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Scott Franz

Aspen Public Radio Capitol Coverage Reporter
Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado.
 
His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings.
 
Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. 
 
Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
 

Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage

For decades, the opening day of Colorado’s legislative session has usually been full of hugs, flowers, speeches and celebrations.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic and new fears raised by last week’s deadly attack at the U.S. Capitol, this Wednesday’s kickoff will be short, and subdued.

There might also be an increased police presence after a warning from the FBI about potential armed protests at state Capitols around the country.

David Zalubowski / AP Photo, Pool

As the pandemic nears its one year mark, Gov. Jared Polis has issued more than 260 executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. He says he can’t wait until they all expire.

“You know each one is difficult, and thoughtful and predicated by science,” he said in an interview with Rocky Mountain Community Radio.

Rae Ellen Bichell / KUNC

Updated at 12:58 p.m. Wednesday

State health officials say a Colorado National Guard member has the country’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. that some scientists say is more contagious. This is the same variant discovered in the United Kingdom. According to a news release, the Colorado State Laboratory confirmed and notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the finding.

David Zalubowski / AP Photo, Pool

The nine members of Colorado's electoral college, like their counterparts across the country, met Monday at the state Capitol to cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election.

There were no surprises at the Electoral College ceremony in Colorado, where more than 55% of voters chose Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the country’s next president and vice president.

Government workers in Colorado are busy this month building the new websites and application forms that will let residents get their share of more than $240 million in coronavirus relief approved by lawmakers during a special session.

“This stuff is working at breakneck speed, so we’re working as quickly as we can to get this up,” said Brett McPherson, a spokesman for the Department of Local Affairs.

The general public will probably have to wait until summer 2021 to get a coronavirus vaccine, according to a new distribution plan Gov. Jared Polis and top public health officials unveiled on Wednesday.

The plan includes three phases. Hospital workers who treat COVID-19 patients, nursing home residents and their caretakers are first in line for the vaccine, which could arrive as soon as Monday.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

Colorado lawmakers passed a state-funded stimulus package worth more than $200 million during a three-day special session that stayed mostly cordial and bipartisan.

They also gave Gov. Jared Polis an additional $100 million to respond to the pandemic and rejected Republican lawmakers’ attempts to limit Polis’ power to issue more executive orders during the virus outbreak.

Kim Zimmer / Aspen School District

Gov. Jared Polis created a new group this week to come up with a strategy to safely reopen more schools to-in person learning next year. Many districts across Colorado recently switched to remote learning because of a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Districts in the Roaring Fork Valley have moved between in-person and remote learning since the start of the school year, depending on known cases among staff or students in accordance with safety protocols from the state. 

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Surging rates of COVID-19 in Pitkin County pushed the area into the “orange” level of the state’s COVID-19 meter, a multi-tiered gauge used to impose restrictions on counties where the virus is worsening.

On track to move one level higher on the meter, Pitkin County is imposing its own set of rules – slightly stricter than the state requires – to avoid the mandatory shutdown of businesses that comes with the “red” level.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Gov. Jared Polis is extending a statewide mask mandate for another thirty days as coronavirus cases continue to surge. More than 1,000 people were in the hospital with the virus as of Monday. Polis is also asking residents to step up their social distancing efforts.

"As long as Coloradans are cancelling their social interactions the next few weeks with those outside their household, together we can save Christmas," the governor said.

Courtesy of Valley View Hospital

Colorado is now seeing its highest coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, but Gov. Jared Polis is not issuing any new restrictions.

Instead, Polis is urging residents to do three things this month, including wearing masks, staying six feet apart and only visiting with members of their own households.

Updated at 7:47 a.m. on 11/4/2020

A Republican political newcomer who defied public health orders during the coronavirus pandemic and fully embraced President Trump will represent Colorado’s largest congressional district.

Boebert declared victory late Tuesday night, and Mitsch Bush conceded the race. The Associated Press called the race for Boebert Wednesday morning. The Republican was winning 51 percent of the vote with 90 percent of the ballots counted.

Updated at 9:15 a.m. on 11/4/2020

Colorado voters rejected a measure that would have prevented women from getting an abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy unless the procedure was needed to save the woman's life.

Proposition 115 failed 59% to 41% with 85% of votes tallied as of Wednesday morning.

As a result, Colorado will remain one of seven states in the country without restrictions on abortions.

Boosted by the state’s deep disapproval of President Donald Trump, former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner and flipped a U.S. Senate seat in Colorado.

Hickenlooper, a two-term governor who led the state through floods, wildfires and the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, ran a campaign largely focused on criticizing Gardner for supporting Trump and attempting to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Courtesy Office of Gov. Jared Polis

Concerned by a recent spike in coronavirus cases, Governor Jared Polis says he will extend the statewide mask mandate for a third time. That means residents will be required to wear face coverings in public at least through mid-November.

Polis says the rise in cases and hospitalizations is the most concerning uptick he has seen since early July. He's also spending an additional $15 million of federal money to help the overall state’s economic recovery. The money will spent on small business loans and food and housing assistance.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

Giuliana Day says the 22nd week of a woman’s pregnancy is an important milestone.

“That is over five months into the pregnancy when a baby is fully formed and is a fully alive human being, and we treat them like a human being,” Day said.

It’s also when Day says a fetus can survive outside the womb. Its why she says she is leading an effort to stop abortions after this phase unless the mother’s life is at risk because of her pregnancy. Day’s effort to get Proposition 115 on the ballot was boosted by several Catholic churches, which helped circulate petitions.

"Ballot Box" by wtfcolorado is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Denver judge has rejected a lawsuit that tried to delay the distribution of the state voting guide known as the blue book.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Monday he is considering taking legal action against the Trump administration to prevent cuts to the U.S. Postal Service that might threaten mail-in voting in November.

Weiser’s threat comes days after Trump said he opposed providing billions of dollars of emergency funding to the USPS during the pandemic because he does not want the money to be used to expand voting by mail.

Some top Democrats in Colorado, including Secretary of State Jena Griswold, are accusing Trump of trying to suppress voters by opposing the extra funding.

Gov. Jared Polis is ordering restaurants and stores to stop selling alcohol after 10 p.m. each night in an effort to prevent inebriated residents from spreading coronavirus.

Polis said the earlier last call is needed because young adults have become the top spreaders of coronavirus in Colorado.

State Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, is nearing the end of her two-year tenure as Colorado’s Speaker of the House. It's been an eventful time at the Capitol. Becker was part of a historic effort to expel a fellow lawmaker for sexual harassment. And this month, she presided over what many are calling the strangest legislative session in history. 

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed what he is calling is the most difficult budget in state history because of the impacts of COVID-19.

There were no large banners celebrating legislative accomplishments like there were last year.

And when the lean budget goes into effect July 1, Colorado's public schools will take one of the biggest hits, with more than $500 million missing from their budgets.

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed a set of police reforms into law, saying they were a "long overdue moment of national reflection."

The bipartisan law is Colorado's response to protests sparked by the death of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people who have been killed by law enforcement.

Colorado lawmakers on Monday ended what is likely to go down in history as one of their most difficult, dramatic and emotional legislative sessions.

Colorado House Speaker KC Becker choked up Friday as she announced that a sweeping set of police reforms had passed with strong bipartisan support.

Then the sound of thunderous applause erupted in the House chamber as lawmakers advanced their response to several days of protests against police brutality.

Last week, Republican Sen. John Cooke of Greeley said he was calling a sweeping set of police reforms being proposed by Democratic lawmakers the “I hate the police bill.”

But on Tuesday, the former sheriff of Weld County had dramatically changed his mind. He said the measure — which will require officers to wear body cameras, intervene when their peers are using inappropriate force and follow several other new rules aimed at stopping police brutality — should now be embraced by all law enforcement agencies.

The 4 Bar 4 Ranch near Fraser in Grand County was a welcoming site for travelers who had endured the bumpy stagecoach ride over Berthoud Pass in the late 1800s. As they made their journey west, many would stay at the cozy Stagecoach Hotel. It was known for its good food and rooms with a view.

As large protests against police brutality continue around the nation, Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol are advancing a bill they say will help prevent deadly police encounters in Colorado.

The Colorado Capitol looked and sounded very different on Tuesday as state lawmakers returned for the first time in more than two months.

From difficulties hearing caused by legislators trying to talk through face masks to new plexiglass barriers placed between every desk in the House of Representatives, the legislature is adapting to new safety measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The grim task awaiting lawmakers - balancing a budget devastated by the coronavirus outbreak - is even more grim on Tuesday after they learned they'll have to cut significantly more than originally thought.

It wasn’t too long ago that former Gov. John Hickenlooper was shaking hands and kissing babies in Iowa during his short-lived presidential campaign. Now he spends hours talking into an iPad taped to a stack of wedding photo albums in his family room.

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