(Credit: Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry)
On Monday, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will sign a law that grants undocumented students the ability to pay in-state college tuition rates. This victory comes a decade after six unsuccessful attempts to pass the state Congress. The measure passed with a 23-12 Senate vote and a 40-21 House vote, this time with three House Republicans siding with the House Democrats who voted unanimously.
In the past, undocumented students had to pay the out-of-state tuition rate, which at times is more than three times the cost of in-state tuition. In order to qualify for in-state tuition, students must have either attended high school for three years or attained a GED equivalency, graduated from a high school within Colorado, and sign an affidavit stating that they have or will apply to legalize their status.
Immediately after Governor Hickenlooper signs the law, about five hundred first-time undocumented college students that make up “0.4 percent in the estimated 141,905 in-state students receiving college opportunity fund student stipends” will be able to pay in-state tuition. Around 1,500 undocumented high school students graduate each year in Colorado.
Colorado joins thirteen other states that allow in-state tuition for undocumented students. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed a similar law in early April.
The Colorado Senate’s Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to authorize civil unions Wednesday, on a 3-2 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. All three committee Democrats voted in favor, the two Republicans voted no.
Now that the presidential election is behind us and a new legislative session is about to begin, officials across the country will spend much of 2013 taking the steps to prepare to fully implement the Affordable Care Act. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) made significant progress in that area this week when he announced his state will accept Obamacare’s optional expansion of the Medicaid program, a move that will ensure that over 160,000 of his low-income residents will now be eligible for coverage.
At a press conference on Thursday, the governor announced that his plan to expand the Medicaid program will both improve coverage for low-income Coloradans as well as end up saving the state money in the long run:
“This is a step toward what we have talked about for a couple of years: How can we make sure we’re making Colorado the single healthiest state in America?” Hickenlooper said.
Through 2016, the federal government covers the entire cost of the expansion, which comes under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The governor said he anticipates that even when federal funding for the expansion is reduced, “not one dollar of general-fund money will be used to replace it.” [...]
The state’s ability to embrace the health-care expansion draws on “a relentless focus on how to control costs,” Hickenlooper said. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing zeroed in on several areas of projected savings, largely by rewarding value over volume.
Efforts to avoid duplicating services, improve coordination and employ information technology to reduce fraud and improve claim tracking drive the $280 million estimate.
Expanding the eligibility levels for the Medicaid program is optional under Obamacare, and federal funding makes the expansion a good deal for states. Numerous studies have shown that if states choose to expand Medicaid for their residents, they will be able to extend coverage to over 20 million previously uninsured Americans, save millions of dollars, and create jobs.
Nevertheless, some Republican-controlled states are still digging in their heels against reform, preferring to take an ideological stand against Obamacare rather than extend health care to their low-income residents. Republican governors in nine states have already said they will refuse the expansion.
The governor’s office said Monday that the services Hickenlooper and state health officials are proposing are aimed at redesigning and strengthening Colorado’s system for taking care of the mentally ill, an issue that has received more attention in the wake of the July’s shootings. [...]
The plan from Hickenlooper and state health officials includes opening five 24-hour walk-in centers for mental health care in Colorado and establishing a statewide mental health crisis hotline. Those two initiatives alone are estimated to cost $10.2 million.
State officials planned to discuss the initiatives Tuesday morning, where the Democratic governor will be joined by state Human Services Executive Director Reggie Bicha and members of Colorado’s mental health and public safety communities.
Hickenlooper’s initiative also calls for additional coordination between state departments to make sure that electronic mental health records get included in background checks for gun buyers. Aside from his desire to better address mental health discrepancies in Colorado, the governor also supports strengthened gun control laws, although he hasn’t proposed specific legislation.
Not every state official is taking similar steps to expand their residents’ access to mental health services, however. Just yesterday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed a state budget that includes cuts to mental health programs.
Hours Before Connecticut Shooting, Colorado Governor Urged Consideration Of More Gun Control |
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), hours before the tragedy in Connecticut, told the Associated Press that “the time is right” for the legislature to consider more gun control in Colorado. The comments came several months after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, left 12 dead and at least 58 injured. Hickenlooper said, “I wanted to have at least a couple of months off after the shooting in Aurora to let people process and grieve and get a little space, but … I think, now … the time is right.”
As Colorado voters prepare to consider a November ballot initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana, their governor, John Hickenlooper (D-CO), has come out against the initiative in no uncertain terms. Hickenlooper’s office released a statement decrying the amendment as harmful to children. Amendment 64 would allow the state to regulate and tax cannabis in the manner it currently handles alcohol. The NAACP has endorsed the initiative out of concern for the disproportionate impact petty drug possession charges have on the lives of young African Americans.
While acknowledging the injustice of felony charges for petty possession, the governor vaguely suggested there are other ways besides legalization to handle the problem:
Colorado is known for many great things — marijuana should not be one of them. Amendment 64 has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are okay.
Federal laws would remain unchanged in classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance, and federal authorities have been clear they will not turn a blind eye toward states attempting to trump those laws. While we are sympathetic to the unfairness of burdening young people with felony records for often minor marijuana transgressions, we trust that state lawmakers and district attorneys will work to mitigate such inequities.
