Gardner wants everyone to drop the “hyperbole” about the GOP health-care bill

U.S.  Sen. Cory Gardner told a conservative talk-radio host Monday that he wants people to “drop this hyperbole that we continue to hear” about the problems with GOP health care proposal and put in place a health care system that will work.

KNUS 710-AM host Steve Kelley didn’t ask the simple question of what “hyperbole” Gardner is referring to. Kelley played Gardner a series of audio clips of Democrats saying among other things, that the bill would cause Americans to suffer and die, how it would adversely impact the most vulnerable, and how it would give the rich a tax break.

So where’s the hyperbole Gardner is talking about?

The fact that an estimated 24 million people will lose their health insurance by 2026, in the likely event that this bill is comparable to the last one?

The fact that the latest Obamacare repeal doesn’t protect people with pre-existing medical conditions (like diabetes, cancer, even pregnancy)?

The fact that the rich would enjoy a tax cut of over $600 billion?

Where’s the hyperbole that’s bothering Gardner? (listen to him here on May 8, hour 1, at 13 min)

But you wouldn’t expect a conservative talk radio host to put these types of questions to Gardner, and the senator knows it.

That’s probably why, when the New York Times called his office last week to discuss the health care bill, Gardner didn’t return the call.

That’s also probably why Gardner has appeared on over 15 conservative talk radio shows in Colorado this year.

And why he’s appeared at exactly zero town halls.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 9)

Golfball-sized hail is just God cleaning out his ice maker. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Legislation introduced last week that would seek to compel oil and gas companies to provide public records of “flowlines” — pipelines that carry natural gas from wellheads to a collection point — has been defeated in the state legislature after a Republican filibuster. House Bill 17-1372, sponsored by Reps. Mike Foote (D-Lafayetter) and Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton), was essentially killed when House Republicans extended their arguments toward a midnight deadline for the bill to move along to the State Senate.

 

► State Sen. Jim Smallwood (R-Parker) officially killed his own legislation intended to eliminate the Colorado Health Exchange. As Ed Sealover reports for the Denver Business Journal:

The move was met by applause from Democrats on the Senate floor and groans from Republicans.

Smallwood said afterward that he wanted to spend the summer working on the bill in ways that could bring meaningful change to the state-chartered exchange, which has struggled financially. That could mean finding a way to garner bipartisan support for the measure, or it could mean finding a way for Connect for Health to attract more insurers and to make more significant steps in slowing the growth of health-care costs in Colorado, he said.

Senate Bill 3 was introduced early in the 2017 legislative session as a priority for Senate Republicans, but the GOP made little effort to actually move forward with the bill after encountering still opposition from vocal Coloradans amid Congressional blundering on repealing Obamacare.

 

► The Director of the FBI, James Comey, has apparently stepped in the mud (again). As CNN reports:

FBI Director James Comey erroneously told Congress last week that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband’s laptop — and the bureau is looking for a way to clean up his error, according to officials familiar with the matter.

According to Comey, Clinton’s emails had been forwarded to the computer of Abedin’s husband, former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner. But US officials told CNN last fall the majority of the thousands of emails reviewed by the FBI got to Weiner’s computer via a backup system for Abedin’s phone.

In Comey’s testimony, however, he suggested “hundreds and thousands” of emails had been deliberately sent directly from Abedin to Weiner’s computer. While some of those emails may have been sent directly from Huma in order to be printed, officials told CNN, the number was far fewer than the amount Comey described.

 

 

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Victor Mitchell Accuses Brauchler of Seeking Death Penalty for “Political Purposes”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It “certainly appears” to GOP Colorado gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell that his Republican opponent George Brauchler pursued the death penalty in the Aurora-theater trial “for political purposes to raise his profile, and it was a squander of some $4 million.”

That’s what Mitchell told Colorado Springs talk radio host Jeff Crank Saturday (listen at 18 min below):

Mitchell: “One of my opponents has been using the death penalty, you know, from all indications – it certainly appears – for political purposes.” Mitchell told Crank. “And that’s really unfortunate. This is a life or death issue.”

“It was impossible that [Brauchler] was going to get a verdict of a death penalty,” Mitchell told Crank. “So, there’s $4 million wasted.  [He] is going around the state calling for a death penalty case; some of the victims’ families didn’t want that. But more importantly, it was just about an impossible situation to obtain a death penalty verdict in a guy that was so mentally ill.”

Immediately after he lost the Aurora-theater trail, Brauchler defended himself against attacks that he’d pursued the death penalty in the case simply to promote himself.

Speaking on conservative talk radio in 2015, Brauchler said,

Brauchler: “People who are opposed to the death penalty are going to find reasons to accuse me or any other prosecutor for seeking it. And the most likely targets are, ‘Oh, it must have been ego, or it must have been political ambition.’”

