Colorado Legislature

Gov. Jared Polis has unveiled a budget proposal for 2020-21 that would expand the capacity at some state parks and boost spending on school safety in the wake of the deadly shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch.

Polis’ spending plan would also provide about eight weeks of paid family leave for all state employees.

It's the unofficial start of summer, and crowds are flocking to national parks and public lands in search of the perfect Instagram shot. We also look at a different kind of crowd — of the home-buying variety — vying to purchase a limited supply of real estate in northern Colorado, and explore how climate change is threatening national security at the North Pole.

That and more in this week's episode of Colorado Edition.

Keegan Kellogg sits at the front of his classroom, facing about 20 students. He points to their next assignment written on a letter-sized piece of white paper.

"It says, 'I learned a bunch in…?'" Kellogg asked.

"Kindergarten," replied the students.

Kellogg teaches at Jackson Elementary School in Greeley. Greeley-Evan School District 6 has offered free, full-day kindergarten for about 15 years. Next year, all school districts in the state will be able to offer the same.

Colorado is one of the most recent states to enact a so-called red flag law, but a majority of counties here say they won't enforce it. Matt Vasilogambros is a reporter for Stateline, a news service funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. He's reported on similar laws in place across the country.

When Gov. Jared Polis walked into the Stedman Elementary School auditorium behind a marching band on Tuesday afternoon, with dozens of supporters waving signs and cheering, the signing ceremony for the full-day kindergarten bill felt more like a pep rally.

“Today, we celebrate the fact that this fall, kids from across our state will be able to go to free fullday kindergarten,” Polis said to loud cheers before he signed the bill.

The Colorado Legislature has wrapped up its work for the year and by now most lawmakers are probably almost caught up on all the sleep they lost in the final weeks of the session.

Speaking to reporters in the final hours of the legislative session, Gov. Jared Polis touted the passage of several health care bills and the funding for full-day kindergarten.

But he quickly faced questions about some recent setbacks at the Capitol, including the death of a bill he backed that would have asked voters to add taxes on cigarettes and vaping products.

The Colorado General Assembly didn’t end its 72nd session quietly. In the final days, they’ve taken big votes on some of the most consequential legislation of the year. Here’s what they’ve been up to in the final hours.

From a robot voice that became the sound of fierce partisanship to a crucial debate over the future of oil and gas held in the middle of a blizzard, there was plenty of drama at the state Capitol this year.

Here’s a recap of some of the biggest moments of the session from its start to its final week.

Colorado lawmakers will consider a bill to raise taxes on nicotine and tobacco as the state's teen vaping rate skyrockets.

Three weeks ago, Gov. Jared Polis stood outside Denver Health’s downtown hospital and made a long list of promises about improving health care.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle stood next to him and cheered him on, while a glossy, 10-page road map to lowering health care costs circulated through the crowd.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed sweeping new regulations for the booming oil and gas industry. In a lengthy press conference, the governor talked about ending the contentious wars between oil and gas companies and communities.

“I will ask that those in this room and those who are not in this room commit to seeing this bill and this effort be a success for implementation and for the future of Colorado,” he said.

Back in 2013, Colorado lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation granting special driver’s licenses to those without documentation. But leaders in the agricultural industry, as well as immigrant rights advocates, had long insisted that the program be expanded to meet demand.   

A bill that Democratic lawmakers say is needed to fight climate change has cleared its first hurdle at the state Capitol.

House Bill 1261 would set a goal for Colorado to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent before 2030.

It would also give a state board the authority to approve new regulations that would help the state reach that goal.

The Colorado Legislature has given final approval to a bill that will allow police officers to temporarily take guns away from people who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.

Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign the extreme risk protection order bill into law.

The Colorado House passed a major overhaul of oil and gas regulations in a final hearing Friday morning, sending the legislation back to the full Senate one last time to approve amendments.

Lawmakers voted 36-28 to approve Senate Bill 19-181. One House member was absent.

