Bente Birkeland

Capitol Coverage Reporter

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for Rocky Mountain Community Radio stations, including KVNF, since 2006. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May, covering important bills, discussions, and the positions of our state legislators. 

Pages

NEWS
11:53 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Testing Reform Remains In A Holding Pattern At The Legislature

Gov. John Hickenlooper touting SB 215 alongside Senate Pres. Bill Cadman, Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, and Kelly Brough, the president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. The measure is now being reworked.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 11:05 am

On average students in Colorado classrooms take more than two-dozen assessments before they graduate, in some cases up to four times a year according to the Colorado Education Association. Critics say it actually means less time for overall learning.

A bipartisan measure aimed at reducing the number of tests Colorado public school students take remains in limbo at the state Legislature. The sponsors delayed the first hearing and don't know when it will be rescheduled – if at all.

Read more
NEWS
5:05 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

What Colorado's Latest Economic Report Means For The Budget

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 5:04 am

Colorado's latest revenue forecast was good news for lawmakers, showing a healthy economy and more money for the state budget. There was also one notable hedge, the uncertainty around low oil prices and the oil industry's effect on the state economy.

So just what are the implications of more state revenue? We turn to the reporters that work the halls of the capitol to find out.

Read more
NEWS
5:44 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Kids Count Report Delivered To Lawmakers, Shows Decrease In Child Poverty

Children visit the state capitol for the release of the annual Kids Count Report from the Colorado Children's Campaign.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 7:56 am

Colorado's childhood poverty rate has decreased for the first time in five years. The latest data comes as part of the annual Kids Count Report, which offers information on the health and well-being of children across the state.

"That is great news for Colorado," said Lt. Governor Joe Garcia. He went on to add that there's always a but, "We know that there are still far too many children growing up in households where they don't have access to the opportunities and resources they need to be healthy and succeed."

Read more
NEWS
1:09 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Testing Reform Bill Is Pulled At The Legislature

Colorado General Assembly

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 6:05 am

A bipartisan measure to reduce testing for students in Colorado's public schools is not proceeding as planned through the statehouse. Senate Bill 215 [.pdf] was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Thursday. No longer, it was pulled from the calendar before the hearing.

"We just need to make sure we get the policy right," said state Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), a sponsor of the measure along with Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood).

The sponsors are unsure of when SB 215 will get a hearing. The bill would eliminate mandatory assessments in the 11 and 12th grade and reduce redundant tests in the earlier grades. It has been billed as the major school testing reform bill of the session.

Read more
NEWS
5:57 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

As Schuller Steps Down, What's Ahead For Colorado's Energy Industry?

Tisha Schuller, the current executive in charge of the state's trade organization for oil and gas has accounced her departure from the position.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 7:59 am

The executive director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Tisha Schuller, recently announced that she's leaving the state's largest trade organization for the energy industry.

In a statement released by COGA, Schuller said it was a "wild ride" and that she was honored to have represented the state's oil industry. While remaining in her position until the end of May, Schuller sat down to talk about the future of the industry and why she decided to leave her position.

Read more
NEWS
11:39 am
Thu March 19, 2015

Mixed Economic News As The Legislature's Budget Work Nears

Stephen Butler Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 9:54 am

As they prepare to write the annual budget, there's mixed news for Colorado lawmakers. The latest revenue forecast shows the economy will remain strong, but there is a lot of uncertainty going forward, especially when it comes to low oil prices and how it ripples through the state's economy.

"On net low oil prices are good for the national economy, but for areas where you have energy production, energy production states, on net it has been negative in the past," said nonpartisan Chief Legislative Economist Natalie Mullis. "Colorado is a third tier energy producing state and it does have a dampening effect on our economy."

Read more
NEWS
4:25 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Which Bills Will Hit The Gov's Desk This Session?

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Mon March 16, 2015 7:31 am

We're just past the halfway mark for the annual 120-day legislative session. As lawmakers (and the reporters that cover them) enter the home stretch, what's the scuttlebutt under the gold dome? Which bills are being delayed? How is the Governor handling split legislative control?

For insights we picked the brains of reporters who work the halls on daily basis at the capitol.

Read more
POLITICS
9:28 am
Fri March 13, 2015

Colorado Legislature Poised For A Look At Oil & Gas Health Impacts

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 9:46 am

Trying to get more information on the health impact of oil and gas drilling is a topic that lawmakers will soon be taking up at the statehouse. It comes after the Governor's Oil and Gas Task Force finished their work and issued several health related recommendations.

"I get a little bit concerned and annoyed when people try to use health as the basis of what they don't like about oil and gas," said Dr. Larry Wolk the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

He said he understands the concern, but worries the state doesn't have enough hard data.

Read more
NEWS
5:25 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Expansion Stumbles In Committee

Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) and Margery Grandbouche with Hilltop Community Resources, which operates the Get Real Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program testify in support of a bill to expand the program statewide.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 7:40 am

A bill to expand a teen pregnancy prevention program for low-income youth failed in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on a party line 3-2 vote. Republicans defeated the measure, one that was sponsored by one of their own.

"I guess this is my big thing is let's take an inventory of what we're doing before we throw another layer on there," said Senate Finance Committee chair Tim Neville (R-Littleton).

Read more
POLITICS
6:08 pm
Tue March 10, 2015

Two Republican Religious Freedom Bills Fall In Committee

Opponents of two religious liberty proposals rally at the state capitol prior to the hearing on Monday. They said the bills would hurt business and give people a license to discriminate in Colorado. Jessie Ulibarri (D-Westiminster) attended the rally.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 8:52 am

Two Republican religious freedom bills drew strong opposition from gay rights groups, civil liberties organizations and members of the business community Monday. The first bill, known as House Bill 1171 [.pdf], would have forbade government officials from constraining the exercise of religion had it not been struck down in committee.

