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The Sunriser

The Sunriser: How to get involved in lawmaking this year, 11 charts about health care costs, pot’s hunger for power and more Friday news

Your free front page for the best in Colorado news.

Compiled by Eric Lubbers, eric@coloradosun.com
CTO/Newsletter Wrangler, @brofax

Good morning and happy Friday, readers!  And it’s not just any Friday, it’s the Friday that kicks off the Colorado legislative session.

We’ve got our reporters all over the Capitol today (and pretty much every day for the next four months), but we are trying to do something different with this year’s coverage. The short version is that we want you to really learn how lawmaking works in Colorado and have a stake in how it all goes down. I’ll get into the long version farther down.

While most people are embroiled in the latest in national politics, it’s the stuff that happens down the road in Denver that will have some of the biggest material impacts on your life here in Colorado. This is the year you get involved, and we’re going to help you do so.

But first, we’ve got some other great reporting to share, so let’s bang this gavel, shall we?


Denver and Boulder have big goals to fight climate change. But there is an obstacle: cannabis

“If you aren’t efficient, you aren’t in business anymore.”
— RiNo Supply Co. general manager Brian Matthews

To grow marijuana plants year-round, growers have to artificially stretch daylight with powerful electric lights. And keep the temperature just right with heaters and fans. And fire up humidifiers because a slight change in humidity could ruin a whole crop. All of that tinkering with the environment at an industrial level consumes a lot of electricity. As Colorado Sun contributor Mark Jaffe writes, that hunger for power comes at a time when Colorado’s urban areas are trying to reach some big climate-change goals.

>> Read Mark’s whole story, including why most growers can’t just go invest in more efficient equipment.

Health care is ridiculously expensive. Here are 11 charts that help explain the costs in Colorado.

From the Colorado Division of Insurance’s Health Insurance Cost Report for calendar year 2017, page 17.

From the Colorado Division of Insurance’s Health Insurance Cost Report for calendar year 2017, page 17.

Health-care costs so much money. That’s one thing that everyone knows. But why? That’s the question that can be asked 100 times and can get 100 different, mostly accurate answers. To help figure this out before the Colorado legislature tries to tackle the problem, John Ingold found 11 charts to show the scope of the issue (and explained them in plain language). All the charts taught me something, but it was No. 11 (the ratio of how much private insurers are charged vs. how much Medicare is charged) that really took me by surprise.

>> See all the charts here.

First-of-its-kind study of youth suicide puts data behind Colorado’s “public-health crisis”

“Our community is at a point where everybody knows the scary statistics. This is not an awareness problem. The main insight that we gained from this is understanding how traumatized our community is.”
— Laura Warner, San Juan Basin Public Health interim director

After a year of study involving interviews with youths, parents, and school and health officials in the four Colorado counties with the highest rates of youth suicide, the state attorney general’s office released the first report of its kind for the state. And the data shows some common themes for an area’s risk factors, such as weak economies and lack of health-care resources. But as Jennifer Brown writes, the researchers actually took the time to talk to kids about their lives — how they’ve had to deal with school pressure, social media and external stressors such as school shootings without having time to decompress. The study also includes steps that parents and health officials can take to combat that stress that aren’t “confusing and inadequate.”

>> Read the full story here, including a link to the full report.


The Colorado legislative session kicks off today. We want to help you understand it (and get involved).

(Graphic by Lonnie MF Allen)

Today, 100 lawmakers — many of them new — are going to enter a beautiful, blue-gray building with a gold dome in Denver and spend the next four months making decisions that will affect everything in Colorado from the climate and roads to health care and education. Exactly how they do that can feel so distant and complicated that you don’t bother keeping track.

Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s not. Introducing Capitol Sunlight, a project by The Colorado Sun to demystify how laws are made in our state and give you the tools you need to not only stay on top of what’s happening under the dome but give you the information you need to actually get involved in the process.

>> Start here on the project homepage for a guide to lawmaking, 10 issues to watch this session, a Jared Polis promise tracker and more.

RELATED: Last year, a rushed bill to regulate blockchain in the state of Colorado failed in dramatic fashion at the last second, largely because some lawmakers said they had no idea what they were even voting on. But after six months of collaboration between crypto experts, lawyers and policymakers, Tamara Chuang writes, the stakeholders think that their Digital Token Act can help keep Colorado at the forefront of the maturing technology.

>> Read about the Digital Token Act and how much work it took to get there.


The Fun Stuff

CARTOONS

// Drew Litton’s latest has John Elway getting a bonus Christmas gift.

