Friday, February 1, 2008

Rep. Garcia Resigns

Rep. Michael Garcia, D-Aurora, resigned from the House today.

Garcia had been accused by a lobbyist of exposing himself to her and then making an indecent proposition at a Denver bar. The accusation was made public in the Denver Post yesterday.

Garcia's name was not called during roll call this morning and his name on the electronic tally board had been taped over.

His resignation letter was read on the floor of the House this morning.

Garcia, who was the Assistant Majority Leader, was in his fourth and final term in the House. He had been expected to run for the Senate seat now held by term-limited Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dem Strike Bill on Way to Senate

The House gave final approval Wednesday to the Democratic bill aimed at preventing strikes by state employees.

HB 1189, sponsored by Rep. Jim Riesberg, passed over the "no" votes of 10 Democrats and two Republicans.

The bill had received preliminary approval in the House Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Foster Child Sibling Visit Bill Goes to Governor

The Senate gave final passage today to HB 1006, which guarantees children in foster care the right to have visits with their siblings.

The bill sailed through both chambers of the General Assembly and now heads back to the House to consider a Senate amendment before it can go to Gov. Bill Ritter.

Ritter hasn't publicly said whether he will sign it. However, there has not been any indication of opposition from the administration.

Electronic Vote Machine Re-Test Bill Moves On

The bill allowing Secretary of State Mike Coffman would be able to re-test electronic voting machines passed a Senate committee Monday, continuing its fast track to the Governor.

HB 1155 would not change the standards set by current law for recertification of electronic voting machines. Instead, it would open the door for county elections administrators to be involved in testing of the machines. That, in turn, would permit the Secretary of State to consider their procedures and experience when deciding whether the machines produce results that are accurate and secure.

The State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee amended the bill to make clear that re-certified machines could be used only in elections conducted in 2008 and 2009before they would have to be tested again.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, and David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Sens. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, and Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, now moves to the Senate floor.

10th Circuit Upholds State's Smoking Ban

A federal appeals court upheld Colorado's smoking ban today, rejecting arguments that exempting a smoking area at Denver International Airport violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

The case, Coalition for Equal Rights, Inc. v. Ritter, was filed by a coalition of owners of owners of bars, bowling alleys and other establishments at which smoking was traditionally permitted.

In the opinion, a judge wrote that "the State of Colorado has offered a rational basis for its distinction between airport smoking concessions and the establishments owned, operated and or serviced by plaintiffs." The opinion further says that DIA smokers "have no options as to where they can smoke because they have no real opportunity or ability to travel to a location outside the DIA area."

The opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed an earlier decision by a federal district court in Denver.

House Committee Hears Net Metering Bill Today

The House Transportation and Energy Committee will take up HB 1160 this afternoon.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Thornton, would force utilities to grant homeowners who generate renewable energy credit on their electric bills.

The hearing is set to begin at 1:30 pm.

Senate Gives Preliminary Approval to Foster Child Sibling Visit Bill

The Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that requires social services agencies in Colorado to permit foster children visits with their siblings.

HB 1006 passed by consent on second reading, meaning there was no opposition to the bill. It faces one more reading in the Senate and then goes to the Governor, where it may become the first bill enacted into law this session.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Golden, and Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver.

Senate Republicans Oppose Family Planning Pilot Program

The Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to a bill that orders the state to set an income threshold for participation in the state's family planning pilot program, but nearly all of the Republicans in the chamber voted "no."

SB 003, sponsored by Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, passed 23-11, with only Sens. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, and Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, joining the majority Democrats in support.

The bill would allow the executive branch to set a percentage of poverty level as the amount of income needed to participate in the Medicaid-based program.

Republicans on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee had earlier opposed then bill, indicating concern that the funds could be used to pay for abortions.

The program does not cover abortion-related costs. Both the Colorado constitution and federal law preclude use of Medicaid money to pay for abortions.

Senate Beats Back GOP Effort to Disregard Increased Revenues Generated by Levy Freeze

Yesterday the Senate defeated a Republican amendment to a budget resolution that would have forced the legislature to disregard the revenues generated by the mill levy freeze approved by the General Assembly last year.

SJR 004 was a routine matter, one of the first steps taken by the legislature to begin writing a budget for 2008-2009.

However, Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, introduced an amendment that would direct the legislature to disregard increased tax revenues generated by the mill levy freeze enacted by SB07-199. Brophy's rationale was that the constitutional validity of the mill levy freeze bill is being litigated.

His amendment went down, 21-13. All Democrats opposed it, as did Republican Steve Johnson of Fort Collins. The "no" votes were from the other Republicans in the chamber, with the exception of Steve Ward of Littleton. Ward, a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, is on active duty in Iraq.

State Reptile Bill Gets Final House Passage

The bill to designate the Western painted turtle as Colorado's state reptile got final approval in the House yesterday, though not without nine "no" votes.

HB 1017, sponsored by Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, is the product of an effort by children in Adams County who noticed Colorado is one of 25 states that has not designated an official reptile.

The vote on final House passage was 56-9, with the following representatives opposed:

Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs
Cory Gardner, R-Yuma
Steve King, R-Grand Junction
Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs
Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs
Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling
Debbie Stafford, D-Aurora
Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial
Al White, R-Hayden

HB 1017 now moves over to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Democrat Jennifer Viega of Denver.

Democrats' Anti-Strike Bill Gets Preliminary OK in House

HB 1189, the Democratic majority's bill to ban strikes by state workers, passed the House on second reading this morning.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Fort Collins, makes striking by a state worker a misdemeanor. It does not explicitly give state courts the power to enjoin state worker strikes.

That omission is one of the reasons Republicans oppose it. During the debate this morning, Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, said the bill "does not have any teeth."

Gardner introduced several amendments to the bill, including one that would allow state courts to block strikes by state workers and another that would increase existing penalties against striking state workers. Both failed.

"We have laws on the books already to adequately handle the situation," Riesberg said.

The bill faces a third reading vote in the House before moving on to the Senate.