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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 6, 20186min791
Velma Donahue and her daughters Leila and Maya lead the Pledge of Allegiance with Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in Senate chambers at the state Capitol in Denver. Her husband, Colorado State Trooper Cody Donahue, killed by a careless driver when he was investigating a crash along Interstate 25 near Castle Rock on Nov. 25, 2016, was the inspiration for the Move Over for Cody Act. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

The Colorado Senate honored the family of the late Trooper Cody Donahue Monday after passing the Move Over for Cody Law last session. This year, lawmakers will consider a bill to help sustain insurance for the families of fallen officers.

While law enforcement officers are in mind, Senate Bill 148 also would extend insurance coverage for up to one year for any state employee killed while doing his or her job.

Donahue was working at an accident scene near Castle Rock, when he was hit by a food truck that allegedly had room to move to another lane. Last year lawmakers passed a law that toughened the punishment on those who don’t slow down and move over for first-responders and parked utility vehicles.

Donahue’s widow, Velma Donahue, and daughters Maya and Leila led the Pledge of Allegiance in the Senate Monday.

Afterward, she talked to Colorado Politics about the value of the proposed benefits for future families like hers. Her husband was killed on Nov. 25, 2016, and after Dec. 1, his wife and daughters were uninsured.

“I felt punched in the gut,” she said. “The funeral hadn’t even been completed yet.”

A change in the law is vital, she said, to give grieving families time to get their life  back in order after losing the family member who provided their insurance.

“It was devastating,” she said. “I was so scared. I thought. ‘Oh my God, what if something happens before I get this going?’ I didn’t even know what to do.”

The bill will get its first hearing Thursday afternoon before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. It enjoys capable bipartisan sponsorship: Sens. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, with Reps. Polly Lawrence, R-Roxborough Park, and Tony Exum Sr., D-Colorado Springs.

Humenik said the state has lost six employees on the job in the last five years, and the issue isn’t about finances as much as compassion for those who serve the citizens and ultimately sacrificing their lives for that service.

“This allows time to take some of the stress off the families, so they don’t have to think about this kind of business, about what to do next with their insurance, This gives them a year to figure that out.”

After leading the pledge Monday, Donahue’s wife and sister, Erin Donahue-Paynter, were lauded for their advocacy, which Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, called a “heroic, honorable and effective” effort to pass the Move Over for Cody Law last year.

Lawrence said of public servants on the roadside: “They’re watching out for us, and it’s important we need to watch out for them.

Another sponsor of the traffic law, Kim Ransom, R-Littleton, said she has become a friend to Velma Donahue; Ransom’s husband also was killed in a traffic accident, she said.

“I think this is a special follow-up for what the Donahues have been through,” Ransom said Monday morning.

The Senate presented the family with a framed display of all five pages of the legislation and the pen the governor used to sign it into law.

House Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, examines a framed copy of the 2017 Move Over for Cody Act in Senate chambers at the state Capitol in Denver on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Colorado State Trooper Cody Donahue, the inspiration for the law, was killed by a careless driver on Nov. 25, 2016, while pulled over to investigate a crash along Interstate 25. Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, along with state Reps. Kim Ransom, R-Parker, and Polly Lawrence, R-Roxborough Park, presented the law, including a pen used to sign it by Gov. John Hickenlooper, to Donahue’s widow, Velma Donahue, and their daughters Leila and Maya. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 5, 20183min2326

Donald Trump could have his winter White House at Mar-a-Lago, and if he’s elected in November, Brian Watson could have a lunch-time state treasurer’s office.

Watson’s Denver-based commercial real estate firm Northstar Commercial Partners announced Friday it bought the Offices at the Art building for $17.1 million. The handsome three-story office building across Broadway from the History Colorado museum is about two blocks south of the Capitol.

Convenient though it might be, Watson’s campaign tells Colorado Politics that the candidate won’t be doing business for Northstar if he’s elected to oversee the state’s bank account.

We’re a bit premature to assume he would, however, given the crowded field of Republicans seeking to follow Walker Stapleton, who is term-limited and running for governor this year.

