Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ethics Committee to Look Into Allegations Against Balmer

A bipartisan committee of House members will investigate allegations that assistant minority leader David Balmer, R-Centennial, attempted to improperly influence colleagues' votes in the race to replace Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, as minority leader.

The committee, which was announced by speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, today, includes five veteran legislators.

Members of the ethics committee, which will consider a complaint filed against Balmer on Dec. 16, include Reps. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, Joel Judd, D-Denver, Claire Levy, D-Boulder, Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, and Ken Summers, R-Lakewood.

The complaint against Balmer, which was filed by May, alleges that Balmer attempted to coordinate a campaign contribution by a professional association in exchange for a vote in his favor in the GOP caucus meeting. It also alleges that Balmer promised a future committee chairmanship to another legislator in exchange for his or her vote for Balmer as the new minority leader.

As a Rocky Mountain News article on the ethics controversy points out, the partisan makeup of this committee is different from the one that investigated Rep. Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, last session. That committee has three Democrats and three Republicans.

Balmer is accused of violating House Rule 49b, which requires that ethics committees assigned to investigate such allegations "shall be in proportion generally to the relative number of members of the two major political parties in the House."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DeGette Takes Name Out of Salazar Replacement Mix

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver won't be the state's next U.S. senator.

DeGette, who had earlier expressed interest in being appointed to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, withdrew her name from consideration today.

"After serious deliberation and consultation with my family, supporters, and colleagues in Congress, I have concluded I can best serve the citizens of the 1st Congressional District and Colorado from my current leadership positions in the House of Representatives," DeGette said in a written statement.

DeGette is in her seventh term in Washington, DC. She is a chief deputy whip for House Democrats and is vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

She had been considered an outside possibility for the seat due to her status as the state's senior member of Congress.

Ritter applauded DeGette's work in the U.S. House of Representatives after her announcement.

“I am proud that Congresswoman Diana DeGette will continue to serve the 1st Congressional District and all of Colorado with distinction," Ritter said. "As the senior member of the Colorado Delegation and a key member of the Congressional Leadership, Rep. DeGette will continue to be a leader in helping Colorado and our nation on issues such as economic stimulus and recovery, health care, climate change, and energy policy."

Second Part of Education Preview Available

Education News Colorado has its second preview article posted on its website. Again, check this out for an excellent overview of the personalities that will be involved in education policy making under the Golden Dome this coming year.

Johnson Resigns

Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, has resigned from the General Assembly after being elected to the Larimer County Commission in November.

The resignation, which will go into effect Jan. 6, opens the door for the Larimer County GOP to appoint his replacement.

Among the candidates interested in the appointment are Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, Loveland businessman Mike Lynch and Windsor financial planner Deborah Moeck.

Johnson was reelected to the Senate in 2006. His replacement will serve until January 2011 unless reelected.

Johnson previously served for six years in the House of Representatives.

The vacancy committee will make the appointment Jan. 10.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pommer Says End to State Funding of Public Colleges Must be Considered

A leading Democratic voice on budget matters at the Capitol says that one GOP legislator's proposal to end all state funding for Colorado's higher education institutions must be considered.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, was quoted in a Rocky Mountain News article as saying that the proposal by Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, might be a necessary step because the state has not been able to adequately fund the universities.

"We have three research institutions - Colorado, Colorado State and (Colorado) Mines - and frankly . . . every year, we erode the quality of those institutions," Pommer said. "If you have a house and can't maintain it, why not just move instead of letting it deteriorate?"

Marostica's idea, which is similar to one floated earlier in the decade when the GOP ran the General Assembly, is in the aftermath of an announcement that the state's budget must be cut by nearly one billion dollars this year.

Gov. Bill Ritter announced Dec. 19 that state agencies must find $790 billion in cuts by Jan. 9.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Education News Colorado Has Session Preview Up

Education News Colorado has its session preview for 2009 up on the web. These guys understand education policy and they are, as usual, right on top of the issues that will be taken up by the General Assembly starting Jan. 9.

"Politico" Says Groff May Be Dark-Horse in Race for Salazar Seat

A national political blog says senate president Peter Groff, D-Denver, may be under consideration by Gov. Bill Ritter to replace U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar.

Groff has been mentioned on most of the speculative lists of candidates, but isn’t considered a top-tier contender to win the appointment.

Groff has a strong resume. He quickly moved up the ranks in the state legislature after being elected to the state House in 2000. Before that, he served as an adviser to former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. One Democratic operative in Colorado called him the “best public speaker” of all the prospective candidates in either party.

And by making an outside-the-box selection, Gov. Bill Ritter (D-Colo.) would get some national attention as he prepares to face his own tough reelection campaign in two years.

The negatives: Groff hasn’t been tested politically, as he represents a solidly Democratic legislative district in Denver. He has an eight-year voting record that Republicans could scrutinize in a general election. And he would have to demonstrate he can raise the millions necessary for a statewide race in 2010.

Ritter's spokesman has said the governor will make an appointment before the new Congress convenes on Jan. 6.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cary Kennedy Won't Be Salazar's Replacement in DC

State treasurer Cary Kennedy announced today that she does not want to be considered as a replacement for Sen. Ken Salazar.

Kennedy, who was elected as the state's chief financial officer in 2006, had been mentioned along with U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver; House speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver; U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden; Denver mayor John Hickenlooper; and U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa.

Kennedy's announcement cited family considerations.

“Senator Salazar has been an extraordinary public servant for the citizens of Colorado, and the nation will be well served by his knowledge and expertise,” Kennedy said. “I am honored and humbled to have been considered for the appointment to Senator Salazar’s seat. But right now, with young kids, my focus and my energy is with my family. Kids are young only once, and it is a gift to raise them.”

Kennedy has two young children, Kadin, 11, and Kyra, 9.

Sen. Salazar has been nominated by President-elect Barack Obama as secretary of interior.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Buescher Appointed as New Secretary of State

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, as Colorado's next Secretary of State today.

Buescher has previously served in the state's executive branch and has been a businessman on the western slope for many years.

“Bernie Buescher is the perfect person to serve all of the people and all of the businesses of Colorado as the leader of this important statewide office,” Ritter said. “He will bring a wealth of knowledge and a diversity of legal, legislative and public-service experience to the job. He has led private businesses and government agencies, and he has managed large workforces and multimillion-dollar budgets."

Buescher, who recently lost his bid for re-election to Republican Laura Bradford, had been expected to succeed Rep. Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, as the next speaker of the house.

He will replace Republican Mike Coffman, who was elected to represent Colorado's 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

Buescher will have to stand for election in 2010 if he wishes to retain the seat.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ritter Pushes Economic Development Ideas for 2009

Gov. Bill Ritter announced his economic development priorities for 2009 today, making a push for expanded access to credit and continued emphasis on renewable energy infrastructure.

Ritter's specific suggestions include:

(1) provision of tax-credit incentives for companies that create at least 20 new jobs;

(2) making available to hundreds, possibly thousands, of small and family-owned businesses immediate access to capital and credit through a Colorado Credit Reserve Program;

(3) expansion of the Colorado First workforce training programs at community colleges, especially those related to renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation; and

(4) investment in "New Energy Economy" companies, projects and jobs through the Colorado Clean Energy Fund.

“Over the past two years, we’ve made smart, strategic and aggressive investments to help protect Colorado residents and retain Colorado jobs and businesses,” Ritter said. “Our 2008 business-development legislative package eased the tax burden for tens of thousands of companies, we created a Colorado Jobs Cabinet, and the proposals we are announcing today will build on the progress we have made and create new opportunities."

The first proposal would require companies seeking to take advantage of the program to apply to the Economic Development Commission and meet specific criteria. The company will be eligible for a tax credit of up to 50 percent of its annual FICA taxes on new employees. The tax credit for new employees would be calculated on a year-to-year basis for five years according to the number of FTEs on the company’s payroll at year’s end.

The Colorado Credit Reserve is a pool guaranty program originally established and administered by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. Ritter wants to restore the program and expand it to generate small business loans throughout the state by encouraging lenders to extend credit in amounts up to $500,000. Ritter says that the state could generate at least $50 million in new loans by committing $2.5 million to this program.

Under the "New Energy Jobs Program" Ritter is suggesting that the General Assembly increase funding by $1 million per year to the community college program. The new funds would be used to create job training programs for renewable energy- and energy conservation-related jobs and will allow community colleges to apply for cluster-based grants.

The plan also includes increased funding for the state's Clean Energy Fund. The increase would be $1.4 million, with priority for the money allotted to economic development incentives for clean energy companies.

Ritter's announcement said that his proposals are supported by the Economic Development Council of Colorado, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry,
Colorado Concern, the Colorado chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Northern Colorado Economic Development Council, South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, Adams County Economic Development, Colorado Springs Economic Development Council, Colorado Housing and Financing Authority, Colorado Bankers Association and Independent Bankers of Colorado.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Salazar Nominated for Interior, Sets Off Scramble for Senate

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar will be the nation's next secretary of the interior if President-elect Barack Obama has his way.

Obama nominated Colorado's current junior senator to his cabinet today.

