Ice Deports Colorado Mother Brought to U.S. by Parents When She Was 5-Years-Old

Photo provided by the family of Cristina Rodriguez-Sagarnaga

Immigration authorities deported a Colorado woman who has lived in the United States since she was 5-years-old and has three U.S. citizen daughters, after she arrived for a scheduled check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents last week.

ICE agents arrested Cristina Rodriguez-Sagarnaga, 30, a Mexican national, on Wednesday, at the regional ICE field office in Centennial. She was removed to Mexico on Friday, said Carl Rusnok, ICE spokesman.

She had requested a stay of removal to stop her deportation order while she waited for a response on her mother’s request for a U-Visa, said Jennifer Piper, the American Friends Service Committee, which advocates for people living here illegally. Victims of crime and their immediate family members who have suffered substantial abuse, are eligible for the visas.

Both women have been domestic violence victims, Piper said.

Rodriguez-Sagarnaga entered the country illegally, Rusnok said Sunday. In 2012, a federal immigration judge in Denver granted her voluntary departure to Mexico, and when she failed to leave, the judge’s order became a final order of removal.

ICE granted her a one-year stay of removal on June 20, 2016. She requested another stay, which ICE denied on Tuesday, without informing her lawyer, Piper said.

ICE is detaining undocumented immigrants when they come for routine check-ins, Piper said. “When you have final orders, and a check-in, there’s no good options.”

Rodriguez-Sagarnaga went to the check-in to show good faith, she added. “She said, I don’t want to hide, I don’t want to take my daughters into hiding. This is the only country I know.”

She has three misdemeanor criminal convictions in Colorado, Rusnok said.

“She and her ex-husband had a son together, and she was calling police to report abuse of her son and they didn’t respond,” Piper said. “The next time she called, she said he was beating her.”

That call led to her being charged for false reporting, Piper said.

“She agreed to a plea in that case, even though it was weak,” Piper said.

Rodriguez-Sagarnaga is now in Juarez with an aunt. Her family has created a gofundme page to help support her children.

“I want to see my mom,” her 4-year-old daughter, Dariana, wrote in a message sent to President Donald Trump and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly.

“Yesterday, my dad came home in his truck and I ran to the window to see if he brought my mama, but he couldn’t. I don’t sleep because I miss mama. I love her. I belong to her and my papa and we need her.”

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Southern Concepts Restaurant Group Inc., which once planned up to 40 restaurants nationwide under the Southern Hospitality, Bourbon Brothers and Carve Barbecue names, closed its last three restaurants in the Denver area Monday, effectively shutting down the Colorado Springs-based chain.

The company turned over its Colorado Springs location in April to the landlord, a limited liability company headed by Southern Concepts founder J.W. Roth, who converted the Northgate area eatery back to the Bourbon Brothers Southern Kitchen concept under which it had previously operated before switching to the Southern Hospitality Restaurant and Bar concept.

Roth said he had reduced the rent on the 8,000-square-foot restaurant in October, but Southern Concepts wasn’t able to generate enough income from its restaurant to and owed $114,000 in unpaid rent.

“I hated to do it, but I had to evict them and convert it back to Bourbon Brothers because I own all the trademarks to that name and concept. It is doing great; it started to make a profit in the first week and has been profitable ever since,” said Roth, who also is a major shareholder in Southern Concepts and its largest creditor. “It seems to me that they will just go out of business. It is too bad that it came to this. I am sick about it. But it is another day and we move on from here. At the end of the day, I ended up with a winner of a restaurant.”

Southern Concepts CEO Jim Fenlason said Thursday the company “couldn’t put together the capital and didn’t have the sales to continue” operating the Denver restaurants. An eviction notice had been posted on the company’s lower downtown Denver location alleging Southern Concepts was delinquent on $181,000 in rent, but Fenlason said the company has surrendered all of the Denver locations to the landlords. He said a lawsuit by Shamrock Foods alleging the company owed $50,000 has been withdrawn and company officials are working on a plan to deal with remaining debts.

The closings come less than a month after Southern Concepts shareholders overwhelmingly rejected plans to sell all three restaurants, two of them to a company controlled by Fenlason, in exchange for a 10 percent cut of future profits, according to documents the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fenlason said last month that Southern Concepts hadn’t received any other offers for its two Southern Hospitality locations and that the proposed deal with his company would have required further negotiation.

