Category Archives: Colorado Legislature

Amendment 66 defeat capped a year of challenges for Gov. Hickenlooper

Standing alone before a lectern in a downtown Denver hotel ballroom Tuesday night, Gov. John Hickenlooper did what’s been rare in his decade-long political career: offer a concession speech.

“At a certain point you take risk, but then you look at the reward,” said Hickenlooper, a Democrat, as election night ballots revealed a stark statewide rebuke of the $1 billion income tax increase for education that the governor staunchly supported. “And the opportunity to define Colorado as the national model for public education … that reward more than justified the risk of going out there with again — in a difficult year — a tax increase.”

For Hickenlooper, who is vying for a second term in next year’s election, taking political risks has encompassed much of 2013, say some political observers.

Tuesday’s defeat caps off a year in which the governor has been assailed by critics across the aisle as grossly out of touch with the state’s moderate electorate. He backed a package of gun-control bills, supported a measure that doubles renewable-energy standards for rural Coloradans and supported a sweeping elections-reform measure.

Read more at The Denver Post.

Colorado recalls behind them, House, Senate GOP aim to repeal gun laws

Handguns at a store in Aurora. (John Leyba/The Post)
Handguns at a store in Aurora. (John Leyba/The Post)

This year’s statehouse battles over new gun regulations could all return next year with a renewed debate.

House and Senate Republicans are poised to present a series of bills in the 2014 session that look to repeal or alter some of the gun-control legislation passed by Democrats and implemented into law over the summer.

Indeed, Republicans are competing with one another to sponsor the bills.

And though the files are not yet public, GOP leaders say several Republicans have submitted gun-focused bill titles.

Read more at The Denver Post

Hickenlooper hints at veto of lawmakers’ death-penalty repeal bill

Gov. John Hickenlooper has let his fellow Democrats know he has issues with a bill that allows lawmakers to repeal Colorado’s death penalty, mentioning a “veto” as the sponsors say they have the votes to get it passed.

Hickenlooper on Tuesday spoke with House Democrats at their regular caucus luncheon in a building across the street from the Capitol one hour before a committee was scheduled to hear the death-penalty bill.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, said it was the first time he has heard the governor use the word “veto.”

“He did not say, ‘I will definitely, undoubtedly with no question veto this,’ ” Pabon said. “But he did say that is something he is bouncing around. He used the ‘v’ word.”

Another Democrat, who asked not to be identified, said Hickenlooper told the caucus, “There are some things we’re going to have to disagree on … and those things we disagree on I’ll have to veto.”

Read more at The Denver Post.

Colorado gun debate to rise with package of bills from Democrats

The state that made headlines for two of the most notorious mass shootings in recent history will now take center stage in the debate over gun laws.

Colorado Democrats are poised to unveil a comprehensive package of gun bills as early as this week, even though some members of the party are reluctant to embrace all of the party’s proposals.

The specific bills could cover everything from background checks on the private sales of firearms to a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault weapons.

Another measure aims to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals with mental health issues.

As they roll out stricter gun legislation, Democrats, who control both chambers at the state Capitol, plan to use the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and at an Aurora movie theater in July as stark examples of why such measures are needed.

Read more at The Denver Post.

Colorado’s new gun laws become a mobilizing issue for Republicans

As Colorado prepares to go live with new gun-control laws next week, the political landscape that favored Democrats at the start of the year has changed. Suddenly, Republicans — who began the year almost powerless after the 2012 election — feel they have a rallying cry and a cause they can use to fuel victories.

In what became the most emotionally charged partisan battle of the legislative session, Democrats with zero Republican support — and even some opposition from within the party — passed new laws that limit ammunition magazines and require universal background checks on all gun sales and transfers.

And with those laws now set to take effect Monday, the political effects of these measures are likely to reign as mobilizing issues for months to come, with Republicans announcing their candidacies in an effort to unseat Democrats in both the state Capitol and the governor’s office.

“It most certainly energizes the GOP base and helps develop this narrative about the Democrats’ control of state government this year,” Ken Bickers, a professor of political science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said about the new gun laws.

Read more at The Denver Post.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey faults bill to create drug sentence system

The idea behind Sen. Pat Steadman’s proposal to overhaul Colorado’s drug sentencing laws on its surface is simple: Prioritize treatment over incarceration and, in turn, lower the recidivism rates of habitual drug users.

