Afternoon Headlines, April 26, 2017

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams confirmed this week that the state attorney general’s office has launched a probe into what happened during Colorado’s Electoral College vote last November.

“They’re investigating,” he told The Colorado Independent.

On Dec. 19, 2016, during a traditional ceremony where the state’s nine national electors cast their official votes for president, one of them, Micheal Baca, did not cast his for Colorado’s popular vote-getter Hillary Clinton. That’s a violation of state law requiring electors cast their ballot for the winner of the popular vote.

Williams stripped him of his duty and replaced him. “We had an individual who took a specific oath and then immediately violated the oath,” Williams told The Independent.

Since December things have been quiet for the electors. They each went back to their normal lives after more than a month in the national spotlight. In recent weeks, however, a state investigator has called at least three of them saying he is looking into what happened. The investigator declined to talk about it with The Independent, referring questions to the attorney general’s spokesperson, who also declined to comment. So did Micheal Baca and his attorney Mark Grueskin.

Williams said he hopes that the outcome of the investigation restores confidence among voters that “people aren’t going to lie and try to throw away their vote and discard the vote of 2.9 million Coloradans. So what I hope happens is, as with most sanctions, that it deters other people from trying to thwart the will of the people of Colorado.”

A measure that would give mineral rights owners more power over those rights cleared the state House this week, but it is unlikely to win many fans from the pro-oil and gas Republican-controlled Senate.

The issue is forced pooling. When an oil and gas company wants to drill in a residential area, such as subdivisions in Broomfield and Windsor, it will seek one homeowner with mineral rights to agree to a lease. Under state law, once one owner agrees, the rest of the mineral rights owners are then forced to agree to those leases.

The measure would extend the time period mineral rights owners have to review sometimes complicated legal documents. An effort to require oil and gas company to obtain permission from a majority of mineral rights owners fizzled under pressure from the industry.

The legislature’s major bipartisan transportation bill bit the dust last night, lacking one Republican vote in the Senate Finance Committee that would have moved the measure to the full Senate.

The proposal would have asked voters to approve a half-cent increase in the state’s sales tax. That money would have been used to pay for about $3.5 billion in transportation bonds that could be used for roads, transit and local community transportation needs, such as sidewalks and bike paths.

Despite its sponsorship by Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City, Republicans on the finance committee said they could not back increasing the sales tax, arguing there are other options on the table, such as using existing state revenue.

With two weeks to go in the legislative session, the bill’s defeat leaves little in the way of options to tackle the $9 billion backlog in transportation projects. A slew of ballot measures has already been filed with the Secretary of State that would bypass the legislature and put transportation funding before voters.

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