The Spot: The wait is almost over for a first look at new congressional maps

Redistricting commissioners in Colorado expect to release their first proposed map in less than three weeks.

The congressional map will be unveiled June 23 and the legislative map June 28, both coming after the Colorado Supreme Court gave the green light to use incomplete data. These maps will be drawn by nonpartisan staff and will almost certainly change after commissioners take a look, hold dozens of public meetings across the state and receive final census data in August.

Still, it’ll be the public’s first glance at how the commissions are leaning. Where will the new 8th Congressional District be? Which congressional district will Pueblo fall into? Will U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s district become more or less Republican? And what happens to competitive legislative districts in Jefferson County that Democrats hold and Republicans want?

“If other states’ experiences are a guide, we should expect considerable public interest in Colorado’s new redistricting process overall and the release of the preliminary plan is one of the first milestones,” said Curtis Hubbard, a Democratic consultant who is registered to lobby the commissions. “But it’s important to remember that we’re still in the early miles of a redistricting marathon.”

Alan Philp, a Republican consultant who worked on Colorado’s redistricting in 2001 and 2011, said the preliminary maps “should be taken seriously because the nonpartisan staff is drawing the maps and they take their job very seriously” but noted these will be just the first of several iterations.

“The bottom line is, no one should get too excited or too depressed about the preliminary maps. They are the start of a map drawing process that will take several months,” Philp said.

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Top Line

People who lost loved ones in the mass shooting in Boulder want the governor and the attorney general to do an audit on donations that were supposed to help families. Read more from The Associated Press here.

Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi and Alex Burness

New laws and public participation

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed 205 bills as of June 1, and the legislature was still considering 215 bills at that time, according to a legislative analysis.

Lawmakers have until 11:59 p.m. June 12 to finish the session, though there has been some discussion they’ll end earlier. You can check the status of major bills with The Denver Post’s bill tracker.

Polis signed several bills since our last The Spot newsletter, including:

  • SB21-077: Undocumented immigrants can pursue professional licenses and educational licenses, despite their status.
  • HB21-1133: Public schools must provide annual seizure training for employees who work with students who have a seizure disorder. About 1 in 26 people develop epilepsy at some point in their lives, with 60,000 Coloradans living with the condition, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 7,800 children in Colorado have epilepsy or active seizures.
  • SB21-082: More businesses like breweries, pubs and distilleries can now hold festivals like wineries already do.
  • HB21-1084: It’ll be easier for kids in foster care to get their driver’s licenses, because the Department of Human Services will reimburse counties or social services for the cost of sending 15- to 20-year-olds to driving school.

The nonpartisan Colorado Capitol Watch has compiled a list of all signed bills here.

Dark-of-night policymaking

Late nights are common at the end of a legislative session — even if people in the Capitol grumble about it. But when committee hearings run into the early mornings, it discourages citizens from weighing in.

As one Senate committee hearing neared midnight last week, for example, there were still four major bills left on the agenda. Sure enough, when the chair called for the signed-up witnesses on those bills, many had dropped off.

The result: Major policies are amended and voted on to the floors in the dark of night. Of course, committee members almost always have their minds made up before they vote on something. It’s rare that a person’s testimony meaningfully changes a bill.

But in a democracy, people should still have their say if they want to.

“I don’t know what else to do to fix that,” said Rep. Susan Lontine, a Denver Democrat who chairs the House Health & Insurance Committee. “It’s tough to balance citizen participation with trying to get our work done with the limited time left.”

This year, people could testify remotely instead of going to the Capitol and waiting around for hours to speak. It’s a COVID change that interviews with several Capitol leaders suggest is likely to stick.

More Colorado political news

  • Democrats have been fighting with Polis over climate change. There’s now a plan for a compromise.
  • Colorado wants to become one of the only states to give consumers more say over how companies collect and share your online data.
  • The $5.4 billion transportation funding bill passed the legislature on a mostly party-line vote.
  • Data show that Colorado’s criminal legal system taxes the poor, and lawmakers want to change that.
  • Colorado legislators are advancing a bill to fix a hole in the state’s first-in-the-nation cap on insulin prices.

Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson

Hurry up and wait for changes to policing

A community task force handed Denver’s public safety officials a laundry list of ways to improve. But there won’t be immediate action — there’ll be more study, and it’ll take a while.

While Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration considers the 112 recommendations from the Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety, so too will the city council’s newly created Public Safety Working Group.

The council has less say in day-to-day operations but more control over the city’s budget. It could shift funding away from police and toward other programs and nonprofit service providers, Council President Stacie Gilmore said. But there’s always the threat of a mayoral veto (which Hancock has only used once in his three terms).

“If there’s a stalemate, that’s going to be really difficult,” Councilwoman Jamie Torres said. “The role we’ve got to play is to avoid getting to that extreme point.”

Torres said she’s specifically interested in strengthening the role of the city’s independent monitor — which provides citizen oversight for Denver’s law enforcement agencies. The council could also refer to voters other recommendations, like decriminalizing drug use, public intoxication or traffic offenses, Gilmore noted.

Torres said she empathizes with calls for immediate action, but noted that the council must study and understand the recommendations before taking any concrete action.

More Denver and suburban political news

  • Denver’s clerk and recorder is working to change municipal elections ahead of 2023.
  • Denver parks department crews will leave grass longer, flowers unplanted and fountains turned off in the city’s green spaces as the office struggles with a staffing shortage.
  • A few counties are bristling at new gun laws.
  • Eulois Cleckley, executive director of Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, will leave his position this summer for a similar job in Miami.

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