Salazar, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 after serving as the state's attorney general and director of the department of natural resources.

Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, will appoint his replacement, who would serve until the end of Salazar's current term.

GOP Plans Another Attempt to Require ID, Proof of Citizenship Before Voting

Statehouse Republicans will again attempt in the 2009 legislative session to convince the General Assembly to adopt bills requiring prospective voters to show identification and prove their U.S. citizenship.

One of the two anticipated measures, which were announced by the senate GOP communications office today, would force voters to show a photo identification issued by the state or federal government before being allowed to cast a ballot. The other would require submission of documents that are evidence of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate, certificate of naturalization, social security card, or passport.

“We have a responsibility as state lawmakers to protect the integrity of our elections,” Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, and the expected sponsor of the photo ID bill, said. “People have an expectation that the voting process is secure and fair, these bills strive to meet those ends.”

Other Republicans intend to argue that the state's current election system poses too much risk of voting by persons who are not citizens of the United States, according to the release sent out by the senate GOP caucus.

El Paso County clerk and recorder Bob Balink has been a vocal advocate for legislation that would give clerks and recorders more ability to deny voter registration where citizenship cannot be proved to officials' satisfaction.

However, his aggressive stance on the issue has been attacked by Democrats, who argue that no evidence of widespread electoral participation by people who are not U.S. citizens has ever been found.

Sen.-elect Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, says he does not think the issue should be controversial at all.

"Only citizens are allowed to vote in Colorado--or anywhere else in the country, so it only makes sense that people wanting to participate in elections should have to prove their citizenship when registering to vote,” Scheffel said. “I don’t think that’s too much to ensure only citizens vote in our elections."

Similar measures were defeated in the General Assembly last year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ethics Committee to Examine 'Vote Buying" Connected to May Replacement

A legislative ethics committee will investigate accusations that a lobbyist attempted to buy votes for one of the contenders to replace Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, as minority leader, according to a report in today's Rocky Mountain News.

The report, by the Rocky's statehouse reporter Ed Sealover, says that a professional association allegedly offered a campaign contribution in exchange for a vote for Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, as the new minority leader.

Sealover's article says that Balmer denied knowledge of any vote-buying effort.

It also explains that two separate ethics investigations are planned, one of a lobbyist and another of a House member.

May Says He'll Delay Retirement

Rep. Mike May surprised his colleagues at the Capitol today by saying he'll stick around awhile after all.

May, who announced last week that he'd retire before the start of the legislative session in January, said he'll delay his retirement due to unexplained interference in the process of choosing his successor as minority leader.

"Today I have made the difficult decision to temporarily delay my retirement from the House because of my sense of duty to the members of the Republican caucus," May, R-Parker, said in a statement. "With the possibility that outside influences may have attempted to interfere with the leadership election, and the reality of a delayed election, I do not feel that now would be an appropriate time to leave."

May did not elaborate.

"I will remain the representative of House District 44 and will continue to serve as minority leader until this situation has been resolved, as long as that may take," May said.

The House GOP caucus will have to meet sometime either before or after the start of the legislative session in January to work out the party's leadership in the chamber. May did not say how long he would stay or how long he expected that process to take.

Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, are jockeying to replace May as House Republican leader.

May was appointed minority leader in 2006 after his predecessor Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, resigned in the aftermath of a scandal relating to per diem payments.

Friday, December 12, 2008

House Minority Leader May Says He'll Retire

Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, said today he will retire from the legislature to focus on his hotel business.

May, the minority leader, was reelected by a wide margin in November.

“It has truly been an honor serving in the legislature, and serving as the Republican Leader these last few years,” May said. “However, as the owner of a company, I have an obligation to the families that work for me. It has become increasingly difficult to balance my duties at the statehouse with those of keeping my business running in these difficult economic times. This decision was one of the hardest I have ever had to make, but I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t think it was the right decision.”

The House Republican caucus will elect a new leader before the legislative session begins Jan. 7.

Contenders for the minority leader post are expected to include assistant minority leader David Balmer of Centennial, caucus chair Amy Stephens of Monument and minority whip Cory Gardner of Yuma.

Gov. Bill Ritter congratulated May on his service.

“I greatly appreciate Mike May’s service to the legislature and to the people of Colorado," Ritter said in a written statement. "We didn’t always agree on the issues, but I respect him and wish him and his business nothing but success in the future.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ritter Gives Obama Stimulus Suggestions

Gov. Bill Ritter has offered President-elect Barack Obama a list of suggestions for stimulus spending in Colorado next year, asking that the new administration in Washington, DC focus on transportation projects and energy infrastructure.

The governor included his ideas in a letter sent to Obama Dec. 9. Ritter specifically mentioned 112 highway projects costing $1.1 billion; 23 aviation projects costing $113 million; and 22 transit projects costing $144 million.

Ritter also asked Obama to push Congress to appropriate about $90 million to the U.S. Department of Energy's State Energy Program grants and to create a $10 billion energy retrofit program that would cover all types of structures. Ritter also suggested increases to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation block grant program, the federal fund that pays for weatherization projects and assistance to utilities to pay for transmission projects. He also recommended a variety of tax changes aimed at encouraging investment and research into renewable energy sources and facilities, including "clean coal" research.

"Colorado and the nation face significant economic challenges,” Ritter said. “But these challenges also create enormous opportunities. Colorado’s successes at building a New Energy Economy and creating new jobs can be a model for the nation. Through wise infrastructure investments, we can create jobs and hasten economic recovery in the short-term, and put the nation on a long-term path for growth that will allow us to compete and succeed on a global economic stage.”

Obama is expected to ask Congress for a large fiscal stimulus bill, possibly approaching as much as $ 1 trillion, shortly after his inauguration as President Jan. 20, 2009.

Soper, Court Vow to Push Mandatory CO Monitor Legislation

Two Democratic members of the House are promising to introduce a bill requiring all new homes and existing homes put up for sale have carbon monoxide monitors installed.

Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton, and Rep.-elect Lois Court, D-Denver, said at a news conference today that the recent deaths of Parker and Caroline Lofgren and their children Owen and Sophie due to carbon monoxide poisoning at a west slope cabin motivated their efforts.

“So many Coloradans knew and loved the Lofgrens and are so devastated by their deaths,” Court said. “I think the Lofgrens would be happy to see their community mobilized to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.”

The proposed legislation, which would be similar to one considered by the General Assembly in the 2008 session, would be called the "Lofgren Family Home Safety Act."

The Lofgren family lived in the district of outgoing House speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver. Court was elected to replace the term-limited Romanoff in November.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Scanlan to be Majority Whip

Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Summit County, will be the new majority whip of the House.

The announcement by incoming speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, is an effort by the Democratic majority to assure that its leadership team is representative of rural Colorado.

“I am proud to announce that our caucus has elected yet another smart, Western Colorado woman to a leadership post," Carroll said. "Rep. Scanlan has a deep and broad understanding of the issues that affect all Coloradans, especially education, forest health and transportation issues. Rep. Scanlan will help lead our caucus as we fight for the middle-class, for job creation, and for economic stability in Colorado. I am thrilled that she has joined our leadership team.”

Scanlan, who was appointed to the House in 2007 and elected to a full term in November, said that Democrats will focus on the economy in 2009.

“One thing should be clear: when this leadership team of men and women, Front Range and West Slope, lawyers and ranchers, comes together in January, we are going to spend every day working to create jobs, jobs and more jobs," she said. "As different as we are, that's our common goal: to strengthen this economy and get Coloradans working, creating a more stable economy for future years.”

Carroll was elected speaker in November after the leading candidate to replace current speaker Andrew Romanoff of Denver, Bernie Buescher of Grand Junction, lost his re-election bid.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Members of Committee on Job Creation & Economic Growth Announced

Senate president Peter Groff and House speaker-designate Terrance Carroll announced the members of the new Joint Committee on Job Creation & Economic Growth today, naming six Democrats and four Republicans to the panel.

The members include Senator Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass; Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver; Sen.-elect Rollie Heath, D-Boulder; Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield; Sen.-elect Mark Scheffel, R-Parker; Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton; Rep. Judy Solano, D-Thornton; Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West; Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs; and Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial.

Schwartz will be the chair of the committee.

Dems Create Joint Job Growth Committee

The Democratic leaders of both houses of the General Assembly will create a joint Job Growth and Economic Growth Committee to develop ways of strengthening Colorado's economy.

The committee is to develop possible legislative approaches to strengthening Colorado’s small businesses and non-profits, improve the state's infrastructure, expand its "New Energy Economy," and stimulate job growth in rural areas.

"Colorado can't wait for a future federal bailout," Sen. Peter Groff, the senate president, said. "We have serious issues to address right now, and it is up to us to find new ways to address these economic challenges."

Carroll said that he and Groff moved to establish the committee because they expect economic conditions to worsen.

“The national economic forecast is bleak; economic indicators suggest the U.S. faces a potentially deep recession,” Carroll, the speaker-designate of the House, said. “Colorado, with its diversified economy and well-trained workforce, has fared better than the nation as a whole. But our state is not immune to those forces driving the economic downturn."

