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. 

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NEWS
9:14 am
Tue February 10, 2015

Legal Pot Linked To Higher School Drug Use? Colorado's Not Sure

halseike Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 12:45 pm

Even after a full year of being able to purchase recreational marijuana, questions still remain for the state of Colorado. Is cannabis use dangerous? Should there be tighter labeling on pot edibles? Is easy access impacting middle and high school students?

Recent data compiled by the Department of Education and Rocky Mountain PBS I-News show incidents of student drug use in 2014 hitting a 10-year high, but state officials don't have a clear picture if the increased drug use and marijuana legalization are related.

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POLITICS
8:58 am
Tue February 3, 2015

'Death with Dignity' To Be Debated At The Colorado Legislature

State of Colorado

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 3:15 pm

Democratic lawmakers in Colorado recently introduced a measure to allow terminally ill patients to take medication to end their lives. The patients must be given a prognosis from two different physicians giving them less than six months to live.

It's a charged issue that has many questions to it. Why do supporters say it’s the compassionate choice? Who strongly opposes it?

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POLITICS
4:41 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Tempers Flare Over GOP Moves In Committee At The Statehouse

Colorado Senate GOP Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 7:02 am

Colorado's new Republican Senate has majority flexed their muscles at the state capitol, using their power on the Joint Budget Committee to defund a 2013 law allowing people in the country illegally to obtain a state driver's license. They also struck down a bill to harmonize Colorado's civil unions law with a gay marriage ban that was deemed unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. On top of that, a commission looking at pay equity between men and women was struck down.

With split legislative control and Democrats in charge of the House, how will this impact both parties politically?

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POLITICS
4:30 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Breaking Down The Gov's State Of The State

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 8:52 am

Governor John Hickenlooper has given his annual State of the State Address in front of a joint session of the General Assembly. What were some of the highlights of his annual report on Colorado's prospects? What should we expect in the year ahead?

We asked some of the reporters that work daily in the capitol building for their thoughts.

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POLITICS
11:27 am
Mon January 19, 2015

Hickenlooper On His Second Term, 'It Is A Pivot Point'

State of Colorado

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 12:49 pm

Governor John Hickenlooper gave his annual State of the State Address in front of a joint session of the General Assembly Thursday. In the speech the governor spoke of his upcoming policies, initiatives, budget proposals and some looming state challenges.

So what does it all mean for the year ahead?

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POLITICS
9:21 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

State Of The State Is 'Strong' As Hickenlooper Outlines 2015 Plans

Stephen Butler Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 6:38 pm

Governor John Hickenlooper received a warm reception from lawmakers in both parties during his annual State of the State Address. The Governor talked about policies he wants the legislature to adopt, announced a few new initiatives and urged lawmakers to face facts about the challenges facing Colorado.

During his roughly 45-minute speech Hickenlooper highlighted many of his budget proposals, such as giving more money to higher education and K-12 schools. He also pledged to look at ways to creatively fund roads and bridges, and threw his support behind a felony DUI law. Colorado is one of four states without one.

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POLITICS
3:04 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Bill Seeking Compensation In Response To Oil And Gas Bans Floated At The Statehouse

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 2:53 pm

While oil and gas development is a hot topic, state legislators are waiting for a report from the Governor's Oil and Gas Task Force, mostly holding off on introducing energy related bills. The task force is charged with crafting recommendations to help mitigate the impacts of drilling to communities, and harmonize local and state regulations.

"I have told some members of the task force, you don't have to send something if there's not a problem," said Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling). "I want to know before you send me a solution, the problem we're trying to fix. And if you can't agree on a problem, don't send me legislation just because you're a task force."

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POLITICS
9:41 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Governor Hickenlooper Sworn In For Second Term

John Hickenlooper Facebook

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 8:20 am

Governor John Hickenlooper was sworn into office Tuesday for his second term, with the ceremony taking place outside the west steps of the state capitol. Several hundred people gathered to watch Hickenlooper along with other statewide elected officials take the oath of office.

"I believe that if we are willing to compromise and collaborate on what may seem like an imperfect solution, it is far better than if we cling to entrenched positions and work against one another in pursuit of different allegedly perfect solutions," said Hickenlooper. "Progress, even if incremental, is better than gridlock."

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POLITICS
10:02 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Let The Season Begin, The 2015 Colorado Legislature Is Now Open

Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) is holding outgoing speaker of the house Mark Ferrandino's (D-Denver) bedazzled gavel. Former Senate President Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) gave it to Cadman as a joke.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 10:50 am

One hundred lawmakers from across Colorado converged on the state capitol Wednesday for opening day of the annual 120 day legislative session. Freshman lawmakers from both parties were officially sworn in and both chambers have new leaders.

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POLITICS
10:13 am
Mon January 5, 2015

With Split Control, DelGrosso Hopes This Legislature Will Be 'More Collaborative'

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 7:49 am

When the seventieth session of the Colorado General Assembly convenes Jan. 7, 2015 the balance of power at the capitol will have shifted - slightly. Republicans now have control of the state Senate, but they are still in the minority in the House.

Republican Brian DelGrosso of Loveland has been the minority leader for the previous two years and was re-elected to continue that role in the 2015 session.

