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.