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.

KRCC

Lawmakers in both parties have unveiled a proposal to bring a presidential primary back to Colorado. It's estimated to cost between five to seven million dollars to conduct, and the heads of both the state Democratic and Republican parties and the Governor support it.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

The Governor's commission studying American Indian representations in public schools released its report this week. The group recommends that public schools do not use American Indian mascots, but if they do, they should partner with a tribe to make sure it is done in a respectful way. Right now thirty Colorado schools use some type of American Indian mascot or imagery.

The commission went to four schools to bring American Indian and non-American Indian people together, community members, school boards, and students. This follows failed attempts at the statehouse to ban these types of mascots.

KRCC

A bill that would force school districts to allow medical marijuana on school grounds is making its way through the state legislature. As part of our Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland speaks with other statehouse reporters about the issue.

Bernie Sanders will be assured the majority of Colorado's delegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Hillary Clinton though, still has momentum in the state with the support of super delegates, like Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. The support of party insiders means Clinton will likely have 37 delegates from the state versus Sanders' 41.

Which still makes it an open question for Colorado: If the state is pulling for Bernie Sanders, but the super delegates lean for Clinton, will voters opt to support Clinton if she's the nominee?

Colorado Democratic Party

Colorado Democrats are set to gather in Loveland tomorrow to elect their final group of delegates to the National Convention in Philadelphia this summer. Bente Birkeland talked to Colorado Chairman Rick Palacio about the process and divisions within the party...

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Colorado schools may soon be forced to allow students to use medical marijuana in a non-smokeable form while on school grounds. It's already allowed under state law, but so far no districts have created policies to enable students to take the medicine, which has left many families frustrated.  

Just three months out from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Republican Party remains very much divided over their candidates for president. Ted Cruz closed Donald Trump's lead Saturday, sweeping all of Colorado's 34 open delegates at the GOP state assembly in Colorado Springs.

Republicans here though are as split as anywhere else in the country over the race.

KRCC

Colorado is debating whether to form an Office of Fantasy Sports to regulate and create rules around pay-for-play fantasy sports leagues. The industry estimates that 800,000 people in Colorado are fantasy sports players, and 150,000 pay in the daily sports leagues.

Colorado Republican Party

Republican Party activists are gathering in Colorado Springs this Saturday for the state GOP convention. The party will elect delegates to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Senator Ted Cruz is already confirmed to attend. Donald Trump will not, but may send a surrogate to speak on his behalf.  Ohio Governor John Kasich has announced he is not coming.

In an interview with statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland, Steve House, the Chair of the Colorado GOP, says the state plays a pivotal role in who the Republican presidential nominee may be.
 


KRCC

The Democratic controlled House passed the state budget on Friday with five Republicans backing it. The bill now heads to the Republican controlled Senate.  As part of our weekly Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to other statehouse reports about the debate and what to expect going forward.

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State lawmakers are set to debate the annual budget, which funds everything from roads and schools, to healthcare and parks. This year Colorado has a shortfall, so that means making budget cuts. As part of our Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to other statehouse reporters about some of the major budget issues.

Field Outdoor Spaces / Flickr/Creative Commons

A bill that would allow people to collect rain that falls from their rooftops remains hung up in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee after the chair said he wasn't comfortable with the measure. It's not clear when the committee will vote on it.

The same thing happened last year when the rain barrel bill vote was delayed. And while the bill eventually cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee over the objections of the Republican chair, it failed on the final day of the 2015 legislative session when time ran out.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Colorado's next Lieutenant Governor is poised to be Donna Lynne, a top executive at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. Governor John Hickenlooper made the nomination on Wednesday, and he said Lynne, an Executive Vice President at Kaiser, would be very capable filling his shoes if he doesn't end up finishing his second term as Governor. Hickenlooper has long been rumored as a possible cabinet pick for a Democratic President.

KRCC

Several police reform measures are making their way through the statehouse, and lawmakers are also looking at how best to address the problem of sexting among teenagers.

