KRCC Local News

News from the KRCC Newsroom.

Rains this week have stalled roadwork on Kiowa and Bijou streets in downtown Colorado Springs. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.
 

The roads were milled and ready for paving when the recent heavy rainfalls hit, causing them to deteriorate. Colorado Springs Street Division Manager Corey Farkas says while they can’t plan for the weather, it hasn’t affected the project timeline.

Colorado’s state legislature wrapped up its work on Wednesday. Lawmakers covered a host of topics during their four months under gold dome. It was also the first session since Republicans re-gained controlled of the state senate. Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about the session as part of our capitol conversation series.
 

UPDATE: Vollmer has reopened. Tapadero and Green Mountain Rds. remain closed. 

El Paso County officials have closed several roads:

  Trinidad is reeling from a mass layoff. KRCC's Dana Cronin reports.

Around 100 people are losing their jobs at the Pioneer Natural Resources branch in Trinidad. The Texas-based oil and gas company was the largest employer in the city, says Gabriel Engeland, Trinidad's City Manager, who adds that the layoffs are devastating both economically and socially.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

State lawmakers waited until the last minute to decide some of the biggest issues hanging over the capitol for the 2015 legislative session. They worked overtime to get everything wrapped up before a midnight deadline Wednesday night.
 

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A bill to raise the salaries of state lawmakers and other elected officials quietly made its way through the state house in the final days of the legislative session. It passed on the last day of the session clearing the House with the minimum number of required votes. It had virtually no debate in either chamber.

“People in my district, whenever I tell them how much we make as lawmakers up here, are astounded. They are kind of appalled,” said Senator Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City). He voted for the measure in the Senate where it passed with a wider margin.

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Colorado will soon have a felony DUI law on the books.  On the final day of the legislative session, the Senate passed House Bill 1043 [.pdf] to create a felony DUI for habitual drunk driving offenders. It passed the Senate 34-1.

The debate over continuing the Office of Consumer Counsel won't be decided until the final day of the state's annual legislative session. The Office represents taxpayers when utility and telecom companies go to the state to ask for rate hikes. Without Senate Bill 271 [.pdf], the Office of Consumer Counsel would sunset and go away altogether.

Determining the scope of the office's role though has been contentious.

Anthony Artusa / NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC

Up to two inches of rain have fallen in parts of southern Colorado today, providing additional relief to some dry conditions in the plains.  KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

As of the end of April, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed portions of southern Colorado were still classified as severe drought.

Eric Petersen, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo and says the rain is helping ease those dry conditions.

Private landowners can now sign up for classes focusing on how to conduct safer pile burns. KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

Those who complete the course become certified burners and will also be protected on a limited basis from civil liability.

"It’s not just a simple go out and light the match. There’s a lot of steps that go into prescribed fire,” said Mike Frary, Unit Chief for Prescribed Fire for the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

The state's annual legislative session adjourns on Wednesday May 6th.  The last few days are hectic as state lawmakers try to push through final bills.  Other bills fail on the calendar or die in committee. 

Peter Marcus of the Durango Herald and Ivan Moreno with the Associated Press sit down with statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland to discuss what's left to do and what measures are dead.

 Peter Marcus of the Durango Herald on reproductive rights legislation:

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A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for school shootings, death, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. It passed on a vote of 10-3.

Currently public schools are not liable. Legislative leaders in both parties are sponsoring the change, spurred in part by the death of Claire Davis in 2013. Davis attended Arapahoe High School in Littleton when a fellow student shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.

Work on the first phase of rebuilding the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is complete, and the conservancy district that oversees the levee is starting to at potential recreational opportunities as they plan the rest of the repairs.
 

In addition to a new pedestrian walkway on the top of the levee, the district is considering adding footbridges across the river, more access points and redoing the kayak park. Corrine Koehler leads district’s recreation committee. She says they want to be sure that ideas for recreation aren’t just coming from the engineers.

John Suthers and Mary Lou Makepeace are in a runoff election for Colorado Springs mayor. Ballots are due by May 19. Credit http://www.suthersformayor.com and http://www.makepeace4mayor.com Edit | Remove

  

Two former governors, Roy Romer and Bill Owens, joined current Gov. John Hickenlooper at the state capitol to urge lawmakers not to go too far in reducing the numbers of standardized assessments school children take. This comes as legislators are debating several bills to lower the number of exams.

Republican Bill Owens said it's important to have standards and test against those standards to see if students are learning what they should, and to evaluate schools and teachers.

"Our friends from the left and the right for differing reasons, don't want to test, don't want to measure, don't want to have accountability," said Owens. "This is stunning to me."

KRCC Wins Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards

Apr 23, 2015
www.trdna.org

KRCC learned today that we received two Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for work produced by KRCC News Director Andrea Chalfin and Noel Black and Jake Brownell, producers of KRCC's program Wish We Were Here.  

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Colorado’s Southwest Chief commission met Friday, just days after $1.5 million in funding amendments were stripped from the House’s state budget proposal and another funding bill was put on indefinite hold. 

