Tuesday, December 21, 2010

GOP Sen. White to join Hickenlooper administration

Another lawmaker is leaving the General Assembly to join Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper's administration.

This time, though, it's a Republican - Al White of Hayden.

According to a report by the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels, White will direct the state's Office of Tourism.

He will resign his seat, to which he was elected in 2008, and a Republican vacancy committee in his Senate district will choose a replacement.

Friday, December 17, 2010

PUC puts last nail into coffin of Denver-area coal-fired power plants

By 2017 there will be no more coal-fired power plants in or near Denver.

The Public Utilities Commission entered an order Wednesday that requires Xcel Energy to close five coal-powered plants, open a natural gas-fired plant in Denver, and convert two other coal-based facilities to natural gas.

The agency also approved a request from Black Hills Energy to close two coal-based power plants near Canon City.

The order is based on the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, the landmark legislation enacted last year that aims to dramatically lower the state's nitrogen oxide emissions to the atmosphere.

Excel's actions will raise electric bills by an average of 2.5 percent by 2020.

Black Hills Energy customers could see an increase of five percent in their electricity rates.

The Washington Post has a story on the PUC's action.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Colorado wildlife agency considering whether to re-introduce wolverines

The Colorado Department of Wildlife is looking into whether to propose a plan to re-introduce wolverines into the state.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported Tuesday that agency representatives have been conducting discussions with interests that would be impacted if the carnivorous mammal is re-introduced on public lands in the mountains.

The article said that the state's Wildlife Commission isn't likely to take up the issue soon enough to allow re-introduction before 2012.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the wolverine is eligible for listing as an endangered or threatened species under federal law, but that such protection is precluded by other agency priorities.

A wolverine was discovered in Colorado last year. It was the first known individual of the species within the state's borders since 1919.

A stocky animal that can weigh from about 20 to about 70 pounds, the wolverine is a member of the weasel family and has a reputation for being both strong for its size and a resilient defender of its food.

Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Ritter tells AP his term as guv changed Colorado for the better

Gov. Bill Ritter says his term as governor brought needed and positive change to Colorado.

Ritter told an AP reporter that the strengthening of the state's renewable energy industry and the stabilizing of funding for transportation will be his most important and enduring legacies.

According to an article in the Durango Herald, Ritter also acknowledged that his efforts to encourage more cooperation between the representatives of the state's business interests and its labor movement had not worked out.

Ritter has not publicly announced his post-gubernatorial plans.

Pace assigns minority Dems to committees

House minority leader-to-be Sal Pace announced Tuesday the assignment of his party's members to the chamber's committees.

The designations follow:

Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources

Rep. Randy Fischer, Fort Collins (ranking member)
Rep. Wes McKinley, Baca County
Rep. Su Ryden, Aurora
Rep. Ed Vigil, Alamosa
Rep.-elect Matt Jones, Louisville
Rep.-elect Roger Wilson, Glenwood Springs


Rep. Mark Ferrandino, Denver (ranking member)
Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Gunbarrel
Rep. Andy Kerr, Lakewood
Rep. Jim Riesberg, Greeley
Rep. Judy Solano, Brighton
Rep.-elect Dan Pabon, Denver

Economic and Business Development

Rep. John Soper, Thornton (ranking member)
Rep. Joe Miklosi, Denver
Rep. Max Tyler, Golden
Rep.-elect Deb Gardner, Boulder
Rep.-elect Angela Williams, Denver
Rep.-elect Roger Wilson, Glenwood Springs


Rep. Judy Solano, Brighton (ranking member)
Rep. Andy Kerr, Lakewood
Rep. Cherylin Peniston, Westminster
Rep. Sue Schafer, Wheat Ridge
Rep. Nancy Todd, Aurora
Rep.-elect Millie Hamner, Frisco


Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Gunbarrel (ranking member)
Rep. Daniel Kagan, Englewood
Rep. John Kefalas, Fort Collins
Rep. Jeanne Labuda, Denver
Rep.-elect Crisanta Duran, Denver
Rep.-elect Dan Pabon, Denver

Health and Environment

Rep. Jim Riesberg, Greeley (ranking member)
Rep. John Kefalas, Fort Collins
Rep-elect Rhonda Fields, Aurora
Rep. Beth McCann, Denver
Rep. Cherylin Peniston, Westminster
Rep. Sue Schafer, Wheat Ridge


Rep. Claire Levy, Boulder (ranking member)
Rep. Daniel Kagan, Englewood
Rep. Su Ryden, Aurora
Rep.-elect Crisanta Duran, Denver
Rep.-elect Pete Lee, Colorado Springs

Local Government

Rep. Ed Casso, Commerce City (ranking member)
Rep. Beth McCann, Denver
Rep. John Soper, Thornton
Rep.-elect Rhonda Fields, Aurora
Rep.-elect Pete Lee, Colorado Springs

State, Veterans, and Military Affairs

Rep. Nancy Todd, Aurora (ranking member)
Rep. Lois Court, Denver
Rep. Claire Levy, Boulder
Rep. Joe Miklosi, Denver


Rep. Max Tyler, Golden (ranking member)
Rep. Randy Fischer, Fort Collins
Rep. Matt Jones, Louisville
Rep.-elect Deb Gardner, Boulder
Rep.-elect Millie Hamner, Frisco
Rep.-elect Angela Williams, Denver

Capitol Development

Rep. Ed Vigil, Alamosa


Rep. Joe Miklosi, Denver
Rep.-elect Deb Gardner, Boulder

Nine new Democratic members are joining the House, joining 23 veteran legislators in the caucus.

The Democrats will have 32 seats in the House when the 68th General Assembly opens Jan. 12. That is one fewer than the Republicans.

Democrats continue to control the state Senate, as they have since Jan. 2005.

Denver Health doc chosen to replace Sen. Romer

A physician will replace resigning Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver.

Dr. Irene Aguilar, a champion of a single-payer health care system who has pushed for adoption of a bill creating one in Colorado, was chosen by the Senate district 32 Democratic vacancy committee.

According to the Denver Post, Aguilar beat Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, by a wide margin among the party activists who voted.

Romer is leaving office Dec. 31 to seek election as Denver mayor.

Since he was re-elected Nov. 2 to a second four-year Senate term that begins next month, Aguilar can serve until January 2015 before facing the voters.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Denver attorney Lund to be Hickenlooper's chief counsel

Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper has named a prominent Denver attorney as his chief legal counsel.

Kenneth W. Lund, the managing partner of the law firm Holme Roberts and Owen LLP, got the job Monday.

Lund has practiced law at the firm since 1990. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona and a law degree from the University of Denver.