The committee, which will have ten senators and representatives drawn from both parties among its members, will make recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

Colorado's economy appears to be performing, at least in some ways, better than the national economy. The state has experienced 26 consecutive months of job growth and its unemployment rate is nearly one full percentage point lower than the national rate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Senate GOP Leader Makes Committee Assignments

New senate minority leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, announced committee appointments today, assigning conservative members of his caucus to the chamber's principal economic policy-making bodies.

The appointments are:

Business Affairs, Labor & Technology Committee: Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker. Scheffel is a new senator.

Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy Committee: Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray; Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch; Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas.

Finance Committee: Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray; Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker. King, a veteran of the house of representatives, is new to the senate.

Judiciary Committee: Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley; senator to be appointed in district 15 to replace Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins. Johnson was elected to the Larimer County Commission this month and is leaving the senate.

Education Committee: Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton; Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial. Spence is a veteran of the committee and a leading GOP voice on education issues.

Local Government Committee: Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas; SD-15 replacement.

State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee: Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs.

Health and Human Services Committee: Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield; Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs; SD-15 replacement.

Transportation Committee: Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton; Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley; Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial.

Joint Budget Committee: Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.

Appropriations Committee: Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch; Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton; Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.

Audit Committee: Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield; Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ritter Announces Trade Mission to Far East

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that 40 Colorado business, economic-development and research leaders will travel with him to Japan and China later this month to encourage new business and investment opportunities that will bring long-term benefits to Colorado’s economy.

The delegation will leave Colorado Nov. 15 and return Nov. 25. The members will visit Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai, meeting with business and government leaders in an effort to build long-term business relationships and cultivate investment leads.

“This economic-development mission will allow Colorado to showcase many of our strengths, including Colorado’s New Energy Economy and our achievements in the research and development of new solar, wind and biofuel technologies,” Gov. Ritter said. “The mission also will highlight our bioscience, technology and tourism sectors, and create new opportunities for Colorado companies to build sales and expand into new markets.”

The mission's goals include promotion of a daily nonstop Denver-to-Tokyo flight by Nippon Airways, encouragement of Asian participation and investment in Ritter's "New Energy Economy" initiative, and promotion of Colorado’s bioscience and technology sectors.

The business leaders and Ritter will also try to convince two Japanese educational institutions to create a new "Center for Environmental Medicine" along with Colorado State University.

“This mission is the culmination of the first year of what will be a multi-year strategy to increase our trade and presence in Asia,” said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “To be successful in the Asian market requires patience, commitment and repetition.”

The Metro Denver Economic Development Council, Denver International Airport and the state's tourism industry launched a campaign earlier this year called Ascent to Asia that aims to secure and support nonstop service between Denver and Tokyo. Over the past 13 months, economic-development officials have made three other trips to Japan to work on securing a new flight.

“The governor’s economic development mission to Japan and China will provide an important boost to DIA’s efforts to secure a nonstop flight between Denver and Tokyo,” Kim Day, DIA’s manager of aviation, said. “Although this is a long-term process, the governor’s support will ensure that Denver and Colorado remain visible in the Japanese market.”

CSU’s acting president emphasized the importance of progress toward creating the CSU Center for Environmental Medicine.

“This unique center will play a crucial role in educating businesses and bringing together government agencies to better agree on and monitor health and safety product standards," CSU interim president Tony Frank said. "It also will provide tomorrow’s environmental health leaders with one-of-a-kind international experiences.”

Japan is Colorado's fourth-largest export market, with 2007 exports to Japan totaling $359 million. Leading 2007 export categories included medical and scientific instruments, up more than 54 percent to $98 million; meat and meat products, up 164 percent to $63 million; and industrial machinery, $55 million.

China overtook Japan as Colorado’s third-largest export market in 2006. The state's exports to China last year totaled $488 million. Important export commodities in 2007included electrical machinery, $96 million; base metal and cermets, up 45 percent from the previous year to $93 million; and medical and scientific instruments, $73 million.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dem Leadership Team Announced

House Democrats, in addition to electing a new speaker, chose the other members of the majority caucus leadership team today. The group includes four new faces.

Rep. Paul Weissman of Louisville, who will start his last term in the House in January, will be majority leader.

The assistant majority leader will be Rep. Andy Kerr of Lakewood, while the majority caucus chair will be Aurora's Karen Middleton.

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, returns to the leadership team as majority whip, assisted by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins.

The assistant caucus chair is newly-elected Rep. Sal Pace of Pueblo.

The speaker-to-be of the 67th General Assembly, Rep. Terrance Carroll of Denver, said he expects the Democrats' leadership team to "hit the ground running."

“We have lawyers, cowboys, teachers, ranchers and engineers in our caucus, and we have members that hail from every part of the state,” Carroll said. “Together, we really look like Colorado and we truly understand the economic struggles Coloradans face. As the new speaker, I hope to draw on that diversity and tap the talent of every member in our caucus.”

Penry to Lead Senate Republicans

The leader of the Senate's Republicans in 2009 will present a big contrast to its current leader, at least in terms of age.

Sen. Josh Penry of Grand Junction, who is in his early 30s, will replace the retiring Andy McElhany of Colorado Springs, who is well into his 60s.

The election of Penry as the new senate minority leader occurred at a senate GOP caucus meeting today, where Republicans also elected Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray as assistant minority leader, re-elected Sen. Mike Kopp of Littleton as caucus chair, and selected veteran Sen. Nancy Spence of Centennial as GOP whip.

Penry took note of the difficult economic situation likely to face the General Assembly when it convenes in January after his selection as the new senate minority leader.

"A lot of heavy lifting awaits the General Assembly in January, and the public expects both parties to come together and get to work on issues like the economy, transportation and the budget," Penry said.

He also said he would reach out to Democrats and Gov. Bill Ritter.

"Especially after such an acrimonious campaign season, Coloradans are fed up with petty politics and endless squabbling," Penry said. "They'd like us to be adults, do our jobs and make government work."

But other members of the new GOP leadership team in the senate pointed out that the party must remain true to its principles.

"We are the last line of defense for taxpayers and business owners," Spence said.

Republican senators also chose Sen.-elect Al White of Hayden to fill a slot on the joint budget committee.

Ritter Names Committee to Help Choose New Secretary of State

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed today a committee aimed at assisting him in choosing a replacement for Secretary of State Mike Coffman.

The committee, which will have seven members, will review applications submitted by Nov. 17 and recommend three finalists to the governor in December.

"It’s one of the most important positions in state government," Ritter said. "This selection committee will provide a broad spectrum of insights, perspectives and guidance as we select a replacement for departing Secretary Mike Coffman.”

Committee members include:

- Frank Daniels, former district attorney for the 21st Judicial District in Mesa County. Daniel served as district attorney from 1993 to 2005. He currently works in private practice and runs a small business in Grand Junction.

- Tom Downey, president of the Children’s Museum of Denver. Downey is an attorney who has worked in both the public and private sectors. He is the current chair of the board of the Colorado Nonprofit Association.

- Scott Doyle, Larimer County clerk and recorder. Doyle began his tenure with the county in 1995. He was chief deputy clerk and recorder from October 2000 until his election as clerk and recorder in November 2002, creating and first utilizing the Vote Center concept in 2003. He was re-elected clerk and recorder in November 2006.

- Sandy Gutierrez, president and CEO of the Pueblo Latino Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves on Gov. Ritter’s Jobs Cabinet and is the vice chair of the Pueblo Human Relations Commission, which she helped co-found.

- Rico Munn, executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Prior to becoming executive director in January 2007, Munn was a private-practice litigation attorney. He served on the State Board of Education from 2003 to 2007.

- Carol Snyder, former Adams County clerk and recorder. Snyder served on the Northglenn City Council for three years and in the Colorado House of Representatives from January 1991 to January 1999. She is currently the Adams County public trustee.

- Geoff Wilson, general counsel for the Colorado Municipal League. Wilson helps draft legislation and represents the league before the state legislature, state agencies and the courts on matters affecting municipalities. He has been with the league since 1987.

Coffman, a Republican, was elected to represent Colorado's 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 4. He previously served as state treasurer and as a member of the General Assembly.

Terrance Carroll is New House Speaker

Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, was chosen as the new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives today.

Carroll, who served as assistant majority leader this past session, will be the first African-American speaker in the state's history.

The slot opens up when Rep. Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, and the speaker since January 2005, leaves the house in early January. Romanoff is term-limited.

Observers originally believed that Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, would be the next speaker. However, Buescher was defeated in his bid for re-election Tuesday.

Carroll joins Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, as a legislative trailblazer in the Centennial State. Groff, chosen as senate president last January, is the first African-American to hold that legislative post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dems Increase State Senate Majority

Democrats grew their majority in the state senate Tuesday as they picked up one seat and held off several strong challenges to seats they held in the 66th General Assembly.

Businesswoman Linda Newell of Littleton held off former GOP Rep. Lauri Clapp for the District 26 seat being vacated by Sen. Steve Ward, R-Littleton. At the time of this writing Newell was leading by less than 100 votes out of more than 53,000 cast in the district.

Meanwhile, state school board member Evie Hudak held off Republican Libby Szabo for the Jefferson County seat now held by Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, and Rep. Morgan Carroll of Aurora defeated Suzanne Andrews. That District 29 seat is now held by Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora.