Mitchell’s attack on Crank throws a wrench into Brauchler’s defense because Mitchell, who’s a former state legislator, supports the death penalty.

Mitchell: “I’ve always supported the death penalty, but i don’t think it should be used as a political pawn,” Mitchell told Crank during his interview Friday. “…I certainly don’t believe the death penalty should be applied to people that are severely mentally ill or diagnosed as severely mentally ill, don’t know right from wrong.  But there is great evil in this world. And I think it can be used, and should be used, as a deterrent.”

Listen to Mitchell on the Jeff Crank Show on KVOR 740-AM May 6:

What you can do to fight back this week (May 8)

Last week, Republicans in Congress passed a bill that will repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a system that will result in millions of Americans losing their coverage. Among other things, the bill removes protections for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions, treats sexual assault as a pre-existing condition, and is, essentially, a nearly-$1 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Republicans haven’t repealed Obamacare yet—the U.S. Senate says they intend to “start from scratch,” but it’s very unlikely that the far-right House will accept anything short of their own destructive plan.

Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora is a perfect example of the right’s weakness. After voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act dozens of times over the years, a massive wave of public opposition in Coffman’s district has forced Coffman to change his tune. Coffman was one of the only members of Congress who supported the first version of “Trumpcare” in March. After weeks of negative press and angry constituents confronting him at every opportunity, Coffman changed his mind at the last minute and voted no last week on the latest Trumpcare bill.

Was it principle that changed Mike Coffman’s mind? Hardly. It was you who changed his mind. The resistance against the right-wing agenda in Washington is forcing politicians with an interest in political survival to reconsider what they are doing. If it wasn’t for good people like you coming back week after week to fight back against Trump and demand our local representatives do the same, Mike Coffman would have voted the other way—just like he did over and over for years.

It’s not over, not by a long shot. Now, the fight to protect health care reform shifts to the U.S. Senate, and we must fight back. We know—every week, we’re confronted by new bad policies that marginalize and threaten us, our families, and our communities. We won’t win every fight, but we will fight them every time. And, in the long run, we will outlast this administration and the policies being put forth by the right.

Thanks again for doing your part. Here are ways to take action for the week of May 8th:


Resist the Awful AHCA

How does the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in the House make you feel? Angry? Scared? Determined to resist? C’mon down to Skyline Park, 17th and Arapahoe in downtown Denver on Tuesday, May 9 at noon. We’ve invited Sen Cory Gardner to attend, but you know how that goes. Will he show up? One way or the other, we’ll make our opposition to AHCA crystal clear to him. We’ll have a short rally focused solely on health care issues, following by a die-in! Bring your signs and noisemakers and wear slings, back braces, and other visual reminders that Trumpcare will seriously injure our country’s health care system!

Where: Skyline Park, 1125 17th St., Denver, Colorado
When: Tuesday, May 9 at 12:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Don’t Separate Me From My Mom

Join Jeanette Vizguerra on May 10 for a program about children of mothers affected by immigration. Watch short videos of children talking about their desires and their fears if they are separated from their parents, then celebrate with food and music.

Where: First Baptist Church of Denver, 1373 Grant St, Denver
When: Wednesday, May 10 at 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


The Resistance: Support & Action Meeting with Food & Water Watch

Learn about and get involved with Food & Water Watch Colorado’s campaigns to oppose President Trump’s anti-environmental agenda, including his plans to slash key environmental regulations, and promote more fracking. And make real progress here in Colorado by urging our Colorado state legislators to stop the expansion of fracking and transition our state to 100% renewable energy by 2035!

Where: 1740 High St, Denver
When: Wednesday, May 10 at 6:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Lunchtime meet & greet to thank EPA employees

Join us for a lunchtime meet and greet during Public Service Recognition Week to say thanks to EPA employees! We want to let them know that we greatly appreciate their commitment to science and public health, especially now that their work is more important than ever. It’s time to change the narrative – those working in public service have vitally important roles and their work is valued. We stand with them! Please share this event and bring a friend or two!

Where: EPA Region 8 Headquarters, 1595 Wynkoop St, Denver
When: Thursday, May 11 at 11:30am

Click here to RSVP.


Harm Reduction Action Center 2017 Spring Fundraiser

Join us on May 11th for the Harm Reduction Action Center’s annual spring fundraiser. There will be brief remarks from Lt. Governor Donna Lynne and Harm Reduction Coalition board member Julie Stampler plus free drinks and appetizers.

Where: Grant-Humphreys Mansion, 770 Pennsylvania St, Denver
When: Thursday, May 11 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Indivisible Happy Hour and Petition Training

Fighting in the resistance is thirsty making work! Let’s get together in community and celebrate all we’ve accomplished over the past four months. Sam and Jason will be leading a brief petition training at 6:30 so hold off on shots till after the training is done.