Under his leadership Holme Roberts and Owen was recognized by Colorado Biz magazine in 2009 for its financial strength and community involvement. Since his appointment as managing partner Holme Roberts and Owen has opened two overseas offices and outposts in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Francisco.

Lund is a veteran participant in Front Range urban affairs, having served as a member of the board of directors of the Metro Denver Sports Commission, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the chamber's Leadership Foundation.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Marquez takes supreme court seat

Colorado's 96th supreme court justice took her seat Friday after being sworn in by her father, a retired court of appeals judge.

Monica Marquez replaced Mary Mullarkey on the bench. Mullarkey retired on Nov. 30.

The new justice, 41, is a former deputy attorney general.

She becomes the second Latino justice on the current supreme court, the first Latina ever to sit on the court, Colorado's first openly gay justice, and the third openly gay state supreme court justice in the country.

Marquez's father, Jose D.L. Marquez, administered her oath of office. The elder Marquez also made history as Colorado's first Latino court of appeals judge.

He retired from the state bench in 2008 after 20 years of service.

Ferrandino warns of huge higher education cuts

A member of the Joint Budget Committee warned a Greeley audience Saturday that Colorado could be facing drastic cuts in higher education funding within the next few years.

A report in Saturday's Greeley Tribune says that Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, told people attending an open forum at Evans Community College that the requirements of federal stimulus funding, which have protected the colleges' budgets during the last two years, are ending.

Gov. Bill Ritter's FY 2011 budget proposal would set higher education funding at $555 million. If that amount, or less, is adopted by the General Assembly, Colorado would rank last among the 50 states in the amount of money budgeted for colleges and universities.

Unlike other areas of the state budget, such as Medicaid and K-12 education, there is no law that mandates a minimum level of funding for higher education.

Hamner to replace Scanlan in Summit County seat

The superintendent of the Summit school district will replace resigning Democratic Rep. Christine Scanlan in the state House of Representatives.

According to a report in Sunday's Summit Daily, Millie Hamner was chosen by a District 56 vacancy committee.

Hamner will be replaced in her job as the Frisco-based school district superintendent by her top assistant. She had previously announced that she would retire on July 1, 2011.

Hamner has been a West Slope educator since 1978. She spent the last ten years in Summit County and the prior 23 in Eagle County.

Scanlan is leaving the legislature to join Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper's staff.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Business paper reports that Marostica won't be retained by Hickenlooper

Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper won't be keeping his predecessor's economic development chief.

The Denver Business Journal reported Thursday that former GOP Rep. Don Marostica, who leads the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, had sought to keep the post, but that Hickenlooper has decided to bring in a new cabinet when he takes office in January.

Marostica joined Gov. Bill Ritter's administration in July 2009. He had previously served in the House from Jan. 2007, representing a Loveland-area district.

Post: Scanlan, Romer to leave seats Dec. 31

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Summit County, will leave the General Assembly on Dec. 31.

That's according to a report in today's Denver Post.

Romer resigned to seek election as Denver mayor, while Scanlan is joining Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper's staff.

Democratic vacancy committees will appoint replacements.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rep. Weissman to serve as House Dems' chief of staff

The House Democratic caucus has chosen a legislator with long experience at the capitol to serve as its chief of staff for the 68th General Assembly.

Rep. Paul M. Weissman, D-Louisville, will lead the new minority party's team of employees, and provide strategic guidance to members of the caucus, after serving four terms in the House and one in the Senate between 1993-97.

Weissman, 46, is term-limited in the House.

"I feel like we snagged the big one!," minority leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said in a statement. "Paul has managed the Blue Parrot restaurant in Louisville for years, and he understands how to run government like a business, with an eye on the bottom line and balancing the budget. He is widely respected in the Capitol and among stakeholders for his commitment to bi-partisanship. His deep understanding of the issues and of legislative process, and his integrity and ethics make him a natural fit. It doesn't hurt that like all good bartenders, he has a great sense of humor and an ability to listen to others."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Insurance commissioner Morrison steps down

Colorado insurance commissioner Marcy Morrison has left her post.

The former school board member, Manitou Springs mayor, county commissioner, and state legislator had held the job since 2007. She advocated for a number of consumer-friendly insurance bills, including one adopted in 2010 that will require insurance policies to be readable by a person with a tenth-grade education starting in 2012.

"Marcy is a tireless advocate who worked to balance the needs of consumers with the needs of the insurance industry," Gov. Bill Ritter said.

Morrison will be temporarily replaced by John J. Postolowski, a deputy commissioner of the agency.

The state Division of Insurance is housed within the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Statehouse Dem spokeswomen leaving for private sector jobs

The Democratic caucuses in the state Senate and House of Representatives will have new chief media relations officers next year.

Veteran House Democratic spokeswoman Katie Reinisch and Democratic Senate caucus spokeswoman Abigail Vacanti are returning to the private sector.

Reinisch and her husband aim to become entrepreneurs. They plan to open a frozen yogurt franchise in Denver, Reinisch said in an e-mail message.

"After four wonderful sessions in the majority, working for the inspiring Speakers Romanoff and Carroll and with top-notch bosses Kelly Nordini, Will Coyne and Jen Walmer, I had decided months ago that if we lost the majority in the House, I would leave," Reinisch said.

"There's many reasons why: I'm too old and spoiled to lose the clout of the majority, to face a one-third pay cut in the minority, and to have to cut back programs I believe in so that we can continue to balance the budget," she continued.

Reinisch said that her and her husband want to "leave something for our teenage girls to build upon."

"And we hope we will have more money and time for philanthropy, especially with ASAP which brings Denver volunteers to Tanzania to work alongside locals building schools," she explained. "Our whole family is returning this summer for our second ASAP trip."

ASAP is an acronym for The Africa School Assistance Project.

According to a report in the Denver Post, Vacanti will join a public relations firm.

Vacanti was unavailable for comment as this article was posted.

The story by the Post's Jessica Fender indicates that the House Democratic caucus' chief of staff, Jen Walmer, is also leaving her job.

Mullarkey leaves state supreme court

Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey's long tenure on the state supreme court ended Tuesday.

Mullarkey, who announced her retirement in June, had been a justice since 1987 and chief justice since 1998.

The 66-year old veteran jurist did not offer any public statements about her departure on Tuesday.

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Monica Marquez, a deputy attorney general, to replace Mullarkey.

Marquez will be sworn in Dec. 10.

Justice Michael Bender has been selected by his colleagues on the high court to be the next chief justice.

Romer to leave Senate to seek Denver mayor's job

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, is leaving the legislature.

Romer, who was elected to second term in the Senate Nov. 2, announced Tuesday that he will resign his seat so that he can seek election as Denver's mayor.

He made his announcement at a meeting of business advocates, promising to balance the city's budget.

Early speculation has Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, being the most likely replacement for Romer.

