Saturday, February 9, 2008

Adverse Possession Bill to Be Considered on Second Reading in House Monday

HB 1148, the bill that would make substantial changes to Colorado's law of adverse possession, will be taken up in the House on second reading Mon., Feb. 11.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, would make it much more difficult for a person to obtain title to another person's land under the doctrine of adverse possession.

A controversial Boulder case in 2007 drew attention to a perceived need to update the law of adverse possession in the state.

Net Metering Bill Final House Vote Postponed Again

The House again postponed a third and final vote on HB 1160, the bill that would require rural electric cooperatives to grant credit on the utility bill for home-generated renewable power.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Thornton, is now scheduled to be considered on third reading Mon., Feb. 11.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ritter, Lawmakers Introduce Consolidated State IT Department Bill

Flanked by a group of bipartisan legislators, Gov. Bill Ritter announced Friday the introduction of a bill that would consolidate all information technology operations of the state government in one office.

The bill, which does not have a number as of this writing, will be sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, and John P. Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and in the House by Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, and Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood. It has 74 co-sponsors already, according to a press release issued by Ritter's media relations office.

"Information technology is the backbone of how we deliver services to the people of Colorado," Ritter said. "But we have too many examples of under-performing and even failing computer systems. We have twice the number of computer servers we need. We have 38 data centers, when other states do just fine with two. We have a decentralized IT purchasing structure, when we should be maximizing our buying power instead of diffusing it."

The state has had a number of embarrassing information technology problems in recent years. During the administration of former Gov. Bill Owens (R), the state spent more than $300 million on a system that was supposed to handle a wide variety of government services. Workers managed to get the complicated software to do some of what it was supposed to do, but there were complaints from state employees that no one in senior levels of the executive branch would listen to their concerns about the computer problems.

Buescher said he was glad a solution to the state's oft-repeated and systemic computer problems is in the works but indicated he thinks it took too long.

"As a businessman, I never would have tolerated the discombobulated IT systems we endured for over a decade in this state," Buescher said. "I'm glad we're finally correcting it."

Introduction of the bill follows Ritter's issuance of an executive order in May that appointed a state IT officer and asked him to come up with recommendations for improving state government technology services.

Ward's Congressional Campaign Website Up and Running

In a sign that he's moving fast to get his campaign for Congress moving after returning from a combat tour in Iraq that ended less than two weeks ago, Sen. Steve Ward (R-Littleton) has put up his campaign website.

He's not alone. Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, Wil Armstrong and Secretary of State Mike Coffman also have their websites running at full speed.

All are competing to replace incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Littleton, as the Congressman for the 6th District.

To date we haven't found websites for any Democratic candidates running for the seat.

Republican Voter ID Bills Die Quickly

Two GOP bills aimed at forcing voters to present photo identification and prove U.S. citizenship before being allowed to cast a ballot died in a House committee Thursday.

HB 1039 and HB 1177 were killed on party-line votes in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

Republicans argued that the bills are needed to assure that only people entitled to vote do so. "The issue we're dealing with is the integrity of our voting system," Rep. Ken Summers, R-Lakewood, said.

But Democrats, including committee chair Paul Weissman, D-Louisville, said they thought the bills would disenfranchise people. The bills were "thinly veiled means of discouraging some people from going to their polling places, and would severely damage an already fragile system," Weissman said.

HB 1039 was sponsored by Summers, while HB 1177 was sponsored by Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.

House Ed Committee Kills Gardner Tuition Lock Bill

A bill by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, that would have required state colleges and universities to enter into fixed-tuition contracts with students died on a party-line vote in the House Education Committee Thursday.

HB 1152, which was sponsored in the Senate by Republican Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield, would have required students to maintain a 2.0 grade point average to get the benefits of the contract.

It would also have required students to maintain full-time enrollment and complete a two-year degree in two years, four-year degree in four years or a teaching degree in five years.

Committee Okays Cheap Textbooks Bill

The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved Thursday a bill that would require textbook publishers to disclose the price of textbooks to professors before the professor designates the books as required learning materials in college courses.

