Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed into law a sweeping bill intended to save rural hospitals, put dollars into rural schools and help get roads in rural Colorado a little more up to speed.
The measure saves hospitals around the state from a half-billion dollar budget cut, which could have forced some rural hospitals to close and would have severely limited services to low-income Coloradans everywhere else. Under the new law, $30 million in one-time money will go to the state’s rural school districts, defined as those with 6,500 students or less, and about $450 million will be directed into counties with 50,000 people or less to use on local roads projects.
The measure also hikes the copays for Medicaid patients from the current $1 for prescription drugs to $2 and the current copay on doctor visits from $2 to $4. Small businesses will also get a tax break out of the measure on the taxes they pay for office equipment and other personal property used by a business. Finally, the measure lowers the state’s spending limit by about $200 million a year, a nod to conservative Republicans who would only agree to the deal with some kind of adjustment to that cap.
The signing ceremony was notable for the absence of three of the bill’s four sponsors. Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat, was tagged with jury duty. But the law’s two Republican sponsors, Rep. Jon Becker of Fort Morgan and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, skipped the signing because it was held 200 miles from their districts. The two lawmakers, both conservatives from northeastern Colorado, are being threatened with primaries because of their sponsorship of the measure.
Denver groups today took legal action to block the construction of public trails at Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons production facility about 40 miles north of the city.
In a preliminary injunction filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, the groups say that the government has failed to conduct legally required environmental analyses and that the area is not safe for the public. The injunction would halt construction scheduled for June.
“What the public does not know can hurt us and our children,” said Bonnie Graham-Reed at a press conference this morning in Denver. Graham-Reed is a co-founder of plaintiff organization Rocky Flats Right to Know. “That’s why a thorough environmental analysis is so important.”
Rocky Flats manufactured plutonium components for U.S. nuclear weapons from the 1950s to the late 1980s. In June 1989, the FBI raided the site for alleged violations of environmental laws. The plant shut down and never reopened.
Jon Lipsky, former FBI Special Agent who led the raid that shut down the plant, says he agrees with the plaintiffs that an independent soil analysis is needed.
“The lack of a thorough environmental analysis allows expert opinions about risks from the site to be swept under the rug,” he said.
Parts of Rocky Flats are on the Superfund list of the nation’s most polluted sites. The Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Fish and Wildlife and the Colorado Department of Health have declared the site safe.
Colorado, the birthplace of the national Libertarian Party, has added another chapter to its outsized role in the party loved by limited government conservatives who favor individual freedom: It now houses the party’s official archives.
For years, documents and records relating to the party, which was founded in Colorado Springs in 1971, were kept in the basement of the Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C, and in an off-site storage locker in Alexandria, Virginia. This spring, a party staffer drove them all in a U-Haul across the country to Parker, Colorado. Leading the effort to bring those records to the party’s birthplace was Caryn Ann Harlos of Castle Rock, the state party’s pink-haired spokeswoman who serves as the national party’s representative for nine western states.
On a December trip to the East Coast on party business, she asked to see archives many thought were destroyed in a flood when they were housed in the basement of the famous Watergate building. Instead, Harlos found a room of records largely intact. Boxes of newsletters, convention material, even contents from the desks of former party officials. “I got a burr under my saddle and was like ‘This stuff needs to be preserved,’” she told The Colorado Independent.
While Harlos says she isn’t creating a Libertarian museum, she will allow those who want to view the archives to make an appointment with her to see them. ”I have people planning weeklong vacations to come and work on these records in Colorado,” she says.
Call it Libertarian tourism in Colorado.
For more on these and other local stories go to ColoradoIndependent.com.