A district 32 vacancy committee will have to make that decision, and McCann won't be the only option the members have.

According to a report in Wednesday's Denver Post, Denver Democratic Party secretary Owen Perkins, former federal civil servant Jeff Hart, physician Irene Aguilar, and environmentalist Matt Royster may also seek the appointment.

If McCann is appointed to fill the remainder of Romer's term, which would expire in January 2015, she would also be replaced in House district 8 by a vacancy committee.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ritter's chief of staff to leave job

Gov. Bill Ritter's chief of staff is leaving the post to return to the private sector.

Jim Carpenter, who has held the job since Ritter became governor, plans to join a public affairs firm.

Carpenter managed U.S. Interior secretary Ken Salazar's successful 2004 run for a U.S. Senate seat and also worked for former Gov. Roy Romer and former U.S. Sen. Timothy Wirth.

He'll work with Mike Stratton, another former Salazar staffer, at a public affairs firm.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Senate secretary Goldman out, report says

The long-time secretary of the state Senate has left her job.

That's according to a report in today's State Bill News, which quotes Senate president Brandon Shaffer's chief of staff as saying Karen Goldman was fired.

An appointment as Senate secretary is bipartisan. It is one of six non-partisan staff appointments in the chamber.

Goldman served two years in the job between 2001-2003 and then held it again from 2005 until her tenure ended as a result of the decision to dismiss her.

Rep. Scanlan to join Hickenlooper's staff

Rep. Christine A. Scanlan, D-Summit County, is leaving the legislature to join Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper's administration.

Scanlan, who was re-elected Nov. 2, will serve as Hickenlooper's chief legislative strategist.

"It is extremely difficult leaving a job I love representing people who I deeply respect," Scanlan said. "But I plan to continue serving the hardworking people of my district while working for a Governor dedicated to turning Colorado around and positioning the state for great things in the future."

Appointed to the House in Jan. 2008, Scanlan served as majority whip in the 67th General Assembly. She was the principal House sponsor of a major educational reform bill signed into law and was an advocate for the teacher-tenure reform law enacted earlier this year.

Scanlan also led efforts to address forest health issues caused by an infestation of bark beetles.

She is a former president of the Summit County board of education.

A district 56 vacancy committee will choose Scanlan's replacement after her resignation becomes effective.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Senate Republican leader announces committee assignments

The Republican party did not win a majority in the state Senate in this month's election, but the addition of several new GOP members to the General Assembly's upper chamber will cause some changes in the body's committee assignments.

Minority leader Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, announced those changes today. Here, listed by committee, are the Republican members for the 68th General Assembly:

Business Affairs, Labor & Technology

Sen. Al White, R-Hayden - Ranking Member
Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch
Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield

Agriculture & Natural Resources

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray - Ranking Member


Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs - Ranking Member
Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker


Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud - Ranking Member
K. King


Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial - Ranking Member
K. King
Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley

Local Government & Energy

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango - Ranking Member
Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs
Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City

State, Veterans & Military Affairs

Cadman - Ranking Member

Health & Human Services

Mitchell - Ranking Member


Renfroe - Ranking Member


Harvey - Ranking Member
Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs


K. King
Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction

Legislative Council


Legal Services


Capital Development


Joint Budget Committee


Cadman will serve as assistant minority leader, while Scheffel will be the GOP caucus chair. Renfroe will be the minority whip.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

GOP winner in Jefferson County gives Republicans majority in state House of Representatives

Jefferson County elections officials have officially certified the victory of Republican Robert Ramirez in district 29, cementing a one-vote majority for the GOP in the state House of Representatives.

Ramirez, a U.S. Navy veteran who holds an associates degree in business administration, defeated incumbent Debbie Benefield by 197 votes out of more than 25,000 cast.

His victory will give the GOP a 33-32 advantage in the lower chamber of the General Assembly when the next legislative session starts in January.

Democrats retained control of the state Senate in elections held earlier this month.

Republicans picked up one seat in that chamber as Rep. Ellen Roberts of Durango defeated Democratic Sen. Bruce Hesperus of Hesperus.

Ramirez joins Mark Barker of Colorado Springs, Don Beezley of Broomfield, Kathleen Conti of Littleton, and Libby Szabo of Arvada as Republican victors over Democratic House incumbents.

The GOP's Keith Swerdferger of Pueblo West won the seat now held by term-limited Democrat Buffie McFadyen.

Besides Benefield, Democrats Dennis Apuan, Sara Gagliardi, Dianne Primavera, and Joe Rice were defeated in Tuesday's election.

Photo of Rep.-elect Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, courtesy of Ramirez for Colorado.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hodge to chair JBC, says Greeley Tribune

Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, will be next chairperson of the Joint Budget Committee.

The Greeley Tribune reported the appointment in today's paper.

Hodge was chosen unanimously by the other members of the bipartisan panel, which writes the state's budget.

Other members of the JBC during the 68th General Assembly will include co-chair Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen; Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver; Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs; Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, and newly-elected Rep. John Becker, R-Fort Morgan.

The majority party in both chambers chooses two members each of the committee, while the minority parties choose one member each.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Speaker-designate McNulty names new House committee chairs

Incoming House speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, named new committee chairs Tuesday while stirring some controversy by changing the names of several of the panels.

The announcement follows last week's designation of a leadership team for the ascendant House GOP caucus.

"In these appointments, you will see a wide range of experience and leadership skills and a recognition of Colorado's geographic diversity," McNulty said in a statement.

The new committee chairs, and the committees they will lead, are:

* Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources - Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling
* Appropriations - Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen
* Economic and Business Development - Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs
* Education - Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs
* Finance - Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland
* Health and Environment - Rep. Ken Summers, R-Lakewood
* Judiciary - Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs
* Local Government - Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran
* State, Veterans, and Military Affairs - Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton
* Transportation - Rep. Glenn Vaad, R-Mead

The names of three committees were changed.

McNulty dropped the word "labor" from the name of the committee to be chaired by Liston and the word "energy" from the name of the committee to be chaired by Vaad. He also dropped the words "human services" from the name of the committee to be chaired by Summers.

New House Democratic leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, criticized the name changes.

“These are troubling deletions,” he said in a statement. “With the removal of the words like labor and human services, I’m concerned that working families and the neediest among us, including children who require protective services, are being shunted aside for special interests.”

The House GOP caucus announced Nov. 4 that Rep. Amy Stephens of Monument will be the majority leader in the 68th General Assembly. Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, will be the assistant majority leader, while Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, will be majority whip. Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, will be the majority caucus chair.

The Republican minority leader during the past several legislative sessions, Mike May of Parker, will leave the legislature in January due to term limits. May's assistant minority leader, David Balmer of Centennial, was re-elected this month but will not be part of the GOP's leadership team when the next legislative session begins.

