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Capitol Coverage & State

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

Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage

The 10-hour debates and lobbyist-filled hallways are signs things are returning to normal at the state Capitol. And that has some lawmakers reviving bills they shelved because of the pandemic.

One such bill aims to lower costs for those who buy insurance on the individual market because they cannot get it through an employer.

Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage

Yesterday’s mass shooting was personal for many of Colorado’s elected officials, including Gov. Jared Polis, a longtime resident of the city. Polis said he has shopped at King Soopers on Table Mesa frequently.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

You have to go back more than a century to find another time Coloradans faced a statewide crisis as big and deadly as the current COVID-19 pandemic. But experts who studied the state’s response to the Spanish flu of 1918 say history is not repeating itself when it comes to how state lawmakers are responding to the latest outbreak.

Today, visitors to the Capitol building must wear masks and have their temperatures taken, and lawmakers sit between plexiglass dividers.

And the basement cafeteria — usually packed with lobbyists — sits empty, roped off with yellow caution tape.

Andrew Coop / Unsplash

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis urged lawmakers Wednesday to take quick action on a $1 billion-plus stimulus plan, lower taxes to jump-start the economy and rally the state after a year that saw the coronavirus claim the lives of nearly 5,700 residents, three of the largest wildfires in state history and protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Adam Rayes / KUNC

2020 census results were supposed to come out in December, as mandated by the Constitution. The Census Bureau recently announced plans to release the first-round of results by April 30. Local and state governments and agencies, businesses, nonprofits and researchers rely on this data to get information, access funds and make big decisions.

Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert stunned political observers last summer when she beat five-term incumbent Congressman Scott Tipton in the Republican primary.

"She was able to pull off an upset that, by the way, had not been done in Colorado since 1972," said Dick Wadhams, a former chair of the Colorado Republican Party. He points out that Boebert's opponent was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. So how did she pull it off?

"A lot of it was style," Wadhams said.

Matthew Frank / Mountain West News Bureau

The insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 stunned the nation and the world. Many lawmakers in the Mountain West played a role in this unprecedented moment in history – whether they have decried President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn a free and fair election or supported his baseless claims.

Prominent Republicans in the region including Sen. Mitt Romney from Utah and Rep. Liz Cheney in Wyoming have condemned the president's conspiracy theories.

Lauren Boebert for Congress

Updated 1:50 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10

A newly elected congresswoman from Colorado says she’ll carry a handgun on Capitol Hill.

"Even though I now live in one of the most liberal cities in America, I refuse to give up my rights – especially my Second Amendment rights," said Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., in a slickly produced video posted to Twitter Sunday.

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.

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.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Colorado’s election results will be official within a week at the most without the controversies surrounding lawsuits and certification seen in other states.

All but one of the state’s 63 counties certified their election results last week. Gunnison County experienced a delay after elections officials contracted COVID-19 and expects to certify results this week.

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.

Colorado lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday to consider a $220 million stimulus package for restaurants, movie theaters, child care centers and other businesses that have been hard hit by coronavirus restrictions.

But lawmakers spent the week leading up to the special session trying to manage their constituents’ expectations for the state-funded stimulus.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, said at a recent town hall the package would not be a “silver bullet.”

Colorado voters have decided to bring back a wild animal that was eradicated from the state in the 1940s because of the threats it posed to livestock and ranchers’ livelihoods.

But don’t expect to hear a gray wolf howl on Colorado’s West Slope just yet.

Following the narrow passage of Proposition 114, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will now spend the next three years coming up with a plan for how to reintroduce the animals by 2023.

The planning process will include public hearings to help determine how many wolves will be released in Colorado, and where.

Colorado voters have narrowly endorsed a movement to change the way the United States picks its presidents.

With the passage of Proposition 113, Colorado will stay in the so-called National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

The initiative consists of a group of states wanting to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.

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.

Colorado workers who need paid time off to care for a newborn or a sick relative are one step closer to having access to such a benefit after voters passed Proposition 118.

The measure, which was winning 57.09% to 42.91% will create a new statewide leave program allowing all Colorado workers to take up to 12 weeks off for a number of medical reasons while still collecting most of their paycheck.

Starting in 2023, workers and their employers will begin paying premiums each month for the benefit, which won’t start until 2024.

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.

As election day approaches, some states in the Mountain West are preparing for potential voter intimidation and violence following rhetoric from President Donald Trump.


Officials in Colorado have been spending money to bring travel writers to the state. It's a practice that raises questions for one media ethicist and, as an open records request has revealed, some journalists aren't disclosing to their readers where the money came from.

Updated Oct. 22, 2020 at 5:55 p.m. See end of story for updates.

Three travel writers from Austin, Texas arrived in Colorado with their families in July with action-packed itineraries given to them by Colorado’s state government.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper spent more than three hours together in recent weeks trading attacks and making their pitches to voters. If you didn’t watch all three of their debates, here are some of the main takeaways to catch up on.

Lagging in the polls, Gardner is trying to make the race about character.

Campaigning in a normal election year can be difficult even for the most seasoned politicians. But campaigning during a pandemic adds a host of new challenges. The biggest might be how does a candidate connect with voters safely.

Voters in Colorado’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District have the choice of two very different candidates to represent them in Congress. The race is a clash between a young, political newcomer aligned with President Trump and a veteran state lawmaker who believes in pragmatism over polarization.

At 70, former state lawmaker Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, is more than twice as old as Lauren Boebert, 33.

"American Money" by 401(K) 2013 / Licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush outraised her Republican rival for the 3rd Congressional race, new finance reports show, another sign Democrats are looking for an upset.

 

Mitsch Bush, a former state lawmaker, raised $2.6 million from July 1 through the end of September, according to figures filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Republican Lauren Boebert raised $1.9 million, her campaign said.

In their final U.S. Senate debate, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper clashed again over ethics, health care and the nation’s response to the coronavirus. But the candidates did not cover too much new ground in Fort Collins.

In one of their more heated exchanges, Gardner and Hickenlooper presented voters with very different views on environmental policy. Hickenlooper said he supports the country’s push to replace coal jobs with new ones promoting renewable energy.

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.

Colorado voters got their first chance to see their U.S. Senate candidates face off in a debate Friday night, and the attacks started flying seconds after it started.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner entered the debate in Pueblo as an underdog trailing in every poll. He repeatedly attacked his Democratic opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, for being fined by a state board for accepting free flights and other gifts in violation of Colorado’s ethics codes.

“You violated the (state) constitution, John,” Gardner said.

Of the 11 ballot questions Colorado voters will decide in November, Amendment B is by far the most complicated. It seeks to repeal a 38-year-old state law affecting how much residents must pay in property taxes.

If you own a home or commercial property, your bank account has been affected by the Gallagher Amendment in some way. Voters approved the amendment in 1982 to put more of the property tax burden on businesses, which must pay 55% of the state’s property taxes. Meanwhile, homeowners pay 45%.

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