Where: Coffee at The Point, 710 E 26th Ave, Denver
When: Friday, May 12 at 6:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Fight for Healthcare

This will be a peaceful assembly to express Coloradans’ commitment to healthcare reform, and our disappointment and disapproval of the Congressmen who voted in favor of the AHCA. We will ask people come together to share their experiences, listen to local legislators and representatives of healthcare organizations, and learn how we can help healthcare programs/initiatives at a local level.

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax, Denver
When: Saturday, May 13 at 10:00am

Click here to RSVP.


News reports in recent days have expressed surprise that the resistance to Trump hasn’t slowed since January, but that, if anything, it’s growing stronger by the day. We are on the right side of this fight and the right side of history. And we’ll keep fighting as long as it takes. Thanks again.

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 8)

May the Eighth be With You…yeah, that doesn’t work at all. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday about her warnings to the Trump administration that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be “blackmailed by the Russians.” From NBC News:

“We were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done,” Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

Yates declined to go into specifics, which she said were classified, but she essentially confirmed news media accounts about what led up to the firing of Flynn in February. Flynn misled officials, NBC News and others have reported, by saying he hadn’t discussed Obama administration sanctions on Russia, when in fact he had.

Yates said she conveyed the information to White House counsel Don McGahn on Feb. 26, two days after Flynn was interviewed by the FBI on Feb. 24. McGahn asked Yates how Flynn did in the interview, she testified, “and I declined to give him an answer to that.”

NBC News also reported today that former President Barack Obama personally warned President Trump about hiring Flynn to be his National Security Adviser. Concerns about Flynn’s connections to Russia prompted him to resign from the Trump administration in February after just a few weeks on the job.

Chris Cillizza of CNN tries to understand why Trump ignored the advice of so many others who warned against hiring Flynn:

The question now is why. Why, after being told by the outgoing president that Flynn was bad news — in the sense that his name was all over the ongoing Justice Department investigation into Russia’s attempts to hack the 2016 election — did Trump ignore that advice within a week?  And why has Trump continued to  publicly defend Flynn in the face of repeated warnings — from then Acting Attorney General Sally Yates among others — that his ties to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak represented a major problem?

 

► The Colorado legislature will wrap things up for the 2017 session on Wednesday, also called “Sine Die” by the cool kids. We’re still not sure how to correctly pronounce “Sine Die,” but this Merriam-Webster audio doesn’t sound right at all.

Anyhoo…John Frank and Brian Eason take a look back (and a peek forward) on the 2017 session for the Denver Post.

 

► Colorado lawmakers are forging ahead with legislation to require the oil and gas industry to publicly disclose “flowline information” in the wake of a deadly home explosion in Firestone last month that killed two people and badly injured two others. Republican Rep. Lori Saine, who represents Firestone residents in the legislature, is actively opposing these efforts as what she calls a “knee-jerk reaction.”

 

 

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Contrary to blogger’s claim, reporter sought comment and clarification and utterances of any kind

In a blog post April 29, ColoradoPolitics.com reporter Joey Bunch criticized Western Wire, a news service backed by the oil and gas industry via the Western Energy Alliance, for a post that, Bunch wrote, “left an impression” that last Saturday’s climate protests were canceled due to snow.

Bunch reported:

The article goes on to cite a Facebook post about the event in Colorado Springs being cancelled. The story, however, makes mentions of Denver, including a forecast of 12 inches of snow in the metro area, but never says whether its event is cancelled or a go.

I e-mailed [Western Wire reporter] Johnson to ask about the “Denver-area climate marches” the article refers to, and why an industry site is doing a weather story and sending it out to reporters who might be thinking about covering the event.

He replied that the story specifically cites the Colorado Springs event. “And where exactly in the story did we dissuade reporters from going?” he wrote about the story e-mailed to reporters.

The Western Wire article failed to mention the Colorado Springs march was moved to Sunday at 1:30 p.m. beginning at Colorado Springs City Hall.

Many advocates would cry and wail about Bunch’s post in anonymous tweets, but to his credit, Western Wire’s Matt Dempsey responded directly in a post titled, “Our Friend Joey Bunch Missed The Mark.” He claimed Bunch “missed the point of our reporting entirely.”

I agree with Bunch that Dempsey’s post created the impression that the Denver demonstrations were at least threatened with cancellation. But Dempsey claims in his post that he had actually wanted reporters to attend the rallies. “After all, the giant snowstorm that hit Colorado highlighted the supreme irony of the anti-fossil fuel activists’ campaign,” wrote Dempsey in his blog post. And he pointed out that Western Wire’s post linked to updated information about the Colorado Springs rally.

But I can’t figure why Dempsey concluded his post this way:.

It also makes us wonder why Joey didn’t just ask for a clarification in his email, instead of seeking comment for a critique of our story. Western Wire, like any other news outlet, is open to readers asking for clarifications or corrections. But that’s not what happened here.

The question to Joey is: Why not?