Photo of Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, courtesy Wikimedia.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pace chosen as House Democratic leader; Todd, Levy, Hullinghorst will also be on leadership team

State House Democrats, fresh off an election that appears to have stripped them of their majority in the chamber, chose a Pueblo legislator as their new caucus leader.

Rep. Sal Pace, who was re-elected Nov. 2 to his second term, will be the Democrats' floor general. He defeated the current assistant majority leader, Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, in a vote held today.

The current speaker, Rep. Terrence Carroll, D-Denver, and majority leader, Rep. Paul Weissman, D-Louisville, are term-limited and will not return for the 68th General Assembly.

Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, will be assistant caucus leader, while Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, will be whip.

Rep. Dicky Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, will serve as deputy whip.

Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, D-Aurora, will be the Democrats' caucus chair in the next legislative session. Her assistant chair will be Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora.

The outcome of the election for a House seat in Jefferson County remained in doubt as of Thursday, as a margin of approximately 200 votes separated district 29 frontrunner Robert Ramirez from incumbent Democrat Debbie Benefield.

If Ramirez prevails, the GOP's claimed majority will be official.

Photos of Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, courtesy Wikimedia.

Suthers re-elected; Republicans oust Treasurer Kennedy, Secretary of State Buescher

Republicans ousted the state treasurer and secretary of state in Tuesday's election as attorney general John Suthers was re-elected, giving the GOP three of five statewide elected offices.

Democrats John Hickenlooper and Joe Garcia were elected governor and lieutenant governor.

Walker Stapleton, a real estate developer and investor, defeated incumbent Democratic treasurer Cary Kennedy in a close race, while GOP election lawyer Scott Gessler beat incumbent secretary of state Bernie Buescher.

Kennedy's work as treasurer has included achieving a positive return on the investment of the state's financial reserves during the recent recession, as well as implementing bipartisan legislation to finance improvements and repairs of public schools. She also posted online, for the first time, the state's investments and a statement of cash flows and helped put in place a searchable database of the state's revenues and expenditures.

Stapleton, a relative of former President George W. Bush, argued during his campaign that Colorado should not use federal stimulus dollars to balance its budget and said he would push the General Assembly to restore a spending cap.

Gessler, a former federal prosecutor and a U.S. Army reserve veteran, has been the Colorado Republican Party's go-to lawyer on election issues for several years. He has advocated for legislation that would require all voters to show a government-issued identification card at the polls and was involved in GOP efforts to secure a favorable re-districting of legislative and Congressional seats in 2001 and 2002.

Buescher, a former state representative from Grand Junction, was appointed secretary of state after Republican Mike Coffman was elected to Congress in Nov. 2008.

Suthers, a former U.S. attorney for the district of Colorado, beat Boulder county district attorney Stan Garnett despite reports that a man whom he had released from jail under a plea bargain had gone on to commit several murders.

Photo of treasurer-elect Walker Stapleton courtesy of Stapleton for Colorado.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hickenlooper wins landslide election as governor

Democratic Denver mayor John Hickenlooper rolled to an easy win in the governor's race Tuesday, beating former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and GOP businessman Dan Maes in a landslide.

Former Colorado State University-Pueblo president Joe Garcia won election as lieutenant governor on Hickenlooper's ticket.

Hickenlooper, a former geologist and restaurateur, ran a mostly positive campaign that emphasized bipartisanship and a commitment to strengthen the state's economy.

"We will implement a jobs plan that starts with economic development at the grass roots level, empowering local communities by starting with their vision of what works best and building on that vision to make Colorado a national center for innovation in every field from agriculture to energy and technology," he said at an election night celebration.

As Denver's leader, Hickenlooper, 58, was lauded as one of the top five big-city mayors in America by Time magazine. During his tenure he spearheaded efforts to lower the number of homeless people in Denver, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city, and secure public approval of tax assessments used to fund scientific and cultural facilities.

He was first elected as the Mile High City's chief executive in 2003 and won re-election in 2007.

Garcia, a former director of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies, has been president of CSU-Pueblo since 2006. Before taking that post he was president of Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs for five years.

A graduate of Harvard University's law school and John F. Kennedy School of Government, Garcia practiced law for ten years before embarking on a career in higher education.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

AG Suthers joins all other states in probe of foreclosure procedures

Colorado will join the rest of the states in the union in an effort to investigate the procedures used by lenders to foreclose homes.

The main objective of the probe is to determine whether lenders, loan servicing agencies, or those who represent them have submitted legal pleadings in foreclosure cases that wrongly attest to the accuracy of claims that the party seeking foreclosure owns the note.

"Homeowners have a right to know that when their banks or lenders foreclose on their homes that all of the information used in the process is correct,” Suthers said. “I signed onto this multi-state effort for the fundamental reason that we need to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s foreclosure process."

Concern about the possibility that lenders have misled state courts on the question whether the statements in affidavits are accurate led to an attempt in Congress to validate their actions.

Legislation that would give lenders cover for errors contained in affidavits, and which would have the effect of accelerating foreclosure cases, was pocket-vetoed by President Obama earlier this month.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Education commissioner Jones to leave for Las Vegas job

Colorado will soon be seeking a new state education commissioner.

The current occupant of that post, Dwight Jones, has accepted a job as superintendent of the Clark County School District in Nevada.

Jones, 48, has been commissioner of public education since 2007.

"I look forward with enthusiasm to working with the educators, school staff and community in Clark County, and I will make the transition to Nevada as soon as I can ensure a smooth exit from Colorado," Jones said in a statement. "I am keenly excited about the work and challenges ahead."

Before taking his current post Jones was superintendent of the Fountain-Fort Carson School District in El Paso County.

He has been complemented for improving relationships between the Colorado Department of Education, local school districts, and the state's largest teacher organization.

Jones has also been a central player in implementing the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids and the new teacher tenure law adopted by the General Assembly last spring.

Jones' salary will go up from about $223,000 to about $270,000 when he takes the job overseeing the nation's fifth-largest school district.

The state Board of Education will choose a replacement. However, two members of that board face re-election bids in November and therefore the board may put off a decision on a permanent replacement until the results are known.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marquez appointed to supreme court

A state deputy attorney general will become the next state supreme court justice.

Monica Marquez, 41, has been chosen by Gov. Bill Ritter to replace retiring chief justice Mary Mullarkey.

“Monica is an analytical and independent thinker," Ritter said. "She has a wealth of personal and professional experiences, and a deep reverence for the role our legal system plays in the everyday lives of Coloradans, and in the inter-relationship between our courts and public policy. She respects the rule of law, is conscientious and will bring an unbiased and just perspective to the court and all the cases that it hears."

The appointment also drew praise from Republican attorney general John Suthers, Marquez' boss.

