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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 16, 20171min4930

Rep. Dan Thurlow has a couple of ideas on the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights he wants to present during next year’s session of the Colorado Legislature, the Grand Junction Republican told people at a town hall meeting on state tax issues Thursday.

First, Thurlow wants to try again to change how the Legislature calculates how much the state’s annual spending plan can grow each year.

Second, he wants to freeze the state’s property assessment rate for residential homes at the current 7.1 percent.

Read the rest of the story here.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 8, 20173min133
Jillian Likness, a Republican political activist and strategist, is in the race to succeed Rep. Pete Lee in House District 18 in Colorado Springs next year. Lee, a Democrat, is term-limited in the House and said last weekend he plans to run for Senate District 11. The incumbent there, Democrat Mike Merrifield, said he’s stepping […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 5, 20173min27
The news came as a surprise Saturday night when Rep. Pete Lee told a gathering of Democrats at Colorado College he planned to run for Sen. Mike Merrifield’s District 11 seat. Merrifield could run for another term, before term limits force him out in 2022. He beat Republican Bernie Herpin in 2014, after Herpin unseated […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 5, 20179min18
It takes trust to let someone carry a beer from one business to another, to drink on the sidewalks or on a closed street. Trust and an entertainment district. The Colorado Springs City Council is considering laws that would let businesses apply to create entertainment districts in which customers could wander, drink in hand, beyond […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 4, 20176min1170

A state commission has begun exploring ways to realize Colorado transportation officials’ vision of passenger rail service that stretches up and down the Front Range.

The commission, which includes government representatives from Denver to Trinidad, has until Dec. 1 to submit to the legislature a plan detailing steps forward and funding options. The ultimate hope is a commuter rail that runs from Fort Collins to Pueblo, which probably would cost between $5 billion and $15 billion, said David Krutsinger, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s transit and rail program.

The group is also has a more immediate objective: rerouting Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line, which runs through the southeastern corner of the state, to include stops in Pueblo and Walsenburg. Officials say the route could be done in less than five years.

As politicians scrounge for funds to repair Colorado’s ailing highways and leaders in the Pikes Peak region search for the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to widen Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, members of the commission see an opportunity to press a transportation solution that can sustain Colorado’s exploding population.

“The single-occupancy vehicle is just not going to be the best solution for the future of transportation in Colorado,” said commission member Jill Gaebler, who also is president pro tem of the Colorado Springs City Council. “We need to be thinking bigger and more long term.”

The commission will meet for the second time this week, and its 13 members plan to convene at least once a month, she said.

The commission, renamed and repurposed with a measure that was signed into a law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May, was created in 2014 to devise a plan to rehabilitate more than 100 miles of track on Amtrak’s Chicago-to-Los Angeles line, which has stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad, and consider options for the Chief’s expansion.

Senate Bill 153 tasked commissioners are now being asked to come up with sources for the millions of dollars needed to rehabilitate about 50 miles of remaining dilapidated track. Once fully completed, the improvements are expected to save trains up to two hours on each trip, with the two proposed stops tacking on an hour or less in travel time and the Pueblo station adding an estimated 14,000 more trips each year, according to CDOT.

The commission is unsure exactly how much the extension would cost, although Pueblo voters have already elected to set aside some money for it, said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, the group’s interim chairman.

County voters approved in November a ballot question that would allow the county to spend excess revenues that would otherwise be returned to taxpayers under the provisions of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, to fund a list of projects including the reroute. However, the amount of money each project will be allocated has yet to be finalized, Pace said.

The cost of extending the line will be relatively low, Pace said, because existing freight railways would be used, but there are still some remaining engineering challenges, including logistical negotiations with railroad lines and considerations related to platform construction and tracking of the trains.

“We see the Chief (reroute) as an incremental step,” he said. “The big prize is connecting the Front Range of Colorado via passenger rail.”

The price tag of a 180-mile commuter rail would vary, with a less-expensive line traveling at lower speeds on the existing freight train corridor, and a pricier line traveling up to 180 mph just east of I-25, Krutsinger said. But the state doesn’t currently have the money for either option. Paying for the massive undertaking probably would require voters to approve new taxes or an increase in the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since the early 1990s, he said.

