Hot Sheet Archives - Colorado Politics
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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 19, 20183min1960

Government proceedings can typically be filed away in the mundane or tedious category, that is unless you’re attending a Denver City Council budget planning retreat.

Denverite’s Andrew Kenney detailed the “exciting” proceedings earlier this week — which he said included free coffee and at least one handstand — as the council hashed out its budgetary wish list for 2019.

Topping the list, was housing, development and transportation improvements, but council members are also interested in bolstering the city’s recycling program and rebuilding the Denver Police Department training academy.

In 2019, officials say they want to ask more of the Regional Transportation District. As Kenny notes:

“We are the largest city in the district … but we are not taking positions,” said Councilwoman At large Robin Kniech. “It’s good to be respectful … I would like us to be more assertive.”

Others agreed. “They just elected new leadership of their board, and some of them are people who don’t even advocate for transit, for mobility. They’re more ‘anti’ people than they are ‘pro,’” said Councilwoman At-large Debbie Ortega. “We need to gather and be really vocal and obnoxious.”

And on housing, the council members wants to explore more funding for affordable housing.

The advocacy group All In Denver wants the city to issue new debt — and potentially raise taxes — in order to raise tens or hundreds of millions more dollars to pay for affordable housing, potentially doubling the city’s current affordable housing plan.

(Council President Albus) Brooks said that he wanted to figure out some potential “internal” funding sources for housing, but he acknowledged that the city “may have to go out and ask the voters for something,” such as new bonds.

(Councilmember Paul) Kashmann said the city has “to be more aggressive in providing permanent supportive housing for our community,” adding that the council “is missing an opportunity and a responsibility.”

Read Kenney’s full report here.


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Kara MasonKara MasonJanuary 19, 20182min1730

The small southern Colorado town of Rockvale has a new mayor following a major falling-out over a truck-mudding event that took place in August.

That’s when a kerfuffle ensued after town leaders were accused of wrongly firing the town’s clerk, who said she believed the town was misusing funds from “Mud Fest,” an event the town says attracted around 700 spectators. Former clerk Kimberly Greer said the city should have recieved way more than the $2,695.20 reportedly raised.

Greer was terminated shortly after voicing concerns. Town leaders were then accused of violating Colorado Sunshine Laws.

Now, Dave Barnes replaces Dan Schlaak as mayor in the town of less than 500 people. Barnes received just 79 votes. 10 people in the old coal town voted against having a recall at all, according to the Cañon City Daily Record, which has been on the story since Mud Fest.

“Barnes, who has lived in Rockvale for more than 30 years, said his first priority heading into the new job will be to clean up the town’s finances.

“That would be the top one,” he said. “I think we’ll get it all back on track with a new board. I look forward to it.”

Barnes also said he decided to run after several Rockvale citizens “asked him to consider it.”

As of mid-December, it was unclear whether Rockvale would even have a recall. The Daily Record couldn’t confirm with local town officials when the recall would take place. Now, Barnes tells the paper that he will likely assume the position before the end of the month.

Another election is in the works to replace board members in the town, according to the paper. That election is slated to take place next week.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 19, 20182min1120

A proposal that would ban bump stocks — the device used by the Las Vegas shooter in October to increase his weapons’ rate of fire — passed it first hurdle through the Denver City Council on Tuesday.

The legislation proposed by Denver Councilman Rafael Espinoza would amend the city’s existing ordinance banning assault weapons to make it illegal to sell, carry, store or otherwise possess a bump stock.

The City Council unanimously approved the measure after its first reading Tuesday. A final vote is expected next week.

Bump stocks replace an assault rifle’s standard stock and frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, channeling the energy from the weapon’s recoil. That allows for more rapid fire, nearly that of a fully automatic weapon. The device is most notable for its use in the Las Vegas massacre — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The legislation defines a bump stock as “any device for a pistol, rifle, or shotgun that increases the rate of fire achievable with such weapon by using energy from the recoil of the weapon to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated activation of the trigger.”

The measure would also make it unlawful to have a magazine capable of holding more than 15 rounds. While the current limit is 21 in Denver, the change would bring the city into compliance with existing state law.

