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Capitol Conversation
5:05 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Capitol Conversation: Health Bills & the Budget

Bente Birkeland

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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Capitol Coverage
10:12 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Cell Phone Driving Ban Defeated

Credit clipart

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.

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Southwest Chief
7:33 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Railroad West: Southwest Chief Faces Possible Colorado Derailment

The Southwest Chief roughly 20 minutes east of Trinidad, Colorado. The Sangre de Cristo Range looms in the distance in this photo from July 2011.
Credit Steve Wilson / Flickr – Creative Commons

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is a long distance passenger train that travels daily from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Some riders travel the full route, others use it as their primary transportation between shorter distances.  The train follows the historic Santa Fe Trail, one of the oldest commerce routes in the American West.  Along the way, it passes through Southern Colorado—Lamar, LaJunta, and Trinidad—and then into Raton in Northern New Mexico.  But the rails are aging, and the Southwest Chief could be diverted, bypassing Colorado and Northern New Mexico entirely.
 

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Capitol Coverage
7:16 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Disaster Relief On The Docket At The State Capitol

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 6:50 pm

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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Southwest Chief
2:59 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Railroad West: Amtrak along the Santa Fe Trail

Credit Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Amtrak's Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through towns in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.  The future of the route is in question, as the current rail lines require upgrades in order to maintain passenger rail speeds.  A partnership is on the table to share expenses for the upgrades; as proposed, Colorado’s portion would be about $40 million over the course of ten years. A bill making its way through Colorado’s legislature would set up a commission to study the issue, as well as the possibility of adding a depot in Pueblo.

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Local News
7:05 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Douglas Creek & Flash Floods: Info Meeting Tonight

Colorado Springs officials will talk flash floods along Douglas Creek at a public meeting tonight. KRCC's Eliza Densmore reports.
 

The meeting is expected to provide education and updated information about increased flash flood risk due to the Waldo Canyon burn scar, including the city’s planned response to a flash flood.

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Business
9:54 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Vestas to Add Workers

Credit clipart

Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas says it’s expecting to add at least 850 factory workers statewide this year.  400 have already been hired.  The announcement comes after one of the best years for orders placed with the company, and after leaner previous years led to a series of layoffs at its Colorado plants.  In a statement, Vestas says 80 of those workers will be at its Pueblo facility, where they’re expected to reach full capacity this year.  The company also says it expects by the end of the year to employ more than 2000 total workers in its four factories in the state.

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Sports
7:33 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Born Missing a Femur, Athlete Aims to Medal in Sochi

Alpine ski racer Melanie Schwartz is racing for the United States in Sochi. The Canadian native has duel citizenship and raced for Canada at the Vancouver Games. She trains in Aspen.
Credit Marci Krivonen / Aspen Public Radio

Alpine skier Melanie Schwartz is racing for Team USA at the Paralympics this week. The part-time Aspen resident was born without a femur, but started skiing at a young age. This will be her second Paralympics, but her first competing for the United States. In 2010 she raced for Canada. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen has this profile.

At the U.S. Adaptive Alpine National Championships, skiers fly down a steep slalom course at Buttermilk Mountain, just outside of Aspen. The competition, in mid-February, is one of the last contests before the Paralympic games.

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Capitol Coverage
8:12 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Taking A Tally At The Colorado Legislative Midpoint

Credit clipart

Colorado’s 2014 legislative session is already halfway over. So far lawmakers have tackled a whole host of issues – everything from gun law repeals to wildfire and flood related measures.

By all accounts this year’s session has been much less contentious compared to the previous year. In 2013, Democrats used their majority to pass stricter gun laws, a new voting bill, and tougher renewable energy standards for electric coops.

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Local News
5:11 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Cuts Planned at USAFA

The Air Force Academy is planning a series of cuts as part of the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal. KRCC's Eliza Densmore reports.

The cuts would eliminate three percent of the Academy’s workforce and 10 academic majors at the school. Degrees in biochemistry, environmental engineering, and philosophy are among the proposed cuts.

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Health
4:14 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Colorado Loses "Least Obese" Title

January-December 2013; Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
Credit Gallup

Colorado is no longer the least obese state in the country, according to a new Gallup poll released yesterday. KUNC’s Luke Runyon reports.
 

