New Online Tool Tracks Colorado’s Many Oil Spills

spillmap

As the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports, food for thought as the debate over "fracking" near Colorado's populated areas goes on:

The energy and environment research Center for Western Priorities this week released a map of oil-industry spills that have occurred in Colorado over the past 13 years. It’s a colorful map but it’s not very pretty.

The map is built on information compiled by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and it’s dotted with 4,900 Colorado spill sites, which the group says amount to tens of millions of gallons of oil, drilling fluid and other toxic waste. The main sites of the spills come in the four corners of a square that runs between Grand Junction, Durango, Trinidad and Greeley. The vast majority of the spills come in the northern front range, in an area extending southwest from Greeley between Fort Collins, Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont and Lafayette. Those are the five cities that have drawn lawsuits from the industry and the state for voting over the last two years in support of municipal bans and moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing — the extraction technique where drillers blast millions of gallons of mixed sand, water and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to crack open fissures and release oil and gas.

At its related “Colorado Toxic Release Tracker,” the Center for Western Priorities reports that, since the beginning of the year, drillers reported 156 spills in the state. They reported 44 spills in March. So far, 6 percent of spills this year were reported to have contaminated water. Eighty-four spills occurred within 1,000 feet of surface water. Forty-two spills have occurred less than 50 feet from groundwater.

Looking casually at this sobering interactive map, it becomes really obvious why two of the northern Front Range's "L-Towns"–Lafayette and Longmont, along with Boulder, Broomfield and Fort Collins–have banned or passed moratoria on fracking within their boundaries. Fracking causes more problems than just surface spills, and spills aren't always directly related to the fracking process, but this map vividly illustrates the dirty, accident-prone industrial process going on every day in Colorado–in many cases just across the street or field from neighborhoods.

If you look at this report and still can't understand why local communities are tired of state regulators' outright contempt for their concerns, which has led to the "crisis" of ballot measures to give local communities real power to regulate oil and gas drilling, we respectfully submit that you are the one with the problem. Fracking isn't just an environmentally worrisome process of drilling, it's the fact that it brings drilling to places it hasn't been before–with all of drilling's attendant nastiness like surface spills and air pollution.

And as you can see, the industry's track record where they drill now isn't very good.

Malkin to Fundraise for Pueblo GOP

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Michelle Malkin, Fox news pundit and angry Tweeter,  will headline a Pueblo Republican fundraising event – the Lincoln Dinner- on June 7.

 From Facebook: 

 

The Pueblo County Republican Party will be hosting our 

Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, June 7, 2014. 

Michelle Malkin will be our keynote speaker.

The dinner will be at Pueblo Community College - 

Fortino Ballroom at 6pm. 

The cost for the dinner is $50 per person.

Before the dinner, there will be a reception (5 – 5:45 pm) with 

Michelle Malkin and our slate of republican candidates. 

Malkin has been pushing Benghazi hysteria, and criticizing Pelosi, Grayson, Reid, the Common Core, and most liberal commentators.  She is a supporter of Colorado's medical marijuana laws, and has visited Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo West.  Malkin is based in Colorado Springs.

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No legislators were harmed in the making of this video

 

This week, the Colorado legislature wrapped up the 2014 session. Some really good things happened this year: help with childcare for working families, better education funding, disaster relief, environmental protections, and supporting high paying jobs in our state. In addition, some bad things got defeated, like crazy abortion bans and repeals of Colorado’s great renewable energy standards. And although there were some partisan fights, over 96% of the bills passed this year in Colorado had the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

We hope you enjoy it. If you do, take a minute right now to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

2014 should be remembered as a year when Colorado lawmakers got things done and left our state better than they found it. We hope that makes you happy too.

Rep. Don Coram and his War on Rural Coloradans

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"Members, this is a war on rural Colorado. This product on the Uravan mineral belt is their only option for jobs.  With this bill, that option is lost." Rep. Don Coram on SB 14-192

What Colorado State Representative Don Coram calls a “War on Rural Colorado” others might call the “holding environmental scofflaws accountable” or “making polluters clean up their mess before we trust them to not make another”  act. 

And surprisingly enough (if apparent conflict-of-interest is surprising among good-old-boy politicians) Rep. Don Coram fought legislation that could force himself to comply with cleaning up a toxic mess for which he himself is responsible.

As passed the Senate Bill 192 requires radioactive contamination to groundwater wells be cleaned up to levels that meet the standards of the Water Quality Control Commission for the well's historic use. But as originally proposed the bill would have placed stricter controls over all the 32 uranium mines that are still operational in Colorado, and on any new operations that apply for licenses.

