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Capitol Coverage & State

Colorado state news and state government coverage from our correspondents on the Front Range. 

When Blondie's Diner closes around 9 p.m. and a table of hunters finish their green chili cheeseburgers and head back to their hotel, the town of Naturita feels a bit like a ghost town.

There are two new marijuana dispensaries still open late with green neon signs, but on a November night at the start of hunting season, not many customers are partaking.

The only sound punctuating through the cold evening is a semi-truck idling in the parking lot of the Rimrocker Hotel, its driver trying to stay warm.

It's a good day when Tammie Delaney hears a train rumbling down the tracks outside of the century-old granary building she owns in Hayden.

"Oh, you get the train noise today!" she shouts as a train whistle pierces the usual silence in the small town of about 2,000 people.

The train whistles are an indicator of the economy in the Yampa Valley.

Gov. Jared Polis recently outlined an ambitious agenda for lawmakers in 2020. He vowed to reduce health care costs, find a solution to the state's road funding woes and get more children into preschool. But some of the governor's priorities will prove to be contentious.

Capitol Coverage reporter Scott Franz sat down with the governor after his State of the State address to talk about some of the hot-button issues that are on the table this legislative session.

The opening days of Colorado's legislative session are typically jovial and largely free of partisan politics. The governor capitalized on that mood during his roughly hour-long speech. After an interruption from a heckler in the gallery shouting, "Ban fracking now!" Polis started with a recap of his first year in office.

There were the usual jokes and friendly banter between the House and Senate.

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle exchanged hugs in a chamber that felt a bit like a school getting back to work after an eight-month break.

But amidst the pomp and circumstance of the opening day of Colorado's 2020 legislative session, lawmakers also drew some clear battle lines.

Some of the biggest and most contentious laws the state legislature passed this year are going into effect on Wednesday.

Together, the new laws aim to prevent suicides and gun violence, protect hospital patients from unexpected medical bills and give local governments the power to raise their minimum wages higher than the state level.

Wikipedia

Authorities say police have arrested 18-year-old Kamyl Xavier Garrette in a mall shooting that killed a 17-year-old boy in a Denver suburb. The suspect's capture was announced the day after the Friday shooting inside a J.C. Penney store at the Town Center at Aurora mall.

Wikipedia

A winter storm is bringing snow to parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska just as many holiday travelers make their way home. The National Weather Service says Saturday's storm is forecast to bring heavy snow to parts of Colorado's plains through Saturday night with near blizzard conditions possible depending on snowfall.

Scott Franz / Capital Coverage

The governor of Colorado issued a pardon for a Peruvian immigrant who has lived on and off in Colorado churches since 2016 to avoid deportation. Gov. Jared Polis pardoned Ingrid Encalada Latorre on Monday for a 2010 conviction for possessing falsified or stolen identification papers that placed her in deportation proceedings by federal authorities.

Ryer Gardenswartz / Aspen Public Radio

 

Hispanic voters are heavily Democratic but Hispanic men are more likely to vote Republican than Hispanic women. This gender gap is roughly the same size as the one among white voters.

MYPUBLICLANDS /FLICKR

Colorado air-quality regulators have approved tougher statewide oil and gas regulations, ending a disparity between areas in western Colorado.

Bureau of Land Management

A federal oversight office will look into a plan to relocate Bureau of Land Management jobs to Colorado and other western states. The Grand Junction Sentinel reports the Government Accountability Office has agreed to review the Interior Department plan following a request by Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Rescuers successfully dug out a person buried in an avalanche at Steamboat Resort in northern Colorado on Sunday. 

A resort official tells the Steamboat Pilot & Today that the avalanche was triggered by skiers shortly before 1 p.m.

The West’s water security is wrapped up in snow. When it melts, it becomes drinking and irrigation water for millions throughout the region. A high snowpack lets farmers, skiers and water managers breathe a sigh of relief, while a low one can spell long-term trouble.

Wyoming Bureau of Land Management

About 25 wild horses will be removed from private land in northwestern Colorado using a bait and trap technique. Bureau of Land Management officials say specialists are expected to use hay and water to attract the horses to specific areas until captured.

