Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kagan Replaces McGihon

Denver lawyer Daniel Kagan, who had already indicated his interest in running for the HD-3 seat in 2010, will replace Rep. Anne McGihon as the state representative for that district.

A Democratic party vacancy committee chose Kagan to fill the remainder of McGihon's term Thursday night.

Kagan, 56, emigrated to the United States from England when he was 22. He became an American citizen in 1984.

He holds an undergraduate degree in public affairs from George Washington University and a law degree from Yale University. He has practiced law at a large Washington, D.C. firm and in a partnership with his wife. Kagan was a member of the Teamsters Union in the 1970s.

Kagan, who was a delegate for then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008, is the father of three children.

McGihon Replacement to be Named Tonight

A Democratic party vacancy committee is to name a replacement for Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, tonight.

The vacancy committee, which has 100 members, will consider ten announced candidates for the appointment.

At least half of the members must be present for the vacancy committee to do business, and in the event of a weather-related cancellation of the meeting the committee would have to provide at least 10 days notice before holding the rescheduled gathering.

The ten announced candidates are:

1. George Brown, who works as curriculum director for a high school leadership development program called Leaders Challenge;

2. Former Lt. Gov. and state Sen. Sam Cassidy, an attorney and faculty member at the University of Denver and Jones International University;

3. Douglas Farquhar, an attorney and program director with the National Council of State Legislatures environmental health program. Farquhar is a member of the University of Denver faculty and teaches environmental policy and management;

4. Judith Judd, an attorney and a member of the board of AAA of Colorado and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation;

5. Daniel Kagan, an attorney;

6. Colleen O’Brien, a social studies teacher at Overland High School;

7. Retired Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid, who is also an author, television documentary producer, and former naval officer;

8. Aaron Silverstein, a legislative aide, community organizer and political blogger;

9. Shelley Watters, a former aide to two members of the Denver City Council and a former candidate for a seat on that body; and

10. Stephen White, a clinical social worker employed by Cherry Creek Public School District.

Whoever is appointed will have to stand for election in 2010 if he or she desires to continue as a state representative.

McGihon's resignation from the House of Representatives is effective Friday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who's Term Limited at the Capitol?

During each General Assembly session this online news journal specifies the legislators who are not eligible, under Colorado's term limits law, to run for re-election.

The following senators cannot seek re-election:

Sen. Greg Brophy (R-District 1) (term expires January 2013)
Sen. Ken Kester (R-District 2)
Sen. Abel Tapia (D-District 3)
Sen. Jim Isgar (D-District 6)
Sen. Josh Penry (R-District 7) (term expires January 2013)
Sen. Robert L. Bacon (D-District 14) (term expires January 2013)
Sen. Brandon C. Shaffer (D-District 17) (term expires January 2013)
Sen. Maryanne "Moe" Keller (D-District 20)
Sen. Betty Ann Boyd (D-District 21) (term expires January 2013)
Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-District 23) (term expires January 2013)
Sen. Lois Tochtrop (D-District 24)
Sen. Peter C. Groff (D-District 33) (term expires January 2013)
Sen. Paula Sandoval (D-District 34)

Groff is president of the Senate, Boyd is president pro tempore and chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and Shaffer is majority leader. Penry is minority leader.

Keller is chair of the Joint Budget Committee and Tapia leads the Appropriations Committee.

Isgar leads the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Bacon chairs the Education Committee, and Sandoval is in charge of the the Finance Committee.

The following representatives cannot seek re-election:

Rep. Jerry Frangas (D-District 4)
Rep. Joel Judd (D-District 5)
Rep. Terrance Carroll (D-District 7)
Rep. Jack Pommer (D-District 11)
Rep. Paul Weissman (D-District 12)
Rep. Michael Merrifield (D-District 18)
Rep. Michael May (R-District 44)
Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen (D-District 47)

Rep. Anne McGihon (D-District 3) would have been term-limited. However, McGihon resigned her House seat effective March 27, 2009.

Carroll is House speaker, Weissman is majority leader and May is minority leader. Pommer, an influential voice on budget matters, is vice-chair of the Joint Budget Committee and chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Judd leads the Finance Committee, Merrifield has served for several years as chair of the Education Committee, and McFadyen is the veteran leader of the Transportation and Energy Committee.

Senators' terms are four years in duration. Senators can serve a maximum of two terms.

Representatives' terms are two years in duration. Representatives can serve a maximum of four terms.

Under Colorado's term limits law, which is embodied in an amendment to the state constitution approved by the electorate in 1990, a legislator who actually serves at least one-half of a term is deemed to have served a full term.

Senate Passes Parental Leave Bill

A measure that would give parents the right to take time off work to attend meetings with their children's teachers and participate in academic school events gained final Senate approval today.

HB 1057 would allow workers to take 18 hours of unpaid leave during the academic year. The bill would apply only to businesses with 50 or more employees and to businesses in which the leave granted an employee would not endanger the health or safety of another. If the bill becomes law, employees would have to provide their employer with one week advance notice of their intent to take the leave.

Democrats emphasized the importance of parental involvement in improving student academic performance.

"This bill isn’t just about parents, or schools, or kids. This bill is about helping our entire society,” sponsoring Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, and a retired educator, said. “We’ve heard in so many places that businesses need to have an educated work force. This is a small step to nurture the education of the youngsters. In addition, smart citizens and an effective work force greatly helps down the road in reducing other costs, like prisons or unemployment.”