Since 2010 Colorado has consistently topped lists as having the slimmest population in the country. Not anymore. Montana has usurped the title, where 19.6% of the population is obese, compared to Colorado’s 20.4, putting the Centennial State in second place. Mississippi has the highest level, at 35 percent.

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Education
6:49 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Funding K-12: Bi-Partisan Bill Gets First Hearing

Credit Clipart

Dozens of school superintendents told lawmakers on the house education committee Monday that Colorado needs to do more to restore K through 12 budget cuts. After a 2013 ballot initiative failed to pass and solve the state’s funding challenges, the problem now falls into the laps of lawmakers. A bi-partisan bill to begin pumping more money into schools got its first hearing at the capitol.
 

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Capitol Conversation
7:33 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Capitol Conversation: Senate Race Shakeup

Bente Birkeland

News last week that Republican Congressman Cory Gardner is entering the U.S. Senate race to try and unseat Democrat Mark Udall sent shock waves through Colorado’s political landscape.  The move has caused some Republicans to drop out of the race.  As part of our weekly Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about the change.
 

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Local News
10:39 am
Fri February 28, 2014

Parks & Wildlife Suspends Big Game Access Program

Recent budgetary shortfalls have forced Colorado Parks and Wildlife to end the Big Game Access Program. KRCC’s Rachel Gonchar reports.
 

The Big Game Access Program, or BGAP, was intended to evaluate the potential of landowners leasing properties in southeastern Colorado to allow for big game hunting.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Abbie Walls says she’s unsure of what the budget shortfall means to the future of BGAP.

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Elections
3:36 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

GOP Candidates Swap Races

U.S. Representative Cory Gardner (R)

Wednesday’s surprising race swap between Representative Cory Gardner and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck may demonstrate a game changer for Colorado’s Republican Party. Colorado State University political science professor Kyle Saunders says the solidly Republican 4th Congressional District is a more natural fit for Ken Buck. He thinks Gardner has a better opportunity to win the Senate race against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.

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Capitol Coverage
9:39 am
Wed February 26, 2014

'The $100 Million Question': What To Do With All That Marijuana Tax Money?

Marijuana at a newly legal grow operation in Colorado. Lawmakers are expecting a windfall of tax revenue from legalized recreational marijuana.
Brett Levin Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 10:29 am

The market for legal recreational marijuana in Colorado is booming, and the state is expecting millions of dollars more in tax revenues that initially projected. That has lawmakers grappling with the best way to spend all of that additional cash.

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Capitol Conversation
7:33 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Capitol Conversation: Education

Bente Birkeland

Lawmakers are rolling out a new bi-partisan funding plan for K through 12 schools, but many in the education community are not board with it. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to statehouse reporters about the education agenda this session, and some unusual alliances it's creating.
 

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Capitol Coverage
4:07 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Superintendents Seek Greater Role in Education Policy

Credit clipart

School superintendents in Colorado are concerned about the state’s legislative agenda this session. Nearly every school district in the state wrote a letter asking lawmakers to focus exclusively on restoring budget cuts to schools and drop bills they’re calling unnecessary. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

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Local News
9:20 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Report: Black Forest Fire Chief Acted Properly

The Black Forest Fire/Rescue District has released some of the findings from an independent investigation into Fire Chief Bob Harvey’s response during last year’s devastating blaze.  KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports.
 

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Capitol Coverage
7:21 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

GOP Gubernatorial Challengers Debate

Four of the six Republican candidates seeking to replace Governor John Hickenlooper in the fall faced off in their first formal debate last night at the Denver Post. As Bente Birkeland reports, they touched on a host of topics – including the two missing candidates.
 

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Local News
3:58 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Ute Pass Construction Work Begins

Ute Pass Final Flash Flood Risk Analysis Map (July 24, 2013)

Construction on U.S. 24 through Ute Pass started today resulting in lane closures until April. KRCC's Rachel Gonchar reports:

Flood mitigation construction along the eastbound route has all traffic shifted to westbound lanes. The Colorado Department of Transportation says it will stay that way for around two weeks until it’s completed. The traffic will then shift to the eastbound lanes so the work can continue on the other side.