As the Durango Herald noted in an editorial blasting Rep. Coram:

State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, was on the wrong side of history Monday on several fronts. In opposing Senate Bill 192, he took on the role of a lobbyist, argued against a popular and prudent environmental protection and, at the same time, played off of the unrealistic hopes of economically challenged towns. It was not his finest hour.

SB 192 is a bill meant to address the kind of environmental disaster experienced by Cañon City when the Cotter uranium mill poisoned a neighborhood’s groundwater. It sets minimum standards for groundwater cleanup before a company can be absolved of further responsibility. It also mandates that uranium and thorium mines be licensed by the state health department if they use a process that involves injecting water into rock formations.

Remediation for ‘Collateral damage’ might as well be another name of the Department of Energy’s ‘Legacy Management’ program.  The ‘legacy’ is the mess of toxic waste that will remain deadly for thousands of years.  Colorado’s toxic legacy has already cost the American taxpayer billions—and led to the removal of an entire town, a trail of cancer casualties, and the ruin of lives from the busts that inevitably, almost inexorably, follow booms in company towns built to be solely reliant on single, highly volatile extractive industry.  

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ProgressNow Colorado’s Winners and Losers of the 2014 Legislative Session

WINNERS

 

LOSERS

1. Colorado students

This year, Colorado finally began the road back from years of devastating budget cuts to our public schools and colleges. Thanks to an improving economy and sound budgetary decision making, the state was able to restore $100 million in funding for our colleges and universities and begin to restore millions of dollars in badly-needed funds to K-12. We have a long way to go to restore all of the cuts to education since the Great Recession, but 2014 was a great start.

 

1. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners

In 2013, the extremist pro-gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners helped organize recall elections against Colorado Senators who supported last year’s common-sense gun safety reforms. This year, it was widely expected that RMGO would flood the Capitol with angry mobs and misinformation in an attempt to repeal these new laws. Unfortunately for RMGO, those crowds of gun rights activists failed to reappear at the Capitol as they had in 2013. The reason is simple: the sky didn’t fall, and Colorado’s new gun safety laws are working.

 

2. Colorado’s economy and working families

From support for advanced industries to helping ensure the working families most in need can get child care assistance, this was a great legislative session for Colorado’s economy. Following up on legislation from 2013, support for advanced technology job creators was increased. Legislation brought by Sen. John Kefalas and Reps. Brittany Pettersen and Tony Exum to expand child care grants will provide invaluable help to families trying to balance their careers with caring for young children. 

 

2. Anti-choice extremists

This year, far-right legislators introduced yet another piece of legislation that would ban all abortions in Colorado, even in cases of rape or incest. Colorado is a pro-choice state, and voters have repeatedly rejected abortion bans in statewide ballot measures in recent years. This year’s abortion ban bill failed, but not before numerous conservative legislators, including House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, had signed on as cosponsors. Attempting to ban abortion in Colorado has already done grave political damage to conservatives, but they still haven’t learned their lesson. Colorado women won’t go back.

 

3. Victims of floods and fires

Following devastating floods and fires in 2013, Democrats and Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly came together to pass comprehensive legislation to help our state recover from last year’s catastrophic events and improve our ability to cope with future natural disasters. Leaders like Rep. Dave Young, co-chair of the Flood Disaster Study Committee, worked overtime to ensure the lessons learned in 2013 were reflected in policy this year. Tax credits to offset damage to property owners, streamlined relief funding for affected residents, and flexibility for local government to fund road and bridge repairs are just a few of the sensible reforms that passed this year with bipartisan support.

 

 

3. House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso

Republican Colorado House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso deserves some credit for helping pass many bipartisan bills this year, but he stumbled badly by signing on to the disastrous abortion ban legislation mentioned above. DelGrosso also faced major embarrassments within his caucus, such as the chronically sleepy and tardy Rep. Justin Everett, and Rep. Jared Wright leaving a loaded gun unattended in a Capitol hearing room. Some leaders make the best of a bad situation, but DelGrosso was unable–or unwilling–to help himself and his party's brand this year.

4. Governor John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration worked both in public and behind the scenes to defend and expand on the historic progress made by the General Assembly in the last two years. Hickenlooper has shown real leadership on issues ranging from education to reproductive choice to equality for every Colorado family. And Hickenlooper ends the 2014 legislative session with an unbeatable record of solid economic growth in his first term.

 

4. Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman

At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman exploded in a fit of rage on the Senate floor, claiming that bills were being mishandled, and even threatening recalls against Senate leadership. But as it turned out, Cadman was completely wrong, and the gun safety repeal bill he complained about received a fair hearing. But the incident underscored Cadman’s reputation as an erratic hothead, prone to emotional outbursts and unsuited to leadership.

