Capitol Coverage

Credit KIRK SIEGLER / KUNC

Capitol Coverage on 91.5 KRCC is a collaborative public policy reporting project supported by fifteen Colorado public radio stations providing news and analysis to communities statewide. 

91.5 KRCC and KUNC in Greeley provide editorial oversight and management; Bente Birkland is the reporter.

KIRK SIEGLER / KUNC

The first few days of Colorado's 2017 legislative session provided glimpses into the next few months as legislative leaders and the governor outlined their plans and priorities.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered one of his last State of the State addresses to the Colorado legislature on Jan. 12. He didn't delve into specifics, but instead talked broadly about policy, including infrastructure investment and potential health care reform.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Opening day at Colorado's Capitol may be largely procedural, but legislative leaders take the opportunity to set the tone for the year. Thirty-two of the state's 100 lawmakers are newly elected, but the makeup of the chambers is largely the same as it was last year. Republicans still control the Senate and Democrats have a majority in the House.

Hickenlooper file photo

Governor John Hickenlooper is entering his second to last legislative session as governor. He said he's very aware of his time in office being limited, and that colored his discussion of his goals for the upcoming legislative session.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Democratic Sen. Lucia Guzman, representing Denver in District 34, is the only legislative leader returning to her role, but it's something she didn't expect. Guzman said Democrats fully anticipated winning the majority in the Senate, but after the November election they are still one seat shy. The GOP holds a 18-17 seat advantage.

Courtesy of Kevin Grantham

Republican Sen. Kevin Grantham will lead the state Senate in 2017, where his party held onto its one-seat majority. Grantham is from Cañon City and represents District 2.  He says he's the first rural senate president in over four decades.

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.

Several hundred people descended on Colorado’s state capitol on Monday to protest the Electoral College process and watch the state’s nine electors’ vote. One elector was replaced after he failed to vote for Hillary Clinton. He could face up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

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.

Three Things To Know About The 2017 Legislative Session

Nov 15, 2016

Colorado’s lawmakers have selected their leaders for the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January. While the presidential race was marked by deep political divisions, Republicans and Democrats in Colorado are optimistic about working together.

Bente Birkeland sat down to talk shop with two other capitol reporters - Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal and Peter Marcus of The Durango Herald.

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.

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.

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