Fenlason, who had been non-executive chairman of Southern Concepts, became the company’s CEO and chief financial officer in August after the resignation of Mitchell Roth, son of J.W. Roth, as CEO and Heather Atkinson as chief financial officer. He immediately launched a restructuring to save $400,000 a year in management expenses also by terminating the company’s chief operating officer, allowing the company to “allocate more resources to marketing and concept development,” according to a Southern Concepts news release issued weeks after he became CEO.

Southern Concepts was hemorrhaging cash at the time Fenlason became CEO, according to the last financial report the company filed with the SEC for the first nine months of last year. The company lost $2.77 million, or 4 cents a share, on revenue of $5.57 million, a slight improvement from losing $2.86 million, or 5 cents a share, on revenue of $4.79 million during the same period a year earlier. However, the company cash dwindled from $1.11 million to $65,822 during the same period while it owed nearly $450,000 in accounts payable and accrued expenses.

Just 2½ years earlier, company officials had opened the Colorado Springs restaurant as Bourbon Brothers near the Bass Pro Shops store in the Polaris Pointe retail development and said they were planning to develop 40 more around the nation during the next five years, including a downtown Colorado Springs location. The company merged with the operators of a Southern Hospitality locations in lower downtown Denver and later opened a location in Lone Tree and a Carve Barbecue location in Glendale but Fenlason said all three locations were losing money when his company agreed to buy them.

The first Southern Hospitality restaurant opened in New York in 2007 with backing from actor and musician Justin Timberlake and still remains open under separate ownership. The Denver location opened in 2012 with backing from Ryan Tedder, singer for Colorado band OneRepublic, and his father, Gary Tedder.

“I was asked to come in, look around and see what I could do to impact the restaurants. I looked for ways to cut costs and found something we could do,” Fenlason said last month. “The cost of real estate has made it difficult to expand and add restaurants. That certainly made a difference.”

Roth had loaned Southern Concepts $1.25 million in October, by extending and expanding a loan with a Denver company, to keep the company afloat but says he will now write off the loan rather than accept a deal that would convert the debt to stock that currently trades at less than 1 cent a share.

“Two and half years ago, I thought this was the greatest thing and made an investment. I loved the management team and the concept. I didn’t have the time to spend on the company, so I didn’t run for re-election to the board, so I have watched from the outside as an investor and largest creditor,” J.W. Roth said. “Two things hurt the company. The real estate market made it hard to lease good real estate at a rate that would allow you to make a profit. Also, the celebrities that were promoted to the face of the restaurant and help drive sales, we never saw them.”

Roth said he doesn’t blame Fenlason for Southern Concepts’ collapse, though he opposed his bid to buy the restaurants without putting all three up for bid.

“It seems like he tried to wind it down the best he could and he has been honorable in the way he handled us.”

Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

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A Colorado group is looking to curb the sales of cellphones to children under 13 years old and officials in the state have cleared the language for a proposed ballot measure. (AP)

Parents Against Underage Smartphones, the backers of the move, would now need about 300,000 voter signatures for the legislation to make the 2018 ballot.

The ban would require cellphone retailers to ask customers about the age of the primary user of a smartphone and submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue on adhering to the requirement.

Retailers who sell a phone for use by a pre-teen would get a warning for the first offense, but may face fines from $500 to $20,000 for continued violations, according to KDVR-TV.

“Eventually kids are going to get phones and join the world, and I think we all know that, but little children, there’s just no good that comes from that,” Dr. Tim Farnum, who is leading the movement, told The Coloradoan on Saturday.

Farnum said he was inspired to make the push after watching his own kids struggle with the psychological effects of always having a device in hand.

“They would get the phone and lock themselves in their room and change who they were,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. John Kefalas said he understands the reasoning behind the proposed law. But he told the newspaper that it would overstep the government’s role.

“Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” he said. “Ultimately, this comes down to parents … making sure their kids are not putting themselves at risk.”

Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines for children’s media use, including smartphones.

The doctors recommended restricting screen time to no more than an hour a day of high-quality programming until age 6, after which parents should set consistent time limits and make sure electronic devices don’t take time away from sleep or physical activity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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While the NBA playoffs are still going, the 2017 off–season is rapidly approaching for many teams with massive decisions to make. CBA expert Danny Leroux breaks down the major challenges and opportunities for the Denver Nuggets in The Crossover’s NBA Summer Preview series.