This is funny because Bunch sought (and got!) a comment from Western Wire. He’s a reporter, not a reader who might seek a correction or clarification. He asked for Western Wire’s thoughts or utterances of any kind–including clarifying variety. That’s what journalists do when they send you an email with questions and an explanation of what they’re doing.

Bunch provided me with the questions and background information that he emailed to Western Wire prior to writing his story. Here it is.

Did you guys try to confirm that with anybody yesterday? You really come away from your story thinking the thing was cancelled. I’m going to blog about the event, and it’s a side note that an industry wire service was seemingly dissuading reporters and attendees from going the day before. I’m not sure what the point of a weather story on Western Wire was all about.

But Dempsey says Bunch should have followed up again, if necessary, to determine Western Wire’s intentions. Dempsey told me, via email:

Our point is that Joey made a bad assumption by asserting that the Western Wire news story suggested the event was cancelled, and that somehow by posting it online and emailing it that we were discouraging reporters from attending.

Instead of trying to understand what the story actually said, he was in a rush to get comment for a rebuttal story of his own.

Following his story we felt a need to weigh in through a commentary piece. Our aim was to be respectful while still making our point.

Bunch is more worried about the journalism practiced at Western Wire.

“I’m not offended at all by Matt Dempsey’s opinion of me, and I don’t know any reporters who are taking it seriously,” Bunch emailed in response to my request for a comment. “I’m not. It’s the disregard for journalistic principles of fairness and accuracy in both blogs that bothers me as a person who’s been doing this for 30-something years. It doesn’t speak well for Western Wire as a news source or the Western Energy Alliance, if it continues to stand behind it.”

Dempsey continues to stand behind his post, maybe not understanding how serious it is to claim a journalist didn’t do the most basic aspect of his job–when in actuality it seems Dempsey didn’t do his by not giving Bunch the info he needed.

Thiry’s Theory: They’re MY Ballot Measures, So Do What I Want

“I think the difference between what he wants and what we want is that we’re interested in elections and he’s just interested in getting elected.”
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert (Denver Post, 5/1/17)

The Colorado legislative session will come to a close on Wednesday, but things are getting nasty in the final days of the 2017 session.

A big television advertising blitz started this weekend as part of a last-ditch effort to convince lawmakers to go in a different direction on legislation implementing Proposition 108 — the shoddily-crafted 2016 ballot measure that would allow Unaffiliated voters to participate in partisan primaries. We wrote last week about this deep-in-the-weeds political battle, which revolves around DaVita CEO Kent Thiry’s gubernatorial aspirations and his misplaced belief that Unaffiliated voters are the magic carpet that will carry him through a crowded Republican primary next June.

Thiry spent millions of dollars bankrolling Prop. 108 (as well as Prop. 107, which creates a Presidential Primary in Colorado); both measures were approved by Colorado voters, but because they were so vaguely-worded, it is up to the legislature and the Secretary of State to figure out how to implement these changes. Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Kevin Lundberg (R-Larimer County) and Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) is attempting to bridge this gap, but Thiry doesn’t like a central idea that election officials would make note of which partisan primary ballots were chosen by Unaffiliated voters.

DaVita CEO Kent Thiry is making it rain for GOP consultants.

Thiry is concerned that tracking this information will scare off Unaffiliated voters from participating in primary elections, but as we wrote on Wednesday, the more important concerns here should be about transparency and accountability:

The choices on your ballot are yours, and yours alone, and that’s not going to change. But transparency and accountability should supersede all other interests when it comes to our elections. If we can’t track which ballots were cast in general, then there’s no way to know if your vote was even counted. If we don’t know how many people actually returned ballots in each particular primary, then we are living in a Banana Republic where we just have to assume that everything was on the level because some election official (or rich guy) told us it was cool.

From what we hear, Thiry bankrolled a $50,000 television ad campaign that began on Friday in an effort to get Lundberg and Fenberg to do what he wants instead of what they (and Secretary of State Wayne Williams) believes is in the best interest of Colorado voters. Thiry hired infamous right-wing rock-thrower Ben Howe  the RedState guy whose previous clients include Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, and Citizens United — to produce the TV spot below (click on the image to watch the ad):

It is certainly not unprecedented to see TV ads targeting specific legislation under the State Capitol, but it doesn’t happen often…and definitely not in the final days of a legislative session. This is also an odd way to go about trying to get what you want in Thiry’s case — a millionaire businessman who sponsored ballot measures with a goal of trying to increase his chances of being elected governor is now hoping to convince voters that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is going rogue on a complicated issue that the average person isn’t likely to understand (or care about) one way or the other. If Thiry wanted Prop. 108 to be administered in a specific way, then he should have made sure that the ballot language was crystal clear on the implementation front.

