 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Amendment 68: Should Gambling Be Expanded And Taxed For Education Funding?

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 7:02 am

While much of the attention the 2014 election season has been focused on Colorado's Senate and gubernatorial races, voters will also be deciding the fates of four statewide ballot questions. One of those questions seeks to expand gambling at racetracks to help fund K-12 education.

If approved, Amendment 68 would allow horse race tracks in Arapahoe, Mesa and Pueblo counties to offer slot machines, roulette, craps, and card games such as blackjack and poker. Arapahoe Park in Aurora is at the center of the campaign.

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Elections
9:10 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Hickenlooper Points To Successes On Economy, Bipartisanship

State of Colorado

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 8:38 am

After four years in office Governor John Hickenlooper is facing the toughest campaign of his political career. A recent poll from The Denver Post shows his race against Republican former Congressman Bob Beauprez statistically tied. What's more, Beauprez is also making gains on Hickenlooper in the Denver metro area and in rural Colorado.

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Elections
7:44 am
Thu October 16, 2014

Beauprez: 'What I'm Doing Is Standing Up For Colorado'

Bob Beauprez, pictured here in his official congressional photo from his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, 2006.
U.S. House

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 8:37 am

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez is facing a close race against Governor John Hickenlooper in his gubernatorial bid. Back in 2006, he made several missteps in his campaign for governor, but in this 2014 run he's run a much tighter ship.

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Capitol Coverage
8:34 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Both Sides Vie For The Youth Vote In Tightly Contested Colorado Senate Race

Daniel Almodovar and Stephen Shaw both attend CU-Boulder. They are undecided voters and neither is happy with the gridlock in Congress. They blame both political parties and the President.
Bo Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 4:48 pm

With Colorado's U.S. Senate race too close to call, both parties are on an all-out blitz to court as many voters as they can prior to the November election. The youth vote has traditionally helped Democrats, but Republicans see an opening with national support for President Obama falling among the millennial generation.

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Elections
10:09 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Udall, Gardner Tangle Over Reproductive Rights, D.C. Ties In Denver Post Debate

Udall - U.S. Senate | Gardner - U.S. House

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 7:21 am

Democratic Senator Mark Udall and Republican Congressman Cory Gardner had a spirited debate Tuesday night hosted by The Denver Post. Both candidates are locked in a tight race and both stayed on message in the hour-long debate.

Udall attacked Gardner as extreme and out of touch, Gardner criticized Udall for being in lockstep with President Barack Obama.

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Elections
2:43 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Buck, Meyers Debate For The Third Time Ahead Of November

Pictured to the left, Ken Buck and the right of the photo, his opponent Vic Meyers.
Buck For Colorado Campaign / Vic Meyer For Congress Campaign

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 8:53 am

It's a race that is largely flying under the radar in Colorado this election season, owing to what many say is its preordained outcome. Republican Ken Buck and Democrat Vic Meyers, the candidates vying for the open seat in Colorado's vast 4th Congressional District, squared off Wednesday in a debate hosted by Colorado Public Television and CBS 4.

This was the third such meeting for the candidates in advance of the mid-terms.

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Public Safety
7:13 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Colorado Volunteer Fire Departments Struggling For Recruits

Rock Creek Volunteer Fire Chief Brita Horn is also the Routt County treasurer and a part-time EMT.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 3:28 pm

In many parts of Colorado when you dial 9-1-1 to report a fire, the firefighters who arrive to extinguish it are volunteers. These firefighters have other jobs, and serve half of the state’s population. But Colorado has an ever-shrinking pool of volunteers, leaving many communities at risk.

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Capitol Coverage
7:45 am
Wed September 24, 2014

In Colorado's Tight Senate Contest, A Race To Court Women Voters

Kathy Holderith making calls at a GOP field office in Lakewood, Colo. Jefferson County is considered a key swing area in the close U.S. Senate race.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 10:09 am

Colorado's U.S. Senate race is a considered by many to be a tossup. Incumbent Senator Mark Udall and Republican Congressman Cory Gardner are trying to win over as many key voting blocs as they can before Election Day – and that includes women.

In the previous close Senate contest between appointed Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck, women played a critical role. During the waning days of that 2010 race, Bennet focused his attention on the female vote – and narrowly won. With women making up 51.4 percent of all registered voters in Colorado this election, it's a scenario Democrats are hoping to repeat.

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Capitol Coverage
8:38 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Polls Painting A Confusing Picture Of Colorado Races

On the left, Democrat Mark Udall, pictured on the right, Republican Cory Gardner.
Udall - US Senate | Gardner - US House

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 4:44 pm

Multiple polls on Colorado's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races were recently released and there are some different perspectives on where things stand with just seven weeks until the November election.