Plus, there are political hurdles to creating a railway that crosses jurisdictional lines – such as where the stops should be located and how already-crowded city centers would make room for them. But Krutsinger said a commuter rail is essential if Colorado wants to keep up with other growing population centers in North America, such as Boston and Salt Lake City. The Front Range’s population, now more than 4 million, is expected to increase to upward of 6 million by 2040, he said.

“You look at cities with 6 million people, and they almost without exception have rail networks for their population. If we’re going to stay competitive, Colorado is going to need to do it.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 25, 20173min240

The recently retired principal of Will Rogers Elementary School has a new assignment: running for the state legislature.

Terry Martinez tells Colorado Politics is seeking the District 18 seat in Colorado Springs that will be vacated by Rep. Pete Lee, a Democrat who is term-limited.

The District 18 race includes fellow Democrat Graham Anderson and Republicans Jillian Likness and Donald Howbert, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Lee was first elected to the House in 2010 and was re-elected to his final term last November with 53 percent over Republican Cameron Forth and Libertarian Norman Dawson.

“It would be an honor to serve the people of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs in the state House” Martinez said in a statement. “We need leaders in the legislature with the passion and experience to help our communities overcome challenges and seek out new opportunities.

“My career as a teacher, principal and community leader allowed me to work with people to create real results, and I want to bring that skill to the state House of Representatives.”

A lifelong resident of Colorado Springs, Martinez’s education career includes Will Rogers and West Side schools. He ran the Valley Swim Team for many years, as well has his community involvement through New Life Downtown church.

His campaign provided an endorsement from a legislator who knows the legislative value of a background in education.

“Terry Martinez is the right choice for El Paso County,” state Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, a former school superintendent who sits on the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee.

“We need more representatives with the skills Terry has developed through his years as a teacher and principal to fight for educational opportunities for Colorado’s youth and to bring thoughtful leadership experience to the state House. I am proud to endorse his candidacy.”

Martinez lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Jennifer, and has three adult daughters.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 24, 20179min19
Sometime between now and November, a select committee of lawmakers will come up with their own ideas for the direction of Colorado’s 2-year-old water plan. It’s a bit of a change-up from the current role of the Colorado General Assembly, which for the past several years has done little more than write checks to implement […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 24, 20173min220

Editor’s note: This is a new feature for Colorado Politics. Each week we’ll introduce you to the difference-makers who work behind the scenes.

Effie Ameen has been working with lawmakers at the Capitol for almost 16 years, since joining the Office of Legislative Legal Services. She’s been the secretary of the Senate since November 2015.

Originally from Ohio, the mountains are what she loves best about Colorado. Here are some other things we learned:

What does a Senate secretary do?

“I don’t even know. No, it’s a lot of administration. It’s tracking purchases, and it’s the budget and what supplies we need. Then there’s a lot of hiring when it comes to the session-only employees. My staff grows by about 15 people during the session. In session, it’s helping the Senate run smoothly by working with the legislators and other staff.”

What do you like about this job best?

“I love the rules and getting to be in the role of parliamentarian.”

Government gets a bad rap sometimes. Does it deserve a bad rap?

“I don’t think so. I think people see the messes that happen, and that’s with any job. With government it’s more front and center, but having been here for a long time and from a nonpartisan perspective, I feel like the process works. You have your ups and downs like anything else, but I think overall it evens out.”

If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?

“Maybe in my next life I’d be on the grounds crew for a professional baseball team. I want to go out there and mow the lines on the field and that kind of stuff.”

Which sports teams do you pull for and why?

“I’m a Cleveland sports fan. I grew up in northeast Ohio, so those are my teams. Go Browns—this could be our year.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 21, 20176min19
Sen. Larry Crowder and Kimmi Lewis were all aboard on hemp last session and had no qualms about selling out the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, because the price was right. The Lamar Ledger this weekend provided a thorough accounting of a town hall meeting with the two southern Colorado Republicans last Thursday night at Lamar […]

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