Colorado Legislature

Data continues to show that where a person lives in Colorado plays a big role in dictating how much they pay for health insurance. That's because insurers use it to calculate premiums and in some regions it's unusually high. State lawmakers are aware of the problem – but are not sure what the solution is.

"I was seeing upwards of $500 a month," said Sam Higby, a Breckenridge outdoor gear shop employee. He's 35 and healthy, but said on his salary he simply can't afford healthcare.

"It does weigh on me as an active person, being concerned about what might happen out there."

With a swipe of the governor's pen, it is now legal for Coloradans to collect the rain that falls from their roofs. The move makes Colorado the final state in the country to sanction rain barrels.

With only a few days left in the state's legislative session, lawmakers in both parties are trying to get something across the finish line that will help with the state's high cost of housing, while lots of other bills are failing.

KVNF Regional Newscast: Tuesday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 2016

  • Montrose develops strategies for leveraging internet access
  • Mine expansion overturned
  • Changes to primary system a last minute topic for Colorado legislature
  • A Capitol Conversation about the race at the state capitol to fix housing, roads  

Colorado Republicans were mixed on the news that Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the presidential race. That leaves New York businessman Donald Trump as the apparent nominee. He has rattled the Republican Party establishment, and there's a lot of political calculating going on from the GOP as well as the Democrats.

The message from Colorado Republicans after the state convention was clear: We want Cruz. Much like with the state's Dems, who mostly lean toward Bernie Sanders, what happens if the preferred nominee isn't the final candidate?

A bill is making its way through the statehouse that would allow judges to re-examine the cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole. A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it unconstitutional for minors to have no possibility of parole -- except in the most extraordinary circumstances.

The court said it was cruel and unusual punishment. Currently 48 youth in Colorado were given mandatory life sentences prior to that ruling, many for heinous crimes.

"Murder is never OK, taking someone's life is never OK, but should we ever allow a second chance, a second look?" asked Senator Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge), one of the main sponsors of a bipartisan bill that cleared the Senate 32-3.

Lawmakers in both parties have unveiled a proposal to bring a presidential primary back to Colorado. It's estimated that conducting a primary will cost anywhere from $5 to $7 million. Despite the price tag, the heads of both the state Democratic and Republican parties and Gov. John Hickenlooper support it.

We asked two reporters working at the capitol on a daily basis what that means.

A Colorado commission studying American Indian representations in public schools released a report that recommends that schools not use American Indian mascots. However, if the schools do choose to do so, they should partner with a tribe to make sure it is done in a respectful way.

Right now, 30 Colorado schools use some type of American Indian mascot or imagery.

Colorado schools may soon be forced to allow students to use medical marijuana in a non-smokeable form while on school grounds. It's already allowed under state law – but no districts have created access policies, leaving many families frustrated.

To remedy this, House Bill 16-1373 [.pdf] has been proposed to require all school districts – even those without policies – to allow parents or caregivers to administer medical marijuana on school grounds. To find out more about the debate, we talked to reporters working under the gold dome.

Colorado schools may soon be forced to allow students to use medical marijuana in a non-smokeable form while on school grounds. It's already allowed under state law – but no districts have created access policies, leaving many families frustrated.

A bill [.pdf] under consideration at the capitol would require all school districts – even those without policies – to allow parents or caregivers to administer medical marijuana on school grounds, typically in the nurse's office. Students would not be allowed to take the cannabis tablet or put on the patch or oil themselves.

"Let's make sure they have the medication they need, and do it in an appropriate way," said state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), House Bill 16-1373's sponsor.

Wyoming is sometimes called the Equality State — it had the nation's first female governor and was the first territory to give women the right to vote. But that legacy isn't visible on the floor of the state Senate. Just one of the 30 state senators is a woman.

"I am the queen of the Senate. I have my own little tiara," jokes Bernadine Craft, a Democrat who represents the mining town of Rock Springs.

Colorado is debating whether to form an office of fantasy sports — to regulate and create rules around pay-for-play fantasy leagues. The industry estimates that 800,000 people in the Centennial State are fantasy sports players, and 150,000 pay in the daily sports leagues.

So why does the legislature want make a play here?

The Democratic-controlled House passed the state budget Friday with five Republicans backing it. The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate. What can we expect from the debate in that chamber?

KVNF Regional Newscast: Monday, April 4, 2016

Apr 4, 2016

  • Montrose County spends nearly $300,000 on armored truck
  • Against expectations, Colorado budget progresses  

Colorado lawmakers are only required to do one thing during their annual legislative session: pass a balanced budget. After several days of discussion, members of the Democratic-controlled House did just that. It had bipartisan support with four Western Slope Republicans and one Colorado Springs Republican joining the Democratic majority.

"It looked like the task would be daunting, but I think we just ended up with a really harmonic convergence of budget forecasts and certain events that occurred that allowed us to not to face as many dramatic cuts as we thought we were going to have to face," said Representative Dave Young (D-Greeley), a member of the bi-partisan joint budget committee that wrote the budget bill.

