Tag Archive for 2013 Colorado legislative session

2013 Colorado Legislature: on the right track with successes

Colorado Capitol dome. Photo by Charles Hanson.

Colorado Capitol dome. Photo by Charles Hanson.

While our national political leaders continue to be embroiled in gridlock at virtually every turn, our state legislators accomplished a great deal this past session. Although the bulk of the political media coverage has been on fringe issues (guns and rural Colorado), lawmakers were focused on jobs, schools, child welfare, voter and civil rights, immigration and the environment. Colorado is a better place to live, learn, love, work and raise children because of the 2013 legislative session.

Here are just 10 of dozens of good bills Democratic majorities in both houses achieved in 120 days:

  1. The ASSET Bill. Colorado’s undocumented students who graduate from high schools will now pay the same in-state college tuition rate as their peers. People with college degrees break the poverty cycle, help strengthen our economy, vote, contribute more to the tax base and are less likely to be in the corrections system.
  2. Making voting easier by sending all voters mail-in ballots. This bill will save counties $4.9 million over the next two years by making elections more efficient.
  3. Legalized civil unions, allowing thousands of committed same-sex couples to have critical legal protections and responsibilities. By recognizing civil unions, Colorado will see its revenue grow by nearly $5 million over the next three years.
  4. Increased tax credits to struggling families to help with medical and child care expenses. The benefits of this bill are self-explanatory.
  5. Limiting high-capacity magazines from 30 to 15 rounds and requiring universal background checks for gun sales. Legally purchased high-capacity magazines were used in both the Aurora Theater and Newtown school shootings. Universal background checks will make every Colorado resident safer.
  6. Reforming the way Colorado contracts business. In 2010-2011 alone, Colorado signed contracts with out-of-state vendors in the amount of $794 million. This bill brings our tax dollars back to our state while focusing on wages and benefits for workers as important considerations.
  7. The Colorado Clean Renewable Energy Bill will create good-paying jobs in rural areas while providing new sources of clean wind and solar energy.
  8. Allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s training and licenses. This law makes Colorado fairer and safer. It reduces our insurance rates because of fewer uninsured motorists and also saves public resources in court time for driving without a license or insurance.
  9. Creating sex ed programs in the schools that are medically accurate and provide age-appropriate information on birth control, abstinence, healthy relationships and disease prevention. This bill will reduce teen child bearing in Colorado, which costs taxpayers and society dearly.
  10. Colorado’s 16- and 17-year-olds can now preregister to vote when getting their driver’s licenses. This good-for-democracy bill will increase civic responsibilities/participation, reduce voter registration errors and save on form processing.

Good things are happening in Colorado thanks to our state legislators. In and around Longmont, this includes Reps. Jonathan Singer and Mike Foote and Sens. Matt Jones and Rollie Heath. We elect people to lead and get stuff done. Our current slate of Colorado legislators is doing just that.

Frackenlooper: No “Fair Witness”

Oil and gas lobbyists call him "a stud."

Hickenlooper 2On May 2, Gov. Hickenlooper participated in the FrackingSENSE lecture series at the University of Colorado. There he stated that he wants to be a “fair witness” of oil and gas development (particularly of fracking) in Colorado. 

The term “fair witness” was introduced in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. In this book, a fair witness is defined as an individual trained to observe events and report exactly what he or she sees and hears, making no extrapolations or assumptions. I would venture to say Hickenlooper is anything but a fair witness when it comes to fracking.

Frackenlooper ButtonConsider that he has appeared in paid advertisements for the oil and gas industry claiming that fracking is safe. He has been called a “stud” by oil and gas lobbyists, hardly an impartial reference. He intentionally misled a Senate hearing committee and the press with his claims of drinking fracking fluid, which in reality was not the kind of highly toxic and carcinogenic fracking fluid that is routinely used throughout Colorado. He has sued a local community, Longmont, for imposing a ban on fracking. He has not only continually threatened to veto just about any bills that would strengthen regulations or enforcement of existing regulations, but has pressured Democrats to kill such bills before they even reach his desk so he can avoid looking like the bad guy.

At this same conference Hickenlooper stated that “if we find unhealthy air quality around a community and something coming out of a well that is an issue, we will put the brakes on faster than you can imagine.” Oh really? NOAA recently reported air quality in Weld County that is worse than Los Angeles and Houston and is directly related to oil and gas activity, yet there is no slowdown on activity there. And a recent gas leak near Parachute allowed a carcinogen to seep into the ground near a large creek that feeds into the Colorado River, and I have yet to hear of any “brakes” being applied there.

Probably the most alarming statement that Hickenlooper made at the FrackingSENSE event is that the science on the impacts of fracking is far from settled and that scientists don’t know the impacts of wells on air and how that might affect the health of nearby residents. If this is true, then why are we continuing to drill, baby, drill? Shouldn’t we be implementing the precautionary principal and putting the brakes on fracking until we know the answers to these important questions? Shouldn’t we be putting state money toward studies that would answer these questions instead of toward costly lawsuits against residents who are trying to protect themselves? Instead, Hickenlooper’s appointee to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Dr. Urbina, specifically testified against HB 1275 that would have produced a study on health impacts.

The fact that our governor is saying one thing but doing completely the opposite leads me to believe that he is certainly no fair witness to oil and gas development and fracking but instead is a colluding representative of the industry.