KRCC

Colorado's four-month long legislative session is half way over. As part of our Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to other statehouse reporters about some of the surprises so far, and what lies ahead.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Voters in eleven states went to the polls or caucused on Super Tuesday. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won Colorado's Democratic caucuses. He also grabbed victories in Oklahoma, Minnesota, and in his home state.

On the GOP side, Colorado Republicans did not take a preference poll for the presidential race.

IAN MACKENZIE / FLICKR - CREATIVE COMMONS

Colorado is on the road to becoming the final state in the country to legalize rain barrels, after Democrats reached an agreement on Monday with several Republicans who opposed previous versions of the measure.

Another attempt in Colorado to allow terminally ill patients to take medication to end their own lives recently failed for the second straight year in the Democratic controlled House.

With strong words for opponents and members of their own party, the sponsors of the End-of-Life Options Bill, known as House Bill 16-1054 [.pdf], pulled it before debate could begin on the floor. The reason behind the withdrawal was a lack of votes and proposed amendments for the bill.

A bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to take medication to end their own lives has failed in the Colorado Legislature. The main sponsors asked lawmakers to defeat the bill before it could be debated by the full House.

"The choice we made today, was to give you the relief from having to have this conversation because we know many of you have deeply held convictions that make you uncomfortable with this bill," said state Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver). "We are doing you this favor, to not have this debate, but make no mistake the voice of the people of this state will be heard."

Colorado residents have vastly different health outcomes, based in part on where they live in the state. Rocky Mountain PBS News analyzed health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to rank each of the state's 64 counties based on a variety of health indicators from obesity, to amount of exercise, to smoking and premature deaths.

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.

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Colorado is the only state in the country where it is illegal to capture rainwater for use at a later time. State lawmakers are once again debating whether to allow residents to use rain barrels to collect precipitation that falls from their roofs.

"This is really straightforward," said Representative Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge), one of the main sponsor's of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf]. "You could use that water when you see fit, for your tomato plants or flower gardens."

Colorado lawmakers are divided over whether a hospital provider fee should be reclassified in the state budget so it doesn't count toward the state's revenue limit under the Tax Payer's Bill of Rights.

KRCC

State legislators discussed a number of law enforcement and criminal justice bills this week along with some other controversial measures.

KRCC

State lawmakers are debating whether terminally ill patients with less than six months to live should be allowed to take medication to end their own lives. It's just one of several controversial bills being debated under the gold dome. 

Dennis McKinney / CO Division of Wildlife

Colorado could be the next state to allow hunters to wear florescent pink. A Democratic proposal to give hunters the option of wearing pink, in addition to orange, passed the Republican controlled Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Thursday.

KRCC

Roughly three weeks into Colorado's annual legislative session, a lot of bills are starting to get their first hearings.

Capitol reporter Bente Birkeland talks to other statehouse reporters about the upcoming week and how politics impacts the bills being heard in committees. 

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Lawmakers have introduced the first wave of bills as part of the annual legislative session. Bente Birkeland talked to statehouse reporters about some of the most interesting pieces of legislation as part of our Capitol Conversation series.
 

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

Governor John Hickenlooper announced Wednesday that the state will prioritize connecting and building 16 hiking and biking trails in all parts of Colorado. The goal is to connect and build missing trail segments to make it easier for people to access open space and parks.

It's part of the governor's Colorado the Beautiful initiative, unveiled in 2015.

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Colorado lawmakers are back at the state capitol for the annual legislative session. Bente Birkeland discussed priorities from the Governor and legislative leaders as part of our capitol conversation series.


Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Colorado's annual legislative session began on Wednesday, with the usual pomp and ceremony and opening day speeches. The building had a back to school vibe, with families and friends joining lawmakers in the chamber, as it hummed with activity after the eight month interim. Isaac Slade, the lead singer of the Denver based rock band the Fray, sang the national anthem in the Senate.
 

    

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