 

5. Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino

Mark Ferrandino, ending his term as Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives this year, has made history in too many ways to count. As the first openly gay Speaker of the House in Colorado’s history, Ferrandino presided in 2013 over the long-sought passage of civil unions legislation. This year, Ferrandino has been invaluable in defending the gains made in 2013, and pushing forward with this year’s progressive agenda of economic growth, disaster recovery, and funding education. Republicans and Democrats alike have praised Ferrandino’s steady and fair leadership this year.

 

5. Legislators seeking higher office

For a host of reasons, conservative incumbent legislators seeking higher office failed to achieve their objectives. Sen. Greg Brophy’s bid for governor fizzled, Rep. Amy Stephens, Sen. Owen Hill, and Sen. Randy Baumgardner failed to gain any traction in their brief campaigns for the U.S. Senate, and Rep. Mark Waller’s run for Attorney General fell apart after faring poorly at the Republican state assembly. In some cases these were simply unqualified candidates, but legislative experience isn’t the plus for Republicans seeking higher office that it once was–mostly because the extreme GOP grassroots can’t stomach the compromises necessary to effectively govern.

 

6. State employees

Through the Great Recession, Colorado’s state employees worked without a raise for years. Colorado public employees make less than their counterparts in the private sector, and as the state’s largest employer, state employee income has a direct impact on our economy. In the 2014-2015 budget, state workers are seeing base-building pay increases for the second year. Every day we rely on our road workers, corrections officers, firefighters, and other state employees, and it’s great to finally see them being recognized for their hard work.

 

6. The “clown car caucus”

From banning abortion to going after the non-problem of buying marijuana with public assistance, there was a group of conservative legislators that one could always count on to sponsor the most embarrassing legislation this year. Many of these legislators, such as Rep. Lori Saine and Sen. Vicki Marble, won their seats with help from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which seems to not care if candidates are completely unqualified as long as they vote RMGO’s way on guns. Republicans hoping to put on a fresh face after years of electoral defeats in Colorado weren’t helped by the “clown car caucus” this year.

 

7. Women

With one of the nation’s highest rates of female representation, the Colorado General Assembly remains a model for the entire nation. This year, in addition to vital support for single moms and working families through child care assistance, progressives in the legislature beat back yet another attempt by the far right to ban all abortions in Colorado. Senate President Morgan Carroll become the second woman to serve in that leadership role. Conservatives keep trying every year, but thanks to our strong women and progressive leadership, the “war on women” stops cold when it arrives at the Colorado General Assembly.

 

 

7. Wage thieves

After years of trying, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and Rep. Jonathan Singer’s bill to strengthen protections for Colorado workers from wage theft by employers finally passed the Colorado General Assembly. Many victims of wage theft don’t have the resources to fight a long, expensive court battle to win back their wages. Ulibarri and Singer’s bill will allow the Department of Labor to determine cases of wage theft directly, and help ripped-off employees get paid faster.

8. Transparency and good government

One of the bills already signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper this year is legislation to make it easier for citizens and watchdogs to obtain government records through the Colorado Open Records Act. Rep. Joseph Salazar and Sen. John Kefalas teamed up to pass this important bill to prevent abuses of the system by public officials with something to hide.

 

8. Secretary of State Scott Gessler

This year’s legislative session was a disaster for Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Gessler made headlines after irresponsible budgetary decisions left his office millions of dollars in the red, compounding a record of bad judgment that already included the Independent Ethics Commission’s ruling that Gessler had “breached the public trust for private gain.” Gessler’s attempts to undermine and vilify Colorado’s election modernization laws fell flat, and his failed quest to uncover “illegal voters” has seriously harmed Gessler’s reputation under the Dome.

 

9. Colorado’s air and water

Gov. Hickenlooper’s work this year to pass important new air quality protections for oil and gas drilling is a prime example of bringing industry and conservationists together to make a positive step for everyone. New, dramatically steeper fines for oil and gas drilling violations passed by the legislature this year add teeth to the laws already on the books. And protections for water quality around uranium mining and processing sites will protect the public and the environment from harm as that industry responds to market demand. The job of protecting the public health and environment may not be over yet this year, but progress has undeniably been made.

 

9. Representative Jared Wright

Rep. Jared Wright’s brief legislative career has been marred by controversy, ever since details of his resignation from the Fruita Police Department led to attempts by fellow Republicans to get him out of the race. In the legislature, Rep. Wright further angered his fellow Republicans after leaving a loaded handgun in a Capitol hearing room–leading to calls for all legislators to check their firearms at the entrance to the Capitol like all other citizens must do. Since being pressured into not running for reelection, however, Rep. Wright has turned over a new leaf–frequently siding with progressives on issues related to public health and energy production. That has only made Wright more of a loser among his fellow Republicans, but Wright’s constituents may finally have a reason to appreciate his service.

