Home sweet dome.
Or is it dome sweet home?
After being closed for five years, the State Capitol dome once again opens for visitors today. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:
The state’s gold-covered Capitol dome will reopen officially today for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001.
The landmark was closed because of security concerns after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and it was kept off-limits as workers helped bring it up to code.
Rose-colored marble, imported from Italy, has been added to the stairwell. (The quarry in Beulah where the original rock came from was depleted to build the Capitol.) And a new flight of stairs was made to match the wrought iron and marble stairs elsewhere in the building.
Visitors will now have to climb six more steps to reach the top of the dome. Former Gov. Bill Owens used to climb to the top several times a week as a form of exercise, even though he only weighed 87 pounds.
State Rep. Buffie McFadyen is holding a press conference this morning to discuss increased funding for federal prisons. As a press release states:
The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) has provided a small but desperately needed funding stream to partially reimburse state and local governments for incarcerating criminals. This year’s proposed federal budget would slash this important funding program for states. Law enforcement officers from throughout Colorado and across the country will join Rep. McFadyen in calling on the Bush administration and Congress to meet its federal responsibilities and fully fund the SCAAP.
McFadyen, who represents the prison-heavy area of southern Colorado, will be joined at the press conference by the Colorado State Sheriffs Association Corrections and the Private Corrections Institute California Correctional Peace Officers Association. If you’re interested, head to the third floor press room at the State Capitol at 11:00 a.m.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will visit the federal prison complex at Florence, Colorado tomorrow. As Bruce Finley of The Denver Post reports:
When U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales enters the nation’s highest-security federal prison complex at Florence this week, he’ll find a place where guards warn that short staffing leaves them vulnerable, where terrorists may be able to plot and where some murders go unpunished.
It’s also a place where the extreme isolation of prisoners raises concerns among human- rights advocates about psychological torture.
Gonzales’ visit Wednesday – with lawmakers, prison administrators and union leaders in tow – is designed to help tackle these and other troubles that could threaten security at the ultra-high-security Supermax prison and the adjacent high-security U.S. Penitentiary.
Built at the base of Colorado’s Wet Mountains for $60 million and completed in 1994, these secretive facilities stand out in the federal prison system because Supermax holds the nation’s most dangerous criminals and terrorists.
Among the terrorists – including would-be airline shoe-bomber Richard Reid, World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui – are growing numbers of Arabic speakers.
U.S. Sens. Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard urged staffing and security improvements at Florence last fall. A recent report by the U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general faulted Supermax for not doing enough to monitor prisoners’ mail and phone calls.
Colorado Confidential will host a Live Q&A tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. with GOP consultant Katy Atkinson, who will present the ying to last week’s yang (Mark Grueskin) regarding the debate over Amendment 41.
Speaking of Amendment 41, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and Sen. Josh Penry will introduce legislation this week to make it tougher to pass voter initiatives in Colorado that change the constitution. As Jeri Clausing of The Denver Post reports:
The proposal comes on the heels of Amendment 41, which targeted gifts to elected officials and government workers but has been interpreted to be so broad as to to prohibit children of government employees from accepting scholarships.
Romanoff said Monday that his proposal would make it easier for voters to propose statutory changes rather than constitutional amendments.
“There is no incentive for citizens to go the statutory route because it’s just as easy to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot and it is more airtight from legislative interference,” Romanoff, D-Denver, said.
Currently, proponents of ballot measures must collect signatures from 5 percent of the number of voters in the last secretary of state’s race.
Romanoff’s proposal would ask voters to raise that threshold for constitutional amendments and lower it for statutory changes.
“I think the real reason most folks go the constitutional route is because they have seen the legislature mess around with their statutes,” he said.
Under his proposal, lawmakers would need a two-thirds vote to make any changes to statutory initiatives within the first five years after they are passed.
Some Democrats in the state legislature are concerned that other Democrats are veering a little too far to the left. As Mike Saccone of The Grand Junction Sentinel reports:
With little more than a month under the belt of Colorado’s 66th General Assembly, members of the Democratic majority have introduced measures that could turn Colorado into a union-friendly state, abolish the death penalty and circumvent the Electoral College.
One Boulder Democrat has announced intent of mimicking the party’s Congressional peers and introducing a resolution opposing President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq.
These proposals, a slew of moderate Democratic lawmakers said, have done little more than create controversy and wasted the Legislature’s time.
Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said she has had a hard time confronting these proposals, among others, that she said have less to do with “moving Colorado forward” and more to do with creating controversy.
Curry, who represents a district with constituents ranging from conservative Hinsdale County north to the liberal stronghold of Aspen, said she wished lawmakers would focus on pragmatic, reasonable reforms instead of legal sea changes or ineffectual resolutions.
Curry said a handful of her Democratic colleagues’ bills have caused her some consternation, but she emphasized that both sides of the aisle have had some role in derailing the Legislature’s “legitimate business.”
“I see things happening on both sides that are not completely germane to the work that we need to do right now,” Curry said. “We spend time debating issues that we have little or no control over and don’t move us forward.”
Health care is expected to be a critical issue in the race for the Presidency in 2008, as The Boston Globe reports:
Healthcare, a major theme in the 1992 presidential campaign, has returned as a critical issue in the 2008 contest. But this time, contenders in both parties are placing new focus on preventive care as a way of improving public health and ultimately reducing the skyrocketing cost of medical care.
One presidential candidate wants to give earned days off to federal workers who exercise regularly and do not smoke, while another would press schools to ban junk food. Another candidate plans to reward people who undergo regular physicals and engage in healthy lifestyles with discounts in their health insurance premiums.
Mike Huckabee, former Republican governor from Arkansas, has led the charge for giving financial incentives — including tax breaks and paid days off — as rewards for healthy behavior.
Democrats Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, and John Edwards, former US senator from North Carolina, are proposing similar ideas. Other presidential contenders have raised the issue on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.
You know why so many Americans are still without health care?
Colorado Rep. Mark Udall wants to go Elk huntin’. Todd Hartman of the Rocky Mountain News explains:
Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, has introduced a bill designed to clear up legal questions over whether the National Park Service can allow the participation of private hunters in a proposal to reduce the park’s elk population.
The bill comes amid fierce debate on the issue. Park service officials, citing safety of the park’s three million annual visitors, have proposed a tightly controlled culling program, run by park service personnel. They have also argued federal law prevents such a public hunt in the park.
But Colorado wildlife commissioners say licensed hunters – supervised by the state Division of Wildlife – could do the job effectively and far more cheaply than the $16 to $18 million initially proposed by the park service.
Udall agrees, and said using the “expertise” of Colorado hunters would save taxpayer dollars. He said the bill would maintain the park service’s authority to carefully supervise such a program.
“This bill does not declare open season Elmer Fudd style in Rocky Mountain National Park,” Udall said in a statement. “It makes sure the Park Service has the authority to allow qualified Colorado sportsmen and sportswomen to participate under strict guidelines.”
Hee hee. He said “Elmer Fudd.”