After finishing nine games under .500 in 2015-16, the Nuggets competed for a playoff spot until the final week of the season. Nikola Jokic broke out and Denver became one of the league’s best offenses after making him the only center in the starting five. Their uncommon depth for a young team allowed the Nuggets to withstand injuries to numerous key players but those contributors are getting closer to their inevitable pay raises. A combination of players on team-friendly rookie scale contracts and low-cost veterans puts Denver in the unusual position to add serious talent to an already capable team, making their summer one of the more compelling and impactful in the entire NBA.

Here are three key storylines to watch for the Nuggets this off-season:

Cap Space: With the news that Danilo Gallinari will decline his $16.1 million player option for next season, the Nuggets are looking at serious spending power this summer. They could either retain Gallinari using Bird rights or wield more than $37 million in space, enough to become a true force on the free agent market. They could concentrate that spending on a single player, spread it out for a few different contributors or spend responsibly this summer and use that flexibility at a later point. Considering how quickly things move in early July, the front office will have to establish a plan ahead of time while staying ready to adjust to changing circumstances.

Mason Plumlee’s restricted free agency: The Nuggets did not trade Jusuf Nurkic and Memphis’ first round pick for a rental. Plumlee is already 27 years old but has been a starter on successful teams in Portland and could draw interest as a capable center. Denver’s ability to match and an oversaturated market for big men could drive down his price but it only takes one team to force a much tougher decision for the Nuggets’ front office.

Gary Harris extension: The 22-year old shooting guard could end up being a calibrator for how the Nuggets are approaching their 2018 off-season because he has a low cap hold ($7.65 million), so agreeing to an extension now will presumably reduce Denver’s 2018 cap space. That could be worth doing for the right terms or because they do not intend to be below the cap next summer. Also, an extension would solidify Harris’ place in the Nuggets’ core moving forward, which would be notable considering their investment at shooting guard with Will Barton, Malik Beasley and arguably Jamal Murray.

• NBA Off-Season Preview: How Can Cleveland Get On Equal Footing With Golden State?

Potential Free Agents: Danilo Gallinari (Unrestricted – will decline $16.1m Player Option), Mason Plumlee (Restricted), Mike Miller (Non-Guaranteed) and Roy Hibbert (Unrestricted)

Likely Summer of 2017 Cap Space: $14.8 million

Realistic Maximum Summer of 2017 Cap Space (using $101M estimate): $43.2 million

2017 Draft Assets: Own first round pick (13th overall) plus second round selections from Memphis (#49) and Oklahoma City (#51).

Potential Targets: Paul Millsap would be an amazing near-term fit with Jokic but the 32-year old does not exactly mesh with Denver’s young core from a timetable perspective. They could try to get in the mix for Gordon Hayward as well, though he has strong suitors in the Jazz and Celtics. Amazingly, the front office could even choose to simply push back all or most of their cap space for another year because they could have similar flexibility next summer and possibly even more if Wilson Chandler and/or Darrell Arthur decline their 2018-19 player options. They could also try to use some cap space this summer to secure eventual replacements for Chandler, Barton and Arthur now but there will not be many bargains for perimeter players given the limited supply.

Pressure Scale: 7. It is hard to put a single number for Denver because they have so many different paths to choose from. If they push for the near term by either bringing back Gallinari or adding a high-priced free agent, they need to nail their draft pick and ancillary moves to maximize this window. A more patient approach still requires thought-out, responsible moves but provides insulation in place of urgency. What makes the Nuggets’ off-season important are the stakes. They have a young team with serious talent, so the decisions they make matter more than for franchises stuck in the mud. The last decade is filled with young teams that did not reach their potential due to front office mistakes for a reason: the best decisions for the future are often unpopular at the time and justified excitement can generate undue pressure. Denver’s front office succeeded over the past few years when so many of their competitors failed but potential can be even more perilous than the rebuilding process.

State of the Franchise: Defining their identity. Last summer, the Jazz were the NBA’s most intriguing young team that missed the playoffs and Denver has taken over that mantle. That said, their situation differs from Utah’s because they have less elite talent at this stage but also possess more flexibility and time. The Nuggets can wait, as Murray, Mudiay and Hernangomez are not even extension eligible at this point. That means the front office should be ambitious with potential additions while also steeling themselves for the possibility of bringing back a largely similar roster next season and relying on internal improvement. At the same time, they need to figure out how veterans like Chandler, Arthur and Barton fit in, as each would net value in return considering what free agents will be looking for on the open market. While the Nuggets do not have to fully commit to their vision of their future this off-season, doing so would produce tangible benefits as soon as draft night if they decide to act immediately. Seeing how Denver identifies their core and chooses to build around it will be a consistent source of interest this summer.

