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. 

A bill to revamp sex education classes for Colorado students has initially passed the house on Tuesday after a rigorous debate. The measure aims to make instruction more culturally sensitive and add information on homosexuality. But opponents say it would take away the rights of parents. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

A controversial package of Democratic gun control bills cleared the house yesterday. The measures now head to the state senate. And as Bente Birkeland reports the bills still face strong opposition from Republicans and some Democrats.

Governor John Hickenlooper is getting push back for recently telling members of Congress that he once drank flack fluid and touting Colorado as a national model for balanced energy rules. The state's oil and gas commission has increased the statewide buffer zone between drilling sites and homes and buildings, but many Democratic state lawmakers say the rules are still too lenient. Bente Birkeland takes a look at the issue and the Governor’s comments as part of our capitol conversation series.

Democratic leaders at the statehouse hope to introduce bills dealing with the impacts of hydraulic fracturing by the end of the month. This comes as Governor John Hickenlooper is touting Colorado’s current regulations on fracking as a national model. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Guns were once again the focus at the Colorado Statehouse on Wednesday. A Democratic proposal to ban concealed carry weapons on college campuses got its first hearing in the house education committee. It highlights the longer battle that will take place this session on gun laws. Bente Birkeland has more.

A huge crowd turned out at the state capitol on Tuesday for a hearing on two key Democratic gun proposals. One measure would require universal background checks for gun purchases; the other would ban high capacity magazines. Both bills passed their first test, the house judiciary committee. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Colorado’s oil and gas conservation commission has voted in favor of increasing the drilling setback distance between oil and gas wells and homes statewide. But the move doesn’t go far enough for the environmental community and goes too far for industry. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

State Democrats recently unveiled their much-anticipated package of bills aimed at curbing gun violence. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland takes a look at the chances of the bills passing, and the internal debate among state Democrats.

Governor John Hickenlooper announced new initiatives on Wednesday to try and make Colorado better prepared for wildfires. State officials say they’re also planning for a drought this summer and a potentially bad fire season. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Governor John Hickenlooper says a lack of water in Colorado poses a series challenge for the state’s tourism industry. Hickenlooper answered questions from industry representatives as part of the annual tourism day at the state capitol. Bente Birkeland has more.

Concealed gun bill fails

Jan 29, 2013

The gun control debate sounded off both inside and outside the state capitol yesterday. Gun control advocates rallied at the capitol, and Democratic state senators struck down the first gun bill of the legislative session. The measure would’ve allowed school employees to carry concealed handguns. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

A measure to allow civil unions in Colorado is expected to easily pass the state legislature this year, and as Bente Birkeland examines, the tenor of the debate is much different than in previous attempts. As part of our capitol conversation series, she talks to fellow statehouse reporters about the new dynamic, and whether gay marriage will be next on the agenda.

A measure to give Colorado gay couples many of the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples cleared its first committee at the state capitol on Wednesday. After being at the center of a political storm last year, the bill passed easily on a party line vote. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Supporters of a bill to give illegal immigrant students in-state college tuition expect a full house during the measure’s first committee hearing later today. As Bente Birkeland reports, the bill’s passage is all but certain.

This year’s legislative session got off to a slow start, but that’s about to change. Two of the biggest items for Democrats are scheduled for hearings in the coming days. As part of our capitol conversation series, statehouse Bente Birkeland takes a sneak peek at what to expect.

The Colorado legislature prints millions of pieces of paper each year, costing the state a hefty sum. But that could soon be a thing of the past. This year in an effort to cut down on costs, each of the 100 lawmakers received new i-Pads. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Colorado’s Speaker of the House says he expects lawmakers to act on several of President Barack Obama’s recommendations to curb gun violence. Bente Birkeland reports that Governor John Hickenlooper has also called for a broad discussion on guns during the legislative session.

Colorado Democrats are once again trying to pass a bill to give illegal immigrants who graduate from Colorado high schools in state college tuition. Students currently pay out of state rates. Similar measures have failed in the past, but supporters expect the bill to easily clear the legislature now that Democrats control both chambers. Bente Berkland has more from the state capitol.

State lawmakers have already introduced more than 100 bills on a wide variety of topics since the legislature began last Wednesday. From the state capitol, Bente  Birkeland has more on the first of many gun measures.

Nearly a third of this year’s state lawmakers are newly elected, and they’ll be expected to debate a host of complex issues from Medicaid to marijuana, gun laws to the death penalty. As part of our capitol conversation series statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland takes a look at the first week of the session, and gets reporter’s thoughts on the Governor’s state of the state address.

Bente Birkeland

Wednesday's opening ceremonies of the Colorado legislature were marked by the typical pomp and circumstance as in years past. But even before it started, the 2013 session made history as one of the most diverse groups of lawmakers ever to gather under the golden dome. Bente  Birkeland has more.

Members of the Colorado Oil and Gas commission wrap up a three day hearing in Denver today – at stake are new rules to oversee a new boom in oil and gas drilling. At the heart of those rules changing how far a drill rig can be from homes and schools. Bente Birkeland has more.

Flanked by Democratic leaders at the statehouse – Governor John Hickenlooper outlined his top job creation priorities for the upcoming legislation session and previewed the first house bill that will be introduced on Wednesday. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Republicans in Colorado are coming off a difficult election after losing control of the Colorado state house. Bente Birkeland talked to the next house minority leader Republican Mark Waller to see how he’ll motivate his caucus during the session and work with Democrats.

A handful of victims from this summer’s Aurora theater shooting were at the state capitol on Friday urging lawmakers to curb gun violence. Victims say the country needs to take action now. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol. 

The state audit committee is the latest group to look into whether Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler misused public funds. The bi-partisan committee voted unanimously on Thursday to move forward with an initial investigation. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Energy regulators in Colorado are examining whether to increase the distance between oil and gas drilling sites and buildings such as schools and homes. They’re also considering a water-testing requirement that would need to be done before and after drilling takes place.

It’s now legal to smoke marijuana in Colorado. Governor John Hickenlooper certified the election results of amendment 64 on Monday, which allows people over age 21 to grow and smoke small amounts of pot. And as Bente Birkeland reports, the Governor also signed an executive order creating a marijuana task force to help state lawmakers craft new regulations.

In our regular sit down with Governor John Hickenlooper, he gives his take on statewide marijuana regulations, and explains why he doesn't think the industry will be booming in the coming months. He also tells statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland why he's not sold on a major overhaul to the state's child welfare system in the wake of child fatalities.

Governor John Hickenlooper still has roughly a month to certify the results of the November election. And when he does, it’ll be legal for Coloradans over 21 to smoke recreational marijuana. For the moment, most businesses are taking a wait and see approach. The state’s ski resorts are one industry that doesn't expect its policies to change any time soon. Bente  Birkeland has more from the state capitol.