Thiry just wants lawmakers to do what he says. He spent millions of dollars on this idea and he can threaten to throw around plenty more cash — which GOP consulting firms are more than happy to collect — but that doesn’t make him right. Lawmakers and the Secretary of State are trying to implement the wishes of voters in a manner that maintains the integrity of Colorado’s voting process and reduces the likelihood of ballot spoilage in the event that voters inadvertently check the wrong box on a ballot.

We’ll take transparency and accountability over the wishes of Thiry in this case. We don’t doubt that voters will agree.

Colorado Week in Review: 5/5/17

Woods posts fake news on Facebook

woods trey gowdy 5-17Despite the example set by Trump, it seems that public figures in Colorado are being more careful about posting fake news on their Facebook pages than they were prior to the last election.

And to their credit, some officials in Colorado are removing fake news, if they are convinced it’s fake news.

But former State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Westminster), who lost her state senate seat in November, apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about how fake news rots civic discourse, not to mention representative government.

She apparently posted this fake news item, provided to me by a source, last week, headlined, “Trey Gowdy Breaks Silence After 2 of His Investigators Were Found Tortured and Killed-Proud Patriots.”

Woods apparently commented, “OM gosh…The Clintons’ trail of dead bodies is unbelievable. Hopefully Attorney General Sessions will take them down.”

It appears that Woods refused to remove the fake news, even after a someone on her Facebook feed pointed out that it was debunked by Snopes.

Woods doesn’t return my calls, but I invite her to sign the Fake News Pledge for Citizens here.

But it appears she may have found her own way to deal with Fake News, with a site offering right-wing radio host Mark Levin, right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, and others:

woods alt news site

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 5)

Remember, kids: Don’t put the guacamole in your tortilla-chip hat until just before you are ready to leave the house. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► As you may have heard, Congressional Republicans finally passed a bill on Thursday related to the repeal and destruction of Obamacare. Republicans toasted to the (poor) health of Americans at the White House last evening, but the political blowback is already underway. From CNN:

The Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign handicapping service, changed the ratings on 20 GOP-held districts Friday morning — all of them moving in Democrats’ favor in advance of the 2018 midterm election…

…Two of the 20 changes affected members who actually opposed the AHCA: Leonard Lance of New Jersey and Mike Coffman of Colorado. Of Coffman, Wasserman wrote: “Coffman ended up voting against the AHCA, but his hesitation to announce his position likely won’t assuage voters who want to send a message to President Trump next year.” [Pols emphasis]

Think about the changes the Cook Report made this way: To win back the House majority, Democrats need to gain 24 GOP seats. Twenty Republican seats just moved toward Democrats — in less than a day and with a single congressional vote.

That’s a big deal.

Aurora Republican Mike Coffman did indeed vote “NO” on Trumpcare 2.0 on Thursday, but it doesn’t appear as though Coffman is going to get any real political cover from the decision. Coffman’s vote on Thursday won’t extinguish the memory of his longstanding support for repealing Obamacare, including the fact that he was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the failed Trumpcare bill in March of this year.

 

► The healthcare legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate, and its future is as uncertain as ever. Republican Senate leaders are already questioning the wisdom of the House passing a bill that many members never even had a chance to read first.

Check out this video of a reporter asking Republican Members of Congress if they had read the healthcare legislation — that’s Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) who walks quickly away from the question near the end of the clip.

 

► Other than Mike Coffman, Colorado’s Congressional delegation voted along party lines on Trumpcare 2.0. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) had been coy about his support for the latest healthcare bill, but as the Grand Junction Sentinel reports, Tipton is drinking all of the GOP Kool-Aid:

The most recent version of the American Health Care Act passed the House on Thursday with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., saying it met his test of making insurance more affordable.

“As the House developed the American Health Care Act, I was adamant that the replacement plan needed to ensure people with pre-existing conditions would have access to affordable health insurance,” Tipton said in a statement after the vote. “The bill provides these assurances.”…

…Critics took immediate issue with Tipton, among them ProgressNow Colorado, whose executive director noted Tipton’s comment to The Daily Sentinel in February that, “Every policy is still going to be in effect. People are not going to be left without coverage.” Tipton broke his promise to constituents with his vote, said Ian Silverii.

Tipton’s comments are complete and utter nonsense. It has been widely reported that the GOP healthcare bill would all but eliminate the requirement that insurance companies don’t penalize people with pre-existing conditions.

 

 

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The Republican Healthcare Bill is a Steaming Pile of Crap

UPDATE: Congress has approved Trumpcare 2.0 by a narrow margin of 217-213, and will now (of course) take its two-week recess. Here’s how Colorado’s delegation voted on the measure:

YES
Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez)
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley)
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs)

NO
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulderish)
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Yay, healthcare reform!

—–

As you may have heard, Congressional Republicans are preparing to vote today on the GOP’s latest attempt to repeal and destroy Obamacare.