 

10. Bipartisanship

Most of what we hear in the news today is about political controversies, and this year had its share. But it’s also worth remembering that around 95% of bills passed this year in the Colorado General Assembly had bipartisan support. On issues like disaster relief, job creation, and government transparency, more often than not there was no daylight between Republicans and Democrats. The issues that divide us sometimes define us, but other times we know how to come together as Coloradans to do what’s right–and that’s important to remember when emotions run high.

 

10. Palisade peaches

The Palisade peach lost out this year in a bid to become the state’s official fruit. Elementary school student Nick Babiak made a strong effort this year lobbying in favor of a bill to designate Palisade peaches as the state fruit, but was thwarted by opposition from the Rocky Ford Growers Association. Progressives stand with Nick Babiak and with the finest peaches grown anywhere, and hope 2015 will be the year that Palisade peaches finally receive their due.

Sen. Hodge Criticized For Native American “Reparations” Remarks

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

A report from Indian Country Today on the unexpected death yesterday of a bill to offer qualifying Native Americans in-state tuition is raising eyebrows–not simply because the bill died, but due to the comments of a Democratic state senator principally responsible for killing it:

A bill in Colorado that would have provided prospective Native American college students with in-state tuition died Tuesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hours after the bill was defeated by a 3-4 vote, State Senator Mary Hodge – the only Democrat to vote against it – told ICTMN that the potential cost of the bill was too great and that there was an issue of “reparations.”

“I don’t know how long we can make reparations [to Native Americans] or how far we’d have to go back,” she said. “I guess my point is we can’t fix what we did.” [Pols emphasis]

House Bill 1124, sponsored by State Representative Joseph Salazar, was to provide a Native American of a federally recognized tribe with resident status when applying to a state-supported institution if the student’s tribe had “historical ties” to what is now Colorado territory. “Often due to circumstances beyond their control, many American Indian tribes and members of American Indian tribes have been forced to relocate across state lines, far from their historical home places,” the bill reads.

“Those people are already gone,” Sen. Hodge said. [Pols emphasis] “At what point do we say ‘we’re sorry’ and move on? And I don’t know if we’re there yet.”

There are questions about the cost of implementing this legislation, though sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar says that the $5 million cost of the bill wouldn't have come from the state budget. But Sen. Mary Hodge's complaints about "reparations" and how "those people are already gone" in reference to Native Americans displaced from what is now Colorado by white settlement go offensively beyond the scope of an appropriations debate–changing the discussion into one about bigoted ignorance of history by an elected public official. In this case, a Democrat.

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Local Control “Grand Bargain” In The Works?

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover and Cathy Proctor report:

The oil and gas wars that many predicted at the Colorado Capitol still may be coming as the 2014 legislative session wanes, as industry representatives and elected officials are discussing a bill that would give local governments more control over drilling regulations.

A draft bill that was revised late Tuesday and was given to the Denver Business Journal would grant local governments regulatory authority — provided the rules don’t conflict with state statutes — over noise and over setback distance between a well site and schools, hospitals and homes. It also would give cities and counties the authority to conduct inspections and monitoring and to charge a “reasonable” fee to cover its costs.

House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, said early Tuesday that she doubted such a bill would materialize this session because there is only a week left until the May 7 adjournment of the General Assembly. But several sources close to the negotiations said that discussions about the bill picked up throughout the day as a number of oil and gas companies began to see it as a favorable alternative to facing a proposed ballot measure in November that could allow local governments to push setbacks for well sites as far as 1,500 or 2,500 feet from homes and schools and permit local fracking bans…

A last-minute bill to increase the power of local communities to regulate drilling reflects a very simple reality, one that we've acknowledged in this space discussing the possibility of a much more stringent statewide ballot initiative:

Capitol sources say that some oil and gas companies, fearing the potential of losing to [Rep. Jared] Polis’ well-funded ballot effort, [Pols emphasis] are pushing to pass the proposed bill because they consider it to be much less extreme. But there a rifts over what details would be acceptable not just to that industry but to other industries that could be affected.

Negotiating a deal that would be good enough to please both local control initiative proponents and the oil and gas industry is a tall order, but some of the same people involved in the 2010 "Clean Air Clean Jobs" compromise to convert coal-fired power plants along the Front Range to natural gas are working to align these disparate interests enough to strike a deal. This late-session negotiation comes as other bills favored by conservationists, like a mere study of the health effects of oil and gas drilling which passed the House last week, die with help from Democrats in the one-vote Democratic majority Senate. 