Watson is one of 10 people running for office, including five other Republicans and, in all, five sitting state legislators — Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud and Reps.Justin Everett of Littleton, Polly Lawrence or Roxborough Park, Steve Lebsock of Thornton and Dave Young of Greeley, plus Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn.

Watson got out to fast start, reporting about $215,000 in fundraising in his first quarter as a candidate to leave the field. He plans to collect petitions to get on the ballot, Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning reported.

Watson is proud of his newly acquired jewel near where he his new office will be next year.

“This will be one of the top acquisitions in the Denver market for newer office space and we’re thrilled to be involved, especially with Denver as our hometown,” Watson, Northstar’s chairman and CEO, said a statement announcing the deal.

Northstar has interests in 48 “assets” in 16 States boasting about $1 billion in market value, he notes on his website. Over his 18-year tenure with the company, he has been a part of more than 130 deals.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirDecember 8, 20175min943

The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that Brita Horn, the elected Republican treasurer of Routt County who is running to be the next treasurer of Colorado, is once again facing off with officials in her own county over how she runs her office. According the the Pilot & Today’s Scott Franz, “the work environment and top management at the county treasurer’s office” are being called out in a memo sent to Routt County’s human resources department.

Writes Franz:

The memo, which outlined the observations of Yampa Valley Regional Airport Director Kevin Booth, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Clerk and Recorder Recording Supervisor Barb Houston, stated the three officials walked away from a grievance hearing for a treasurer’s office employee thinking “there is reason for concern about fair and equitable treatment of (treasurer’s office) employees below the level of Chief Deputy Treasurer.”

The memo raises serious questions about Treasurer Brita Horn’s leadership of the office at a time she is seeking higher office in the state as Colorado’s treasurer.

Horn had clashed with her county government over another matter just last August. As Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning explained in a report at the time:

The problem … involved a computer system that calculates how much of the tax revenue the county collects gets distributed to the county, towns, schools, libraries and other taxing entities within its boundaries. When it came time for Horn’s office to send out checks for April tax receipts, it turns out, she only distributed money from a nine-day period, instead of the whole month, leaving $5.8 million sitting in treasurer coffers until July, when the error was discovered and the funds delivered.

The mistake that left local taxing entities short nearly $6 million for months. Horn told Luning then, “…not one dime of Routt County tax dollars was lost or misspent or that one Routt County program lost even one dime … And I definitely take responsibility that this issue has been corrected and, moving forward, will never happen again.”

Horn also responded to her latest round in the hot seat. Reports the Pilot & Today’s Franz:

…Horn defended the work environment at her office and said there is a “strong moral fiber” among current members of the staff.

Horn blamed a major property tax distribution error on (former county treasurer’s office employee Rani) Gilbert and fired her for other reasons, but Gilbert contested the firing and alleged unfair treatment and discrimination under Horn’s leadership.

Franz also offers more details of the latest criticism leveled at Horn:

The officials wrote in the memo they had heard enough evidence at the private grievance hearing to “substantiate reason for concern that employees below the level of Chief Deputy Treasurer fear retaliation from their supervisors if they question the actions, methods and/or directives of their supervisors.”

The officials also stated in the memo the county should be concerned about whether the workload distribution in the treasurer’s office is equitable, whether supervisors and bookkeepers have adequate training and whether Treasurer Brita Horn has adopted adequate checks and balances in the wake of a nearly $6 million property tax error her office made this summer.

In the state treasurer’s race, Horn so far is vying with five other Republicans for the GOP nomination: Brett Barkey (who is district attorney of Grand, Moffat and Routt counties), state Rep, Justin Everett, state Rep. Polly Lawrence, state Sen. Kevin Lundberg and Brian Watson. On the Democratic side of the ledger, state Rep. Steve Lebsock — in hot water over widely reported sexual-harassment allegations — state Rep. Dave Young and Bernard Douthit are running for the treasurer’s post.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirNovember 3, 20174min879

It’s like a game of musical chairs — except, at the end, there’s one too many seats instead of too few. As our Ernest Luning reported earlier, the U.S. Senate voted 56-41 on Thursday to confirm Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, filling the vacancy created by Justice Neil Gorsuch’s elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Which, of course, leaves an opening on the state’s highest court. Only, this time, the U.S. Senate won’t have a say in who gets the seat; it’ll be up to the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The commission will meet Nov. 27 and 28, interview candidates and come up with a short list of nominees from which Gov. John Hickenlooper will pick Eid’s replacement.

