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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 17, 20173min622

Believe it or not, plenty of Colorado K-12 students owe fines for overdue library books, damaged or missing textbooks, and the like. If you are a parent, you already know this.

Especially for some households of modest means, forking it over can amount to more than just an incidental expense. And even if paying the fines isn’t that big a deal for other families, the question arises: Is failure to pay them a big enough deal to warrant withholding a student’s transcripts?

Before you answer, know this: Gov. John Hickenlooper thinks the answer is no, and he made that clear by signing House Bill 1301 into law today. (OK, now you can go ahead and answer the question.)

What’s HB 1301? The state House Democrats thought you’d ask. From a press release the House Dems’ press office issued today:

HB17-1301 prevents a school or school district from withholding records required for enrollment in another school or institution of higher education, such as a transcript or diploma, for failure to pay any fine or fee assessed by the school. This includes fines related to returning or replacing textbooks, library resources or other school property.

So, is it a get-out-of-jail-free card? Perhaps, a blank check to run up the tab on overdue books or missing texts because, by statute, there now will be no meaningful consequences? The press release addresses that, too, quoting House sponsor Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City:

“We must give every student access to a free public education … That includes access to their grades and transcripts if they need to change schools or reenroll. Grades, transcripts and academic records belong to the student and no student should be prevented from receiving or continuing their education because of inability to pay.”

And it noted this:

Testimony during the bill’s hearing before the House Education Committee pointed out that the policy of withholding transcripts can lead to low-income students dropping out of school. Martin Schneider with the Community Prep School in Colorado Springs said that half of the students at the school each year are new students and 35 percent of those students have unpaid fines from previous schools—most fines are less than $30.00. Many students and their families don’t have an ability to pay those fines which acted as a barrier up until now for students seeking to continue their education.

It probably didn’t hurt the bill’s chances that it was bipartisan. No less a no-nonsense conservative than Senate Republican Majority Leader Chris Holbert, of Parker, was the Senate co-sponsor along with Aurora Democrat Rhonda Fields.

 

 



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 14, 20174min309

Colorado’s attorney general filed suit today against independent-minded Boulder County over its refusal to end its moratorium on new oil and gas development. Of course, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. A brouhaha has been brewing for quite some time.

Just a few days ago, it took the form of a case of arguable tit-for-tat at the Capitol: State Sens. Matt Jones and Steve Fenberg of Boulder County voted against additional funding for the Attorney General’s Office as a way of pushing back at AG Cynthia Coffman. It was a symbolic gesture by the two Democratic lawmakers on a routine fiscal measure in the Republican-controlled upper chamber, but they wanted to register their anger at Coffman for her previous jab at their home county. The attorney general had issued an ultimatum in a letter to their county’s commission last month: Either lift their nearly-5-year-old moratorium on new oil and gas exploration within Boulder County, or face “appropriate legal action” from her office. The county politely said no.

Today, Coffman followed through. Her office announced it is suing Boulder County over what Coffman  — pointing to court rulings — contends is an illegal moratorium:

The Boulder Commissioners…have re-imposed or extended the moratorium eight separate times. Two of those extensions were passed after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in May 2016 that local bans on oil or gas development are preempted if they conflict with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act, which regulates all aspects of oil and gas development and operations within the State.  After the Supreme Court’s ruling in the City of Longmont and City of Fort Collins cases, other local governments acted to lift similar bans — except for Boulder County.

…because Boulder County continues to operate in clear violation of Colorado law, the Attorney General today is filing suit in Boulder County District Court to compel compliance.

Jimmy Sengenberger interviewed Coffman on the “Business for Breakfast” show on KDMT radio station Tuesday morning.

She said the Colorado Supreme Court made clear last year that “the state owns the field” when it comes to regulation oil and gas development.

“Local communities have a role and can coordinate and have a voice in those regulations on the local level, but what they cannot do is interfere with the development of oil and gas in their local community, They can’t say no.

“… But Boulder has continued, and it’s the only county in the state of Colorado that continues to violate state law by saying, ‘Nope, we still aren’t going to allow this oil and gas development.'”

