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Tracking Hickenlooper and Udall through the doldrums of Summer

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

6/21/2013

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.”

Balancing interests

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.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com

See the June 21 print edition for a full listing of all the legislative enactments from the 2013 session.

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Ballot questions: Vote on tax hike taking shape

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.

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Colorado small brewery owners press for tighter oil and gas standards

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.

None of the state’s largest craft breweries is on the list of signatories. Holland said he contacted some of them – including New Belgium Brewing and Left Hand Brewing – but not others.

“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.

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New Colorado gun laws take effect July 1

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.

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Tracee Bentley to become Gov. John Hickenlooper’s new legislative director

Denver Post: UPDATE: GOP lawmaker Don Coram says Hickenlooper made a smart choice.

 

Tracee Bentley has been appointed legislative director by Gov. John Hickenlooper. (Handout from governor’s office)

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.”

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Fundraising Campaign Reaches Milestone

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.

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Governor gets behind tax-hike proposal

Our Coloradoan News: July 11: By Vic Vela vvela@ourcoloradonews.com |0 comments

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.

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Republicans have chosen a challenger for a possible recall election for state Senator John Morse

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.

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State Joins Suit against Longmont Fracking Ban

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.

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Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

Senator Introduces Community Solar Energy Bill

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.

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Still without an opponent, Sen. Mark Udall raises another $1.3 million for re-election bid

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.

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Rookie lawmaker Owen Hill considering a run at Udall

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.”

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Sen. Mark Udall’s brother found dead on Wyoming mountain range

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.

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Buck mulls another run at Senate

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.

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Randy Baumgardner to kick off U.S. Senate campaign Friday against Mark Udall

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.

Baumgardner last year beat Republican Jean White in a nasty GOP primary that includes stories about a registered sex offender and support for civil unions.

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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.

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Categories: Colorado Politics Tags:

A Laundry List of reasons to oppose John Hickenlooper and Mark Udall

Weekly Clips for May 2, 2013 to May 16, 2013

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

Obama golfs with two GOP senators

Washington Times: May 6: President Obama hit the links Monday morning with two Republican senators who have said they are interested in striking a bipartisan, long-term budget deal.

Mr. Obama headed out to the golf course at Andrews Air Force Base with Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Bob Corker of Tennessee, as well as Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado.

The game wasn’t on the president’s schedule, but White House spokesman Jay Carney said it was part of an ongoing outreach effort to Republicans to help Mr. Obama break through partisan acrimony and try to build support for his second-term agenda, which includes tackling the nation’s fiscal woes, tightening the nation’s gun laws and overhauling the immigration system. Mr. Obama has already attended two private dinners with Republican lawmakers this spring.

Many lawmakers of both parties have criticized Mr. Obama in the past for aloof and failing appreciate their viewpoints.

“The president looks forward to discussing a range of topics,” Mr. Carney said. “This is in keeping with his engagement with lawmakers in both parties — in particular Republican senators — to see if he can find some common ground.”

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Mark Udall ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Warrantless Email Searches

Huffington Post: May 6: Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said Thursday he was “extremely concerned” over revelations that the FBI continues to believe it can conduct warrantless email searches despite a federal appeals court’s ruling that they are unconstitutional.

Using a public records request, the American Civil Liberties Union received a set of FBI documents Wednesday. An internal June 2012 department guide included among the documents shows that the FBI believes it can obtain the contents of emails without a warrant if the email was sent or received through a third-party service.

In at least one case before that guide was written, however, a federal court disagreed: In the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that emailers using cloud services have a reasonable expectation of privacy and are protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution’s warrant requirement.

“I am extremely concerned that the Justice Department and FBI are justifying warrantless searches of Americans’ electronic communications based on a loophole in an outdated law that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled was unconstitutional,” Udall said in a statement.

Many email providers, including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have adopted the 6th Circuit’s reasoning, asking for a warrant every time the government wants access to emails. But others may be less stringent in their requirements, turning over email on the basis of administrative subpoenas that are not given serious judicial review. It’s not clear how often the FBI actually applies for full warrants in practice.

Udall is one of a number of senators who have sought to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, which governs how law enforcement agencies get access to emails, to always require a warrant. The Department of Justice has signaled its openness to the warrant requirement — but according to the latest documents, its apparent position is that until the law is updated, it can continue writing simple subpoenas.

The IRS’s Criminal Tax Division had previously taken a similar position to the FBI, but backed down after criticism from Udall. Neither the DOJ nor the FBI responded to requests for comment on Udall’s statement.

Udall said the ACLU’s disclosures about the FBI documents would “only harden my resolve that we must update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to protect Americans’ constitutional right to privacy.”

“Americans’ right to be free from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ applies regardless of whether it involves a letter stored in a desk or an email stored online.”

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Take care of U.S. citizens first

Coloradoan: May 12: I recently attended a roundtable meeting in Evans hosted by Sen. Mark Udall. The topic of discussion was illegal immigration. The invited guests (I was not one of them) consisted of approximately 10 to 15 members of the panel who are pro-illegal-immigration reform and two members speaking against the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill.

What drove me to attend and try to have my voice heard was an April 18 article in the Coloradoan titled, “Sen. Michael Bennet: Economic side of immigration bill helps Colorado.” When Sen. Bennet was questioned about the bill giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, he stated, “This is a citizenship that’s earned.” The phrase “earned citizenship” was repeated by Sen. Udall during this roundtable. I sat and listened to Sen. Udall’s response to table members’ questions, such as, “While we are in temporary status, will we qualify for student loans and grants?” and “Will our family members get moved further up in the line?” He promised the table members that he would definitely pursue those issues for them.

When I had my one minute for a question, I explained to Sen. Udall that when I retired from the Air Force after 20 years and my husband was still on active duty, we packed up our family and moved to Cheyenne, Wyo., where my husband was reassigned. Leaving our family behind was difficult, but the military, like many employers, doesn’t give you the option of saying no. Once the family was settled, I decided to pursue my graduate degree. I had two choices; drive over the pass to Laramie and pay in-state tuition or drive south to Fort Collins and pay out-of-state tuition. I drove south and attended CSU. I willingly paid out-of-state tuition because that was the law — I was not, at the time, a legal resident of Colorado. I shared my frustration that now you can live in this state, not be a U.S. citizen and pay less for your publically funded education than someone who is a citizen and served 20 years in the military. The senator was sympathetic and stated that he “wished the pot was bigger.”

