(AP) Colorado’s state House and Senate districts are getting new legislative boundaries next year to account for population change, and a committee appointed to make the changes starts work in earnest today. The 11-member appointed Colorado Reapportionment Commission meets in Denver to review state demographics and make a plan to redraw House and Senate lines. The state’s districts must be the same size, so they’re redrawn after every Census to account for population change. The Front Range is expected to pick up seats, especially in Denver’s southern suburbs and the Colorado Springs area. The Eastern Plains have been flat or losing population over the last decade. The Reapportionment Commission will submit a plan for 65 House and 35 Senate districts to the state Supreme Court by Oct. 7.
(AP) A state senator from Boulder is launching a campaign to prevent further budget cuts for Colorado schools and colleges. Sen. Rollie Heath is set to officially start the effort today at the state Capitol. He wants to ask voters to raise Colorado’s income and sales tax rates for a five-year period. The rates would go back to the current rate in 2017, under the proposal. Heath needs to collect voter signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER DIES
Craig Middle School’s band teacher, Craig Smith, died suddenly this weekend of a brain aneurysm. Smith had taught at the school for 9 years. Moffat County High School band teacher John Bolton will conduct the middle school concert Thursday. Because of the circumstances, that concert will likely be moved to high school auditorium to accomodate a larger than anticipated crowd. It’s scheduled for 7. Smith is survived by his wife Linda, his three sons and two grandchildren. He was 64.
The Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership has a busy day ahead. The board will hold their regular meeting this morning, in which they will elect their new officers. Those members whose terms are expiring are Jay Oxley, Dave Fleming, and Mike Anson. That meeting runs from 11:30 to 1 today at the Moffat County Courthouse. Then a couple of hours later, the group will help facilitate at public meeting designed to inform residents about the two high-voltage power lines being proposed for the area. TransWest and Rocky Mountain Power are looking for the best routes possible for a couple lines that are expected to pass through South Central Wyoming and Moffat County before ending in Utah. It’s estimated the county will see 1-million dollars a year in tax revenue, but the land use board has delayed their recommendation until environmental and property rights questions are answered. Today’s informational meeting will be held in the 2nd floor conference room of the Moffat County Courthouse at 3:30.
(AP) A rising North Platte River has prompted the town of Saratoga to build a 3-foot berm to protect the town from predicted flooding. Saratoga is building a 3-foot berm of plastic-wrapped dirt and sandbags on both sides of the river. Mayor John Zeiger says the berm is a precaution after predictions the river could rise 18 inches to 2 feet higher than last spring. The National Weather Service has said there could be low-level flooding in the Little Snake River Valley tomorrow and Wednesday. By mid-week, he said, the North Platte could be a half-foot from reaching flood stage. Zeiger says he’d rather see his town of about 2,000 people overreact than face flood damage. The mayor is also the Carbon County Emergency Management coordinator.
Routt National Forest fire Crews are planning a prescribed burn today. It will cover 80 acres of oak brush next to Seedhouse Road, on River Creek between Hinman Campground and nearby private lands. This will be the first of several prescribed fires planned for the area over the next few years. Forest reps say conditions are ideal right now for the operation. Smoke will be visible in the Seedhouse corridor. The burn is expected to reduce the risk of wildfire, while revitalizing habitat for wildlife.
OIL AND GAS LEASE AUCTION
Three of the next 5 parcels that will be up for lease in the B-L-M’s next quarterly oil and gas lease auction will be in Rio Blanco County. The 5 parcels total nearly 53-hundred acres. The auction is scheduled for August 11th in Lakewood. One parcel is in Garfield County and the other is in Grand County. Protests are being accepted until June 13th.
GRANT FOR HORIZONS
The Daniel Fund’s Family Support Program has awarded Horizons a $15,000 grant to help families offset some of the financial stresses that come with raising a child with developmental disabilities. The program offers service coordination and financial help to eligible families. It covers things like medical treatments, home modifications, insurance payments and other associated costs. Families with a developmentally disabled child can apply for the funds through Horizons.
FUTURE OF MARIJUANA
(AP) Marijuana advocates racked up big wins in this year’s session of the Colorado Legislature. Now they’re turning their sights to a bigger effort – full legalization on the 2012 ballot. Pot legalization backers hope to start gathering signatures as soon as this summer to put the question to voters. Given Colorado’s low signature threshold for ballot initiatives, they say they expect an easy path to the polls. Colorado voters defeated a legalization measure in 2006, as did California voters last year. But activists here are regrouping for another push and hope to start collecting signatures this summer.
(AP) Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed a bill that threatened to send the Colorado Legislature into a special session because it set rules for state agencies and lawmakers were at odds over it. Hickenlooper signed the bill into law Friday. The rules bill sets hundreds of guidelines for everything from teacher licenses, oil and gas drilling, and hunting permits. Lawmakers reached an impasse on the bill because Republicans added a last-minute amendment to allow payday lenders to keep loan origination fees. The amendment infuriated Democrats. Republicans backed off their proposed change hours before the Legislature adjourned.
(AP) Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law aimed at reducing bullying in Colorado schools. Hickenlooper signed the bill at Lakewood High School Friday as students and the proposal’s sponsors looked on. The measure updates definitions for bullying at schools, including adding language about online bullying. The new law also encourages schools to conduct biannual student surveys about bullying and enables the state to accept grants to provide grants for prevention programs. The governor was also visiting a restaurant in Lakewood to sign a bill allowing bars and restaurants to sell low-strength beer.
(AP) A major improvement to a state computer system used to process applications and renewals for food stamps, medical aid other state programs is set to be completed by the end of the month. The upgrade that had been promised for last spring is scheduled to be completed by May 31. Information Technology spokeswoman Dara Hessee says the latest delay in the long-troubled Colorado Benefits Management system is meant to give county workers time to become familiar with a new Web interface software. The $243 million computer system has been plagued by problems. County directors are also protesting a recent decision to have a private contractor process medical benefits applications.
(AP) People and businesses behind on their taxes could get a chance this fall to make things right without facing penalties. A bill awaiting likely approval by Gov. John Hickenlooper would create a tax amnesty from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 to let taxpayers settle amounts they owe without fines. Those who pay in full without entering payment plans would avoid interest due. Lawmakers say the amnesty could bring in about $10 million to Colorado’s education budget. Tax amnesties are used around the country during tough budget years. Colorado last had a tax amnesty in 2003. Lawmakers supporting the amnesty say the money will bring much needed relief to the state’s education funding. It’s an area of the budget that has seen drastic cuts in recent years.