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.

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.
 

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.”

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.

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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Hundreds of people are expected to testify in Denver this week on proposed rules to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Denver hearing is one of several the Environmental Protection Agency is hosting across the country on the plans.
 

Sixty-nine year old Stanley Sturgill is from a small coalmining town in southeastern Kentucky. He flew to Denver for the day just to make his voice heard…

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A federal judge in Colorado struck down the state’s gay marriage ban Wednesday. The judge put a temporary hold on the decision so the state can appeal it to a higher court. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

The judge in this case has issued a stay until late August as part of the ruling to give the state a chance to appeal.  While Attorney General John Suthers and Governor John Hickenlooper both requested a stay so the issue could eventually be decided by the U. S. Supreme Court, both agreed the state ban should be declared unconstitutional.

While campaigning for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie refused to back down from his comments made earlier in 2014, criticizing Colorado’s quality of life after legalizing recreational marijuana.

“We’ve got to stop in public life worrying about making everybody happy and faking it, like we’re going to agree all the time,” said Christie.

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A federal judge in Denver said Colorado’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional and three county clerks have been issuing marriage licenses in the state. Bente Birkeland talks to statehouse reporters about the changes and what it means politically.

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Governor John Hickenlooper has formally pulled the plug on the possibility of a special legislation session to consider stricter rules for the oil and gas industry. Hickenlooper said there weren’t enough stakeholders on board for a bi-partisan solution.

“We continue to believe that the right way to solve complex issues like these is through the legislative process and through transparent rule making.”

People living in many parts of rural Colorado still don’t have access to high speed Internet. It’s a problem for schools and businesses, and in eastern Colorado it is making it harder for farmers to take full advantage of the latest technology even as state lawmakers passed legislation to try and even the playing field.

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After last week’s primary elections in Colorado, Bente Birkeland sat down with other statehouse reporters to talk about the Governor’s race and to analyze the upcoming political season.
 

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In one of his first interviews since winning the GOP nod to challenge Governor John Hickenlooper, Bob Beauprez sat down with Bente Birkeland to discuss some of the key issues in the campaign. The Catholic former congressman explains his support for the death penalty, and why he decided to run for Governor after losing his gubernatorial race in 2006 by double digits.
 

The race to be Colorado’s next Governor is officially underway. Former Congressman Bob Beauprez will challenge Governor John Hickenlooper in November after winning a four -way GOP primary race. Beauprez captured a four-point lead over his closest challenger, Tom Tancredo.  Voters in El Paso County threw their support behind Beauprez, but in Pueblo County and most of southern Colorado, Republican voters supported Scott Gessler.

The race to be Colorado’s next Governor is officially underway. Former Congressman Bob Beauprez will challenge Governor John Hickenlooper in November after winning a four way GOP primary race. Beauprez captured a four-point lead over his closest challenger, Tom Tancredo.

Colorado’s primary election is on Tuesday, and in many ways it marks the beginning of the political season that will culminate in November. Two GOP primary races are being closely watched.
 

The race in Colorado’s 4th Congressional district is surprisingly competitive. When Congressman Cory Gardner unexpectedly decided to run for U.S. Senate it left the race wide open. The district spans most of Eastern Colorado from New Mexico to Wyoming and includes Greeley.

Four candidates are vying for the Republican Party’s nomination in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District after U.S. Representative Cory Gardner’s surprise decision to run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Senator Mark Udall.

CBS 4 and Colorado Public Television recently hosted a debate with the four GOP candidates competing in the conservative and vast district that stretches from Wyoming all the way to New Mexico and the Kansas border.

Governor John Hickenlooper’s office said he’s still in discussions about whether to call lawmakers back to the state capitol for a special session on oil and gas issues. The goal would be to pass a compromise bill and avoid a fight at the ballot box.

Four Republicans are vying to be the lone candidate to run against Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper in the fall. But with the primary election coming up on June 24th, only two of the candidates participated in a taped debate hosted by CBS 4 and Colorado Public Television. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

More and more companies are starting to use the new Colorado logo and slogan - “it’s our nature” - to promote their products, helping the state's efforts to strengthen its brand and global competitiveness. The branding effort though has been somewhat controversial and it will take some time to determine its success.

Governor John Hickenlooper signed two measures into law Wednesday, both aimed at tightening rules around marijuana edibles and concentrates. One goal is to make sure young children don’t accidentally ingest the drug.

Colorado’s legislative session wrapped up on a muted tone Wednesday with most major bills already tied up before the closing gavel fell. This session was relatively calm compared to the previous, when Democrats pushed through historic and controversial proposals.

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Colorado’s legislative session wrapped up with a quiet final day, as lawmakers put the finishing touches on several bills and gave tributes to outgoing members. And as Bente Birkeland reports, one of the least controversial measures passed after last minute negotiations.

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A bill to require stricter labels for edible marijuana products faced a setback on Thursday. Members of the Senate Health and Human Services committee voted to study the issue rather than move forward with new labels. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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One of the key wildfire prevention measures of this year’s legislative session is in jeopardy of failing. The proposal has cleared the house, but as Bente Birkeland reports it faces new opposition in the senate.
 

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Colorado voters are likely to decide whether law enforcement agencies need a warrant to search electronic records, such as data stored on cell phones. Lawmakers are trying to refer a measure to the November ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court heard hearing two cases on the issue yesterday. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

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Colorado's annual legislative session is close to wrapping up for the year. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks with statehouse reporters about upcoming measures that will soon be decided.
 

The state senate significantly watered down a vaccine education proposal on Wednesday. Many parents came to the state capitol to testify that the original bill was a government overreach.
 

House Bill 1288 requires schools and day care centers to collect data on the number of children immunized and the rate of exemptions. But the bill originally required parents to take an online education class or get a letter from a doctor or public health official before opting their children out of vaccines.

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Democrats at the state capitol scuttled an abortion rights bill just before the senate was about to debate it on the floor. It was broadly written and would have banned Colorado from "enacting any policy that denies or interferes with and individual’s reproductive healthcare decisions.” As part of our Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland analyzes the political motivations behind the measure and why Democrats reversed course so quickly.
 

Republicans gathered in Boulder for their state assembly on Saturday and narrowed down the list of candidates for Governor. As Bente Birkeland reports, the party also nominated people for other statewide races and for the U.S. Senate.
 

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Lawmakers at the state capitol have some big-ticket items to iron out before the session wraps up in May.

As part of our Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to statehouse reporters about some of those measures.

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