The penalty for violating the measure could carry up to 180 days in jail and $999 in fines.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 18, 20184min1650
Indivisible Denver members gather recently for a New Year’s rally in solidarity with immigrants. (via Facebook)

… The state’s Republican first-term U.S. senator is already in favor of  it. In fact, he and fellow Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, co-sponsored legislation last fall — the DREAM Act of 2017 — to do just that after President Trump had rescinded the executive order that had been used to implement the policy under the Obama administration. The legislation would allow those brought to the U.S. as kids without documentation — they’re still subject to deportation despite growing up as Americans — to remain in the country. The bipartisan bill would reinstate the intent of former President Obama’s much-debated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or “DACA.”

And yet, the protests-are-us rabble rouser Indivisible Denver staged a rally Wednesday in support of the DREAM Act that included a march on — you’ve guessed it! — Gardner’s office. The announcement via Facebook referenced the senator’s downtown Denver digs almost as if it were the campus quad back in the day: “We will meet at Benedict Fountain Park and host a press conference at 5:30. Afterwards, we shall march around Sen. Gardner’s office to gain more public support for a clean Dream Act.”

So, what’s up with that? Could be that Gardner’s office is already such a familiar landmark to Indivisible and other all-causes-left-of-center groups that they knew no one would get lost en route. Stalking the the senator has become almost a full-time endeavor for the in-crowd of devoted Democratic-leaning demonstrators, who have a bone to pick with him over just about anything, anytime — and anywhere.

Could also be that, as we know all too well by now, every year is an election year — never mind what you learned in civics class about the six-year terms of U.S. senators. No self-respecting, left-leaning group worth its salt is going to pass up an opportunity to throw darts at a Republican if there’s a chance he can be knocked off in the next face-off. Especially in perennially purple Colorado. We get it.

So, apparently, did some of the news media that covered the rally.

Denver Channel 4’s veteran news hound Rick Sallinger noted in the web edition of his report on the rally that, “Colorado Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet have expressed sympathy and support for the demonstrators’ plight.”


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Kara MasonKara MasonJanuary 18, 20183min6360

Sometimes San Luis Valley law enforcement officers will wait to make an arrest until after the person has received medical care, according to local officials.

The reason they wait, according to the Valley Courier which reported the story last week, is because Medicaid will cover the medical costs. But once a person is arrested they lose most Medicaid benefits, and with a good number of inmates relying on Medicaid — more than 40 percent of the San Luis Valley’s population relies on the federal program — the tab is rapidly growing for local jails.

“We just really believe that that is an injustice,” Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis reportedly said during a meeting with aides from Sen. Cory Gardner’s office.

The Valley Courier continues on the situation the rural southern region of the state is facing:

“I’m aghast that we treat our mental health in jail by putting them in jail,” Rio Grande Hospital CEO Arlene Harms said. “I just think that’s awful.”

Medicaid does cover the cost if an inmate stays at a hospital for 24 hours or longer. However, that doesn’t take care of quick visits to the pharmacy, dentist, emergency or clinic, which are the majority of visits.

For example, Jackson said an inmate that Alamosa County housed out in Custer County due to lack of beds suffered from an apparent heart attack. Custer County was ill equipped to handle the situation so they flew the inmate to Pueblo. The issue turned out to be an anxiety attack and because the inmate was discharged in less than 24 hours Alamosa County was left with a $23,000 flight bill.

To make matters worse, hospitals aren’t reimbursed through the hospital provider fee when treating jail populations, according to the Valley Courier’s reporting.

The news outlet adds that one solution local governments are considering is better utilizing ankle monitoring programs, since that wouldn’t terminate medical care.

And as for help from Congress and Gardner?

The senator’s aides said they couldn’t make any promises, but the meeting was good insight into the problem several southern Colorado communities are facing.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 18, 20182min4850

Well-connected BluePrint Strategies just added another strong link to its operation. JD Key is the new director of strategic outreach for Denver-based public affairs firm.

Key is well-known operative and advocate in Colorado political circles, who got his start at the state Capitol. He joins the firm’s well-known founders, Karen Crummy, Cinamon Watson and Jennifer Webster.

“We’re pleased to have JD join the team,” Watson said in a statement. “His talents and experience complement our core competencies and will bring our clients an added level of expertise.”

Watson, Crummy and Webster started the firm two years ago to provide public outreach, stakeholder engagement and insight on policy, political strategy and communications.