In addition, Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, beat the GOP's Robert Hadfield in District 29 and Democrat Joyce Foster outran Republican Robert Lane in District 35.

Republicans didn't pick up any seats in the senate but several new GOP members will arrive in January. They include Mark Scheffel of Parker in District 4,
Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, in District 8, and former Rep. and house majority leader Keith King of Colorado Springs in District 12.

The GOP's Shawn Mitchell held off a spirited challenge from Democrat Joe Whitcomb to hold on to his Broomfield-area seat.

Dems Hold House Majority; Buescher Loses

Democrats held on to their majority in the state House of Representatives Tuesday, but face the next session without the man many predicted would be the next speaker.

Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, conceded defeat to the GOP's Laura Bradford.

Buescher, the powerful joint budget committee chairman and the man most observers expected to replace term-limited Rep. Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, as speaker in January, was losing by less than 600 votes out of more than 34,000 cast, according to a report in the Denver Post.

Democrats picked up a seat in usually-Republican Colorado Springs, with Dennis Apuan defeating Kit Roupe in District 17.

Republicans also regained the District 40 seat, which is being vacated by term-limited Rep. Debbie Stafford. Stafford was a Republican until changing her party affiliation to Democratic before the 2008 legislative session.

Cindy Acree accumulated nearly 59 percent of the vote in dispatching Karen Wilde.

The GOP also picked up the District 30 seat. Republican Kevin Priola defeated Democrat Dave Rose.

Other new faces in the House include Democrat Lois Court in District 6, Beth McCann in District 8, Joe Miklosi in District 9, Dickey Hullinghorst in District 10, Sue Schafer in District 24, Su Ryden in District 36, Sal Pace in District 46, and Edward Vigil in District 62. New representatives also include Republicans Mark Waller in District 15, Cheri Gerou in District 25, Carole Murray in District 45, Randy Baumgardner in District 57 and Scott Tipton in District 58.

The Democrats net loss was 2 seats. They will have a 38-27 majority when the 67th General Assembly convenes in January.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

OGCC Completes Consideration of New Extraction Rules

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has completed its consideration of expansive new rules governing energy extraction activities in the state and will decide whether to adopt them in December.

According to a Rocky Mountain News report,

In the last phase of deliberations Sunday and Monday, the nine-member Oil and Gas Conservation Commission weighed proposed regulations to better handle and store waste products from drilling operations.

Commissioners will consider formal approval of the new rules Dec. 9-11.

The reworked rules are designed to better protect the environment, public health and local communities from the impacts on air, water, wildlife and lifestyle from oil and gas drilling.

Industry officials have heavily criticized the new rules, saying they could add costly delays to new energy development. But state officials say they have made numerous compromises to address operator concerns as part of their effort to balance an energy boom in the state with quality of life.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Suthers Says Colorado Joins "Operation Clean Sweep"

Colorado attorney general John Suthers today announced that his office would participate in a joint effort with the Federal Trade Commission and 22 other states to root out unlawful credit repair practices in 33 businesses nationwide.

As part of the operation, called "Operation Clean Sweep," the state has entered into settlement agreements with two Colorado credit service organizations.

“Especially in today’s credit market, gaining and maintaining good credit is an increasingly important part of financial stability,” Suthers said. “Unfortunately, several disreputable businesses prey on consumers whose credit is less-than ideal, and we will continue to hold them accountable for their deception.”

Suthers has settled cases involving Aurora’s Integrity Credit Fix, Inc., and My Purchase Power, LLC, located in Northglenn. Each company charged fees prior to the completion of their services and failed to provide all required disclosures. Both companies have agreed to stop violating the Colorado Credit Services Organization Act (CSOA).

A dozen other investigations are ongoing.

Credit repair companies typically claim they can erase or repair bad credit. These claims are particularly popular during times of economic hardship when consumers are most vulnerable. Despite these representations, no entity can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and Colorado Consumer Credit Reporting Act allow credit bureaus to report accurate negative information for seven years, and bankruptcies for ten years.

Ritter, Kennedy Say Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Are Available for Higher Ed Construction

Gov. Bill Ritter and state treasurer Cary Kennedy are expected to announce today that the state's colleges and universities will have more than $200 million available for 12 construction projects.

The state raised the money through sales of "Certificates of Participation" Wednesday and today.

The construction projects, authorized by SB 08-218, SB 08-233 and HJR 08-1042, are:

1. University of Northern Colorado: Butler-Hancock Renovation

2. Colorado Northwestern Community College: Academic Building, Craig Campus

3. Colorado State University at Pueblo: Academic Resources Center Remodel

4. Colorado School of Mines: Brown Hall Addition

5. CSU Fort Collins: Clark Building Revitalization

6. Auraria Higher Education Campus: Science Building

7. Western State College: Taylor Hall Renovation and Addition

8. Mesa State College: Wubben Hall Expansion and Renovation

9. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs: Renovation of Science Building

10. Morgan Community College: Nursing, Technology & Science Building

11. Front Range Community College, Larimer Campus: Science Classroom Project

12. Fort Lewis College: Berndt Hall Reconstruction

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ritter: No Performance Pay for State Employees

Gov. Bill Ritter had bad news for state employees today.

The state's chief executive announced today that he will recommend to the General Assembly's Joint Budget Committee in November that state employees not receive performance-pay salary increases in FY 2009.

The move would save taxpayers $36 million and affect more than 26,000 state employees.

“By withholding performance-pay increases, tens of thousands of state employees are being asked to help serve as responsible stewards of taxpayer funds," Ritter said. "This is a pro-active and precautionary step that will give us even greater flexibility should we need to take additional budget-saving measures down the road.”

Performance-pay increases, first initiated in FY 2002, are based on employees’ on-the-job achievements. They supplement more standard salary increases that are based on market surveys.

Prior to FY 2002 state employees received annual pay increases based on the market surveys plus an automatic five percent increase after five years of service and another five percent increase after 10 years of service.

Since their inception performance pay increases have not been granted for budgetary reasons in fiscal years 2003, 2005 and 2006. In the years that performance-based pay increases were granted, they have ranged from one-half of one percent to five percent. Salary-survey-based pay increases have ranged from 2-3.8 percent during the past few years.

Ritter’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting estimates a general fund savings of $21 million, plus another $15 million from outside the general fund, by forgoing performance-based pay increases in FY 2009, which starts July 1, 2009.

The governor's proposed FY 2009 budget proposal is scheduled to be submitted to the Joint Budget Committee on Nov. 1.

Ritter Says Colorado Capitol Building is LEED-Certified

Gov. Bill Ritter put a feather in his renewable energy cap today, announcing that the Colorado capitol building has become the first such building in the United States to obtain certification for "leadership in energy and environmental design for existing buildings" which is awarded for energy efficiency upgrades made over the past four years.

The capitol, which was constructed in 1895, also has become the first building in the country to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s new LEED operations and maintenance certification for existing buildings.

“Even with historic structures as old as our Capitol, we have become a leader in energy reduction and energy efficiency," Ritter said. "Not only does this benefit the environment, but we will save taxpayers $1 million a year on reduced and avoided energy costs.”

The LEED certification system provides an outline for buildings to use less energy, water and natural resources, and improve the indoor environment.

“This recognition couldn’t come at a better time for Colorado. It allows us to showcase the efforts of a state that is committed to the future of a sustainable built environment,” U.S. Green Building Council president and chief executive officer Rick Fedrizzi said.

The LEED-EB certification is awarded to those who can certify an existing building has been retrofitted in a manner that demonstrates certain efficiency standards for its ongoing operations and maintenance.

In addition to the Capitol, three other state buildings in the Capitol Complex previously received "LEED for Existing Buildings" certifications: the State Services Building at 1525 Sherman St., the state Judicial/Heritage Center at 14th and Broadway, and the State Human Services Building at 1575 Sherman St.

The Governor’s Residence and the Colorado Division of Labor and Employment building at 251 E. 12th Ave. are also under review for LEED certification.

Building specific improvements that have been made to the Capitol in order to obtain LEED-EB certification include water conservation efforts such as low flow toilets, use of low energy light bulbs and T-8 light fixtures, improved energy controls, use of green cleaning products, initiation and maintenance of a recycling program, purchase of "Energy Star®" electronics and equipment, and use of environmentally friendly landscaping products and plans.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ritter Announces Energy Grants

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced the first recipients of the “New Energy Communities Initiative,” deciding to fund 14 projects around the state that his administration thinks will "stimulate economic growth, create new jobs, enhance sustainability and lead to more livable communities all across Colorado."

“The New Energy Communities Initiative will be a valuable resource for communities that are working together to build Colorado’s New Energy Economy,” Ritter said during a keynote address at the second annual New Energy Economy Conference at the Colorado Convention Center. “These 14 projects will enhance livability, strengthen the economy and reward regional collaboration throughout Colorado.”

