Capitol Coverage

COGA

Tisha Schuller announced earlier this week that she’s leaving her position as head of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the state’s largest trade organization for the energy industry. She sat down with Bente Birkeland to discuss industry challenges and why she's moving on.
 

A bill to expand a teen pregnancy prevention program for low-income youth failed in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on a party line 3-2 vote. Republicans defeated the measure, one that was sponsored by one of their own.

"I guess this is my big thing is let's take an inventory of what we're doing before we throw another layer on there," said Senate Finance Committee chair Tim Neville (R-Littleton).

Two Republican religious freedom bills drew strong opposition from gay rights groups, civil liberties organizations and members of the business community Monday. The first bill, known as House Bill 1171 [.pdf], would have forbade government officials from constraining the exercise of religion had it not been struck down in committee.

The second bill, House Bill 1161 [.pdf], would have protected people from facing penalties for refusing to violate their beliefs and was also defeated.

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State lawmakers are officially at the halfway point of the 2015 legislative session. What needs to be done before the end of the session? Lawmakers will need to pass a balanced budget, and along the way grapple with some hot-button issues such as school testing requirements and police reforms.

"Most of the big work is ahead of us, what happens for the first half is kind of getting ready for it," said Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs).

State lawmakers are midway through the annual legislative session. Bente Birkeland talked with Ivan Moreno with the Associated Press and Charles Ashby with the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel to discuss police reform bills and workforce development measures that will get a lot of attention in the coming weeks.

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The sponsor of a proposal to put guardrails around the use of drones for non- government purposes asked lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee to delay a vote on the bill on Tuesday.

“I would work with members of the committee to make sure it truly protects the privacy of people in the state,” said Representative Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park).

After nearly two hours of testimony that focused on emerging technologies and a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, many lawmakers said still they had questions about the bill.

Governor John Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force recently proposed nine recommendations to try and easy concerns for people living near energy development, but it did not vote to give local communities more control over oil and gas drilling.

Many state lawmakers were waiting on recommendations before introducing energy related bills.

As part of our Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland takes a look ahead with Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press and Peter Marcus with the Durango Herald.

Here are two highlights from the conversation:

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Governor John Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force will deliver its final recommendations Friday. The group is proposing nine changes to try and mitigate the impacts of energy development near communities. The task force also wants local governments to be more involved in developing large drill sites, but stopped short of allowing cities and counties to adopt stricter rules than the state standards. Bente Birkeland sat down with the Governor to discuss his thoughts on the group’s work and some of the backlash from members of his own party.

 After five months of meetings, the work of Governor John Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force is getting mixed reviews from lawmakers at the state capitol. 

Governor John Hickenlooper created the task force last August to avoid a fracking fight at the ballot box, and to keep two anti- oil and gas measures from reaching voters. Now, that group of individuals from the industry to environmentalists has backed nine recommendations, such as adding more well inspectors and trying to reduce truck traffic.

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A bill to try and reduce teen pregnancies and provide state funding for intrauterine devices or IUDs passed its first test at the capitol. House Bill 1194 would provide $5 million for clinics across the state that offer reversible long-term contraceptives to low-income women and teenagers. Colorado has been running the program with a private grant.

In this week's Capitol Conversation, Bente Birkeland takes a look at the policy debates ahead. She talked to Kristen Wyatt with the Associated Press and John Frank with the Denver Post about what they’ll be covering and some issues that do and don’t fall along party lines.

A debate on drones does not fall along party lines and will get a hearing in the Senate Tuesday.

Brett Levin Flickr / Creative Commons

The state of Colorado is facing new lawsuits over recreational marijuana legalization. The Washington DC based Safe Streets Alliance is suing the state in federal court to try and close down the industry.

“It is illegal under federal law to sell marijuana and in this country federal law is the supreme law of the land,” said David Thompson, the lead attorney for the Safe Streets Alliance.

Colorado’s 2015 legislative session has been marked by a host of interesting and controversial issues, rather than one or two topics dominating debates. Bente Birkeland checks in with other statehouse reporters as part of our weekly capitol conversation series.
 

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A measure that would require cities and counties to compensate mineral owners who aren’t able to develop oil and gas because of local regulations cleared its first committee at the statehouse on Thursday. Bente Birkeland has more:
 

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

It has been more than a year since recreational marijuana stores opened in Colorado and retail sales began. Schools are grappling with the best way to discusses marijuana in the classroom amidst changing attitudes. 

While schools aren’t required to separate out marijuana incidents from other illicit drugs such as cocaine, anecdotal evidence compiled by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News suggests more students are using marijuana.

