Afternoon headlines, March 3, 2017

The House Judiciary Committee next week will hear testimony on a bill that would make it easier for a transgender person to change the gender on his or her birth certificate.

Current law requires a transgender person to have sexual reassignment surgery and a court order to change the birth certificate. The birth certificate then carries a notation that the gender has been amended. The bill would put changing a birth certificate into the hands of the state registrar at the Department of Public Health and Environment and would allow for a new birth certificate rather than an amended one.

The measure, which will is scheduled for the Judiciary committee on March 9, also would require a statement from a medical professional that either says that the person has undergone surgery or other transgender treatment or that in the doctor’s professional opinion, a change in birth certificate is appropriate.

The bill is sponsored by the House’s five LGBT members, including Democratic Rep. Dan-A-ah Es-gar of Pueblo, and is expected to pass the House. It, however, faces an uncertain future in the Republican-held Senate. Republicans have in the past opposed the measure on religious grounds.

It’s the third time Democrats at the statehouse have tried to move the bill all the way to the governor’s desk, but this year, there’s more concern for transgender rights in the wake of a recent decision by President Trump to rescind an executive order allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that conform to their gender identity.

It’s less of a concern in Colorado, where state law and other rulings have made transgender rights less at risk. However, anxious parents of transgender children and transgender adults want to see the bill passed to protect their privacy.

Dan McMinimee has stepped down as superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools effective immediately, but will take an advisory role through the end of his contract, the district announced Thursday.

The announcement portrayed the move as a mutual decision of McMinimee and the school board, which voted nearly two months ago to launch a search for a new superintendent while allowing McMinimee to finish out his contract. That contract is up at the end of June.

“The Board thanks Dan McMinimee for his service and commitment to Jeffco Public Schools and wishes him the best in his future endeavors,” board president Ron Mitchell said in the released statement.

Mitchell spoke to Chalkbeat Colorado later calling the change “an agreement that’s largely a role redefinition.”

Mitchell said that after the board’s vote to start a search for a new superintendent, the parties “felt pretty good,” but then, “I think that became somewhat uncomfortable for Dan.”

Mcminimee said the change should be a benefit for him and for the 86,000-student district, the second largest in Colorado.

McMinimee’s precise role in Jeffco until his contract ends June 30 is unclear. The release said McMinimee would serve in an “advisory capacity” and will “assist as needed in the transition.”

President Donald Trump’s decision earlier this week to ask the EPA to roll back a clean water regulation has pleased Colorado ranchers, who have criticized the rule as overly burdensome. But environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts say the rule is essential to protecting the health of the Colorado’s rivers and streams.

Trump’s executive order, signed Tuesday, concerns what is known as the Waters of the U.S. rule. Passed in May 2015, it clarified the scope of waters protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act, expanding protections to include not just major rivers but also most tributaries, wetlands near floodplains and even some waters that actually flow into protected waters, but are near them. Trump’s order seeks to scale back protection to just those “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water.”

Rob Harris, a senior attorney at Western Resource Advocates, says the rollback puts impermanent and seasonal streams and waterways at risk. That poses a particular threat in Colorado because only 15 miles of Colorado rivers and streams are what might be considered traditionally navigable — the other 95,000 stream miles are not, relying on seasonal variations like snowmelt.

Trump said he was signing the order on behalf of farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers, who find the rule overly burdensome and unclear. These workers have worried that the federal government would gain the power to penalize landowners for minor water issues like livestock walking into water ditches. Several commodities groups filed a lawsuit against the rule, which has not yet been implemented.

Before the rule is rescinded, new Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt will have to undergo a lengthy federal rulemaking process. Meanwhile, Colorado has the ability to enact more stringent water regulations.

State Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora got a rude shock this week, after the Denver Post reported that her son’s murderer is seeking a new trial because of juror misconduct.

Fields’ son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancee Vivian Wolfe, were murdered in 2005 on the orders of Sir Mario Owens, who is now on death row for the crime and the murder of a third person.

But Owens’ attorneys this week announced he would seek a new trial alleging that a juror lied on a juror questionnaire about her relationship with Owens’ family and that of one of the victims.

A warrant for the juror, Stephanie Griggs, was issued on Feb. 14 and alleges six counts of juror misconduct.

Fields said Thursday she believes a new trial would not serve justice but that jurors would come to the same conclusion and same penalty. She told reporters she faces daily heartbreak over her son’s murder, and that she does not want to go through the turmoil of another trial.

It just shakes my soul,” Fields told reporters Thursday. “The story should be about the truth,” which, she said, is that “my son was murdered, and there’s facts to support it, DNA to support it. All this other stuff we’re reading about is a distraction.”

The murder of Fields’ son prompted her to become a community activist and later led her to run for the state House, where she served six years. She was elected to the state Senate last November.

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