The 14 grant recipients, representing regional and collaborative efforts, were selected from 32 applications. About 1.8 million people live in the areas that will benefit from these projects. The projects are:

1. Avon Heat Recovery Facility: $1.5 million

2. Boulder County Biomass Heating Initiative: $500,000

3. Cortez Micro-Hydroelectric Plant: $500,000

4. Fort Collins Regional New Energy Communities Initiative: $778,000

5. Garfield County New Energy Communities Initiative: $1.6 million

6. Grand Junction New Energy Communities Initiative: $1 million

7. Greeley Intergovernmental New Energy Communities Initiative: $700,000

8. La Plata County Regional New Energy Communities Initiative: $1.2 million

9. Longmont New Energy Communities Initiative: $500,000

10. Loveland Multi-Agency New Energy Communities Initiative: $39,250

11. Pikes Peak Region New Energy Communities Initiative: $200,000

12. Pueblo Sustainable New Energy Communities Initiative: $1 million

13. Routt County New Energy Communities Initiative: $87,000

14. Yuma County New Energy Communities Initiative: $400,000

"The New Energy Communities Initiative provides an energy and economic stimulus that rewards communities throughout Colorado for innovative ideas that will save energy, save money and create jobs,” Governor's Energy Office director Tom Plant said.

Gov. Ritter announced the establishment of the New Energy Communities Initiative at the Colorado Municipal League’s annual conference in Steamboat Springs in June. The initiative is a joint effort of Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Governor's Energy Office. It is designed to maximize energy efficiency and conservation, enhance community livability, promote economic development, and address climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

The program directs $10 million in Energy Impact Assistance Funds to regional efforts, with a maximum of $2 million per region.

“These grants will help local communities upgrade, retrofit or develop energy efficient public facilities, enhance street-scape improvements and downtown revitalization, and assist local governments’ efforts to educate homeowners on energy efficient upgrades and retrofits to meet higher energy efficiency standards,” Susan Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Department of Local Affairs, said.

The Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance program assists communities in offsetting the direct impacts of energy and mineral development and in meeting other needs indirectly related to such development. The funds are administered by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and come from the state severance tax on oil, gas, carbon dioxide, coal and metals and from the state's share of royalties paid to the federal government for the extraction of minerals and mineral fuels on federally owned land.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Romanoff Wins Prestigious Award for Public Service

Colorado's House speaker, Denver Democrat Andrew Romanoff, is one of the government leaders around the nation that have been named among the winners of Governing magazine's Public Official of the Year awards for 2008.

The award is given in recognition of "outstanding achievement in state and local government," according to a press release.

“These public officials each asked tough questions, and when they had their answers, they weren’t afraid to act," Alan Ehrenhalt, the magazine's executive editor, said. "Their leadership has led to unexpected progress—from reduced blight on foreclosed properties to the exoneration of inmates who were wrongly convicted to the removal of unsafe cold medicines from the shelves. These officials prove that by asking sometimes painful questions, smart, dedicated people can change government for the better.”

According to a press release issued by the magazine, Romanoff is being recognized because he "built a bipartisan coalition to take on the politically risky task of overhauling a constitutional provision that was crippling the state budget."

He is joined in receiving the award by St. Petersburg, FL Mayor Rick Baker, who spearheaded a building boom in his city’s downtown while improving schools, parks and public facilities in neighborhoods throughout St. Petersburg; Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who championed landmark infrastructure and health care legislation, while improving the management of state government and putting his state on a sound fiscal footing; Dallas County, TX district attorney Craig Watkins, whose push for DNA testing identified and freed 19 inmates who had been wrongly convicted, many of whom had been behind bars for years; Baltimore, MD, health director Joshua Sharfstein, who led a national campaign that called into question the safety and effectiveness of children’s cold medicines, prompting drug companies to pull the medications and resulting in new Food and Drug Administration rules; Hawaii's director of human services Lillian Koller, who overhauled her state’s system of dealing with at-risk children, cutting child abuse and reducing the number of children in foster care; Dayton, OH housing inspector John Carter, who untangled the webs of the mortgage services industry to determine which lending companies had the title to vacant properties, then worked with these companies to fix and maintain the abandoned homes; and Michigan chief information security officer Dan Lohrmann, whose pioneering efforts to keep state computers and networks secure are viewed as a model by technology officials around the country.

The award winners are profiled in the November issue of Governing and will be honored at a dinner November 12 in Washington, D.C.

This year’s group of recipients is the fifteenth to be honored by the magazine. Governing is an independent national magazine devoted to coverage of state and local government. It has a circulation of 85,000 state and local officials.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ritter Tells Coffman He Should Clarify that Voter Deadline is Election Day

Gov. Bill Ritter today urged Secretary of State Mike Coffman to immediately correct an error Coffman’s office made regarding the deadline for fixing an incomplete voter registration application. The deadline is actually Nov. 4 (Election Day), not Oct. 6 as previously announced by Coffman.

Ritter also asked Coffman to cooperate with the administration in seeking an expansion of early voting opportunities in counties across the state.

“We are less than one month away from an election in which record numbers of people will seek to cast their ballots in Colorado and across the nation,” Ritter said. “We must do everything we can to ensure Colorado is in full compliance with all provisions of the Help America Vote Act, that voters are not being improperly purged from the voting rolls, and that eligible and qualified citizens are not being improperly denied the ability to register to vote.”

The text of Ritter's letter is available here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kennedy: State Investments are Safe

In the aftermath of turmoil on Wall Street and in the nation's credit markets, Colorado treasurer Cary Kennedy is insisting that the state's money is not at risk.

Colorado has almost $7 billion in investment holdings.

“The most important thing for people to know is that our first priority is protecting the safety of taxpayer funds,” Kennedy said. “We take a highly conservative approach in our investments. Our exposure to the ups and downs of the market is limited.”

Kennedy said that the state had not realized any losses up to this point, and that she was continuing to monitor both the national and the local economic situation.

“The state does not invest in equities, therefore we’re more insulated when the markets rise and fall," Kennedy said. “What we’re going through now in our financial markets is unprecedented, but we are as strongly protected as possible.”

Specifically, Kennedy said that the Treasury did not have holdings of asset-backed commercial paper or structured investment vehicles.

“We do not hold collateralized debt obligations (“CDOs”), and we are not holding money market funds that are in trouble,” she said.

The state treasurer, a Democrat elected in 2006, also explained that Colorado had no equity stakes in companies such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch. About one half of one percent of the state’s investment holdings is in two subsidiaries of AIG.

In December 2007 Kennedy discontinued the state’s securities lending program due to concerns she had about the market’s direction.

“Our analysis last December showed it wasn’t worth the risk to continue the program, so we stopped it,” she said.

Kennedy also put the state’s investment holdings online as one of her first acts after taking office. “Transparency is the best way for people to have confidence in what we hold,” said Kennedy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Stafford Again Calls for Licensure of Funeral Homes

Rep. Debbie Stafford, D-Aurora, signaled today that she believes the General Assembly should try again in 2009 to impose license requirements on the state's funeral homes.

Stafford, who has pushed similar legislation in recent years, thinks consumers are being bilked by too many "shady" funeral practices.

“I am appalled that Colorado is the only state that does not license Funeral Directors and Cremationists," Stafford said. "Would-be regulators continue to throw Coloradans under the hearse by denying that we have a serious problem and with virtually no one looking over the shoulders of those who serve our families at the time of death.”

“My sources tell me that some funeral homes have not seen a state investigator for over 40 years. Consumers need protection from the shady practices of some mortuaries."

Stafford said she has heard of incidents in which crematoriums have had "unrefrigerated bodies left out for days."

State regulators say there is no licensure law to give them the authority to regulate, but have also opposed bills requiring funeral directors and cremationists to be trained and licensed.

The Attorney General's office filed charges this week against “The Neptune Society,” and Arvada funeral operation, for failure to properly place funds received from over 5,000 pre-need sales into a trust as required by Colorado law. Neptune faces $50,000 in fines and five counts including a violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ritter to Host Drought and Climate Change Conference

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today he will be hosting a 2½-day conference that will examine proactive measures to manage the effects of drought and climate change in Colorado.

Sponsored by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the Governor’s Conference on Managing Drought and Climate Risk will address drought risk, impacts and preparedness. It will be held Oct. 8-10 at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver.

“Colorado is fortunate to enjoy abundant natural resources, and as a headwater state in a semi-arid environment we constantly face critical water-resource challenges,” Ritter said. “The issues of drought and climate risk are becoming increasingly important. It is imperative that we develop a thorough scientific understanding of climate risk and its potential effects and impacts.

“This conference will help water providers, manager and planners from the public and private sectors prepare for the effects of drought and climate change by sharing the latest research, lessons and best practices.”

The governor will be on hand to help open the conference at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 8.

In addition to drought risk and impacts, experts will address drought early warning, preparedness and mitigation planning, proactive adaptation measures and needed improvements for managing the impacts of climate change.

Colorado’s comprehensive State Drought Plan will also be discussed, said Veva Deheza, section chief of the CWCB’s Office of Conservation and Drought Planning.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Judicial Branch Imposes Hiring Freeze, Too

The Colorado Judicial Branch today announced that it, too, will reduce spending this fiscal year by imposing a statewide hiring freeze.

