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Afternoon Headlines May 15, 2017

Posted: May 15, 2017 at 4:13 pm by , in Headlines

Gov. John Hickenlooper is delaying today’s decision on whether to call lawmakers back to the state Capitol for a special session.

Hickenlooper told reporters last week he had advised lawmakers not to make vacation plans in May. Despite calling the recently concluded legislative session the most productive in his time as governor, Hickenlooper said there are at least three issues that need further work: finding more money for transportation needs, renewed funding for his energy office and greater expansion of rural broadband.

Spokesperson Jacque Montgomery did not say when the governor would make a final decision. However, most successful special sessions already have key deals in place before the session starts, so the delay could mean the governor doesn’t have a deal on the most critical issue: how to fund a larger portion of the $9 billion wishlist developed by the Colorado Department of Transportation of transportation projects over the next decade.

A bill passed on the session’s last day included $1.1 billion for CDOT projects. A separate transportation bill seeking a sales tax hike to fund $3.5 billion in transportation projects failed in Senate committee in April.

If the governor does call lawmakers back, a special session would last at least three days, the minimum required by law to move a bill through both the House and Senate. In 2012, the last time a special session was heard, the tab to taxpayers was about $23,500 per day.

Three recent scientific studies conclude that the West’s water supply is being significantly threatened by climate change.

The West’s water supply depends upon three main sources: the frozen reservoir of snow atop mountain peaks, rivers like the Colorado and groundwater reserves deep below the earth’s surface.

But, the studies find, the snowpack is becoming less reliable, one of the region’s most important rivers is diminishing and in many places the groundwater level has dropped.

All three studies point to the influence of a warming climate. “Climate change is real, it’s here now, it’s serious and it’s impacting our water supplies in a way that will affect all of us,” Bradley Udall, a water and climate researcher at Colorado State University, told Emily Benson of High Country News.

The situation is dire, says Udall, who is co-author of one of the studies, but reining in greenhouse gas emissions now could help keep the mountains covered with snow and the rivers and aquifers wet.

Read more about the three studies and their conclusions in The Colorado Independent, Coloradoindependent.com.

A state judge in Colorado has fined a social welfare nonprofit $23,000 for coordinating with local campaigns and not registering as a political committee.

The fine represents the largest campaign finance violation in the state, according to Matt Arnold, whose group Campaign Integrity Watchdog filed the complaint and prosecuted it in an administrative law court. At issue were a half dozen flyers a group created and distributed during a May 2016 board election for the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District in the small community about 15 miles northeast of downtown Colorado Springs. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit social welfare charity called Citizens for Reasonable Rational and Responsible Governance was behind the flyers, which negatively targeted candidates for the board. A lawyer representing the nonprofit declined comment.

The flyers were an example of the kind of bruising, bare knuckles campaigns for local government that can sometimes rage among the sidewalks and manicured lawns of sleepy suburbs. Indeed, “there has been much feuding over the years regarding the elections to the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District board of directors,” wrote Administrative Law Judge Matthew Norwood in his ruling.

The judgement is significant because it is the second time in a month a Colorado judge has ruled a nonprofit social welfare group acted improperly during an election and smacked the group with a fine of more than $15,000.

Read more about these and other stories at ColoradoIndependent.com.