The truth is, the pot of money is probably not going to get bigger. We need to get more involved in what our elected officials are doing and urge them to make sure that our tax dollars will be used to provide services to citizens of this country, not people who are not only not citizens but who broke our laws by coming into this country illegally.

Finally, I’d like to share my idea of “earned citizenship.” I saw it when I watched my 22-year-old Marine son, who served two tours in Afghanistan, plan his road trip back from Colorado to Camp Lejeune. With sadness in my heart, I watched him calling cemeteries to find out where his buddies are buried and then contact a Marine mom and dad who lost their only child, one of my son’s closest friends, during one of the deployments — that’s earned citizenship. Never forgotten — I hope our senators don’t forget us.

Chris Kelley is a Fort Collins resident.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO)

Marijuana publications threaten lawsuit over Colorado’s new legal pot regs

Daily Caller: A Denver lawyer is threatening the first of what may be many lawsuits to come should Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sign into law bills dealing with the historic legalization of recreational marijuana.

But it’s coming from an unexpected quarter, over a portion of the regulatory bill that has gotten almost zero attention compared to the rest of the issues it deals with — how retail stores treat pot magazines.

According to the bill awaiting Hickenlooper’s signature, publications like High Times that feature glossy pictures of cannabis plants are to be dealt with more strictly than pornography, kept behind the counter and away from the prying eyes of children.

This amounts to a First Amendment violation, according to attorney David Lane, who is representing two marijuana magazines, the Daily Doobie and Hemp Connoisseur.

Lane is known for representing controversial and colorful clients, including former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. What his clients have in common, in Lane’s estimation, is a valid claim that their freedom of speech is being violated.

In this case, Lane believes the violation is “blatant,” as he wrote in a letter to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, warning him that if the governor signs the bill into law, as expected, “he can expect a First Amendment lawsuit filed promptly.”

Legal expert Dan Recht, quoted on Denver Channel 7, said the issue isn’t as tangential as it sounds.

The government can regulate publications that deal with illegal issues more strictly than those about legal topics, he said. Given pot’s weird limbo status as being legal in Colorado, but illegal under federal laws, it’s yet another unanticipated can of worms resulting from Colorado having legalized pot.

“[T]his is a new issue, given that marijuana is newly legal in Colorado,” Recht told the TV station, “and I suspect that because it’s legal that this section will be found unconstitutional.”

He added that adult magazines like Playboy and Penthouse aren’t restricted to behind-the-counter display, even though they can only be purchased by adults.

“So it seems to me the distinction is not a fair one and frankly not a constitutional one,” he said.

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Election fraud bill signed by Gov. Hickenlooper

The Washington Times: COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 12, 2013 — Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper Friday signed the highly controversial Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act, widely known as the Election Fraud Bill. Proponents claim the bill is about increasing voter turnout, but the devil is in the details. Perhaps more to the point: There are plenty of devils in the details.

Liberal media claim the measure is about enfranchising voters, but allowing same-day voter registration, eliminating residency requirements and the category of inactive voter are really about creating pathways to fraud.


SEE RELATED: Voter fraud bill introduced in Colorado


Last November, Colorado had almost 10,000 attempted fraudulent votes. Half of those were late registrants. Of the other 5,000 ineligible voters, 700 had attempted to vote twice, 2,600 were not residents of the state, and 50 were felons not eligible to vote.

Under the new law, those voters — and many more like them — could register to vote on election day with nothing more than a utility bill to prove their identity. Furthermore, they could vote in any jurisdiction they choose since residency requirements, currently 30 days, are erased.

There are no more provisional ballots — every ballot cast, fraudulent or not, counts.

The new law emphasizes mail-in ballots. The familiar neighborhood polling places are gone, replaced by a small number of regional centers. While about 70 percent of Coloradans vote by mail-in ballot, the remaining 30 percent are either forced to travel farther and wait in longer lines or are discouraged from voting altogether.


SEE RELATED: Recalls of Colorado anti-Second Amendment senators heat up


Again last November, almost 12,000 mail-in ballots were cast and rejected due to signature discrepancies. How many more made their way through the frequently lax signature verification process? How many were valid signatures were improperly rejected?

By eliminating the category of inactive voter, ballots are sent to every registered voter, no matter how long it has been since that voter actually cast a ballot. Proponents claim that it is simpler for voters who miss one election and then get inactive status: In fact, it takes multiple missed elections to be classified inactive.

Inactive voters are typically people who have moved away or died. The new law will flood the mails with ballots. One apartment dweller I spoke with said he got eight ballots at his address. The U.S. Post Office won’t verify that the person is still living at an address before delivering the ballot. An unscrupulous person can sign and return all the ballots.

“This bill challenges the very foundations of our republican form of government,” said Senator Greg Brophy (R-Wray). “Our democratic institutions will be severely damaged by giving citizens reasons to question the integrity of the elections that select our legislators, our governor, and our president.”


SEE RELATED: Citizen-led petitions saved in Colorado


All Republican legislators and Secretary of State Scott Gessler were deliberately excluded from helping draft the bill. No Republican legislator voted for the bill at any stage; Secretary Gessler testified against it.

Also opposed were five of the state’s elected county clerks from Weld, El Paso, Arapahoe, Elbert and Douglas counties, who represent over one-third of Colorado’s nearly three million eligible voters. They were opposed because of their concerns about the likelihood of increased fraudulent voting under same-day registration.

Sponsors of the bill claim it was bipartisan because they enlisted the cooperation of two Republican Clerks: Jefferson County Clerk Pamela Anderson and Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner. Also supporting the bill were the clerks of La Plata and Boulder counties. The complex bill was written behind closed doors. No amendments were allowed.

Testimony on the bill lasted just four hours: The complex 126-page bill really needed months of study by a variety of experts.

Election laws should not be partisan issues. They affect the very foundation of Colorado’s election system and are of concern to all citizens.

Citizens from across the state turned out to testify against the bill. The Chair of the Prowers County Democrats called HB-1303, “…too complex, too rushed and too high risk!” On the Western Slope, Harvey Branscomb wrote, “As an experienced Democratic Party activist, I find myself blowing the whistle on an undemocratic process — rushing passage of a bill containing too many defects.”

Josef Stalin is reported to have said “Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything.” By increasing the pool of ballots, the law creates a superhighway to election fraud, but the law also goes to the heart of election integrity in another way.

It allows government to take control of what belongs to the people by pretending that elections are to be a government-run function, not a citizen-directed function.  Citizen watchers of the elections process, for example, are removed by this new law. Ballots are handled by the county clerks essentially behind closed doors.