"In selecting Deputy Attorney General Marquez, the governor has made an excellent appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court,” Suthers said. “Monica is one of the brightest attorneys I have worked with in my long career in public service. Her clear, concise writing and sharp legal mind will make her an outstanding addition to the Colorado Supreme Court.”

Suthers also wrote a letter of recommendation supporting Marquez' candidacy for the high court.

Marquez is the chief of the state services section in the attorney general's office. She oversees the team of lawyers who represent nine executive branch agencies, including the governor's office.

Marquez has worked for the Department of Law since 2002. Before entering public service she was an associate at the law firm Holme, Roberts, and Owen and a law clerk for two federal judges.

She earned her law degree at Yale Law School and her undergraduate degree at Stanford University. Marquez is a graduate of Grand Junction High School.

Marquez will have to seek retention after a two-year provisional term. Her name will appear on the 2012 ballot.

“Naming a new Supreme Court justice is a tremendous responsibility and privilege,” the Governor said. “I had three exemplary choices and a difficult decision to make. While Chief Justice Mullarkey leaves behind an irreplaceable legacy, I am confident Monica Marquez will serve the people of Colorado with distinction, honor and integrity.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This blog is suspended

After two years of coverage of the Colorado General Assembly, I have decided to suspend this blog.

My work as a journalist has shifted away from political coverage.

I have found that my interests have moved in the direction of writing about science and the environment.

You can follow some of my science writing here.

I maintain another blog dedicated to environmental law and policy here.

I have appreciated your willingness to read this blog. I hope you will continue to read my work and I encourage you to follow me on Twitter.

This blog is suspended, not terminated, and that's for a reason. If there is a good journalist out there who is interested in helping me to manage it, and who is excited about the prospect of providing consistent and quality writing about the work of Colorado's government, I hope you will contact me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Deputy Attorney General Wins Prestigious Recognition

A state deputy attorney general has received an award for her contributions to the community.

Colorado attorney general John Suthers congratulated Monica Marquez for receiving the 2009 Richard Marden Davis Award, a prestigious distinction given to an attorney under the age of 40 who has excelled in the legal profession as achieved civic, cultural, educational and charitable distinction.

“Monica is one of the brightest and most civically engaged attorneys working in state government today,” Suthers said. “This award highlights what Monica’s clients and colleagues have known for some time — that she is one of Colorado’s finest public servants.”

Marquez oversees the Department of Law’s State Services Section, which represents the governor’s office, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and the state's colleges and universities in addition to other agencies.

She has served a member of the Judicial Nominating Commission for Colorado’s Second Judicial District, as president of the Colorado Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Bar Association, as chairwoman of the Denver Mayor’s GLBT Commission, as a board member of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and as a board member of the Latina Initiative. Marquez received the Colorado GLBT Bar Association’s 2009 Outstanding Attorney Award.

Ritter Praises "Green" Stimulus Infusion

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced that $3.6 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be used to help train disadvantaged Denver residents to enter the green building industry.

The federal money will allow Mi Casa Resource Center for Women Inc. will partner with other organizations to serve 500 people, targeting the unemployed, minorities and women.

“The Recovery Act is helping to prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future, including green jobs that will be in demand in the New Energy Economy,” Gov. Ritter said. “Training programs like the one funded today will help some of our neediest citizens access stable career opportunities.”

The grant was awarded through a competitive process by the U.S. Department of Labor through a program called Pathways Out of Poverty. The Mi Casa grant was among 38 announced today for a total of $150 million.

Projects will be implemented at the community level with a focus on helping people living below the poverty line. The programs are designed to help people gain the skills necessary to find work in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Mi Casa Resource Center will partner with Charity House, iCAST, Denver Institute of Urban Studies, American Pathways University and the Denver Office of Economic Development.

The participants will receive support and referral services and education and training in energy efficient building construction and retrofits, renewable electrical power, deconstruction and materials use, and energy efficiency assessment.

At least $5.7 billion in Recovery Act funds are expected to come to Colorado over the next two years.

AG Suthers, Secretary of State Buescher Warn of Haiti Donation Scams

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher are warning Coloradans to watch out for unregistered charities or other entities attempting to use the devastating earthquake in Haiti to cheat consumers.

“Coloradans have demonstrated a tremendous capacity for generosity during past disasters, but even the best intentioned donors should take precautions to ensure they are not victims of fraud,” Suthers said. “Scam artists often use disasters to take advantage of the generosity of those who simply want to help.”

“Undoubtedly, our hearts go out to the victims of this disaster,” Buescher said. “Coloradans can maximize their contributions and aid to this tragedy by only giving to established, legitimate charities or by checking the charity first on our Web site.”

Suthers and Buescher said Coloradans can take several simple steps to make sure that their charitable contributions are helping disaster victims and not lining the pockets of scam artists:

* Visit www.checkthecharity.com or the Colorado Secretary of State’s website to make sure a charity soliciting contributions is registered with the state.

* Seniors can contact AARP ElderWatch via the Colorado Consumer Line, 1-800-222-4444, for more information on charity fraud.

* Ask for the solicitor’s registration number and the registration number of the charity he or she is representing.

* If the charity is required to file the federal form 990 or 990-EZ with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, ask to see it.

* Ask your tax advisor or the IRS if your donation will be tax deductible. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax-deductible.

* Ask the solicitor how much or what percentage of the donation will go to the charity.

* Be wary if the charity does not want to provide information about its programs and finances. Reputable charities will gladly provide the information requested.

* Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.

* Do not pay in cash. Donate with a check made payable to the charity.

* If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.

* Certain well-known charities such as the Red Cross will never solicit donations over the phone.

* Beware of unsolicited e-mail. There have already been reports of e-mail that purport to be solicitations from the Red Cross. The e-mails have links embedded in them that will take you to a fake Red Cross Web site. Further, such unsolicited e-mail may spread computer viruses. Do not respond to any e-mail soliciting donations from any organization. Instead, go directly to the organization’s Web site or call to make donations.

* If you believe you have been solicited by a fraudulent charity, please file a complaint with the Secretary of State or the Attorney General via www.checkthecharity.com.

* If you feel uncomfortable simply, say no.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ritter Lauds Recovery Act Grants to Rural Businesses

Gov. Bill Ritter applauded today an Obama administration announcement today that $1.4 million in funds from the federal economic stimulus program will be used to build a new grocery store and business complex in Crestone, Saguache County, and keep a 21-year-old dance studio open in Durango.

The funds are part of a loan guarantee program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The Recovery Act is helping banks lend to rural businesses at a time when they need it the most,” said. “Our community banks are helping rural communities complete important projects like the new stores in Crestone that will create new jobs.”

Ritter was referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the formal name of the law enacted last March.