Here’s more via a press release hot off the presses from the Colorado Judicial Department:

To be eligible for appointment to fill the vacancy, the applicant must be a qualified elector of the State of Colorado and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado for five years.  The current annual salary for this position is $177,350.  The initial term of office of a Supreme Court justice is a provisional term of two years; thereafter, the incumbent justice, if retained by the voters, has a term of 10 years.

Application forms are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice, or from the Supreme Court Clerk, Cheryl Stevens, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203.  Applications also are available on the court’s home page at: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Careers/Judge.cfm.

So, who gets to sit in on that very special star chamber that (in conjunction with the guv) picks our state’s most powerful judges? The press release has that info, too — designated by congressional district:

  • Kathleen Lord and Daniel Ramos, 1stCongressional District;
  • Ann Hendrickson and Shannon Stevenson, 2nd Congressional District;
  • Kim Childs and Robert Scott, 3rdCongressional District;
  • Scott Johnson and Tracee Bentley, 4th Congressional District;
  • Jay Patel and Eric Hall, 5th Congressional District;
  • James Carpenter and Michael Burg, 6th Congressional District;
  • Carolyn Fairless and Olivia Mendoza, 7thCongressional District;
  • Connie McArthur, at-large.

 


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 29, 20174min756

Great minds think alike, and so do George Brauchler and Walker Stapleton. A careful reader pointed out to Colorado Politics on Friday that comments made by Brauchler, a Republican candidate for governor, sounded almost identical to those made by Stapleton about Jared Polis.

Polis is a congressman and Democratic candidate for governor who has spent millions of his own dollars to try to tighten regulations on the oil and gas industry in Colorado, even going up against current Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2014. Colorado Politics wrote in-depth about Polis’ and and present positions on energy production in August, if you want to learn more.

In a story Thursday by Colorado Politic’s Ernest Luning, Brauchler said in a statement:

“Extreme liberals, such as Congressman Jared Polis, have made it clear that they seek to destroy Colorado’s oil and gas sector, at the expense of Colorado’s economy and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of hard-working Coloradans With real leadership, Colorado can safely extract our natural resources, grow our economy, create jobs and preserve our environment.”

Stapleton’s campaign told Luning something strikingly similar a day earlier:

“Congressman Polis’ agenda is clear; he has been working for years to destroy the 230,000 jobs that oil and gas supports, all to appease his base of Bernie Sanders acolytes at the expense of hardworking Coloradans.”

Mix in what Stapleton’s website says:

“Together, we can safely develop our natural resources. We can have a booming energy sector, create thousands of well-paying jobs, and protect Colorado’s environment for current and future generations.”

Is that plagiarism? Technically, no. You can’t plagiarize a thought, even if you mix in a few key words. For Polis, however, it sounds like Brauchler has Stapleton’s playbook on how Republicans should talk about him. It also says Republicans see Polis as the shoo-in nominee they’ll face in next year’s general election.

Polis has some well-known Democrats to contend with in his primary, however, including Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former state Sen. Mike Johnston in the nine-candidate primary.

Stapleton and Brauchler are considered the top-tier candidates in a seven-way GOP race.

Mara Sheldon, a spokeswoman for Polis, on Friday pointed to her comment to Luning about the mud being slung in her candidate’s direction:

“While the Republican candidates compete for special interest dollars, Jared is standing up for workers and protecting the health, safety, and jobs of Colorado families, not industry lobbyists.”

(Editor’s note: This story was updated with a response from the Polis campaign.)