You can call it the American Health Care Act (AHCA) or Trumpcare. Or, you can just call it a Steaming Pile of Crap. Whatever you call it, we know that most Americans don’t want it and actually prefer Obamacare.

Here are some things you should know…

 

How much will the GOP healthcare plan cost, and how many Americans will lose health insurance coverage if it is implemented?

Nobody knows. Seriously.

Republicans are pushing for a vote today on legislation that has yet to even receive an official score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). News organizations and pundits have been left with trying to sketch out the potential impact on their own.

It seems all but certain that any new score from the CBO won’t be any better than the last time they reviewed a GOP healthcare plan — in March, the CBO found that at least 24 million Americans would lose healthcare access under the AHCA.

 

Are House Republicans really going to vote on legislation that many of them apparently haven’t even seen yet?

It sure looks that way. As the Washington Post and other outlets have reported, many Republican Members of Congress have yet to even see the proposed legislation, yet GOP leadership believes it has the votes to pass the measure today. Republicans are rushing to call a vote on the bill because they think they have the votes to pass something — anything — related to repealing Obamacare.

From MSNBC:

If House Republicans were scrambling to vote on a bill that overhauls the health care system before receiving a CBO score, that alone would be astonishing. But no one should lose sight of the fact that the Republicans’ American Health Care Act has also faced no meaningful scrutiny from lawmakers themselves: there have been no public hearings, no testimony from experts, and no public debate.

Adding insult to injury, the legislation that’s scheduled to receive a floor vote in about five hours wasn’t circulated to members yesterday or published online for Americans to review. Take a moment to consider why Republican leaders in the House wouldn’t want anyone – the media, industry experts, voters, or even their own GOP colleagues – to be able to read the legislation in advance.

This is a bill that, if implemented, would affect one-sixth of the world’s largest economy. It’s being rushed through the House in a way that wouldn’t meet the standards of an elementary school’s student government.

 

What happens if House Republicans approve the bill?

The current GOP healthcare bill is believed to be DOA in the Senate. It’s possible Congressional Republicans are merely trying to kick the can to the upper chamber so they can stop dealing with it for awhile; the House GOP may also be hoping that the Senate can make the legislation more reasonable and then they can work out the details later.

 

Many Republicans, including President Trump and Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton, had pledged to protect pre-existing conditions — what happened?

They lied to you. There’s no other honest way to answer this question.

As many as one-half of all non-elderly Americans are believed to have some sort of pre-existing condition that would make it very difficult to acquire health insurance at anything resembling a reasonable cost under the current GOP legislation.

 

But…but…what about High Risk Pools?

They’re crap.

 

Who benefits from the Republican healthcare bill (other than insurance companies)?

Young, healthy Americans who are wealthier than the average person will make out just fine. Everybody else is hosed. As NBC News explains:

Older patients on the individual insurance market would see big spikes in their premiums, while lower-income families would face higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. In a widely cited finding by the CBO, a 64-year old making $26,500 a year would have seen their annual premiums shoot up by $12,900 on average and received less comprehensive insurance under the March version of the bill.

It’s not entirely clear how the newer bill would change that calculus, but there’s not much to indicate the situation for lower-income families or older consumers would be significantly improved and they’d be more vulnerable than other groups to any changes to pre-existing condition protections.

Large numbers of Medicaid patients would lose their coverage: 14 million fewer people would be on the program after a decade, according to CBO. States may have to reduce Medicaid in response in response to cuts as well, which could disproportionately impact seniors and people with disabilities.

 

Should I be angry about this?

Yes.

 

In light of Jeffco school board recall, Brauchler’s early support of vouchers raises questions

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

George Brauchler.

Education is a motivating issue anywhere in soccer-mom country, but in Colorado its force is compounded by the lingering impact of the emotional 2015 Jefferson County School Board recall election, in which voters overwhelmingly tossed out conservatives.

Republican Bob Beauprez’s outspoken alignment with the losing school board members, including his support of vouchers, during the 2014 gubernatorial election was arguably a key factor in his loss to Democrat John Hickenlooper. And Republicans have lost a string of state legislative races in Jeffco, with the winning Democrats standing against public school privatization.

So along comes the 2018 gubernatorial race, and reporters should note where Republican candidates come down on vouchers, charters, and education issues. Will they distance themselves from the positions of the losing Jeffco School Board members? Or will they align with them?

Republican candidate George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County District Attorney, has already spoken up for vouchers, agreeing “100 percent” with KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis last month that vouchers benefit kids and empower parents, particularly in low-income areas.

Caplis (11 min 30 sec below): I’m a big believer without even increasing the budget, kids would be benefited immediately by healthy education competition, and by empowering those poor and middle income parents with true purchasing power in education through vouchers, etc. Where do you come down on school choice?