Marilyn Marks of The Citizen Center, who testified against the bill, says that the bill is “…an attempt to pull Colorado back to the pre-1890’s voting methods that required decades of massive reform to curtail widespread corruption in American elections.”

Governor Hickenlooper has first-hand experience with the kind of elections system envisioned in this new law: Denver’s transition from paper poll books to a city-wide electronic poll book and its change from 210 neighborhood polling places to just 55 vote centers in 2006. The result led to an election that then-Mayor Hickenlooper called “catastrophic.”

Hickenlooper told The Denver Post that he vowed “to make sure this never, ever happens again.”

It looks like Colorado is going to have to learn those lessons all over again after all.

READ MORE from Al Maurer at Red Pill, Blue Pill

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Hickenlooper signs job-creation bills

Biz Journal: Ed Sealover: The theme of Monday’s bill signings might have been “The Day of Job Creation,” in a week that will be filled with such signings from the just-completed Colorado legislative session.

In the morning, Gov. John Hickenloopersigned two of the few bills extending state tax credits to come out of the 2013 General Assembly. In the afternoon, he signed the measure that expands eligibility for Medicaid — a change that one report said will create more than 22,000 new jobs in the state in the next 13 years.

First, the Democratic governor held a ceremony at Centennial Airport, in which he made law House Bills 1080 and 1287.

HB 1080 — sponsored by Reps. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, and Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada — expands a $1,200 incentive tax credit for airplane manufacturers to any company that refurbishes or repairs aircraft as well.

HB 1287, sponsored by Reps. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, and Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, extends by five years a job-growth income tax credit for employers that economic development professionals have called the most successful in state history.

“These are … bills that incentivize job creation,” Hickenlooper said at the morning ceremony.

Robert Olislagers, executive director of Centennial Airport, suggested HB 1080 as a way for smaller facilities such as his to be able to keep and attract companies that turn aircraft into medical helicopters or repair private aircraft. At first, observers believed it would have only a small effect, as the nonpartisan Legislative Council estimated it would help produce only eight new jobs that are eligible for the tax credit next year.

But as the bill gained momentum — only four of the 100 legislators voted against it — Denver International Airport officialsbrought it up as part of continuing negotiations with the City of Denver to eliminate its part tax on aircraft equipment. Frontier Airlines has said it hopes to move hundreds of heavy-maintenance jobs back to this state if it can get rid of some onerous tax conditions.

And Olislagers said Monday that even before it was signed into law, the new tax break was partly responsible for Sierra Nevada Corp. hiring 140 new people since January. Other companies have called him as well, looking to bring jobs to his facility, at least somewhat because of HB 1080.

“The runways behind us are not just big slabs of concrete that connect Arapahoe and Douglas counties,” Holbert said. “They really act as portals of commerce that connect us to the world.”

HB 1287, meanwhile, extends from 2018 to 2023 the end of a program, begun in 2009, that allows relocating or expanding companies that create at least 20 new jobs, which pay at least 110 percent of the average county wage, to take a tax credit equal to 3.8 percent of each of those new jobs created.

This credit has been used to attract 27 companies that have said they’ll create roughly 7,200 jobs. It played a big part in getting both DaVita HealthCare Systems Inc. and Arrow Electronics Inc. to move their headquarters to Colorado and contributed to the state attracting 12 new corporate headquarters in 2012 alone, said Tom Clark, executive director of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

“This piece of legislation is the first time in our history that we were able to compete with Texas on an equal footing,” Clark said.

In the afternoon, Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, which expands Medicaid eligibility to all adults in Colorado that make 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less — $15,282 for an individual or $31,322 for a family of four.

While Aguilar’s goal was to help every Colorado resident get access to affordable health care, SB 200 may have other positive side effects for the economy as well.

After Colorado hospitals offered $1.7 billion in uncompensated care to uninsured and underinsured patients in 2011, the fact that they will be seeing a lot more people who have Medicaid insurance is important, saidSteven Summer, president/CEO of the Colorado Hospital Association. That will slow the cost shift by which private insurers are charged higher prices by hospitals to make up for the lack of money coming in from other patients, he noted.

Also, a Colorado Health Foundation studyreleased in February stated that the health care field will need more than 22,000 new jobs to take care of the newly insured patients. That could boost the economy by $4.4 billion in the next 13 years, it stated.

“This is supporting working Coloradans and improve economic security for working families and even for businesses,” Hickenlooper said.

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President Hickenlooper? No thanks, say Coloradans

Daily Caller: Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has consistently denied any interest in a presidential bid, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.

Now, Hickenlooper can point to polling data to help make his case that he’s not interested, if only because Coloradans wouldn’t vote for him.

A new poll, conducted by Colorado-based Ciruli and Associates, found that only 30 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of unaffiliated voters think Hickenlooper should run for president.

The news comes amid a long backdrop of both local and national speculation that he would make a strong contender.

At the beginning of the legislative session, when Democrats vowed to tackle the sorts of tough gun control legislation sought by President Barack Obama on the federal level, Politico included Hickenlooper as among Democratic leaders “who [aspire] to a national leadership role.”

A variety of news outlets – from the Huffington Post and the New York Times to local publications like the Denver Post and 5280 Magazine – have run speculative articles in recent months and years, all despite Hickenlooper’s consistent efforts to quell the rumors.

Even his ex-wife helped fuel the conjecture, after Hickenlooper revealed that she offered to remain married to him if he decided to try for the Oval Office.

If the poll is accurate, it would have been for naught; not even voters in his own party believe he could win the Democratic nomination.

The poll does show some Republican support for a “Hickenlooper 2016″ campaign, with 13 percent of Colorado GOP voters in favor. But the reasons why aren’t especially flattering.

“Those thirteen percent are mostly a mixture of a few Republican fans and a few who believe their party will nominate someone even more unacceptable,” the poll states. “Finally, there are some who just want to get him out-of-state to reduce the damage and open the governorship up.”

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Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/05/15/president-hickenlooper-no-thanks-say-coloradans/#ixzz2VEPHnVuk

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Letters urge governor to deny clemency for Nathan Dunlap, sentenced to death for 4 murders

Denver Channel: May 10: Gov. John Hickenlooper is being asked to “show courage” by denying clemency for Nathan Dunlap, sentenced to death for killing four employees of an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese during a robbery in 1993.

