Friday, February 29, 2008

House Panel Okays Sunday Liquor Sales Bill

A House committee approved Thursday a bill that would open the door to Sunday sales of liquor in Colorado.

The vote was 8-3. The committee rejected as out of order an amendment by assistant minority leader David Balmer, R-Centennial, that would have permitted convenience stores to sell full-strength beer.

Under current law grocery stores can sell 3.2 beer.

Several convenience store owners testified in opposition to SB 82.

The bill now moves to the House floor. It has already passed the Senate.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Study: Colorado 4th Highest Prison Spender in U.S.

A new study shows that Colorado spends a higher percentage of public money on prisons that 46 other states.

The study, conducted by the Pew Center on the States, says that Colorado spends 8.8 percent of its general fund revenues on corrections. Oregon, Florida and Vermont are the only states that spend a higher proportion of revenues on corrections than does the Centennial State.

The study also concluded that Colorado spends 78 cents on corrections for every dollar the state spends on higher education and that Colorado spent more than a half-billion dollars on prisons in 2006.

Levy's Juvenile Justice Bill Up for First Vote by House Friday

A bill that opens the door for more juveniles to be charged with crimes directly in juvenile court, and reduces the ability of prosecutors to compel trial in adult court, will be considered by the House Friday.

HB 1208 is sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder.

School Nutrition Bill Clears Senate

A bill that would require the state's school districts and charter schools to sell only those beverages that meet science-based, nationally-recognized nutritional standards gained final approval by the Senate Thursday.

SB 129, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, is an attempt to combat childhood obesity. The bill would direct the state Board of Education and the Charter School Institute to set rules establishing what nutritious beverages can be sold on campuses.

If enacted, the bill's provisions would go into effect for the 2008-2009 school year. Its terms would cover sale of beverages after regular school hours, such as when students are engaged in extracurricular activities. It would apply to sales of beverages in school cafeterias, vending machines, school stores and at fundraising activities conducted on school campuses.

The bill passed on a 20-13 vote, with Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, the only Republican in support. All Democratic Senators, except Paula Sandoval of Denver, voted for the bill. Sandoval and Republican Nancy Spence of Centennial were absent, though Spence voted against the bill in committee.

Bruce Again Says "No" To Honoring Public Servants

This morning the House approved SJR 12, which commemorates the 47th anniversary of the Peace Corps. After it was approved by voice vote, sponsor Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, asked that the entire roll call of the House be listed as co-sponsors.

Among those refusing to agree to co-sponsor the resolution was Rep. Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs.

This is the second time in the past several weeks that Bruce has declined to support or co-sponsor a resolution honoring those who serve the nation. On Feb. 13 he declined to vote for or co-sponsor a resolution honoring active duty members and veterans of the armed forces.

The only other two members of the House to decline to be listed as co-sponsors of the resolution were Rep. Joel Judd, D-Denver, and Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.

Link to Recent Radio Profile of Speaker Romanoff

We forgot to post a link to the Feb. 13 radio-broadcast profile of House speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver. The profile, prepared by Bente Birkeland, shows a bit of the fourth-term representative's personal life and includes some discussion of his future plans.

Mitchell Comment Sets Off Minor Tempest

A statement by Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, during debate Thursday on a bill adjusting the cap on damages available in medical malpractice cases appears to have set off a minor controversy among some observers of Colorado politics.

Mitchell, who was responding to statements in support of the measure by Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, at one point said to Senate president Peter Groff, D-Denver, "you all look the same to me."

Groff is African-American.

Mitchell said in a comment posted on ColoradoPols that he "made a quick jab at absurd humor and said, 'Well, they all look alike to me,' referring to Democratic leadership."

Groff has not, thus far, expressed any irritation, disappointment or other indication that he took offense to the exchange. Nor has any other Democrat at the statehouse expressed concern that Mitchell meant to offend Groff or make a racially insensitive statement.

The audio record of the debate indicates that Mitchell's meaning was innocuous.

Dem Strike Ban Bill Gets Past Senate Committee

A Democratic bill that would forbid state workers from going on strike was approved by a Senate committee Wednesday.

HB 1189 was sent to the full Senate on a 4-1 vote of the State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

The bill does not make the act of going on strike a felony, as Republicans would prefer. Instead, it makes it a misdemeanor.

Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, was the sole member of the committee to vote against the bill.

Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, are the sponsors of the bill.

Ban on HOA Restrictions of Energy-Saving Devices Clears House

A bill that would forbid homeowners associations from enforcing covenants that prohibit energy-saving devices such as solar panels and retractable clotheslines gained final approval in the House Wednesday.