The two loans are among 130 announced by the USDA using $452 million in Recovery Act funds. They are part of the USDA Rural Development's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. By guaranteeing up to 80 percent of loans less than $5 million, the USDA helps banks agree to provide capital to rural businesses at a time when loans are extremely difficult to obtain.

At least $5.7 billion in Recovery Act funds are expected to come to Colorado over the next two years.

CDE Says State's Dropout Rate Falling

The state Department of Education says the percentage of Colorado high school students who drop out is falling.

The agency announced that nearly one percent more of the state's teenagers graduated high school in 2009 than did so in 2008.

“It is heartening to know schools in Colorado produced over a thousand more graduates last year than the year before. That is a reflection of the hard work by students, teachers and administrators and it is commendable,” education commissioner Dwight D. Jones said in a press release. “But we know we must redouble our efforts to ensure more students are graduating with a high school diploma that is their ticket to success in the workforce or in college.”

The state's high school graduation rate was 73.9 percent in 2008, 75 percent in 2007 and at 74.1 percent in 2006. It went up to 74.6 percent in 2009.

Senate Gives Quick Approval to First Bill of Session; Education Measure Supports State's Application for Federal Grant

The senate moved quickly today, on the first day of the 2010 legislative session, to enact a bill deemed critical to the state's effort to obtain federal dollars to support reform of the public school system.

SB 36, sponsored by freshman Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, gained preliminary approval on a 30-5 vote.

The bill would authorize efforts to connect information about student academic achievement in K-12 schools with Colorado's teacher preparation programs in an effort to determine which of those programs, and which of their methods, are working well.

"The goal for this is to help gather data for teacher and principal preparation program, to know how their graduates have done in their first three years," Johnston said. "We track their mobility, we track their placement, we track their retention."

"The idea is, once we do that, we can start to identify the really successful teacher and principal preparation programs," he continued.

The program will include every licensed teacher and principal in the state.

The bill is needed to support Colorado's effort to obtain money through the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" education reform program. The state's application is due next Tuesday and could result in an infusion of as much as several hundred million dollars.

"It will help us show us the areas where we are doing a good job," Johnston said. "It will give us some opportunities to improve by showing what the successful programs are doing."

The federal Department of Education has said it will give the most weight to aspects of state education programs that are focused on recruiting, training and retaining effective educators.

The bill must gain final approval in the Senate, and be approved by the House, before heading to Gov. Bill Ritter.

Ritter must sign it by Friday if it is to be cited as a state law in support of Colorado's "Race to the Top" application.

Senators defeated an amendment that would have required the cost of the program to be paid solely by private gifts, grants and donations and not with federal education appropriations to the state.

Colorado Springs' Apuan Recognizes Fallen Soldiers from Colorado on Opening Day

The opening day ceremonies at the state capitol took a somber turn today as Rep. Dennis Apuan, D-Colorado Springs, memorialized dozens of American warriors before a rapt chamber.

Apuan, who represents a district proximal to two Air Force bases, the Cheyenne Mountain facility, Fort Carson, and the Air Force Academy, asked for a moment of silence to honor the following members of the U.S. armed forces killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan between May and December of 2009:

Private Steven T. Drees
Specialist Gregory J. Missman
Sergeant Jason J. Fabrizi
Specialist Randy L.J. Neff Jr.
Sergeant Joshua J. Rimer
Private Patrick S. Fitzgibbon
Private First Class Richard K. Jones
Corporal Jonathan M. Walls
Sergeant Matthew L. Ingram
Private First Class Matthew Wildes
Sergeant Youvert Loney
Sergeant Randy M. Haney
First Lieutenant Tyler Edward Parten
Sergeant First Class Duane A. Thornsbury
Sergeant First Class David A Davis
Private First Class William Meredith
Staff Sergeant Justin T. Gallegos
Specialist Christopher T. Griffin
Sergeant Joshua M. Hardt
Sergeant Joshua J. Kirk
Specialist Stephan L. Mace
Staff Sergeant Vernon W. Martin
Sergeant Michael P. Scusa
Private First Class Kevin C. Thomson
Specialist Kevin Olsen Hill
Specialist Jesus O. Flores
Specialist Daniel C. Lawson
Staff Sergeant Glen H. Stivison Jr.
Private First Class Brandon M. Styer
Specialist Kimble A. Han
Specialist Eric N. Lembke
Private First Class Devin J. Michel
Sergeant Eduviges G. Wolf
Sergeant Jason A. Mcleod
Sergeant Kenneth R. Nichols
Sergeant Elijah J. Rao
Corporal Joshua A. Lengstorf
Specialist Brian R. Bowman
Private John P. Dion

Senate President Shaffer Echoes Request to Focus on Jobs

Senate president Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said in his opening day comments that the Senate would focus on job creation this year.

Shaffer, who took over as leader of the chamber last year when former Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, left for a job in the Obama administration, told colleagues that he would also expect a focus on solving the state's budget problems.

Those priorities echo similar remarks by House speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver.

The text of Shaffer's remarks follows:

"We start this decade with a promise borne of hope – hope this legislature will lead Colorado to a better future.

"We face no easy task. We expect no easy solutions. Our problems will not be solved by slogans, but with hard work and sacrifice.

"Each member of this body represents a unique region of our state. But more important than where we are from, is who we represent: The people of Colorado.

"We are here for school teachers and farmers, police officers and office workers, construction workers and miners. We are here for the mother who struggles to get her kids to school while getting dressed for work; for the father who barely gets by paying both the home mortgage and college tuition; for the senior citizen living on the state retirement pension wondering if it will still be there in five or ten years. We are here for every employer, worker and veteran, every parent, senior and child who call Colorado home.

"For their sake, we must put aside partisanship and embrace cooperation. This is not a time to enlarge the divide between Republican and Democrat. It is a time to provide for the prosperity of our people.

"Let our questions be honest, our debate be civil, and our proposals be genuine.

"Every day Colorado families and small businesses grapple with the effects of a global recession. Families sacrifice necessities and small business owners make painful cutbacks. Hard working employees see their benefits cut and many have lost their jobs.

"The gravity of our circumstance demands unity of purpose. This session is not about platitudes; it is about getting the job done.

"Starting today, we have two goals: create good jobs and balance our budget.

"Just as Franklin Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” Our legislation will focus on developing a 21st century workforce and creating jobs. Just a few of the ideas we will bring forward include:

* Job Retraining Accounts for employees to open accounts with tax benefits for education and retraining;
* Health care jobs to consolidate loan programs for health care professionals who serve rural communities;
* Renewable Energy Standard to increase investment in our New Energy Economy, and attract new jobs and investment capital to our state;
* And, Senator Penry and I will sponsor legislation to put PERA, the state’s retirement fund, on a stable financial path.