Most polls show the U.S Senate race as being too close to call. The Denver Post recently gave incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall a narrow edge over his Republican challenger Congressman Cory Gardner, but within the margin of error. A separate USA Today Poll gives Gardner a one point edge. The most recent Quinnipiac Poll was more of an outlier. It gave Gardner the lead, 48 – 40 over Udall.

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Capitol Coverage
4:53 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Senator Udall Trails in New Poll

GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner and Democratic incumbent Mark Udall

A new poll released today from Quinnipiac University shows Democratic Senate incumbent Mark Udall 8 points behind his Republican challenger Congressman Cory Gardner. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

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Capitol Coverage
4:33 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Governor Trails Beauprez in Quinnipiac Poll

GOP gubernatorial challenger Bob Beauprez and Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper
Credit Beauprez-U.S. House / Hickenlooper-State of Colorado

Less than a week after a Denver Post poll listed the Governor’s race as too close to call, a new poll out today has Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez ten points ahead of Governor John Hickenlooper. Bente Birkeland has more.

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Capitol Coverage
7:33 am
Wed September 17, 2014

State Rejects Stricter Medical Marijuana Caregiver Rules

Jenea Cox - who testified at the hearing - and her 5-year-old daughter Haleigh. They moved to Colorado from Georgia so Haleigh could take a special medical marijuana strain to help with her seizures.
Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

The state board of health has voted against setting maximum patient caps for medical marijuana caregivers. The proposed rule would have limited caregivers to just ten patients. After a tense and at times tearful hearing on Tuesday, the board said the change was unnecessary. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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Capitol Conversation
5:17 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Capitol Conversation: Political Debate Season Opens

Capitol reporter Bente Birkeland

Political debate season kicked off in Colorado over the weekend with candidates running for Governor and U.S. senate among those facing off in Grand Junction. Club 20 hosted the debate. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland analyzes the major themes and arguments.
 

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Capitol Coverage
4:37 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Oil & Gas Task Force Delayed

The Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force charged with coming up with new recommendations for the energy industry is getting off to a slower than anticipated start. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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Capitol Coverage
9:28 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Capitol Conversation: Oil & Gas Deals

Bente Birkeland

Now that Governor John Hickenlooper and Democratic Congressman Jared Polis have reached a deal to avoid an expensive fight at the ballot box over oil and gas drilling, Bente Birkeland takes a look at the next steps. She talks to statehouse reporters about what the deal means politically and the likelihood of a legislative compromise succeeding.
 

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Energy
5:10 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Colorado Dismisses Lawsuit Against Longmont's Oil and Gas Rules

State energy regulators have dropped their lawsuit against the city of Longmont for adopting stricter oil and gas rules that Colorado officials argued infringed on the state’s rights. Bente Birkeland has more…

Meanwhile, a judge in Fort Collins today ruled that that city's ban on fracking violates state law.

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Capitol Coverage
4:41 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Oil & Gas Ballot Fight Avoided

Colorado will avoid a costly ballot fight this November over oil and gas drilling. One day after Democratic Congressman Jared Polis said he would pull the two anti-fracking ballot initiatives he’s backing, industry groups are following suit dropping a pair of pro oil and gas proposals. As Bente Birkeland reports, the agreement will still have ramifications for the political season.
 

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Energy
1:43 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Oil & Gas Deal Creates Task Force, Seeks Withdraw of Ballot Initiatives

Congressman Jared Polis and Governor John Hickenlooper announce a deal on oil and gas to avoid a costly fight at the ballot box.
Credit Bente Bikeland / RMCR

Democratic Congressman Jared Polis said he would call on the withdrawal of two anti-fracking ballot initiatives he’s backing so the state can try to craft a legislative solution. He said he made the decision in the last few days, “I’ve said that from the very start my personal preference is to address these issues legislatively.”

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Capitol Coverage
7:06 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Undocumented Immigrants Eligible for Colorado Driver's Licenses

Starting today Colorado residents who are in the country illegally can apply to get a state driver’s license. The Democratic controlled legislature passed the law in 2013. Ten other states have similar laws already on the books.
 

Undocumented immigrants must first prove that they’ve lived in Colorado for the last two years and have paid state and federal taxes. They’ll also have to show an ID from their home country such as a passport, and sign an affidavit pledging to apply for legal status.

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Capitol Coverage
10:50 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Personhood's Third Attempt Seeps Into Colorado's Close Senate Race

Opponents of Amendment 67 hold a rally at the state capitol in Denver. The amendment would give unborn babies the same constitutional and legal rights as a person.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Fri July 25, 2014 12:26 pm

Colorado voters will once again decide on an amendment that would give unborn babies the same constitutional and legal rights as a person. The measure is bringing out some familiar faces – it’s also impacting one of the closest U.S. Senate races in the country.

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