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.

When Gov. Jared Polis walked into the Stedman Elementary School auditorium behind a marching band on Tuesday afternoon, with dozens of supporters waving signs and cheering, the signing ceremony for the full-day kindergarten bill felt more like a pep rally.

“Today, we celebrate the fact that this fall, kids from across our state will be able to go to free fullday kindergarten,” Polis said to loud cheers before he signed the bill.

Transportation funding advocates are giving Colorado’s latest legislative session mixed reviews despite a bipartisan budget deal that boosted transportation funding by $70 million.

Margaret Bowes, who leads an organization that focuses on improving the Interstate 70 corridor in the mountains, said the money lawmakers added for roads and bridges was “just a drop in the bucket.”

From a robot voice that became the sound of fierce partisanship to a crucial debate over the future of oil and gas held in the middle of a blizzard, there was plenty of drama at the state Capitol this year.

Here’s a recap of some of the biggest moments of the session from its start to its final week.

Speaking to reporters in the final hours of the legislative session, Gov. Jared Polis touted the passage of several health care bills and the funding for full-day kindergarten.

But he quickly faced questions about some recent setbacks at the Capitol, including the death of a bill he backed that would have asked voters to add taxes on cigarettes and vaping products.

The Colorado General Assembly didn’t end its 72nd session quietly. In the final days, they’ve taken big votes on some of the most consequential legislation of the year. Here’s what they’ve been up to in the final hours.

Three weeks ago, Gov. Jared Polis stood outside Denver Health’s downtown hospital and made a long list of promises about improving health care.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle stood next to him and cheered him on, while a glossy, 10-page road map to lowering health care costs circulated through the crowd.

Dan Elliott / Associated Press

Governor Jared Polis has signed a bill giving local governments more control over oil and gas drilling operations. 

David Zalubowski / Associated Press

Governor Jared Polis signed a bill Friday that will allow police to temporarily take guns away from people who pose a risk to themselves or others. The so-called red flag gun law was one of the most disputed of this year's Democratic-controlled Legislative session.

For Mitchell Byars and other breaking news reporters around the country, the police scanner might be just as important as a laptop computer.

Byars, who covers everything from wildfires to mountain lion sightings for the Boulder Daily Camera, said the radio traffic helps him answer important questions from residents.

Colorado Democrats are backing a heavily-amended version of a bill to create a paid family leave program.

The bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee last month over concerns from business leaders and some Democratic. But a series of 24 amendments have gotten some of the Democratic holdouts on board, and the committee voted along party lines to advance the proposal.

A bill that Democratic lawmakers say is needed to fight climate change has cleared its first hurdle at the state Capitol.

House Bill 1261 would set a goal for Colorado to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent before 2030.

It would also give a state board the authority to approve new regulations that would help the state reach that goal.

Cities and counties that have spent years fighting for more regulatory power over the state’s oil and gas industry are now just one signature away from getting it.

Democrats in the Colorado Senate gave their final approval on Wednesday to Senate Bill 181, which will let local governments increase setbacks and impose fines for spills and air quality violations.

It now heads to Gov. Jared Polis, who is expected to sign it.

Colorado Democrats have tabled their effort to repeal the death penalty after some members of their own party expressed concerns about the bill.

The proposal was stuck in limbo for more than two weeks as State Sen. Angela Williams tried to secure the votes the bill needed to clear the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 19-16 majority.

The Colorado Legislature has given final approval to a bill that will allow police officers to temporarily take guns away from people who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.

Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign the extreme risk protection order bill into law.

As Sen. Faith Winter pushes forward a bill to create a paid family leave program, she's thinking of employees who are stuck at work during some of the most challenging moments of their lives.

"We have cancer patients who are skipping their second round of chemotherapy because they can't afford to lose their paycheck," Winter said Monday. "And there's a heartbreaking story of a woman who took her dad off life support in a break room instead of being by her father's side."

The Colorado Senate narrowly passed a contentious gun control bill on Thursday that would allow police to temporarily take away someone's firearms.

The extreme risk protection order proposal would give law enforcement the ability to take the weapons away if a judge determines their owner poses a risk to themselves or others.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

Colorado has a new, more colorful state logo. The new logo features mountains, an evergreen tree and the iconic letter C that centers the state's flag. It also contains yellow, meant to symbolize the state's sunshine and its wheat crops, blue for its water and red for its soil and rocks.

The basement of the state Capitol is ground zero for legislative strategizing. Lobbyists take over the small cafeteria and crowd around tables with lawmakers for several hours. Some walk into the bathrooms still talking on their phones about legislation. It’s here in this noisy basement where the oil and gas industry has been mounting fierce opposition to stronger regulations on the industry.

Colorado lawmakers are now more than halfway through the legislative session, and they’ve debated at length over oil and gas regulations and how the state votes for presidents.

But one issue has been notably absent so far from the agenda: Transportation funding.

It’s been four months since voters rejected two tax measures that would have provided billions of dollars worth of funding for the state’s roads and bridges.

After days of fierce partisanship at the state Capitol, Democrats in the Colorado Senate advanced a bill Wednesday that will give local governments more control over oil and gas drilling operations.

But as the bill heads over to the House for more debate, there are signs it will undergo some more changes in the coming days.

Lawmakers who have launched an effort to repeal Colorado’s death penalty argue that it unfairly targets minorities and does not prevent violent crimes. Add to their list of concerns that an innocent person could be put to death.

“The death penalty is unjust,” state Sen. Angela Williams told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. “It is costly. It is immoral.”

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."

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