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An off-road racer’s pre-runner truck is a tool for making sure that the course to be tackled is first thoroughly investigated. You want your co-driver to know where the bumps, ruts, and other pitfalls are. This way when you’re blasting across the desert at 100 mph in the dark of night, you have an idea of what’s in front of you. It makes sense, then, that sometimes people can go a little overboard when building their pre-runners.

Say hello to one such build. This is no longer a stock Chevrolet Colorado, though it started life that way. Instead, it’s been transformed by Roadster Shop of Illinois into the “ColoRADo.” It lives up to its name based on a quick glance alone, but backs up all of that style when you dive into the spec sheet and watch all the fabrication that was done in the video above.

CHECK OUT: 2019 Ford Ranger spy shots

The customized body plays host to a wealth of parts that should help this truck power through pretty much anything. And power through it shall thanks to the 730-horsepower LS7 V-8 sitting toward the rear of the engine compartment. A set of Fox racing shocks work with custom suspension components crafted by the tuning shop to give this ColoRADo a massive 22 inches of travel in the front and 27 inches in the rear. That’s all made possible by a completely new frame that the shop also fabricated.

From the aluminum bodywork to the massive engine and on to the incredible suspension, we’re both in awe and terrified. We’re in awe of the capability this truck has on tap. We terrified of the tab for the final build cost.

And no, your new Colorado ZR2 can’t do what this truck can.

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Event Planning

Colorado event planning done right. There are several different companies who offer this type of service but we all know that they are not all created the same. Some will do a very good job in some will not. That is just the truth in business in the truth for industries of all kinds. You typically have companies who aren’t really good, those who are pretty average and those who are really good. It is often the case, that people are looking for companies who are really good and they want us companies at a good value.

Determining a good value for a Colorado event planning company can be very subjective. Some people foolishly only pay attention to price and price alone. Sometimes on price alone is the only metric that they look at the end that with the cheap company, the bad reputation and who cannot pull off their event properly. So the end up with something that actually do not want. But if they take the time to find a quality company, they will get exactly what they’re looking for. Good value as in a quality company at a very good price. One who does have a very good reputation in the industry and who is recommended by other people who have put on similar events. So ultimately finding a valuable company at a good price should be the objective.

Someone looking for this type company, don’t be just concerned with price but be concerned with performance and experience as well. Because it is making the combination of all of these things that you forget what you truly want. When price is the only metric you just get a cheap price and not necessarily a good service. So finding this type of company should be your priority.

Crash on WB C470 at US285

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Emergency crews responded to a fatal motorcycle crash on westbound C470 near US 285 late Saturday afternoon.

The Colorado State Patrol said C470 westbound was closed at Quincy during the investigation.

Investigators said the motorcycle hit the guardrail and crashed. The female rider was killed.

There were lengthy delays in that area and drivers needed to find alternate routes in the southwest part of the metro area.

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Goose Bumps! Here

Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu (9) Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) Colorado Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds (12) and Colorado Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) laugh in the dugout before their game against the Cleveland Indians on June 7, 2017 in Denver at Coors Field.

Is this how it happens? And did anyone see it coming? In the 25th season of the Rockies’ existence, at 3:44 on a warm, spring afternoon, a Colorado native walked from the mound at Coors Field toward the dugout, and Denver became a real baseball town.

“I got chills from that standing ovation,” Kyle Freeland said Wednesday.

Me, too. As Freeland received a standing ovation from the crowd of 36,909, I looked at my arms.

Total goose bumps.

I’ve been waiting for a quarter century, longer than Freeland has been alive, for Denver to take its baseball seriously, to live and die with the Rockies on an afternoon game in the middle of the week, the same way Broncomaniacs give their heart to the local NFL team 24/7.

Real baseball passion does not become part of the civic fabric overnight. But what happened when Freeland departed the mound after a fine outing that propelled Colorado to a 8-1 victory against Cleveland was organic and genuine and strong. It was a crashing tsunami of sound.

“It just built. … As I started walking to the dugout, it got louder and louder and louder,” said Feeland, letting the noise of the standing ovation wash over him. “It was almost to the point to where you couldn’t really think. And that’s when I got the chills.”

