KUNC

Colorado's legislative session is just over two weeks old, and lawmakers have already introduced more than 270 bills and counting. With hundreds more bills expected to land in the coming weeks, here are some of the ones we are starting to watch at the state Capitol.

When Blondie's Diner closes around 9 p.m. and a table of hunters finish their green chili cheeseburgers and head back to their hotel, the town of Naturita feels a bit like a ghost town.

There are two new marijuana dispensaries still open late with green neon signs, but on a November night at the start of hunting season, not many customers are partaking.

The only sound punctuating through the cold evening is a semi-truck idling in the parking lot of the Rimrocker Hotel, its driver trying to stay warm.

It's a good day when Tammie Delaney hears a train rumbling down the tracks outside of the century-old granary building she owns in Hayden.

"Oh, you get the train noise today!" she shouts as a train whistle pierces the usual silence in the small town of about 2,000 people.

The train whistles are an indicator of the economy in the Yampa Valley.

Every time thick, dark rain clouds move over the deserts that surround Las Vegas, there's an anticipatory buzz. Flora and fauna alike begin preparing for the rare event, lying in wait for the first few drops.

Todd Esque is usually waiting for them too from his office in Henderson, Nevada. He knows how much desert life depends on their arrival. So when they do come, he's smiling.

There were the usual jokes and friendly banter between the House and Senate.

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle exchanged hugs in a chamber that felt a bit like a school getting back to work after an eight-month break.

But amidst the pomp and circumstance of the opening day of Colorado's 2020 legislative session, lawmakers also drew some clear battle lines.

Some of the biggest and most contentious laws the state legislature passed this year are going into effect on Wednesday.

Together, the new laws aim to prevent suicides and gun violence, protect hospital patients from unexpected medical bills and give local governments the power to raise their minimum wages higher than the state level.

With short-term drought plans finished, water managers from across the Southwest recently gathered in Las Vegas to figure out what's next.

The Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference brings together nearly every municipal water agency, irrigation district, Native American tribe and environmental group that relies on the Colorado River.

The federal government is now taking comments on alternatives to a project in western Colorado notorious for causing earthquakes. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is looking for replacements for the Paradox Valley Unit, located in a remote part of western Colorado’s Montrose County. The agency released a draft environmental impact statement for those replacements Friday. 

The West’s water security is wrapped up in snow. When it melts, it becomes drinking and irrigation water for millions throughout the region. A high snowpack lets farmers, skiers and water managers breathe a sigh of relief, while a low one can spell long-term trouble.

Patrick Johnson closed on 2,500 acres in Pinal County over five years ago. The property, just off Interstate 8, is mostly farm fields right now. Johnson’s plan is to build a dream spot for motorsports lovers, including two tracks for racing or testing, 2,000 homes, and a hotel. 

But millions of dollars in, Johnson is a long way from a grand opening.

As climate change continues to sap the Colorado River’s water, some users face serious legal risks to their supplies, according to a new analysis by researchers in Colorado and New Mexico. 

Declining flows could force Southwest water managers to confront long-standing legal uncertainties, and threaten the water security of Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

In A Revived Arizona River, A Wildlife Oasis Is Remade

Nov 19, 2019

Much of the Santa Cruz River is a dry, desert wash, only flowing after heavy monsoon rains. As Tucson Water hydrologist Dick Thompson and I walk along the river south of Starr Pass Boulevard, he points out how brown the vegetation looks.

Earlier this year, Arizona -- one of seven southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River -- was in the midst of a heated discussion about water.

“It’s time to protect Lake Mead and Arizona,” the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said in his state of the state address in January 2019. He spoke to lawmakers in the midst of uncomfortable, emotional discussions at the statehouse in Phoenix about who gets access to water in the arid West, and who doesn’t. 

Colorado residents have rejected a request from their state legislature to remove an annual government spending limit that some elected officials argued is holding back the state’s roads and schools.

Instead, voters opted to continue getting tax refunds when the state reaches a revenue cap set by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Climate change has been called the new normal. But residents in some parts of the Southwest say after living through the last two years, there’s nothing normal about it. 

