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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirNovember 3, 20174min3930

It’s like a game of musical chairs — except, at the end, there’s one too many seats instead of too few. As our Ernest Luning reported earlier, the U.S. Senate voted 56-41 on Thursday to confirm Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, filling the vacancy created by Justice Neil Gorsuch’s elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Which, of course, leaves an opening on the state’s highest court. Only, this time, the U.S. Senate won’t have a say in who gets the seat; it’ll be up to the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The commission will meet Nov. 27 and 28, interview candidates and come up with a short list of nominees from which Gov. John Hickenlooper will pick Eid’s replacement.

Here’s more via a press release hot off the presses from the Colorado Judicial Department:

To be eligible for appointment to fill the vacancy, the applicant must be a qualified elector of the State of Colorado and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado for five years.  The current annual salary for this position is $177,350.  The initial term of office of a Supreme Court justice is a provisional term of two years; thereafter, the incumbent justice, if retained by the voters, has a term of 10 years.

Application forms are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice, or from the Supreme Court Clerk, Cheryl Stevens, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203.  Applications also are available on the court’s home page at: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Careers/Judge.cfm.

So, who gets to sit in on that very special star chamber that (in conjunction with the guv) picks our state’s most powerful judges? The press release has that info, too — designated by congressional district:

  • Kathleen Lord and Daniel Ramos, 1stCongressional District;
  • Ann Hendrickson and Shannon Stevenson, 2nd Congressional District;
  • Kim Childs and Robert Scott, 3rdCongressional District;
  • Scott Johnson and Tracee Bentley, 4th Congressional District;
  • Jay Patel and Eric Hall, 5th Congressional District;
  • James Carpenter and Michael Burg, 6th Congressional District;
  • Carolyn Fairless and Olivia Mendoza, 7thCongressional District;
  • Connie McArthur, at-large.

 


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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 20, 20173min167
Colorado Politics told you last month about a bipartisan group that hopes to move the power to draw legislative districts a little farther away from partisan interests to a independent commission. Thursday Fair Districts Colorado the language for three proposals with the Office of Legislative Council after it says it conducted a statewide listening tour. […]

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Jesse MalloryJesse MallorySeptember 28, 20176min8480

It’s becoming harder for opponents of education freedom to come up with legitimate reasons families should not have more options when deciding the best possible education options for their children. The U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult with a pair of recent rulings, including one that said denying approximately 500 families in Douglas County the ability to exercise that freedom was wrong.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 13, 20176min14556

Promising “a well-rounded six-figure campaign,” pro-education reform behemoth Americans for Prosperity-Colorado announced it is launching a sweeping outreach effort to parents in the Douglas County School District, the state’s third-largest school system, to warn them “educational opportunity is in jeopardy.” The digital and direct-mail campaign, touted in a press release from the group this week, directs parents to sign an online petition calling on the Douglas County School Board “to preserve educational freedom.”

The pitch appears intended to rebuild support for the district’s dormant school-voucher program — which would help parents pay tuition at parochial and private schools of their choosing — though there’s no explicit mention of the program itself in the group’s announcement. A reform-minded DougCo school board, elected in 2009, adopted the much-debated policy but was never able to implement it in the face of a court challenge.

AFP’s campaign is launching on the heels of two major developments — renewed action in the long-idled court case, which halted the program in 2015, and the approach of the November school board election, which could shift the DougCo board away from its current, pro-reform tilt. Both developments could determine whether the voucher program ever takes effect. Meaning, the stakes are high, as AFP-Colorado must have noticed; by the way, it recently mounted a broader, statewide campaign advocating for school choice.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June ordered Colorado’s Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling two years ago striking down the program. The state’s highest court had ruled at the time that Colorado’s constitution included, “broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools.” However, the new ruling by the nation’s top court, following its decision on a related case, sets the stage for a do-over ruling by the state Supreme Court that could reopen the door to vouchers in DougCo.

Meanwhile, the school board is sharply divided, 4-3, between pro- and anti-voucher factions. The upcoming races promise a rematch between the two sides albeit with largely new slates of candidates. If the current majority loses just one seat, the new board could pull the plug on the program and moot any action by the state Supreme Court.

So AFP-Colorado’s new campaign comes at a critical juncture (though of course it makes no reference to the races).

The four-candidate, pro-voucher slate, which bills itself as “Elevate Douglas County,” will face off with the anti-voucher, four-candidate “Dream Team.” Voters can expect a lot of campaign money to pour in on both sides in the coming showdown, as has been the case in past elections; there are no contribution limits for school board candidates.

Prominent, well-heeled school-choice advocates like Alex Cranberg, Ed McVaney and Ralph Nagel have funded previous pro-voucher slates and probably will be back at bat for Elevate Douglas County. The state’s teacher unions — adamant foes of vouchers as well as charter schools and backers of the ongoing court challenge — likely will step up to the plate for the Dream Team.

As for AFP-Colorado’s campaign, State Director Jesse Mallory had this to say in this week’s press announcement:

“We should be doing everything possible to ensure that families have the ability to select the best educational options for their children. Kids enrolled in educational opportunity programs have shown increased graduation rates, are more likely to enroll in college, and ultimately are better prepared for the jobs of the future. We’re calling on parents to sign our petition calling on the Douglas County School Board to ensure that a child’s future shouldn’t be decided by their zip code or family income.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 10, 20178min1250

The dog days of August are over, and now the political doghouse is howling in Colorado. These week we saw our governor on the national stage, his lieutenant governor step into the spotlight on the state’s biggest stage and President Trump asserting himself in a Colorado case involving gay rights.