When ThinkProgress asked the governor’s office what alternative legislation Hickenlooper would support to address these “inequities,” a spokesperson said he was unaware of any pending proposals. During Hickenlooper’s tenure as Mayor of Denver, the city legalized petty possession of marijuana for anyone over 21 years old, though police can still make arrests based on state law. A majority of Denver Republicans voted to support Amendment 64, which is very similar to the city initiative.
Amendment proponent Mason Tvert called the statement “one of the most hypocritical statements in the history of politics” due to Hickenlooper’s former ownership of the Wynkoop Brewing Company brewpub in Denver. The governor’s stance also puts him at odds with 47 percent of Colorado voters who currently support legalization. Even vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is staunchly against marijuana legalization, felt the need to declare his support for states’ rights on the issue during a visit to the state.
However, Hickenlooper’s statement also shows some pragmatism in warning the federal government “will not turn a blind eye” toward state legalization. The Justice Department has cracked down on Colorado’s state-sanctioned medical marijuana program in the past year and shows no sign of relenting.
During an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) refused to call for stronger gun control laws in the wake of the tragic movie theater shooting in his state. After saying that a reexamination of Colorado’s gun control laws is “going to happen,” Hickenlooper told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that even if there were stronger restrictions, the alleged shooter would “have found something else” to commit the murders:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does it make you think, at this point, that you need to take another look at Colorado’s gun laws?
HICKENLOOPER: You know, I’m sure that’s going to happen. But I look at this — this wasn’t a Colorado problem, this was a human problem, right, and how we can have such a warped individual and no one around them be aware. I worry that if we got rid of all the guns — certainly, we have so many guns in this country and we do have a lot more gun violence — but even if he didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical, right? He would have found explosives, he would have found something else, some sort of poisonous gas, something to create this horror.
The weapon used by the alleged shooter would have been covered by the assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004. The high capacity clip used was also covered by the ban. Later during ABC’s show, former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) said that no citizen should have access to an assault rifle. “No one should have that kind of killing machine,” he said.
Colorado Governor Calls Special Session For Civil Unions Consideration |
Last night, the Republican leadership in the Colorado House sacrificed more than 30 bills to stonewall civil unions from coming up for a vote. Today, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced he would call the legislature back for a special session starting this Friday to address the unfinished business, including the civil unions bill. In his remarks, Hickenlooper said that sexual orientation is not a choice, “everyone deserves the same legal rights in this country,” and that “this is a circumstance where we’re depriving people of civil rights for no reason.” Though he admitted he can’t force the bill’s passage, he said that “we’re going to continue to push for an open discussion” in hopes that it allows people to begin to “moderate their positions.” The special session could begin as soon as Friday and last for several days, and the governor made it clear that it would be paid for out of escrow, not taxpayer funds.
Colorado GOP May Run Out The Clock On Civil Unions Bill |
Despite the important victory last night, the fate of Colorado’s civil unions bill still faces several hurdles in the Republican-controlled House. To pass before lawmakers adjourn next week, it must advance through two more committees and make it to a floor vote by Tuesday. As Andrew Bateman notes at ColoradoPols, the GOP leadership has multiple tactics it could employ, such as the committee chair waiting 72 hours to sign the bill, the Majority Leader not scheduling a floor vote, or the Speaker requiring it to advance through additional committees. In his January State of the State address, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said “It’s time to pass civil unions,” and should the House let the bill die, he could call for a special session to make sure the legislature finishes its business.
Hi, this is Governor John Hickenlooper. In 2008, Colorado passed tough oil and gas rules. Since then we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing. And we plan to keep it that way. That’s why Colorado recently passed the toughest—and fairest—hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule in the nation. In Colorado, we’ve proven that industry and the conservation community can come together to solve problems. We can create jobs, promote energy security, and protect our environment. [Brought to you by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.]
As Zaid Jilani of the Republic Report, United Republic’s new blog dedicated to exposing how money pollutes democracy, observes, “the spot is particularly remarkable because it is almost unheard of for a sitting governor to appear in a radio commercial sponsored by a certain industry.”
The governor’s smiling photo also appears on two print ads, which are greenwashed with statements like “because the environment matters.” In response to criticism for the radio ads, Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Tisha Schuller said:
We stand by the ads, and we call them public service announcements.
However, in a strikingly public rebuke, 13 environmental groups are pushing back on the implication that drilling and hydraulic fracturing are safe and that there has been no damage from them in Colorado. In a letter sent to Hickenlooper earlier this week, Colorado conservation groups discussed their “surprise” and “disappointment” and have asked the governor and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to pull the ads off the air:
The ad…creates a misleading picture about the overall safety of oil and gas development…That assertion misleads the public by ignoring the high incidence of groundwater contamination from spills and releases of toxic chemicals at or near drilling sites. Since 2008, numerous instances of groundwater contamination have resulted from releases of chemicals such as petroleum liquids and produced water used and generated during drilling and hydraulic fracturing.