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Afternoon Headlines May 8, 2017

Posted: May 8, 2017 at 2:16 pm by , in Headlines

A last-minute bill meant to ease public fears after last month’s fatal Firestone home explosion passed a House committee hearing Friday over Republican opposition.

Democrats are rushing in the last days of the legislative session, which ends Wednesday, to pass a bill requiring the mapping of all oil and gas lines in Colorado. Investigators last week determined that the fatal house explosion last month, which killed two residents and critically injured another, was the result of severed but uncapped line that filled the home’s basement with highly combustible, odorless gas.

The bill comes in response to public demand to know whether such lines are near their homes.

Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Mike Foote of Lafayette and Steve Lebsock of Thornton, the bill would require oil and gas operators to notify the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and relevant local governments of the location of all oil and gas lines, whether active, dormant or planned. This data would then be mapped and made publicly available.

But Republicans are staunchly opposed. In an interview before the hearing, Republican Rep. Lori Saine, who is not a committee member but whose district includes Firestone, said, “It’s really unfortunate and frustrating that there’s legislation being introduced right now, before the investigation that has concluded,” she said. “I feel like they’re using our grieving community to spike a political football.”

Industry groups also strongly objected to the bill. The state, in response to a directive from Gov. John Hickenlooper, has ordered oil and gas well operators to inspect and test all active flowlines from wells to storage tanks, and ensure that any inactive lines have been properly capped and “abandoned” according to agency protocol.

While the bill is expected to clear the Democrat-controlled House, its odds in the Republican-controlled Senate are slim.

The community board that reviews disciplinary decisions in Denver’s Safety Department says it’s “extremely troubled” by Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration’s handling of the officers involved in the 2015 death of a mentally ill homeless man in Denver’s jail.

Michael Marshall, was killed at the hands of sheriff’s deputies when having a psychotic breakdown in November 2015.

In a letter last week, five of the seven appointees to Denver’s Citizen Oversight Board expressed their strong “disappointment” with Safety Manager Stephanie O’Malley and her department’s decision to suspend two deputies and a watch commander without pay for at least ten days rather than taking harsher disciplinary action.

The Colorado Independent sued the city for videotapes of the Marshall incident, which showed officers piling around him in a jail corridor, and later restraining his lifeless body and standing around several minutes after he had choked on his vomit.

Hancock’s administration announced last month that it was suspending Deputy Carlos Hernandez and Capt. James Johnson without pay for 10 days. Deputy Bret Garegnani faces a 16-day suspension after the investigation found he pressed on “various vital, sensitive areas of inmate Marshall’s body, on and off, for approximately 11 minutes after inmate Marshall was heavily restrained, in the prone position and had already gone unconscious and vomited.”

Marshall’s family and civil rights advocates slammed the disciplinary decisions as “mere slaps on the wrist” that were “shockingly light” and “spineless.”

The number of Colorado students enrolling in college last year unprepared for college-level work increased for the second year in a row, according to a new state report.

The increase was small. As Chalkbeat Colorado reports, of the high school students who graduated in 2015 and enrolled in college in the 2015-16 year, 36.1 percent had to enroll in remedial courses, up from 35.4 percent the year before, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education report.

The number of Hispanic students enrolling at two-year colleges who needed remedial classes — also known as developmental education classes — increased. The number of African-American students needing the help decreased at both two-year and four-year schools.

Despite the overall increase in remediation rates, the combined cost to the state and to college students enrolled in developmental education courses dropped to $29.6 million, a $9.7 million savings from last year.

The remedial college courses are designed for students who need extra instruction in the basics. The courses do not provide credits toward a degree.

A new policy that the Colorado Commission of Higher Education was set to approve Friday will suggest students be given the chance to enter college-level courses first, with support, and that remedial classes should be a last resort.

Among the high schools with the highest rates of students needing remedial education this year are Jefferson High School in Greeley; Trinidad High School in Trinidad; and Vista Academy, Manual High School and schools on the West High School campus in Denver.

For more on these and other stories go to ColoradoIndependent.com.