So many stories this week didn’t make the cut into the top five, but here are the ones worth revisiting, because of their wide impact on Colorado politics and Coloradans lives. Here are the stories our staff thought ranked as the best in the first week of September.

 

Gov. John Hickenlooper talks with reporters at the Colorado Democratic Party's election night watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Hickenlooper said recently he wants to make sure that the health reforms made in Colorado are secured against a likely repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act coming out of Washington. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
Gov. John Hickenlooper talks with reporters at the Colorado Democratic Party’s election night watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

5. Voters might weigh in on how districts get drawn

A bipartisan group is trying again to take some of the political gamesmanship out of how legislative and congressional districts are drawn in Colorado. The way it works now is that legislators draw them, which gives outsized advantage to the political party that has the majorities in the state House and Senate after the U.S. Census. As a result parties control the outcomes (and candidates) in most districts based on which voters are put in which districts. Opponents, however, see a scheme to take away political power from minorities and other “communities of interest.”

Read the full story here.

 

In this March 10, 2014 file photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips cracks eggs into a cake batter mixer inside his store in Lakewood, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

4. Trump adds ingredient to gay cake court case

The Trump administration is siding with a Lakewood baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012 by filing a brief in an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case. LGBTQ activists say it’s the clearest sign yet that President Trump harbors animosity toward their cause, regardless of what he said on the campaign trail.

Read the full story here.

 

Transportation The Gap
Looking north towards Castle Rock in, December as heavy traffic moves along I-25 which is two lanes in each direction. (Photo by Mark Reis/ The Colorado Springs Gazette)

3. Tap the brakes on no new taxes for roads

In the last legislative session, raising sales taxes for transportation was a no-go for Republicans who opposed asking Coloradans to pay more. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, however, aren’t yet through with the idea of gathering petition signatures to get on the ballot in 2018.

Read the full story here.

 

In this June 27, 2017, file photo, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, right, joined by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)

2. Hick on the Hill: Colorado’s king takes healthcare national

A U.S. Senate committee and organizations on both sides of the political fence on healthcare got to hear from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper this week. Hick and Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich drafted the proposal as Congress continues its efforts to repeal, replace or fix the Affordable Care Act.

Read the full story here.

 

Donna Lynne
Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne was introduced by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, background left, at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver on March 23, 2016. Lynne, if confirmed will replace Joe Garcia. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/ The Denver Post via the AP file photo)

1. Lynne is in the governor’s race

Things just got more interesting in the 2018 governor’s race, as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s second-in-command, Donna Lynne, joined the Democratic primary field that already includes such well-known candidates as Jared Polis, Cary Kennedy, Michael Johnston and Noel Ginsburg. Can she carve out a niche as the moderate pro-business choice with Hick’s team behind her? We’ll see.

Read the full story here.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 24, 20175min1120

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is joining an effort to amend federal laws to empower state and local authorities to prosecute child sex traffickers.

A letter sent last week by 49 state attorneys general to Congress urged federal lawmakers to change the Communications Decency Act, primarily to clarify the power of local authorities to prosecute online sex trafficking.

“Human traffickers are some of the worst of the worst criminals in our society,” Coffman said in a statement. “As Attorney General, it is my job to ensure that we have laws in place that can put these vile perpetrators in prison, where they belong.”

The National Human Trafficking Hotline says it received 120 reports of unique potential human trafficking in Colorado in 2016. Most of them came from the Denver and Colorado Springs areas, the Hotline reported.

The General Assembly organized a group called the Colorado Human Trafficking Council in 2014 to address human trafficking. Its 31 board members come from government agencies, law enforcement and nonprofit organizations. The group is preparing a plan for state lawmakers.

Although human trafficking is worse in some states, “It’s a significant problem that needs to be addressed in our state,” said Maria Trujillo, human trafficking program manager for the Colorado Human Trafficking Council.

One of the problems in stopping child sex trafficking is the difficulty in pinning the blame on any one kind of person, she said.

Child sex traffickers “come from all different walks of life,” Trujillo said. “There is not a typical profile.”

Most of the victims are sexually exploited. Others were forced into slavish labor. The exploited children often are victims of poverty, bullying at school or feelings of being unloved.

“Traffickers are keen on being able to detect that vulnerability and manipulate it,” Trujillo said.

Another obstacle to stopping child trafficking is the expansive reach of the Internet, where solicitations for sex can be posted anonymously.

The government’s primary tool for halting child sex trafficking over the Internet has been the Communications Decency Act. Congress passed the Act in 1996 to regulate pornography on the Internet.

Several lawsuits have challenged the law, saying it violates free speech provisions of the First Amendment. In the 1997 case of Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-indecency provisions of the act.

Other court decisions have created uncertainties about whether the federal law can be enforced only by federal law enforcement agencies or whether it also authorizes local and state prosecutions. The uncertainties prompted the letter last week from Coffman and other state attorneys general.

“Federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking,” the letter says. “Those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children – state and local law enforcement – must have clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes.

“It is both ironic and tragic that the CDA, which was intended to protect children from indecent material on the Internet, is now used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children,” the attorneys general wrote.

Colorado’s overseers of human trafficking noted big steps forward in their 2016 “Colorado Human Trafficking Council Report.”

They included 42 prosecutions in the previous year, which “represents the largest number of human trafficking case filings in any given year since human trafficking statutes were enacted in the state,” the report said.

The report recommended additional training standards for law enforcement agencies and mental health providers. The standards are intended to help victims cope with the trauma of human trafficking and to identify the persons responsible for it.

Coffman described human trafficking as “profiting off the suffering of our vulnerable citizens…”