"As these bills and others move through the General Assembly, we will simultaneously work to balance our budget.

"Our budget will be lean and responsible. Declining state revenues require substantial cuts in the services the state provides; however, we will craft a budget that keeps our communities safe, our classrooms open, and our hospitals accessible.

"Undoubtedly, there will be differences of opinion about how to balance the budget. That is a hallmark of a strong democracy. Let us allow our differences to strengthen the policy that ultimately comes out of this body. Instead of becoming entrenched in partisan politics, let us listen and compromise and work together to produce a budget that serves the needs of Colorado.

"While our agenda will focus on creating jobs and balancing our budget, we will continue to make progress in areas such as education reform, health care affordability, and government efficiency.

"A better life for our children depends on their ability to compete in a global marketplace. A good job requires a good education. We will improve our measurement tools for student success and teacher performance. This will strengthen our schools and our competitiveness in Race-to-the-Top; a competition among states based on innovation and achievement in education; a race we intend to win.

"Coloradans need good health care. Last year we added health care coverage for 100,000 people. This year we will expand access to primary care for rural Coloradans. We will end gender discrimination in health care coverage and we will require greater transparency in prescription drug pricing.

"Finally, in recent years we have achieved greater accountability in government. Indeed, today is the first time in history the Senate is televised for all Coloradans to see. We will continue this trend as we work to build trust and confidence in the peoples’ government.

"Our task is to lead Colorado to a better tomorrow. Our agenda is to create jobs and balance our budget. We were sent here in difficult times to solve difficult problems. And solve them we will.

"We are Coloradans and we will stand firm. We refuse to allow our current troubles to steal our children’s future.

"We are Coloradans and we will endure. We will confront these challenges with the determination of our founders.

"We are Coloradans and we will lead the way. We will ask the tough questions, work the long hours and make the difficult decisions to serve the people of this great state.

"May we undertake these tasks drawing on the deep reserve of good will within us, the respect of our colleagues, and a sense of common purpose to serve well those who sent us here.

"God bless you all, and God bless the great state of Colorado."

Carroll Asks for Focus on Jobs

House speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, called on his colleagues to focus on the state's economy during the 2010 legislative session during his opening day remarks this morning.

Carroll, who is in his last term as a state representative, said the legislature should focus on developing the clean energy industry, strengthening job training programs, and making budget cuts that will not cause significant harm to the state's families and communities.

The text of the speech follows:

"I, too, sing America.

"When the Harlem Renaissance author Langston Hughes penned those words in 1925, America was booming.

"In Colorado, myths about fast fortunes made from silver and gold yielded to firmer economic opportunities – opportunities grounded in Colorado’s northern oil fields and southern steel mills. In Colorado’s fertile wheat fields out east and mineral deposits out west.

"Colorado’s once-desolate high plains became a critical part of America’s breadbasket. The Rocky Mountains – once barely traversable – became the nation’s backbone, and with the completion of Moffat Tunnel, a vital part of the state’s economy.

"Yet this state and this nation’s exuberance was obscured by harsher realities. America’s horizon, in fact, was littered with unseen challenges.

"Langston Hughes recognized that challenges awaited – that we were a long way from realizing liberty’s full potential. And yet, he saw promise peeking out:

"'Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table, for I, too, am America.'

"Well, tomorrow has become today, and while this nation remains imperfect, the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st , produced undeniable achievements.

"In retrospect, the signposts toward progress appear clearly marked. But it’s a mistake to read history as an inevitable march forward. For each signpost precedes a bend in the road. And each bend foretells an immense challenge requiring difficult choices, clear leadership, and the will to act.

"It’s only ten years into this century, and America is already shuddering under the weight of an immense burden.

"Two wars, two recessions – one nearly resulting in economic collapse – disasters both natural and man-made. If anything, history’s long march, which rarely presents time to exhale, is speeding up.

"Today, though better than yesterday, again presents this nation and this state with new challenges.

"Challenges that require critical choices, clear leadership, and the will to act.

"The choices we make today – both within this room and without – matter to Colorado’s families. They matter because tomorrow is not yet written.

"But when tomorrow is written, history’s burden will be on us to show that in this building, in this room, in this year, we are standing up for Colorado’s families. We are fighting for small businesses and we are working hard to create new jobs. We are steering the state toward recovery.

"While Colorado’s economy has been hit hard by the recent recession, we’ve shown ourselves to be incredibly resilient.

"That’s no surprise: we’ve been here before. The Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859, promised droves of gold prospectors quick fortunes and bright futures. But this region’s true identity only took shape when the “free gold” – the gold that was easiest to mine and pan for – was exhausted.

"That’s when Coloradans were forced to innovate. That’s when the great ideas and new technologies that shaped our state and its dynamic economy sprung into being. That’s when our true character was forged.

"That’s what we do in Colorado: we hit a bump, and then we change. We diversify. We get along.

"Colorado is a state of unique communities. And while Denver and Durango, Westminster and Walsenburg on the surface don’t seem to share much, they do share the same strength of character and trailblazing attitude that make them thrive. We don’t wait around for progress. We don’t wait for Washington. Instead, we lead the way to recovery!

"Ranking in the top five states for business, and with an unemployment rate a full three points below the national average, Colorado has a record to be proud of.

"The lynchpin of our economy is small business. And nothing is doing more to drive the creation of small business than New Energy.

"Nearly 20,000 new green-collar jobs that can’t be outsourced and 1,800 new companies – almost all small businesses – are attributable to the innovation our leadership is providing.

"But we’re not settling for the status quo.

"This session will bring new legislation to increase our renewable energy standard – the amount of power utility companies are required to generate from “green” sources – from 20 to 30 percent by 2020.

"This bold initiative will make Colorado’s clean energy standard one of the most aggressive in the country, and stake our state’s claim as an undisputed leader in New Energy. I thank Governor Bill Ritter for leading this ambitious effort.

"This green initiative and others will continue to make it easier and cheaper for families to move to renewable energy. It will continue to bring jobs and firms like Vestas and ConocoPhillips to Colorado. And it will foster the small, homegrown businesses that are the bedrock of our state.

"Prosperity, however, is all about balance. It’s all about creating a diversified economy.

"Developing a sustainable market for clean, traditional sources of energy, like natural gas for use in Colorado will create jobs, drive down energy costs, and help break the vicious boom-and-bust cycles that hurt our local communities.

"That need for balance extends well beyond our energy sector. It means fostering an economy we can all participate in. That ambition drives us to create more job opportunities for doctors and nurses that want to deliver critical primary care to our rural and vulnerable populations.

"It pushes us to develop our burgeoning creative class by supporting industries like film and media, art and design. And it compels us to develop a workforce suited to our dynamic economy.

