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. Key stories for KVNF listeners she has covered this year include the state budget, proposed oil and gas legislation, and the passage of the Cottage Foods Act.

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NEWS
2:30 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Colorado's Mountain Resorts Gear Up For Recreational Marijuana

Telluride's Main Street during the summer and the annual Bluegrass Festival, June 2012.
Credit Doug Anderson via Flickr (CC BY)

Communities across Colorado are taking different tactics to the sale of recreational marijuana, which will officially begin in January. In Colorado’s high country, most resort towns support pot legalization and they don’t see it hurting the state's multi-billion dollar tourism business.

Last November, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 by a healthy margin. In resort towns such as Telluride, nearly 80 percent of voters said yes to legalization.

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NEWS
11:38 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Industry, Critics Gear Up for Post-Flood Fracking Fight

Dottie Rawsky and other members of Our Broomfield man an informational booth.
Credit Bente Birkeland/RMCR

In November, voters in several Front Range communities will consider whether to ban or delay fracking. Many of these same areas are also recovering from September's devastating flooding.

There's renewed attention on the fight over fracking thanks to Colorado's flooding. Recent figures show that 12 spills have polluted the South Platte with 37,000 gallons of oil.

Both sides of the debate were out in full force during a recent community festival for the city of Broomfield. Voters there will decide whether to pass a five-year fracking moratorium.

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NEWS
8:47 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Feds Say They Won't Prosecute Banks for working with Retail Pot Industry

Colorado capitol building
Credit Jason Bechtel via Flickr (CC BY-NC)

A U.S. Department of Justice official told members of Congress yesterday that it wouldn't prosecute banks for doing business with the recreational marijuana industry. As Bente Birkeland reports, Colorado took center stage during the Senate discussion on state and federal marijuana law.

Tuesday’s U.S. Senate committee meeting, Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws, was aptly named. At issue was the conflict that now exists on the federal level with Colorado and Washington’s legalization of recreational marijuana.

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Politics
1:39 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Colorado Voters To Decide 2 Lawmakers' Fates In Recall Elections

State Sens. Angela Giron and John Morse, both Democrats, face recall elections Tuesday. The battle in Colorado has attracted major players from across the nation, reflecting the sustained intensity over the issue of gun rights.
Ed Andrieski AP

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 12:01 pm

Two prominent Democratic state senators could lose their jobs after lawmakers passed sweeping gun control laws following the theater shooting in Auro, Colo., and the Newtown school shooting in Connecticut. Gun rights activists collected enough signatures to force the historic recall elections.

The recalls follow a combative and bitter legislative session. Among the most controversial measures passed were universal background checks and limiting high-capacity magazines to 15 rounds.

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NEWS
8:15 am
Fri August 30, 2013

DOJ Decision Means Banking Is The Next Challenge For Colorado Marijuana

Credit The Equinest via Flickr (CC)

The U.S. Department of Justice says it won’t stop marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. Thursday’s announcement means Colorado’s pot shops could open as early as January.

“I’m really pretty ecstatic with this announcement. It signals a very positive shift on marijuana laws,” said Brian Vicente with Amendment 64 supporter Sensible Colorado. “This really answers the unanswered question for years, what happens if Colorado legalizes Marijuana?”

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NEWS
9:52 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Ahead Of Vote, Colorado Marijuana Taxes A Source Of Debate

Cannabis plants
Credit UKhomeoffice via Flickr (CC)

This fall voters across Colorado will decide how recreational marijuana should be taxed.

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NEWS
10:14 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Supporters of K-12 Funding Overhaul Turn in Signatures

Colorado State Capitol
Credit J. Stephen Conn (CC-NC)

A measure asking Colorado voters if they want to raise income taxes by nearly $1 billion a year to pay for public school upgrades is a step closer to the November ballot. KUNC's Bente Birkeland reports.

Update Monday 12:30 p.m. - Supporters of the measure turned in roughly 160,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office - more than twice the amount required by law.

Democratic senator Mike Johnston of Denver sponsored the underlying legislation. He says gone are the days when the state simply asks voters for a blank check.

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NEWS
9:18 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Education Funding Initiative Seeks A Spot On The Ballot

Early childhood education students at William Roberts Elementary School in Denver learning about native and historic wildlife species
Credit USFWS Mountain Prairie (CC)

A roughly billion-dollar tax increase is likely to go before voters this fall. It’s part of a larger package of education reform that state lawmakers passed last session.

Senator Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) is helping to spearhead the latest initiative. He also took the lead two years ago on an unsuccessful education tax increase to raise several billion dollars for K through 12 schools and higher education.

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Capitol Coverage
6:56 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Oil and Gas Conflict of Interest Bill Moves Forward

Bills on oil and gas and fracking are expected to dominate the latter part of the state's legislative session. A measure to change the makeup of the agency that regulates the energy industry drew a large crowd at the capitol on Thursday. As Bente Birkeland reports, it cleared its first committee.

Listen to Bente's report.

NEWS
6:45 am
Thu March 28, 2013

Senate Debates Budget

The only requirement for Colorado lawmakers during the annual legislative session is passing a budget. And unlike previous years there won’t be cuts for programs like K through 12 schools, state contractors and public employees. But as Bente Birkeland reports, debate in the senate yesterday was still extensive.

Listen to Bente's report.

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