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Also, great stories from our producers, partners and people in our region. 

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Colorado lawmakers recently headed back to the state capitol for the annual legislative session. It's the final session for term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper. Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland talked to Brian Eason of The Denver Post and Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal to get their outlook on the coming months.

Five women are accusing Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton of retaliating against them because they went public with allegations of sexual harassment or intimidating behavior by him. They take issue with a 28-page defense that Lebsock delivered to the mailboxes of his fellow House members just before the legislative session began.

The document has ignited anger among some and is the latest chapter in a series of counter-claims by the Democrat who in the  coming weeks faces the possibility of a vote to oust him from the legislature. 

National Resources Conservation Service / www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov

Southern Colorado progressed from abnormally dry to moderate drought this week, according to the latest data from the US Drought Monitor. This comes as the region -- like the rest of the state -- is also seeing unusually low snowpack.

As Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his final State of the State address, he received a warm reception from members in both parties. He highlighted some of his successes over his past seven years in office and outlined a broad agenda of what he’d like to see lawmakers accomplish in his last year before he leaves office because of term limits.

Colorado lawmakers returned to the Capitol to begin work on a number of issues such as how to improve the state’s roadways. But amid the usual pomp and circumstance and speeches that usher in the four-month 2018 session, the cloud of sexual harassment allegations loomed large.

When you’ve held on to something valuable for a long time, it can be hard to choose to give it up. When that something is water, it’s even harder — especially in the desert southwest.

But that’s the reality facing water managers in the lower stretches of the Colorado River, a lifeline for farms and cities in the country’s driest regions.

Longtime NPR host Robert Siegel is retiring after 30 years as a co-host of All Things Considered.

During his wide-ranging career, Siegel has covered some of the most historic events in modern U.S. history, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. One of his many reporting projects brought him to Greeley, Colorado in 2003, where he delved into the fascinating story of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian writer who lived in the city in 1949. Qutb’s writings would later form the theoretical basis for many of the radical Islamic groups of today, including al Qaeda.

COURTESY OF SENATE PRESIDENT KEVIN GRANTHAM

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham is term limited and sat down with statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland to discuss his focus for his final legislative session.

A Look Back At Our Top 5 Most Popular Stories Of 2017

Jan 4, 2018
Clockwise from top left: Courtesy Jodene Parlapiano; Steve Wilson; Partnership for Community Design; CS Pioneers Museum; Andrea Chalfin

Before we shut the book on 2017 once and for all, we'd like to take one last opportunity to reflect on the year that was. What better way than to revisit the stories from this past year that made the biggest impression on you, our loyal readers and listeners. 

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Lawmakers head to the gold dome on Jan. 10 to begin Colorado's annual legislative session. Here are highlights from statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland's interview with House Minority Leader Patrick Neville about his priorities.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran is heading into her final legislative session as a lawmaker. She talked to statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland about her goals when the session starts up on Jan. 10.

Here are some highlights from statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland's interview with her.

Courtesy Gov. John Hickenlooper's Office

Colorado lawmakers return to the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 10, to begin the annual legislative session. For term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper, he'll soon be delivering his final state of the state address.

Here are highlights from statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland's interview with him.

Pull out a map of the United States’ desert southwest and see if you can locate these rivers: Rio del Tizon, Rio San Rafael, or Rio Zanguananos. How about rivers named Tomichi, Nah-Un-Kah-Rea or Akanaquint?

Having some trouble? None of these names are used widely today, but at some point in the last 500 years they were used to label portions of what we know now as the Colorado River and its main tributaries, the sprawling river basin that supports 40 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, across one of the world’s driest regions.

Until 1921, the Colorado River didn’t start in the state that bears the same name. It began in Utah, where the Green River from Wyoming and the Grand River from Colorado met. The story of how the Colorado River finally wended its way into the state of Colorado less than a century ago is a lesson in just how fickle our attitudes toward nature can be.

Garden of the Gods Collection

Garden of the Gods Collection supplies The Rocky Mountain Food Report with some naughty and nice recipes that can please even the most contrary of personalities that gather at your holiday shindig.

Shanna Lewis / 91.5 KRCC

Repairs are again underway on the aging Arkansas River levee that protects downtown Pueblo from flooding.  Work can only take place during the winter season, when water levels in the river are down.

Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Peak Curiosity is a community-driven reporting series from 91.5 KRCC. We ask listeners to submit their questions about the Pikes Peak region and Southern Colorado, and then we answer them. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to submit your question!

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

After days of sustained outrage, the city of Colorado Springs has taken down a large blue frame erected last week in Garden of the Gods.

The Capitol is set to hire an independent human resources person in the wake of numerous harassment allegations. It’s not yet clear what role the new HR person would play, but it may take any formal complaints or investigations out of the hands of legislative leadership.

Andrea Chalfin / 91.5 KRCC

UPDATE: As of mid-day Monday, 12/18/17, the city had removed the frame.

ORIGINAL STORY--FRIDAY 12/15/17: A newly-installed structure at Garden of the Gods has local outdoor enthusiasts crying foul. In a widely shared post on Facebook, the outdoor adventure non-profit UpaDowna brought the frame to the attention of its followers, many of whom have described the structure as “ugly” and a blight on the natural beauty of the park. 

Steve Lebsock, the state representative accused of sexual misconduct, has again gone on the offensive, this time to say that he's taken a lie detector test that clears him of any wrongdoing. A fellow Democrat, Rep. Faith Winter, is among two women to file formal complaints alleging sexual harassment against Lebsock, who is also campaigning to be Colorado's next treasurer. Lebsock has repeatedly said he deserves the chance to face his accuser and took the test because he said the complaint process is progressing too slowly.

“After waiting 26 days waiting to hear from the fact finder, I decided to get my story out,” said Lebsock at a press conference he arranged near his office across the street from the Capitol Thursday. “All of the allegations are false and I am willing to do a polygraph on all the false allegations.”

Three lawmakers face formal complaints at the state Capitol alleging sexual harassment. We went to the districts these lawmakers represent to see what their constituents think about the situation. The overall message: sexual harassment shouldn’t be tolerated and there should be consequences should the allegations be proven true.

Kathy Ochsner is a 73-year-old retired secretary who lives in Centennial, south of Denver.

“I think we need to send the message that this is not OK,” she said. “This is not part of the workplace.”

There’s the allegation of a lawmaker who suggested sexual acts and tried to force a colleague to go home with him. Another allegedly grabbed and slapped an aide’s buttocks as she walked in the Capitol. Another claim: A senator would regularly leer, comment on an intern’s clothes and linger, touching her shoulder.

So far, our reporting has prompted four women to file formal sexual harassment complaints against three lawmakers at the state legislature. Just two of those women – Rep. Faith Winter and former lobbyist Holly Tarry – have gone public, willing to be named in their claims against Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer. Lebsock has denied any wrongdoing. He has refused calls to resign by top leaders in his own party. 

[Update 12/14/17 1:15 p.m.] No charges will be filed against Rep. Lori Saine. The news was announced Dec. 14 by the Boulder district attorney’s office. The case was passed to Boulder because Denver’s district attorney Beth McCann worked closely with Saine when they were both state lawmakers. The Boulder district attorney’s office says Saine “totally forgot the firearm was in her purse and no criminal case against Ms. Saine can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

For the second time in five years, the El Paso County Board of Health has put the brakes on a plan to create a syringe exchange program. The decision came at the end of an impassioned, three-hour-long meeting Monday morning, where concerned citizens, healthcare providers, and others voiced both support for and opposition to the plan.

A state lawmaker has drafted legislation to remove Rep. Steve Lebsock from office as Lebosck has refused calls for his resignation. It sets the stage for a battle, as allegations of sexual harassment continue at the Colorado Capitol. Lebsock is a Democrat running for state treasurer.

Rep. Matt Gray, also a Democrat, said he will introduce a resolution when lawmakers return to the legislature in January. Gray said he believes the accounts of the women who first accused Lebsock in our stories last month. 

Another woman has decided to file a formal complaint alleging sexual harassment by a lawmaker at Colorado’s Capitol. The former legislative intern alleges that Sen. Jack Tate regularly leered at her and nudged her, making inappropriate comments during the 2017 legislative session.

That raises the number of formal complaints against lawmakers to four. Earlier this month, we reported that Rep. Faith Winter and former lobbyist Holly Tarry filed complaints against Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat, alleging unwanted sexual advances and vulgar and inappropriate discussions.

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