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Kelly SloanKelly SloanApril 30, 20186min396

There is something to be said for a legislative process which, even in what many have categorically proclaimed to be the most bitterly rancorous, partisan year in living memory, still manages now and then to churn out legislation which tackles major issues and does so in a bi-partisan manner. One such effort is Senate Bill 18-003, sponsored by Senator Ray Scott and Representatives Chris Hansen and Jon Becker, which resuscitated the floundering Colorado Energy Office, and made it a better agency in the process.


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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandFebruary 26, 20184min375
A bill setting up a raffle for hunting licenses for Colorado big game is scheduled for Tuesday in the state Senate, but it has conservation and animal rights groups lining up to oppose it. Senate Bill 137 would direct the state Parks and Wildlife department to set up a raffle for hunting licenses for 10 […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirDecember 6, 20172min590
State Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Grand Junction Republican state Sen. Ray Scott will never be mistaken for a slick, smooth, blowdried political glad-hander. The plain-spoken, bear-like, jock-next-door lawmaker comes across as the kind of guy who doesn’t know which is his best side for the camera and probably doesn’t care.

All of which the Senate GOP press shop seems to celebrate in a video short this week of Scott offering up some YouTube teasers of the big issues in the upcoming legislative session. Moving the behind-the-scenes stuff up front, the video has Scott talking energy, roads and bridges while responding to apparent queues as to which camera needs his love.

It’s the latest installment of the caucus’s penchant for video horseplay. The Senate Republicans may hold only a one-vote majority, but their inclination to cut up on camera suggests they’re not too worried to have some fun.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 16, 20176min478

Remember the face-off over “fake news,” pitting a Colorado state senator against the daily newspaper in Grand Junction? The grudge match between the two has resurfaced; only, this time, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is quibbling with the way Republican state Sen. Ray Scott manages his Facebook account. Notably, he is accused of deleting some derogatory comments — which the newspaper, pointing to a recent court ruling back east, says might be unconstitutional for a public official.

In the previous dustup, Daily Sentinel Publisher Jay Seaton had threatened legal action against Scott for calling the paper’s content “fake news.” Seaton backed down a couple of months later. This time, the newspaper settled for publishing a news report on the accusations against Scott, followed by an editorial chiding the senator:

Scott has to understand that if he’s going to use social media as a vehicle to express his political views or advocate for specific government action, he’s turned his Facebook and twitter accounts into public forums where certain types of speech enjoy constitutional protection. If he wants to avoid legal hot water, he either has to shut down those accounts or tolerate what his constituents have to say, whether he likes it or not.

The specter of “legal hot water” arises from a recent federal court ruling in Virginia that held that a public official had violated a local constituent’s right to free speech by taking down negative comments he had posted to the official’s Facebook page. The court found the official had acted “under color of law” in maintaining the page largely as a forum for public office, as well as in removing unwanted comments. The ruling is of course turning heads among elected officials because social media, like a private Facebook or Twitter account, had been thought personal and inviolable even if owned by a public official.

The broader implications of the case have yet to be sorted out. It’s probably worth noting one distinction between the Virginia case and the accusations against Scott: The Virginia official’s page was partially run, and posted to, by an aide who was a paid county staffer. The court referenced the aide as a factor in its ruling.

More telling, just days later, the same plaintiff — he’s a well-known local gadfly — lost a very similar case he had brought against another local government; same court but a different judge, who wrote:

“…it cannot be said that such a First Amendment right was a ‘clearly established’ right, ‘of which a reasonable person would gave known … These Individual Defendants are therefore entitled to qualified immunity for the actions they took against Plaintiff with respect to their Facebook pages.”

A local newspaper report surmised “The ruling by Judge Anthony J. Trenga seems to contradict a ruling last week by Judge James C. Cacheris in the same federal circuit…” The report also quoted the county attorney, who concluded: “An appellate court will need to clarify how and when social media constitute public forums.”

The Sentinel’s news report last week included interviews with some locals who said their comments were taken down from Scott’s Facebook account; Scott told the newspaper he’d withhold comment until getting legal input on the Virginia case’s implications, if any, for a circumstance such as his.

Whatever the lawyers, and probably the appellate courts, eventually conclude about this novel court ruling, it could have a chilling effect on public officials’ use of their private social media accounts for public purposes. Meanwhile, it definitely has had a chilling effect on relations between Scott and his hometown paper.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 31, 20173min459

A couple of state lawmakers are touting a speedy end-run on renewing your vehicle registration under a pilot program they helped make possible in suburban Denver’s Arapahoe County.

Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Brighton, will give the press a progress report at a briefing this week on the implementation of their Senate Bill 138, passed in the 2016 session. Yet, the true testimonial to the new system’s success is probably the thousands of Arapahoe county residents who have taken advantage of it since it started in March.