SB 73, which is sponsored by Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, and Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, was approved after a group of students from colleges up and down the Front Range spoke in support of it. Among those testifying in favor of the bill was Gov. Bill Ritter's son, August. The students reported paying between $600 and $700 per semester for textbooks.

The bill now goes to the House floor.

Ritter Signs Foster Kid Sibling Visit Bill

Gov. Bill Ritter signed the first bill of the session into law Thursday, approving a measure that guarantees foster children the right to have visits with their siblings.

HB 1003, which was suggested to its sponsors by a group of foster children, requires social service agencies to arrange the visits unless there is a reasonable basis to believe a visit would not be in the best interest of the foster child or his or her siblings.

"When it comes to foster care and foster children, we know from experience that permanence and connections to family can make a tremendous difference," Ritter said. "A sibling may be the only sense of permanence, safety or family that a foster child has. So when a foster child makes a request to see their brother or sister, we should listen and put it at the top of the priority list. It might seem like a little thing, but it's not."

There are about 6,800 children in foster care in Colorado.

Joining Ritter at the Capitol signing ceremony were two of the former foster children who provided the inspiration for the bill, 22-year-olds Tony Corley and Renee Manke.

Tony has four siblings and currently mentors children in foster care. Renee was placed in foster care at age 17 and lost contact with her younger sister. She plans on attending college this summer to get a degree in early childhood development and eventually become a kindergarten teacher.

HB 1006 was sponsored in the House by Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Golden, and in the Senate by Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver. It passed both chambers with unanimous bipartisan support.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Grocery Store Liquor Sales Bill Introduced in Senate

A bill that would permit grocery stores to sell full-strength beer and wine was introduced in the Senate Thursday.

According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, SB 149 includes the following features:

1. Grocers, convenience stores and discount retailers that sell groceries could sell full-strength beer and wine on six days of the week.

2. Liquor stores could sell non-perishable food items such as chips, dips and pretzels.

3. The current law allowing liquor store owners to own only one liquor store in the state would be liberalized, allowing them to own a maximum of three stores.

The text of the bill was not available on the General Assembly's website as of the time of this post.

Senate Education Committee Kills HS Exit Exam Bill

A Senate committee killed Wednesday a bill that would have required high school students who fail the 10th grade CSAP exam to take an "exit exam" in their junior year in order to graduate.

SB 61, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, was defeated in the Education Committee on a unanimous vote.

Adverse Possession Reform Bill Goes to House Floor

The bill aimed at toughening requirements to obtain title to land through the ancient doctrine of "adverse possession," a process that stirred controversy in Boulder last year, is on the way to consideration by the House after a committee approved it Wednesday.

HB 1148, which has broad bipartisan support, was inspired by the case of a Boulder couple who lost part of a parcel of land they planned to use for a retirement home to a former state judge and his politically active wife. The Boulder County district court that entered the order transferred ownership of the land from Don and Susie Kirlin to Richard McLean and Edith Stevens.

Colorado law has long held that a person can obtain title to another person's land if they occupy it continuously and openly for at least 18 years.

The bill would put in place a requirement that plaintiffs seeking a court order transferring title under the adverse possession doctrine prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that they believed in good faith that they owned the land and would authorize judges to require claimants to pay for the land in question.

The committee heard testimony from the Kirlins.

Bill sponsor Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, said that Colorado might have the most permissive adverse possession law in the country. He said that his bill would update the state's law to make it consistent with that in place in a number of other states.

The bill now goes to the House floor. HB 1148 is also sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder.

House Committee Kills "Make My Day Better" Bill

The House Judiciary Committee has killed a Republican bill aimed at expanding the state's "Make My Day" law allowing homeowners to use deadly force to deter unlawful entry.

HB 1066, sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, would have allowed business owners to shoot to kill any person who they believe has committed a crime or is in the process of committing a crime against person or property.

The bill, which was also introduced in the 2007 session, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch.

The vote to kill HB 1066 was close due to the absence of Reps. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and Debbie Stafford, D-Aurora, from the hearing. All five Democrats present at the hearing voted to postpone the bill indefinitely, while all of the GOP members of the committee voted to send it to the House floor.

