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With hearings for nine of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks already scheduled for this week, progressive leaders across the state called on Senator Cory Gardner today to block nominees that they say are troubling, dangerous and out of step with Colorado’s values.
This afternoon, representatives from groups such as Conservation Colorado, Generation Latino, Planned Parenthood and union groups joined a conference call with ProgressNow Colorado to voice their concerns about a slew of Trump’s cabinet choices.
Ian Silverii of ProgressNow recalled that Colorado did not vote for Trump, and that Gardner called for the president-elect to drop out of the race as last as October. Blocking many of Trump’s cabinet picks would show that Gardner stands with Colorado, not with DC, he said. Among the nominees who came under fire were Andy Puzder for Labor Secretary, Betsy De Vos for Secretary of Education, Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price and Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.
Noting that the groups on the call could count hundreds of thousands of Coloradans among their members, Silverii said that he and other leaders would continue to hold Gardner’s feet to the fire, saying “He ran under the promise that he was going to represent all Coloradans. We need to hold him accountable.”
Gardner’s office has yet to issue a response.
Colorado lawmakers return to the Capitol Wednesday to get to work on setting policy and spending priorities for education. But, as Chalkbeat reports, state officials face significant budget challenges, an uncertain transition in Washington and a growing chorus of educators fatigued by change.
Economic forecasts have shifted since June, creating uncertainty for state officials who draft education budgets. Though forecasts were on an upswing in December, classrooms still could see cuts because of Colorado’s complicated tax laws. Some lawmakers are eyeing the possibility of asking voters to reset a statewide tax rate, known as mills, on property.
Another challenge stems from the ever-dwindling pool of teachers. Teacher prep programs aren’t producing enough teachers to replace the number of teachers retiring. Several bills to draw in new teachers, especially to rural areas, will be proposed this session.
Perhaps the biggest wildcard is how Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee as Education Secretary, might shake things up if she’s confirmed to the cabinet. The Every Student Succeeds Act, the nation’s new federal law, was presumed to give Colorado full control of its education system without interference from Washington. Lawmakers and education officials are unclear how far that autonomy will go under DeVos, who’s known for having pushed a far-reaching reform agenda in Michigan.
In environmental news, ski areas throughout Colorado– and the West – have been ramping up their warm-weather attractions. A bill sponsored in 2011 by then U.S. Sen. Mark Udall prompted the U.S. Forest Service to allow resorts to add features such as bungee trampolines, climbing walls, disc golf, rope courses, zipline tours and even alpine coasters.
As High Country News reports, resorts are rushing to build more warm-weather attractions as the climate changes and ski resorts could lose as much as a third of their winter seasons by mid-century. While the Forest Service has offered no estimates of how much additional revenue the activities will generate, it does project about 600,000 summertime visits to ski areas and almost $32 million in additional direct spending in neighboring communities, with a ripple effect of 500 annual, temporary or full-time jobs. Arapahoe Basin expects to hire 21 positions related to planned summer activities in addition to its 60 current year-round employees.
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