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Marianne GoodlandNovember 15, 20178min284
The 2017-18 spending spree that Colorado lawmakers and the governor went on, courtesy of a $56.5 million boost in marijuana tax revenues, won’t be repeated in 2018-19, according to an analysis of those revenues presented this week to the Joint Budget Committee. That led some JBC members to warn fellow lawmakers and the governor that […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 14, 20174min4260

State Rep. Paul Lundeen, a candidate for state Senate, is backing political newcomer Chance Hill in the University of Colorado regent’s seat in El Paso County.

They’re both Republicans. Hill does not yet have opposition in the race to succeed Kyle Hybl on on the board that oversees the CU System, including the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

Lundeen is running for the Senate District 9 seat held by Kent Lambert, who is term-limited. Lundeen also is running unopposed.

Here is his letter endorsing Hill:

My Fellow Coloradans:

I support Chance Hill to be our next CU Regent from Colorado’s 5th congressional district.

Chance is a true believer in the values that make our country so exceptional: diversity of thought, seeing people as individuals, and the free exercise and expression of one’s belief system.

But like so many of us, Chance has become deeply concerned about our nation’s educational system and the lessons being taught to our college students–who already are voters and who will shape this country in the decades to come. Ugly displays and riots on campuses around the country indicate that the values that we hold dear–especially free speech–are no longer held in high esteem in the university setting. Instead, weak administrators have created college environments where group identity politics have become the norm and the Leftist obsession with race/ethnicity dominates the campus conversation. Those students who stray from the liberal mindset can experience real social consequences, and their grades sometimes can suffer as well.

Fortunately, the CU System has not experienced the problems described in quite the same way that we have witnessed at places like UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Middlebury, Evergreen State, and the University of Missouri among others. We are blessed to have a great university system in our beautiful state. Still, the CU System can continue to improve. Chance understands this reality. And he will fight hard as a CU Regent to appoint administrators who will set a tone that demands respect for all perspectives on campus–including those of Conservative professors, guest speakers, and students.

In pushing for the promotion of more intellectual diversity on campus, I am sure that Chance will face challenges–and close-minded liberal radicals probably will attack him. But knowing Chance and his background both as an Iraq War veteran and as a CIA officer, I am confident that he will never cower to the forces of extreme political correctness. Chance is a reasonable guy who will look to establish rapport even with those who disagree with him. But he also is someone with a strong backbone who will not succumb to the personal attacks that he will inevitably face as a result of his willingness to take on the liberal establishment on campuses.

I also believe that Chance will be a strong voice for UCCS and will fight for the best interests of his constituents.

Bottom line: I will be voting for him, and I encourage you to do the same.

Please check out his website at www.chanceforcuregent.com to learn more.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Paul Lundeen
Colorado State Senate Candidate, District 9
Colorado State House Representative, District 19
Former Chair, Colorado State Board of Education


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 8, 20175min2860

 

Remember that high school teacher or college prof who was known as “an easy A”? The one you didn’t have to worry about too much around finals?

No such luck for the 100 members of Colorado’s General Assembly — at least, not when it comes to the report card just issued on the lawmakers for the 2017 session by tax-hating, spending-cutting, government-curbing conservative advocacy behemoth Americans for Prosperity-Colorado.

Only six lawmakers — all of them in the state Senate, all of them members of the GOP majority — earned an A grade. The six “Champions of Freedom,” as AFP dubs them, are Sens. John Cooke, of Greeley; Vicki Marble, of Fort Collins; Tim Neville, of Littleton; Jim Smallwood, of Parker; Jerry Sonnenberg, of Sterling, and Jack Tate of Centennial.

In stark contrast, 17 state senators — basically, all of the upper chamber’s Democrats — flunked. That’s right: a big, fat F.

Things look even worse in the House. All 37 of the lower chamber’s majority Democrats — plus three Republicans:  Reps. Marc Catlin, of Montrose; Polly Lawrence  (currently running for state treasurer), of Roxborough Park, and Lang Sias, of Arvada — rated an F.

And AFP handed out no A’s to House members. Not a one.

The grand total: six A’s and 57 F’s.

Of interest: Sonnenberg and Tate were among the Republicans to vote for Senate Bill 267, the “rural sustainability” measure that raised revenue for a number of budget items while raising the ire of the political right.

Also noteworthy was who didn’t make the Senate’s A-list: longtime fiscal conservative stalwarts like Sen. Kent Lambert, of Colorado Springs, who earned a B, and Sen. Kevin Lundberg, of Berthoud, who came home with a C.

