Peter Marcus

Rosier budget could trigger TABOR refunds

The Colorado Statesman

This year’s discussions over a rosier budget picture have highlighted issues with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that could result in refunds to taxpayers in the coming years.

Lawmakers are concerned because the refunds would come despite voters already approving retention of marijuana taxes. The marijuana taxes would be largely responsible for the excess dollars.

New effort to connect on telecom reform

The Colorado Statesman

The Colorado telecommunications industry is hopeful that the reception has cleared enough in the state legislature this year to connect on a package of reform proposals that lawmakers hope to introduce in the next couple of weeks.

Drafts had not yet been presented to industry stakeholders as of press time on Thursday, but Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, who is leading the charge, said she plans on presenting them to all stakeholders before the bills are introduced.

Rural interests are still waiting for a little love

Out-state frustration could aid GOP at polls
The Colorado Statesman

As the legislature reaches mid-session, lawmakers are receiving an “incomplete” grade for addressing rural Colorado; being told by rural interests that they still have much more work to do.

It appears unlikely that the Democratic-controlled legislature will end the session in May with applause from rural citizens. The frustration is likely to serve as a campaign call for Republicans, who say they are more connected with rural parts of the state than Democrats.

Rally for same-sex marriage held at Capitol

The Colorado Statesman

Marriage equality advocates rallied at the Capitol on Monday, imploring that “all loving, committed couples should have the freedom to marry in the state that they call home.”

The rally came as nine couples have filed a legal challenge to Colorado’s constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The lawsuit comes in the midst of a groundswell of support for gay marriage, and a shift in the national landscape for marriage equality.

A second Colorado lawsuit challenging the ban on same-sex marriage was filed in Adams County.

Water issues compel Sylvester to run for guv

Agricultural issues are a big concern for this rural Republican
The Colorado Statesman

Republican gubernatorial candidate Roni Bell Sylvester flip-flopped the second she entered the already crowded field of GOP candidates.

“I’m on record for having said that there is no amount of money you could pay me to run for public office,” laughs longtime Weld County resident Sylvester.

But Sylvester, 68, was motivated to throw her name into the race over concerns with water rights and what she believes is a government intrusion into private property ownership, all of which she says is connected to the water issue.

More money for education means more fights

The Colorado Statesman

Lawmakers are learning the hard lessons of funding an education budget in a year when there is more money to go around. Fights are already underway between educators, administrators and legislators over how to reduce the so-called “negative factor” before enacting additional mandates on teachers and districts.

Lawmakers on Tuesday formally introduced what is being called the Student Success Act, or House Bill 1292, a bipartisan effort that would address some of the fallout from the failure of Amendment 66 this past November.

Oil and gas regulation fracturing relationships

The Colorado Statesman

The pressure is building for the state to offer local governments control over regulating oil and gas development, fracturing relations between state leaders and the local governments and activists they represent.

At least 50 elected officials have sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, encouraging him to take action in order to grant local governments control over oil and gas regulation, including the ability to ban the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Bennet, immigration panel discusses cross-border reforms at CELL event

Democrats and Republicans are frustrated over the issue
The Colorado Statesman

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet joined a panel of immigration policy experts Tuesday evening to discuss cross-border reform. The discussion was hosted by the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab and moderated by former Gov. Bill Ritter.

Bennet, a Democrat, expressed his frustration with a U.S. House that has failed to move forward a proposal he spearheaded for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

Left, right in agreement on state testing

The Colorado Statesman

Education policy can lead to strange bedfellows. Several school policy debates playing out at the legislature this year have brought an alignment between the left and the right, offering hope that there is a middle road when it comes to education reform.

The most recent example occurred Monday in the House Education Committee when Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, brought a bill that would allow certain districts to opt out of mandated tests for all but third, eighth and 10th grades, and the ACT tests in 11th grade.

Will hearings lead to clean air... or hot air?

The Colorado Statesman

Hearings kicked off this week for air quality rulemaking that would make Colorado the first state to regulate detection and reduction of methane emissions by the oil and gas industry.

The plan — touted by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat — aims to capture 95 percent of emissions by requiring expedited inspections for leak detection and repair, as well as controls on storage tanks and other emissions sources. The target is on hydrocarbons, including both volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and methane.