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Local News
3:29 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Update: Buena Vista Routes Re-Open

UPDATE: According to Chaffee County Sheriff spokeswoman Laura Smith, an x-ray of the explosive device determined it was a "practice round" and nothing suspicious.  The Buena Vista Police Department re-took custody of the scene, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will take the device back to the crime lab for processing.  Streets have reopened and the investigation is ongoing.

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11:43 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Explosive Device in Buena Vista Causes Evacuations, Closures

Lead in text: 
An explosive device in the back of a pickup truck closed streets and around the Buena Vista stoplight. "The library and nearby buildings were evacuated, streets were closed and a code red alert was broadcast to the community. Schools were also locked down as a 'precautionary measure,' [BV Police Chief] Tidwell said." The article goes on to say that El Paso County bomb squad is on its way to Buena Vista.
"We had a lady that came to the PD this morning after 7 and reported that there was an explosive device in the back of her pickup," Tidwell said. The woman apparently parked her vehicle to clean the library, and discovered the what she believed to be an explosive device when she returned to her car.
Connecting the Drops
7:47 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Water Use and Electric Generation

Water use by Power Plant
Credit Headwaters, Fall 2013 / Colorado Foundation for Water Education

It takes water to produce electricity, but how much water varies a lot depending on the fuel source and the power generating technology. In Colorado, around half a percent of our total water usage is used to generate electricity.
 

It’s a small percentage, says Stacy Tellinghusen, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, a non-profit conservation group, but adds that it’s not inconsequential. 

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Capitol Coverage
10:14 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Debating US Hwy 36 and a Public-Private Partnership

Colorado is embarking into uncharted territory as the Department of Transportation creates its first public private partnership along U.S. Highway 36. CDOT officials say they don’t have the money to repair and maintain all the state’s roads and bridges and this agreement is necessary. But as Bente Birkeland reports, several lawmakers have serious concerns and want to slow down the project.
 

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Local News
4:13 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Two Incidents, Two Avalanche Related Deaths

Two are dead in separate avalanches in Colorado this week.  KRCC’s Elaina Formby reports.
 

One avalanche caught two snowmobilers, killing one near Kebler Pass, west of Crested Butte.  Another avalanche by the North Fork Swan River, south of Keystone Ski Resort, caught two skiers. One escaped, the other, a man in his 40s from the Front Range, was found dead at 11:30 this morning.

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Local News
4:59 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Poll: Legal Pot Hurts Colorado's Reputation

A new poll released by Quinnipiac University suggests Colorado voters believe marijuana legalization is hurting the state’s reputation.  But as KRCC’s Nat Stein reports, voters still continue to support the laws.

51% of polled voters in the state say legal pot is bad for Colorado’s image. Only 38% say the new laws are helping.

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Local News
4:52 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Regulators Discuss Status of Legal Pot

Credit clipart

The top pot regulators in Colorado are meeting today to discuss the status of the recently legal recreational marijuana business. KRCC’s Rachel Gonchar reports.

A month after the sale of marijuana in Colorado officially became legal, state lawyers and law professors are gathering with top rule makers to talk about how the industry and regulation is going.

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Capitol Conversation
7:48 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Capitol Conversation: Branding Colorado

Capitol Coverage reporter Bente Birkeland

Last summer Colorado officials rolled out a new state brand and logo. It’s popular among some groups but received mixed support at the state capitol. A Republican bill to send the branding question to a vote of the people failed at the statehouse. As part of capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about the back story and where the branding issue goes from here.
 

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Local News
2:07 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Study: Economic Impact of Amtrak in Southern Colorado

The existing Amtrak Southwest Chief Service through Colorado, and how it would reroute with a new station in Pueblo
Credit Summary of the Southwest Chief Impact Study, Kevin Duncan & Michael Wakefield / CSU-Pueblo

Revised, 04/24/14:  New out-of-state visitor numbers supplied to study co-author Kevin Duncan after this report aired lowers the estimated annual impact to around $3.4 million annually.  Duncan writes that it's "about $34 million over ten years. The additional cost of providing service to Pueblo is estimated to be between $26 and $30 million."

Original report:

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