Weekly Clips for June 21, 2013 to July 11, 2013
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
2013 LEGISLATIVE WRAP-UP
The highs and lows of implementing Amendment 64
By Peter Marcus
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Lawmakers wanted nothing to do with the “joint” effort. But when leadership put together the Joint Select Committee on the Implementation of the Amendment 64 Task Force Recommendations, they had no choice but to implement the will of voters and establish a regulated marijuana marketplace for adults. It was anything but a high time, but still they prevailed.
Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, had the joy of chairing the committee. Reps. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, Jenise May, D-Aurora, Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, and Jonathan Singer, D-Boulder, were appointed in the House. Sens. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Jessie Ulibarri D-Commerce City, were appointed in the Senate.
The committee’s job was to implement nearly 60 policy recommendations dictated by a task force convened by Gov. John Hickenlooper shortly after Amendment 64 passed in November. The goal was to pioneer rules and regulations for the uncertain, budding industry. The report lawmakers had to work with from the task force was a whopping 165 pages long.
“I see this as a gift that we’re giving the legislature, and fortunately, I think they see it that way as well,” Jack Finlaw, co-chairman of the task force and chief legal counsel to Hickenlooper, said in March as the report was made available to the legislature.
Pabon, who sat on the task force and chaired the implementation committee, was certainly grateful for the direction. But he did not view much of the implementation process as a gift. The Assistant Majority Leader found himself working into the wee hours for over two months attempting to balance the powerful lobbying interests of both marijuana activists and concerned moms.
Judging by his sheer jubilation when the three bills that govern regulation finally passed both chambers, it was obvious that Pabon was glad to be done with the process. But he acknowledged that because the topic is uncharted territory, the legislature will likely be faced with it again.
“We did a very good job in the very short amount of time that we did it,” he said from the floor of the House on May 8. “But I think we’re going to have to come back and make some adjustments.”
Hickenlooper on May 28 signed House Bill 1317 and Senate Bill 283, which requires the Department of Revenue in July to begin implementing prescribed rules and regulations, as well as House Bill 1318, which asks voters this November to approve a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent special sales tax to fund enforcement.
He also signed Senate Bill 241, which established a regulated system for the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The tax question is likely to pass, with polling placing it as high as 77 percent. Expect to see public officials, including Hickenlooper, advocating for its passage. Without the money, regulating the marketplace will be complicated, if not impossible. Marijuana activists have also vowed to support the tax.
For the governor, marijuana legalization was a long, strange trip. When it passed, he cracked a joke: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly,” referring to the love of munchies by pot heads and the uncertainty of a crackdown by the federal government.
While Hickenlooper certainly never endorsed legalization, he has shifted his tone. Just the fact that he held a signing ceremony for the bills indicated that he was more serious about the issue.
“Clearly we are charting new territory, other states haven’t been through this process… recreational marijuana is really a completely new entity, but really the bills we’re signing today really do lay out this new territory,” Hickenlooper remarked at the signing ceremony.
DU-High finally gets by
The governor also signed House Bill 1325, which sets a 5-nanogram limit of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, at the time of a suspected driving offense. Essentially, it creates a separate DUID limit for marijuana. House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, passionately sponsored the measure.
DUID-Marijuana has become sort of a running joke at the Capitol. It was nicknamed the “zombie bill” because of the six times it died and was resurrected in the last three years.
This year was no different. The effort started as House Bill 1114. It looked promising when the House gave it overwhelming approval. But then the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 22 decided to kill it.
In an act of desperation, lawmakers amended one of the legalization regulatory bills, HB 1317, to include the DUID proposal. But concerns were raised about connecting the criminal issue to a regulatory bill, and so a separate bill was introduced.
HB 1325 was introduced on May 2 and given a committee hearing on the same day, a very rare occurrence. The bill continued to sail through the legislature until it passed and was signed by the governor.
A similar proposal died last year on the Senate floor. But King used a procedural rule to revive it for a recorded vote. Oddly, the Senate then backed the measure by one vote.
With only a week to clear the House at the time, the bill died on the calendar. But the bill would not go away. Hickenlooper called a special session to address civil unions, and DUID was added to the call. But when it made it back to the Senate floor, the bill died again, until it was brought back this year.
For Waller and King, who have been advocating for driving under the influence of marijuana penalties for years, the victory couldn’t have been sweeter. When the measure finally passed this year, Waller grinned from ear to ear and exclaimed, “Better late than never.
“Amendment 64 brings Colorado into new and foreign territory,” he continued. “Equipping law enforcement with the tools they need to ensure people make safe decisions behind the wheel is critical to maximizing public safety.”
King also boasted, adding, “After six attempts in the last three years, the victims and the families of those who were killed or injured by drivers impaired by marijuana can have some comfort that this law will serve as a significant deterrent to impaired drivers.”