"Unfortunately, the high cost of higher education and barriers to job training and re-training often make it hard for Coloradans to jumpstart or advance their careers.

"That’s why we’re pushing legislation to help Coloradans develop skills to succeed and ease the way toward good, stable jobs. We’re expanding opportunity for Colorado adults who have been laid off or want to change industries to upgrade their skill-sets through job training; we’re making it easier for Colorado’s students to transition from two-year to four-year colleges; and we’re training our job force today for the high-tech, high-paying green-collar jobs of tomorrow.

"A strong economy begins in the classroom. And while our education system will be challenged this year, we remain committed to our kids.

"We are aggressively positioning our schools for Race to the Top, and moving away from CSAP toward a better, more comprehensive form of assessment.

"This downturn has focused our energy on job creation and economic recovery. On building a stronger Colorado with a more diversified and flexible economy.

"In that same spirit, the recent downturn has also demonstrated that building a stronger Colorado will require a smarter government.

"We’ve always had a small government. And in the past year we’ve made it even smaller. During the downturn we’ve already cut over a billion dollars from government spending, creating a leaner government with a balanced budget.

"We’ve cut in such a way that will allow us to focus on what matters most to people. I applaud the Governor and Joint Budget Committee for finding efficiencies while protecting core services as much as possible.

"But we're not done yet. This session we will continue to make tough choices and tough cuts to balance an additional $1.2 billion shortfall for the upcoming year.

"It is imperative, however, that as we continue to cut, we also take a systematic approach to remaking government, so it is not only leaner, but better and smarter too. So government programs are targeted and effective, and serve Coloradans well.

"This session, we will call on government agencies to be more accountable, to come up with clear goals for their programs, and plans for executing those goals.

"And we'll hold their feet to the fire through performance audits.

"Because if we don’t demand more accountability, the small government we do have won’t work.

"This state’s rich diversity and strong character compel more still from our state government.

"Our commitment to building a stronger Colorado requires more accountability.

"But it also means we have an obligation to stand up for people. It means making sure this state is an equitable one, where all people have a fair shot and get a fair shake. That Colorado is a state where people, not special interests, get their way.

"We will not tolerate special interests trampling on the many so the few can benefit. We won’t allow the same obstructionism, the same bickering and the same influences that corrupt Washington to corrupt Colorado.

"And we will not allow reckless partisan games to get in the way of you and your family’s prosperity. After all, times are tough enough already.

"That’s why we’re standing with Coloradans. We’re standing with Coloradans by advancing a sensible package of legislation that will keep politics clean; protect our neighborhoods; halt the cycle of debt perpetrated by reckless and dishonest lenders; stop medical fraud; and make life just a little easier for Colorado’s families.

"Members, as we prepare to begin the 2nd regular session of the 67th General Assembly let our thoughts this morning reflect a deep and abiding commitment to creating a better tomorrow. A better society.

"A society where our ideological differences do not outweigh our commitment to protecting our Rocky Mountain vistas; do not outweigh our commitment to conserving our fresh water and preserving our clean air; do not outweigh our commitment to promoting the common good for Colorado’s families.

"And let us pray our words and deeds do not become mere noise, because we have neglected the widowed, the poor, the orphaned, and those who seek justice under this dome.

"For they, too, sing Colorado.

"As we prepare to undertake this historic session, I’d to paraphrase the words of Thomas Paine:

“These are times that try men’s – and women’s – souls.

"Let us not shrink from our responsibility to this state and its people.

"Let us be bold and do what’s right for the people of Colorado.

"Thank you."

2010 Legislative Session Opens

Members of the 67th General Assembly gathered at the Capitol today to launch the 2010 session of the legislature.

House speaker Terrance Carroll, Senate president Brandon Shaffer, and the Republican minority leaders of both chambers focused on the state's budget problems in their traditional opening day speeches.

Gov. Bill Ritter will deliver his final "State of the State" address tomorrow. He is expected to lay out several priorities for the session and provide some information about the budget cuts needed to close Colorado's budget shortfall.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ritter to be First CO Guv since 1970s to Miss Second Term

Gov. Bill Ritter's decision to step aside after one term is somewhat unique in Colorado history. Most chief executives have, at least in recent decades, been re-elected.

The last Colorado governor who did not serve a second term was John D. Vanderhoof. He served between July 1973 and January 1975 after succeeding John Love in office when Love took a job in President Richard M. Nixon's administration. Vanderhoof sought re-election in 1974 but was defeated by Democrat Richard D. Lamm.

Prior to Vanderhoof, who was a Republican, the last governor who did not serve a second term was Democrat Edwin Johnson. He served between 1953-55, during the era when the length of a governor's term was just two years.

Other one-termers since statehood include Democrat James Grant (1883-85), Republican Benjamin Eaton (1885-87), Democrat Alva Adams (1887-89), Republican Job Cooper (1889-91), Republican John Routt (1891-93), Populist party member David Waite (1893-95), Republican Albert McIntire (1895-97), Democrat Alva Adams (1897-99), Democrat Charles Thomas (1899-1901), Democrat James Orman (1901-1903), Republican James Peabody (1903-05), Republican Henry Buchtel (1907-09), Democrat Elias Ammons (1913-15), Republican George Carlson (1915-17), Democrat Julius Gunter (1917-19), Democrat William Sweet (1923-25), Republican Clarence Morley (1925-27), and Democrat Teller Ammons (1937-39).

Gov. Ritter Won't Seek Second Term

Gov. Bill Ritter announced this morning that he will not seek re-election to a second term.

Ritter, 53, was elected in 2006. During his tenure he has led a charge to diversify the state's energy portfolio, improve public schools and expand health care coverage.

In the past year, however, as the national recession worsened, Ritter has been forced to ask the General Assembly for repeated budget cuts.

The governor said that his decision is based on a desire to strengthen his relationships with his wife and children and put aside partisan campaign pressures so that he can spend his last year in office dealing with the state budget and other issues.

"It is my family who has sacrificed the most," Ritter said. "My wife Jeannie, my kids, three of whom are here today. I haven’t found a proper balance where my family is concerned. I haven’t made them the priority they should be."

The Ritters have a grown-up son, a son in college and two other children at home.

The governor said that he is confident that he would have won a re-election bid and that he is not worried that his decision makes it more likely that the Republican party will win the governor's seat.

"It’s a long way to the election and I felt the election was absolutely winnable," Ritter said. "I’m a trial lawyer. I love a fight."

Ritter argued that the state's economy is improving and that, when he leaves office in Jan. 2011, the state will be in even better shape.

"Colorado is on the road to recovery," he said.

No other Democrats have announced plans to seek the governor's seat this year. Possible contenders include Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff.

Republican candidates include former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes.