KAJX

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.
 

Cities and counties that have spent years fighting for more regulatory power over the state’s oil and gas industry are now just one signature away from getting it.

Democrats in the Colorado Senate gave their final approval on Wednesday to Senate Bill 181, which will let local governments increase setbacks and impose fines for spills and air quality violations.

It now heads to Gov. Jared Polis, who is expected to sign it.

Colorado Democrats have tabled their effort to repeal the death penalty after some members of their own party expressed concerns about the bill.

The proposal was stuck in limbo for more than two weeks as State Sen. Angela Williams tried to secure the votes the bill needed to clear the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 19-16 majority.

As Sen. Faith Winter pushes forward a bill to create a paid family leave program, she's thinking of employees who are stuck at work during some of the most challenging moments of their lives.

"We have cancer patients who are skipping their second round of chemotherapy because they can't afford to lose their paycheck," Winter said Monday. "And there's a heartbreaking story of a woman who took her dad off life support in a break room instead of being by her father's side."

The basement of the state Capitol is ground zero for legislative strategizing. Lobbyists take over the small cafeteria and crowd around tables with lawmakers for several hours. Some walk into the bathrooms still talking on their phones about legislation. It’s here in this noisy basement where the oil and gas industry has been mounting fierce opposition to stronger regulations on the industry.

After days of fierce partisanship at the state Capitol, Democrats in the Colorado Senate advanced a bill Wednesday that will give local governments more control over oil and gas drilling operations.

But as the bill heads over to the House for more debate, there are signs it will undergo some more changes in the coming days.

Colorado lawmakers are now more than halfway through the legislative session, and they’ve debated at length over oil and gas regulations and how the state votes for presidents.

But one issue has been notably absent so far from the agenda: Transportation funding.

It’s been four months since voters rejected two tax measures that would have provided billions of dollars worth of funding for the state’s roads and bridges.

On the eve of what could be one of the  most important speeches of his political career, former Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped by the Wynkoop Brewing Co. talk to reporters about craft beer, politics and why he thinks he’s the best democrat to take on Donald Trump.

Lawmakers who have launched an effort to repeal Colorado’s death penalty argue that it unfairly targets minorities and does not prevent violent crimes. Add to their list of concerns that an innocent person could be put to death.

“The death penalty is unjust,” state Sen. Angela Williams told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. “It is costly. It is immoral.”

Democratic lawmakers will introduce a bill soon that would give local governments in Colorado more control over oil and gas drilling operations.

The legislation from House Speaker KC Becker and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg would not increase the setbacks between oil wells and homes. But the lawmakers say it will give cities and counties the ability to increase those setbacks themselves.

Former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran has launched a campaign for a U.S. House seat that fellow Democrat Diana DeGette has held for more than two decades.

Duran is hoping voters in the district are ready for change.

Noelle Cerone has noticed a disturbing trend at her high school situated in the mountains just north of Steamboat Springs.

“I know a lot of kids who have changed over time because they have gotten addicted to the nicotine in vape pens,” the Steamboat Mountain School junior wrote this week in a letter to state lawmakers.

Colorado lawmakers are renewing an effort to prevent accidents and travel headaches on Interstate 70 in the mountains.

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday would require drivers to carry chains or have tires with sufficient tread throughout the entire winter season on the interstate.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is planning to join at least 10 other states in a lawsuit that will try to stop President Donald Trump from using an emergency declaration to build a border wall.

On Monday afternoon, Weiser was the lead speaker at a protest against the emergency declaration held at the state Capitol.

When Jennifer Knowles helped her three sons set up a lemonade stand in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood last summer, she thought she was teaching them about the joys of running a small business.

But then someone called the police and the stand was shut down because the family didn’t have the right permit.

Longmont resident Ingrid Moore went to the state Capitol on Tuesday carrying a stack of maps she said illustrates why Colorado should change the way it chooses U.S. presidents.

"Over 57 percent of all the 2016 campaign events were held in just four states," she said as lawmakers on the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee reviewed the map. "Virtually all campaign events ... were held in just 12 states. And those 12 states just have 30 percent of the population."