Judicial Branch managers will be permitted to finalize the hiring process only if a candidate has been offered and accepted a position by Oct. 3. Positions determined to have a direct and immediate effect on public safety, or the effective operation of the courts, may be approved for hire on an individual basis.

“As one of the three co-equal branches of government, we are always mindful of the need to ensure taxpayers’ funds are used in the most effective and efficient manner possible,” Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey said. “Careful stewardship of those funds, particularly with thought to the future, becomes even more important in these difficult economic times."

The freeze takes effect Oct. 3.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ritter Announces Hiring Freeze, Halted Projects to Save State Dollars

Facing a budget shortfall of several hundred million dollars, Gov. Bill Ritter today announced several steps, including a hiring freeze, to reduce state spending.

The announcement comes on the heels of a recent Office of Legislative Council forecast that projects the state would bring in about $300 million less in revenues than expected when the current fiscal year budget was approved last spring.

“These are uncertain economic times,” Gov. Ritter said. “Colorado is not immune from what’s happening around us. We must be prudent and we must be thoughtful in our planning. We must take steps now to ensure we have options should state revenues begin to dramatically decline.”

The announcement, which came in a press release from the governor's office, said his administration would:

1. Impose an executive branch hiring freeze for the Executive Branch effective Oct. 1. The freeze does not apply to personnel involved in the protection of the "health, life and safety" of Coloradans.

2. Ask colleges and universities and state agencies to delay new construction of state-funded projects through January 31, 2009.

3. Ask the state Department of Education to delay grants to school districts for full-day kindergarten capital construction projects.

4. Order department heads to scrutinize their budgets for additional savings and work with their employees to identify other money-saving ideas and strategies.

“I am taking these steps as a prudent, conservative and responsible contingency plan,” Ritter said. “Colorado's overall economy is doing far better than the national economy. But as the president said last night, the national economy has not faced such dire trouble in generations. At this challenging time, we must take thoughtful steps to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure that we are able to provide essential services.”

GOP legislators had challenged Ritter to impose a hiring freeze earlier this week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Republicans Want End to State Hiring

Legislative Republicans again leaped on the political opportunity provided by a recent pessimistic economic forecast, calling on Gov. Bill Ritter to suspend all hiring by state agencies.

The comments by members of the capitol's GOP caucuses follows the release earlier this week of an economic forecast by the Office of Legislative Council, which shows that the state will have about $300 million less in revenue this fiscal year than had been anticipated when the annual budget was adopted by the General Assembly last spring.

"Republicans voted against the budget because it was flat-out irresponsible to hire new government employees during tenuous economic times," said Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita. "Every dollar the governor spends growing government payroll is a dollar that will be cut from higher education, transportation or health care programs."

Other Republicans pointed out the precedent set by former Gov. Bill Owens.

"We've been down this road before, and Gov. Owens took bold steps during the interim to put the brakes on government spending," Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said.

About 2,500 people have been added to the state payroll since Ritter became governor, according to a GOP news release.

Spokespersons for the Senate and House Democratic caucuses or for the governor were not available to comment on the GOP request for a hiring freeze.

Ritter Again Pleads for Halt to Commercial Oil Shale Authorizations

Gov. Bill Ritter objected today to the White House’s latest efforts to advance commercial oil-shale development in Colorado, arguing that recent regulatory changes by the U.S. Department of Interior are "premature and irresponsible."

President George W. Bush has blocked the continuation of a funding restriction on the issuance of commercial oil shale leasing regulations. The funding restriction expires Sept. 30.

“I urge you and your administration to partner with states like Colorado," Ritter wrote to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. "Work with us, not against us, and together we can meet this nation’s energy needs and craft a responsible energy future for America.”

The text of the letter can be found here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ritter Calls for Caution on Oil Shale Program

Gov. Bill Ritter asked the Bush Administration to slow down its commercial oil shale leasing program today, criticizing the federal government's ongoing efforts as being insufficiently protective of Colorado's environment.

In a letter to the director of the Bureau of Land Management, Ritter argued that issuance of permits that would allow companies to begin extraction activities is premature.

"I am concerned that the Department of the Interior is proceeding in this Administration’s waning days with premature regulations that would establish a commercial leasing program for oil shale, despite the fact that neither the Department nor the industry has a clear understanding of which oil shale technologies will prove viable and what the associated costs and impacts will be," Ritter wrote. "Until these and other vitally important questions are answered, it is impossible to develop regulations that contain appropriate protections for the environment, appropriate royalty rates to ensure a fair return to the state and federal treasuries, and a financial safety net for communities."

The governor did say that he is not against oil shale development, but made the case that too little is known about how to obtain and use the resource in an economically viable and environmentally sensitive manner.

Northwest Colorado is home to extraordinary oil shale resources, among the richest in the world, yielding 25 gallons of oil or more per ton of rock. The area is estimated to hold nearly 500 billion barrels of proven oil shale reserves, more than double the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. Successful development of this resource could provide a substantial new source of domestic oil for the United States, which would have positive implications for our national energy policy and national security.

However, I believe strongly that the state and federal government must be thorough and thoughtful in our approach to oil shale, especially in light of the magnitude of such development. If the Department of the Interior were to authorize a commercial oil shale industry in Colorado, the development would constitute the largest industrial development in the State’s history -- with enormous implications for all of Northwest Colorado and for the State itself.

Though remarkable, Colorado’s oil shale resources have remained in the ground since their discovery over a hundred years ago. Past development attempts have failed due to a number of challenges -- technical, economic, and environmental -- that have yet to be overcome, notwithstanding billions of dollars invested by both government and industry.

Ritter asked BLM to refrain from issuing any final regulations until Colorado's concerns are adequately addressed.

Ritter Announces NSF Grants to Universities

Gov. Bill Ritter today joined officials and researchers from the University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines to announce $16.5 million in six-year National Science Foundation research grants through NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program.

The School of Mines will receive $9.3 million to establish a new Center, which will focus on investigating emerging renewable energy materials and technologies. It will be the first NSF-funded Center dedicated solely to renewable energy.

CU-Boulder will receive $7.2 million to continue and expand work at its existing Liquid Crystals Research Center. This will be the third round of NSF funding for the Center. Founded in 1995, the Center has spun off six different companies, and its research is contributing to a number of different fields, including better liquid crystals for solar panels and the origins of DNA.

“These grants will help us address the enormous energy challenges that face our state, our country and our planet,” Ritter said. “There are only 26 Centers around the country, so for Colorado to receive two multimillion grants is an incredible achievement. It recognizes the cutting-edge science and advanced-technology research being done here."

The director of the National Science Foundation expressed confidence that the money would facilitate research that is important to providing for the country's energy needs.

“I have full confidence that these two Centers will advance our understanding of basic materials science, address the energy challenges that face our nation and the world, and train the next generation of scientists and engineers on how to solve the complex problems of the future,” Dr. Arden Bement said.

The Colorado Higher Education Competitive Research Authority played a key role in providing state matching funds for each grant. This research authority was created by SB 07-182, sponsored by Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, and Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, to provide the state’s research institutions with matching funds so they can compete effectively for major federal grants that require such state support.

Bacon and Pommer joined Ritter at today’s news conference along with CU President Bruce Benson and School of Mines President Bill Scoggins.

Senate GOP Crows Over 3Q Revenue Forecast

Republicans at the statehouse took the opportunity afforded by a somewhat pessimistic third quarter revenue forecast to criticize Democrats' budget policies today, knocking the majority party for launching a "runaway train of spending."

The GOP's main complaint is the loss of more than $200 million that would have gone to highways. A recent report from the Office of Legislative Council indicates that only about $28 million left over from last fiscal year will be available for that purpose this year.

"We tried and tried to get them to not spend every dime that was forecast," said Senate GOP leader Andy McElhany of Colorado Springs. "We saw the gathering storm of recession, but they didn't see a cloud on the horizon."

No spokesperson for the Democratic caucuses in the House or Senate was available to comment on the Republican legislators' accusations.

Guv Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Powers

Gov. Bill Ritter today ordered the lowering of U.S. and Colorado flags to half-staff on all Colorado state government buildings on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, to honor former senate president Ray Powers of Colorado Springs.

Powers died Friday. He was 79.

Powers served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1979 to 1980, and in the Senate from 1981 to 2000. He was senate president his final two years.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ritter: 3rd Quarter Economic Forecast is Less Optimistic

Gov. Bill Ritter’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting released a third quarter economic and revenue forecast today, projecting a downturn in stat revenues.

According to the estimate, state general fund and cash fund revenues will rise, but by about $100 million less than anticipated in June. The governor's office now says that the state's coffers will grow by about $10.5 billion for FY 2008-2009. If accurate, this would be a 5.3 percent increase from FY 2007-2008.

“Colorado's economy continues to hang in there despite the instability at the national level,” Todd Saliman, director of Ritter’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, said. “Our revenue forecast includes a downturn, but that downturn is moderated by strength in tourism, renewable energy, traditional energy and biosciences.”

The document says that Ritter's administration expects sales and other excise tax revenue to remain stable, with approximately four percent growth expected. Ritter predicts that severance taxes charged on natural gas extraction in the state will increase despite drops in the price of natural gas. The estimate for FY 2008-09 of $303.3 million represents a 78.4 percent increase ($133.2 million) over FY 2007-08 severance tax collections.

