John Hickenlooper

Jurors in the trial of Aurora Theater shooter James Holmes did not come to a unanimous final sentencing decision. As a result, the court will impose the sentence of life in prison for Holmes' killing of 12 and injuring of 70 others in 2012. Even though he was spared the death penalty, the trial is likely to once again spark debate over whether Colorado should even have the penalty on the books.

The last attempt to repeal the state's death penalty was in 2013. It was backed by former Representative Claire Levy (D-Boulder).

"I think it's immoral, it's ineffective. I think it doesn't belong in a modern system of justice. I don't think we impose it in a fair impartial way," said Levy. "People don't get executed. They sit waiting the outcome for decades."

buoybarrel / Flickr-Creative Commons

Colorado's statewide water plan has been criticized for failing to make tough decisions about the state's biggest water issues: how new growth uses water, a new transmountain diversion from the Western Slope, and how to balance urban needs for water with a desire to preserve agriculture, which uses the majority of the state's water.

In response, those involved with the plan say that's not the point. The plan, by gathering input from across the state, is bringing together people with very different perspectives on water. By getting them to discuss the biggest issues around water in the state, it lays the foundation for better water management.

Stacy Nick / KUNC

In the shadow of the Loveland Artspace Arts Campus, a new statewide initiative to create mixed-use sites for artists in nine rural Colorado communities was unveiled by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

A first of its kind in the country, the Space to Create initiative will feature customized affordable housing/work space for artists as well as commercial space for creatively inclined organizations and businesses.

Hickenlooper announced the initiative's first site will be in Trinidad.

"To be blunt, Denver and Boulder and Fort Collins, they don't need that much help. The more rural parts of the state are still struggling and some of them have very high unemployment rates up close to 6 percent," Hickenlooper said. "So we want to try to put energy into those communities and try to make sure that their economy gets a lift as well."

KUNC File Photo

It's been a month since Colorado lawmakers wrapped up their 2015 legislative session at the state capitol, but the work is far from over. Many of the bills that failed this year will likely be back next session and some long-standing issues may already be poised to go before voters in 2016.

Bob Wick, Bureau Of Land Management / Flickr - Creative Commons

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service has announced a new plan to protect the greater sage grouse from extinction, while hoping to prevent the bird from being added to the endangered species list.

The sage grouse population has dropped from 16 million birds to less than half a million, mainly due to lost sagebrush habitat. The bird's range spans 11 western states including Colorado.

"As land managers of two-thirds of greater sage grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving western economy," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the announcement in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Earlier in May a majority of state lawmakers signed a letter to the governor expressing concerns over what they said are disturbing issues within the Colorado Department of Human Services. The letter states that the state is over prescribing psychotropic drugs to youth in corrections and foster care, and that the department fails to adequately supervise the county run foster care system.

In their first public appearance since lawmakers called for overhaul – or possibly firing the executive director – Gov. John Hickenlooper stood by Reggie Bicha.

"They are among the best in the United States, [that] doesn't mean they're perfect," said Hickenlooper. "Running a Department of Human Services is the hardest job in state government, because there's zero tolerance, it's like public safety. We all expect absolute perfection."

Ken Lund / CC BY-SA 2.0

Energy development is always a hot topic at the statehouse, but 2015 was oddly quiet. Even with recommendations from a task force studying the issue, state lawmakers did little this past session where oil and gas drilling is concerned. As a result, some of the more long-standing issues as local control and public health concerns are still simmering.

Bureau of Land Management

Gov. John Hickenlooper released an executive order calling for a voluntary market-based protection system for the greater sage grouse.

The order is aimed at protecting the bird and keeping it off the endangered species list. The primary strategy Hickenlooper embraced is a voluntary program allowing ranchers and landowners to sell credits for habitat improvements to industries like oil and gas that have a negative impact on grouse habitat.

"We firmly believe that state-led efforts are the most effective way to protect and conserve the greater sage grouse and its habitat," Hickenlooper said in a statement.

Colroado General Assembly

A bill to raise the salaries of state lawmakers and other elected officials quietly made its way through the statehouse in the final days of the legislative session. It cleared the House with the minimum number of required votes. It had virtually no debate in either chamber.

"People in my district, whenever I tell them how much we make as lawmakers up here, are astounded. They are kind of appalled," said Senator Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City), he voted for the measure in the Senate where it passed with a wider margin, 21-14.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Two former governors, Roy Romer and Bill Owens, joined current Gov. John Hickenlooper at the state capitol to urge lawmakers not to go too far in reducing the numbers of standardized assessments school children take. This comes as legislators are debating several bills to lower the number of exams.

Republican Bill Owens said it's important to have standards and test against those standards to see if students are learning what they should, and to evaluate schools and teachers.

"Our friends from the left and the right for differing reasons, don't want to test, don't want to measure, don't want to have accountability," said Owens. "This is stunning to me."

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