Wikipedia

A federal report has shown fewer people in Colorado and Wyoming were arrested or deported this year for living illegally in the United States compared with last year.

State Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Avon) represents two counties on Colorado's Western Slope that face some of the highest health insurance costs in the state. So for his first two years in office, Roberts has been a key player on some of the biggest health care proposals coming out of the Capitol. His latest, which has bipartisan support, would create a new health insurance plan.

The federal government is now taking comments on alternatives to a project in western Colorado notorious for causing earthquakes. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is looking for replacements for the Paradox Valley Unit, located in a remote part of western Colorado’s Montrose County. The agency released a draft environmental impact statement for those replacements Friday. 

Wikipedia

U.S. officials will review whether grizzly bears have enough protections across the Lower 48 states after advocates sued the government in a bid to restore the animals to more areas. The review must be completed by March 31, 2021, under a settlement approved Monday by a federal judge.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

A 29-year-old Fort Collins woman has died in an avalanche while backcountry skiing in northern Colorado. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center says it's the first avalanche death this winter season in Colorado.

cdc.gov

Almost 300 people have contracted hepatitis A in Colorado since an increase in the contagious liver disease began in 2018. State health officials say at least two of those people have died, one in Denver and the other in nearby Arapahoe County.

Wikimedia Commons

A 58-year-old Nevada man shot during a confrontation with police in a parking lot of a store in a Colorado mountain town has died.

The Colorado State Patrol says the shooting happened Thursday night soon after state troopers and local officers attempted to make contact with the driver of a rental truck on Interstate 70 that they pulled over near the Avon exit.

A new federal program hopes to fill in knowledge gaps on how water moves through the headwaters of arguably the West’s most important drinking and irrigation water source. 

The U.S. Geological Survey announced the next location for its Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) will be in the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. It’s the second watershed in the country to be part of the program, after a successful pilot on the Delaware River started last year.

www.courts.state.co.us

Colorado court officials have denied a request to reconsider a ruling declaring the sentences of hundreds of criminal defendants to be illegal.

The Denver Post reported Monday that the state Supreme Court refused to rethink whether criminal offenders could be sentenced to both prison and probation in the same case.

 

Patrick Johnson closed on 2,500 acres in Pinal County over five years ago. The property, just off Interstate 8, is mostly farm fields right now. Johnson’s plan is to build a dream spot for motorsports lovers, including two tracks for racing or testing, 2,000 homes, and a hotel. 

But millions of dollars in, Johnson is a long way from a grand opening.

Gabrielle Petron / Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences

Colorado regulators have approved a set of safety measures designed to increase protections surrounding thousands of miles of underground oil and gas pipelines in the state.

 

The rules approved Thursday provide for public access to a more detailed and accurate state map of locations of flowlines, which are pipelines that connect an oil or gas well to other pieces of equipment.

WikiMedia

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to a historic low.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that the 2.6% rate is the lowest measured in a series going back to 1976.

The department says the measurement in October matched the rate that was in place from February to June 2017.

Phil Weiser

Hate crimes are on the rise in Colorado. The state is partnering with eighteen private groups to address the issue. 

Attorney General Phil Weiser announced the initiative Monday morning, saying he doesn’t know why hate crimes are up, but that new efforts are needed to stop them.

“It’s that spirit of welcoming everyone, regardless of where you came from, regardless of who you love, regardless of what you look like, regardless of who you worship, and so together we can stand against hate,” said Weiser.

In A Revived Arizona River, A Wildlife Oasis Is Remade

Nov 12, 2019

Much of the Santa Cruz River is a dry, desert wash, only flowing after heavy monsoon rains. As Tucson Water hydrologist Dick Thompson and I walk along the river south of Starr Pass Boulevard, he points out how brown the vegetation looks.

Courtesy Photo / Colorado State Patrol Media Center

The Colorado State Patrol says six people died in six separate accidents on state roads over a 12-hour period this past weekend.

Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the state patrol, says six fatal crashes occurred between about 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday involving either excessive speed or alcohol.

The accidents included a pedestrian hit while standing on the road and a handicap-accessible van crash that resulted in the death of a man in a wheelchair inside the van.

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