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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News last week that Republican Congressman Cory Gardner is entering the U.S. Senate race to try and unseat Democrat Mark Udall sent shock waves through Colorado’s political landscape.  The move has caused some Republicans to drop out of the race.  As part of our weekly Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about the change.
 

The market for legal recreational marijuana in Colorado is booming, and the state is expecting millions of dollars more in tax revenues that initially projected. That has lawmakers grappling with the best way to spend all of that additional cash.

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Lawmakers are rolling out a new bi-partisan funding plan for K through 12 schools, but many in the education community are not board with it. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to statehouse reporters about the education agenda this session, and some unusual alliances it's creating.
 

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School superintendents in Colorado are concerned about the state’s legislative agenda this session. Nearly every school district in the state wrote a letter asking lawmakers to focus exclusively on restoring budget cuts to schools and drop bills they’re calling unnecessary. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Four of the six Republican candidates seeking to replace Governor John Hickenlooper in the fall faced off in their first formal debate last night at the Denver Post. As Bente Birkeland reports, they touched on a host of topics – including the two missing candidates.
 

Colorado is embarking into uncharted territory as the Department of Transportation creates its first public private partnership along U.S. Highway 36. CDOT officials say they don’t have the money to repair and maintain all the state’s roads and bridges and this agreement is necessary. But as Bente Birkeland reports, several lawmakers have serious concerns and want to slow down the project.
 

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Last summer Colorado officials rolled out a new state brand and logo. It’s popular among some groups but received mixed support at the state capitol. A Republican bill to send the branding question to a vote of the people failed at the statehouse. As part of capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about the back story and where the branding issue goes from here.
 

A bill to study how to upgrade the state’s emergency radio communication system is moving through the statehouse. Lawmakers say the bill is important in the wake of recent wildfires and floods. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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The gun debate that riveted the state capitol last session once again took center stage yesterday. As Bente Birkeland reports, emotions were strong, but compared to last year, fewer people came to the capitol to testify on a key gun bill.

Republicans have vowed to repeal a package of gun control proposals that the Democrats passed. The first bill in their sights? The bill that brought universal background checks and fees for gun purchases to Colorado.

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After dominating last year’s legislative session, state lawmakers are once again beginning to debate the issue of guns. Republicans are taking the lead this time around, trying to repeal many Democratic bills including stepped up background checks.
 

The background check law was part of a larger package of gun control bills Democrats passed in the wake of the Aurora Theater shooting and shooting in Newtown Connecticut. Republicans say Democrats overreached.  

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Some of the meatier bills of the legislative session are beginning to move through the statehouse. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to political reporters about what's on the horizon.
 

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Communities across Colorado could soon decide whether to extend bar hours beyond the current 2 am closing time. But some feel a statehouse proposal to change the law could do more harm than good.  

Under the bill cities and towns could allow bars to stay open as late as 4:30 in the morning. Supporters - say the 2 am closing time is dangerous because it dumps thousands of people into the streets and behind the wheel at the same time...

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A bipartisan committee at the statehouse has moved forward a bill to make it easier to remove people’s mug shots from commercial websites if they were never convicted of the crime for which they were arrested.
 

Supporters of House Bill 1047 say it’s wrong for businesses to post mug shots and force people to pay to take them down.

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Helping prevent and fight wildfires is one of the top priorities for Colorado lawmakers in both parties this session. But so far, substantial policy changes recommended by the Governor’s wildfire task force are being rejected. As Bente Birkeland reports, the current package of legislative proposals is not nearly as aggressive as some would like.
 

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Lawmakers and Governor Hickenlooper are touting a package of bills they say will help prevent and fight wildfires. Most of the measures stem from an interim committee that met in the off session. Bente Birkeland has more at the state capitol.
 

Colorado has formally launched its campaign to put in a bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. Republican leaders announced members of the host committee late last week. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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Gay and lesbian couples who are legally married in another state may soon be able to file a joint tax return in Colorado. Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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It didn’t take long before tempers flared during the first full week of Colorado’s legislative session. In the state senate, party leaders had an intense back and forth about a Republican bill to repeal universal background checks for gun purchases. Bente Birkeland analyzes the dynamic as part of our capitol conversation series.
 

Now that Colorado’s historic recall elections are over, there’s an ongoing clash about who should foot the bill. The recalls of two Democratic lawmakers cost over $400,000. As Bente Birkeland reports, the Secretary of State’s Office says he can’t legally reimburse counties for the elections.
 

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School safety experts briefed lawmakers on the joint education committee yesterday. They asked the state to focus on preventing school violence rather than simply trying to stop it. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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State lawmakers are expected to debate the repeal of a controversial renewable energy bill today. As Bente Birkeland reports, Senate Bill 252 was one of the most hotly debated bills last legislative session.

A newly elected Republican state senator wants to strengthen the shield law for journalists. The measure would mean reporters would not have to reveal confidential sources. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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Education and recovery from natural disasters are some of the top priorities for lawmakers this upcoming session. As Bente Birkeland reports, legislators in both parties have already introduced dozens of bills.
 

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State lawmakers are back to work under the gold dome for the annual legislative session. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to political reporters about the first few days, and the Governor’s state of the state address.
 

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Governor John Hickenlooper says Colorado has weathered a tough year but showed the world what it means to come together and be strong. The Governor gave what could be his final state of the state address on Thursday – before facing reelection in the fall. 

The Governor’s speech began on a somber note as he remembered the tests Colorado faced in 2013. The head of the State’s Department of Corrections was gunned down. Natural disasters plagued the summer and fall – and then there was December’s shooting at Arapahoe High School…

As the 2014 legislative session opened Wednesday, newly elected state Senate President Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) – the second woman to hold the position – urged lawmakers to problem solve and skip the shouting matches in her opening day speech.

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Last legislative session state lawmakers tackled a host of controversial issues from changing how Colorado funds K through 12 schools, to new renewable energy standards for rural utilities. Democrats who control both chambers and the Governor’s office also passed stricter gun laws.

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State lawmakers return to the capitol on Wednesday and they face a tough political climate. Several members are running for higher office. The makeup in the senate has also changed since last session: two Democrats were recalled for supporting stricter gun laws, and another Democrat resigned rather than face a potential recall election. Bente Birkeland discusses how politics will shape the legislature as part of our ongoing Capitol Conversation series.

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State lawmakers are once again heading into a legislative session following a school shooting. Colorado passed controversial gun laws earlier this year in the wake of the Aurora theatre shooting and the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Bente Birkeland takes a look back at the gun legislation and talks to lawmakers who are taking stock of things.

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Democratic state lawmakers say a new law requiring universal background checks for gun purchases is working well. Data from the Department of Public Safety shows 2% of private gun sales were blocked because of the law.

Seventy-two sales were stopped because the would-be buyer was convicted or charged with a serious crime; such as murder, sexual assault, possession of dangerous drugs and theft. 

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