The system, called Colorado MV Express, uses scanning and touchscreen technology to let motorists who already have their license plates renew their registration at four locations around Arapahoe County. The renewal process typically takes only a few minutes. A news release from the Arapahoe clerk and recorder announcing the option earlier this spring explained:

Arapahoe is the first county in the state to launch Colorado MVExpress kiosks under a pilot program. Fifteen other counties will add the kiosks later this year. The machines are expected to reduce wait times at motor vehicle offices helping consumers renew their license plates and freeing up staff to assist with more complex title and registration transactions.

… To use the kiosk, a citizen can simply scan the barcode on their registration renewal postcard or type their license plate number on the touch screen, and pay taxes and fees via cash, check, credit or debit card. … The kiosk will provide your printed receipt, registration and license plate tabs on the spot.

The news release also notes seven other states already offer motor vehicle self-service kiosks: California, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Nevada and South Dakota.

Check out Colorado MV Express’s Facebook page for more information.

 


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 18, 20175min337

Citing unnamed sources, the Independence Institute’s Amy Oliver Cooke asserts in a blog post that Gov. John Hickenlooper has an ulterior motive in talking up a possible special session: He wants to promote wind power on a massive scale. And he wants to throw the keys to behemoth public utility Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest power provider.

According to her blog post, that was supposed to have been accomplished during the regular 2017 session that concluded last week. The vehicle, Cooke writes, was going to be an amendment inserted into a bill introduced late in the game, Senate Bill 301, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction.

On its face, that bill involved a sweeping reconfiguration of the much-debated Colorado Energy Office and also included a provision that would have permitted investor-owned utilities to own natural gas reserves. The bill got mired in late-session politics and was scuttled in the end amid tit-for-tat pushing and shoving between Scott’s Republican-run Senate and the Democratic-controlled House.

So, the special session would pick up where the originally intended effort left off, Cooke writes. SB 301’s natural gas provision was the tip of the iceberg, she seems to think:

Sources tell me that Governor John Hickenlooper really wants the state legislature to anoint in statute Xcel’s big plans for industrial wind, and he is trying to get the oil and gas industry to support it as well, likely because natural gas is the preferred back-up generation for industrial wind.

The amendment that got left dangling — Cooke reprises it in full in her blog post — “was written specifically for or by Xcel Energy and its pending Electric Resource Plan (ERP), which was predicated on a Hillary Clinton victory and the continuation of the controversial and costly Clean Power Plan.”

She continues:

“… this language blesses Xcel to build and majority own industrial wind and natural gas back up, build and own all of the infrastructure, and pass all the costs along to ratepayers. It would complete the process of converting Xcel from pig to hog status.

Cooke, who is the libertarian-leaning institute’s executive V.P. and heads its Energy Policy Center, is a frequent critic of Minneapolis-based Xcel and other investor-owned public utilities given their status as regulated monopolies. Independence and other critics of the system don’t like how it uses Public Utilities Commission-granted rate hikes in part to subsidize the transition to what the critics contend are costlier alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.

We reached out to Hickenlooper Press Secretary Jacque Montgomery for a comment on Cooke’s assertions. She followed up with this response — neither a confirmation nor an explicit denial:

The Governor has shared what his top issues are when considering a special session:  infrastructure and health care.   At his end-of-session news conference, he called out these as well as the funding for the energy office.

Here’s the link again to Cooke’s blog post.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 26, 20172min206
Ever wonder if you could get away with counting your dog as another car passenger in an HOV lane? Or, maybe you’re hoping your tinted windows are dark enough to hide the fact you’re all alone? A couple of lawmakers feel your pain; they want Colorado to ease up on what one of them calls a “punitive” requirement […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchMarch 1, 20175min199
A bill to make public records available electronically passed the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Wednesday, a milestone for a controversial bill. “It has indeed been an interesting journey and a work in progress,” said Senate Bill 40‘s sponsor, John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, After similar legislation, Senate Bill 37, died in committee last year, […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 27, 20172min273

It isn’t often a newspaper threatens to sue a reader for allegedly smearing its good name. Probably even rarer: when the reader in question is an elected official. Much already has been reported about the potentially precedent-setting joust between the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and Grand Junction-area state Sen. Ray Scott; we won’t rehash it here. Just passing along what seems like a particularly enlightening interview with Scott — by public radio’s Bente Birkeland for the Capitol Coverage project — in which the veteran Republican lawmaker goes into detail with his side of the story.

Since the initial dust-up, the feud has pretty much idled, with each side saying bring it on and Sentinel Publisher Jay Seaton, who is also an attorney, promising to explore specific options for the litigation. As of this week’s interview with Birkeland, that’s still the status:

Birkeland: What do you hope comes of this issue – if it goes to court? Or do you hope it goes away on its own?

Scott: Well, I think maybe it’s time to define what real, good journalism is, and why [it] is free speech on one side, or freedom of the press if you will, and not free speech for somebody to rebut that.

Read the full interview here.