Guv calls for debate on gun control

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Guv calls for debate on gun control

Water plan, mental-health system overhaul also on list
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, greets guests Thursday as he enters to deliver the annual State of the State speech before a joint session of the Colorado General Assembly in the State Capitol in Denver. Looking on at right, from back to front, is the contingent from the city of Aurora – Mayor Steve Hogan, Police Chief Dan Oates and Fire Chief Mike Garcia.

DENVER – Calling on Coloradans to “punch holes in the darkness,” Gov. John Hickenlooper laid out his response to massive wildfires and gun violence Thursday in his third State of the State address.

The speech contained Hickenlooper’s most detailed vision yet of what he wants to accomplish as governor, from a statewide water plan to mental-health improvements to reforming the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

The twin menaces of drought and gun violence colored much of the speech.

Hickenlooper paid homage to Coloradans who suffered during a horrific summer that saw the state’s most destructive wildfires and one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

“We have an obligation to prevent similar tragedies, to do good, to bring light to darkness. We have an obligation to represent the best that is Colorado,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper originally responded to the Aurora movie theater shooting last July by saying it wasn’t the right to time to discuss the politics of guns while victims still were mourning.

Coincidentally, a day before the Connecticut elementary school shooting, he said Colorado should start the conversation about guns, and he emphasized his new position Thursday.

“We shouldn’t be restrained from discussing any of these issues. Our democracy demands this type of debate,” he said.

He called for universal background checks for all gun sales – a line that brought a standing ovation from Democrats and silence from Republicans.

“Surely, Second Amendment advocates and gun-control supporters can find common ground in support of this proposition: Let’s examine our laws and make the changes needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Hickenlooper said.

He also called for the Legislature’s support for a “comprehensive overhaul” of the mental-health system. He outlined what he had in mind last month – legal changes that make it easier to find people with mental-health troubles and get them treatment, either with or without their consent.

The governor called for a statewide water plan by 2015.

“While expanding reservoir capacity makes sense, and rotational fallowing of agricultural land shows great promise, every discussion about water should start with conservation,” he said.

He touched only briefly on two of the hottest issues in the Legislature in 2012. He called on lawmakers to quickly pass bills to create civil unions for gay and lesbian couples and college tuition discounts for the children of illegal immigrants. With Democrats firmly in control of both the House and Senate, passage of both bills is a foregone conclusion.

The speech was “probably a little more than 50 percent bipartisan, I’d say,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.

But Cadman worried about Hickenlooper’s call to reform the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and other constitutional amendments that keep property taxes low and set a minimum amount of school funding.

“A lot of the proposals are a little bit pie in the sky in a speech like this. We need to get down to details,” Cadman said.

Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, liked what he heard, especially on Hickenlooper’s renewed call to pass a civil-unions bill.

“I think the people in Colorado elected us to create the vehicle for civil unions. That was something the House was visibly divided on,” McLachlan said, noting the standing ovation from Democrats and no applause from Republicans.

Hickenlooper separated from his wife, Helen Thorpe, last year, but she attended Thursday’s speech and sat in the front row.

“On a personal level, I appreciate Helen being here today. Even with the changes in our life, she remains a beacon of light to me and Teddy for all that is good and just,” Hickenlooper said.



jhanel@durangoherald.com

State of the State highlights

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper’s third State of the State address contained his most detailed policy agenda yet. Some of the highlights:



Wildfires



“We need to re-examine the way homeowners are insured in the wildland-urban interface, and do a better job of encouraging and supporting fire-mitigation practices,” Hickenlooper said.

He will ask for funding to remove trees and create healthier forests in high-risk areas, he said.



Marijuana



Hickenlooper briefly mentioned one of the toughest issues facing the Legislature – passing laws to implement Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for adults. He called on the Legislature to create a standard for police to tell when people are too high to drive, and he said laws must be designed to keep pot away from kids.



State constitution



Legislators have tried for several years – without success – to make it harder to amend the constitution. Hickenlooper pledged his clout to the effort Thursday.

“We want to work with you to explore creative ideas on how best to reform the way our constitution is so easily amended. There are a number of ideas already circulating,” he said.



Enterprise zones



The system of tax credits for businesses in supposedly downtrodden areas needs reform, Hickenlooper said.

“I know from my own days of opening businesses that enterprise zones help, especially when you are trying to grow. But it is time to update the rules,” he said.



Gas and oil



In the one section of the speech that drew louder applause from the Republican side of the room, Hickenlooper touted the benefits of natural-gas drilling.

The state oil and gas commission works with local communities to address their concerns, he said.

“What doesn’t work is a patchwork of rules and regulations,” he said.

This week, the commission passed a rule on water-quality testing and is on the cusp of setting a 500-foot buffer zone between homes and new wells.



jhanel@durangoherald.com

Related Story
Full text of Gov. Hickenlooper’s State of the State speech

Guv calls for debate on gun control

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, greets guests Thursday as he enters to deliver the annual State of the State speech before a joint session of the Colorado General Assembly in the State Capitol in Denver. Looking on at right, from back to front, is the contingent from the city of Aurora – Mayor Steve Hogan, Police Chief Dan Oates and Fire Chief Mike Garcia.
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