Some of the House’s reputed righties also didn’t seem to impress AFP. Rep. Perry Buck, of Windsor — whose significant other is swamp-draining 4th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck — got a D. Rep. Justin Everett, of Littleton — another candidate for state treasurer whose Wikipedia page says he “has been described as a ‘Combative Conservative,’ and is one of the most constitutionally conservative members of the Colorado House” — got a C. Rep. Tim Leonard, the Evergreen Republican? Also a C. Rep. Dave Williams, of Colorado Springs: C. Even House Republican Minority Leader Patrick Neville, of Castle Rock, only got a B.

What’s the basis for the grades? The organization issued a press release accompanying the report card today, offering insights on methodology:

In an effort to provide the most comprehensive accountability tool to citizens, AFP-Colorado scored nearly 1,800 individual votes on a wide variety of legislation. Bills scored include those that relate to our Budget Colorado Public Policy Agenda: SB 267, the “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” bill, HB 1242, a sales tax increase for transportation funding, and SB 61, a bill that sought to equalize funding for charter schools from local property taxes.

AFP-Colorado State Director Jesse Mallory — who not long ago worked closely with the Senate Republicans as their chief of staff — was quoted in today’s press release:

“We are excited to release this year’s scorecard, a tool we use to hold members accountable and commend those who advance economic freedom … We plan to promote this scorecard throughout the state to inform Coloradans on how their legislators voted. …”

In other words, he thinks the F students might have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Depending, of course, on how much their constituents care.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 23, 20174min720

The state mental hospital can’t keep up with judges increasingly assigning people there for mental competency evaluations, the Colorado Department of Human Services said Thursday. That means some people might spend more time than necessary locked up.

Under a 2012 court settlement with the advocacy organization Disability Law Colorado, those sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo by a judge must receive a mental health evaluation or treatment within 28 days. In October 2015, the Disability Law called out the hospital again for long past-due attention for patients.

When the second suit settled last August, DHS was put under the watch of an independent consultant for at least the next two-and-a-half years.

Thursday, DHS invoked “special circumstances” allowed by the settlement, citing an untenable spike in caseload.

The hospital said the situation has nothing to do with dire staffing shortages at the 449-bed hospital that forced administrators to act fast last week to avoid losing its Medicare and Medicaid funding, about 13 percent of its $91 million budget.

“Rather, the situation is directly attributable to an increase in court-ordered competency evaluation and restoration services that go beyond the hospital’s capacity,” DHS said in a statement.

The agency noted that last August’s settlement “intentionally included a safety valve provision for just this type of circumstance — a situation in which demand has significantly outpaced capacity and is beyond CMHIP’s control.”

Invoking special circumstances suspends the settlement’s requirement until Dec. 23.

Jennifer Brown of the Denver Post, who first reported on DHS’s declaration Thursday, said the increase was attributable to judges becoming more conscious of underlying mental health issues for some defendants, from misdemeanors to capital murder.

Nancy VanDeMark, the state director of behavioral health, told Colorado Politics about the struggle finding an adequate workforce to work at the mental hospital in a strengthening state economy. The hospital will work internally and with the state legislature to find solutions, she said.

In the wake of staffing crisis at the hospital, its superintendent, Ron Hale, resigned. He was hired in 2015.

State Senate Republicans who spoke to reporters and editors from Colorado Politics and the Colorado Springs Gazette Thursday morning volunteered that they’re concerned about the state hospital.

“Right now we’re having some serious leadership problems in getting our hands around these issues on a bipartisan basis,” said Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs, before Thursday afternoon’s announcement about the hospital being unable to keep up with mental health evaluations.

“I’ve talked to (Sen.) Leroy Garcia, a Democrat down in Pueblo, and he’s just as incensed by some of these things as we are. It’s not just a political divide, but we really, really need to hold some of our executive departments accountable for what they’ve been doing.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 20, 20176min810

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office is expected to request on Tuesday that state budget writers approve supplemental funding for the Colorado Energy Office after the legislature hit an impasse at the end of the legislative session.

The governor’s office is asking for $3.1 million to preserve the office, which, in addition to promoting renewable energy, also assists schools, the agriculture industry and developers reduce energy costs.

While the Energy Office would be able to retain about 10 employees thanks to federal funds, another 24 staff positions are on the line.

The office would no longer operate programs that focus on agriculture, building development, and policy and research.

The governor’s office is seeking up to $3.1 million in the upcoming budget that starts in July to continue its operations. The split Joint Budget Committee is expected to be presented with the proposal on Tuesday.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, chairman of the JBC, said he believes the issue was addressed during the legislative session when lawmakers could not reach an agreement on continuing funding for the office. He said the question is better left for the full legislature to decide rather than the six members of the JBC.

