2019 Legislature

Courtesy of NREL

Legislators in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Washington passed aggressive clean energy mandates in 2019.

Courtesy of Progress Now

ProgressNow Colorado, the state's largest progressive group, looked recently at the biggest winners and losers of the 2019 legislative session in Colorado. Executive Director Ian Silverii joined KDNK station manager Gavin Dahl by phone to explain why he counts regular people, local communities, kindergartners and parents, people in need of healthcare, LGBTQ youth, and Mother Earth among this year's winners. Meanwhile, polluters, Internet trolls, the gun lobby, homophobes, and secessionists are among the session's losers. It's a fast-paced conversation, so hold on tight!

When Gov. Jared Polis walked into the Stedman Elementary School auditorium behind a marching band on Tuesday afternoon, with dozens of supporters waving signs and cheering, the signing ceremony for the full-day kindergarten bill felt more like a pep rally.

“Today, we celebrate the fact that this fall, kids from across our state will be able to go to free fullday kindergarten,” Polis said to loud cheers before he signed the bill.

Colorado is one of the most recent states to enact a so-called red flag law, but a majority of counties here say they won't enforce it. Matt Vasilogambros is a reporter for Stateline, a news service funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. He's reported on similar laws in place across the country.

Transportation funding advocates are giving Colorado’s latest legislative session mixed reviews despite a bipartisan budget deal that boosted transportation funding by $70 million.

Margaret Bowes, who leads an organization that focuses on improving the Interstate 70 corridor in the mountains, said the money lawmakers added for roads and bridges was “just a drop in the bucket.”

Speaking to reporters in the final hours of the legislative session, Gov. Jared Polis touted the passage of several health care bills and the funding for full-day kindergarten.

But he quickly faced questions about some recent setbacks at the Capitol, including the death of a bill he backed that would have asked voters to add taxes on cigarettes and vaping products.

The Colorado General Assembly didn’t end its 72nd session quietly. In the final days, they’ve taken big votes on some of the most consequential legislation of the year. Here’s what they’ve been up to in the final hours.

From a robot voice that became the sound of fierce partisanship to a crucial debate over the future of oil and gas held in the middle of a blizzard, there was plenty of drama at the state Capitol this year.

Here’s a recap of some of the biggest moments of the session from its start to its final week.

Three weeks ago, Gov. Jared Polis stood outside Denver Health’s downtown hospital and made a long list of promises about improving health care.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle stood next to him and cheered him on, while a glossy, 10-page road map to lowering health care costs circulated through the crowd.

After years of tension over expanded oil and gas drilling, including a deadly explosion that galvanized critics, Colorado is moving to tighten regulations on the booming industry. In a sweeping overhaul the governor is expected to sign, regulators will now have to consider public health, safety and the environment in decisions about permitting and local land use.

The state must still hammer out the details of how to implement the new law over the next year. But the impending changes are already fueling hope for some, and fear for others.

For Mitchell Byars and other breaking news reporters around the country, the police scanner might be just as important as a laptop computer.

Byars, who covers everything from wildfires to mountain lion sightings for the Boulder Daily Camera, said the radio traffic helps him answer important questions from residents.

Colorado Democrats are backing a heavily-amended version of a bill to create a paid family leave program.

The bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee last month over concerns from business leaders and some Democratic. But a series of 24 amendments have gotten some of the Democratic holdouts on board, and the committee voted along party lines to advance the proposal.

A bill that Democratic lawmakers say is needed to fight climate change has cleared its first hurdle at the state Capitol.

House Bill 1261 would set a goal for Colorado to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent before 2030.

It would also give a state board the authority to approve new regulations that would help the state reach that goal.

Courtesy Colorado State Patrol

Colorado lawmakers are giving the nod to a bill that requires all drivers to carry chains or snow tires - or have all-wheel or four-wheel drive - if they're traveling the interstate between Dotsero and Morrison from September to June.

Mark Duggan

Colorado lawmakers are working on a bipartisan set of proposals that would seek to lower insurance premiums and the costs of prescription drugs. According to Gov. Jared Polis, it will bring particular relief to rural and mountain areas, where health care costs are some of the highest in the nation.

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."

Red Flag Bill Close to a Vote

Mar 27, 2019
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."

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