Friday, May 1, 2009

State Health Department Distributes H1N1 Vaccine

The Department of Public Health and Environment, which received 167,000 courses of a vaccine for the swine flu virus from the federal government, has distributed the stockpile to 13 locations around Colorado.

The location to which the drugs were transported was based on population density. The goal is to ensure a rapid delivery of medicines to any area of the state in the event of an outbreak of the H1N1 virus this year.

“The highest priority for the antiviral stockpile is to meet unmet needs in communities around Colorado,” the state's chief medical officer, Dr. Ned Calonge, said. “The antiviral drugs are primarily intended for use with severely ill patients in hospitals.”

Calonge said it that the supply provided by the U.S. government is for emergency purposes. Only public health agencies will be able to obtain the anti-viral medication. Individuals cannot have prescriptions for the vaccine filled at those agencies.

Shipments were made to storage facilities in Alamosa, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Eagle, El Paso, Jefferson, La Plata, Larimer, Mesa, Otero, Pueblo and Weld counties.

The vaccine was obtained from the Strategic National Stockpile, which is maintained by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to public health emergencies.

Weissman's University Transparency Bill Gets Initial House OK

A bill that would require the state's colleges and universities to use an open search process before hiring new leaders gained initial approval in the House today.

HB 1369, sponsored by Rep. Paul Weissman, D-Louisville, would require the use of search committees and mandate development and publication of job qualifications before institutions can hire a chancellor or president.

The bill is motivated by concerns over the selection process for a chancellor at Colorado State University.

“I have real concerns about how the search process for new leadership at CSU is progressing," Weissman said. "I want to make sure the decision is made in the light of day, not behind closed doors. It should be made with the input of students, alumni, faculty, and other stakeholders. The era of closed door governing is over.”

The bill must pass third reading in the House before being considered in the Senate.

Ritter Awards Grants for Local Infrastructure Projects

Municipalities and counties around Colorado were awarded Friday more than $23 million from the state's severance tax and mineral lease revenues for a variety of infrastructure projects, according to an announcement issued by Gov. Bill Ritter's office.

“Communities all across Colorado are struggling to cope with the challenges of current economic conditions,” said Ritter. "These grants will allow communities to make key investments in projects that will put people back to work and strengthen local economies in the short-term, while making communities more sustainable and economically healthy in the long-term.”

The 47 funded projects include construction of a library in El Paso county, design of a water treatment plant for Rifle, replacement of a natural gas pipeline in Ignacio, replacement of the Beaver Creek Bridge in La Plata county, construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Fruita and a new police station in Windsor, and provision of digital mammography equipment at the Salida hospital.

Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Grant funds are matched by other private and public funds, which will result in the $23.2 million announced by Ritter being leveraged to $218.5 million for construction and other development activity around the state.

"Projects that meet basic needs like water, sewer, drainage, and local roads received highest priority," Department of Local Affairs director Susan Kirkpatrick said. "Projects that demonstrated a strong energy conservation or renewable energy component also received priority.”

The grant program was created by the General Assembly in 1977.

Ritter Honors Fallen Lawmen

Gov. Bill Ritter led a ceremony commemorating the lives and sacrifices of Colorado peace officers Friday and issued a proclamation in honor of the state's Law Enforcement Memorial Day.

Ritter also laid a wreath at the base of the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial.

“It is my honor to lay a wreath at the foot of the Law Enforcement Memorial,” Ritter said. “These brave men and women—and their families, deserve every ounce of gratitude we can give. They put their lives on the line to serve and protect us day in and day out, and for that they will forever have our deepest respect and our eternal debt and gratitude.”

This year, the names of Officer Nicholas K. Heine of the Pueblo Police, Alexandar Brighton of the Trinidad Police, and Jesse B. Craig, Sr. and Jacob A. Kipper of the Rocky Ford Police will be added to the memorial.

The ceremony took place at the State Patrol Academy in Golden.

The Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial Day service takes place each year on the first Friday in May.

Ritter to Sign Bills Saturday

Gov. Bill Ritter will sign six bills into law Saturday.

According to a press release issued by spokesperson Evan Dreyer, Ritter will okay SB 126, HB 1059, HB 1237, HB 1213, SB 104 and SB 144 at signing ceremonies in Denver, Arvada and Broomfield.

SB 126 renews the provision of state law allowing taxpayers to donate part of their refund to the multiple sclerosis fund. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, and Rep. Dennis Apuan, D-Colorado Springs.

HB 1059 mandates continuing coverage health insurers when policyholders participate in clinical tests. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, and Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.

HB 1237 is a measure relating to state payments for the education of disabled youth. It was sponsored by Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, and Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont.

HB 1213, sponsored by Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, creates a state housing development grant fund in order to facilitate construction of additional affordable housing.