There was perhaps no greater presence at the Capitol end of session than the marijuana lobby, which included proponents and opponents. Lawmakers were compelled to balance both interests.
Often after committee hearings, lobbyists from both sides would surround members of the implementation task force to express their desires. Legislators did a remarkable job including all perspectives in the legislation.
The fighting between the two sides of the debate was epic at times. News conferences would end with proponents and opponents pointing fingers and shouting in faces. It was not unusual to see the two sides battling it out late at night in the middle of the hallways of the Capitol.
Opponents who called themselves “concerned moms” formed as the group Smart Colorado. The myriad of concerns raised by the group led to countless amendments that would shape the legislation, including protecting children from the drug and educating on the potentially harmful effects. The group also lobbied against using general fund dollars to pay for enforcement.
Smart Colorado applauded a proposal to repeal the retail portion of Amendment 64 when Senate leadership — including Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs — pushed a last-ditch effort to ask voters to prohibit retail if the tax question failed.
But the legislative leaders introduced the proposal in the evening and assigned it to committee on the same night causing an uproar. They were eventually pressured by colleagues to drop the effort.
When Hickenlooper finally signed the bills, Smart Colorado called the day “historic.” But they expressed continuing fears.
“We remain deeply concerned that certain important public safeguards were not put in place, and many important issues remain unresolved,” said Diane Carlson, spokeswoman for Smart Colorado. “This is not surprising given the incredibly tight time frame to decide such important policy and the enormity of the task.”
Opponents have turned their attention to local governments, which are allowed to implement their own rules and regulations, including banning retail sales.
“We urge government officials and local elected officials to be prudent and thoughtful and to put public health and safety and the interests of everyday Coloradans and our youth ahead of those looking to profit from the mass commercialization of marijuana,” continued Carlson.
Meanwhile, marijuana activists cheered passage, also calling implementation “historic,” but for different reasons.
“Colorado is demonstrating to the rest of the nation that it is possible to adopt a marijuana policy that reflects the public’s increasing support for making marijuana legal for adults,” declared Mason Tvert, lead proponent for the initiative. “Marijuana prohibition is on its way out in Colorado, and it is only a matter of time before many more states follow its lead.”
See the June 21 print edition for a full listing of all the legislative enactments from the 2013 session.
Our Colorado News: July 1: The tax initiative tied to funding of a major overhaul of Colorado’s school finance formula has been determined, and the campaign that’s behind it now has a name.
Now, the real work for organizers begins: Getting signatures for a ballot proposal and, ultimately, trying to sell voters on the need for supporting about $950 million in new taxes that will be used to reshape how schools are funded.
A committee that is calling itself Colorado Commits to Kids announced last week that they will work to put a two-tiered income tax increase on the ballot this fall.
The tax initiative, which will impact higher wage earners more, will support the funding needed to enact Senate Bill 213, a major rewrite of the School Finance Act.
The act, which was passed by the Legislature earlier this year, would create full-day kindergarten, provide preschool for at-risk children, and would put more money into needs-based programs for special education students and children who are learning English.
The legislation also aims to increase per-pupil funding for school districts across the state that supporters say would be done in a more equitable fashion than the current system allows.
“We are eager to have a vigorous debate when the campaign begins in earnest,” said Curtis Hubbard, on behalf of Colorado Commits to Kids. “We’ve worked almost two years on this, trying to support the right measure. We think we’ve hit on the right system.”
Right now, Colorado’s current income tax rate is a flat 4.63 percent, regardless of income level. The initiative will ask voters to approve an addition 0.37 percent in taxes on income earners who make up to $75,000 a year, bringing their tax rates up to five percent. Residents making more than $75,000 a year would pay 5 percent on their first $75,000 of taxable income, and a rate of 5.9 percent on income above that amount.
Republican legislators opposed Senate Bill 213 during the recent legislative session and their opinions aren’t changing now that they know what the tax initiative will look like.
“A tax increase like this runs the risk of stalling this fragile economic recovery moving forward,” said House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.
Waller also wondered why the tax hike is needed, citing recently released revenue forecasts that project the State Education Fund will have a balance of $1.6 billion for the coming budget year.
However, state Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, countered Waller’s argument by saying the revenue increase is loaded with one-time funds that are meant for “rainy day” spending.
“They want to play Russian roulette with my children’s future,” Schafer said of Republican opposition to the tax hike. “This is going to restore our school funding to where we were in 2008, when we had to make serious cuts.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper has yet to make a direct statement in support of the proposed tax initiative. However, the governor did say after signing Senate Bill 213 that he “certainly” would campaign for the ballot effort.
Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown did not directly answer whether the governor supports this particular tax scheme.