In the visitors’ clubhouse before the game, Cleveland manager Terry Francona was asked his impression of baseball in the rarefied air of 5,280 feet above sea level. Mind you, he has been here before, winning a championship as the skipper for Boston in 2007, when there was an unfriendly takeover of LoDo by those wicked passionate fans of the Red Sox.

But contemplating the challenge of playing every day at Coors, Francona dropped his head in his hand, and simply said this: “Yikes!”

Colorado pummeled the defending American League champions, with the Rockies beating Cleveland by the aggregate score of 19-4 to win their 14th series of the young season. After the second loss, Francona was asked to evaluate our gritty little ballclub, and his response was as grumpy as a bear awaken from a long nap by a bee sting.

Yes, our cuddly little ballclub is all grown up, and is a real pain in the rear. Playing the Rockies can put anybody in a foul mood, whether the foe happens to be the Indians or the Dodgers or the Cubs.

“What are they going to do, just pass on the series? They’ve got to play here,” outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. “When you lose two games by a lot of runs, they’re going to be frustrated.

At 20th and Blake, baseball has always been more about the Dippin’ Dots and the sunshine, rather than the beauty found in the sweet subtleties of a double switch. Since those giddy old days of Rocktober, when the whole town was jumping on the bandwagon, the loudest noise made by local fans has often been an attempt to drown out the embarrassment of refugees from Midwest winters chanting: “Let’s go, Cubs!”

It bugged me. Heck, it has irked Colorado players. “You’ve seen how it is when we play the Cubs here. You get that feeling like, ‘What the hell?’ It’s messed up,” Gonzalez told me.

But could the Rockies of 2017 be good enough to capture the imagination and the attention of a Broncos town from now until October? If there’s a real baseball vibe in a ballpark, a real appreciation for the six hits Freeland scattered against the Indians, it makes a difference.

“It definitely gives you that little boost, especially when you get to that grind of July and August,” said Colorado first baseman Mark Reynolds, who has played in Baltimore and Chicago, where baseball has really mattered for generations.

As a legitimate World Series contender, are the Rockies for real? You tell me.

But this is what Gonzalez said: “They better start taking us seriously.”

There’s no arguing with Colorado’s 38-23 record, the first time the team has been 15 games over .500 since September 2010. Third baseman Nolan Arenado does something nearly every day that makes you, me and Todd Helton wonder if we’re all witnesses to the first Hall of Famer to wear purple pinstripes. But can the rookie quartet of Antonio Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez and Freeland possibly be as good as their aggregate 22 victories and 3.61 earned-run average suggest? Or is it just a dream? Nobody knows for certain.

But this much I do know. As Freeland walked off the mound, as the crowd stood as one and the noise of a spontaneous standing ovation swept through across Coors Field, it all seemed as real as the goose bumps on the back of a young pitcher’s neck.

After 25 years, Denver finally feels like a town where baseball really matters.

Yikes.

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“I See What You Mean,” by Denver artist Lawrence Argent stands outside the Colorado Convention Center.

Denver city planners and promoters have developed a first-rate design to expand the Colorado Convention Center, but it comes with some big problems. Chief among them is that its plan to pay for the upgrades is too clever by half.

City Council members and residents should be concerned. While expanding the facility makes sense to fulfill a reasonable need — and the designs are really cool — the novel scheme the city developed to pay for the upgrades strikes us as a bad precedent. We hope council members send this plan back to the drawing board.

The scheme intends to deal with the eye-popping new cost estimate for the expansion. When the city went to voters in 2015 to ask for the right to raise tourism taxes to fund the National Western redevelopment and the convention center expansion, voters were under the impression that the $104 million to be raised for the Big Blue Bear’s den would cover it. Now the city estimates it will take $233 million — an increase of 124 percent.

Denver wants to fill the gap in large part with the creation of a new-to-Colorado special taxing district, the establishment of which avoids going to residents to approve. We appreciate that in any other city — not located in Colorado, home of the stifling Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights — elected officials would be able to adjust the lodging tax to compensate for the increased costs. However, this work-around gives precious taxing authority to a tiny group of elites to raise a good chunk of the money by upping the lodging tax another 1 percent to 15.75 percent.