Colorado's ability to benefit from Referendum C is expected to decline, according to Ritter. The state is projected to retain $6.1 billion from fiscal 2005-06 through 2009-10. The $314.3 million decrease in this figure from last quarter is, according to Saliman's office, largely attributable to the compounding impact of a 0.7 percent increase in the Denver-Boulder-Greeley inflation estimate for 2008 (projected to equal 3.7 percent).

The inflation rate in the Denver metro area determines the TABOR limit and therefore the excess revenue collected under Referendum C.

The governor's economic forecast paints a rosy picture of the state's foreclosure situation, arguing that Colorado's real estate market is "substantially stronger" than the rest of the U.S.

"According to the Standard & Poors/Case-Shiller index, Denver’s real estate market is one of the strongest of any major metropolitan area of the country," says a press release issued by the governor's office. "In addition, real estate continues to be strong on the Western Slope in response to the continuing influx of oil and gas workers."

The forecast also maintains that Colorado is "experiencing lower unemployment, greater job growth, and slower inflation than the nation is overall."

Ritter predicts that Coloradans will see higher personal income growth and higher employment growth, accompanied by less inflation and a lower unemployment rate, relative to the rest of the nation this year.

The four-year forecast period covers the current fiscal year (2008-09) through fiscal year 2011-12.

Ritter Appoints 3rd, 18th District Judges

Gov. Bill Ritter today appointed new judges in the 18th Judicial District and the 3rd Judicial District.

The governor named Kurt Allen Horton to the District Court bench in the 18th Judicial District and Gary Robert Stork to the Huerfano County Court bench in the 3rd Judicial District.

Horton, of Greenwood Village, is currently of counsel with White & Steele, where his litigation practice emphasizes legal malpractice defense, civil commercial litigation and insurance issues. He has been with White & Steel since 1989 and his expertise includes real estate, secured financing, banking and insurance law.

He previously has served as senior vice president and general counsel with Silverado Banking Savings and Loan and as an associate at Hughes & Dorsey.

Horton earned his bachelors degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1976 and his law degree from the University of Denver in 1980.

The 18th Judicial District serves Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties.

Stork, of Walsenburg, recently retired as deputy district attorney for the 3rd Judicial District, which serves Huerfano and Las Animas counties. He previously served as district attorney for the 16th Judicial District from 1983 to 2005; that district serves Otero, Bent and Crowley counties.

He received his bachelors degree from Pasadena Nazarene College in 1969 and his law degree from the University of Denver in 1974.

Both appointments are effective Jan. 13, 2009, and will fill vacancies caused by judicial retirements. The appointments are for a provisional terms of two years, and then until the second Tuesday in January following the next general election.

Thereafter, if retained by the voters, the term for a district court judge is six years and the term for a county court judge is four years.

The current salary for a district court judge is $128,598. A county judge receives $123,067 per year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Haynes Named to Higher Ed Commission

Gov. Bill Ritter has appointed Allegra “Happy” Haynes of Denver to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Haynes is currently Denver Public Schools superintendent Michael Bennet's assistant for community partnerships. She served on the Denver City Council from 1990 to 2003 and as council president from 1998 to 2000. She was Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s liaison to the council from 2003 to 2005.

Haynes is on the boards of directors for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Stapleton Development Corporation and the Foundation for Educational Excellence.

She is a 1971 graduate of Denver’s East High School. Haynes earned her bachelors degree in political science from Barnard College at Columbia University in 1975 and her masters degree in public affairs from the University of Colorado in 2002.

Ritter appointed Haynes to a term expiring July 1, 2010.

Appointments to the 11-member Colorado Commission on Higher Education require Senate confirmation.

The commission sets policies for all state-supported institutions of higher learning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ritter Says Feds Give State Disaster Money for Farmers

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that the federal government has approved a secretarial disaster designation for dozens of Colorado counties that sustained agriculture losses due to drought and freezes earlier this year.

“Colorado farmers and ranchers hit hard by difficult weather conditions will now be able to receive federal aid,” Ritter said. “Colorado’s agricultural community is a vital part of this state’s economy, and this can be an important tool during this difficult time.”

Ritter is also expected to seek a disaster designation for six counties for hail, drought and snow: Alamosa, Larimer, Pueblo and Saguache (for hail); Fremont (for drought); and Custer (for excessive snow).

The news came in a letter from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer.

Ritter Asks US Department of Agriculture for Forest Funds

Gov. Bill Ritter is asking the Bush Administration for millions of dollars to fight Colorado's pine beetle infestation and to pay for wildfire prevention efforts.

The request comes in the form of a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, asking the department to award up to three long-term, 10-year forest-restoration contracts to private vendors in Colorado.

The department currently awards only short-term stewardship contracts, but Colorado’s new Forest Health Advisory Council says vendors require the stability of longer-term contracts.

The Governor’s letter follows passage of SJR 08-010, which requests that the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Colorado State Forest Service work together to identify and implement up to three long-term stewardship contracts.

SJR 08-010 was sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, and Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Summit County.

“A broad spectrum of stakeholders agrees that long-term stewardship contracts are an effective tool for bridging the gap between collaboratively identified forest management priorities and the lack of resources and/or industry to accomplish them,” Ritter said. “This is an example of how we can maximize funds to keep our forests healthy and protect our communities.”

The governor's letter is here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scanlan Briefs Interim Committee on DC Discussions About Bark Beetle Funds

Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Summit County, told an interim wildfire prevention committee of the General Assembly Monday that Congress is likely to support additional funding needed to combat the bark beetle infestation of the state's forests.

The committee agreed, after her presentation, to push for legislative adoption of range of proposals aimed at combating the bug attacks.

“The committee definitely gets it, and I am thrilled to have its full backing as we move forward” Scanlan said. “We cannot afford to have a New Orleans situation, where everyone just sits on their hands until something terrible happens.”

Among the ideas the committee will explore is obtaining Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to fight the epidemic. Colorado is not currently eligible to receive pre-disaster FEMA funding. The committee will request Colorado’s congressional delegation to examine whether it’s possible to secure FEMA pre-disaster funding that can be used on federal lands impacted by the bark beetle infestation.

The committee also reviewed 11 legislative proposals to reduce the threat of wildfire to state. Many of the proposals are specifically intended to help combat the bark beetle threat.

The committee endorsed seven of the 11 proposals, so Coloradans can expect to see a range of bills addressing everything from expanding incentives for harvesting bark beetle-affected timber to increasing grants for emergency wildfire mitigation.

Scanlan, who vice-chairs the state interim committee on wildfires, was in Washington last week seeking assistance to combat the fast-moving pine beetle epidemic.

New Judge Appointed in Arapahoe County

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced the appointment of an 18th Judicial District magistrate as an Arapahoe County Court judge.

Addison Lloyd Adams of Aurora has been a magistrate for 10 years. The 18th district covers Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. Adams has generally handled a domestic relations docket while on that court.

Prior to entering judicial service, Adams was a partner in the Adams & Post Law Partnership, a trial attorney and public defender in Arapahoe, Adams and Denver counties, a solo practitioner, and an assistant attorney general.

He received his bachelors degree from the University of Colorado in 1974, an M.A. degree from the University of Denver in 1979, his law degree from DU in 1979 and a masters degree in social work from DU in 1993.

The appointment is effective Jan. 13, 2009 and is for a provisional term of two years. Adams would have to win a retention election to hold the seat beyond early January 2011.

The current salary for a County Court judge is $123,067.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

State Board of Ed Announces 2009 Legislative Priorities

The Colorado State Board of Education today announced its priorities for the 2009 session of the General Assembly, focusing on ways to stabilize and increase funding and improve data gathering and analysis.

The priorities are:

1. Efforts to improve the "long-term financial stability" of education funding and develop a "comprehensive school finance solution";

2. Additional funding to improve the state Department of Education's data and information systems and personnel, with a goal of fostering "efficient data sharing";

3. Revisions of the required format for the annual School Accountability Report and changes to the state's school accreditation provisions to reconcile public reporting and actions required by these state accountability provisions and those mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act;

4. Continued funding for implementation of "proven, evidence-based programs and strategies for closing the achievement gap";

5. Expansion of "effective dropout prevention and recovery strategies";

6. Completion of a thorough review of model content standards prior to the adoption of any new statewide assessment tools;

7. Continued development and oversight of high-quality online programs, schools of choice, and other educational innovations to ensure strong student results;

8. Increased access to early childhood education and family literacy programs; and

9. Increases in the state's Permanent Fund, maximization of trust income, exemption of school trust land revenues from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ritter Says State to Get Grant to Help With Renewable Energy Transformation

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has been selected to receive a $397,700 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance renewable energy in Colorado.

GEO will use the grant to develop technical, financial and policy frameworks to expedite the construction of an additional 1,000 megawatts of renewable resource capacity onto the Colorado electricity grid.

“This DOE grant is another important step forward for Colorado’s New Energy Economy,” Ritter said. “It will help us connect Colorado’s abundant solar and wind resources to our transmission grid."