“Colorado has approved some of the most robust education reforms in the country,” Brown wrote in an emailed statement. “These are reforms the governor fully supports. Now, it appears voters will get a chance to endorse the changes and set a new course for Colorado kids. We look forward to following the petition process and continuing to talk to the business community and other stakeholders about these reforms.”
Waller blasted Hickenlooper for “failing to take a stand” on the issue.
“He’s not very good at making decisions and it’s always at the last minute,” Waller said. “When you’re the governor, you’re paid to be the leader. It’s frustrating.”
Asked if Colorado Commits to Kids has Hickenlooper’s support, Hubbard said, “Not quite. But I think that it’s close.”
“Everyone is on a different time frame,” Hubbard said. “It’s not frustrating. We appreciate the governor’s thoughtfulness.”
Organizers have until Aug. 5 to collect 86,105 valid signatures from Colorado voters, in order to qualify for the November ballot.
Denver Post: A few weeks after German brewers raised alarms about fracking chemicals potentially fouling the main ingredient in their beer, a group of more than two-dozen small brewery owners in Colorado are raising concerns about oil and gas development with a man uniquely suited to care: Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Twenty-six brewers signed a letter to Hickenlooper this week underlining the importance of clean water to their industry and making a broader pitch about tourism and preserving the state’s natural beauty. (You can read the full text and list of signatories here).
Hickenlooper – a former petroleum geologist who co-founded Wynkoop Brewing Co. – supports oil and gas development and also has been an enthusiastic booster of Colorado’s craft beer scene.
The brewers’ campaign is short on specifics – it asks Hickenlooper to support stronger oil and gas standards but doesn’t spell out any – and at least for now lacks participation from the state’s largest craft breweries.
One of the chief organizers, Chip Holland of Glenwood Canyon Brewery in Glenwood Springs, said the letter was a first step in an effort he portrayed as seeking to strike a sensible balance.
“We all need energy, and I know it’s a big economy boost for our state,” Holland said Friday over beers at Hogshead Brewery in Denver, another supporter of the effort. “But at the same time, craft beer is a good economy boost for our state and tourism as well. We need to protect the state we all love.”
For its part, the trade association for the Colorado oil and gas industry also appealed for reasonableness. Colorado Oil and Gas Association president and CEO Tisha Schuller, in a statement, underlined the industry’s economic contributions to Colorado and its commitment to clean air and water.
The trade group then proceeded to write a couple of letters of its own requesting meetings with the letter’s signatories and the Colorado Brewers Guild to discuss the concerns.
So why this effort from the small brewers, and why now?
Stephen Kirby of Hogshead (Eric Gorski, The Denver Post)
Holland said he was spurred by a customer who raised concerns about energy development in the West and in Colorado. He also pointed to the recent spill from a gas pipeline that contaminated Parachute Creek in western Colorado with cancer-causing benzene.
A number of bills that would have tightened regulation of the oil and gas industry failed this past legislative session. Those casualties included two bills Hickenlooper’s administration opposed – one that would have increased fines for violators and another that would have bolstered groundwater testing.
While Holland said he was not aware of either current regulations or what was proposed, he said Hickenlooper “could probably do more to preserve what we’ve got here. That’s all we’re really asking him.”
Eric Brown, a spokesman for Hickenlooper, said in an e-mail the governor’s office will review the letter and respond appropriately.
“The craft brewing industry is a great economic driver for Colorado and we value our relationship with brewers across the state,” Brown said.
Said Schuller, of the trade group: “The oil and gas industry in Colorado employs over 40,000 Coloradoans and supports over 100,000 men and women and their families. The industry contributed $31 billion to the economy and paid over $1.1 billion in state and local taxes. But just as important for many of their employees, the 100,000 Coloradoans in the industry enjoy a nice Colorado beer while enjoying the blessing of living in our shared state.”
Neither Holland or Hogshead owner Stephen Kirby could cite specific examples of breweries impacted by oil and gas activity. Most Colorado breweries – Glenwood Canyon and Hogshead included – use heavily treated municipal water. Holland noted that the greatest impact is on communities that rely on well water.
“This is kind of shoot-from-the-hip, wing it,” he said, adding that he still wants to enlist the bigger breweries and for one reason or another either did not connect with or get answers from them all.
Colorado Springs Gazette: June 29: New Colorado gun laws linked to recall attempts aimed at two senators and a legal challenge filed by 55 county sheriffs will take effect Monday.
Starting Monday, no one will be able to buy magazines that hold more than 15 bullets. And background checks will be required for every gun sale, including those between private individuals.
It’s legislation that Democrats, especially Rep. Rhonda Fields who sponsored the bills, heralded as a significant step toward keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and reducing the carnage in mass shootings.