SB 104 requires Colorado child welfare regulators to provided foster children being emancipated with relevant and certified identity documents, including birth certificates and social security cards, at state expense. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver, and Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada.

SB 144 makes changes to the function, composition and procedures of the state Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It was sponsored by Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, and Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada.

O'Brien to Kick Off "Kids Outdoors" Forum Tomorrow

Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien will launch an initiative aimed at encouraging Colorado kids to get outside and play today.

O'Brien will head to Grand Junction to hear about local projects such as Outdoor Heritage Day and then meet with Mesa County kids to learn their ideas for a "Colorado Kids Outdoor Bill of Rights."

“The importance of connecting kids to the outdoors shouldn’t be trivialized," O'Brien said. "Outdoor activities make children healthier, more focused on learning, and can help some behavior issues. The amount of time kids spend outdoors has been cut in half over the last 20 years, while the obesity rates have doubled.”

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Senate Committee Backs Death Penalty Repeal

A Senate committee approved Wednesday a bill that would repeal Colorado's death penalty.

HB 1274 gained the backing of all three Democrats on the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. Both Republican members voted "no."

The measure, which would re-route money currently appropriated to carry out capital sentences to cold case investigations, has already passed through the House of Representatives.

Colorado voters have twice voted for a state death penalty law, most recently in 1974.

The state has executed one person in the last 40 years.

Proponents of the bill argue that the death penalty does not deter crime and that the state's 1,400 unsolved murder cases cannot be brought to closure without additional funds.

Senate sponsor Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said at the hearing on the bill Wednesday that she thinks it would save the state about $1 million per year. Most of that money would be appropriated to the Cold Case Investigation unit at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

The final vote on HB 1274 in the House was very close, with a 33-32 tally moving it over to the Senate.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Senate Approves Bill Discouraging School District "Re-Brucing"

The Senate approved Tuesday a bill that would discourage voters that have previously exempted their local school districts from Taxpayer Bill of Rights revenue limits from reimposing those limits.

SB 291 would prevent "re-Bruced" districts from replacing revenue lost by the TABOR caps with state funding.

Several school districts around the state are considering subjecting themselves yet again to revenue limits, despite prior decisions by voters in their boundaries to waive them.

Among the arguments made in support of that idea is a claim that voters' choices to "de-Bruce" were not meant to freeze mill levies at current levels, as a 2007 bill enacted by the General Assembly and upheld against a TABOR challenge by the state supreme court earlier this year requires.

But Democrats, including Gov. Bill Ritter and Senate Education Chairman Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, argue that "re-Brucing" would allow districts to shift responsibility for financing local schools to the state.

SB 291 gained final clearance on a party-line vote, but not without some drama in the final stages of the process.

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, staged a one-man, three-hour filibuster against the measure when it came before the chamber on second-reading.

He read state statutes, quoted from supreme court decisions, and otherwise talked in an effort to delay consideration of the bill.

On Tuesday Mitchell made only a short, seven-sentence statement, accentuated by a humorous reference to his filibuster, before SB 291 went to a final vote in the Senate.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Senate Passes DNA Bill

A bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to collect a DNA sample from every person arrested in Colorado cleared the Senate today.

SB 241, sponsored by Sen. John P. Morse, D-Colorado Springs, was approved on a 28-7 vote.

Critics have argued that the bill is unconstitutional because it applies to people arrested, but not necessarily charged with or convicted of a crime.

Defenders say that people arrested but not charged can request deletion of the sample from the database the proposal would create.

Opponents included both Democrats and Republicans.

Rep. Green To Resign

Another legislator has announced her decision to leave the General Assembly in mid-term.

Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, said this morning on the floor that she would leave the House of Representatives to spend more time with her family.

"It is time to leave you and let someone who has the health and the stamina to fill this seat, such an important seat for my district," Green told her colleagues this morning. "There are so many good leaders in my district who could bring so much to this body. It is time to have them called forth."

Green was first elected to the House in 2006. She has been an advocate for public education and renewable energy use.

During her comments this morning she paid tribute to colleagues from both parties.

"Among this gathering of public servants, I have come to know great people, people like our former Speaker Andrew Romanoff and former Majority Leader Alice Madden, people like former Senate President Joan Fitzgerald, people like our present Speaker Terrance Carroll, who rose up from neighborhoods of poverty to his present position, and like our Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, a man of deep dedication and resolve, who stands firm for his beliefs," Green said. "Nor can I forget the Minority Leader, Mike May. Representative May, your loyalty and dedication to your party has won you my admiration and respect."

A Democratic Party District 23 vacancy committee will appoint Green's replacement, to serve through the end of her current term, after her resignation takes effect June 1.

Green is the fourth Democratic legislator to resign this year and she will be the third member of the House to leave since January.

Her decision follows resignations by Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, and Peter Groff, D-Denver, and Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, and the elevation to the Senate of former Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.