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Capitol Coverage & State

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

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.

Colorado's economic forecast is growing increasingly gloomy as a record number of residents file for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic. The state's ski areas and other major businesses remain closed. While lawmakers are staying away from a dark and empty Capitol building, they still need to write a budget before June 30.

Gov. Jared Polis is urging all residents to wear cloth masks or scarves if they need to leave their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Polis says wearing the masks at grocery stores and on walks will slow the spread of COVID-19 and allow Colorado to lift its stay-at-home order sooner.

Gov. Jared Polis said Monday the dramatic social distancing measures residents are taking in Colorado appear to be working.

Polis said new testing results suggest the spread of the COVID-19 may be slowing days after schools, bars and restaurants were ordered to close their doors around the state. He reported it is now taking five days for cases of the virus to double statewide.

As the graph below shows, the number of COVID-19 cases reported by public health agencies in the Mountain West is climbing. But what do those numbers actually say? 

Gov. Jared Polis is defending his decision to issue a stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a news conference Friday, he said state health officials told him that if he didn't take aggressive action to keep residents isolated from one another, COVID-19 could kill as many as 33,000 Coloradans by June 1.

As of Thursday morning, Gov. Jared Polis' statewide stay-at-home order is in full effect. Polis said the state's previous social distancing efforts have not been effective at slowing the virus. So what can and can't you do under the new order? What jobs are considered essential?

Here's the basic rundown.

To help curb the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis has issued a statewide stay-at-home order that goes into effect Thursday morning at 6 a.m.

Coloradans will still be able to go outside to get groceries, take walks and care for loved ones. But Polis is ordering most of the state’s 5.7 million residents to stay at home at all other times.

The order does not apply to essential workers like doctors and first responders.

The halls of the state Capitol are so quiet and empty during the coronavirus pandemic, some state patrol troopers have been spotted biking through the halls outside of the governor's office.

But while the building is closed to the public indefinitely and lawmakers remain away on an emergency recess that is likely to extend into April, party leaders are still waging a high-stakes political battle behind the scenes.

Gov. Jared Polis has signed a bill abolishing the death penalty in Colorado.

The governor also announced Monday he has commuted the sentences of three men currently on death row to life in prison without parole.

In another effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis is ordering most businesses in the state to reduce the number of workers they allow at the office by 50%. The executive order was announced during a news conference Sunday.

He's also encouraging residents to remain at home except to get supplies, care for loved ones, drive to work or engage in outdoor recreation at a safe distance.

Gov. Jared Polis is issuing several new orders to try and limit the economic damage from the spread of the coronavirus.

Polis is encouraging property owners to stop charging penalties for late rent payments until April 30 as thousands of workers lose their jobs. He says tenants shouldn't be evicted if they can't pay.

To help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis has ordered the suspension of in-person learning at all public and private schools across the state from March 23 to April 17.

Earlier Wednesday, Polis stressed that teachers would still use online tools to continue teaching classes.

The state of Colorado has launched a new relief fund and volunteer website to help residents who are being affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Residents can contribute and sign up to volunteer at www.helpcoloradonow.org.

Gov. Jared Polis is not ruling out the possibility of ordering some Colorado residents to shelter in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking to reporters from a podium that was wiped down with disinfecting wipes in a state Capitol building that is closed to the public indefinitely, Polis said stricter social distancing rules will likely be announced soon.

Colorado economists are dramatically cutting the state's revenue forecast because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move will leave state lawmakers with several tough budget choices when they return from an emergency recess during the pandemic.

Speaking in an eerily quiet state Capitol building that had closed to the public for a deep clean, Gov. Jared Polis ordered Monday that all bars and restaurants in the state close their dining areas for at least 30 days to help curb the spread of coronavirus. 

He also ordered the closure of large gathering places, such as casinos, theaters and gyms. Take-out and delivery service can continue.

Gov. Jared Polis is urging the cancellation of large public gatherings as several more COVID-19 cases are reported around the state.

Polis says gatherings of more than 250 people should be cancelled unless organizers can prove attendees will be at least 6 feet away from each other.

The state legislature will adjourn for at least two weeks starting Saturday to help protect the public from the spread of COVID-19.

With its big political debates and historic treasures, the state Capitol building often sees thousands of visitors each day.

That has lawmakers worried about the potential for the virus to spread in the busy building.

Gov. Jared Polis appeared somber in his office on Wednesday as he said the number of suspected COVID-19 cases in Colorado was growing and the disease is likely spreading "stealthily" around the state.

"I can say with a high degree of confidence this is going to get worse before it gets better," he said. "Until there is a vaccine, until there is a cure, some incidence of coronavirus is here to stay."

Updated 3/10/2020 at 10:52 a.m.

During a press conference at the governor's office Tuesday morning, Gov. Polis announced three more cases of COVID-19 in Arapahoe, Eagle and Gunnison counties and declared a state of emergency for Colorado.

The thousands of Colorado Democrats who caucused Saturday chose former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff as their top choice to take on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in the race for US Senate.

The preference poll results are a setback for former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was leading in fundraising and most polls ahead of the caucuses.

With almost half of precincts reporting, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was declared the winner of Colorado's Democratic presidential primary.

The Colorado legislature has passed a bill to repeal the death penalty. The decision comes after several days of emotional debates that put the spotlight on lawmakers' religious beliefs and their experiences of losing loved ones to gun violence and murder.

The final approval on Wednesday came despite opposition from some leading Democrats, including Sen. Rhonda Fields, whose son was killed by two of the three men currently on Colorado's death row.

One of the biggest and most consequential battles of the 2020 legislative session is expected to start this week, once Democrats unveil their latest plan to create a statewide paid family leave program.

The bill's sponsors had to make some big concessions to try and get the measure passed this time around. A year ago, their last effort failed due to opposition from the business community and Gov. Jared Polis.

Americans saw the flaws of a presidential caucus this week after vote totals in Iowa were delayed by technical glitches. The complexity of a caucus is one of the reasons why Colorado is back to conducting a primary.

Morgan Carroll, the chairwoman of Colorado's Democratic Party, thinks the switch will have additional benefits.

As Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers wage a war with hospitals over the rising cost of health care in Colorado, many residents like Jamie Harrison are still stuck paying high premiums on the West Slope.

"I think paying $1,700 a month for an insurance policy I don't use is not sustainable," Harrison said last week after finishing a day of skiing in Beaver Creek. "Something has got to give."

One rural community in Colorado was so frustrated with high health insurance costs and government inaction that a few years ago, residents took matters into their own hands.

And their plan worked.

Locals in Summit County found a way around traditional insurance processes to lower local health care costs and save consumers an average of 20 percent on their monthly premiums.

Colorado's legislative session is just over two weeks old, and lawmakers have already introduced more than 270 bills and counting. With hundreds more bills expected to land in the coming weeks, here are some of the ones we are starting to watch at the state Capitol.

Scott Franz / Capital Coverage

This year's Colorado General Assembly’s Latino Caucus is the largest in state history. There are 13 members in the group that's only open to Democrats. There is also one Republican who is Latino. The caucus' growing influence is illustrated by the election of Leroy Garcia as Senate president, the first Latino to serve in the position.

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