The second bill, House Bill 1161 [.pdf], would have protected people from facing penalties for refusing to violate their beliefs and was also defeated.

Read more
POLITICS
10:26 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Taking Stock Of Split Control At The 2015 Legislature's Mid-Point

Stephen Butler Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 9:46 am

State lawmakers are officially at the halfway point of the 2015 legislative session. What needs to be done before the end of the session? Lawmakers will need to pass a balanced budget, and along the way grapple with some hot-button issues such as school testing requirements and police reforms.

"Most of the big work is ahead of us, what happens for the first half is kind of getting ready for it," said Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs).

Read more
POLITICS
9:24 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Mid-Session, What Are The Odds For Some Hot Topic Bills?

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 9:51 am

State lawmakers are midway through the annual legislative session – but there's still a lot to be done.

House Democrats would like law enforcement to increase the use of body cameras, set up a special prosecutor to review decisions when a law enforcement official isn't charged when there are allegations of deadly force, ban choke holds, and collect demographic data on arrests. What are the chances for passage?

Read more
POLITICS
9:53 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Drone Privacy Bill Gets Delayed In Colorado Judiciary Committee

A DJI Quadcopter drone.
Adam Meek Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 7:42 am

The sponsor of a proposal to put guardrails around the use of drones for non- government purposes asked lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee to delay a vote on the bill Tuesday.

"I would work with members of the committee to make sure it truly protects the privacy of people in the state," said Representative Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park).

The delay came after nearly two hours of testimony that focused on emerging technologies and a person's reasonable expectation of privacy.

Read more
POLITICS
10:39 am
Tue March 3, 2015

What's Next Politically For Oil & Gas In Colorado?

Stephen Butler Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 11:14 am

Governor John Hickenlooper's oil and gas task force recently proposed nine recommendations to try and easy concerns for people living near energy development, but it did not vote to give local communities more control over oil and gas drilling.

The big question on everyone's mind now: What's next for the state Legislature and for a possible anti-fracking initiative going before voters in 2016?

Read more
POLITICS
6:27 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Hickenlooper On The Work Of The Oil & Gas Task Force

Governor John Hickenlooper.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 6:21 pm

Reaction at the state capitol to work of the Oil and Gas Task Force was decidedly mixed. Members of the governor's own party called the effort a failure, one lawmaker even graded it an "F+."

The proposed recommendations are intended to mitigate the impacts of energy development near communities. While the task force wants local governments to be more involved in developing large drill sites, it stopped short of allowing cities and counties to adopt rules stricter than the state standards.

With the final nine recommendations to hit Governor John Hickenlooper's desk Feb. 27, what are his thoughts on the group's work and the backlash?

Read more
POLITICS
10:05 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Lawmakers React To The Oil & Gas Task Force's Recommendations

Manager of State Government Affairs for ConocoPhillips in the Rocky Mountain Region and task force member Perry Pearce speaks during the groups final meeting Tuesday.
Dan Boyce Inside Energy

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 5:47 am

After five months of meetings, and coming up with nine recommendations, the work of Governor John Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Task Force is getting mixed reviews from lawmakers at the state capitol.

Among the critical voices is Democratic Senator Matt Jones of Longmont.

"What they were charged to come up with is strong community protections, they got an F+, they're talking about how it's really a B, it's not," Jones said.

Read more
NEWS
9:28 am
Wed February 25, 2015

Colorado Family Planning Program Funding Bill Takes First Step

Colorado House

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 7:55 pm

A bill attempting to reduce teen pregnancies and provide state funding for intrauterine devices has passed its first test at the capitol. House Bill 1194 would provide $5 million for clinics across the state that offer long-term reversible contraceptives to low-income women and teenagers. Colorado has been running the program with a private grant, which will run out at the end of June 2015.

"Our teen birth rate has dropped 40 percent over the last four years and 34 percent drop in abortions," said Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

Read more
NEWS
6:02 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Drones, Oil And Gas Taskforce On Tap At The Capitol

KUNC File Photo

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 5:18 pm

It's a busy week under the gold dome. The Governor's oil and gas task force, which was charged with trying to harmonize local oil and gas regulations with statewide interests will soon be wrapping up. Many lawmakers have been holding off on introducing oil and gas legislation until the commission finishes its work.

A debate on drones - one that does not fall along party lines - will get a hearing in the Senate Tuesday. For thoughts on what's happening at the capitol, talked to some of the reporters who work there daily.

Read more
NEWS
11:26 am
Fri February 20, 2015

On Behalf Of Two Coloradans, D.C. Group Sues State Over Marijuana

charenton Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 2:40 pm

The state of Colorado is facing new lawsuits over recreational marijuana legalization. The Washington D.C. based Safe Streets Alliance is suing the state in federal court to try and close down the industry.

"It is illegal under federal law to sell marijuana and in this country federal law is the supreme law of the land," said David Thompson, the lead attorney for the Safe Streets Alliance.

Read more
NEWS
10:24 am
Wed February 11, 2015

How Do You Talk To Students About Weed When It's Legal?

The hallways at Arapahoe Ridge High School in Boulder, Colo.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 9:34 am

Since Colorado has embraced legal retail marijuana sales, schools are grappling with the best way to discusses it in the classroom amid changing attitudes.

"When it's legal for your parents to smoke it or grow it, that changes the conversation," said Odette Edbrooke, the Health Education Coordinator for the Boulder Valley School District.

Read more

Pages