Brauchler: I 100 percent agree with you, in every place, specifically inner cities and socio economically depressed areas. Every place you offer parents the opportunity at a charter school or choice, you see a mad scramble to be part of that successful system. And our family is no different. I got four kids, 14, 12, 9, and 7. They are all in charter schools. They’ve all gone to charter grade schools. Two of them are still there. I am a big believer in choice. And they are figuring out a way to put a better product on the field and turn out students with a better education, better scores than the big establishment system. That’s not an indictment of the entire big establishment system. That is a challenge. That is that kind of competition that you and I have talked about that give you a better product. I am a big believer in choice…big-time public school system, which I am a product of, my wife’s a product of, my kids are going to be a product of it, has got to look internally, but also externally at a better way to do what they are doing.”

I can’t find campaign statements by other Republican candidates on public school privatization, but it’s likely they will be coming soon–with Democrats likely to continue to oppose vouchers. In any case, it’s clearly a key issue for reporters to track, given the Jeffco history and the stakes involved.

(more…)

Health Care Repeal in Colorado Dies Quietly

Sen. Jim Smallwood (R-Parker)

We’re still waiting to see if Congressional Republicans can muster enough votes to attempt to repeal Obamacare and replace it with Trumpcare 2.0. But here in Colorado, there is no such mystery surrounding GOP efforts to dismantle the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange.

As 9News reports:

Senate Bill Three was one of six bills highlighted in the opening day speech by Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City)…

…The bill to repeal the state’s health benefit exchange is dead. It’s not unusual for a Republican bill to die at the hands of Democrats, but this one is simply being abandoned. We wanted to ask the Senate leadership or Sen. Jim Smallwood why this priority has gone unprioritized, but no one wanted to talk.

Sources around the Capitol have suggested this bill essentially died when Republicans in Washington, D.C. could not agree on a way to repeal Obamacare.

Colorado Republicans have had a heck of a time keeping their talking points straight on why they would want to eliminate the state health exchange, which has been kicked down the road to next week just about every week in the last month (9News includes the sequential images of SB-3 getting booted). Senator Jim Smallwood of Parker was charged with promoting this legislative turd, which was first heard in committee on Feb. 7 and then not again until April 6.

Smallwood once laughably said that his bill had “nothing to do” with partisan rancor over Obamacare. He was half-right on that statement; as it turned out, even Republican legislators wanted nothing to do with it.

Transparency and Accountability? Yes, Please

The Colorado legislature is scheduled to end its 2017 session one week from today, which has both the House and Senate scrambling to check off items on their “to-do lists.” One of the pressing issues that is causing much hand-wringing in the final days of the 2017 session revolves around trying to figure out how to administer two poorly-written ballot measures approved by voters last November. As Brian Eason writes for the Denver Post, this includes trying to figure out how to administer two poorly-written ballot measures approved by voters in 2016:

The dispute stems from propositions 107 and 108, ballot initiatives approved by Colorado voters in November that open partisan primary elections in the state, including a re-established presidential primary, to unaffiliated voters.

Differences over how to effectively administer the new primaries have become a broader fight that’s partly motivated by politics. The procedure the state ultimately devises could affect how many unaffiliated voters decide to participate in next year’s gubernatorial primaries and beyond…

…As the legislative session nears its close on May 10, lawmakers are rushing to introduce legislation to set up new election procedures needed to implement the two initiatives. They will also require more funding — an estimated $5 million to $7 million in presidential election years.

Some of the decisions — such as how to format the ballot — will be left to the secretary of state’s office to manage through administrative rule-making.

The legislation, which Sens. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, and Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, plan to carry, is still being ironed out.

Proposition 108, which passed with the support of 53 percent of the voters in 2016, was created to allow Unaffiliated voters in Colorado to participate in partisan primaries. In theory, this would prompt more people to vote in primary elections (including Presidential primaries, which is where Proposition 107 enters the picture). But because Prop. 108 was so vaguely-written, the legislature and the Secretary of State’s office are now scrambling to figure out how to implement these changes without creating a rash of spoiled ballots and ultimately making our elections less transparent than they are already.

If you are a registered Democrat or Republican in Colorado, you will automatically receive a ballot for your party’s primary election in June 2018. This is not particularly complicated. But if you are an Unaffiliated voter who can now vote in one of these primary elections, this becomes much more confusing. Unaffiliated voters can only cast votes on one partisan primary ballot; if a voter marks a name in both a Democratic and Republican primary, for example, then their vote is “spoiled” (a fancy word for “not counted”).

County clerks could send Unaffiliated voters separate ballots for each partisan primary, but you still need to convince these voters to return only one ballot. This would be a huge waste of time and money, of course, and the county clerks hate the idea; counties are only reimbursed financially for every ballot that is returned by Election Day — not for every ballot that is mailed to a voter. Colorado could also decide to create a super-gigantic consolidated ballot for Unaffiliated voters, which would look something like this humongous mess that is sent out in Washington state.