But for Republicans – particularly a large group of county sheriffs who lobbied against the laws at the Capitol – the laws are the latest step in an infringement of Second Amendment rights that will do little for public safety.
One corner of the controversy is occupied by people such as Paul Paradis, owner of Paradise Sales Firearms for three decades in downtown Colorado Springs.
“It’s a very weird business world for a firearms store,” Paradis said. “Things you think that should be in high demand are not. Manufacturers are slowly converting things to conform to the laws. We’re waiting to see if there’s going to be an injunction against the magazine laws. There’s nothing we can do except sit and wait.”
Paradis said there has not been a rush on high-capacity magazine purchases as Monday approaches. Anyone who buys a magazine with more than 15 rounds before Monday will be able to keep the item as long as they maintain “continuous possession.”
A hearing is scheduled for July 10 to hear the sheriffs’ request for a preliminary injunction on that specific portion of the high-capacity magazine ban.
But any demand to obtain the magazines before the date might have been filled.
“I had a guy from Oklahoma and one from Tennessee that literally brought tractor-trailers full of magazines to Colorado to go around to gun shows, and they couldn’t sell them,” Paradis said.
The real demand right now is ammunition, which he can’t keep on the shelf for more than hours for certain calibers.
In the meantime, Paradis said his remaining inventory of high-capacity magazines will sit in storage until he can legally sell it to law enforcement.
All orders he places will be magazines developed to be compliant with a long-standing California ban – including that the magazines not be readily convertible to handle additional ammo above the 15-cartridge limit.
John Hotchkiss, owner of Red Bear Gun Brokers in Briargate, said remaining inventory after Monday will be sold online to buyers in states that do not have the ban.
Neither federally licensed gun dealer, however, said they would help facilitate the soon-to-be required background checks between private gun owners.
Both said the allowable $10 fee for the background check wouldn’t come close to compensating them for the time or liability of facilitating the sale.
“Background checks are a proven measure we have used for a long time to control access to guns, and now we will have that in place for private sales,” Fields said. “It’s all about protecting our community as a whole. We don’t want the wrong people, dangerous people, to have access to guns.”
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is skeptical the background checks will prevent crimes, but they will instead inconvenience and criminalize law-abiding citizens.
“A background check should have prevented Evan Ebel from possessing a firearm, but he found someone to buy it for him. We even have laws that prevent a person who can legally purchase a firearm from doing so for someone else,” Maketa said, referencing Ebel, the parolee who is suspected of killing Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements with a gun a friend bought for him. “The fact is I think we’re weak on enforcing those laws. That’s why the sheriffs debated, let’s enforce the laws we have now and address the mental health issue.”
Maketa is among the sheriffs seeking an injunction of parts of the magazine law and also challenging the constitutionality of the background checks.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is gearing up for the expected increase in background checks the new requirements will bring.
“We have hired about a dozen new people, and they’ve been in the training process and should be ready to go come July 1,” CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina said. “We feel that they’ll be available and ready to address any surges that come post-July 1.”
This year, gun buyers were waiting days to get the results of their background checks, but Medina said the wait period has been substantially reduced.
“There’s just been a very dramatic increase in the number of background check requests over the years,” Medina said.
Denver Post: UPDATE: GOP lawmaker Don Coram says Hickenlooper made a smart choice.
Gov. John Hickenlooper today appointed Tracee Bentley to serve as his new legislative director and point-person on lobbying lawmakers.
Bentley now works at the deputy director of the Colorado Energy Office. Her previous jobs included a stint with the Colorado Farm Bureauand former Colorado U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Ignacio.
Bentley succeeds Christine Scanlan, a Dillon Democrat who served in the House before being tapped by Hickenlooper to work in his administration. Scanlan resigned her state job after taking the CEO’s post with the Keystone Center in Keystone.
Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, praised the hire.
“I think it’s a good move. Tracee has a common-sense approach to solving problems,” Coram said. “I’m actually pretty excited about it.”
Bentley, who has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Colorado State University, begins her new job in late July. She will join a team led by Alan Salazar, the governor’s Chief of Strategic Operations, and work closely with deputy legislative director David Archer and legislative liaison Cally King.
“Tracee possesses a keen ability to bring different people together to solve complex problems,” Hickenlooper said. “She knows her way around the Capitol, has a solid bipartisan reputation and maintains good relationships that transcend political lines.”
Wesleyan Connection: July 1, 2013 by Kate Carlisle: Gifts big and little – and each of them important – poured in during the last week of June, building on the momentum of the public launch of Wesleyan’s THIS IS WHY campaign to bring the grand total raised to somewhere north of $304 million.
The campaign – which will devote the great majority of funds raised to financial aid at Wesleyan – wrapped up fiscal 2013 with cash and pledges from nearly 14,000 alumni, parents and friends.