Letters to the governor from the Arapahoe County District Attorney and his deputy district attorney, the jury foreman on the last Colorado death penalty case from State Representative Rhonda Fields and from a former co-worker were made public Friday.  All of them argued that Nathan Dunlap deserves the death penalty for his crime because he admitted killing all four employees to eliminate witnesses in the case.

The only other inmates on Colorado’s death row were also convicted of killing a witness in a criminal case, the son of Rep. Fields, who was scheduled to testify against them.

The jury foreman on the Robert Ray case, who did not want his name released, wrote Hickenlooper, telling him “Mr. Dunlap, as he stated himself, killed people because they would be witnesses. Freedom, peace and justice are all values worth more than any one of our individual lives.”

The foreman called the Chuck E. Cheese murders as “Aurora’s original mass shooting.” He also addressed augments that racism played a part in placing Dunlap on death row.

“You must trust that your citizens are not racists or ignorant fools,” the jury foreman wrote.  “Show the nation that Colorado does not tolerate cowardly acts of mass murder.”

Rep. Rhonda Fields wrote the governor about her personal experience in the death penalty trials of Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens — the two men convicted of killing her son and his fiancé.

Fields also argued that racism did not play a part in any of the three death penalty verdicts — all rendered in Arapahoe County.

“It was not the fault of the DA back in 1993 or the DA in 2005 that Dunlap, Ray and Owens all chose to commit their murders in Arapahoe County.  It was the nature of the murders, not their locations, that cause the death penalty decisions.”

She called it “offensive” to suggest that race played a part in any of the cases.

Regarding the Ray and Owens death penalty verdicts, Fields wrote, “… the jurors believed that the killing of witnesses was the main factor that required the death penalty.”   She added, “I know that Dunlap, when asked why he killed his victims, answered that it was because they were witnesses to his crime.”

She concluded her letter to the governor by saying, “I think that granting clemency would send the wrong message to criminals and to witnesses.”

District Attorney George Brauchler and Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Maillaro wrote a joint letter to to Hickenlooper, stating, “He (Dunlap) took the lives of four Colorado citizens and justice requires he now pays with his own.”

“We ask you to take the courageous stop of not granting his request for executive clemency,” the two also wrote.

“It’s not John Hickenlooper putting Nathan Dunlap to death, it’s the governor of the State of Colorado defending the process that has lead us here,” Brauchler told 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart.

A former Chuck E. Cheese co-worker and high school acquaintance of Nathan Dunlap also wrote Gov. Hickenlooper, urging him to not grant clemency for the condemned murderer.

The woman, who did not want to publicly identified, told Hickenlooper, “(Dunlap) was always a vindictive, evil and mean dark person.”

She said Dunlap is a “bad person, he always has been and I believe he always will be … His actions did not just happen to occur on this one horrible night, it was from the monster that he always was.”

The woman relates personal interactions with Dunlap at school and at work where she said he used “intimidation and fear.”

The woman said she was scheduled to work the night of the murders but had changed her schedule in order to babysit. She said that decision saved her life.  She is now a nurse.

– DA’s response: http://ch7ne.ws/11Z9LxB

– Ray jury foreman and Rep. Fields responses: http://ch7ne.ws/16niHmb

– Letter from co-worker who was supposed to work the night of the shooting: http://ch7ne.ws/10odAtF

Dunlap has been sentenced to die by lethal injection during the week of Aug. 18.  The last person executed in Colorado was Gary Lee Davis in 1997.

Before that, the last person executed in Colorado was Luis Monge in 1967. Monge was executed in the gas chamber for murdering his wife and three children. Prior to his death, Colorado averaged one execution per year for the years the gas chamber replaced hanging in the state, which was 1934.

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Hickenlooper rolls out plan to make Colorado ‘healthiest state’

Denver iJournal: May 7: Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday announced “The State of Health: Colorado’s Commitment to Become the Healthiest State” — a plan designed to make Colorado the healthiest state.

The plan will create a comprehensive and person-centered statewide system to address a broad range of health needs, deliver the best care at the best value and help Coloradans achieve the best health possible.

“We will build on Colorado’s unique — including our strong health economy and infrastructure and our dedication to collaboration and innovation — to become the healthiest state,” Hickenlooper said.

The plan reflects input from stakeholders including healthcare providers, advocates, lawmakers, insurance companies and foundations. The plan focuses on these efforts:

Promote Prevention & Wellness: Five initiatives to help Coloradans stay healthy and become healthier, including efforts to prevent more than 150,000 Coloradans from becoming obese, support improved mental health and better oral health, reduce substance abuse, and encourage wellness among state employees.

Expand Coverage, Access & Capacity: Three initiatives to ensure Coloradans can access care at the right time and the right place, including efforts to reduce Colorado’s uninsured population by more than 520,000, strengthen Colorado’s health workforce and improve access to primary care.

Improve Health System Integration & Quality: Four initiatives that eliminate barriers to better care and improve our ability to work effectively to ensure person-centered care, including major expansions to patient-centered medical homes, facilitating better access to state information and services, integrating physical and behavioral health, and improved long-term services and supports for Colorado’s aging and disabled populations.

Enhance Value & Strengthening Sustainability: Three initiatives that promise to redesign financial incentives, refocusing them on value, not volume. These include $280 million in cost savings to Colorado Medicaid, payment reform across the private and public sectors, and investments in health information technology.

The full report is available by clicking here.

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Colorado volunteers to fill its skies with domestic drones

Daily Caller: May 10: Most of Colorado’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Hickenlooper have signed a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration asking the agency to turn the state into a testing ground for unmanned drones — even while acknowledging that the public remains uneasy about how they might be used by both the government and private individuals.

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is leading the charge, touting the state’s varied terrain, its robust aerospace industry and an existing unmanned aircraft program at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

“Colorado has a unique mix of qualifications that makes it ideal for this designation and we urge the FAA to approve our state’s application,” the letter reads. The FAA is considering designating six areas in the United States for drone research.

In a speech at the National Press Club Wednesday, Udall was careful not to use the word “drone” too heavily, opting instead for the industry-preferred “unmanned aerial system,” or UAS.

“The public is well aware of the military applications of unmanned systems, for better or for worse,” he said. “But UASes have begun to demonstrate their potential in any number of other functions. They will certainly reshape the way we do things from search and rescue operations to natural disaster assessment to precision agricultural and resource management.”

“We need to integrate UASes into the American psyche in a way that isn’t threatening or scary,” he continued, noting that the word “drone” carries a stigma because most people associate them with “Hellfire missiles and the headline-grabbing work our government is doing overseas.”