A longtime Denver Post reporter, Crummy has been a spokeswoman for the oil-and-gas industry’s Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development. Watson is a political veteran, perhaps best known for managing election campaigns for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman as well as repping such large, influential groups as the Commonsense Policy Roundtable and the Colorado Contractors Association. A coalition-builder, Webster also has an oil-and-gas background. She also has worked for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“I could not be more thrilled and honored to join Team BluePrint.” said Key, who was the campaign political director for Mike Coffman’s re-election in 2016. “This firm is comprised of the best in the industry, and I look forward to working alongside them to achieve our client’s goals.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 18, 20184min2640

In the week the pot pastor entered politics in Weld County, why not hop in the “Cannabis Car” for sing-along and a ride-along?

An Atlanta-based band people way cooler than me listen to, Aviva and the Flying Penguins, has a song Colorado should hear. It’s one of the most popular tracks on the band’s CD “Painted Truth,” Aviva Vuvuzela tells me.

Besides a catchy tune, it brings attention to hemp, a product of increasing prominence in Colorado.

Aviva is a cannabis activist (though she flirted with campaigning to change Columbus Day to Pocahontas Day in Atlanta . — think about it, Rep. Joe Salazar). She learned Henry Ford — this is actually true — created a prototype by cooking up hemp fibers in 1941, and he envisioned a fuel made of hemp, as well.

Seriously.

Ford’s recipe for the plant-based plastic included wheat straw and sisel, as well, but when World War II broke out, the project lost its momentum.

A couple years ago Aviva contacted by Bruce Dietzen, who built himself a cannabis sports car by following Ford’s lead. Dietzen, president of Renew Sports Cars, lives in Miami.

“I have been gigging in Colorado for a couple of years,” Aviva said in an email exchange.

You might have caught her and the Flying Penguins, “fine young chaps,” she said, at Bushwackers Saloon and High Times in Denver, or in Fort Collins at the Noco Hemp Fest and Avogadro’s Number.

“Now, as you know, hemp is growing all over the USA, but it’s not happening quick enough,” Aviva said.

People in Colorado know that’s no lie.

The legislature has passed a handful of bills to normalize hemp for all kinds uses, as well as incentives to invest in hemp industries. State Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, opened a hemp processing plant next on the Western Slope, and state Rep. Kimmi Lewis, R-Kim, told a town hall crowd last summer that her son is grows a patch of the non-intoxicating plant related to marijuana.

In December, the Colorado Department of Agriculture put a stamp of approval on four kinds of hemp seeds for industrial purposes. And last march the legislature also instructed the ag department to study the potential of hemp as livestock feed.

But getting back in tune here, if “Cannabis Car” isn’t your new favorite song, then “Colorado in July” could be. Sing another one for us, Aviva.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 18, 20182min1800

Like the first baby born on New Year’s Day, a proposal to include Colorado in a multi-state network that will share information and speed background checks on nurses — improving their ability to work across state lines — became the first bill to clear the 2018 legislature.

The bipartisan Senate Bill 27, introduced in the upper chamber by Sens. Jim Smallwood, R-Castle Rock, and Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, had been fast-tracked to beat a Jan. 19 deadline for Colorado to join the information compact with other states. It was sent to the governor on Wednesday for his anticipated signature.

The ruling Senate GOP sent out a press statement on the measure, quoting Smallwood:

“Nurses are the unsung heroes of our medical community, and this legislation allows those licensed in the State of Colorado to practice outside of our state without the need for redundant, costly, and unnecessary licenses in other states. … SB-27 will facilitate telehealth nursing services, online education, and will even allow our nurses to assist other states in times of natural disaster.”

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, said the bill’s passage illustrates how his crew runs a tight ship:

…he held up the bill’s swift passage as another example of how the U.S. Congress and Colorado General Assembly differ in their approaches.
“We faced a very tight deadline but we got it done,” said Grantham. “I am optimistic that we’ll be able to say that many times in the 2018 legislive session, as we go to bat for the people of Colorado.”

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 17, 20184min6010

You won’t find Bob Hope or Bing Crosby but Americans for Prosperity are urging Colorado lawmakers to take the “Road to Freedom,” the conservative organization’s legislative agenda.