HB 1270, sponsored by Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, would also apply to wind-electric generators (turbines), structures that provide shade such as an awning or trellis, shutters, garage and attic fans, energy-efficient outdoor lighting facilities and evaporative coolers.

The bill retains HOA's ability to regulate the aesthetics of such devices, including their placement.

However, in the case of energy-generation devices such as solar panels and wind turbines, the bill makes clear that such restrictions are void if they "significantly increase its purchase price or operating costs" or "significantly decrease its performance or efficiency."

In the case of other energy-saving devices the bill specifies that HOA restrictions must take into account the "impact on purchase price and operating costs" and the "impact on performance."

There were 20 "no" votes on the bill, all cast by Republicans. Joining the chamber's Democrats in support were Reps. David Balmer, R-Centennial, Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, Stella Garza-Hicks, R-Colorado Springs, Ray Rose, R-Montrose, and Al White, R-Hayden.

Bioscience Promotion Bill Heads to Senate

The House gave final passage Wednesday to a bill aimed at promoting the state's biotechnology sector.

HB 1001 would open the door to state funding of early stage biotech research. The bill proposes to provide "bioscience discovery evaluation" grants by means of lottery proceeds.

The maximum grant amount would be $250,000, depending on the applicant's particular circumstances.

The bill was approved on a 52-13 vote, with 12 Republicans and Democrat Paul Weissman of Louisville voting "no."

Bill Ending LLC Campaign Finance Loophole Passes House

A bill that would close a loophole in the state's campaign finance law, which allows limited liability companies to be used as a means of avoiding contribution limits, was given final passage by the House Wednesday.

HB 1233 was approved on a 39-26 vote. Interestingly, Democrats Morgan Carroll of Aurora, Terrance Carroll of Denver and Liane "Buffie" McFadyen of Pueblo West joined all but two of the chamber's Republicans in opposing the bill.

Reps. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, and Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, were the only GOP members of the House voting to approve the bill.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Levy's Energy Efficiency Bill Squeaks Through House

A bill by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, that would require municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives to set aside a percentage of their revenues to encourage and promote energy conservation barely won final passage in the House Wednesday.

HB 1107 was approved on a 33-32 vote.

The "no" votes came from every Republican representative plus Democrats Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, Rafael Lorenzo Gallegos of Antonito, Mary Hodge of Brighton, Cheri Jahn of Golden, Wes McKinley of Walsh, John Soper of Thornton and Debbie Stafford of Aurora.

Breastfeeding Rights Bill On Way to Senate

The House gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would require employers to set aside time and space for their employees who are mothers of infants to breastfeed.

The bill would also require employers to accommodate an employees' desire to pump breastmilk.

HB 1276 passed on a 59-6 vote. Those voting "no" included Reps. Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Glenn Vaad, R-Mead.

The sponsor of the bill is Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood.

New Voter Registration Numbers Show GOP Lead Faltering

The Republican party, which has long been the dominant bloc of voters in Colorado, continues to see its lead in percentage of voters registered as a member decline.

According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, the latest statewide voter registration numbers show that unaffiliated voters are rapidly gaining on the GOP. Registered Republicans now make up 34.8 percent of the state's electorate, while independents comprise 34.4 percent and the Democratic Party has 30.4 percent of registered voters.

The margin of GOP voters over independent voters declined by 2,000 people in one month. In addition, during the month prior to publication of the latest registration data Democrats gained 5,000 new voters, 4,000 people registered as unaffiliated voters, and the Republicans gained 2,000 new voters.

NY Times Covers Leadville Mine Tunnel Situation

The accumulation of toxic wastewater in a mine tunnel near Leadville, attention to which has been drawn by Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, is getting covered in Thursday's New York Times.

The article largely reinforces perceptions that a potentially dangerous situation exists in Leadville.

No mention is made of recent claims that Wiens and Lake County commissioners have exaggerated their descriptions of the dangers from the accumulated water in the mine tunnel.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Amendment 41 Back in Effect

The Colorado Supreme Court dissolved an injunction blocking enforcement of Amendment 41's ban on gifts to legislators and government employees today, holding that a lower court did not have jurisdiction to enter it.

According to a report in the Denver Post, the justices ruled that a challenge to the law, which was enacted via referendum in 2006, is not ripe.

The basis of that ruling, according to the Post article, is that the ethics commission created by the law has not yet been fully staffed and has not yet begun to implement the far-reaching ethics measure.

Amendment 41 prohibits all gifts to elected officials from lobbyists, prohibits any other gift to an elected official worth $50 or more, and forbids elected officials from becoming a lobbyist for two years after their public service ends.

The opinion of the Court, which was unanimous, is here.