// In this week’s What’d I Miss? Ossie is going to have to have a pretty awkward talk with Myra about some of her favorite comedians from the ’80s. (Click here to start the strip from the beginning.)

BOOKS

I’m very excited about this week’s SunLit entry. Chip Colwell, whom you may know as one of the hosts of the very cool SAPIENS podcast and as the senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, brings us this week’s book, “Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits.” It’s a sobering look at museum collectors’ role in exploiting the poverty of the Zuni tribe to buy artifacts and even the bones of the tribe’s ancestors. Read an interview with Colwell about why he wrote it and read an excerpt of the book here.

JOHN FRANK’S BEER PICK OF THE WEEK

One of Colorado’s premier beer festivals arrives early in the year. Breckenridge Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival runs Jan. 10-12 with the big tasting event on Jan. 12. The event draws some of the best breweries from across the nation, and tickets are still available. For the aficionados, the other seminars and dinners are the best way to learn more about how to make great beer.


The Shortlist

Stuff about Colorado worth checking out

 

// Folks, this is a wild one. A mysterious group was formed earlier this year with the goal of recalling a Weld County commissioner, but for months the donors and operatives of the group were secret. But, in a twist, it was revealed that the woman running it is the wife of a rival commissioner with a history of attacking his colleagues. You really need to read this one for yourself. // Greeley Tribune

// This is a pretty cute story from Nic Garcia: “Populist promises, identity politics and stemwinders: Eighth-graders run for office.” // The Denver Post

// Remember that Twitter account I mentioned in October that is tweeting a map of every single census tract in the country, one by one? It finally made it to Colorado and is currently in Boulder County (the CU campus showed up at about 3 a.m. today). // @everytract on Twitter

// After two years of cancellations, the Silverton Flying Sled Dog Races may actually happen in 2019. // Durango Herald

// Remember the idiotic practice of “rolling coal” that caused a ruckus last year? That same mentality seems to be on display in a new way, with people using big trucks to deliberately block electric-car charging stations. Well, some Tesla owners in Loveland made a video proving that if they really wanted to, Tesla owners could just tow the trucks out of the way, even with a truck’s emergency brake on. //  Jalopnik

// CPR has 8 cool charts showing just how much Colorado has changed since Gov. Hickenlooper took office in 2011. // Colorado Public Radio

// Montbello has been a food desert since the closure of the neighborhood’s Safeway. After four years of residents without cars having to bus to Aurora or Stapleton just to shop in one place, an advocacy group has placed a bid on property where it plans to build its own grocery store. // Westword

// A big ol’ 737 landed at Aspen’s tiny airport for the first time ever, squeaking in at just 3 inches under the maximum wingspan allowed at the airport. // The Aspen Times

// CORRECTION: In Wednesday’s Sunriser, I said that anyone in Colorado can get a Denver Public Library card online (which is true). But I also said that the card would entitle the bearer to the free Kanopy video streaming service, which is not the case. The service is only available for Denver residents, due to a limited budget for the service at DPL. Sorry for the confusion, and please check Kanopy to see whether your library system supports it.

//  This has absolutely nothing to do with Colorado, but reporter Jesse Paul and I were in our newsroom when “You’re Beautiful” came on the speakers, which I used as an excuse to tell him about the time that singer James Blunt “prevented World War III” during his time as a British soldier by refusing a U.S. order to attack Russian troops in Kosovo in 1999. And now, like me, you’ll think about it every time you hear that song. // BBC


Your Thing for Today

The Thing: Countable (On the web or in app form for Android and iOS )

Why You Might Like It: As you’ve seen above, we’re working to give you the most-comprehensive coverage of what’s going on at the Colorado statehouse this session — as well as the tools to get yourself involved in the process. But if you’re interested in getting involved at the federal level, there’s no better place to start than Countable.

Basically, you plug in your ZIP code and then, either via the app or via email, Countable lets you know exactly how your representatives vote on every bill. You can also see every bill introduced into Congress and use the app to directly send a message to your reps with feedback. In an age where it feels like the internet is doing everything it can to hurt democracy, this is a tool that actually gives you back some of the power you’re supposed to have.


Whew! That was a long one. The fact you made it down this far is to be commended. I suggest taking the next two days off to recover and coming back on Monday.

We’ve got exciting things in store for 2019, so please don’t forget to share the stories you read (and tag The Sun wherever you’re sharing it) so we can get more people into our community.

Have a great weekend!

— Eric