2019 Legislature

Cities and counties that have spent years fighting for more regulatory power over the state’s oil and gas industry are now just one signature away from getting it.

Democrats in the Colorado Senate gave their final approval on Wednesday to Senate Bill 181, which will let local governments increase setbacks and impose fines for spills and air quality violations.

It now heads to Gov. Jared Polis, who is expected to sign it.

Colorado Democrats have tabled their effort to repeal the death penalty after some members of their own party expressed concerns about the bill.

The proposal was stuck in limbo for more than two weeks as State Sen. Angela Williams tried to secure the votes the bill needed to clear the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 19-16 majority.

The Colorado Legislature has given final approval to a bill that will allow police officers to temporarily take guns away from people who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.

Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign the extreme risk protection order bill into law.

Oil and Gas Bill Advances

Mar 29, 2019

The Colorado House is giving its stamp of approval to a bill that allows local governments more control over oil and gas drilling operations. KDNK’s Capitol Coverage reporter Scott Franz has more:

The Colorado Senate narrowly passed a contentious gun control bill on Thursday that would allow police to temporarily take away someone's firearms.

The extreme risk protection order proposal would give law enforcement the ability to take the weapons away if a judge determines their owner poses a risk to themselves or others.

As Sen. Faith Winter pushes forward a bill to create a paid family leave program, she's thinking of employees who are stuck at work during some of the most challenging moments of their lives.

"We have cancer patients who are skipping their second round of chemotherapy because they can't afford to lose their paycheck," Winter said Monday. "And there's a heartbreaking story of a woman who took her dad off life support in a break room instead of being by her father's side."

LEIGH PATERSON/KUNC

A controversial measure that would temporarily seize weapons from people deemed a risk could get its final vote in the state Senate any day, putting it on the path to for Governor Jared Polis to sign it. Mark Duggan reports.

Raleigh Burleigh

The former Steamboat Springs-based newspaper reporter is settling into his first year covering the Colorado Legislature. His reports are heard on KDNK and other member stations of the Rocky Mountain Community Radio coalition. KDNK's Mark Duggan talked to Franz about how he keeps up with the many bills that have been introduced this year. They also discussed the continued importance of local journalism and holding elected officials accountable.

The basement of the state Capitol is ground zero for legislative strategizing. Lobbyists take over the small cafeteria and crowd around tables with lawmakers for several hours. Some walk into the bathrooms still talking on their phones about legislation. It’s here in this noisy basement where the oil and gas industry has been mounting fierce opposition to stronger regulations on the industry.

After days of fierce partisanship at the state Capitol, Democrats in the Colorado Senate advanced a bill Wednesday that will give local governments more control over oil and gas drilling operations.

But as the bill heads over to the House for more debate, there are signs it will undergo some more changes in the coming days.

Lawmakers who have launched an effort to repeal Colorado’s death penalty argue that it unfairly targets minorities and does not prevent violent crimes. Add to their list of concerns that an innocent person could be put to death.

“The death penalty is unjust,” state Sen. Angela Williams told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. “It is costly. It is immoral.”

Democratic lawmakers will introduce a bill soon that would give local governments in Colorado more control over oil and gas drilling operations.

The legislation from House Speaker KC Becker and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg would not increase the setbacks between oil wells and homes. But the lawmakers say it will give cities and counties the ability to increase those setbacks themselves.

Colorado lawmakers are renewing an effort to prevent accidents and travel headaches on Interstate 70 in the mountains.

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday would require drivers to carry chains or have tires with sufficient tread throughout the entire winter season on the interstate.

When Jennifer Knowles helped her three sons set up a lemonade stand in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood last summer, she thought she was teaching them about the joys of running a small business.

But then someone called the police and the stand was shut down because the family didn’t have the right permit.

Last year, the town of Avon got little resistance from its residents when it asked them to approve a $3 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in the town.

Town Council member Scott Prince said it was supported by more than 70 percent of voters.

"There was zero campaigning done on behalf of that tax measure," Prince said. "It really speaks volumes about the residents and how much people see the impacts of tobacco and cigarette products."

Sen. Chris Holbert is adapting to life in Colorado's legislative minority.

"We will have our say but not our way," he said in a speech on Jan. 4, the opening day of the session. "We have the voice, but not the votes."

So how does a lawmaker without the votes approach his job? Here are three takeaways from KUNC's interview with the Republican minority leader the day before the session gaveled in.

Seven Colorado Democrats advanced a comprehensive sexual education bill at the State Capitol on Wednesday, after a contentious hearing that ended just before midnight. The hearing included testimony from dozens of opponents and a flurry of attempted Republican amendments to the bill.

The legislation aims to expand sexual education curriculum at public schools to include such topics as consent, birth control and STD prevention.

Health care is emerging as a top priority for both Democratic and Republicans at the State Capitol this session, and some of the proposed legislation is already packing hearing rooms.

One of the bills would add autism to a list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. Similar legislation was vetoed by former Gov. John Hickenlooper last year.

It was a busy week at the State Capitol as lawmakers started debating an initial round of bills at committee hearings and Gov. Jared Polis issued his first executive order to promote electric vehicles.

Here are some highlights, and some things to look for when lawmakers come back on Tuesday.

Cheers from environmental groups drowned out nearby construction noise in downtown Denver Thursday morning after Gov. Jared Polis announced an executive order that aims to bring more electric vehicles to Colorado.

SCOTT FRANZ / CAPITOL COVERAGE

State lawmakers are weighing in on Gov. Jared Polis’ budget proposal. Among other priorities, he’s seeking $227 million for full-day kindergarten. KDNK's Capitol Coverage reporter Scott Franz has more.

KEN LUND / FLICKR

Gov. Jared Polis presented his budget request to state lawmakers Wednesday.
The biggest ask is for his top priority, free full-day kindergarten throughout Colorado, estimated to cost about $227 million. Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland reports for KDNK.

Gov. Jared Polis wants to leverage Colorado's stronger than expected revenue projections to pay for full-day kindergarten next school year.

He's asking lawmakers to approve $227 million in the budget for the kindergarten classes.

Polis says the spending will allow 30,000 families to stop paying tuition.

More Americans are being impacted by what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. This week, the already stressful world of air travel is feeling the pinch as Transportation Security Administration workers call in sick.

But for now, things are still operating smoothly at Denver International Airport.

DIA spokeswoman Emily Williams said the average wait time at security checkpoints averaged about 10 minutes on Sunday.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Jared Polis addressed lawmakers for the first time as Colorado Governor Thursday. His State of the State Address, delivered before a Democratic majority of legislators, lasted about 55 minutes. In it, he said the state of Colorado is solid, strong, and successful. But he also said it was time to address education and the high cost of living and health care, particularly in mountain communities. Hear the State of the State Address in its entirety.

As Colorado's new lawmakers showed off their desks to their kids on Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper was busy cleaning out his own. He was down to his final days as the head of state government.

Signed baseball bats and other memorabilia were scattered on the floor of his office. His desk was littered with piles of old papers.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

 

Colorado lawmakers are back at work. The 2019 legislative session opened Friday morning with plenty of new faces at the Capitol and Democrats in complete control. The party now holds both chambers of the legislature and the governor's office, meaning there's little resistance between Democrats and their agenda. Colorado Public Radio political reporter Sam Brasch offered this report, as part of a new partnership with KDNK and CPR.

Colorado Democrats promised to pass paid family leave, address the rising cost of health care and pursue a gun control measure on Friday as they gaveled in a new legislative session.

New House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, called gun violence in the state an “epidemic” that needs to be addressed this session.