They’re also associated with the concerns from civil liberties groups, including in Colorado, who see the potential for their misuse. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Western Colorado has begun using drones for search and rescue.

In a recent National Geographic article highlighting Mesa County’s drone, Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union encapsulated many people’s concerns about the growing use of the technology.

He worried that it would begin with “mostly unobjectionable” uses, such as supporting police chases or raids, but then creep into spying on Americans under the justification that it’s necessary for national security.

The scenario becomes more worrisome when considering armed drones.

Last year, a Texas sheriff proposed arming one of his department’s drones with weapons that can fire tear gas and rubber bullets, but during a demonstration, the $300,000 drone crashed into the SWAT team’s armored car.

CU-Boulder is one of just 63 agencies and organizations already authorized by the FAA to test fly its own fleet of unmanned aircraft as part of a decade-old public-private partnership.

Although its aircraft are used by the university to study the weather, CU’s research is funded in part by arms manufacturers and defense contractors like Raytheon, SAIC and Lockheed, as well as by NASA, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which commissions research on behalf of the Department of Defense.

One drone developed by CU researchers to chase storms has been used in U.S. Navy experiments to launch hard-to-track, sensor-carrying glider-drones the size of small birds that can land within 15 feet of their programmed target.

Applications like that tend to make the public nervous about how they will be used — whether by government agencies or private owners — especially as they get cheaper and easier to use.

“While recognizing the potential for unmanned flight systems that lower costs, reduce risk and allow access to environments that are currently inaccessible, we must also acknowledge the potential for misuse,” Udall said. “Our laws need to keep pace with this new technology.”

The right kind of laws protecting privacy and trespassing would help keep people from thinking about “a sky full of drones watching their every move,” he said.

In addition to Udall and Hickenlooper, Democrats Sen. Michael Bennett and Rep. Diana DeGette, along with Republican congressmen Doug Lamborn, Ed Perlmutter, Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton, signed the letter to the FAA.

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Uber CEO: Hickenlooper is all talk when it comes to supporting innovation

Denver Post: May 7: The CEO of Uber – a technology darling that essentially transformed town cars into taxis with a smartphone app – slammed Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper during a recent appearance with Google D.C. Talks, the search giant’s series of panel discussions covering tech policy issues.

Uber launched in Denver last year and is fighting to stay in the market as Colorado regulators decide how the startup and its e-hailing service fit into state transportation rules.

“The PUC of Colorado tried to put some regulations – really the governor of Colorado and his Public Utilities Commission put out regulations that are essentially trying to put us out of business,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said at the April 23 event.

The remark drew surprise from the event’s host, CNN anchor Jessica Yellin.

“Hickenlooper? He seems so technology friendly,” Yellin said.

Kalanick continued criticizing Hickenlooper, who launched the Colorado Innovation Network in 2011 to support the state’s innovation ecosystem.

“He’s an entrepreneur and he’s technology friendly and he embraces innovation every step of the way until he actually has to,” Kalanick said. “He talks the talk, but we have not seen him walk the walk. … He’s trying to push that taxi agenda. He’s talking about innovation on one side, but trying embrace the taxi side at the same time, but you can’t do both. You just can’t.”

Hickenlooper’s spokesman Eric Brown issued the following statement Tuesday:

“The PUC is an independent regulatory agency under Colorado law. The governor was not involved in the issues related to Uber. Anything suggested to the contrary isn’t based on our state’s laws, regulatory structure or how we operate.”

Hickenlooper’s office, though, has told Uber supporters that the company is not following state regulations by failing to disclose the exact cost of a fare before riders get into a vehicle. Uber’s app provides an estimated cost.

“In multiple meetings over the past several months, PUC staff has explained these requirements to Uber’s attorneys and lobbyists,” Hickenlooper’s office states. “Uber insists, however, that its luxury limousine providers can provide transportation service without telling their customers what it will cost when the ride is arranged. Failure to disclose the price is contrary to regulations and public interest.”

Administrative Law Judge Harris Adams has held two public hearings to review regulations that could impact Uber’s operations. He is expected toissue his recommendations to the PUC within the next month or so.

Taxi companies have complained to the PUC that Uber has an unfair advantage because it can offer a taxi-like service without facing taxi regulations.

Uber contracts with third-party limo companies that are licensed with Colorado. The tech upstart, which has faced similar battles in states across the country, argues that it is merely connecting riders with drivers via an innovative smartphone app.

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Hickenlooper orders oil, gas commission to review enforcement program

Denver iJournal: May 9: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed an executive order that directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to undertake a review of its enforcement program, penalty structure and imposition of fines.

The review was ordered after HB13-1267 failed to pass the General Assembly. That bill would have taken a harder line on oil and gas spills.

“The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission should re-evaluate its enforcement philosophy and approach and strive to structure fines and penalties to ensure that operators comply with rules and respond promptly and effectively to any impacts from such violation,” the order says. “Appropriate penalties for violations of rules on those developing oil and gas constitute one tool available to the Commission. Penalties are designed to discourage violations and encourage prompt response in environmental or public health and safety concerns in the event that violations occur. For these reasons, Colorado requires strong and clear enforcement of the rules and assessment of fines and penalties accordingly.”

The order directs the COGCC to undertake a strategic review of its violation and penalty assessment program used to enforce its rules and state law. The COGCC is also directed to evaluate its rules, consistent with its statutory authority, regarding the adjustment of fines based on aggravating and mitigating factors so as to strongly deter violations and, equally strongly, encourage prompt and cooperative post-violation response and mitigation.

Not everyone is impressed.

“What the frack is the Governor doing?” Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action asked in an email. “Hypocritically, he killed this exact bill a few hours ago [Wednesday] in the legislature and now he’s trying to take credit for himself — and away from the people and their representatives — by saying he’s addressing this issue?  This Executive Order is an outrageous attempt to gain political cover and advantage for his failed policies to protect the public’s health from cancer-causing drilling and fracking chemicals.”

Per the governor, the COGCC must structure these adjustments so as to hold the oil and gas industry to the highest operating standards in the nation for protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources. In doing so, the order directs the COGCC is directed to:

Apply the statutory maximum as necessary to protect public health, safety, welfare, and environment;

Establish minimum fine amounts in the case of a violation that involves an especially egregious or aggravating factor;

Provide that certain violations or series of violations preclude the process for administrative orders on consent and must instead undergo the hearing process set forth in C.R.S. § 34-60-108;

Make clear the process for determining the date on which a violation occurs and thereby penalties begin to accrue; and

Post all violations and the basis for penalty assessment is made publicly available on the website.

