Colorado News

What a Difference a Year Makes In Colorado’s Case For A Public Option Plan

May 4, 2021
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DENVER — Before the pandemic, Colorado looked set to become the second state to pass what’s known as a “public option” health insurance plan, which would have forced hospitals that lawmakers said were raking in obscene profits to accept lower payments. But when covid-19 struck, legislators hit pause.

Saying they are turning their outrage into action, Colorado lawmakers on Thursday revealed the three bills they want to pass this session in the wake of a mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers that killed 10 people.

Together, the measures would temporarily prevent people convicted of some violent misdemeanors from purchasing guns, create a new state office focused on preventing gun violence and allow cities to adopt stricter gun laws than the state.

Environmental groups suing to halt construction of the Windy Gap Firming Project in Northern Colorado have agreed to drop their case in exchange for $15 million to address concerns about the proposed project’s water quality and ecological effects.

The Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs are likely to drop to historically low levels later this year, prompting mandatory conservation by some of the river’s heaviest users.

The latest Bureau of Reclamation reservoir projections, which take into account river flows in a given year, show a likelihood that Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada stateline will dip below the critical threshold of 1,075 feet in elevation in May and remain below that level for the foreseeable future.

State lawmakers from Boulder are vowing to pursue "aggressive" and "meaningful" legislation in response to last month’s shooting that left 10 people dead. But their early calls for an assault weapons ban — and waiting periods for gun purchases — are stirring up a lot of emotions around the state.

A gun-owning Democrat who leads horseback adventures in San Miguel County is torn over the idea of an assault weapons ban.

A former corrections officer living in Cortez says lawmakers should focus on strengthening laws already on the books.

When it comes to water in the West, a lot of it is visible. Snow stacks up high in the mountains then eventually melts and flows down into valleys. It’s easy to see how heavy rains and rushing rivers translate into an abundance of available water. But another important factor of water availability is much harder to see.

Beneath the surface, the amount of moisture held in the ground can play a big role in how much water makes it down to rivers and reservoirs – and eventually into the pipes that feed homes and businesses.

LAURA PALMISANO

Road work on a four-mile stretch of U.S. 50 between Gunnison and Montrose starts in mid-April. The Little Blue Creek Canyon Project will cause partial and complete road closures over the next two years, impacting travel from Lake City or Gunnison to Montrose or Delta, and surrounding areas. For KVNF News, Laura Palmisano speaks with project official Kathleen Wanatowicz and project manager Travis Madsen.

The Fort Yuma-Quechan Indian Tribe is situated at a nexus in the Colorado River Basin.

That’s true in a geographic sense. The tribe’s reservation overlays the Arizona-California border near Yuma, Arizona. The two states are heavily reliant on water from the Colorado River.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

Monday’s mass shooting was personal for many of Colorado’s elected officials, including Gov. Jared Polis, a longtime resident of the city. Polis said he has shopped at King Soopers on Table Mesa frequently.

Speaking in front of a patrol vehicle belonging to Boulder police officer Eric Talley, who was killed while responding to the attack, Polis called the shooting a horror and terror for the entire state.

A showdown is looming on the Colorado River. The river’s existing management guidelines are set to expire in 2026. The states that draw water from it are about to undertake a new round of negotiations over the river’s future, while it’s facing worsening dry conditions due in part to rising temperatures.

A little more than a year into the pandemic in the U.S. and governors across the country continue to be thrust into the spotlight as they maneuver through vaccine distribution and decisions on opening up their states.

During the public health emergency, governors have used extraordinary powers to shut down businesses and mandate masks and social distancing. No governor ever ran for office "expecting to lead a state through a pandemic," says Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.

This weekend’s snowstorm will likely translate to significant drought relief for portions of Colorado, while others remain mired in drier than average conditions.

Snow that blanketed the northern Front Range and northeastern plains will provide two to three inches of liquid water when it melts. Some localized areas are seeing even higher amounts ranging from four to five inches of water held in the snow, said Colorado’s assistant state climatologist Becky Bolinger.

“I do think we’re going to see clear improvements all along the Front Range from this event,” Bolinger said.

Gavin Dahl

Republican Lauren Boebert made her first public appearance in Montrose since getting elected, speaking to a packed house at Turn of the Century Saloon on Monday night. Boebert offered a narrowly partisan message, casting aspersions, blending rhetoric with reality, and recycling jokes to boisterous applause. 

HOMESTEAD MEATS

Colorado Ranchers face many obstacles around meat processing. In response to these growing issues Colorado State University is offering a free webinar on Thursday, March 11th from 12:30-2:00 PM MST.

KVNF talks with CSU's Assistant Professor and Food Systems Extension Economist, Becca Jablonski for the details.

Colorado has shuffled its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan once again.

Starting March 5, the state will start offering doses to grocery store workers, Coloradans ages 60-64, agriculture workers and all residents over 16 who have two or more pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk from the virus.

