Afternoon headlines, March 16, 2017

Today President Donald Trump released his preliminary budget for the government. Defense and security funding was increased, and funding for federal agencies–largely addressing the environment and climate change–have been cut. In Colorado, agencies in that category employ nearly 14,000 people. The budget cuts could be detrimental to these jobs.

The Environmental Protection Agency is one of the most prominent of these agencies in Colorado. The EPA employs over 600 people at the Region 8 office in Denver. Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the EPA, has said this office could be consolidated with another region, meaning the Denver office may be eliminated. According to Trump’s budget, the EPA’s funding will be cut by 31%.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Interior employs around 7,000 Coloradans. It’s funding is cut by 12% in the new budget. It is unclear what will happen with these jobs under the Trump Administration.

The budget also completely eliminates all funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn, a Republican from the Western Slope, had earlier this year introduced legislation to defund the CPB. KGNU receives about $100,000 annually from the CPB. Other stations, particularly rural and Native American run community radio stations, could be closed down with the elimination of federal funds.

Yesterday, Democrats in the Colorado State House introduced four pieces of legislation that would curb the influence of money in politics.

The bills call for more transparency in election donations, including providing information about the organizations paying for political ads. They also set limits for individual campaign contributions. One bill would cap individual contributions for county elections at $2,500, and continue to prohibit corporate contributions for county elections.

There are currently caps for individual contributions in state, and federal elections, but not for county elections.

Representative Chris Kennedy, a Democrat from Lakewood, told Colorado Politics that there have been times in county races where wealthy donors contribute as much as $40,000 to a race. He says we need to make the playing field level for all candidates running, and elections should focus on building relationships with the community, and not solely financial contributions.

None of the bills are currently sponsored by Republicans, but bill sponsors say they are looking to find bipartisan support. If they pass the House, the bills would also have to make it through the Republican controlled Senate.

Tuesday, Democratic Representative Mike Foote of Lafayette, proposed a bill that would require oil and gas wells to be at least 1,000 feet away from any school property.

As it stands, oil and gas wells are required to be at least 1,000 feet away from school buildings, but that does not include athletic fields, outdoor education areas, or playgrounds.

The bill would also apply the 1,000 feet rule to child care centers.

Foote told the Longmont Times Call that for children, part of going to school is playing outside. He says that as it stands, children could be on the playground and only a few hundred feet away from a oil or gas well.

Dan Haley, President of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement that they are looking into the bill, but notes that in 2015 the governor’s oil and gas task force found that additional setbacks from schools were unnecessary. And the state health department recently found that oil and gas operations were within healthy limits.

The bill has been referred to the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. It is set to be debated on March 23rd at 1:30pm.

Today a bill allowing women to get a year’s worth of contraceptives in one pharmacy visit passed its first vote in the Colorado State House in a bipartisan vote.

Republican Representative Lois Landgraf of Littleton is a sponsor on the bill. She told Colorado Politics that the bill will help women reduce unintended pregnancies, and in turn reduce the number of abortions.

A report in 2011 by the National Institute of Health found that providing a year’s supply of contraceptives could reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies by one third.

But critics wonder why contraception is being singled out. Republican Representative Kim Ransom of Littleton voted against the bill. She told Colorado Politics that she would like to see other prescribed medications get the same allowances.

The bill still has a final vote to pass the House, and then it will be sent over to the Senate for debate.




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