Colorado Politics scored an early review of the AFP’s positions on energy, education, transportation and the  Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

You can read the document by clicking here.

“We made great strides in 2017 defending TABOR and advancing policies that promote economic freedom,” Jesse Mallory, AFP’s state director and the former Colorado Senate Republicans’ chief of staff, said in a statement.

“Legislators must show fiscal discipline and prioritize our transportation needs over pet projects and extraneous spending. Attempting to push through a tax increase after such a large increase in the state budget would be insincere, For the sake of Coloradans seeking to enter jobs that require licensing credentials, I urge the General Assembly to revamp our occupational licensing practices, keep energy affordable for working families, expand educational freedom, and protect TABOR from further attacks.”

Here are the highlight of the priority list, in AFP’s words:

Energy
Colorado’s energy policy should ensure energy remains reliable and affordable. The legislature must protect the rights of landowners and allow citizens to develop natural resources instead of imposing restrictive bans. The legislature must also not allow government to pick winners and losers in the industry by doling out corporate welfare and hand-outs to specific companies. That eliminates competition and drives up the cost of energy for Coloradans living paycheck to paycheck. The state should also end its Renewable Energy Standard, which drives up electric rates for residents.

Educational Freedom
Colorado’s parents are eager for more educational freedom. But compared with its neighbors, our state is falling behind. That said, Colorado is on the front lines of the battle for educational freedom, especially at the local level. We will fight back against any bills that seek to limit educational choices for families and children and hold elected officials accountable to protect the right to equally funded and accessible educational choices for families.

TABOR
Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a crown jewel of state policy and has been one of the primary reasons the state’s economy is among the strongest in the country, despite lacking other advantages like a right-to-work law or no income tax. TABOR has empowered voters to keep government spending in check, which has enabled the private sector to flourish. Despite constant attack from special interests and politicians who seek to raise taxes and expand bureaucracy, lawmakers must stand firm in their support for limited government and defend TABOR.

Transportation
Over the years, the Colorado legislature has not prioritized funding for our growing transportation needs. Unfortunately, transportation continues to be crowded out in the budget by rapidly growing entitlement programs like Medicaid. The legislature should not ask the voters for a tax increase to fund roads while the state budget continues grow year after year. Instead, they should fund our transportation needs using existing funds. Moreover, the state can enact numerous regulatory and labor reforms to ease the burden of bureaucracy and make each dollar go further – to ensure that Coloradans’ tax dollars are being spent on asphalt and pavement rather than red tape or inflated union contracts.


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Kara MasonKara MasonJanuary 17, 20183min2090

A Pueblo city councilman wants the Steel City to rely completely on alternative energy by 2035, and he’s catching some national attention for it.

Larry Atencio, the representative from Pueblo’s East Side, told Mother Jones what he envisions for the city, which has been in upheaval over energy prices for everal years. Atencio first introduced a resolution to his fellow lawmakers a year ago pledging to propel the city toward complete renewable energy within 17 years.

But Mother Jones asks: Can Pueblo, a place “where there are lots of poor people struggling to pay their utility bills,” do it?

The magazine points out that making a major shift toward renewable energy could mean even higher rates. It’s earlier efforts to rid the city of fossil-fueled electricity that are said to have started the utility rate spiral in the first place:

When Black Hills Energy raised rates, a lot of that money went toward closing dirty power plants and building cleaner ones. The company shut down an outdated gas plant in downtown Pueblo and an old coal plant in Cañon City (the next town to the west). Black Hills was the first utility in Colorado to eliminate coal from its system. It replaced that dirty power with wind turbines, solar panels, and natural gas. As a result, 19 percent of the electrons streaming from Black Hills Energy to Pueblo come from renewables, and the company is on track to reach 30 percent in the next two years. According to (company spokeswoman Julie) Rodriguez, Pueblo’s electric supply is “one of the cleanest in the state.”

Atencio told Mother Jones, as he did local reporters, that the high rates from energy provider Black Hills provided some inspiration for the resolution, which has no legally binding requirements. That’s probably why the resolution has been so popular among residents.

While the Mother Jones piece raises a lot of questions about what may be in store for the Steel City — which is actively putting an emphasis on attracting the solar industry — there haven’t been any actual policy shifts or new ordinances that support the ambitious goal.