She added, “I suppose I could ignore the fact a local community is violating state law, but I don’t think that’s a wise or responsible thing for me to do as attorney general.”

We’ll be back with more as the story develops.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 14, 20172min238

There’s a bill for that. The bipartisan Senate Bill 88 would require a health plan to give notice whenever it bumps a physician or other health care provider out of its network of covered providers. Among its other provisions, the measure also would require health plans to develop and disclose criteria they use to include, exclude and dump doctors and other providers from their networks.

SB 88 — sponsored in the upper chamber by state Sens. Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Chris Holbert, R-Parker —  just passed the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee on a 5-2 vote and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

Here’s a press statement released on the bill by the Senate GOP:

SB-88…will help improve health network transparency by requiring that certain networks offer notice as to how and why such changes are made. At present, most patients and doctors impacted by such “de-selection” decisions are left completely in the dark.

“We believe that patients and care providers who are forced to part ways when a health network narrows are at least owed advance notification of those changes from the insurer, along with an explanation of why such changes are necessary,” said Holbert. “Because as it stands now, the lack of answers when a network narrows or a doctor is de-selected from such a network just adds insult to injury for the patients and care providers involved.”



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 3, 20173min389

Of interest today as the state Senate heats up with floor debate over two GOP gun bills: Complete Colorado reports that billionaire investor and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun-control advocacy organization has hired Colorado lobbyists to oppose one of the pending proposals. Here’s Complete’s Sherrie Peif:

From August through December, the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund — former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s organization — has paid the Denver-based lobbying firm of Headwaters Strategies $37,500 to oppose at least one bill that has already cleared the State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

That bill is Senate Bill 5, scheduled for discussion — probably lengthy and heated — and a vote this morning in the Senate. SB 5, sponsored in the upper chamber by Republican Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, would let school employees carry a concealed handgun on school premises if, among other conditions, they have a valid concealed-carry permit and have completed a school-employee handgun-safety course that is provided by their county sheriff and approved by the school board.

While the bill is likely to pass the Republican-run Senate, it is just as likely to be shot down in the Democratic-controlled House.

The other gun bill up for debate this morning is Senate Bill 7, which would repeal a 2013 ban on ammunition magazines carrying more than 15 rounds.

Bloomberg, the world’s eighth-richest person, with an estimated net worth of over $40 billion, has bellied up to the bar in Colorado politics before. As the Complete report reminds us, “in 2013, his organizations donated $350,000 to two southern Colorado senators who were eventually recalled.” Then-Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, both Democrats, were recalled after they voted to pass several gun control bills.


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Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinNovember 23, 20164min378

Colorado Senate Republicans announced committee assignments for the 2017 legislative session Wednesday, Nov. 23. New Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker) said they reflected the "more horizontal" management philosophy Senate Republicans will use going forward. "Our goal when making assignments was to diversify rather than concentrate power, which gets more of our members involved in the leadership of committees and strategic planning on the issues they handle," explained Holbert in a news release.


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Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 23, 20166min403

Monday was another gun-policy day at the Colorado Capitol. At the center of a second-reading back-and-forth in the state Senate, U.S. Senate candidate Tim Neville, R-Littleton, defended his proposal to lift the requirement that Coloradans who wish to carry concealed firearms apply for a permit and take training classes. “Coloradans shouldn’t have to go begging to the government to exercise their God-given unalienable Second Amendment right,” Neville argued. His bill passed the Senate Tuesday morning on a party-line 17-18 vote and now heads to the House where Democrats are sure to defeat it.


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Sen. Chris HolbertSen. Chris HolbertApril 23, 20153min283
Editor’s Note: Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, is contributing a column to this week’s print edition. The Colorado Statesman is publishing the column in serial form online this week. Looking ahead to 2016, it’s important that grassroots activists understand how the legislative process works and how to effectively communicate with legislators. Every resident of Colorado has […]

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Sen. Chris HolbertSen. Chris HolbertApril 22, 20152min292
Editor’s Note: Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, is contributing a column to this week’s print edition. The Colorado Statesman is publishing the column in serial form online this week. It has been disappointing to see and hear the division that has occurred among pro-Second Amendment advocates over hypothetically changing the current “mag ban” limit from 15 […]

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