Kate Horley, a spokesperson for the Denver Chamber of Commerce, said the state's business community was initially concerned about a lack of "flexibility" in the bill but that amendments in the Senate addressed those worries.

Speaking of her organization, Horley said it would not oppose the measure.

"We’re neutral now because the bill provides the flexibility employers need to ensure that business gets done,” Horley said.

Horley also emphasized that the state's business community recognizes the value in parental involvement in their children's education but said she is skeptical that a mandate will assure that all employers respect the family lives of their employees.

"I understand what Rep. Kerr is trying to do, and while we all applaud the idea that parents should be involved in their children’s lives, legislation will not move bad actors," Horley said.

The party-line vote was 21-13, with only the GOP's Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield absent.

Because the Senate made changes to the bill, the House again considered the measure Wednesday morning. It rejected the Senate amendments and so HB 1057 will now go to a conference committee.

Rule Review Bill Clears Senate, Heads to Ritter

The Senate has given final clearance to the new oil and gas development rules issued by the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the bill formalizing legislative approval is on the way to Gov. Bill Ritter.

HB 1292, which is the vehicle for this year's effort to review and approve all rules issued by state agencies since last year's legislative session, was the subject of a strong effort by Republicans in both chambers of the General Assembly to change the oil and gas rules.

During yesterday's debate in the Senate, after which the rules bill was approved by voice vote, GOP senators offered to triple penalties on some environmental violations in return for a Democratic agreement to weaken certain aspects of the rules, especially those relating to wildlife protection.

"This amendment is an attempt to restore some balances," Senate minority leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said. "Bill Ritter would get 90 percent of what he wants, plus some things he didn't ask for."

But Democrats argued that debate on the rules bill is limited to consideration of whether the agency followed proper procedure and not a time to discuss substantive changes to the regulations.

They also reiterated a view that stronger regulation of the environmental impacts of oil and gas extraction activities is necessary to protect public health and the quality of life on the Western Slope.

"We have been overwhelmed with an industry that has grown very rapidly," Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said Tuesday. "I think it's time in our state that we have a chance to catch up."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Foreclosure Delay Measure on Way to Ritter

A bill that will impose a 90-day waiting period before mortgage lenders can foreclose on properties in default cleared the Senate this morning and is on the way to Gov. Bill Ritter's desk.

HB 1276, which was approved on a 26-8 vote, requires homeowners to contact a counselor certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development within 20 days of receiving a notice of foreclosure. If the counselor determines, after an examination of the homeowner's finances, that he or she is eligible for participation in the 90-day delay program allowing for negotiation of loan changes.

If the counselor finds that the homeowner is a good candidate for loan modification, the 90-day delay in foreclosure in order to allow for such negotiations kicks in.

“Foreclosures are tearing apart many Colorado neighborhoods and communities,” Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and the Senate sponsor of the bill, said. “During these times of economic uncertainty, thousands of people in our state are falling behind on payments and losing their homes. This bill will help homeowners negotiate a solution, get back on track and, most importantly, keep families in their homes."

According to the state's Division of Housing, there were almost 40,000 foreclosure filings in Colorado in 2008.

The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver.

Carbon Monoxide Bill To Be Signed Into Law Today

Gov. Bill Ritter will sign into law today a bill that requires all homes placed on the market and all apartments to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in them.

HB 1091, which is called "The Lofgren and Johnson Family Carbon Monoxide Safety Act," will be signed at Denver Fire Station No. 10, 3200 Steele St., Denver at 3:30 pm.

The measure was inspired by the deaths last autumn of Parker Lofgren, 39, his wife Caroline Lofgren, 42, and their children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8 in an Aspen-area rental home that was not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and by the death in January of Lauren Johnson, 23, a University of Denver graduate student, in a rented apartment not equipped with such a device.

Monday, March 23, 2009

House OK's Online Voter Registration

Coloradoans could soon be registering to vote online, at least if a bill approved by the House Monday makes it into law.

Under HB 1160, a qualified elector could register to vote, or make changes in their voter registration, if they have a digital signature on file with one or more state databases, including the driver license and motor vehicle registration databases, the state income tax database, the motorist insurance database, or the state's voter registration database.

The bill would require the secretary of state to create and maintain a "fully secure" website to accommodate the online voter registration system. It would impose a deadline of April 1, 2010 for the online system to be made available.

HB 1160 was approved overwhelmingly on a 60-4 vote. The only opponents were Republicans Cory Gardner of Yuma, Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs, B.J. Nickell of Berthoud and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, and Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.

It must be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter before becoming law.

Bill Banning Insurance Company Bonuses for Denial of Claims Advances

A measure that would prohibit insurance companies from paying employees bonuses when they deny claims has been approved by the Senate.

SB 103 also makes illegal the practice of paying bonuses to employees when they cancel insurance policies.

"Colorado consumers are one step closer to getting the quality medical care they’re already insurance companies paying for," bill sponsor Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said. "To tie the denial of insurance coverage to monetary bonuses is not only unethical but unscrupulous. Insurance companies should not be in the practice of lining the pockets of those who deny medical services to their customers."

The bill provides that juries, in lawsuits contesting an insurer's refusal to pay a claim, may consider payment of bonuses for denial of claims or cancellation of policies as evidence of bad faith behavior by the insurer.

Technically, SB 103 defines insurers payment of bonuses in those circumstances as an unfair claim settlement practice.

The bill, which passed on third reading by a 22-11 vote, now moves to the House.

Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, joined all of the chamber's Democrats in support of the measure. Senate minority leader Josh Penry, R-Fruita, and Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, did not vote.