Despite the unanimous Democratic opposition to the bill in committee, the measure did have a Democratic co-sponsor - Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West.

House GOP Women Criticize Liston Comment

Female members of the House GOP caucus issued a statement Thursday that criticized Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, for labeling pregnant teenage girls and the boys who have intercourse with them as "sluts."

The statement said:

"Words have a meaning, and we all have an obligation as public officials to be respectful of others.

"We appreciate the fact that Rep. Liston has accepted responsibility for his inappropriate and unacceptable comments.

"His unfortunate use of language distracted from an important caucus discussion of meaningful health care reform.

"Just as we each hold ourselves to a high standard, we also hold our colleagues to a high standard. This incident was unacceptable, and it is our hope that we can focus on the work that we have been sent here to do and to avoid such occurrences in the future."

Members of the House who signed the statement are Reps. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, Amy Stephens, R-Monument, Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, and Stella Garza-Hicks, R-Colorado Springs.

Solano Optimistic About Net Metering Bill

Rep. Judy Solano, D-Thornton, is optimistic that her bill to require municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives to provide "net metering" to customers generating their own power will get to the Governor.

"The hold-up is there's so many people working on this," Solano said in an interview with Colorado Capitol Journal this afternoon. She said that utilities, environmental groups and business organizations have been involved in negotiations on the bill.

Passage of the bill, HB 1160, in the house will be facilitated by the agreement with Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, to resolve concerns about those utilities' ability to recover certain costs, according to Solano.

"The agreement will be put in an amendment in the Senate," she said. "It's really a matter of timing."

HB 1160 faces a third and final vote in the House Friday. Solano said she is confident the bill has enough votes to move on to the Senate.

Net Metering Bill Final House Vote Put Off

The House put off Thursday a final vote on the bill that would create net metering requirements for the state's rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities

HB 1160 has already passed the House on second reading. A third and final vote in the chamber is now scheduled for tomorrow.

The sponsor is Rep. Judy Solano, D-Thornton.

Morgan Carroll's Spam Reduction Act Gets Committee Nod

The House Judiciary Committee approved the proposed "Spam Reduction Act" Wednesday, sending the bill aimed at lowering the volume of spam clogging Coloradans' email inboxes to the House floor.

HB 1178, sponsored by Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, criminalizes the sending of commercial email messages that are deceptive or unsolicited or which mask the identity of the true sender. It also grants limited immunity from civil lawsuits to internet service providers that protect account holders from receiving spam.

The bill now moves on the House floor.

Carroll has posted tips for consumers concerned about the spam on her website.

Wiretap Extension Bill Gets Final House OK

The House gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow state judges to grant indefinite extensions to wiretap authorizations.

HB 1130, sponsored by Rep. Stella Garza-Hicks, R-Colorado Springs, passed on a 43-20 vote.

The bill provides that state courts could grant law enforcement agencies unlimited extensions of orders allowing police to wiretap people or entities suspected of committing crimes.

Current law says that police can get an order allowing wiretapping for 30 days and have it extended once for an additional 30 days.

All of the "no" votes on the bill were cast by Democrats. However, nearly as many Democrats (18) voted for the bill as voted against it. Among those voting "yes" were:

Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada
Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction
Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver
Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Golden
Assistant Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder
Majority Leader Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder
Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver
Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West
Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs
Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster
Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield
Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton
Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon
Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton
Rep. Debbie Stafford, D-Aurora
Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora
Speaker Rep. Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Democrats Abel Tapia of Pueblo and John P. Morse of Colorado Springs.

Liston Publicly Labels Pregnant Teens "Sluts"

Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, said that young, unmarried women who become pregnant and the men or boys who have intercourse with them are "sluts" during a lunch caucus meeting with health care professionals Wednesday.

According to a report in The Gazette (Colorado Springs), Liston said that "In my parents’ day and age, they were sent away, they were shunned, they were called what they are. There was at least a sense of shame. There’s no sense of shame today. Society condones it. . . . I think it’s wrong. They’re sluts. And I don’t mean just the women. I mean the men, too."

