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.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Republican Patrick Neville is only serving his second term in office, but he recently rose to the highest position in his caucus--House Minority Leader. Neville's selection comes as a surprise; Rep. Polly Lawrence, who has served in the legislature since 2012, was considered the heir apparent.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Democratic Representative Crisanta Duran will serve as the top lawmaker in the state House of Representatives next session, leading the 65-member chamber as speaker of the house. She will also be the first Latina to serve in that role in state history.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

With increasing populations and out-of-state travelers, there are more drivers on Colorado's roads than ever before. Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, shared some important takeaways on the new reality for Colorado motorists unless more money is found to fix roads and bridges, and build new road projects.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

A state court ruled on Dec. 13 that Colorado's nine presidential electors must vote for the winner of the popular vote in Colorado, Hillary Clinton. The court also said if a presidential elector fails to vote for Clinton, that elector would be removed and replaced.  

Two members of Colorado’s Electoral College filed a lawsuit (PDF) in federal court on Dec. 6 in an effort to unseat President-elect Donald Trump. The suit challenges laws that require Electoral College members in 29 states to vote for candidates that won the popular vote in their states.  

Studies show that youth spend less than ten minutes a day outside in unstructured play.  In an effort to combat this national issue, Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded roughly $13 million in grants to communities across the state, to encourage children to appreciate, enjoy and take care of the great outdoors.

The Inspire Initiative, launched last year with six pilot projects, ties into the state plan of having every resident within a ten-minute walk or bike ride to a park or open space within a generation.

One of the first items on President-elect Donald Trump’s to-do list when he takes office will be to nominate a Supreme Court justice. While campaigning, Trump released a list of possible nominees, which included three judges from Colorado: Chief Judge Timothy Michael Tymkovich and Judge Neil McGill Gorsuch, both serving on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Justice Allison Hartwell Eid of the Colorado Supreme Court. 

Nationally, the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president has many wondering about what comes next. In Colorado, the balance of power remains the same. State lawmakers are moving forward with their November calendar - mapping out their priorities for the upcoming legislative session - while trying to figure out what the new congress and administration will mean for state policies.

While Colorado favored Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump became president in the election. The bitter division over the future of the country didn’t stop Colorado voters from returning establishment candidates to Washington.

Democrat Michael Bennet held onto his U.S. Senate seat, giving an impassioned acceptance speech that promised to end the familiar acrimony of today’s politics.

As Election Day nears, television ads for Colorado’s senate candidates are blanketing the airwaves. Despite that, the campaigns of incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County Commissioner, have been relatively quiet. Both have been criticized for not holding more debates.

Bennet has refused to participate in several debates including one hosted by the Pueblo Chieftain, while Glenn turned down a debate hosted by The Denver Post.

While the presidential race has taken up a lot of attention, local elections in Colorado deserve some time in the spotlight.  In the state legislature, Democrats hold a three-seat majority in the House, and Republicans have a one-seat majority in the Senate.

Matt Larson is in his mid-thirties and already concerned about what will happen at the end of his life. A year ago, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was treated, but there’s a 50 percent chance it could return. If it does, he wonders at what point he would want to die. In November, Colorado voters will decide whether terminally-ill patients can legally end their lives.

Flickr User: Pictures of Money / Creative Commons

Progressives have long fought for a single-payer health care system. The question as to whether Colorado should create one is on this November's ballot.

The supporters of Amendment 69, also known as ColoradoCare, say their system would be better than the current one created through Obamacare. It would be cheaper, they say, and ensure that no person is left without coverage. Opponents say the system is a massive tax hike that is not sustainable.

The one thing both sides agree on is that the current system is not working for everyone.

Colorado’s major party U.S. Senate candidates held their only televised debate of the election on Tuesday night – but it was disrupted by minor party supporters.  About two dozen Green Party supporters stood outside the History Colorado Museum in Denver where the debate was held, pounding on the glass doors for 60 minutes. The noise was clearly a distraction for the audience and for incumbent Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and El Paso County Commissioner Daryl Glenn, his Republican challenger.

The main party candidates in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race square off Tuesday for their only televised debate. The interest in the battle between the incumbent, Democrat Michael Bennet, and his Republican challenger, Darryl Glenn, so far has been low-key. That’s especially the case when compared to two years ago when Mark Udall, a Democrat, was defeated by Republican Cory Gardner in one of the most-watched contests in the country.