It’s likely that the JBC will deadlock on the funding request on Tuesday, as it is split between three Democrats and three Republicans. A tie would kill the proposal.

“We objected to it being just a JBC action all the way back to the first of November when he (Hickenlooper) put it in his budget request. This is not just a budget request,” Lambert said. “There are a lot of questions over how is the money being used and a lot of what we consider unnecessary regulations and things that are restricting the energy industry.”

“A bill having failed, I just don’t think it’s the right process for the JBC to come back and fund something that did not make it through the legislative process. I’m quite concerned about that. It’s bad precedent,” said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, a member of the JBC. “On the other hand, I’m not opposed to the idea of an energy office, I’m voting against the process.”

The third Republican member of the JBC, Sen. Kevin Lundburg of Berthoud, has already expressed concerns with the Colorado Energy Office and is likely to oppose the funding request.

The governor’s office believes that it has an obligation to request supplemental funding because it was “unforeseen” that the legislature would not act on maintaining funding. Supplementals are authorized for several reasons, one of which includes “unforeseen” events.

“The governor has agreed that he is open to a process where we re-examine the mission of the Colorado Energy Office to make sure it includes ‘all of the above’ energy – all forms,” said a Hickenlooper spokeswoman. “He has received encouragement that the office could be funded through the JBC for the current year while that process goes forward.”

Lambert, however, does not believe an “unforeseen” event took place, pointing out that the legislature debated the subject this year, though it was unable to reach a resolution on the last day of the legislative session.

Funding would have been included in the 57-page Senate Bill 301, which would have provided the $3.1 million while also doing away with certain programs. It was supported by Hickenlooper’s Energy Office.

The Republican-controlled Senate had included provisions that would have made changes to a host of renewable energy and other programs in the state, including eliminating some of those programs. The Senate version would have expanded the Colorado Energy Office’s focus to include nuclear and hydropower, while giving the oil and gas industry a greater voice.

It also focused heavily on natural gas, aiming at eliminating a prohibition on investor-owned utilities owning natural gas reserves. An investor-owned utility is owned by private investors and members. The legislation would have directed the state to create rules allowing an investor-owned utility to acquire an interest in Colorado-based natural gas reserves for up to 50 percent of its needs.

A provision of the legislation also would have raised registration fees for electric vehicles, which had some Democratic lawmakers concerned.

Democrats approved a trimmed bill, which would have continued funding for the Colorado Energy Office, but it also would have stripped many of the provisions stemming from the Senate.

The discussion became bogged down in politics, especially following a home explosion in Firestone in April linked to natural gas leaking from an old pipeline. The incident killed two men. Republicans and Democrats could not find enough common ground to advance the bill in the split legislature.

“That was the situation we were put in, either we adhere to the Senate position or recede to the House position, and that was just unacceptable,” Lambert said. “Maybe next year we can try again.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 19, 20174min910
Charter School funding
Gov. John Hickenlooper signs a charter school equity bill into law at Rocky Mountain Prep charter school in Denver on June 2. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado League of Charter Schools)

Republicans in the Colorado legislature are expected to turn out strong Thursday for a lunchtime rally for charter schools in Colorado Springs.

A Celebration of Charter School Families begins at 12:30 p.m. at Colorado Springs Early Colleges at 4405 N. Chestnut St. The rally is sponsored by the conservative school choice organization Ready CO and the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

The speakers for the event include Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City and Sens. Bob Gardner, Owen Hill and Kent Lambert, all of Colorado Springs.

Hill is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and advocates for options other than traditional public schools. In the last session he sponsored breakthrough legislation, working with Democrats, to equitably share tax dollars with charter schools,  House Bill 1375.

Charter schools are public schools organized by parents or leaders in a community with a charter from a local school board. Parents and principals have more autonomy on curriculum and operations. The state has 238 charter schools and more than 115,000 students.

Charter school funding was hailed as a big winner when the session ended in May so Thursday’s rally amounts to a victory lap for Senate Republicans.

Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, led the bipartisan House Bill 1340, which created a 10-member legislative committee to study school financing.

Gardner, the founder of Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy, serves on the Senate Education Committee.

The Senate Republican caucus produced a video on the subject in February starring Hill and Gardner, along with Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson.

“I have a passion for education, particularly for education choice for parents and children,” Gardner said on camera.

Some Democrats are concerned charter schools are a way of side-stepping protections and representation from teachers unions. “School choice” is viewed by opponents as a step toward school vouchers, which would allow some parents, but not all, to take their kids and money out of private schools and leave less fortunate students behind.

Editor’s note: This blog was updated with newer totals for charter schools and enrollment.