This is only part of the issue that is creating fresh controversy in the legislature. Some supporters of Prop. 108 are aghast at the idea that election officials would make note of which partisan primary ballots were chosen by Unaffiliated voters. It seems fairly obvious that we need to account for all of the ballots that are received on Election Day, as the Colorado Independent notes in a separate story about the controversy:

Jeffrey Roberts, who runs the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and who watchdogs open records and open government in the state, says the privacy interests are obvious but the public interest aspect for disclosure might be harder to see.

“Many people are listed as unaffiliated voters because they want to be perceived as independent and don’t want to be bugged by operatives from any political party during an election cycle, although that may be unavoidable,” he says. But, he adds, people concerned about the integrity of elections might want that information to make sure all the numbers add up after the ballots are cast.

“It could help the public ensure that votes have been counted accurately, and it would provide a more complete picture of voting in a primary election,” says Roberts.

DaVita CEO Kent Thiry

Keep in mind here that your vote is still secret no matter how it is classified, but there is nevertheless a nonsense belief that Unaffiliated voters should get to be more secretive than partisan voters. Let’s go back to Eason’s story in the Denver Post:

And it’s not just the parties that have been trying to persuade elections officials. Kent Thiry, the DaVita chief executive and a potential Republican candidate for governor, met with Williams last week to voice objections to the plan and pledged to fight provisions that would allow partisan tracking, according to the secretary of state’s office. Thiry bankrolled the open primary ballot initiatives to the tune of $2.4 million last year.

“I think the difference between what he wants and what we want is that we’re interested in elections and he’s just interested in getting elected,” said Suzanne Staiert, the deputy secretary of state. [Pols emphasis]

Thiry did not immediately respond to requests for comment left with two spokespeople. But the concern among critics is that tracking independent voters by party could deter participation by a growing block that prefers not to declare an affiliation with one party or another.

Thiry is a likely candidate for Governor in 2018 who bankrolled Propositions 107 and 108 in part because he believed he could better win a primary election — Thiry is a registered Republican — if Unaffiliated voters were allowed to cast votes. Some of this belief is driven by the nonsensical argument that Unaffiliated voters are all just a bunch of “moderates” who don’t choose a political party because they are too centrist to fit into a specific bucket.

The idea that most Unaffiliated voters are completely independent and not influenced by partisan politics is hogwash; studies have shown that most Unaffiliated voters tend to regularly support candidates from one party or another regardless of their stated affiliation. Anybody who has ever made calls or knocked on doors of Unaffiliated voters can tell you that they are often as partisan as anyone else. Sure, there are some Unaffiliated voters who really vote all over the ballot in every election — there are also plenty of Democrats and Republicans who do the same.

The choices on your ballot are yours, and yours alone, and that’s not going to change. But transparency and accountability should supersede all other interests when it comes to our elections. If we can’t track which ballots were cast in general, then there’s no way to know if your vote was even counted. If we don’t know how many people actually returned ballots in each particular primary, then we are living in a Banana Republic where we just have to assume that everything was on the level because some election official (or rich guy) told us it was cool.

El Paso GOP official removes fake news from his Facebook page

hosler fake news apil 2017Setting an example for Republican and Democratic officials, Joshua Hosler, Vice Chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, removed a fake news item he shared on Facebook, after he learned it was fake news.

The item, produced by ConservativeWorldDaily, alleged that the Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, banned the teaching of Islam in Public Schools. Hosler removed it, he told me via Facebook messaging.

In deleting the item, Hosler joins other officials, such as State Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) and former State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs), who both removed fake news from their Facebook pages last year in the wake of a BigMedia.org investigation. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) deleted a tweet with unsubstantiated information. Other officials, such as State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), did not remove fake news from Facebook.

BigMedia.org’s “BigMedia Factcheck,” which posts facts on the Facebook pages of officials to alert them to the presence of fake news on their Facebook pages, spotlighted the fake-news item in Hosler’s Facebook news feed, and he subsequently removed it.

The Facebook item shared by Hosler is not true, as explained by Factcheck.org:

No, the Supreme Court hasn’t decided that students can’t be taught about Islam in public schools. On April 11, fake news websites began publishing a bogus story that said “[t]he court ruled 5-4, with Justice Gorsuch casting the tie-breaker, that the only Islam taught to our children in public schools will be the history of Radical Islam and what they can do to help stop it.”

It alleged that newly installed Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, and then provided a faux excerpt that was filled with errors: “We should [sic] be teaching any religions in this country besides standard Judeo-Chritianity [sic], as our founders wanted, and we certainly shouldn’t be filling the children with lies about Islam being a ‘religion of peace’ when they see the carnage on the news almost every day.”

Suspicious Facebook users have rightly flagged the bogus story as potentially fake, using the social media site’s improved tools for reporting a hoax.

Hosler once ran for a State House seat held by former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt but was defeated.