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POLITICS
10:11 am
Mon January 5, 2015

Dem's Focus For 2015 Colorado Legislature? 'Jobs And Economy'

Jim Hill KUNC

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 7:47 am

When the seventieth session of the Colorado General Assembly convenes Jan. 7, 2015 there will a new speaker of the house. The previous leader in the Colorado House last session was Democrat Mark Ferrandino of Denver. He was term-limited. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst , a Democrat from Boulder, will be the next speaker of the house.

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POLITICS
10:09 am
Mon January 5, 2015

As State Senate Changes Hands, Top Dem Seeks A 'Productive And Collaborative Session'

Ken Lund Flickr - Creative Commons

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 7:44 am

When the seventieth session of the Colorado General Assembly convenes Jan. 7, 2015 there will be a change of control in order in the state Senate. The previous November election shepherded the Republicans into the majority, while the state House of Representatives remains in the hand of the Democrats.

The new session also means a change for Democratic state Senator Morgan Carroll of Aurora. She's going from senate president to minority leader.

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LOCAL MOTION
1:47 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Local Motion: Regional News Roundup Dec. 2014

Listen to the regional newscast weekdays at 8 a.m. and 5:50 p.m.

On this week's Local Motion we are showcasing the regional reporting by the KVNF news team. We'll hear stories from Laura Palmisano, Jake Ryan and Bente Birkeland. They report on the struggles volunteer fire departments face, groundwater monitoring in the North Fork Valley, Colorado's spruce beetle epidemic, the proposed physician-assisted suicide bill, domestic violence, and solar energy.


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ENVIRONMENT
9:36 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Hickenlooper Shows Off Colorado Water Plan Draft

Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 4:53 pm

Governor John Hickenlooper unveiled a draft of the state's first ever water plan Wednesday. The goal of the plan - a decade in the making - is to create a comprehensive water strategy to protect rural farm economies and bring more water to millions of people along the Front Range.

"Water is too important for bickering and potential failure. It demands collaborations," said James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which drafted the proposal. "This plan sets the stage for us to take the necessary next steps."

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POLITICS
10:59 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Chamber Renovations Uncover Surprises At The Colorado Capitol

The restoration work in the House chamber undercovered stenciling and a green color.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 7:51 am

Colorado's state capitol is getting a major upgrade. A two-year renovation of the building's signature gold dome is complete and on the inside, work is underway on both the House and Senate chambers. Just like any remodeling project, some interesting surprises have been uncovered along the way.

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NEWS
10:02 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Gov. Hickenlooper Apologizes On Colorado's Behalf For Sand Creek Massacre

State of Colorado

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 11:42 am

Governor John Hickenlooper has apologized on behalf of the state of Colorado for the Sand Creek Massacre. The Massacre happened the morning of Nov. 29, 1864 as cavalrymen known as the Colorado Volunteers converged on a sleeping group of mostly women, children and elderly Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. The 150-year-old event is one of the most notable incidents of violence against Native Americans in the history of the west.

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HEALTH
3:55 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Death With Dignity Movement Sweeping Nation, Colorado Part Of The Wave

A map showing states considering legislation on physician-assisted suicide.
Compassion and Choices

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 3:53 pm

This fall, the highly publicized death of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer who decided to end her life, brought the "right to die" movement a lot of attention.

Anne Singer, campaigns communications manager at the group Compassion and Choices, which advocates for death with dignity, as it is sometimes called, said the public response has been astonishing.

"Nothing like this has ever happened to our organization before. Our website crashed…the momentum is definitely picking up."

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ENVIRONMENT
3:13 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Agreement Reached For Colorado's Roan Plateau

Colorado's Roan Plateau
Courtesy of EcoFlight

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 3:25 pm

The Bureau of Land Management, environmentalists, and the energy industry have reached an agreement on a proposal to drill for oil and gas on the Roan Plateau. The new plan cancels 17 out of 19 oil and gas leases that were issued in 2008. Two previous leases at the top of the plateau, and a dozen at the base will remain in place.

"These measures allow us to protect the plateau but harness some of the energy resources," said Governor John Hickenlooper.

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POLITICS
11:35 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Hickenlooper On Re-Election: 'We Want To Thank Colorado'

Hickenlooper declares victory, narrowly, at the state capitol on the day after Election Day.
Bente Birekland RMCR

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 4:13 pm

Colorado incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper has been re-elected to a second term.

By 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, some 12 and half hours after the polls closed, multiple media organizations including The Denver Post were projecting the win over Republican challenger Bob Beauprez with votes left to count in Boulder and Denver counties. The win is the largest for Democrats in the state following strong Republican victories, notably in the U.S. Senate with Cory Gardner defeating incumbent Senator Mark Udall.

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POLITICS
10:19 am
Tue October 28, 2014

In Final Debate, Colorado Gov Candidates Make Their Last Pitch

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 12:51 pm

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With early voting well underway, Colorado's gubernatorial candidates staked out their positions one last time during at their eighth and final debate Friday. Hosted by CBS Denver 4 and Colorado Public Television, the topics were rather routine - except for the issue of public safety. That's where things got heated.

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