The objectives of the nine-month grant are to prepare a set of concrete policy recommendations that will:

(1) directly address major permitting, siting and environmental barriers to the integration of renewable energy development and transmission expansion;

(2) connect several gigawatts of renewable energy from the 10 Renewable Resource Generation Development Areas identified in a 2007 “mapping” report conducted for the governor’s office and state legislature;

(3) support both regulated and public utilities to expand the current level of planned transmission investments to the Generation Development Areas; and

(4) be replicable in other states to substantially expand and create an aggregated, regional, renewable energy market.

One thousand megawatts of renewable energy will provide enough power to serve 330,000 homes.

The governor's office did not indicate when the federal grant would actually be received by the state.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Scanlan to DC to Talk Bark Beetles

West Slope Rep. Christine Scanlan (D-Summit County) is headed to the nation's capital to argue for more money to help Colorado fight the bark beetle epidemic that is killing large numbers of coniferous trees in the state's high elevation forests.

There is growing evidence that the bark beetle problem could spread across the west if not effectively addressed. Some experts have said that dead tree stands pose a threat of devastating wildfire and create hazards sufficient to jeopardize the region’s vital infrastructure.

“We’ve worked very hard the last two years to educate the public about the bark beetle scourge and to address the problem as best we can with our limited resources,” Scanlan said at a press conference in Keystone on Sunday. “We’ve been as creative as possible. But at some point duct tape just isn’t enough. Congress needs to supply the hammer and nails.”

Scanlan, who vice-chairs the state interim committee on wildfires, will be meeting with members of Congress and the U.S. Forest service next week in support of a request for additional resources to mitigate the bark beetle emergency.

Scanlan will join Rick Cables, Chief Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region, and Jeff Jahnke, the Colorado State Forester and Director of the Colorado State Forest Service in Washington.

At the request of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Cables compiled an estimate detailing the funding needed to address the bark beetle emergency more aggressively. He estimates millions of dollars are needed to mitigate the threat to human life, property and to protect vital infrastructure and resources, including the power grid and various watersheds. Additional resources will be applied to treating affected areas by quarantining and removing diseased and dead trees as quickly as possible.

The mountain pine beetle infestation, which is expected to last for another 3 to 5 years, is already having a devastating impact: 1.5 million acres are already affected. 38 recreation sites remained closed this summer because of the infestation and 3,500 miles of roads and additional 950 miles of trails are under threat of closure.

During the previous two years, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have worked to pass a variety of measures expanding mitigation and protecting Colorado’s watersheds and infrastructure through quarantine and deforestation efforts. The legislature has also created incentives to encourage industry to take advantage of the additional volume created by the epidemic.

The pine beetle epidemic is expected to kill nearly all the lodgepole pine covering 2.2 million acres in the region. The infestation of the insects, which are not dying in winter because temperatures in recent years are not as cold as they have historically been, has moved to lower elevations in the past year and now threatens Colorado’s ponderosa pine forests.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ritter Criticizes Federal EIS on Oil Shale Development

Gov. Bill Ritter criticized the final environmental impact statement issued by the U.S. Department of Interior in connection with proposed oil shale development in the state today, saying the program is inconsistent with Colorado's commitment to renewable energy and that the Bush Administration is not cooperating with his administration.

"The Bush Administration is engaging in last-minute maneuvering in its waning days rather than developing a comprehensive, meaningful and responsible long-term energy policy for America’s future," Ritter said. "Finalizing an Environmental Impact Statement without any clear understanding of the environmental, community, economic and energy impacts of commercial-scale oil shale development is irresponsible, short-sighted and premature."

Ritter emphasized that his administration is not opposed to all energy development.

“As the national debate over America’s energy future continues, we must be clear that Colorado is committed to helping meet America’s energy needs," Ritter said. "We are issuing about 35 new oil and gas drilling permits a day. We are building a New Energy Economy that is bringing thousands of new jobs to Colorado. And our research institutions are developing cutting-edge, new energy technologies."

“But with the Department of Interior’s action today, the federal government has once again failed to act as a responsible partner for Colorado. This does nothing to address gas prices at the pump today and has the potential to do much more harm than good.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ritter Orders Flags Lowered to Honor Slain Prosecutor

Gov. Bill Ritter today ordered U.S. and Colorado flags lowered to half-staff across the state on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008, to honor the death of prosecutor Sean May.

May’s funeral is set for 11 a.m. Thursday in the Temple Buell Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

May, 37, was killed Aug. 27 outside his Denver home. He was a chief trial deputy in the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which serves Adams and Broomfield counties. He worked for the DA’s Office for seven years.

His wife, Corin, is pregnant with their first child. Donations may be made to the Sean May Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank branch.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

AG Sues U.S. Department of Defense on Behalf of DPHE

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today filed suit in U.S. District Court requesting the court require the U.S. Department of Defense, its Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment Program and the Department of the Army to treat and destroy chemical weapons stored at the Pueblo Chemical Depot by Dec. 31, 2017.

The lawsuit comes after the respondents notified the state of their intention to appeal an Administrative Order issued by the state on June 17, 2008.

The lawsuit requests the court grant the same remedies as were indicated in the order. The state’s order called for the destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile by Dec. 31, 2017, four years earlier than the Department of Defense’s current proposed date of Dec. 31, 2021. The order also required that secondary waste currently stored under a separate permit be treated and destroyed by the same date of Dec. 31, 2017.

“Given recurring delays by the Department of Defense for completing treatment and destruction of these wastes, the division is seeking an enforceable schedule for their timely treatment," Gary Baughman, director of the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division at the state Department of Public Health and Environment,
said. "We believe the 2017 deadline is more than reasonable to complete treatment and
destruction of the chemical weapons.”

The order and the lawsuit both require the military to file a chemical waste treatment plan within 60 days of the effective date of the final decision.

This plan will describe the methods to be used to treat and destroy all hazardous waste weapons and other agent wastes at the Pueblo Chemical Depot.

A chemical waste treatment plan also requires a complete project schedule depicting the tasks required for the destruction of the wastes by Dec. 31, 2017. Some of these tasks then could be designated by DPHE as enforceable milestones in the waste treatment plan.

The chemical weapons contain mustard agent, an acutely toxic hazardous waste causing severe skin and lung inflammation, which is known to cause cancer and birth defects.

Long-term storage of hazardous waste is prohibited under state hazardous waste regulations, except when additional quantities of the waste are required to facilitate proper treatment or when an alternate schedule for its treatment is in place under a compliance order.

According to the compliance order, the mustard agent-filled weapons are not being stored for the purpose of accumulating adequate quantities for appropriate treatment, as the Pueblo Chemical Depot currently stores hundreds of thousands of waste chemical weapons at the site.

In 2002, the Department of Defense decided to destroy weapons at the Pueblo Depot by chemically neutralizing the mustard agent and then biologically treating the resulting waste. A contractor was selected to design and build the facility, the first phase of Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant permitting was completed, and construction of the plant was scheduled to begin. Under the initial design and operating plans for the facility, destruction of the chemical weapons
would have been completed by April 29, 2012.

However, in the fall of 2004 the Department of Defense terminated the design and construction plans for the facility and ordered that the facility be redesigned to meet a lower cost estimate. The contractor subsequently redesigned the facility to the lower cost estimate in 2005 and provided the Department of Defense with an implementation schedule to complete weapons destruction in nine years.

Despite previous security and safety concerns related to long-term storage of the weapons in Pueblo, the Department of Defense lengthened the time for completing weapons destruction in order to cut costs. Current Department of Defense-generated treatment schedules for destruction of the mustard weapons at the Pueblo Chemical Depot extend out as far as 2021.

State health department representatives have been working with the Army and Defense Department to bring storage of the chemical weapons in the stockpile into compliance with the regulations. The parties also have been working with the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives Program to design, construct and permit the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, where the chemical weapons will be treated.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Jones Appoints School Leadership Board

Colorado education commissioner Dwight Jones today appointed members of the new School Leadership Academy Board, which was created by the General Assembly in the 2008 session.

The legislation authorizing the board requires the state to put in place a "School Leadership Academy Program," including a principal academy that would aim to improve the recruitment, training and ongoing professional development of school leadership in the state.

“We know there is a direct relationship between the knowledge and skills of the school principal and the quality of the learning environment," Jones said. "The members of this board will oversee the development of an important new resource for current and future school leadership.”

The leadership academy board's function is to advise the state Department of Education in overseeing the leadership academy program. Fourteen members will be appointed. Those confirmed to date are:

* Lynn Rhodes, Dean of Education, University of Colorado at Denver
* Floyd Beard, Executive Director, East Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services
* Bruce Caughey, Deputy Executive Director, Colorado Association of School Executives
* Jim Eck, Senior Director, McCREL (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)
* Linda Barker, Director of Teaching and Learning, Colorado Education Association
* Jane Urschel, Deputy Executive Director, Colorado Association of School Boards

Additional members will be appointed in the coming weeks.

The 14 board members will serve three-year terms. The board will set policies and procedures for the leadership academy program, monitor the program, define criteria for the department to use in selecting participants for the academy, determine curricular components of the program, and report annually to the Colorado State Board of Education.