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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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. 

Colorado’s energy industry trade group is now involved on three fronts with lawsuits over voter approved fracking bans or moratoriums. The latest move involved the announcement of suits against Lafayette and Fort Collins. 

A lawsuit is already pending against the city of Longmont for a ban approved in 2012. Some in the state say a lawsuit is the wrong way to go.

A new study from the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business shows that it may be difficult to quantify how droughts, fires and floods are impacting the state’s economy over the long term. But it’s safe to say natural disasters are already influencing public policy and are requiring communities to shift their thinking. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

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Colorado’s budget is not structurally sound, according to a new study released yesterday. Economists from Colorado State University say over the long term, the state will spend more money than it receives. As Bente Birkeland reports, the study points to a number of causes.

Colorado’s Energy industry is continuing to make the case that hydraulic fracturing is safe and a critical part of the state’s economy. They’re stepping up efforts following the recent passage of fracking bans and moratoriums in three Front Range communities. The outcome of a ban in Broomfield has yet to be determined.

“Merely the fact that they qualified shows that there’s not enough education out there on these issues,” said Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development – or CRED.

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Theater projectors are going where most of the dazzling special effects in summer blockbusters have gone: All digital. In 2014, Hollywood will no longer release movies on traditional film stock. Theaters must convert or be forced to close – including those in rural Colorado.
 

That’s easier said than done in smaller towns versus a big city cineplex. Colorado is putting up $200,000 to try and save 13 rural movie theaters.

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Less than a year away from the 2014 election, a new poll from Quinnipiac University shows Governor John Hickenlooper edging out his Republican challengers, but as Bente Birkeland reports, reaction is also mixed to some of his policies.

Calling them ‘groundbreaking,’ Governor John Hickenlooper proposed new statewide air quality rules for oil and gas drilling Monday. The rules aim to reduce air pollution from methane emissions.

Colorado Republicans say they’re putting in a bid for the state to host the next Republican National Convention in 2016. As Bente Birkeland reports, planning is still in the early stages and already several western cities are also competing for the chance to host.

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State lawmakers will review proposed bills to deal with water issues, wildfires and poverty today. The measures are the product of months of hearings at the state capitol. Bente Birkeland has more.

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Colorado voters support taxing recreational marijuana, but gave a crushing defeat to a proposed billion-dollar tax increase for public schools. In this special election edition of Capitol Conversation, Bente Birkeland analyzes the long- term impacts of the election results with political reporters.

Colorado voters gave a mixed reaction at the ballot box on a pair of statewide tax increases during yesterday’s election. As Bente Birkeland reports, voters didn’t want to tax themselves to pay for education, but were overwhelmingly willing to tax recreational marijuana to help rebuild schools.

Supporters of Amendment 66 waged a vigorous get out the vote campaign flush with outside money from the likes of Bill Gates and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It wasn’t enough to convince voters to say “yes.”

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A new state committee tasked with studying wildfire issues has wrapped up its work. The bi-partisan group of lawmakers is recommending a tax credit to encourage people to mitigate fire risks and a proposal to give individual counties more authority to cut down hazardous trees. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

A bipartisan committee of 12 Colorado lawmakers will soon meet to examine the state’s response to September’s devastating Front Range floods.

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