Legislature

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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).

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 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.
 

 

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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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Colorado's statehouse will have divided control in January. Republicans gained a one-seat majority in the state senate, while Democrats held onto their house majority. Bente Birkeland talks to statehouse reporters about what that means for some key issues lawmakers hope to tackle.
 

D. Utterback

Now that Governor John Hickenlooper and Democratic Congressman Jared Polis have reached a deal to avoid an expensive fight at the ballot box over oil and gas drilling, Bente Birkeland takes a look at the next steps. She talks to statehouse reporters about what the deal means politically and the likelihood of a legislative compromise succeeding.
 

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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.”

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.

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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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.
 

D. Utterback

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.
 

D. Utterback

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.

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.

D. Utterback

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.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

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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