“The Commission is directed to undertake any other necessary policy and rule changes consistent with this order and will detail its compliance with this order in a report to the Governor’s Office no later than December 10, 2013,” the order says.

In addition, the order says the commission is directed to report to the Governor’s Office each year by Dec. 10 on all violations, any and all penalties imposed regarding violations, and the rationale for the calculation of final penalty assessments, including fines.

Finally, the order directs the Commission to develop and adopt an “enforcement guidance” setting forth procedures for processing violations, including the issuance of notices of violations, calculating or adjusting penalties, and imposing and collecting fines.

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Categories: Colorado Politics Tags:

Tracking John Hickenlooper and Mark Udall in Media

Weekly Clips for March  7, 2013 to March 21, 2013

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO)

Marijuana task force delivers recommendations to Colorado officials

Denver Post: March 7: Colorado’s task force on regulating recreational marijuana sales delivered its blueprint for Colorado’s newest retail industry Wednesday to Gov. John Hickenlooper, Attorney General John Suthers and the state Legislature.

The 58-recommendation, 165-page report from the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force is available for download here.

Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which legalized the cultivation, sale and use of small amounts of pot, in last November’s election. Hickenlooper appointed the task force to recommend ways to implement the new constitutional amendment.


DBJ Special Report: Coverage of legalized marijuana in Colorado


Task force co-chairs Jack Finlaw, Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel, andBarbara Brohl, executive director of theColorado Department of Revenue), said the task force had to work quickly, but the recommendations are solid.

“This is a very comprehensive report, developed in a rapid time-frame, that lays the groundwork for the establishment of a robust regulatory framework, with adequate funding for marijuana industry oversight and enforcement, consumer protection and prevention and treatment programs for young people,” Finlaw said in a statement. “The Task Force recommendations will now need to be perfected through the legislative process and rulemakings by various state agencies.”

“This was groundbreaking work and the Task Force process went very well,” Brohl said. “It was supported by many committed and astute individuals who took the Governor’s charge very seriously. Task force members represented differing viewpoints, they addressed all issues in a well-thought-out manner and worked hard to develop sound solutions. The Task Force did all the ‘heavy lifting,” but now a lot of follow up work has to be done in the coming months.”

Colorado’s task force on regulating recreational marijuana sales delivered its blueprint for Colorado’s newest retail industry Wednesday to Gov. John Hickenlooper, Attorney General John Suthers and the state Legislature.

The 58-recommendation, 165-page report from the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force is available for download here.

Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which legalized the cultivation, sale and use of small amounts of pot, in last November’s election. Hickenlooper appointed the task force to recommend ways to implement the new constitutional amendment.


DBJ Special Report: Coverage of legalized marijuana in Colorado

Task force co-chairs Jack Finlaw, Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel, and Barbara Brohl, executive director of theColorado Department of Revenue), said the task force had to work quickly, but the recommendations are solid.

“This is a very comprehensive report, developed in a rapid time-frame, that lays the groundwork for the establishment of a robust regulatory framework, with adequate funding for marijuana industry oversight and enforcement, consumer protection and prevention and treatment programs for young people,” Finlaw said in a statement. “The Task Force recommendations will now need to be perfected through the legislative process and rulemakings by various state agencies.”

“This was groundbreaking work and the Task Force process went very well,” Brohl said. “It was supported by many committed and astute individuals who took the Governor’s charge very seriously. Task force members represented differing viewpoints, they addressed all issues in a well-thought-out manner and worked hard to develop sound solutions. The Task Force did all the ‘heavy lifting,” but now a lot of follow up work has to be done in the coming months.”

Some of the recommendations:

• The adult-use marijuana industry should be required to have common ownership from seed to sale.

• During the first year of licensing, only entities with valid medical marijuana licenses should be able to obtain licenses to grow, process and sell adult-use cannabis.

• A new Marijuana Enforcement Division in the Revenue Department would be funded by General Fund revenue for the next five years.

• Refer a ballot initiative to voters this November for a 15 percent excise tax, with the first $40 million of proceeds going to the state’s school construction fund (as outlined in the Amendment, which was approved by Colorado voters in November). There will also be a ballot initiative on a proposed sales tax, to comply with the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) laws that force voters to approve all new tax increases.

A joint committee made up of legislators from both the House of Representatives and the Senate has been formed to draft bills suggested by the Task Force.

“The commendable work by the task force sets the stage for sensible regulation and enforcement in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “The entire group carefully and thoughtfully worked through dozens of issues and ideas. We look forward to now working with the General Assembly to follow through on the task force’s recommendations.”

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Hickenlooper: Large mags can turn killers into killing machines

Denver Post: March 18: The latest attempt to persuade Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto a bill limiting ammunition magazines: a news conference contending women will become lawbreakers just by handing a magazine to a daughter or a frightened neighbor if the bill passes.

During a news conference at the Capitol Monday, Amy Oliver Cooke, vice president of the Independence Institute, referred to a portion of House Bill 1224 that requires “continuous possession” of magazines.

Cooke handed a magazine to Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, who handed another magazine to Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, who handed her magazine to Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, who — well, you get the idea.

“This is just how easy it is to turn the average woman into a criminal,” Saine said.

The action was dismissed as a “press-conference stunt” by Laura Chapin, spokeswoman for Coloradans for Gun Safety.

And Hickenloooper’s office said he still supports the bill, which will be signed into law Wednesday along with two other gun measures, universal background checks and charging gun customers for those checks.

“Large magazines have the potential to turn killers into killing machines,” said Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown.

“This law won’t stop bad people from doing bad things. But it does open the possibility that a person determined to kill people might be slowed down even for an instant. That instant might mean the difference between life and death for some people.”

Chapin said the language in the bill is already in effect in several states and was in effect for 10 years in the federal assault weapons ban.

“How do they explain how nobody was charged with a misdemeanor then or now?” she said. “What’s real and what’s inconvenient is … a mother deciding to keep her 6-year-old’s casket closed because he was shot 11 times by bullets from a high-capacity magazine.”

The news conference repeatedly mentioned women, although Cooke maintained men, too, would be lawbreakers if the bill passed.

“The great equalizer for a woman is a firearm,” Cooke said. “I look at my daughters in particular and it’s very personal.”

