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Colorado hemp bill’s author dismisses claims of conflict

Dan Njegomir (Colorado Politics)- Legislation intended to keep federal water flowing to Colorado’s hemp crop — a growing industry in the state, if you’ll forgive the expression — has unexpectedly led to an anonymous accusation that the bill’s sponsor has a conflict of interest. So says a report in the Durango Herald.

Spoiler alert: The law seems to be on the sponsor’s side, as the Herald reports.

Senate Bill 117, adopted by lawmakers in the 2017 session and now awaiting the governor’s signature, was supposed to quell controversy, not cause it. As explained in a press release by the state Senate Republican majority when the bill was approved by the legislature last month, industrial hemp is misunderstood because of its association with marijuana, and that has led to bad policy by the federal government:

After Colorado voters approved hemp’s cultivation as part of a broader legalization of marijuana, questions arose about the legality of using federal reclamation water to grow a  crop often wrongly confused with marijuana.

Montrose Republican state Sen. Don Coram, who introduced the measure, said in the press release that the bill “ensures that Washington can’t deny hemp growers access to water from federal reclamation projects, due to disagreements between Washington and Denver on drug and farm policies.”

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

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Report: Colorado’s Ken Salazar was hired by Anadarko after Firestone explosion

Kelsey Ray (Colorado Independent)- Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar identified himself as a lawyer for oil and gas giant Anadarko immediately following a fatal home explosion in Firestone last month, International Business Times and MapLight are reporting.

Investigators say an improperly abandoned flowline attached to an Anadarko well caused the blast.

Salazar, also a former Democratic U.S. Senator who weighed a 2018 bid for governor but decided against it, spoke with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top attorney, Jackie Melmed, about the explosion, according to an email IBT and MapLight obtained. That email is dated April 26, the same day Hickenlooper’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Frederick-Firestone Fire Department linked the explosion to an Anadarko well nearby.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Independent.

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Ken Salazar Working For Anadarko After Promising To Honor Federal Ethics Law

David Sirota, Lydia O’Neal, Andrew Perez (International Business Times)- Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been working for a major oil and gas company as it has sought to limit political damage after a deadly explosion near one of its Colorado wells, a spokesperson for Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and emails obtained by International Business Times and MapLight say.

One of his state’s most powerful Democrats, Salazar was in touch with Hickenlooper’s office after the blast on behalf of Anadarko Petroleum — a company Salazar helped when he ran the Interior Department under former President Barack Obama.

Salazar, a corporate lawyer, has previously said he would honor federal ethics laws by walling himself off from matters in which he was involved at the agency. Emails show he has been working for Anadarko in Colorado though he has not registered to lobby for the company there, state records show.

Click here to read the full story in the International Business Times.

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Should Denver taxpayers help candidates for local office pay for their campaigns?

Erica Meltzer (Denverite)- A group of Denver campaign finance reform advocates are trying to place an ordinance on the November ballot that would allow for public financing of municipal elections, reduce the amount of money candidates can take from individual donors and ban corporate and union donations.

Right now this effort is going by the motherhood-and-apple-pie title “Democracy for the People,” and proponents hope to start circulating petitions in a few weeks. Opponents say there are better uses for public dollars, but the backers of this measure point to evidence from other cities that public financing increases participation in politics by regular people. 

“This would modernize and reform local campaign finance laws to make sure it’s open and accessible and most importantly accountable to the people,” said Jon Biggerstaff, executive director of Clean Slate Now, the group behind the initiative. Biggerstaff ran unsuccessfully for the State Senate on a platform that prioritized campaign finance. Clean Slate Now was founded by former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon to work on reducing the influence of money in politics.

Click here to read the full story in the Denverite.

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McCann cancels tour of crime lab for Denver Democrats’ fundraising group

Ernest Luning (Colorado Statesman)- Denver District Attorney Beth McCann on Monday cancelled a tour of the Denver Police Crime Lab scheduled later this week for members of a fundraising group tied to the Denver Democratic Party after a conservative organization raised a fuss.

Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado, sounded the alarm in a release Monday over an event publicized by the Denver Democrats’ Century Club — a group of donors to the county party who contribute specified amounts — billed as a “Members Only Event!!!” and a chance for supporters to “Get Your Inner CSI On!!!”

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Statesman.

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2 Boulder Planning Board members face possible conflicts ahead of vote on 1440 Pine St.

Alex Burness (Boulder Daily Camera)- Potential conflicts of interest for two Planning Board members loom over the board’s highly anticipated Thursday vote on whether to approve a controversial plan to build housing in downtown Boulder for 40 chronically homeless young adults.

Member Crystal Gray, whose longtime partner has been, for a year and a half, among the most outspoken opponents of the project, says she doesn’t plan to recuse herself from the hearing.

Her partner, John Spitzer, is a former Planning Board member, and has been one of the primary organizers of neighborhood opposition to the project, which has centered on the building’s density and height and on the opinion that homeless people ages 18-24 will be at further risk living in busy downtown.

Click here to read the full story in the Boulder Daily Camera.

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Colorado Open Records Act digital update bounds over last legislative hurdles

John Tomasic (Colorado Statesman)- The Colorado Open Records Act this year will receive a long-overdue digital-era update after Senate Bill 40 on Wednesday ended its switchback journey over the entire course of the 120-day legislative session Wednesday, finishing in the Senate with an against-all-odds unanimous vote of support.

“No one would have guessed it would receive all 35 votes in the Senate,” said sponsor Sen. John Kefalas, a Democrat from Fort Collins. “I think the bill does move the dial forward in meaningful ways and brings up the window just a tad in granting greater access to records that belong to the people.

“We have made progress. We haven’t hurt CORA. There’s more work to be done,” he said.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Statesman.

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Legislature approves open-records modernization, sends bill to governor’s desk

Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)- An 18-month push to update Colorado’s open-records law for the digital age culminated Wednesday in the final passage of a bill that clarifies the public’s right to copies of electronic government records in useful file formats that permit analysis of information in those records.

Senate Bill 17-040 heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk after passing the House on a 39-26 vote and then repassing the Senate unanimously, all on the last day of the 2017 legislative session.

The measure is intended to bar government entities from providing printouts of databases and spreadsheets when people ask for public records kept in databases and spreadsheets. No longer will governments be permitted to provide searchable records in non-searchable formats such as image-only PDFs.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

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Top Women Attorneys 2017: Peg Perl

Kaley LaQuea (Law Week Colorado)- When attorney Peg Perl moved to Colorado from Washington, D.C., after six years working in the government, she saw the opportunity to make a career change and focus on issues closer to home in the public interest.

“I wanted to really shift my focus from the 10,000-foot level of federal law and policy all the time to more state and local issues,” Perl said. “I wanted to shift into  the  nonprofit sector of public interest advocacy and advocate for citizens and good government work from the outside.”

So, she started her position as senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch in 2012. Perl’s work with Ethics Watch has focused on campaign finance, transparency measures for elected officials and engaging citizens in civics by making processes accessible and comprehensible. Perl also fills the role of program manager and spokesperson for Courts Matter Colorado, a coalition of roughly 25 organizations that serves to educate the public about federal courts and advocates for a fully staffed judiciary.

Click here to read the full story in Law Week Colorado.

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Watchdogs criticize Trump’s easing of ban on ‘politicking from the pulpit’

Nat Stein (Colorado Springs Independent)- At a press conference on May 4, President Donald Trump issued a directive, announcing his administration is taking “historic steps” to “give our churches their voices back.”

The order, titled “promoting free speech and religious liberty,” urges the end of the Obama-era requirement that employee-sponsored health plans cover birth control and directs the Treasury Department to “not take any adverse action” against individuals or organizations that engage in political speech from a religious perspective. (Remember, post-Citizens United, “speech” means spending.)

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Springs Independent.

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