The Colorado news roundup: Wolves, wildfires and weed (04.26.16)
Here’s what’s happening across Colorado today:
Colorado expecting average to below-average wildfire season
DENVER — Firefighters said Tuesday they expect another average or below-average wildfire season in Colorado in 2016, the third mild year in a row.
“That’s always good news,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said after announcing the outlook.
But even an average year can bring thousands of wildfires, he said, and a dry spell could make things worse.
The fire outlook is based on computer models that use weather conditions and forecasts, history and other factors.
Colorado enters this season after a wet winter, with the spring snowpack at 90 to 110 percent of average over much of the state Tuesday. South and southwest Colorado were the exception, with the snowpack at 77 to 82 percent.
About a quarter of the state is abnormally dry, but none of it is in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which tracks conditions nationwide.
— Dan Elliott, Associated Press
Denver limits pot shops, giving dispensaries permanent lock
DENVER — Denver’s 421 marijuana businesses now have a permanent lock on the industry.
The Denver Post reports that the City Council voted Monday to make permanent an ordinance grandfathering existing retail shops and grow sites.
The vote means that pot shops in Colorado’s largest city must have been licensed before recreational pot was legalized in 2012. Denver’s marijuana industry joined with parents’ groups and neighborhood groups to push for a permanent extension of the grandfathering requirement, saying the city has enough pot shops and doesn’t need more.
The measure allows pending license applications to go through before the caps are set, meaning the city could see 45 more grow sites or shops.
However, the bill requires reducing grow locations by 15 over time.
Amazon opening 1st Colorado facility
AURORA, Colo. — Amazon’s first facility in Colorado will bring hundreds of jobs to the Denver suburb of Aurora.
The Denver Post reported Tuesday that sealed packages will be sorted by zip code for delivery to local U.S. post offices at the Amazon sorting center just south of Denver International Airport. Amazon spokeswoman Ashley S. Robinson said in an email to the Post that the company is hiring hundreds for the center.
Robinson said hiring has begun, but no opening date for the center was available.
Anonymous benefactor steps up for Colorado wolf sanctuary
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — An anonymous benefactor has stepped in with a key donation for a northern Colorado sanctuary for displaced, abused and neglected captive wolves and wolf dogs.
The Coloradoan reported Tuesday that the W.O.L.F. Sanctuary located west of Fort Collins had been raising money for a $152,500 down payment for a new home in northwestern Larimer County. The sanctuary was $85,000 short and closing in on a Thursday deadline set by the owner when it got an anonymous donation.
The sanctuary currently houses 29 wolves and wolf dogs, with a capacity for 30. Animals that are taken in become lifelong residents. Executive Director Shelley Coldiron hopes the shelter can gradually expand to up to 60 animals in the new location.
Senate passes abandoned mines cleanup bill
DENVER — Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources will soon be able to respond to emergency situations at more of the state’s abandoned mines.
The Senate approved a bill Monday that allows the department to tackle situations threatening public safety or the environment at nearly any mine site.
DNR’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety had been limited to sites under its direct authority.
The House previously passed the bill, which now goes to the governor’s desk.
The bill was inspired by August’s Gold King Mine spill above Silverton. That spill sent millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River.
Tourists spent $55M near Mesa Verde National Park in 2015
CORTEZ, Colo. — The more than 547,000 people who visited Mesa Verde National Park last year spent $55.4 million in nearby communities.
A new report from the National Park Service shows that visitor spending also supported 814 jobs in the area.
Park Superintendent Cliff Spencer says national park tourism is a “significant driver” in the national economy and a “big factor” in the local economy.
The visitor spending report shows that the funds helped support nearly 7,000 jobs throughout Colorado and had a $667 million impact on the state economy. It also says park visitors in 2015 spent the most on lodging, followed by food and beverages, gas and oil, admissions and fess, and souvenirs and other expenses.
Colorado court: Ruling stands that baker can’t cite religion
DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a suburban Denver baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, letting stand a previous ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner must provide service despite his Christian beliefs.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who were refused service by baker Jack Phillips in 2012, applauded the development.