House Bill 1224 limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. The “continuous possession” refers to magazines that are grandfathered in under the bill. Those magazines can hold more than 15 rounds or can be converted to hold more than 15.

The mag-ban bill is the most contentious of the five Democratic gun bills still alive. Two others, assessing liability for assault weapons and banning concealed-carry weapons on campus, were killed by their sponsors for lack of support after intense criticisms of the measure.

Colorado’s largest magazine producer, Erie-based Magpul, has threatened to leave the state if the bill passes, and its suppliers, too, have said they would have to leave.

Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327,lbartels@denverpost.comortwitter.com/lynn_bartels

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“Gov. John Hickenlooper, please hold”

Denver Post: Lynn Bartels: Gov. John Hickenlooper, already buried with calls aboutthree gun bills he plans to sign on Wednesday, now has another wave of calls headed his way, this time over civil unions.

Colorado Family Action sent an e-mail today urging folks to contact the governor and ask him to veto civil unions. The governor plans to sign Senate Bill 11 into law on Thursday.

“Please let the governor know that SB 11 not only undermines marriage by creating a parallel structure but further contradicts the will of the people who voted in 2006 to protect traditional marriage and reject an equivalent to civil unions as proposed in Referendum I,” Colorado Family Action wrote.

“Additionally, tell the Governor that SB 11 combined with our states existing public accommodation non-discrimination law poses serious and direct threats to the religious liberties of all citizens of Colorado.”

Hickenlooper’s office yesterday was averaging 1 call per 18 second, per second, according to gubernatorial spokesman Eric Brown. ( I originally had 18 calls per second. WARNING: journalist doing math.)

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Colorado governor signs gun control bill

Denver Post: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), whose state experienced its second major massacre in 13 years in 2012,  signed new gun control measures into law Wednesday.

Hickenlooper’s signature came less than a day after the head of the state’s department of corrections, Tom Clements, was shot dead in his home.

From the AP:

The governor of Colorado signed bills Wednesday that put sweeping new restrictions on sales of firearms and ammunition in a state with a pioneer tradition of gun ownership and self-reliance.

The bills thrust Colorado into the national spotlight as a potential test of how far the country might be willing to go with new gun restrictions after the horror of mass killings at an Aurora movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school.

The approval by Gov. John Hickenlooper came exactly eight months after dozens of people were shot at the theater, and the day after the executive director of the state Corrections Department was shot and killed at his home.

The bills require background checks for private and online gun sales and ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.

Two ballot measures have already been proposed to try to undo the restrictions.

New York in January became the first state to pass major gun control legislation following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Colorado is the second state.

Democrats in Congress are crafting a bill that will include universal background checks but, we learned Tuesday, is unlikely to include a new assault weapons ban.

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Colorado Corrections Chief Is Shot Dead at Home

Wall Street Journal: March 7: The executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections was shot and killed when he answered the front door of his house Tuesday night, and police were trying to determine if his death was connected to his job.

Tom Clements was shot at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Monument, north of Colorado Springs, said Lt. Jeff Kramer of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr. Kramer said investigators haven’t ruled anything out but that the killing could have been related to Mr. Clements’s job.

“As the director of the Department of Corrections or any similar type position, it could in fact open someone up to be a target of a crime such as this. Although we remain sensitive to that, we also want to make sure that we remain open-minded to other possibilities as well,” Mr Kramer said.

Enlarge Image

 

 

REUTERS

Tom Clements, in an undated department photograph.

A family member called 911 to report the shooting, and officers found Mr. Clements, 58, dead. Search dogs have been called in to comb through a wooded area around the home, and authorities were going house to house trying to find out what neighbors heard and saw.

Mr. Clements lived in a wooded neighborhood of large, two-story houses on two-acre lots dotted with evergreen trees in an area known as the Black Forest. Long driveways connect the homes to narrow, winding roads that thread through the hills.

 

Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was shot at his home Tuesday night. Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed the killing at a news conference on Wednesday, calling it an “act of intimidation.” (Video: AP)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Mr. Clements to the post in 2011 after he served for more than three decades in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Mr. Clements succeeded Ari Zavaras, a former Denver police chief who led the department under two governors. The department operates 20 adult prisons and a juvenile-detention system.

After Mr. Clements was appointed, Mr. Hickenlooper praised him for his approach to incarceration, saying Mr. Clements relied on proven methods to improve prison safety and programs that have been shown to improve successful outcomes after offenders are released.

In a statement released early Wednesday and sent to department employees, Mr. Hickenlooper said he was in disbelief over the killing.

“As your executive director, he helped change and improve (the department) in two years more than most people could do in eight years. He was unfailingly kind and thoughtful, and sought the ‘good’ in any situation. I am so sad. I have never worked with a better person than Tom, and I can’t imagine our team without him,” Mr. Hickenlooper said.

While Mr. Clements generally kept a low profile, his killing comes a week after he denied a Saudi national prisoner’s request to be sent to his home country to serve out his sentence. Homaidan al-Turki was convicted of sexually assaulting a housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave. Mr. Clements said state law requires sex offenders to undergo treatment while in prison and that Mr. al-Turki had declined to participate.

Mr. Hickenlooper ordered flags lowered to half-staff at public buildings until the day after Mr. Clements’s funeral. Arrangements were pending.

Mr. Clements is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two daughters, Rachel and Sara.

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Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

Udall Endorses Brennan for CIA Director, Underlines Need for Greater Oversight

Colorado Independent: In the wake of an historic Senate filibuster over the murky U.S. laws governing drone strikes, Colorado Senator Mark Udall on Thursday urged his colleagues to confirm John Brennan as the new director of the CIA.

 

Although the Senate voted to confirm Brennan shortly after Udall’s speech on the floor of the chamber, Brennan’s nomination and the confirmation process has sparked weeks-long heated debate– including the 13-hour filibuster undertaken by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul– about the Obama administration’s national security policies.

Udall said he would hold Brennan to “promises” the nominee had made to him as a member of the intelligence committee to bring greater transparency to national-security policy decision making. Udall said Brennan committed to publicly admitting to past transgressions made by the agency and to ensuring Congress could conduct effective oversight under his leadership.

Udall said his main concern was that leaders of the nation’s spy agency, charged with conducting covert operations that have sometimes strayed well beyond national and international legal boundaries, had been swept up over the last decade in a culture of obfuscation.

“We have seen the problems that arise when [congressional] intelligence committees are left out of the loop,” Udall said. “We get warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, torture.