Last year, the town of Avon got little resistance from its residents when it asked them to approve a $3 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in the town.

Town Council member Scott Prince said it was supported by more than 70 percent of voters.

"There was zero campaigning done on behalf of that tax measure," Prince said. "It really speaks volumes about the residents and how much people see the impacts of tobacco and cigarette products."

Cheers from environmental groups drowned out nearby construction noise in downtown Denver Thursday morning after Gov. Jared Polis announced an executive order that aims to bring more electric vehicles to Colorado.

Gov. Jared Polis wants to leverage Colorado's stronger than expected revenue projections to pay for full-day kindergarten next school year.

He's asking lawmakers to approve $227 million in the budget for the kindergarten classes.

Polis says the spending will allow 30,000 families to stop paying tuition.

More Americans are being impacted by what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. This week, the already stressful world of air travel is feeling the pinch as Transportation Security Administration workers call in sick.

But for now, things are still operating smoothly at Denver International Airport.

DIA spokeswoman Emily Williams said the average wait time at security checkpoints averaged about 10 minutes on Sunday.

Sen. Chris Holbert is adapting to life in Colorado's legislative minority.

"We will have our say but not our way," he said in a speech on Jan. 4, the opening day of the session. "We have the voice, but not the votes."

So how does a lawmaker without the votes approach his job? Here are three takeaways from KUNC's interview with the Republican minority leader the day before the session gaveled in.

Democratic State Sen. Daniel Kagan announced Wednesday evening he is resigning from the legislature next month.

In a statement announcing his departure, the lawmaker from Cherry Hills Village didn't give a specific reason for stepping down. But Kagan found himself making headlines last year for using the wrong restroom at the Capitol.

Parents and teachers who traveled to Denver on Dec. 18 to watch the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission increase the buffer zones between schools and oil and gas wells didn't have much praise for the state board.

Instead, they questioned why the state wasn't going even further to protect students. They also raised the prospect of another ballot initiative to extend the setbacks if state lawmakers don't act in the upcoming session.

A Republican state lawmaker accused of sexual harassment last session is resigning. Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who represents Northwest Colorado, is stepping down in late January.

His resignation comes after a top Democrat at the capitol suggested he might try to force Baumgardner out during the upcoming session if he didn’t leave on his own.

Out of the dozens of lawmakers who hold leadership positions at the State Capitol, only five live on the Western Slope. State Rep. Dylan Roberts is one of them. The Democrat from Avon will lead the state's new Rural Affairs Committee. He says the rising cost of health insurance will be at the top of his agenda when the session starts next month.

The midterm elections ended almost a month ago, but campaign season isn't over in Denver.

Last month, a small group of homelessness advocates gathered in Civic Center Park to launch a campaign to overturn the city's urban camping ban.

The law passed six years ago and makes it illegal for anyone set up camp and sleep in public spaces. It also prevents someone from taking shelter with a blanket or sleeping bag in city parks.

New cars sold in Colorado will have to run cleaner and average 36 miles per gallon by 2025 thanks to new emission rules adopted Friday.

The move was supported by ski areas and other businesses that have called on the state to take steps to combat the effects of greenhouse gases and climate change.

But some local government leaders and auto dealers in the state are afraid these new rules will have unintended consequences.

By many accounts, Colorado experienced the "blue wave" political experts were predicting during last week's election. For the first time since 1936, Democrats will control both chambers of the Statehouse and every major state office.

But each side has a different take on what one-party control will mean for the state.

Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration unveiled a $31.4 billion budget proposal Thursday morning at the State Capitol. The spending plan is 4.6 percent - or $1.4 billion - bigger than the budget proposal made at this time last year. 

Updated Oct. 31, 2018 at 3:45 p.m. — A spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper claims he was making a joke Wednesday morning when he told workers in a New Hampshire coffee shop he was going to run for president.

But some political observers, including one who once worked for the governor, don't think Hickenlooper made the comment to get laughs.

A new poll from the University of Colorado reveals what voters think of new oil and gas setbacks, a tax increase for education and their choices for governor.

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