Apropos, a couple of weeks ago, Eli Stokols reported for Politico Magazine about the larger issues surrounding this debate. Without expressing an opinion on its conclusions, as negotiations progress, it's clear Stokols wrote a prescient story:

Ted Trimpa, a Denver power lawyer and strategist once dubbed “the Democrats’ Karl Rove,” was instrumental in helping Polis and the three other millionaires build Colorado’s progressive infrastructure and consolidate power over the last decade. Now he finds himself trying to hold it all together.

He worries that the ballot initiative would splinter a progressive coalition in Colorado that’s been so successful that it’s now seen as a blueprint for Democrats and Republicans in other states—its many successes attributable to an unusual and lasting harmony, an ability to avoid sticky policy fights that distract from the shared goal: winning.

Resolving Colorado’s fracking fight quickly may yet provide other states with a blueprint of how to deal with local control issues around oil and gas, a national example of how compromise and consensus can be achieved even in our polarized times. But if Polis’s measures move toward the November ballot, the country may find out that Colorado isn’t such a model after all, that coalition politics aren’t as easy as this state has made them seem.

“We’re a state known for the two sides working together,” Trimpa tells me, “but if this initiative makes the ballot, the age of that will be gone for a very long time.”

It is what it is, folks, and few of us are privy to the action going on behind the scenes. Politically, there's an undeniable need for Democrats to present a unified front in this tight election year. On the other hand, coalitions only work when sufficient common ground exists to move forward. This has always been the great challenge of holding together the center-left Democratic coalition that has held control of this state for going on a decade, and this isn't the first time the ability to hold that coalition together has been put to a high-stakes test.

We'll update as soon as we learn more–and that won't be long with session's end just days away.

Is Cotter the toddler ever going to clean up?

A basic lesson we all learn early on in life is that if we make a mess, we need to clean it up. It's a common courtesy thing – we take responsibility and clean up after ourselves so that our neighbors don't have to.

But the Cotter Corporation is throwing a big tantrum while refusing to clean up their mess in Cañon City. One of Colorado's biggest messes has been going on for over 30 years. Residents in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Cañon City have been exposed to contaminated wells for over 30 years. An entire generation has grown up in Cañon City surrounded by uranium pollution and now their children are growing up in it too. Ranchers have struggled. Businesses have shuttered. And Cotter doesn't care.

How would you feel if that was your water? 

The Uranium Processing Groundwater Protection Act or SB 192, which would finally get crybaby Cotter to clean up its mess and protect Coloradans from future messes, is a smart bill. It's also long overdue. Residents are depending on this bill to get their town and livelihoods back. They're tired of their backyard being a notorious Superfund site. That's why the Act has 111 local, diverse businesses and organizations in support.

Senator Grantham (R- Cañon City) has heard their stories – from the local monastery that depends on well water, to the ranchers who rely on clean streams, to the residents of the Lincoln Park neighborhood who have dealt with contamination since the – all deserve their water to be clean and protected. They have the right to use their water without worrying about radioactive contamination.

Yet, Senator Grantham still voted against his own constituents. Party politics and special interests apparently deserve more protections than his neighbors.

The Act would also safeguard Colorado citizens by regulating a new water intensive technique of extracting and processing uranium, which has never been tested or used in a commercial setting in the U.S. The bill will ensure that the same licensing process required for other uranium processing and radioactive waste disposal projects should also be required for these new technologies and also bring Colorado into compliance with federal requirements.

Unfortunately, if SB 192 doesn't pass before the end of the session, it may be too late to protect Coloradans and the residents of the Lincoln Park neighborhood from future contamination and force Cotter to clean up their mess as they try to work a backdoor clean up deal. That's just not right.

Cotter can throw a tantrum all they want, but in the end Coloradans deserve to be able to use the wells on their land for irrigation and the water rights they are entitled.

Red-Light Camera Ban Passes Senate

UPDATE: Food for thought as legislators consider Senate Bill 14-181, here are some interesting points in favor of red light cameras from the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police:

Year-to-year changes in red-light running fatalities reveal an average annual decrease of 5.6% from 2007 to 2011. U.S. and worldwide studies show a 25 to 30 % reduction in injury crashes at locations with red-light safety cameras, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports. A five-year study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2011 found red-light cameras saved more than 150 lives in 14 of the largest U.S. cities, reducing fatalities by 24 percent.

Cameras get drivers’ attention, and reduce the most dangerous type of collisions – right angle crashes. A 2011 Texas Transportation Institute study of 11,122 crash records from 275 intersections showed 633 fewer crashes at intersections with cameras; and a 32% decrease in right-angle crashes…

The use of photo speed radar enforcement is already strictly limited to residential streets, school zones and construction zones. It can be used only where the speed limits is not more than 35 miles per hour. A violator must be exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 miles per hour to receive a ticket. Photo speed radar vans are manned by qualified personnel. Red light cameras are deployed at selected high risk intersections. Fines are limited to a maximum $40 for speeding and $75 for red light infractions. No points are assessed against a driver’s record.