But even as the Denver Democrat’s effort has garnered the support of his Republican colleagues, it’s caused a rift with Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, who staunchly opposes the legislation and argues it gives high-level drug dealers a break when it comes to prison sentences and offers more incentive to continue breaking the law.

Continue reading Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey faults bill to create drug sentence system

Some Colorado lawmakers skeptical about homeless bill backed by Hickenlooper

A pair of leading Democratic lawmakers are pushing back on a bill staunchly supported by Gov. John Hickenlooper to repurpose part of an old, rural prison campus as a residential facility for the state’s homeless.

Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver and Rep. Claire Levy of Boulder question both the cost and whether the initiative isn’t more about finding a purpose for the Fort Lyon prison shuttered at Hickenlooper’s request than it is about helping resolve homelessness.

“There’s some real concerns about the conditions and maintenance of the facility,” said Steadman, the chairman of the Joint Budget Committee. “It’s an old facility that’s going to have ongoing costs for years to come.”

Asbestos has been found in the buildings and on the grounds.

Steadman is opposed to the bill, which easily passed the House on Monday. It now goes to the Senate, where it could face a tougher battle.

Facing a budget shortfall two years ago of more than $1 billion, Hickenlooper closed the prison to save the state cash — a move that killed about 200 jobs in Bent County, where poverty rates were hovering near 35 percent.

Read more at The Denver Post

Misdemeanor convictions in Colorado could call for DNA swab

Whether it’s an assault or a relatively minor offense such as destroying a library book, Coloradans convicted of a misdemeanor would have to open wide and say “aaagh,” should lawmakers pass a requirement that the state collect from them an oral DNA sample.

In what’s billed as an ambitious effort to solve cold cases, exonerate those wrongfully convicted and quell future crimes, a Democratic state lawmaker wants to require that individuals convicted of Class 1, Class 2 or Class 3 misdemeanors must submit a DNA sample to be stored in a statewide database system.

But this effort to expand DNA collection to misdemeanor convictions has raised concerns about privacy issues and the rationale behind such a requirement.

“DNA is the 21st century fingerprint,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, a Denver Democrat, who is the sponsor of the legislation that’s set to be heard before a House committee Thursday. ” We have become so sophisticated in our technology and science, we can without a shadow of a doubt link someone physically to a crime.”

Already in Colorado, individuals arrested on a felony charge and some misdemeanors involving unlawful sexual conduct are required to provide the state with a DNA sample. And those convicted of a misdemeanor under the proposed legislation would have to pay a $128 fee to cover the costs of the sample.

Read more at The Denver Post

Colorado gun debate shines national spotlight on state

When retired astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly entered a crammed committee room at the state Capitol on Monday to testify in support of universal gun background checks, heads turned as throngs of cameras flashed at his presence.

The arrival of Kelly, whose wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting outside a Tucson grocery store, not only symbolized his star power as a national figure for stricter gun laws but solidified Colorado’s importance on the national stage in the debate over guns.

Kelly joined Second Amendment scholar David Kopel of the University of Denver; a rape victim from Nevada; and others for what has become a national circuit of individuals engaged in the country’s gun debate.

Read more at The Denver Post.

On gun legislation, Coloradans’ views change since September

Coloradans, who have endured mass shootings at Columbine High School and at an Aurora movie theater last year, have long held a mix of ideas about guns that favor the rights of firearms owners, but those opinions have become more nuanced, according to the findings of a new Denver Post poll.

While a majority of respondents expressed support for gun-owner rights, they expressed greater support for specific limitations that would strengthen gun laws.

Proposals that would ban assault-style rifles, limit the number of cartridges allowed in ammunition magazines and require universal background checks on gun sales garnered more than 60 percent support from those polled.

The findings of the poll come after President Barack Obama last week announced a plan to toughen gun-control laws nationally after highly reported mass shootings. A handful of his proposals are already in the works at the state level.

The latest Post poll, conducted the day after Obama’s announcement, found that overall support for the rights of gun owners shrank from an earlier Post poll in September — conducted shortly after the Aurora theater shootings.

Read more at The Denver Post.