“I’m more than thrilled,” said Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson. “This is the best fundraising year we’ve ever had. I think so many of our gifts were inspired by the purpose of the campaign, to raise money for financial aid. More than half goes directly to the endowment.”
Building on the campaign’s trio of themes: Access, Inquiry and Impact, fundraising efforts focused on individual reasons for supporting a Wesleyan education. Many alumni cited their Wes experience as a critical component of their success in life.
“With the help of our generous alumni, parents and friends – 13,843 of them – Wesleyan will continue to be accessible,” said President Michael Roth ’78. “By that I mean true accessibility – meeting the financial need of our students, ensuring that they graduate not burdened by heavy debt, and holding tuition increases to inflation. Our commitment is to provide access for talented students from diverse backgrounds while preserving the superb academic experience they seek at Wesleyan. Last year a record number – nearly 11,000 – applied from around the world.”
The public phase of the campaign began in March with a series of events showcasing Wesleyan alumni in entertainment, politics and public life and urges alumni to add their “THIS IS WHY” stories to the campaign web site www.wesleyan.edu/thisiswhy.
Gov. John Hickenlooper acknowledged on July 10 that the tax hike being proposed to fund a new school finance formula is not his “exact preference,” but it is one that he thinks is “winnable” and will support.
The governor’s comments, which followed an unrelated Capitol press conference, mark the first time Hickenlooper has told reporters he supports the specific tax initiative tied to a school funding overhaul that advocates have recently decided to pursue.
The two-tiered tax hike — which will have a greater impact on higher wage earners — would fund Senate Bill 213, the “Future School Finance Act,” so long as voters approve a ballot initiative that will create about $950 million in new taxes.
“I’m not sure it was my exact preference,” said Hickenlooper, referring to the tax proposal that was chosen by education groups last month. “But the bottom line is, you gotta have something on (the ballot) that’s winnable.”
The Democratic governor added that “it’s just not worth all the trouble and work if you’re going to go to the ballot and lose.”
“So, within … that array of ballot language that conceivably can win, I think this is the best.”
Hickenlooper has been pressed to confirm his support for the tax hike since he signed Senate Bill 213 into law in May. He told reporters after the signing that he had his preferences on what the tax would look like, but he would not share them.
The governor did say at the time that he “certainly” would campaign for the ballot effort, whatever it ended up looking like.
Hickenlooper said on July 10 that he’s spent the last month having conversations with business leaders about the tax initiative
“It’s a complex issue, and in the majority of the cases, once we get the facts out there, they’re pretty supportive,” the governor said.
If funded, the new school finance act would create full-day kindergarten, provide preschool for at-risk children, and would put more money into needs-based programs for special education students and children who are learning English.
The act also aims to increase per-pupil funding for school districts across the state in a more equitable fashion than the current system allows.
Initiative 22 will ask Colorado voters in November to approve an increase in the state income tax, which is now 4.63 percent for all Coloradans. Under Initiative 22, residents who make up to $75,000 a year would see their rate rise to 5 percent. Income above that level would be taxed at 5.9 percent.
Ballot organizers have until Aug. 5 to collect 86,105 valid signatures for the initiative to be placed on the ballot.
The Denver Channel: El Paso County Republicans have chosen a challenger to take on Democratic Senate President John Morse in a recall election.
Party leaders chose former Colorado Springs City Councilman Bernie Herpin Tuesday in an informal straw poll to settle on a single challenger.
Morse was targeted in a recall petition because of his support for gun control measures.
Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to set a recall election between early August and early September. Morse has asked a judge to block the recall election saying the recall petition had a fatal law — it never mentioned there would be an election to fill the senator’s seat, which is required by the Colorado Constitution.
However, the Secretary of State’s office disagreed, finding the petition valid.
A second Colorado lawmaker, Angela Giron, is also facing a possible recall election.
Colorado Independent: July 11: The state of Colorado has joined a lawsuit filed by oil-and-gas companies against the city of Longmont that seeks to lift a ban on fracking passed by citizen initiative there last November.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission entered the suit last week. It’s the second lawsuit joined by the state against the northern Front Range city over limits on the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing, which blasts water and chemicals into underground rock formations to free up natural gas.
Sam Schabacker, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, said he saw the move as an about-face on the part of Governor John Hickenlooper.
“Hickenlooper said in December that the state wouldn’t sue Longmont over the initiative. He seemed to respect the citizens’ will and the democratic process represented by the initiative. But now I guess he thinks it’s worth spending tax dollars to fight against it. This is consistent with his pattern of behavior. He’s been a number one cheerleader for oil and gas in the state… He’s ignored the citizens who are being impacted by fracking.”
The governor’s office did not immediately offer comment Thursday, but Matt Lepore, director of the COGCC, told The Independent that the state entered the suit at the request of the Colorad Oil and Gass Association, an industry trade group.