Health insurance premiums can vary widely in Colorado depending on where you live — it's just one of the factors health insurance companies use to calculate prices. Mountain regions continue to have some of the highest premiums in the country. At the statehouse, House Bill 16-1336 [.pdf] would look at treating the entire state as one region, rather than continuing to group regions separately.

"Our current insurance payment of $1,508 a month is equivalent to our mortgage payment. We can't afford it," said Richard Backe, a Garfield County small-business owner. "There are numerous people in the mountain district with the same story. We are the healthiest counties in the state, and we have the highest insurance rates."

KVNF Regional Newscast: Thursday, Mar. 31, 2016

Mar 31, 2016

  • Colorado rain barrel bill progresses at state capitol
  • Colorado House Speaker discusses upcoming budget
  • New driver’s license design to rollout to all Colorado DMV offices
  • With coal in decline, Hotchkiss revisits marijuana ban  

State lawmakers are set to debate the annual budget, which funds everything from roads and schools, to health care and parks. In 2016, Colorado has a shortfall, so that means making budget cuts. So what are some of the major budget issues? We asked the reporters working the hallways of the capitol to find out.

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.


A bill that would allow people to collect rain that falls from their rooftops is hung up in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, after the chair said he wasn't comfortable with the measure. It's not clear when the committee will vote on it.

The same thing happened during the 2015 legislative session when the rain barrel bill vote was delayed. While the bill eventually cleared the committee over the objections of the Republican chair, it failed on the final day of the session when time ran out.

"I didn't plan on today being Groundhog Day, I anticipated that the bill would pass," said state Sen. Michael Merrifield (D-Colorado Springs), sponsor of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf].

Colorado's next lieutenant governor is poised to be a top executive from Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.

Gov. John Hickenlooper nominated Donna Lynne, an executive vice president at Kaiser, saying she would be very capable filling his shoes if he doesn't end up finishing his second term. Hickenlooper has long been rumored as a possible cabinet pick for a Democratic President.

"If I were offered something in Washington I would certainly look at it, but especially right now, I could not be happier to be the governor of Colorado," Hickenlooper said.

rolling coal
Jim Hill / KUNC

With a few adjustments, owners can modify their diesel truck exhaust to spew out a thick, black smoke. It’s called rolling coal.

"People riding bikes or pedestrians get blasted by this," says Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood.  

Every bill at the Colorado legislature must receive a fair hearing… and a vote. That's what state law says, but the fate of many bills is decided before lawmakers even begin the debate. Their fate is sealed in what's called a kill committee.

KVNF Regional Newscast: Monday, Mar. 21, 2016

Mar 21, 2016

  • No foul play suspected in Ouray death
  • State program aims to boost rural economies with expert help
  • State’s economy grows, but slower than past years
  • Health organization expands into Delta County
  • A look at state committees designed to kill bills before they’re heard  

Colorado's four month legislative session is halfway over. As is normally the case, the only things lawmakers are required to do is pass a budget. Now that we're at the midpoint, attention can turn to the state's impending budget crunch and another hot topic: reclassifying the hospital provider fee under TABOR.

KVNF Regional Newscast: Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2016

Mar 16, 2016

  • Ouray police officer killed in accident on US 550
  • Montrose to expand recycling program
  • Colorado to become first state to certify hemp seed
  • Colorado legislative session hits midpoint
  • Federal regulators reject Oregon liquefied natural gas project  

The Colorado Democratic and Republican parties recently wrapped up their caucuses on Super Tuesday. The 2016 Democratic caucus was notable for the unexpected large turnout – while the GOP canceled their presidential preference poll. Either way, there were gripes. Two lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill to change the state's caucus system and instead add a presidential primary.

Crisanta Duran, Kerry Donovan, Millie Hamner
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

This week on the program, we'll hear interviews with three Democratic state lawmakers who recently came to Paonia for a constituent meet-and-greet. KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Colorado House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. Kerry Donovan at the event. They discussed the current legislative session and bills the lawmakers are sponsoring. 

Colorado is on the road to becoming the final state in the country to legalize rain barrels, after Democrats reached an agreement with several Republicans who opposed previous versions of the measure.

"It is a water right and what you have done with this, you have protected that water right," said Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who had voted against a rain barrel bill last session.

Now he said he can back it – and other Republicans are also on board with HB 16-1005 [.pdf].

Another attempt in Colorado to allow terminally ill patients to take medication to end their own lives recently failed for the second straight year in the Democratic controlled House.

With strong words for opponents and members of their own party, the sponsors of the End-of-Life Options Bill, known as House Bill 16-1054 [.pdf], pulled it before debate could begin on the floor. The reason behind the withdrawal was a lack of votes and proposed amendments for the bill.

A bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to take medication to end their own lives has failed in the Colorado Legislature. The main sponsors asked lawmakers to defeat the bill before it could be debated by the full House.

"The choice we made today, was to give you the relief from having to have this conversation because we know many of you have deeply held convictions that make you uncomfortable with this bill," said state Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver). "We are doing you this favor, to not have this debate, but make no mistake the voice of the people of this state will be heard."