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Capitol Coverage & State

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

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%.

Democrats at the state Capitol have tried for several years to create a paid family and medical leave program, but concerns from small businesses and Gov. Jared Polis have kept it from becoming law.

Now the political battle is moving from the state Capitol to the ballot box, where voters will have the final say.

Kris Garcia, who has spent more than a decade advocating for stronger paid leave benefits, is attending virtual rallies and sharing his story about what life is like without family and medical leave programs.

Pitkin County ballot box
Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, but registered voters in Colorado will receive mail-in ballots after Oct. 9. With national concern about the integrity of mail-in ballots, Colorado is getting national attention for its system. Colorado began statewide vote by mail in 2013, although some counties adopted mail ballots before that.

USPS

The U.S. Postal Service has agreed to give Colorado the ability to review national media related to voting procedures and processes ahead of the November election to prevent future voter confusion as part of a settlement with the state. The Postal Service will also destroy remaining mailers that a federal judge previously banned the Postal Service from sending to voters in Colorado. 

Dan Thompson says he has seen wolves at their best, and their worst.

As the big carnivore supervisor for Wyoming Fish and Game, Thompson has gotten to step within a few feet of a wolf after biologists prepared to tranquilize the animal in a trap.

“Just to see that yellow in the eyes and that little bark and howl, I mean, it kind of penetrates your soul quite honestly,” Thompson said last month from his home in Lander, Wyoming.

But on the flip side, Thompson says he has seen a more unflattering side of wolves.

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

Colorado is expanding its mail-in ballot tracking app so that all voters in the state can use it. Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced Monday that voters in all 64 counties will be able to check the status of their mailed ballots for the 2020 election and receive notifications by phone, email or text. Enrollment is automatic for voters whose emails are registered the countries.

"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.

State Rep. Jeni Arndt joined a very exclusive club in the world of Colorado politics last year when one of her bills became so controversial, it triggered the first statewide referendum since 1932.

“I got a lot of feedback (on the bill) … some death threats,” Arndt said of her bill to put Colorado in the National Popular Vote Compact, a growing group of states that want to award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide.

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 has extended an executive order requiring landlords to give tenants more notice before seeking evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

But some residents fear the move will not go far enough during a month when unemployment benefits are scaled back and Congress remains gridlocked over a new round of stimulus checks.

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 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.

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.

Colorado House Speaker KC Becker took to Twitter on Monday to vent about the grim task she and other state lawmakers will face next month when they return to the Capitol to try and write a budget during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pitkin County Incident Management Team

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Governor Jared Polis discussed lifting the stay-at-home order on April 27. He also discussed next steps as health and safety restrictions change in the coming days and weeks.

In the tiny mountain town of Ophir in southwest Colorado, residents riding out the coronavirus pandemic at home are sending another round of thank you notes to Brian Morgan, who worked tirelessly to get the community connected to high-speed internet just two years ago.

In a normal April, the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver hosts a car show and business conferences this time of year.

But this week, construction crews are working inside to put 2,000 hospital beds in the convention center to accomodate a possible surge of COVID-19 cases.

Wearing masks in a nearly empty hearing room at the state Capitol on Wednesday, top lawmakers said they want to resume their session on May 18.

But they are also working on a backup plan that would let them pass a budget and other critical bills remotely if it's still not safe to return.

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