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State

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

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.

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.

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.

Now that the primary is over Colorado voters can expect a heated election season heading into November. Bente Birkeland talked to fellow statehouse reporters Joey Bunch of Colorado Politics and Jesse Aaron Paul with The Denver Post about this fall's showdown. The candidates are set, except for the Democratic nominee for Attorney General. 

Water leaders in Arizona are again trying to get to “yes” on a deal that deals with drought. This would help prepare the state for future cuts to its water supply if -- and likely when -- Lake Mead drops below specific levels. A renewed effort to achieve an agreement comes after a year of anxiety and gridlock over the future of the Colorado River.

Sexual harassment allegations at Colorado's Capitol came with a sizeable price tag for taxpayers -- $275,000. That includes everything from fees for attorneys, sexual harassment training and consultants to staffing for a special committee of lawmakers meeting this summer and fall to study changes to the Capitol's workplace harassment policy.

Colorado lawmakers wrapped up their annual legislative session this week. Even though the session was often overshadowed by sexual harassment allegations and the expulsion of former Rep. Steve Lebsock, lawmakers and the governor said it was one of the most successful sessions in history

After a dramatic and tearful day in early March, lawmakers voted out one of their own. Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock was the first lawmaker expelled in 103 years after allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation and retaliation from five women, were found to be credible.

But that wasn't the end.

Thousands of Colorado teachers spent two days rallying at the state Capitol for higher salaries and more money for schools. They highlighted long-standing funding problems and potential changes to the state’s public employee pension program currently being debated by the legislature.

Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland spoke with Brian Eason of The Associated Press and Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal about the rallies.

Senate leaders expect to meet soon to address next steps in possible punishments for Sen. Randy Baumgardner. Three independent investigations by two agencies have found allegations of sexual harassment against him at the Capitol credible.

Democrats are pushing for swift action. Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, survived an expulsion vote on April 2. That vote hinged on the findings of just one of the three investigations, which concluded that Baumgardner more likely than not grabbed and slapped a former legislative aide’s buttocks.  The two other investigations had not been finalized at the time of that vote. They were only released to the accusers last week. We made them fully available to the public on April 24 with the accusers’ consent.

A major piece of legislation to reform the state’s pension plan is making its way through the state legislature during the final days of the session. One in 10 Coloradans receives a public pension through the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA). But PERA has unfunded liabilities totaling about $32 billion, and lawmakers are divided over how best to shore up the program.

Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland spoke with Marianne Goodland with Colorado Politics and Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal about the possible changes and its likelihood of passage.

A 235-page report from an outside consultant says the culture at Colorado’s state capitol is unhealthy -- and the system in place to detect and deter harassment is not working. It contains about two dozen recommendations on how to improve the culture and strengthen policies to deter workplace harassment – which means legislative leaders have a lot to wade through and some tough decisions ahead.

Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland spoke with Brian Eason of the Associated Press and John Frank with the Denver Post about how lawmakers might use the information to make changes.

A more than 200-page report from the Denver-based Investigations Law Group reaffirms that there are systemic cultural and sexual harassment problems at the Colorado state Capitol.

Our reporting first uncovered the problems in November, which has led to multiple allegations and investigations into a handful of lawmakers and the historic expulsion of former Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock.  

Passing a balanced budget is the only thing Colorado lawmakers are required to do during the annual 120-day legislative session. A strong economy means there is more general fund money to spend on priority items including roads and schools. The ‘long bill’ as its known has cleared the Democratic-controlled House and now goes to the Senate which is controlled by Republicans.

Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland breaks down what’s in the budget with reporters Brian Eason of the Denver Post and Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal.

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