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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 6, 20186min736
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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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandOctober 1, 20178min401
The question of whether someone can file an ethics complaint with a home rule city or county and the state’s Independent Ethics Commission at the same time will wait another day for an answer. On Thursday the ethics commission dismissed a complaint against a former Glendale city councilman because the commission’s official views on home […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 28, 20175min385

A formal hearing into an ethics complaint filed against Rep. Kim Ransom of Lone Tree isn’t likely to take place before October, based on discussions of the complaint today with the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission.

The complaint, filed last year by Lone Tree resident Charles Bucknam, alleges Ransom accepted a gift that exceeds the state’s constitutional limits. The commission decided in January that the complaint had enough merit to move forward with a formal investigation.

That investigation, conducted by commission staff, was completed last month and obtained by Colorado Politics.

Ransom was one of 10 lawmakers who was named an awardee by the non-profit Principles of Liberty organization, which is headed by Rich Bratten. Bratten and wife Laurie are long-time conservative activists; Laurie is a staffer to U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and before that handled communications for the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, an ad hoc group of conservative state lawmakers. Rich Bratten runs a variety of conservative groups; he also served as executive director of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado.

The complaint against Ransom alleges she accepted a $600 “Gold Pass” to the 2016 Western Conservative Summit as one of 10 lawmakers who were slated to receive an award from Principles of Liberty. The Gold Pass allowed lawmakers to attend the summit and receive free meals.

The state’s ethics law limits gifts to lawmakers to those valued at $59 or less. But there are exceptions to the law, pointed out by Ransom’s attorney, Mark Grueskin of Denver, in his response to the complaint.

The biggest loophole may be that elected officials can accept gifts from nonprofits that receive 5 percent or less of their funding from for-profit sources. “As far back as 2015, Rep. Ransom spoke with House of Representatives partisan legislative staff who related that, at the behest of one or more legislators, the Office of Legislative Legal Services (‘OLLS’) had reviewed the propriety of legislators’ acceptance of a Gold Pass to the Western Conservative Summit,” wrote Grueskin in his response.

According to Grueskin, the legislature’s legal services staff spoke to the director of the Centennial Institute, which is part of Colorado Christian University, which sponsors the annual summit. The Centennial Institute verified that CCU was a nonprofit entity that receive less than 5 percent of its funding from for-profit entities. There would be “no ethical barrier” to accepting the Gold Pass to attend the summit, Grueskin wrote.

In his complaint, Bucknam seeks sanctions of a misdemeanor and a $1,000 fine levied against Ransom.

Nine other lawmakers were notified they would receive the Principles of LIberty Award, given to those who received A-plus ratings for their final votes on legislation reviewed by the organization.

Ransom was the only lawmaker of the 10 who notified the Secretary of State that she had accepted the Gold Pass on a quarterly gifts and honoraria report filed in October, 2016.

The other awardees included Reps. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, Stephen Humphrey of Severance, Justin Everett of Littleton, Lori Saine of Firestone, Tim Leonard of Evergreen, Perry Buck of Greeley, and Sens. Tim Neville of Littleton, Vicki Marble of Fort Collins and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. All 10 attended the Western Conservative Summit and accepted the award, although how many of the 10 accepted the passes is unknown. Bratten did not respond to an email or phone call seeking that information.

Humphrey, Leonard, Tim Neville and Sonnenberg did not file third quarter gifts reports for 2016, a potential violation of the state’s ethics laws. The other five did file those reports but said they had received nothing of value for the quarter that began on July 1 and ended on Sept. 30, 2016. The Principles of Liberty award was given during the summit’s Saturday evening event on July 2.

Under state law an elected official who fails to file a gift report or files an incomplete or inaccurate report is guilty of a misdemeanor and can carry a fine of between $50 and $1,000.

No ethics complaints for accepting the passes were filed against the other lawmakers, nor were there any ethics complaints filed for failing to file the required reports. The statute of limitations for an ethics complaint is one year.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 26, 20178min446

A group of liberal advocacy organizations for the first time released combined legislative scorecards this week, conglomerating assessments of the 100 Colorado lawmakers’ votes last session on key legislation the organizations said they plan to present to voters next year. A Republican who received among the lowest overall scores, however, dismissed the endeavor as a “political stunt” and told Colorado Politics he doubts the predictable rankings — Democrats good, Republicans bad — give voters any meaningful information.