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Health: Self-employed Summit County residents facing higher insurance costs under state-administered insurance system

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A state map shows the different areas for rating insurance costs in Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis seeks readjustment of rating area boundaries

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Access to health insurance may become a reality for many under the Affordable Care Act, but other residents of the Colorado high country are frustrated by the changes, which could result in higher premiums and less choice for people who are self-employed.

“It’s a huge problem for Summit County … it’s a major barrier to implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Summit County,” said Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who represents Summit County.

“Summit County has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the State,” said Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic. “Many people have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families. It is worrisome and disappointing that rates in our area may be priced beyond our residents’ ability to pay. We are hopeful that something can be done to make products on the exchange more accessible,” Vaine said. Continue reading

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Colorado wilderness bills bottled up in Congress

Half a dozen proposals for land protection span more than 1 million acres

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Proposed new wilderness areas include open meadows on the west flank of the Williams Fork Range. bberwyn photo.

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The proposed Acorn Creek wilderness addition would add important wildlife habitat to the existing high-elevation Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area.

By Bob Berwyn

*Click here to learn more about this weekend’s hike in proposed new Summit County wilderness area

SUMMIT COUNTY — There may be a huge backlog of wilderness bills in Congress, but conservation advocates aren’t about to give up on their efforts to preserve public lands in Colorado. Read more about the political wrangling over wilderness in this Summit Voice story.

In fact, the recent oil and gas boom on the Western Slope has recharged wilderness protection efforts, as supporters rally around the new “equal ground” theme, asking President Obama and Congress to protect at least as many acres as are allocated for energy development.

Along with being ecologically important, protected areas are increasingly seen as critical to the region’s recreation economy. Protected areas also enhance property values in adjacent communities.

In Colorado, there are six proposals that would expand wilderness by more than 1 million acres. The biggest is U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette‘s Colorado Wilderness Act, which includes 31 areas for a total of 750,000 acres, including many chunks of mid-elevation lands that are crucial for wildlife. Continue reading

House effort to curb NSA snooping fails on close vote

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis helped lead a charge against intrusive snooping by the NSA.

There’s rowing political momentum to curtail data gathering by spy agencies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bipartisan push to limit sweeping data collection by the National Security Agency narrowly missed approval in the House this week. The close vote shows that Congress is moving closer to exercising more oversight and to protecting the civil liberties and privacy of millions of American citizens.

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) co-sponsored the amendment to a defense spending bill. The measure (H.R. 2397) would have limited the National Security Agency’s ability to collect phone data to people who are subject of an NSA investigation. The amendment failed on a vote of 205 to 217. Continue reading

Congress moves to limit NSA data collection

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The more spy agencies say they’re not listening to phone calls, the more we know they probably are.

Proposed bill would require some transparency

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Following a lively congressional hearing on the far-reaching surveillance and data-gathering of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, House lawmakers launched a bipartisan push to reign in the out-of-control spy agencies.

The proposed legislation  would restrict the federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to share its opinions with Congress and to provide summaries to the American public.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) joined Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, and Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, today to announce the introduction of H.R. 2399, the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act (LIBERT-E Act). Continue reading

Oil money looms large in Keystone XL Pipeline vote

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House Republicans once again are trying to force approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Supporters of pipeline bill took six times as much money from oil industry as opponents

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If the U.S. House of Representatives has its way, Canadian tar sands oil will soon be flowing across the country in a new pipeline, authorized under a law that flaunts many  important environmental laws.

Wednesday’s vote on H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, marks the seventh time the House has tried to force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. While today’s vote saw fewer representatives voting in favor of the resolution than past votes, it still showed the oil money rules congress.

Watchdog groups did the math:

  • Members of Congress supporting the pipeline took in a combined $56 million from fossil fuel interests, $36 million from oil industry interests alone;

  • Members supporting the pipeline took an average of $233,774 from all fossil fuel interests, $150,604 from oil industry interests alone;

  • Members opposing the pipeline took an average of $24,886 from all fossil fuel interests, and $24,886 from oil industry alone; and

  • Supporters took 6 times more from the oil industry than opponents. Continue reading

Study says states can legalize marijuana despite federal ban

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How will the federal government respond to state legalization of marijuana?

Congressional Research Service analyzes various legal options for state and federal governments

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With several pending bills in Congress aimed at clarifying the role of state governments in regulating marijuana, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service recently took a swing at the issue, releasing a legal analysis aimed at helping lawmakers understand the ramifications of the proposed laws.

The analysis found that that there may some wiggle room when it comes to interpreting the Controlled Substances Act, which makes marijuana illegal under federal law. Continue reading

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis co-sponsors bills to regulate fracking

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).

BREATHE and FRESHER acts would close significant clean air and water loopholes

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Saying that the rapid expansion of fracking in Colorado has outpaced the ability of state regulators to monitor health and environmental impacts, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO.) is calling for federal legislation to protect the safety and the health of the communities where the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process is already taking place.

“New technologies have led to the rapid development of hydraulic fracturing in Colorado and Pennsylvania before community members could fully understand the potential health, safety, and quality of life implications of drilling in their neighborhood,” Polis said, explaining that two new related laws would make sure that fracking is not exempt from the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act simply because fracking was not prevalent when these laws were initially written. Continue reading

Does renewable energy permitting need streamlining?

House bill could put renewable energy on equal footing with fossil fuels

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Will Congress consider a renewable energy development bill this session? Photo courtesy BLM.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — On the heels of a do-nothing obstructionist Congress, it’s hard to say whether any public lands bills will get a fair committee hearing during the current session, but that hasn’t stopped U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) from taking a shot a promoting renewable energy on BLM lands.

Along with nine co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, Polis is promoting renewable energy development act that would streamline the process for leasing public lands for solar and other renewable energy projects. Continue reading

Will Congress act on marijuana legalization?

Proposed legislation would empower states, create tax framework

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Colorado’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry still operates in a gray area between state and federal laws.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Saying that the power to unravel the marijuana mess lies with Congress, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) this week introduced measures that would de-federalize marijuana policy and create a framework for the federal taxation of cannabis.

To provide context for the legislation, the lawmakers released a report that outlines the history of what they called the failed war on marijuana and explains that more than 100 million Americans live in jurisdictions where governments and voters have decided that some aspect of marijuana should be legally permitted. Continue reading

Colorado lawmakers ask feds to back off on marijuana

Congressional delegation readies bill that would exempt Colorado from federal Controlled Substances Act

Will Colorado and the federal government find common ground?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal enforcement actions in Colorado against individuals for possession of marijuana would be a bad idea, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis said Friday.

Along with 15 other Democratic congressmen, Polis sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and DEA chief Michele Leonhart, urging the federal government to take no action against anyone who acts in compliance with the laws of Colorado, Washington and any other states that choose to regulate access to marijuana. Continue reading

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