Capitol Coverage

Capitol Coverage on 91.5 KRCC is a collaborative public policy reporting project supported by fifteen Colorado public radio stations providing news and analysis to communities statewide. 91.5 KRCC and KUNC in Greeley provide editorial oversight and management.

Noelle Cerone has noticed a disturbing trend at her high school situated in the mountains just north of Steamboat Springs.

“I know a lot of kids who have changed over time because they have gotten addicted to the nicotine in vape pens,” the Steamboat Mountain School junior wrote this week in a letter to state lawmakers.

Democratic lawmakers will introduce a bill soon that would give local governments in Colorado more control over oil and gas drilling operations.

The legislation from House Speaker KC Becker and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg would not increase the setbacks between oil wells and homes. But the lawmakers say it will give cities and counties the ability to increase those setbacks themselves.

Former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran has launched a campaign for a U.S. House seat that fellow Democrat Diana DeGette has held for more than two decades.

Duran is hoping voters in the district are ready for change.

Colorado lawmakers are renewing an effort to prevent accidents and travel headaches on Interstate 70 in the mountains.

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday would require drivers to carry chains or have tires with sufficient tread throughout the entire winter season on the interstate.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is planning to join at least 10 other states in a lawsuit that will try to stop President Donald Trump from using an emergency declaration to build a border wall.

On Monday afternoon, Weiser was the lead speaker at a protest against the emergency declaration held at the state Capitol.

When Jennifer Knowles helped her three sons set up a lemonade stand in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood last summer, she thought she was teaching them about the joys of running a small business.

But then someone called the police and the stand was shut down because the family didn’t have the right permit.

Longmont resident Ingrid Moore went to the state Capitol on Tuesday carrying a stack of maps she said illustrates why Colorado should change the way it chooses U.S. presidents.

"Over 57 percent of all the 2016 campaign events were held in just four states," she said as lawmakers on the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee reviewed the map. "Virtually all campaign events ... were held in just 12 states. And those 12 states just have 30 percent of the population."

A cell phone, two good samaritans and a Facebook page helped Denver Police find the man suspected of breaking into the state Capitol last month and damaging several statues.

On Friday, police arrested Elias Anthony Dominguez, 26, on suspicion of burglary. According to an arrest affidavit, Dominguez allegedly entered the Capitol through a faulty security door just after 2 a.m. on Jan. 27 and started breaking chairs, glass display cabinets and bronze busts of former politicians.

Last year, the town of Avon got little resistance from its residents when it asked them to approve a $3 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in the town.

Town Council member Scott Prince said it was supported by more than 70 percent of voters.

"There was zero campaigning done on behalf of that tax measure," Prince said. "It really speaks volumes about the residents and how much people see the impacts of tobacco and cigarette products."

Seven Colorado Democrats advanced a comprehensive sexual education bill at the State Capitol on Wednesday, after a contentious hearing that ended just before midnight. The hearing included testimony from dozens of opponents and a flurry of attempted Republican amendments to the bill.

The legislation aims to expand sexual education curriculum at public schools to include such topics as consent, birth control and STD prevention.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association is going to court to try and put the brakes on regulations that will require all new cars sold in the state to run cleaner and with better gas mileage by 2025.

The state's Air Quality Control Commission voted unanimously in November to adopt the stronger emission rules, which come with a mandate that new cars average 36 miles per gallon.

Health care is emerging as a top priority for both Democratic and Republicans at the State Capitol this session, and some of the proposed legislation is already packing hearing rooms.

One of the bills would add autism to a list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. Similar legislation was vetoed by former Gov. John Hickenlooper last year.

It was a busy week at the State Capitol as lawmakers started debating an initial round of bills at committee hearings and Gov. Jared Polis issued his first executive order to promote electric vehicles.

Here are some highlights, and some things to look for when lawmakers come back on Tuesday.

Cheers from environmental groups drowned out nearby construction noise in downtown Denver Thursday morning after Gov. Jared Polis announced an executive order that aims to bring more electric vehicles to Colorado.

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.

Democrats applauded as Gov. Jared Polis outlined his administration's priorities in his first State of the State Thursday. He touched on topics from full-day kindergarten funding to paid family leave and oil and gas development.

But the governor's address was criticized by Republicans for its lack of specifics on where all the money for his agenda will come from.

When a caravan of lawmakers arrived at the state Capitol Tuesday morning carrying several pink boxes of Voodoo doughnuts, it was apparent something very significant was about to happen.

Some of the lawmakers had grins on their faces. They were ready to welcome a new governor with a ceremony that would include fighter jets roaring above and loud cannon fire that would spook dozens of pigeons out of the trees in nearby Civic Center Park.

As Colorado's new lawmakers showed off their desks to their kids on Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper was busy cleaning out his own. He was down to his final days as the head of state government.

Signed baseball bats and other memorabilia were scattered on the floor of his office. His desk was littered with piles of old papers.

Colorado Democrats promised to pass paid family leave, address the rising cost of health care and pursue a gun control measure on Friday as they gaveled in a new legislative session.

New House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, called gun violence in the state an “epidemic” that needs to be addressed this session.

Jena Griswold, who will soon become Colorado's first Democratic Secretary of State in 60 years, has announced who will help her lead the office.

Meanwhile, outgoing Secretary of State Wayne Williams told the Colorado Springs Gazette he is thinking about running for city council next year.

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.

Out of the dozens of lawmakers who hold leadership positions at the State Capitol, only five live on the Western Slope. State Rep. Dylan Roberts is one of them. The Democrat from Avon will lead the state's new Rural Affairs Committee. He says the rising cost of health insurance will be at the top of his agenda when the session starts next month.

Gov.-elect Jared Polis is bringing a former political rival and members of his congressional staff into his new administration.

Cary Kennedy, who finished second behind Polis in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, will serve as a senior fiscal policy advisor for the new governor. Kennedy served as state treasurer from 2007 to 2011.

Democratic State Sen. Daniel Kagan announced Wednesday evening he is resigning from the legislature next month.

In a statement announcing his departure, the lawmaker from Cherry Hills Village didn't give a specific reason for stepping down. But Kagan found himself making headlines last year for using the wrong restroom at the Capitol.

State Transportation Commissioner Rocky Scott says his lunch conversation at a Colorado Springs steakhouse took on a sobering tone Monday when the discussion turned to the state’s road funding woes.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this before I leave the commission,” Scott said.

Three weeks after voters rejected two transportation funding measures, Scott and some of the other commissioners who oversee the state’s road improvement budget still sound resigned.

Two members of Colorado's Democratic House delegation are adding some suspense to Nancy Pelosi's quest to become speaker.

This week, Congressman Ed Perlmutter signed a letter with 15 other House Democrats opposing Pelosi's bid.

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.

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