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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 23, 20173min2420

The new director of Colorado Office of Behavioral Health has another new title: Friend of Children.

Robert Werthwein received the award from Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.

Werthwein was recognized for his work with the Colorado Department of Human Service’s Office of Children, Youth and Families from March 2015 to September 2017, before DHS promoted him last month.

For 24 years, CASA has given the Friend of Children Award “to those who personify the values of humanitarian outreach and volunteerism with children, families and the community,” DHS said.

The award typically goes to judges, law enforcement, doctors, legislators or individuals who work to make life better for kids.

“At CDHS, we’re charged with ensuring every child in our care knows that they can rely on us, that we’re going to work to equip them with the tools they need to succeed and when the burden is too much, we’ll be there to help lighten the load,” Werthwein said in a statement. “Our kids are our future, and we’re going to keep showing up for them every day to help put more Colorado youth on a path to success.”

Since earning his doctorate in clinical psychology, Werthwein has worked to strengthen child-welfare programs and improve treatment for at-risk children. At the Office of Children, Youth and Families, Werthwein focused on juvenile justice, child welfare, human trafficking and other complex issues.

DHS referenced his work on House Bill 1207, the legislation sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, that removes incarceration as an option for children younger than 12.

The rule already applied to children 10 and younger. The bill signed into law by the governor in May.

“Dr. Werthwein worked tirelessly to advocate for 10-12 year olds in the juvenile justice system, keeping those youths with low-level offenses from mandatory detention facilities,” DHS said.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 12, 20175min994
Here’s something I bet you haven’t heard anywhere else: The Colorado House and Senate each could flip next year. OK, maybe you’ve heard half that. The Republicans hold just a one-seat edge in the 35-member Senate, which will see 17 seats on the ballot next year. But the House? Democrats enjoy a nine-seat majority in […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 9, 20173min161
Two pieces of legislation that became law Wednesday will help protect the rights of Colorado renters and mobile home residents. Hundreds of other laws take effect on the 90th day since the end of the legislative session. Senate Bill 245 requires landlords to give 21 days’ notice before raising the rent, instead of seven under […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 19, 20174min860
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.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningMay 25, 201727min1331

By one measure, state Rep. Justin Everett, a House Republican serving his third term in the Colorado General Assembly, and state Reps. Chris Hansen and Chris Kennedy, a pair of Democrats in their first terms, stand as far apart as any lawmakers at the Capitol, based on the votes they cast in the just-completed 2017 regular session. Considering all the bills that made it to final, third-reading votes in the session — 490 in the House and 459 in the Senate — between them, these three legislators cast the most ‘no’ votes and the most ‘yes’ votes, respectively, according to an analysis prepared by bill-tracking service Colorado Capitol Watch.


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John TomasicJohn TomasicMay 1, 20175min66
The big game this week will strut into the open on Tuesday at 8:40 a.m., when the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 267, the forebodingly titled “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” proposal. The bill would rescue the proposed state budget from its wretchedness by refilling $500 million in hospital cuts and generating […]

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John TomasicJohn TomasicApril 28, 201710min910

Sate Sen. John Cooke, a Republican from Greeley, played point-man Thursday in an effort to <a href="https://www.coloradostatesman.com/touted-energy-efficiency-program-re-hits-legislative-speed-bump/" target="_blank">kill</a> a popular Colorado energy efficiency program, which he argued was an absurd waste of money and a form social engineering. But <a href="http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/HB17-1227" target="_blank">House Bill 1227</a>, which would reauthorize the ten-year-old program, isn’t dead yet, and its bipartisan supporters didn’t submit meekly to the surprise legislative jiu-jitsu Cooke let loose in the Senate Agriculture and Energy Committee.


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John TomasicJohn TomasicApril 24, 20174min840

Two-and-a-half weeks till closing time, and there’s plenty of business left to conduct in this building. All eyes will be watching <strong>transportation-funding</strong> <a href="https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1242" target="_blank">House Bill 1242</a>. It’s being heard Tuesday in the Senate Finance committee. It’s one of the big-deal top-priority bills of the session, and it seems doomed. Will there be amendments? Will someone have found a new revenue stream to replace the sales tax hike? Will the parties working the bill feel like they can put their cards on the table at this point? Will the bill be killed only to be reincarnated into something more attractive in the coming days?