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Even after a full year of being able to purchase recreational marijuana – questions still remain for the state of Colorado. Is its use dangerous, should there be tighter labeling on pot edibles – and is its easy access impacting middle and high school students? Recent data compiled by the Department of Education and Rocky Mountain PBS I-News show incidents of student drug use last year hitting a ten-year high, but state officials don’t have a clear picture if the two are related.

D. Utterback

Democratic lawmakers in Colorado recently introduced a measure to allow terminally ill patients to take medication to end their lives. The patients must be given a prognosis from two different physicians giving them less than six months to live.

Why do supporters say it’s the compassionate choice?

Who strongly opposes it?

Bente Birkeland discusses the proposal with statehouse reporters.

Some key points from the conversation:

Precautions in Place

Ivan Moreno with the Associated Press

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A bill to require background checks for volunteers and employees of youth sports clubs failed to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Opponents said the measure had too many gaps in it. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

In Colorado, roughly 6 million children play in youth sports clubs, ranging from soccer and baseball to swimming and basketball.  Supporters say these sports clubs attract sexual predators because of lax standards.

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A bill to allow terminally ill patients to take their own lives was introduced at the state capitol Tuesday. Supporters say they want to give patients an option to die with dignity.
 

House Bill 1135 [.pdf] would let people who have less than six months to live take a prescription to die. 

D. Utterback

Colorado’s new Republican Senate majority flexed their muscles last week at the state capitol. They used their power on the joint budget committee to defund a 2013 law allowing people in the country illegally to obtain a state driver’s license. They also struck down a bill to harmonize Colorado’s civil unions law with a gay marriage ban that was deemed unconstitutional by the 10th circuit court of appeals. They also struck down a commission looking pay equity between men and women.

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Republicans at the state capitol defeated a bill on Wednesday that sought to clean up and harmonize the state’s civil unions and gay marriage laws. Lawmakers said they wanted to wait and see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue this summer. Bente Birkeland has more.
 

 

D. Utterback

Governor John Hickenlooper gave his annual State of the State Address in front of a joint session of the General Assembly Thursday. 
 

Capitol Conversation Highlights

What stood out in Address

 Ed Sealover- Denver Business Journal

Colorado.gov

Governor John Hickenlooper said he was intentionally vague at times during his annual state of the state address, which he delivered to the legislature on Thursday. He recently sat down to discuss his speech and what it means for the year ahead with statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland.

Interview highlights:
 

Governor Hickenlooper on the Constitutional Conflicts between TABOR, Amendment 23 and Gallagher

Governor John Hickenlooper received a warm reception from lawmakers in both parties during his annual State of the State Address. The Governor talked about policies he wants the legislature to adopt, announced a few new initiatives and urged lawmakers to face facts about the challenges facing Colorado.

During his roughly 45-minute speech Hickenlooper highlighted many of his budget proposals, such as giving more money to higher education and K-12 schools. He also pledged to look at ways to creatively fund roads and bridges, and threw his support behind a felony DUI law. Colorado is one of four states without one.

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Governor John Hickenlooper was sworn into office Tuesday for his second term. The ceremony took place on a chilly morning outside the west steps of the state capitol. Several hundred people gathered to watch Hickenlooper along with other statewide elected officials take the oath of office.
 

D. Utterback

Colorado’s legislative session opened last week. As part of our Capitol Conversation series, statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland discusses the beginning of the session with other political reporters, and touches on some of the bills that were introduced during opening week.

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One hundred lawmakers from across Colorado converged on the state capitol Wednesday for opening day of the annual legislative session. Freshman lawmakers from both parties were officially sworn in and both chambers which have new leaders.

Much of the day’s attention was focused on the Senate, where Republicans gained the majority for the first time in a decade. For all their gains, newly elected senate president Bill Cadman [R- Colorado Springs] gave a rather subdued speech – talking less about policy and more on building trust and civility among lawmakers.

Colorado General Assembly

In a series of interviews with legislative leaders, statehouse correspondent Bente Birkeland discusses the upcoming legislative session and the change of control in the state Senate. Morgan Carroll [D-Aurora] is going from senate president to minority leader.  
 

Morgan Carroll on Republicans gaining control of the state Senate

Colorado General Assembly

Dickey Lee Hullinghorst [D-Boulder] will be the next speaker of the House. She discusses her priorities and her party’s agenda for the session, as a part of a series of interviews with legislative leaders.

Dickey Lee Hullinghorst discusses the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force

Colorado General Assembly

House minority leader Brian DelGrosso [R-Loveland] discusses his thoughts on the upcoming legislative session as part of a series of interviews with legislative leaders. DelGrosso was the minority leader for the last two years, and his party made gains in the house last November to narrow the Democratic majority.

DelGrosso on Spilt Legislative Control

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