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Afternoon Headlines May 12, 2017

Posted: May 12, 2017 at 2:14 pm by , in Headlines

Gov. John Hickenlooper is considering calling lawmakers back into a special session to deal with unfinished business around transportation funding and energy policy.

The Governor said Thursday he had advised lawmakers not to make vacation plans in May.

A bipartisan transportation bill that would have asked voters to approve a sales tax hike to fund $3.5 billion in transportation project failed during the 120-day regular session that ended Wednesday. The legislature did pass a bill that included $1.1 billion for transportation funding, but the governor said that with a $9 billion backlog in transportation projects, that wasn’t enough.

Hickenlooper also wants lawmakers to resolve an impasse over the Colorado Energy Office. The bill to renew funding for the office became bogged down in partisan squabbling over state energy policy and died on the final day of the session.

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham was doubtful about chances that a special session could be any more successful than the recently-concluded 120-day session. “Unless the governor can point to successes on any of these issues he’s guaranteed to have, he’ll just be wasting taxpayer dollars,” Grantham said in a statement to ColoradoPolitics.com

Despite the unfinished business, Hickenlooper called the 2017 session “the most productive session since I’ve been Governor.”

Undocumented immigrant and longtime Denver resident Jeanette Vizguerra has been granted a stay of removal from deportation until March 15, 2019.

Vizguerra, who is originally from Mexico, has lived in the U.S. for more than two decades. She has been fighting to stay in the country for nearly eight years, since a routine traffic stop in 2009 revealed that she had been using a false Social Security number in order to work.

In recent years, the mother of four has become an outspoken immigrants rights activist. TIME magazine put her on its list of the 100 most influential people of 2017.

On Feb. 15, fear of deportation kept Vizguerra from reporting for a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Citing her failure to appear, ICE denied her request for a stay of removal. That same day, she entered sanctuary in a downtown Denver church. ICE officials typically do not conduct enforcement in churches or schools. She has been living in sanctuary for 86 days.

Vizguerra left sanctuary at the First Baptist Church of Denver this morning at 8:30 a.m. Arturo Hernandez Garcia, who was detained by ICE late last month and recently released, has also been given a temporary stay of removal.

Despite gloomy economic forecasts, Colorado lawmakers managed to keep the state’s school funding shortfall from growing this year.

The state’s public schools will see on average an additional $242 per student next year after state lawmakers approved this year’s school finance bill Wednesday, the last day of the legislative session.

The state’s per pupil funding amount will be $6,546. The state will spend more than $6.5 billion in total on per pupil funding. Schools districts receive other funds for additional factors, such as their size and geographic location, and the number of at-risk students they serve.

An earlier change to how the state calculates property taxes made the increase possible.

“I think it was a great accomplishment for our schools that we were able to pass a budget that didn’t make the cuts that we had originally anticipated,” said state Rep. Millie Hamner, a Dillon Democrat and vice-chair of the Joint Budget Committee. “I remain fully committed to continuing the conversation around how Colorado can continue adequately and equitably funding our public schools.”

Lawmakers in both chambers agreed that this year’s budget process was one of the most complex and difficult in recent memory.

Colorado’s term-limited Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper has until May 18 to decide whether he will appeal a state Court of Appeals ruling against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission or let it stand.

The case in question stems from a 2013 lawsuit brought by a 16-year-old Boulder hip-hop artist and a handful of other youth environmentalists who petitioned the COGCC to put protection of public health and the environment ahead of oil and gas development. The agency says its mission is to strike a balance between the two and a district court agreed. The teens appealed to the state Court of Appeals, which overturned the district court’s decision.

Hickenlooper says that his office is currently reviewing the appeals court decision.

But how would the four big-name Democrats running for his job handle this case if they were currently in office? Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy says she would not appeal if she were governor. “Public health and safety must be our top priority,” she told The Colorado Independent. Former Sen. Mike Johnston, too, indicated he would not appeal, saying “I don’t see why anyone would fight the state’s commitment to ensure that public safety.”

Congressman Ed Perlmutter and businessman Noel Ginsburg would not say directly whether they would appeal, though Perlmutter said the priority of the state “is the environment and health of the people.”

Read the full statements of the Democratic candidates for governor about what they would do at ColoradoIndependent.com.