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 Birkeland is the reporter.

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.

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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A bill aimed at creating new penalties for cyber bullying failed in the senate judiciary committee on Wednesday. The sponsor reluctantly asked lawmakers to postpone the bill, saying it needs more study. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

Lawmakers have scaled back several provisions in a major education bill after hearing the concerns from school districts across the state. The Student Success Act initially passed the House on Wednesday with the new changes. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

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The state’s 23 billion dollar budget has cleared both legislative chambers. Now it’s up to lawmakers on the joint budget committee to iron out any differences. In this week’s capitol conversation Bente Birkeland sits down with statehouse reporters to discuss the major highlights in this year’s budget.
 

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The state senate has passed the annual budget – and it cleared the chamber with more Republican support than in previous years. As Bente Birkeland reports, a conference committee will now meet to iron out differences between the versions the two chambers passed.
 

Colorado’s $23 million budget is nearing the end of its legislative journey after floor debate in the senate Thursday. As Bente Birkeland reports, the senate made one noteworthy change to the house’s version.
 

Lawmakers on Colorado’s powerful joint budget committee are skeptical about finding money for an aerial firefighting fleet for the upcoming wildfire season. A report from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control recommends spending $33 million on spotter planes, small air tankers, helicopters, and leasing large air tankers for wildfire season.

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Even in 2014, many parts of the Colorado are still not connected to the Internet – and if they are it’s not at high speeds. A package of bills to reform and update the state’s telecommunications industry cleared its first committee at the state capitol on Tuesday.
 

Similar proposals have failed in the past, but this year there’s more momentum and strong backing from the Governor’s office. Supporters say the flagship measure would redirect some of the money currently used to pay for high cost land lines into building broadband in underserved areas.

Kids Count in Colorado! / Colorado Children's Campaign

Child advocates say more children continue to live in poverty in Colorado compared to when the state was in the depths of the recession. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
 

 (You can find the full report from the Colorado Children's Campaign here.)

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Lawmakers in the statehouse are gearing up to debate the budget in the coming days. As part of our weekly capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about what to expect and what makes this year's dynamic different.
 

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Colorado’s Amtrak rail line in southeastern Colorado is in need of major repairs. Upgrades to the track are expected to be in the millions, and a measure is moving through the statehouse to try and find ways to finance the project and save the rail line.  It’s part of a multi-state effort.
 

The Southwest Chief line runs through the towns of Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad. It’s part of a longer passenger route stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles.

A bill to increase the smoking age in Colorado to 21 failed in the house finance committee Wednesday. One Democrat joined with Republicans to defeat the measure.

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Colorado lawmakers learned today that the state’s economy is stronger than expected and they’ll have more money to spend in next year’s budget.
 

For the past few weeks, the grumblings around the state capitol were that the revenue forecast would be lower than anticipated. Instead, it’s $61 million higher.

“Right now you have a lot of flexibility in the budget because revenues are growing,” said Natalie Mullis, the state’s non-partisan chief economist.

She says the recovery has been slow, but it’s picking up.

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A number of controversial healthcare bills are up for debate at the statehouse this legislative session.  For this week’s Capitol Conversation, statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about some of them, and also talks about one of the biggest budget fights going forward.
 

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A bill to ban talking on cell phones while driving failed in the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday. Two Democrats joined Republicans in defeating the measure.
 

The hearing was emotional at times and lawmakers were brought to tears after Shelly Forney from Fort Collins testified about her 9 year old daughter Erica’s death. Erica was biking near her home when a woman talking on her cell phone hit her with her car.

The annual legislative session is typically marked with plenty of partisanship – but this year lawmakers in both parties are working together on flood relief bills. As dozens of natural disaster bills are making their way in the statehouse, some of the more significant policies are stalled.

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