As Sen. Faith Winter pushes forward a bill to create a paid family leave program, she's thinking of employees who are stuck at work during some of the most challenging moments of their lives.

"We have cancer patients who are skipping their second round of chemotherapy because they can't afford to lose their paycheck," Winter said Monday. "And there's a heartbreaking story of a woman who took her dad off life support in a break room instead of being by her father's side."

A last-minute bipartisan deal in the state Senate to put more money into transportation — a top priority for Republicans — helped the next Colorado budget pass quickly on Thursday, with wide support and no delay tactics or long debates.

But now it’s the House’s turn to take up the budget bill, and several Democrats, who hold the majority in that chamber, are skeptical of the late compromise.

The Colorado Senate narrowly passed a contentious gun control bill on Thursday that would allow police to temporarily take away someone's firearms.

The extreme risk protection order proposal would give law enforcement the ability to take the weapons away if a judge determines their owner poses a risk to themselves or others.

As the U.S. Senate holds gun control hearings, Colorado legislators are pushing forward with their own plan to remove guns from people who are deemed unsafe to themselves or others.

Democrats in the Colorado Senate advanced a gun control bill late Friday evening despite fierce opposition from Republicans.

The extreme risk protection order bill would allow police to take away someone’s firearm if a judge determines they pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

The legislation is now one vote in the Senate away from heading to Governor Jared Polis’ desk.

Still reeling from historic losses that put Democrats in charge of Colorado’s government, a group of current and former Republican state lawmakers say it’s time for a different strategy. They created a new organization to recruit and train more moderate candidates. The aim is to appeal to a broader swath of voters, especially the state’s growing segment of unaffiliated voters.

Backers see it as part of a larger rebranding the party needs to stay relevant in Colorado. But it could put them at odds with an existing soft money group controlled by House GOP leadership.

Colorado lawmakers are now more than halfway through the legislative session, and they’ve debated at length over oil and gas regulations and how the state votes for presidents.

But one issue has been notably absent so far from the agenda: Transportation funding.

It’s been four months since voters rejected two tax measures that would have provided billions of dollars worth of funding for the state’s roads and bridges.

A bill making its way through the state Legislature is challenging several long-standing practices within Colorado's oil and gas industry, including "forced" or "statutory" pooling.

That's when companies can drill in a certain area without consent from all associated mineral right owners. The practice has been around for decades, but is facing fresh criticism as Colorado's population balloons and oil and gas development creeps closer to neighborhoods north of Denver.

The death penalty, and whether to repeal it, is likely to be one of the weightiest topics Colorado’s legislature will debate this session. It’s a matter of life and death, justice and redemption — with passionate feelings on all sides.

And for some at the Capitol, the issue is deeply personal.  

The Colorado Capitol was busy into the early hours of Wednesday morning, as hundreds of people came to weigh in on a sweeping overhaul of the state’s oil and gas regulations. The marathon 12-hour Senate hearing ended at 2:00 a.m. with the Democratic bill passing out of committee on a party-line vote.

When Jennifer Knowles helped her three sons set up a lemonade stand in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood last summer, she thought she was teaching them about the joys of running a small business.

But then someone called the police and the stand was shut down because the family didn’t have the right permit.

Flanked by sheriffs and gun safety advocates, Democratic lawmakers unveiled an extreme risk protection order bill — a measure aimed at reducing gun violence — at a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

"We're on the clock right now folks," Rep. Tom Sullivan (D), whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, said. "... If we keep talking about it, people are going to keep dying and this is a simple thing to do to save lives."

Colorado lawmakers are once again debating a bill to ban so-called conversion therapy for youth in the state. The practice seeks to change a gay or non-straight person's sexual orientation to heterosexual. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has said the practice does not work, can be harmful, and furthermore, that variations in sexual orientation and gender expression are normal.

Lawmakers in Colorado say they're seeing a growing number of cases where patients visit a hospital in their insurance network but unknowingly get treated by an out-of-network specialist or surgeon.

Then the patients get sent a surprise bill, and the worrying starts.

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