—–

red-light-camera

As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports, the red-light camera ban bill, supported by a bipartisan election-year coalition and hotly opposed by local government reaping big bucks from installed cameras, has passed the Colorado Senate:

At its core, Senate Bill 181 would bar local municipalities from using automated vehicle-identification systems that pinpoint drivers. Along with red-light cameras, the measure includes photo radar cameras that detect speed.

The bill moved out of the Senate on a 21-14 vote. The only amendment attached allows for toll roads to continue using photo radar cameras that detect speed.

The measure has support from Democrats and Republicans in the legislature. Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday was noncommittal toward the bill. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said at an afternoon news conference he's seen earlier versions of the bill, but has yet to view its current form.

"I think there are a number of people that feel a level of anger over what they feel is an intrusion and is not making their roads safer, and their opinion is that it's a way for local governments to try to increase their revenues," Hickenlooper said when asked about his personal views on the concept of banning photo red-light cameras. "That creates a real frustration in a lot of elected officials."

Gov. John Hickenlooper's sympathy for those poor, misunderstood elected officials notwithstanding, the public at large seems to be the most "frustrated" party over red-light cameras. The disagreement over the public safety value of these systems is difficult to sort through legitimately, due to what's perceived to be an ulterior motive to raise badly-needed revenue for local government–one thing red-light cameras excel at. Sometimes it falls to your humble hosts to remind our readers that revenue for our local governments is a good thing, or failing that at least a necessary evil–and if TABOR won't let governments get it the old-fashioned way, they've got to get creative.

A poll follows: will Gov. Hickenlooper sign Senate Bill 14-181 if it passes?

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Faced With Catholic/GOP Uprising, Dems Kill Pro-Choice Bill

Protesters against SB-175 Tuesday. Photo credit: Peter Zelasko, Catholic News Agency

Protesters against SB-175 Tuesday. Photo credit: Peter Zelasko, Catholic News Agency

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports on drama yesterday in the Colorado Senate over Senate Bill 14-175, the Reproductive Health Freedom Act. After several days of intense controversy, what was once an important bill for at least some Democrats to close out this year's legislative session is now dead–and the finger-pointing is well underway:

Rather than battle Republicans over a proposal they stressed would help protect reproductive rights, Senate Democrats on Wednesday spiked the legislation — a move that drew applause from some religious groups packed into the chamber's gallery who strongly opposed it…

All Senate Republicans, alongside the Archdiocese of Denver, denounced the legislation as "overreaching" and "ambiguous," saying the measure was not needed.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," said Sen. Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs. "There is no one, no evidence, that has said there's a denial of things like contraception to women in Colorado."

Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, who sponsored the measure, said he carried it because constituents expressed at town halls and forums concerns over efforts in other states to make it more difficult for women to seek guidance on abortions and receive common forms of contraception.

From Senate President Morgan Carroll's statement after Senate Bill 175 was killed:

We were optimistic that the Republicans would come on board with a proposal that would ensure all women are able to make private and personal reproductive health decisions with freedom from government interference. But we are disappointed that we were unable to get bi-partisan support to acknowledge and uphold the values of the majority of Coloradans.
 
With 21 days left in the legislative session and 269 bills still pending, having a GOP filibuster would bring D.C. style dysfunction to Colorado.  We have made our point and in the interest of getting the remaining work done, on education, jobs, higher education affordability and childcare, we laid the bill over. 
 
We will continue to fight against attacks on women and their private healthcare decisions and uphold the values of Colorado women and families.

On the other side, here's the story as told by the Catholic News Agency:

Amid growing protests led in large part by the Catholic Church, the Colorado Senate on April 16 killed a controversial bill that could have banned all pro-life laws in the state…

Originally introduced March 31, the controversial bill – S.B. 175 – only gained wide publicity last week. It sought to ban all new pro-life laws and regulations, including requirements for pre-abortion ultrasounds and restrictions on the RU-486 abortion drug.

With the bill now dead, there are reporters and Republicans who say this was a "quixotic effort"–but clearly the bill's religious opponents didn't agree while they massed crowds at the Capitol to oppose it. Proponents point to new restrictions on abortion being passed around the nation, as well as other so-called "pre-emptive" bills, like a bill signed in Oklahoma just this week that pre-emptively bans future minimum wage increases and paid sick day laws, to justify both the intent and functional precedent for the Reproductive Health Freedom Act.