The report goes on to quote Liston's El Paso County colleague, Rep. Stella Garza-Hicks, R-Colorado Springs, as being "disturbed" and "offended" by Liston's remarks.

According to The Gazette report, Liston later explained that he was trying to say that teens who can't afford the children to whom they become parents are able to turn to the government for financial help, which in his view contributes to the prevalence of teen pregnancy.

The Denver Post reported this morning that Liston apologized to Garza-Hicks after his wife expressed concern about his choice of words.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

4th Infantry License Plate Bill Moves On

A bill to create a special license plate honoring the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division has passed a House committee.

HB 1175 was approved by the Transportation & Energy Committee Monday, Feb. 4. It now moves on to the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Stella Garza-Hicks, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton.

Senate Committee Kills Employee Partnership Ban

A bill by Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, that would have overturned Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order allowing state employees to collectively bargain with the state government was killed in a Senate committee Wednesday.

The State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, on a party-line vote, rejected SB 86.

The bill's defeat means that both Republican initiatives aimed at Ritter's effort to improve state employee bargaining power have failed. A bill by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, to ban and criminalize strikes by all public employees in Colorado was killed by a House committee earlier in the session.

HB 1155 Headed to Ritter

The House agreed to Senate amendments to HB 1155, the bill that authorizes the Secretary of State to re-test electronic voting machines, Tuesday.

The bill is now on the way to Gov. Bill Ritter's desk.

Terrance Carroll New Dem Assistant Leader in House

Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, was elected by fellow House Democrats to be the chamber's Assistant Majority Leader Tuesday.

Carroll, who now chairs the Judiciary Committee, edged Rep. Paul Weissman, D-Louisville, in the race for the leadership slot.

House Democrats needed to choose a new Assistant Majority Leader after Rep. Michael Garcia, D-Aurora, resigned earlier in the week.

Rep. Morgan Carroll to Seek Senate Seat

Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, announced this week that she'll seek the Senate seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, next January.

Carroll, who is the House Majority Caucus chair, was not expected to seek to move over to the Senate until former Rep. Michael Garcia, D-Aurora, suddenly resigned earlier in the week after being accused by a lobbyist of making unwelcome sexual advances.

Su Ryden, an Aurora businesswoman, is expected to seek the Democratic nomination for Carroll's house seat.

REA Energy Efficiency Bill Gets Committee Nod

The House Transportation & Energy Committee approved Tuesday a bill that will require the state's rural electric cooperatives to set aside money for energy efficiency programs.

HB 1107, sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, would force the cooperatives to set aside a portion of their revenues for the purpose of helping their customers conserve energy.

The bill provides that the set-aside is not required in any year in which the revenues earned by a cooperative decline from the previous year. It applies only to cooperatives that serve at least 5,000 customers.

The amount of revenue required to be devoted to energy efficiency promotion is one percent in 2009 and two percent in subsequent years. Expenses that would be considered related to promotion of energy efficiency would include program planning, administration, marketing, technical assistance, consumer education, rebates and other financial incentives and evaluation costs related to program design and implementation.

All five Republicans on the committee opposed the bill, while all Democrats supported it.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Net Metering Bill Passes House on 2d Reading

The bill that would require rural electric cooperatives to grant customers generating renewable energy a credit on their utility bill has been given a preliminary okay by the House.

HB 1160, sponsored by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, passed Tuesday after Solano and Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, reached a compromise to resolve differences between HB 1160 and a competing bill sponsored by Isgar.

The deal will allow the rural electric cooperatives to charge customers for expenses related to installation and maintenance of facilities needed to generate and transmit power.

Solano's bill also limits the amount of power for which net metering benefits must be given by the cooperatives. The monthly limit is 10 kilowatts for homes and 25 kilowatts for farms and businesses.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dissection Alternative Bill Fails in House

The bill by Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Arvada, that would have required public schools to provide alternatives to dissection for students objecting to eviscerating an animal has been killed in the House.

HB 1149 died on a voice vote on its first reading by the House after being endorsed by the Education Committee.