The commission is tasked with finding money for the route, including needed repairs to the tracks and for possibly adding a stop in Pueblo. 
 

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Colorado’s Senate president introduced a fetal homicide bill this week. As written, it would define a person as an unborn human being from conception until birth for the purposes of homicide and assault cases. It’s expected to draw vigorous debate at the statehouse.

Senate Bill 268 [.pdf] would allow prosecutors to file a murder charge if an unborn baby is killed or dies during an assault or murder of the mother.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Repair work on the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is destroying the world’s largest mural. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports on the discussion about repainting it.

The Pueblo Conservancy District board oversees the levee. It’s preparing guidelines to cover design, approval, and maintenance for new artwork. They got mixed comments from the couple of dozen people at a public meeting last night.

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UPDATE 04/15/15 - The House passed the bill; it's expected to fail in the Senate.

ORIGINAL POST 04/14/15: Democrats in the House unexpectedly delayed a vote on an American Indian mascot bill after they realized Republicans had enough votes to kill it.  

Steve Wilson / Flickr – Creative Commons

    

UPDATE 04/14/15: The Joint Budget Committee, charged with negotiating the differences between the House and Senate budget proposals, stripped this funding amendment from the budget. The eventual budget plan will still need approval from both chambers.

ORIGINAL POST 04/09/15: Lawmakers in the House initially passed the state's annual budget yesterday. After hours of debate, the chamber decided to set aside money to help preserve a passenger train that runs through southeastern Colorado. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Former Attorney General John Suthers and former Colorado Springs mayor Mary Lou Makepeace are headed to a runoff election next month to be the city’s next mayor.  Colorado Springs voters yesterday gave Suthers 46% of the vote, while Makepeace came in with 24%.  Among the other leading candidates, Joel Miller received 16% of the vote, while Amy Lathen received 12%.  The runoff election is scheduled for May 19.

Public Engagement and the Colorado Water Plan

Apr 6, 2015
Kate McIntire / Colorado Water Conservation Board

It's been just over three months since Coloradans got a first look at the state's water plan. The draft that was submitted to Governor John Hickenlooper came after more than 800 public meetings held all across the state. But despite an extensive education and outreach campaign, just how involved is the general public in planning Colorado's water future?

In his 2015 state of the state address, Governor John Hickenlooper lauded the process that brought people from around Colorado together to create the state's water plan:

Capitol Conversation: Budget

Apr 2, 2015
D. Utterback

  The annual Colorado budget is making its way through the statehouse. It cleared the Senate on a vote of 21 to 14 passing largely along party lines, with three Democrats joining Republicans to support it. We asked John Frank with the Denver Post and Ivan Moreno with the Associated Press to talk about the dynamics at play.

  

Chris Woodka / Pueblo Chieftain

The projected growth of Colorado’s Front Range has water planners looking ahead to meet the demands of the population influx.  One way to meet the growing need is for utility companies to buy water rights from farmers and ranchers and then divert that water to cover the city’s needs, commonly called “Buy & Dry.”

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

High up in the Colorado Rockies, across the Continental Divide and northwest of Leadville, is the Homestake Reservoir, and lately, things have been looking good up there.  Colorado Springs Utilities put together a press tour of the region in mid-March to show where that water comes from and how they measure it to predict the year in water.
 

As winter’s grip begins to fade along the Front Range, water managers with Colorado Springs Utilities are closely monitoring what’s happening hundreds of miles away. 

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

    

The themes of leadership, cooperation, and transparency resounded through an auditorium at UCCS at a recent mayoral forum, sponsored by local media organizations.  Billed as a debate featuring the four leading candidates in this year’s Colorado Springs mayoral race, the 90-minute event covered topics such as transportation and regional collaboration.

Listen to the full debate here, with candidates Amy Lathen, Joel Miller, John Suthers and Mary Lou Makepeace (see below for audio of specific questions and answers):
 

Initial work to rebuild the aging Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is winding down. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports that structural issues discovered during this phase will likely mean the project will cost more than originally projected.

Work began late last year to lower the height and replace the concrete facing on the levee in order to meet FEMA flood control requirements. The bottom of the 90-year-old structure is about nine feet deeper than expected, according to Rick Kidd, the administrator for the Pueblo Conservancy District, which oversees the levee.

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A bi-partisan measure aimed at reducing the number of tests Colorado public school students take is in limbo at the state legislature. The sponsors delayed the first hearing and don’t know when it will be rescheduled – if at all.

On average, students in Colorado classrooms take more than two-dozen assessments before they graduate, and in some cases up to four times a year according to the Colorado Education Association.  Critics say it actually means less time for overall learning.

D. Utterback

Colorado’s latest revenue forecast was a mixed bag for lawmakers, showing a healthy economy and more money for the state budget. But there’s also a lot of uncertainty moving forward. Bente Birkeland sat down with Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press and Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal to discuss the implications of more state revenue.
 

Here are excerpts from the interview:

What it means for the state budget:

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