Communities in the Four Corners -- where the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet -- have been bouncing between desperately dry and record-breaking moisture since the winter of 2017, forcing people dependent on the reliability and predictability of water to adapt.

Proposition CC is pitting lawmakers who are seeking more money to pay for roads and education against residents who think government spending should have a limit.

When Gov. Jared Polis used an executive order to create his new Office of Saving People Money on Health Care eight months ago, he said it was the first office of its kind.

Steamboat Springs, like many of Colorado's high country resort communities, is grappling with how it wants to grow.

The city itself has more than doubled in population since 1990. Seasonal tourist booms formerly contained to summer and winter have bled over into spring and fall. With its increasingly sought after outdoor amenities, like hot springs, camping, hiking, mountain biking and skiing, the town swells with visitors most weekends out of the year.

After hearing hours of emotional testimony from parents and students who don't think Colorado's schools are safe enough in the wake of deadly shootings, state lawmakers are now considering eight measures to address the issue.

And they will spend the weekend working on them to meet a Monday bill drafting deadline.

The Colorado Sun

Parked: Half the American Dream is a collaborative project led by The Colorado Sun with more than a dozen Colorado news outlets teaming up to report on mobile homes. Jennifer Brown, reporter and co-founder at The Colorado Sun, helped lead the project. She speaks with KDNK station manager on Booked.

Editor's note: This story is the first of a three-part series looking at the state of Colorado's efforts to get rural households connected to high-speed internet.

NORWOOD- People living in the small farming town of Norwood have done some strange things to stay connected to the internet.

For example, librarian Carrie Andrew said the security cameras at the library once captured a young man arrive on his bicycle after hours to utilize the building's blazing fast Wi-Fi.

Finding a river in the West that still behaves like a Western river -- one that rises and falls with the annual rush of melting snow -- is tough. 

Many of the region’s major streams are controlled by dams. Their flows come at the push of a button. Instead of experiencing dynamic flows, dammed rivers are evened out. Floods are mitigated and managed, seen as a natural disaster rather than an ecological necessity. 

Democrat Jared Polis is the governor-elect. In the 6th Congressional District, Jason Crow takes the win, unseating five-time incumbent Republican Mike Coffman.

Ballot measures were met with mixed support: Transportation measures 109 and 110, along with oil and gas well setback measure Proposition 112 failed, while amendments Y and Z, which address partisan gerrymandering, passed.

Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration unveiled a $31.4 billion budget proposal Thursday morning at the State Capitol. The spending plan is 4.6 percent - or $1.4 billion - bigger than the budget proposal made at this time last year. 

Water managers along the Colorado River are trying to figure out how to live with less.

Climate change is growing the gap between the river’s supply, and the demands in the communities that rely on it, including seven western U.S. states and Mexico. The federal government recently released proposals called Drought Contingency Plans designed to keep the Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs from falling to levels where water is unable to be sent through the dams that hold up Lakes Powell and Mead.

The candidates for state treasurer have largely stayed clear of the spotlight this election season. Colorado’s current treasurer, Republican Walker Stapleton, is term-limited and running for governor.

Democrat Dave Young is a state representative from Greeley and former math teacher. Republican Brian Watson is a real estate investor with no political experience.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders fired up a crowd of Colorado State University students Wednesday night with calls for Medicare for all and free tuition at public universities.

Sanders traveled to Fort Collins to stump with gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis and other Democrats seeking higher office.

Key reservoirs along the Colorado River are collectively at their lowest point at the start of a new water year since the last one filled nearly 40 years ago.

In 2002, voters in Colorado supported sweeping changes to state campaign finance laws. The goal was to rein in the influence of money in elections. The law contained a strong preamble about how large campaign contributions could corrupt politics and give special interests, corporations and the rich disproportionate influence.

Then along came the millionaires running for governor, spending millions of their own dollars on their own campaigns.

Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton squared off Friday morning inside of a barn in Kersey, just east of Greeley. The debate venue was so rustic, the tables in the barn were all equipped with fly swatters.

Here are three things that stuck with us after the debate.

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