Should the City Council green-light the scheme, come Election Day, while Denver voters weigh in on whether to approve a massive bond issue, the new special district — called a tourism improvement district — would be voted on by the 116 hotels in Denver with more than 50 rooms. Each hotel gets one vote. Approval requires a simple majority. Forty-three of those hotels are located downtown, and, given that large companies tend to own multiple hotels, the actual number of independent voters in the district is much smaller than the whole.

In the likelihood that the hotels approve the plan, then, lodging taxes for the larger hotels would increase across the city, and contribute to the arms race of expanded tourism taxes across the country.

Yes, the convention center is a huge economic force. And the city wants to win the prestige of attracting the lucrative Outdoor Retailer trade show. But Colorado’s largest city doesn’t need to pave the way for another special taxing district. We already have plenty, and it’s debatable whether all of them are in the broader best interest. There are business improvement districts, metropolitan districts, general improvement districts or urban renewal districts — all of which have been granted taxing authority once created. When does it stop?

Meanwhile, people already are flocking to Denver as one of the nation’s go-to places. Everywhere costs are through the roof and challenges with them. Many of the city’s urban jewels, like the 16th Street Mall, are being degraded by the opioid epidemic and related vagrancy issues the city still doesn’t have under control. And what about the areas of the city that aren’t downtown? Affordable housing? Every new tax increase detracts from possible future city investments.

No doubt, the new convention center plans are a good investment of public dollars, so why not let the voters decide?

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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A Google self-driving car is displayed at the Google headquarters on Sept. 25, 2012 in Mountain View, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed State Senate Bill 1298 that allows driverless cars to operate on public roads for testing purposes. The bill also calls for the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern licensing, bonding, testing and operation of the driverless vehicles before Jan. 2015.

If you’re thinking about developing an autonomous vehicle in Colorado, go ahead. It’s now legal, as long as you obey all of the existing rules of the road, according to legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“It’s hard to get the right balance between regulation and avoiding the red tape that sometimes stifles innovation,” said Hickenlooper, standing in front of a Chevrolet Bolt EV autonomous test vehicle that was trucked in from Michigan and is on its way for road tests in Arizona. “This is the right balance that allows Colorado to be a hotbed of innovation.”

Senate Bill 17-213, which was introduced in March, is the first Colorado law touching on driverless cars. It wasn’t meant to delve into the nitty-gritty of how autonomous vehicles should operate on the state’s roads. But rather, said sponsor state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, the new law focused on creating a process that allows for autonomous vehicles to be tested safely.

People in the cars, for example, must still fasten their seatbelts, Hill said.

“We were very clear in writing the law that we’re not changing any of those other laws. Obviously, seatbelts is one of them. Turning indicators, moving aside for emergency vehicles — all of those laws still have to be followed,” Hill said. “If you get into a car and don’t fasten your seatbelt, you’re the one liable. It’s not your car’s job to make sure you as the owner are doing your job.”

The law does require companies who plan to test driverless cars in Colorado to first check in with the Colorado Department of Transportation and State Patrol.

Driverless cars — which use sensors, cameras, GPS and lasers to drive on their own — are being tested on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan. While most states have pending legislation or have considered rules, Colorado becomes the 16th to pass legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Governors in three other states have issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles.

During Thursday’s bill-signing ceremony, which was held at Marjorie Park’s Museum of Outdoor Arts in Greenwood Village, Hickenlooper left the podium to sign the bill on the hood of the EV Bolt, a test vehicle with LIDAR equipment on its roof and sensors taped to the side of the car.

When the bill was first introduced in March, opponents expressed concern about safety and wished the bill included language for a back-up human driver. But proponents, including Advocacy Denver, pointed out how driverless cars could improve opportunities for people with disabilities, while a farmer representing the Colorado Farm Bureau said that his auto-pilot tractor greatly reduced accidents at night.

In Colorado, Panansonic is developing a smart city that will include autonomous electric EZ10 shuttles from France’s EasyMile, which is also moving its U.S. headquarters to Denver. The state also hosted Uber’s self-driving semi truck in October that drove Budweiser beer more than 120 miles to Colorado Springs from Fort Collins.

But as for GM expanding its self-driving tests to Colorado?

“Denver, as you’ve heard, is now open for business so it’s certainly under consideration by GM and by anybody else in the industry. There are a lot of other companies developing this technology as well,” Lightsey said. “…That’s the exciting part of it too. You don’t have to be an automaker to develop this and that’s the good thing about the Colorado law.”

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