Gov. Jared Polis said the new phase will encompass almost 1 million people.

The city of Greeley wants to keep growing, and it needs water to do so.

Over the last couple years, city leaders have focused their energy on testing and developing an underground water supply to make that growth possible. The Terry Ranch project, estimated to cost upwards of $318 million to fully build out, would give the city access to an untapped water source — a rarity on the fast-growing, water-tight Front Range.

Updated at 3:45 p.m.

Gov. Jared Polis told lawmakers during his annual state of the state that Colorado has been “bruised, battered, and shaken to its core” over the last year.

But with vaccines being rolled out — and case numbers dropping — he sounded optimistic about what lies ahead.

“Coming out of this traumatic year, we can finally live up to our fullest potential to truly create a Colorado for all,” he said. “There’s a lot of work ahead. But we’re more than ready.”

As Colorado embarks on an effort to reintroduce gray wolves, two competing packs are starting to form.

One wants to run, and the other wants to walk.

Gov. Jared Polis is leading the pack wanting to speed up the process, saying wolves “take care of themselves” and will be easier to release into the landscape than other animals Colorado has already brought back, including the Canada lynx and the black-footed ferret.

Polis says he has already lined up the first batch.

Dry conditions are the worst they’ve been in almost 20 years across the Colorado River watershed, which acts as the drinking and irrigation water supply for 40 million people in the American Southwest.

As the latest round of federal forecasts for the river’s flow shows, it’s plausible, maybe even likely, that the situation could get much worse this year.

Increasingly bleak forecasts for the Colorado River have for the first time put into action elements of the 2019 upper basin drought contingency plan.

Colorado lawmakers started a legislative session on Wednesday that will be defined in its early days by a raging pandemic and a heightened sense of unrest following a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

There were more police on hand than usual for a session kickoff a week after extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in the deaths of five people. Colorado state troopers on bicycles circled the outside of the building, while three troopers stood guard at one point outside the House Chamber.

Government workers in Colorado are busy this month building the new websites and application forms that will let residents get their share of more than $240 million in coronavirus relief approved by lawmakers during a special session.

“This stuff is working at breakneck speed, so we’re working as quickly as we can to get this up,” said Brett McPherson, a spokesman for the Department of Local Affairs.

The general public will probably have to wait until summer 2021 to get a coronavirus vaccine, according to a new distribution plan Gov. Jared Polis and top public health officials unveiled on Wednesday.

The plan includes three phases. Hospital workers who treat COVID-19 patients, nursing home residents and their caretakers are first in line for the vaccine, which could arrive as soon as Monday.

Colorado lawmakers passed a state-funded stimulus package worth more than $200 million during a three-day special session that stayed mostly cordial and bipartisan.

They also gave Gov. Jared Polis an additional $100 million to respond to the pandemic and rejected Republican lawmakers’ attempts to limit Polis’ power to issue more executive orders during the virus outbreak.

Lawmakers stressed the stimulus package is far short of what the federal government could provide.

Kurt Papenfus, a doctor in the small town of Cheyenne Wells, Colo., started to feel sick around Halloween. He developed a scary cough, intestinal symptoms and a headache. In the midst of a pandemic, the news that he had COVID-19 wasn't surprising, but Papenfus' illness would have repercussions far beyond his own health.

Papenfus is the lone full-time emergency room doctor in the town of 900, not far from the Kansas line.

Colorado voters have decided to bring back a wild animal that was eradicated from the state in the 1940s because of the threats it posed to livestock and ranchers’ livelihoods.

But don’t expect to hear a gray wolf howl on Colorado’s West Slope just yet.

Following the narrow passage of Proposition 114, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will now spend the next three years coming up with a plan for how to reintroduce the animals by 2023.

The planning process will include public hearings to help determine how many wolves will be released in Colorado, and where.

Colorado voters have narrowly endorsed a movement to change the way the United States picks its presidents.

With the passage of Proposition 113, Colorado will stay in the so-called National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

The initiative consists of a group of states wanting to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.

Updated at 9:15 a.m. on 11/4/2020

Colorado voters rejected a measure that would have prevented women from getting an abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy unless the procedure was needed to save the woman's life.

Proposition 115 failed 59% to 41% with 85% of votes tallied as of Wednesday morning.

As a result, Colorado will remain one of seven states in the country without restrictions on abortions.

Colorado workers who need paid time off to care for a newborn or a sick relative are one step closer to having access to such a benefit after voters passed Proposition 118.

The measure, which was winning 57.09% to 42.91% will create a new statewide leave program allowing all Colorado workers to take up to 12 weeks off for a number of medical reasons while still collecting most of their paycheck.

Starting in 2023, workers and their employers will begin paying premiums each month for the benefit, which won’t start until 2024.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper spent more than three hours together in recent weeks trading attacks and making their pitches to voters. If you didn’t watch all three of their debates, here are some of the main takeaways to catch up on.

Lagging in the polls, Gardner is trying to make the race about character.

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