Andrea Chalfin / 91.5 KRCC

Colorado is among a handful of states where voters are being asked if the minimum wage should be increased. Proponents say the bump for the lowest-paid workers would help struggling families. Many businesses say it could prompt layoffs.

LOVELAND, Colo. - Ashley Harrison held her baby son in a sling as she stood in line for the Donald Trump rally on a windy but warm fall day in Colorado. She’s a part owner of two 7- Eleven stores in Windsor and Milliken. She thinks Trump would give them tax breaks.

 

“You know all the support small business can get is the best because those are the job creators,” she said before Trump’s rally at Loveland’s Budweiser Events Center “We just really hope that we can get a conservative in office because that brings back our freedoms, and that’s what America is built on and you know: less government is better.”

Brennan Linsley / Associated Press

This election cycle has been anything but typical, and now Colorado voters will have their say in how the next election is handled. Two questions will appear on the November ballot, one would open local primaries to unaffiliated voters.  The other would switch the state to a presidential primary instead of a caucus.

Eighty-four-year-old Joyce Reiche has a two-bedroom home close to downtown Eagle, Colorado, on the Western Slope. Like many, she's trying to plan for the next phase of life.

"The things I used to like to do I can't do any more, like hike, cross-country ski, go up to the mountains, and do things like that," Reiche said. "I mainly stay home, but I'm content at home."

Colorado's population is not only growing, it's also getting older. Many of the state's counties are poised to see huge increases in the number of people over the age of 65 in the next 25 years.

Jim Hill / KUNC file photo

2016 hasn't been a good year for people who want to restrict oil and gas development in Colorado. Now the failure to collect enough valid signatures to put two anti-fracking initiatives on the November ballot means no foreseeable resolution to an issue that has divided the state.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Access to quality healthcare – and a doctor – can be difficult in the more rural parts of Colorado, especially along the eastern plains. That's why the state is embarking on a new training program to recruit and train more family practice physicians.

Hickenlooper file photo

Governor John Hickenlooper has already been front and center this campaign season. He had a prime speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention and has recently been hitting the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Colorado has, for several presidential elections, been cast as a swing state. The political pundits call it purple—a mix of Democratic blue and Republican red. This year, however, the tone has changed. Pundits say the state is trending blue and won't be a battleground.

Try to tell that to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Or, to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Both campaigns have made stops in Colorado a priority coming out of last month's party conventions.

Following Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech at the final night of the DNC, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a stop in Colorado Springs to try and gain momentum in a swing state that has so far provided lukewarm support.

"There is no reason we shouldn't win this state, heavy military and tremendous respect for law and order," Trump said. "We want law and order, we want a great military, we want our vets to be so happy."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders handily won Colorado's caucuses. That fact was not forgotten after Hillary Clinton's speech Thursday night, accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. But four days of unity building in Philadelphia during the 2016 Democratic National Convention seemed to help.

State Rep. Jonathon Singer of Longmont, a Sanders delegate, said Clinton's biggest challenge is that many voters don't trust her. Think emails and the wounds of a long primary. Clinton will get his vote come November though, because he doesn't want Republican candidate Donald Trump to become president.

"It's not worth losing things like immigration reform and reproductive choices," Singer said.

The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia got off to a rocky start. Supporters of Bernie Sanders repeatedly booed speakers and even Sanders himself, when he urged his backers to support Hillary Clinton.

Some of the consternation came from Colorado's delegates, where Sanders won the caucuses.

"I'm a Bernie person all the way," said Cleo Dioletis, a delegate from Denver. "In my mind, I have to support a strong candidate who is ethically correct."

Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

Now that Donald Trump is formally the Republican presidential nominee, the question in Colorado is whether his candidacy can bring the party together before November.

Colorado's 37 delegates made waves on Monday when they walked out of the convention hall in protest of the rules. On Tuesday most of them voted for Texas Senator Ted Cruz as the GOP nominee even though he was no longer in the race.

ElectDarrylGlenn.com

El Paso County Commissioner and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn spoke in primetime during opening night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Colorado's Republican Party has their man to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in November: Republican El Paso County commissioner Darryl Glenn. With nearly 40 percent of the vote, the relatively unknown attorney and Air Force veteran won a five-way primary race. So what does this mean for the state's U.S. Senate race? We asked political reporters at the capitol to weigh in.

Republican El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn will challenge incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet this November. Glenn won a five-way primary race with nearly 40 percent of the vote in order to take on the sitting senator.

Former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham came in second to Glenn, followed by Robert Blaha, Jon Keyser and Ryan Frazier.

Pages