“The COGCC did not initiate this lawsuit, or this process,” he wrote in an email. “The state’s joinder into this lawsuit was the result of a legal step initiated by COGA, which asked the court to bring COGCC into its case as a party. That said, the COGCC does believe Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing is contrary to state law, and we believe clarity from the courts on this matter is important for all parties.”
Hickenlooper is a former oil-and-gas industry geologist. As governor, he has opposed local moves to regulate drilling and fracking, arguing that state law trumps local initiatives and that region-by-region patchwork regulations would hobble industry activity in the state and trample on mineral rights. Hickenlooper has celebrated fracking as a market-changing innovation that will allow natural gas, a cleaner burning fossil fuel, to wean the nation from dependence on coal as it transitions to cleaner energy resources.
Although natural gas burns cleaner than coal, the process of extracting it is pocking Colorado’s landscape and triggering health and economic concerns in local communities, especially as drilling encroaches on residential areas of the state.
Longmont, like most all of the towns on the northern Front Range, sits atop the Wattenberg Field, one of the largest natural-gas formations in the United States. Industry trucks shipping drilling equipment now ply the area’s roadways at a constant clip. Fracking towers and storage facilities dot farmland as well as fields abutting schoolyards and housing developments.
Some 60 percent of Longmont voters supported the initiative banning fracking within city limits last year, despite well-funded efforts by the industry to defeat the proposal. Supporters cited health concerns and fear that property values would plummet as the heavy industrial activity sprawls into neighborhoods.
Last December Hickenlooper told oil executives that the state would not sue Longmont over its fracking ban but that it would support any companies that chose to do so, according to the Longmont Times Call.
Hickenlooper also reportedly opposed attempts this year by state lawmakers to tighten regulations on fracking.
“We’re happy that the legislature has been willing to try and take action to protect citizens,” said Schabacker. “It’s not an issue that’s going away.”
Schabecker pointed to local bans and drilling moratoriums being proposed in Front Range towns, such as Broomfield, Fort Collins, Lafayette and Loveland.
Fracking continues to be a public-relations challenge for the usually image-savvy Hickenlooper. He drew wide criticism for playing down water-safety concerns tied to fracking when he told a U.S. Senate committee in 2012 that fracking fluid was so safe and that, in fact, he had “sipped” it. Critics said that the fluid he sipped was likely a version much more benign than versions most commonly used in the field.
During last year’s heated campaigns in Longmont around the anti-fracking ballot initiative, Hickenlooper experienced perhaps one of the worst cases of bad political “optics” in his decade or so of public life. He had traveled to Longmont to talk about the proposed ban with oil-and-gas executives and members of the business community. He met with them at a bank office near the center of town. Protesters gathered and chanted anti-fracking slogans below the windows, urging the Governor to come speak with the citizens outside. But the Governor seemed at a loss after the meeting as he exited the building. He moved tentatively through the throng of protesters and said nothing before climbing into the backseat of an idling SUV. Howls went up and the protesters looked around at one another, mouths hanging open, as the vehicle drove away slowly at first among the crowd and then darted away into the night toward Denver.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)
Solar Industry Mag: U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has reintroduced his Solar Uniting Neighborhoods Act that would make homeowners who participate in community solar farms eligible for federal tax credits. Udall first introduced the bill in 2010, but it died in committee.
Federal tax laws currently require that a homeowner must install solar panels to be eligible for the 30% individual renewable energy federal tax credit. Udall says shade from trees or other structures, building architecture or permitting sometimes make the installation of solar panels on a home impractical.
The senator says his proposal addresses this concern by encouraging homeowners to develop community solar projects.
“This bill ensures that all homeowners are eligible for the individual renewable energy tax credit even if they participate in solar farms because their homes are unsuitable for solar panels,” says Udall in a statement.
Denver Post: July 1: First-term Democratic Sen. Mark Udall raised $1.3 million in the second quarter for his re-election fight next year, his campaign told The Denver Post Monday.
Udall has $3.4 million cash on hand, his campaign said. Heraised $1.5 million the first quarter of this year.
No Republican has stepped up to run against Udall, even though a GOP field is forming to challenge to another statewide elected Democrat up in 2014: Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The Denver Post could not independently view Udall’s campaign filings Monday because campaigns have 14 days to submit second quarter filings to the Federal Elections Commission. Udall’s campaign manager said he was still working on the paperwork, but said about two-thirds of the contributions were from Coloradans.
“As Mark fights for Colorado’s hardworking familiies and small businesses, he continues to be gratified by the outpouring of grassroots support for his reelection campaign,” said Udall’s acting campaign manager Michael Sozan.
