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and FBI are justifying warrantless searches of Americans’ electronic communications based on a loophole in an outdated law that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled was unconstitutional,” Udall said in a statement.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