Craig said they persisted with the case throughout a complicated legal process because they felt it was important to set the precedent that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation was not only wrong but illegal.
“We didn’t want anyone to have to go through what we did,” Craig said.
Attorney Nicolle Martin, who represents Phillips, said they had not yet decided whether to ask Colorado’s highest court to reconsider, or approach the U.S. Supreme Court. Martin says she is surprised the Colorado court would not consider the case.
“This is a matter that affects all Americans, not just people of faith,” Martin said.
— Donna Bryson, Associated Press
Jon Keyser fails to make Colorado GOP Senate primary
DENVER — Former Colorado state Rep. Jon Keyser, once considered a front-runner to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet this fall, failed to gather enough petition signatures to make the Republican primary ballot, the secretary of state’s office said Monday.
Keyser’s campaign said it will appeal the decision in Denver district court.
“We are confident that we secured the necessary number of signatures to appear on the ballot and we will be pursuing legal action to ensure thousands of Coloradans are not disenfranchised,” Keyser’s spokesman, Matt Connelly, said in a prepared statement.
Keyser needed 1,500 signatures from registered Republican voters in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. He fell 86 signatures shy in the 3rd District represented by GOP Rep. Scott Tipton. The district encompasses much of southern and western Colorado.
Presidential primary proposal clears 1st Colorado hurdle
DENVER — A plan to return Colorado to a presidential preference primary has cleared its first hurdle at the state Legislature.
A House committee voted 5-4 Monday to set up a primary vote for 2020. Unaffiliated voters could choose to vote in a party’s primary as long as they indicate a preference, which would then be scrubbed after the vote.
That falls short of a truly open primary, in which voters could cast ballots in whichever party they choose, without indicating a party preference. Colorado has more unaffiliated voters than voters registered with either party.
Legislative analysts have said a primary vote would cost about $5 million.
Colorado’s harried presidential caucuses last month elicited complaints from both Republicans and Democrats.
Bill OK’d to protect immigrants in legal cases
DENVER — A bill to protect Spanish-speaking immigrants from unknowingly hiring non-attorneys to represent them in immigration matters has passed the state Senate.
Senators voted 26-8 to approve the bill.
It requires “notarios (no-TAH-ree-ohs),” or notary publics, to advertise that they are not authorized to practice immigration law — unless they actually are.
Violators could face civil fines.
Notarios are attorneys in many Latin American countries. But Colorado attorneys say some take advantage of Spanish-speaking immigrants by claiming to be able to represent them in U.S. legal matters, especially immigration cases.
The House already passed the bill, which now goes to the governor’s desk.
Colorado vaccine database proposal fails in legislature
DENVER — Mandatory vaccination opponents have helped defeat a Colorado proposal to start a database tracking children who haven’t been immunized.
The state House backed off the proposed database Monday, when it was scheduled for a vote. The legislative maneuver means the database proposal is dead for the year.
Democratic sponsors had enough support to steer the database through the House. But the proposal faced certain death in the GOP Senate, where some Republicans complain the state Health Department has already overreached by contacting parents about their children’s immunizations.
The proposal opened an emotional debate about Colorado’s low vaccination rates. Colorado is one of 20 states that allow parents to claim any kind of personal opposition to required immunizations, and vaccine rates for some diseases are among the nation’s lowest.
Colorado passed a law two years ago to have schools report vaccination rates. But for one in five Colorado kindergarteners, there was no immunization information on record for the 2014-15 school year.
Fantasy sports registration bill clears House
DENVER — Colorado is closer to regulating fantasy online sports leagues.
A bill requiring fantasy-sports operators to register with the state passed the House 44-21 Monday.
Large companies, such as Fan Duel and Draft Kings, would also have to get licenses, for a fee.
The bill requires fantasy sports sites to keep fantasy contest player funds separate from operational funds. The sites would also have to maintain a reserve in the same amount as the deposits made to the accounts of fantasy players.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
Sponsors say that some 27 states are currently considering some sort of regulations or taxes on the fantasy sports jackpots.
At least six states have declared the daily fantasy games a form of illegal gambling.
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