Colorado GOP chair Ryan Call emailed that it was “clear that Washington special interests are happy to have Mark Udall working for them and against Colorado’s families and small business owners.”
“It’s clear that Mark Udall is going to need every cent he can to defend the radical policies that he pushing on behalf of President Obama and his liberal allies that are hurting Colorado,” he said.
Denver Post: July 2: Republican state Sen. Owen Hill just wrapped up his first session as a state lawmaker.
So how’s he spending his summer vacation?
He’s seriously considering a run for U.S. Senate against Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, who continues to raise boatloads of cash without a single declared GOP opponent as the calendar turns to July.
“We’re talking about it,” Hill, 31, confirmed to FOX31 Denver. “Both political parties right now seem like they’re locked in the past. We need innovators. We’re toying with [a run for Senate] and talking about how we can be innovators, wrestling with ideas of the future.”
As we wrote on Monday, that Hill is even considering the race is a testament to his potential; but it also highlights just how thin the Colorado GOP’s bench is after a decade of top-of-the-ticket defeats.
Hill’s ambitious — he first ran for the legislature in 2010 when he was just 28, losing to Sen. John Morse by just 340 votes (he might have won, if not for a Libertarian candidate in the race) — but even he never imagined to be weighing a run for national office at such a young age.
“There’s no way I ever thought we’d be wrestling with this now,” said Hill, who expects to reach a decision on the race in the next couple of weeks.
For Republicans, it’s important to have a candidate to take on Udall some time in July, at the start of the year’s third fundraising quarter — not only will the GOP have some catching up to do on the fundraising front, but the party has to be tired of every story about Udall or the race focusing on its struggles to find a willing candidate.
The first-tier possibility, Yuma Congressman Cory Gardner, opted not to risk his rising stature within the House GOP caucus on the race; and a host of other potential candidates, from a retired four-star general to the state’s solicitor general, have been approached about a run and declined.
“We will have a strong candidate,” GOP Chairman Ryan Call promised last month.
Other current and former lawmakers have expressed interest in the race, from former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez to state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, and Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument.
Compared to Hill, they’re legislative veterans.
And Stephens, a former House Majority Leader, has a job with Focus on the Family on her resume and has strong support from social conservatives — not that Hill, who works for a Christian child sponsorship organization working on behalf of poor kids and moved his wife and four children to Denver to be close by during the legislative session, wouldn’t appeal to that piece of the GOP base himself.
But Colorado Republicans, who haven’t won a big statewide race since 2002, are eager to find a fresh face.
Hill, who’s already among the most articulate lawmakers under the gold dome, looks the part — and his vote earlier this year for the ASSET bill, which gives undocumented immigrants in-state college tuition, could enable him to help the GOP make much needed inroads next year with Hispanic voters.
“The fact that a very young, newly minted State Senator might be the GOP’s best prospect against Mark Udall speaks to the weakness of the Party’s bench,” said political analyst Eric Sondermann. “That said, for a party in huge need of fresh faces and new voices, this might not be the worst scenario.
“During the past legislative session, Hill demonstrated a degree of independent thinking and a willingness to go counter to his Party’s base on occasion. That’s a characteristic and a reputation that might offer some appeal to a purple electorate.”
With Udall last weekend touting the Senate’s passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill along with “Gang of Eight” member, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, I asked Hill about the legislation, which drew broad, bipartisan support and highlighted a divide among Republicans worried about the party’s ability to speak to Latinos and those dead set against anything affording undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
“It is one of the most important debates of our time,” Hill said. “I like some aspects of the bill, like lifting the cap on STEM visas and moving DREAMers to the front of the line.
“We have to distinguish between those who were brought here by their parents through no fault of their own and want to pay their own way through college, to contribute to our economy — these are the kind of people we want here. We have to distinguish between them and the others who want to come here and simply be a drain on the system.”
Hill didn’t weigh in on the proposed 13-year path to citizenship, saying only that he’d prefer a more focused, less comprehensive approach.
“Unfortunately in Washington, DC, any time you take this comprehensive approach, these huge pieces of legislation get hijacked by the special interests,” he said. “There’s a special section in the bill for ski instructors here. That’s ridiculous.
“We can’t do this comprehensively. We need to start with the low-hanging fruit: secure the border, implement E-Verify and remove those caps on STEM visas.”
Washington Times : July 4: The brother of Sen. Mark Udall, who had gone on a hike through Wyoming mountains a week ago, was found dead Wednesday.
James ‘Randy’ Udall, 61, went on a solo backpacking trip on June 20 just outside Pinedale. Search-and-rescue teams started flying helicopter missions and passing out fliers with Mr. Udall’s picture a few days ago.
His body was found in the Wind River Range, and family members were told late Wednesday evening, The Associated Press reported.
An autopsy is forthcoming, but it appears natural causes led to his death, the Daily Mail said.