“We have pressed to get the legal justifications to kill Americans with drones,” he said. “The resistance we have faced has eroded credibility.”

Udall has sounded alarms for years over Post-9/11 national security laws he believes threaten constitutional civil liberty protections. In May 2011, he and Ron Wyden from Oregon led a failed effort in the Senate to reform key provisions of the Patriot Act they believed were ripe for abuse.

Both men are members of the intelligence committee, privy to classified executive branch information, but they said they struggled to get information about how the laws were being followed. They said the information they managed to get hold of shocked them.

“Americans would be alarmed,” Udall said.

For years, Brennan has been close to the center of national security policy. He is chief counter-terrorism advisor to President Obama and was advisor to Obama on intelligence issues during the 2008 election campaign. Brennan worked at the CIA for 25 years and has drawn fire for allegedly supporting the “enhanced interrogation” or torture policies of the Bush administration.

Nevertheless, Brennan’s nomination to direct the CIA was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week on a bipartisan 12 to 3 vote. Udall Thursday said committee members were less concerned with Brennan’s history and more concerned with whether he shared their vision about “the role the [CIA] director needs to play.”

“We got commitments,” Udall said. “Transparency has to be the rule not the exception. The government has an obligation to face its mistakes and correct them.

“We have a 6,000 page report on detention and interrogation,” he said, referring to a report prepared by the intelligence committee after reviewing reams of classified documents. “I’ll hold [Brennan] to his promise to correct inaccurate information in the public record, to declassify the information [in the report] and make it public.”

Udall spokesperson Mike Saccone told The Independent that Udall’s transparency concerns were mainly tied to what he considered the overreaches of the warrantless wiretapping program and that Udall strongly believed the public record on torture must reflect findings that the Bush interrogation program was ineffective at garnering valuable information.

“It’s the Zero Dark Thirty debate,” Saccone said, referring to the Oscar-nominated movie on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. “It’s the myth that enhanced interrogation led to actionable intelligence.”

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Udall bill would protect SLV sites

Pueblo Chieftain : U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced a bill Thursday to create the Sangre de Cristo National Historic Park.

It would include nine sites that honor the settlement of the San Luis Valley by Hispanics.

“Southern Colorado and the San Luis Valley are home to some of the most important Latino and Hispano heritage sites in the region,” Udall said in a written statement. “This proposal, developed during a months-long public comment period, ensures that future generations of Coloradans will be better able to understand our roots and what makes Colorado special.”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar raised the idea of a historic park for the valley in January 2012 while also calling for a trail system along the Rio Grande and a conservation easement program for the valley.

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Udall: Senate Funding For Watershed Protection A ‘Big Victory’ For Colorado

Denver Post: The U.S. Senate has slated $65.5 million of Emergency Watershed Protection funding for areas affected by last years’ deadly wildfires, including Colorado.

The funds are part of a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown.

Colorado Senator Democrat Mark Udall says the funding is a big victory for watersheds damaged by the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires. “We needed those monies right away, but we’re going to have those monies after 7 months,” said Udall. “It’ll help meet the $20 million in watershed repair needs for both the Waldo Canyon area then up north for the High Park Fire, which is going to affect everything having to do with the Poudre River.”

The Senate funding comes a week after the U.S. House included watershed protection funds in its version of a continuing resolution.

Additional funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection program would help communities protect vital water supplies damaged by natural disasters.

And while it’s taken a while for Congress to join him in support of the funding, Udall says doing so is a smart investment.“On the front end, you can imagine the costs if we have floods and mud flows and our water treatment systems are overcome with sediment. It would be much more expensive to have to make those fixes after the fact,” said Udall.

 

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Credit Nathan Heffel / KUNC

Greeley Water’s Diversion Dam near the mouth of the Poudre River.

That delay in Federal funding has not stopped the city of Greeley from its work to repair fire scorched areas along the Poudre River. City officials there say the risk to their water supply will increase as the spring snowmelt sends ash and soot into the river.

Despite the considerable wrangling in Congress over disaster relief, Udall says there’s still a role for the Federal government to play in natural disaster recovery.

“Communities are small, often they don’t have the necessary resources or the expertise,” said Udall. “We bring the Forest Service and other federal agencies that really know our forests. The Soil Conservation Service which knows how you conserve water and maintain your soils to keep your landscapes healthy. They’re a really important part of this effort.”

The Senate could vote on its continuing resolution later this week. Then both the Senate and the House must sort out the differences between the two bills. Since both include the watershed protection funding, Udall says he’s confident the final bill sent to the President will allocate federal money for assistance.

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Funding bill amendments target military biofuels

The Hill: Zack Colman: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) filed two amendments to a $984 billion government funding bill on Thursday that would gut the military’s alternative fuels program.

The amendments already are drawing criticism the program’s supporters, which are largely Democrats. Sen. Mark Udall’s office said Thursday that the Colorado Democrat would fight whatever measure comes to the floor.

One would strip $114 million from the Army, Navy and Air Force’s alternative energy research and development programs. The other would remove $60 million from the Defense Department’s biofuels program.

The first would shift that money to the Army’s operations and maintenance budget, while the second would go toward Defense-wide operations and maintenance.

“I am confident that we can make more sensible cuts in spending than severely reducing the Army’s operations and maintenance work. One area for savings is the Defense Department biofuels program, which requires the taxpayer to grossly overpay for fuel,” Toomey said in a Thursday statement.

Toomey’s amendments continue a battle over the alternative fuels program that heated up toward the end of last session.

Conservatives attempted to block the military’s alternative fuels program through the Defense authorization bill. They argued the program and the fuels were too expensive when sequestration threatens $500 billion of Defense cuts through the next decade.

Democrats and a handful of Republicans defeated that effort. They said the alternative fuels program reduced costs by reducing the military’s dependence on the volatile oil market.

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Udall Invites Colorado Veterans, Families to a Series of Veterans Roundtables Around State

Denver Post: March 21: Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, announced today that he and his staff are continuing an extensive series of roundtables to connect with Colorado veterans throughout the state. He will kick off the next series of roundtables on Saturday, March 23, in Thornton before he and his staff host roundtables in other cities throughout Colorado.

“More than 400,000 veterans call Colorado home, and they represent the very best of our nation. As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, these roundtables give me a better sense of how we can better support those who have sacrificed so much in defense of our country,” Udall said. ”We can never fully repay our debt to our veterans, but we can make sure Washington, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress are working for them.”

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