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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandMarch 16, 20187min874

The issue of harassment at the state Capitol took a turn Friday, when a Democratic member of the House claimed he'd been harassed by another member, a fellow Democrat, and threatened to call for an expulsion resolution. Rep. Donald Valdez of La Jara took to the House microphone Friday morning to complain that he had been harassed by another lawmaker. He didn't identify the lawmaker, however, Colorado Politics learned the other lawmaker was Rep. Jovan Melton of Aurora.


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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandFebruary 7, 20184min748

The continuing effort to close the Grand Junction campus* of the Grand Junction Regional Center, home to its last 22 residents, hit the House floor Wednesday morning.

Rep. Lois Landgraf, a Fountain Republican, offered an amendment to a supplemental budget bill that she said would escalate the closing of the campus and require those remaining residents to be placed in private group homes.

Landgraf’s amendment would take $2 million from the Department of Human Services budget and direct those funds toward transitioning the residents to “non-governmental community providers.”

That drew immediate protest, not only from the House members of the Joint Budget Committee, but from the Republican lawmakers who represent the Grand Junction community.

Landgraf pointed out that the Grand Junction center costs the state $11 million per year, roughly $1,100 per day per resident. The decision was made years ago that those with developmental disabilities shouldn’t be kept in institutions. “I understand these are high-needs people.” she said. “We’re not throwing them out on the streets.”

However, Rep. Dave Young, a Greeley Democrat who sits on the JBC, indicated that’s exactly what could happen. He told lawmakers that currently, there is no place for those residents to go; the group facilities that could care for these high-need individuals don’t exist.

Part of the reason for the center’s high cost is that its facilities are old. The Center started off as an Indian boarding school in 1885; its history as a development disability center dates back to 1921. The facility at one point held 800 residents.

Another factor: the last 22 residents require intensive care for medical and behavioral or psychiatric issues, in addition to their developmental disabilities, according to lawmakers.

The General Assembly has been working since 2014 to find a way to provide the best care possible for the remaining residents yet at the same time close the facility.

Young  told Colorado Politics that a 2016 bill dictates that the legislature come up with a plan for closing the Grand Junction campus that would move residents into community-based facilities. The law requires the Department of Human Services to put the campus up for sale on July 1. It also allows DHS to renovate a building and construct up to six new group homes, to address the lack of those facilities in the community. In addition to the campus, the regional center includes nine group homes in the Grand Junction area.

“This amendment would slow the progress” for that plan, said Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction, who acknowledged that “everyone is frustrated with the pace of progress” on closing the center. “The plan is to provide the best care we can” for the remaining residents and they (along with their families) can choose where they should go.

Landgraf’s amendment failed on a voice vote.

 

Clarification: Updated to note that the amendment intended to deal only with the Grand Junction campus, not the entire Grand Junction Regional Center.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchDecember 18, 20172min2515

A group of Colorado Springs-area Republican politicos partnered with local organizations to provide gifts and necessities during the holidays.

The effort, called a Different Kind of Christmas, raised at least $7,500 (and counting) in gifts, donations and in-kind support for Restore Innocence, Sarah’s Home, Free Our Girls, Break the Silence, Springs Rescue Mission and other Colorado-based organizations.

Organizers and supporters gathered to celebrate Saturday night at the Colorado Institute of Massage Therapy in Colorado Springs.

“Our community faces a number of challenges and the holidays are an especially tough time for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking,” Jillian Likness, who is running for the state House District 18 seat, told Colorado Politics. “As I have worked with and talked with members of our community, I have seen a true need for awareness and support for our most vulnerable. This year, I invited friends, neighbors and local leaders to join me in giving back through a Christmas to benefit human trafficking and other survivors in our community rather than focusing on exchanging gifts with one another.

“As a survivor myself, I know how important love and support are in the healing, recovery and survival journey.”

Other members of the committee were Rep. Paul Lundeen and his wife, Connie; Rep. Dan Nordberg and his wife, Maura; Rep. Terri Carver; Rep Lois Landgraf; state Republican Party vice chair Sherrie Gibson; Sandra Foote; Kay Rendleman and Mr. and Mrs. Ken Norwood.

“These women, men and children will be given hope and a sense of community that will help them fight for their dignity and restore them to a place in society where they can take pride in their journeys,” Likness said. “This is an event which breaks down barriers, changes the narrative and is not a political or for-profit benefit. This is a gift from our hearts to Colorado.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 24, 20176min323

Colorado’s political right has made its heartburn abundantly clear by now over Senate Bill 267, the eleventh-hour, catch-all, bipartisan legislation that wound up funding a little of this and a little more of that — and unexpectedly became the sleeper of the 2017 legislature. The bill’s title purported to address the “sustainability of rural Colorado” but, as it turned out, reclassified the endlessly debated hospital-provider fee; authorized the lease-purchase of state buildings to fund highways; gave a $30 million lift to rural schools; the list goes on.

Just to underscore the indignation among true believers in the state’s law on tax limitation — which SB 267’s critics say was trampled — the venerable (and once influential) Colorado Union of Taxpayers, or CUT, has named a number of the bill’s legislative supporters to a “wall of shame.” It’s evidently a first for the decades-old group. CUT’s ire, and the wall itself, are mostly directed at black sheep in its own flock — i.e., what it deems wayward Republicans. All but two named to the wall are in fact members of the GOP:

…those legislators who sponsored SB17-267 and those CUT pledge signers (indicated by *) who flagrantly violated their pledge to Colorado Taxpayers: Senators Randy Baumgardner*, Kevin Grantham*, Lucia Guzman, Kevin Priola*, and Jerry Sonnenberg; Representatives Jon Becker, KC Becker, Phillip Covarrubias*, Lois Landgraf*, Polly Lawrence*, Kimmi Lewis*, Larry Liston*, Clarice Navarro*.

Some recent history: While much of legislative leadership as well as some rank-and-file members in both parties were patting themselves on the back for the considerable compromise that went into SB 267 (signed into law by the governor in May), the Republican right rebelled. Went ballistic, really. Particularly the reclassification of the hospital-provider fee aggrieved the likes of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, among others, because it effectively allows the state to hold onto surplus tax revenue it otherwise would have to return to taxpayers under constitutional taxing and pending limits. Hardline fiscal conservatives also didn’t like how the bill uses a technical loophole to borrow highway-construction funding without first seeking voter approval.

The fact that a number of Republicans signed onto the measure in both chambers — the Senate, which they control, and the House, which they don’t — drew epithets like “betrayal” and “sellout” from the right. Independence’s Jon Caldara and like-minded advocates were left nearly speechless (not literally in Caldara’s case, of course):

Support for the measure by some of the legislative GOP has in fact led to something of a rift in Republican ranks, as highlighted by a heated Twitter exchange we captured not long ago.  Some of the sharpest barbs flew between Caldara and roving Republican operative Tyler Sandberg:

Founded in 1976, CUT describes itself as “our state’s long-serving advocate for taxpayers.” Its familiar scorecard ratings of lawmakers, assessing their fiscal conservatism or lack thereof, have at times held considerable sway among Republicans at the Capitol.

CUT’s leadership includes a cast of longtime, tax-battling stalwarts, including Greg Golyansky as president and Marty Neilson, in charge of outreach.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningMay 25, 201727min707

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.