“Randy left this earth doing what he loved most — hiking in his most favorite mountain range in the world,” the family said in a statement.
He was an experienced hiker who often took solo trips, his family said.
Windsor Now: July 6: Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck is weighing another run for U.S. Senate, this time challenging Democrat Mark Udall in 2014.
Buck for months has been mentioned as a likely candidate for state attorney general, but in recent days several high-profile Republicans have announced their candidacy for the office and the talk has switched to a Senate bid.
“We have been talking about it, and I’ll leave it there,” his wife, state Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor, confirmed Tuesday.
But, she said, no decisions about her husband’s political future have been made and the focus continues to be his health. Ken Buck announced in March he was being treated for lymphoma. He announced two months later there was no detectable cancer in his body, but said he still had more chemotherapy scheduled. Perry Buck said his last round of chemo is Friday.
Buck lost to Democrat Michael Bennet in 2010 in a U.S. Senate race many Republicans thought they had locked up. Bennet had been appointed to the seat in 2009 and the mood across the country favored the GOP. But some last minute missteps by Buck, particularly his appearance on “Meet the Press” where he compared homosexuality to alcoholism, helped Bennet, who won 48 percent to 44 percent.
Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio said if Buck takes on Udall, he expects Buck to come up short again. Palacio was surprised about a potential Senate run, saying he heard Buck was considering the attorney general’s race.
Two Republicans — House Minority Leader Mark Waller of Colorado Springs and Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — already have announcedthey are vying for their party’s nomination for the open attorney general’s seat. Former Adams County District Attorney Don Quick is seeking the Democratic nomination.
Former Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams said he hasn’t talked to Buck about the Senate race, but noted should he jump into the race Buck’s already been vetted.
Wadhams knows a little something about a candidate losing one U.S. Senate race and winning the next. Republican John Thune of South Dakota in 2002 lost his senate bid, but two years later, with Wadhams as his campaign manager, unseated Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
“John Thune was a much stronger candidate the second time,” Wadhams said. “Now that’s not Colorado, but Ken came awfully close last time.”
On the flip side, Wadhams knows a little something about a U.S. Senate candidate losing two races a row. Democrat Tom Strickland of Denver lost in 1996 and 2002 to Republican Wayne Allard of Loveland, whose campaigns were run by Wadhams.
Udall, of Eldorado Springs, was first elected to the Senate in 2008 in a Democratic sweep year. The latest fundraising totalsshow Udall has $3.4 million cash on hand, and raised $1.3 million in the quarter that ended Sunday.
So far, no Republicans have officially announced they are taking him on, but several names continue to surface, including state Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs and state Rep. Amy Stephens of Monument.
Denver Post: July 7: State Sen. Randy Baumgardner admits he’s an underdog in his quest to unseat Democrat Mark Udall in the U.S. Senate, but he says he’s kicking off his campaign Friday because something needs to change.
“I feel the guy we have in there right now is not representing Colorado, he’s representing D.C.,” Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican who spent four years in the state House before being elected to the state Senate, said he knows Udall has a huge financial advantage. But Baumgardner said he’s not looking at money but at frustration by Coloradans at how the state and country are being run.
The kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday at Maverick’s Grille in Granby.
Two Republicans challenging Udall in Colo. Senate race
The Hill: The Colorado Senate race has gone from sleepy to suddenly active, with two Republicans tossing their hats into the ring to challenge Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in 2014.
State Sens. Owen Hill (R) and Randy Baumgardner (R) have both jumped in the race in recent days, setting up what looks to be a contentious primary — with a few more contenders still considering a race — for the Republican nomination.
According to The Denver Post, which first reported the news, Baumgardner will kick off his campaign on Friday. He indicated he’ll be running his race as an outsider up against a creature of Washington.
“I feel the guy we have in there right now is not representing Colorado, he’s representing D.C.,” he told the Post.
Baumgardner is in his first term in the state Senate, after serving two terms in the House.
Hill, a 31-year-old freshman state senator, indicated he’ll be using his relative inexperience to his advantage, running on a platform of “innovation.”
“We’ve been looking at it for a while,” he told Fox31 Denver, which first reported his run.
“The Republican Party in Colorado does not have an answer for what the Democrats are doing. It’s time for some new ideas and for a candidate who will focus on innovation, both on policy and within our politics.”
Republicans believe Udall could be vulnerable heading into reelection, citing the purple tint of the state. But Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and a number of other high-profile Colorado Republicans opted out of the race earlier this year, depriving Republicans of some of their most credible challengers.
Udall, too, has been working to prepare for a fight, raising $1.3 million in the second quarter of this year to bring his total cash on hand to $3.4 million.
Hill told Fox31 Denver that he’s raised about $40,000 since filing papers for a run.