The NFL Draft is just a few short days away. Tell me you’re excited. Come on…
The state Senate has approved changes to Colorado’s Oil & Gas Commission. As Jeri Clausing of The Denver Post reports:
The Senate on Tuesday endorsed Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to overhaul the state’s oil and gas regulatory process, although Republicans cautioned they will be watching the new panel closely.
“Ultimately, this process will succeed or fail based on who the governor appoints to this commission,” Republican Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said of the “hard-won compromise.”
“I’ve told the governor as those nominees come up, they will undergo significant scrutiny.”
On a voice vote with no opposition, the Senate initially approved House Bill 1341, which will expand and change the makeup of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to include environmental, wildlife, public health and landowner representatives.
Currently, the seven-member panel is dominated by oil and gas representatives, which critics say amounts to the industry regulating itself. The bill will reduce from five to three the number of industry voices while expanding the commission to nine members.
The oil and gas industry has reluctantly signed on to the bill, though it remains concerned that the drilling permitting process could become hampered by politics.
“This is about trying to find balance,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, told his colleagues.
Legislative efforts to create a state “rainy-day fund” failed yesterday. Mark Couch of The Denver Post explains:
At the request of the bill’s sponsor, the Senate Finance Committee voted 5-2 to kill a proposal to gradually increase the state’s savings account for emergencies.
Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said his request came after fellow senators refused to back the savings account and another bill to boost the number of judges in the state. The pair of bills would divert tens of millions of dollars that would be used to build and repair roads, so Morse killed his bill to win support for the judges bill.
“We need four Republican votes to add judges to our system,” Morse said. “The Republicans have made it clear that we cannot have both an increase to our general fund reserve and new judges.”
The savings bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, expressed frustration as he watched the effort to create a rainy-day fund die for a second year in a row. The House approved the bill 64-1 on March 5.
“The Republicans extracted this pound of flesh in order to vote for the judges bill,” Buescher said…
…House Bill 1302 would have gradually boosted the amount of money in the state’s “statutory reserve fund,” moving as much as $70.8 million next year. About $47.3 million of that would have come from road funding.
Is there a more disgusting analogy than the old “pound of flesh” example?
From House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s newsletter:
Governor Bill Ritter issued an Executive Order on Tuesday creating a P-20 Education Coordinating Council. Its ongoing mission: “to ensure that Colorado’s educational systems from pre-school to grade 20 are aligned along the state’s education highway and also aligned with the needs of today’s employers.”
The council, whose members have not yet been selected, will recommend ways to fulfill the education goals listed in the Colorado Promise. In his campaign, Gov. Ritter pledged to “undertake systemwide reforms aimed at producing highly skilled employees who can meet the demands of a modern, 21st century workforce.”
The administration will brief a joint session of the House and Senate Education Committees on Thursday, April 26, at 1 p.m., in Hearing Room 0112 (Capitol basement). The meeting is open to the public.
Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News has more on the panel’s creation:
Some of the biggest names in education cheered on Gov. Bill Ritter Tuesday when he created a council to track Colorado schools from preschool to “grade 20.”
Ritter said the council is part of his commitment to cut the dropout rate, reduce the gap in achievements for minorities and ensure that Colorado graduates are properly trained by the time they hit the workforce.
“The consensus among governors is states need to lead . . . in education reform,” he said. “This is our vehicle for reform.”
College presidents, school board members, high school principals and superintendents watched as Ritter signed an executive order creating the Governor’s P-20 Education Coordinating Council.
Among those offering support was education kingpin Bruce Benson. “I think it’s great because you’ve got to put the pieces together, and this does that,” he said.
Benson is chairman of Metropolitan State College of Denver’s board of trustees, former chairman of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and chairman of the Denver Public Schools Foundation.
Benson is also the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. He unsuccessfully worked last year to defeat Ritter, the Democratic candidate for governor.
But Benson shares Ritter’s sentiment about politics and education. “This has no R (Republican) or D (Democrat) behind it,” Ritter said of his proposal. “This is not a partisan issue. This is about educating Colorado’s kids.
I’d like to be called a “kingpin.”
Gay rights proposals are gaining traction in congress, according to The Boston Globe :
After more than a decade of government inaction, gay-rights proponents in Congress have gotten several major bills moving through the Democratic-controlled chambers, a development that could result in the greatest expansion of federal protections for gays and lesbians in US history.
This week, a key House committee is set to approve a measure that would in some cases make hate crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation a federal offense, as are crimes committed on the basis of the race or religion of the victim.
Also, a bipartisan group of House members introduced a bill yesterday that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Both pieces of legislation are on track for congressional approval in the coming months.
If Congress passes the bills, gay-rights advocates say, it reflects a dramatic change in the national political landscape. In the dozen years Republicans controlled Congress, GOP lawmakers paid little attention to the gay-rights agenda and kept some gay-friendly legislation from even being considered.
“For millions of Americans, it’s a very important affirmation of their lives, and we’re not talking about [just] symbolism here,” said Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat who is openly gay. “We are talking about real problems that exist in people’s lives.”
Democratic leaders say that while they have enough votes to approve both measures, they probably could not override a presidential veto. That will probably leave it to President Bush, who has not stated a position on either bill, to decide whether they will become law, and Bush’s decision could propel the issue of gay rights into the 2008 presidential campaign.
The congressional move to expand gay rights is particularly striking given recent history: Besides halting nearly all gay-rights bills while they were in power, the GOP has tried in recent years to get a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
A similar dynamic has played out in the states. Between 2004 and 2006, voters in 22 states banned gay marriage. But this year, the momentum has shifted : New Hampshire is ready to pass a civil unions bill, and states, including New York and Connecticut, are considering whether to join Massachusetts and draft bills to legally recognize gay marriage.
Now, if only we could get some protection for gay cartoon characters, like those dancing penguins and that SpongeBob Squarepants fellow.
Another week, another series of articles on White House corruption. As The Washington Post reports:
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is creating a task force to examine allegations that White House or Justice Department officials violated a federal law that insulates government employees from partisan politics.
Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch said yesterday that staffers from a unit in his office that enforces the Hatch Act will form the core of a wider group set to examine whether White House officials improperly used federal resources for partisan purposes, improperly conducted partisan political business on federal time or tried to coerce federal employees into taking partisan political actions.
The inquiry will be the second into the actions of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and White House political aide Karl Rove. Democratic-led committees in Congress are examining similar questions.
The Special Counsel unit also will look into complaints from former U.S. attorney David C. Iglesias that he was fired by Gonzales and other top Justice Department aides for failing to pursue politically motivated prosecutions, and that he was improperly penalized for serving as a Navy Reserve captain, which took him away from his office periodically.
Bloch said he has not yet requested any information from the White House or the Justice Department but wants the probe to move swiftly. His office, an independent federal agency that enforces the Hatch Act, has legal authority to request documents and e-mails, as well as to issue subpoenas. If his office finds wrongdoing, it has the power to order those involved fired.
“We have had cooperation from the White House in the past,” Bloch said. White House spokesmen said the office has not yet contacted them, and reiterated that its officials’ political activities were appropriate.
The 68-year-old Hatch Act is designed to ensure that federal resources are not expended on behalf of a political party or cause. But White House officials tasked with political responsibilities are not governed as strictly by its provisions as career civil servants.
You’ve got to give the Bush administration credit for sticking to their guns. They say that Hatch Act may not apply to them, and that’s pretty much been their excuse for everything they’ve done thus far. Rules are for sissies.