It's our understanding and has been reported, though victorious Republicans deny it today, that threats were leveled by the Senate Minority to bring the entire chamber to a halt for the rest of the legislative session if Senate Bill 175 passed–which could have endangered dozens of important bills. The fact is, Democrats are on solid ground, given the polling on the abortion issue and the overwhelming defeat of abortion ban initiatives in Colorado, pushing a bill to affirmatively protect reproductive choice rights. For that reason alone, predictions that the defeat of Senate Bill 175 has major ramifications seem overblown–certainly not to the degree that Republicans harmed themselves by killing the popular civil unions bill two years ago. In the eyes of voters, questions about efficacy and timing aside, Democrats were on the right side of the issue.

If anything? If you have to take on the Catholic Church, Holy Week might not be the best timing…

The “Great Social Experiment” or “Leadership”?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"This is going to be one of the great social experiments of this century"
~Governor John Hickenlooper

 

Yesterday's senate hearing on SB14-177 and SB14-178 drew a standing-room-only crowd; one that ultimately demanded an overflow room for the observers and witnesses.  The attendees were a broad swath of Colorado citizens: mother and child, medical refugees desperate to find a remedy for their child's condition; attorneys, social workers, business owners, political activists, lobbyists, and myself as the sole farmer in the room. It was an afternoon of passionate testimony by medical marijuana activists who see the bill as a subtle, some may say "backroom" attempt,  to recriminalize the use and or possession of cannabis under section 18-18-102 of the Colorado statute.  The vague language of the proposed bill caused confusion even amongst the law enforcement and social workers who provided testimony for both the proponents and the opposition. 

I'm forever in awe of the breadth and depth of the human and social capacity that Colorado possesses.  The testimony by Jeri Shepard, a Greeley attorney, was compelling.  Jeri went point by salient point, deconstructing the myths around legalization, she offered to the members of the Judiciary Committee they read the book, "The New Jim Crow", an exercise she had participated in as a group Lenten exercise.  If one was measuring the prudence of Coloradans ending prohibition in 2012 by Jeri's testimony, you wouldn't describe our efforts as "a great social experiment".  You would call it "leadership".

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Banning Red Light Cameras, Anyone?

red-light-camera

As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports, a bill to prohibit red light cameras in Colorado is gaining some bipartisan momentum:

A proposal introduced in the Senate late last week would bar cities and counties from using automated vehicle-identification systems that pinpoint drivers committing traffic infractions.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, has introduced similar legislation the past two years, though unlike in previous sessions, he has strong support this go-round from House and Senate Democratic leadership.

"These cameras just create revenue for cities and don't actually increase public safety at our intersections," said Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, the bill's prime House sponsor. "I think we should be focused on making people safe, not raising money." [Pols emphasis]

As Lee reports, local governments are raking in millions in fines from relatively low-overhead automatic camera enforcement at intersections. Not surprisingly, the Colorado Municipal League doesn't like this bill one bit–though they cite the public safety considerations, not the revenue. At the end of the day, money talks: and the badly needed revenue these cameras provide may prove reason enough to keep them with no further debate needed.

What say you, Polsters? Red-light liberty, public safety, or cash?

Abortion? Gun Control? Genghis Khan? It Must Be Holocaust Week Resolution Time!

Today, the Colorado General Assembly debated and gave initial passage to House Joint Resolution 14-1015, the annual resolution designating the last week of April as Holocaust Awareness Week. Each year, the debate over this resolution gives Republicans an opportunity to score rhetorical points on a variety of their favorite issues. Last year's memorable tag team on abortion from Sens. Kevin Lundberg and Scott Renfroe was a notable example.

This election year, CD-4 primary candidate Renfroe was muzzled, and Lundberg was a bit more subtle–though the abortion/Holocaust reference is still unmistakable:

LUNDBERG: And I ask all of us, are we still too conveniently numb? I see human life taken, that I believe is immoral and injust, am I too conveniently numb to speak out? [Pols emphasis] I pray that we will all re-evaluate our moral standards in each and every step we take…

Lundberg is known for a lot of things, folks, but failing to speak out about abortion is not one of them.

Not to be outdone, here's Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, making a not-so-subtle reference to the gun safety legislation passed in Colorado in 2013 as he invokes the Rwandan genocide of 1994:

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Field of Candidates for Jefferson County Offices (Almost) Set for June Primary

With both the Democratic and Republican county assemblies behind us, the field is set for the slate of races in Jefferson County. Here's the rundown for every race and candidate that will appear on the June Primary ballot, with a few notable exceptions (SD-16 and HD-23)…

STATE SENATE
SD-16 (Republicans will hold the SD-16 assembly this weekend)
Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D), Incumbent
Tim Neville (R)
Richard Wenzel (R)

SD-19
Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (D), Incumbent
Laura Waters Woods (R) — top line on GOP ballot
Lang Sias (R)

SD-20
Sen. Cheri Jahn (D), Incumbent
Larry Queen (R)

SD-22
Sen. Andy Kerr (D), Incumbent
Tony Sanchez (R) — top line on GOP ballot
Mario Nicolais (R)
 

STATE HOUSE
HD-22
Rep. Justin Everett (R), Incumbent – top line on ballot
Loren Bauman (R)
Mary Parker (D)

HD-23
Rep. Max Tyler (D), Incumbent
Nate Marshall (R), expected to resign as candidate; Republicans have until April 17th to choose a replacement.
 

HD-24
Jessie Danielson (D) — top line on ballot
Kristian Teegardin (D)
Joseph DeMott (R)

HD-25
Jonathan Keyser (R)
Janet Heck Doyle (D)

HD-27
Rep. Libby Szabo (R), Incumbent
Wade Norris (D)

HD-28
Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D), Incumbent
Stacia Kuhn (R)

HD-29
Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D), Incumbent
Robert Ramirez (R)
 

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
CD-1
Taggart Hansen (D)

CD-7
Jane Goff (D), Incumbent


BOARD OF CU REGENTS
CD-2
Linda Shoemaker (D)
Robert Weverka (D)

CD-7
Irene Griego (D), Incumbent
 

COUNTY COMMISSIONER
District 3
Don Rosier (R), Incumbent
John Flerlage (D)


ASSESSOR
Louis DAurio (R)
Ronald Sandstrom (R)
Andrew Hassinger (D)

 

COUNTY CLERK AND RECORDER
Faye Griffin (R)
Michael Snow (D)

 

TREASURER
Tim Kauffman (R), Incumbent

 

CORONER
John Graham (R), Incumbent

 

SHERIFF
Jeff Shrader (R) — top line on ballot
Jim Shires (R)
 

Tim Neville’s Statement Does Not Make Suspicions Of Link Between Him/RMGO And Nathaniel Marshall Unfounded

(Worse and worse – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Colorado Independent has been investigating the circumstances that led to Nathaniel Marshall, a person with significant ties to white supremacism, to enter the race for Colorado HD-23.  As an early result of that investigation, the Independent's John Tomasic reported yesterday that signs had emerged indicating that Tim Neville – a person with significant ties to Rocky Mountain Gun Owner's Association ("RMGO") - recruited Nathaniel Marshall to run for HD-23.  The signs relied on by Tomasic's article consisted of the following:

1) Rick Enstrom, a prominent candy business executive and onetime Republican House candidate, specifically claiming that Marshall admitted he was recruited by Neville at the Jefferson County Assembly ("Enstrom's Statements")

2) Dudley Brown, RMGO's Executive Director, admitting that per RMGO political director Joe Neville, Tim Neville spoke with Marshall at "an event" ("Brown's Statement")

In response to Tomasic's article, Tim Neville last night put forth the following statement on Facebook (accessible here):

"Regarding the leftist hit piece published today posing as a news story in the Colorado Independent:  I spoke with its author John Tomasik [sic] and told him I had no connection with Mr. Marshall's campaign- not as an endorser or financial donor or supporter.   I suggested Mr. Tomasic retract his story because it’s false.  Then he asked me if I ever met Mr. Marshall and I had to explain to him that I meet hundreds of people each week on the campaign trail.  Then he hung up on me.  Shocked?  No, but I'm very disappointed that a Republican like Rick Enstrom would spread such a story without even a phone call to me.  I believe he knows my number, since his campaign had no problem finding me when I helped him as a volunteer to walk his precincts in 2012.     These types of attacks only embolden me to fight even harder for you.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your calls and emails of support tonight.Iron sharpens iron. Together I look forward to taking back Senate District 16 this November and winning a Republican majority.   Game on!" (emphasis added)

While Tim Neville may wish that his mere claim that a story is false is sufficient to demonstrate that a story is in fact false, that is not the case.  Here, there is evidence to indicate that Neville – and through him potentially RMGO – recruited White Supremacist Nathaniel Marshall to run for HD-23.  The first two pieces of evidence are the Enstrom and Brown Statements.  In addition to those statements, last night Nathaniel Marshall revealed that he had been invited to an RMGO fundraiser as a candidate and that now they were throwing him "under the bus".  Moreover, recruiting Nathaniel Marshall would fit within a perceived pattern of RMGO supporting candidates who repeat its party line but who are poorly vetted – the chief example being former pornographic novel writer Jaxine Bubis.

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