Get More Smarter on Monday (September 18)

A lot of stuff happened in the political world over the weekend; let’s get you caught up. 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…

► Senate Republicans are making a last effort at repealing Obamacare before the September 30th deadline to move the legislation under budget reconciliation. But as the Washington Post reports, the GOP still hasn’t solved its biggest issue:

Senators pushing a last-ditch Obamacare repeal effort this week are up against the same old problem: math.

This small group of Republicans — led by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — appear convinced they can rework the equation to secure  that ever-elusive 50th vote for their measure, finally passing a bill overhauling the Affordable Care Act with a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Pence and moving closer to their goal of repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s health-care law.

There will be a lot of moving parts to watch this week. Republicans have asked the Congressional Budget Office to rush a score of the Graham-Cassidy bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office confirmed yesterday. McConnell plans to take the temperature of his leadership team and his entire conference over the next few days. They have only two weeks left to scrape together enough support, since the budget reconciliation bill they’re using expires at the end of the month.

But despite all the noise being generated on Capitol Hill, Cassidy and Co. still appear to be shy of the vote total they’d need to succeed. Cassidy says he’s certain they have 48 or 49 Republican votes for his bill. But getting that final, 50th vote is the crucial — and the hardest — part.

 

► Colorado Republican lawmakers have been making plenty of noise lately in response to news that Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling a special legislative session for October 2. The legislature needs to fix an unintended problem related to SB-267 (Hospital Provider Fee) that is costing organizations such as RTD and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (i.e., the Denver Zoo and Museum of Natural History) millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Republicans have been all over the place on their messaging but have generally expressed manufactured outrage at the idea of a brief special session. As Colorado Pols reported late Friday, however, GOP lawmakers already knew about this problem and had even filed draft legislation to fix the error — which pretty well destroys any argument that the special session isn’t necessary.

 

► Corey Hutchins does a nice job explaining the redistricting/reapportionment controversy for the Colorado Independent.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Must-Read: Dive Deep Into Redistricting Smoke and Mirrors

Earlier this month, a renewed effort to “reform” the state’s process for redistricting and reapportionment of Colorado’s congressional and state legislative districts respectively–a reboot of a redistricting ballot measure that the courts threw off the 2016 ballot. The group of former legislators and other public officials behind the effort haven’t changed much from last year, being led by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty and including others like former Rep. Kathleen Curry–who disaffiliated from the Democratic Party before losing a bid re-election as an unaffiliated candidate.

One of the major reasons the last initiative failed was a perceived failure on the part of organizers, while claiming the effort was “bipartisan” and aimed at including all stakeholders, to include large portions of the community in the process of developing the initiative. Voting and civil rights organizations complained that the plan would limit minority representation in the redistricting process. In the end the initiative for 2016 was disqualified because the Colorado Supreme Court determined its scope to be to broad for the state’s “single subject” requirement.

Yesterday, the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins posted a must-read recap of last year’s failed effort, and how it morphed into the so-called “Fair Districts Colorado” campaign currently taking shape. And although the packaging has been updated, it doesn’t seem like the product has gotten any better. We can’t excerpt the whole story, so make sure you click through and read the whole thing:

A coalition that launched a revamped plan it says would take partisanship out of how state and federal political districts are drawn is facing suspicions about its motives in a state with a bitter history that has left its district maps stained with bad blood…

In Colorado, this redistricting plan isn’t new— but readers could be forgiven for thinking so.

Initial write-ups on the proposal in mainstream newspapers and the alternative press did not point out that the effort isn’t new. The plan is similar to one put forward in 2015 and 2016 by some of the same people involved in this latest effort.

…Knocked down last year, the group — then called End Gerrymandering Now — vowed it would try again. It included former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty and former GOP Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, as well as former Democratic Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, PR pro Rich Coolidge, and ex-lawmaker Kathleen Curry, a Democrat who later became unaffiliated.

All of them are working on this new proposal in a campaign they are now calling Fair Districts Colorado. They launched a new website last week…

Across the nation there is a plausible case to be made that congressional and state legislative districts in many states have been skewed to favor the party in charge of the process. Because Republicans made big gains in state legislative races across the nation in 2010, adding to control they already enjoyed in many state houses, this has frequently meant districts drawn to favor the Republican Party–with attendant consequences that include suppression of traditionally Democratic communities of color.

But not in Colorado. In our state, an era of Democratic dominance in state legislative politics that began with 2004’s “Colorado Model” takeover of the General Assembly put Democrats in charge. In the 2011 redistricting/reapportionment process, two different drafting and approval processes tried to balance the statutory and constitutional requirements of new district maps with an unwritten priority of keeping districts as competitive as possible. If you followed the high-drama but ultimately successful 2011 process in Colorado, and witnessed the results in subsequent elections carried in the redrawn districts–featuring races all over the state hotly contested to the bitter end and decided by hundreds of votes–you can see the wisdom of their approach gainfully at work.

And above all, the maps drawn in 2011 for Colorado haven’t been that bad for the party out of power when they were drawn. The proof of that is as easy to find as Colorado’s majority Republican congressional delegation and control of the state senate. Are we saying the process in Colorado can’t be improved upon? Of course not. But it’s a lot better than the horror-story gerrymandered states people read about. And that’s a point voters in Colorado need to understand.

Which brings us back to End Gerrymandering Now “Fair Districts Colorado,” and the usual suspects fronting the renewed effort to “fix” our system:

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BREAKING: GOP Special Session Shenanigans Confirmed

UPDATE: You may have noticed that the deadline dates listed in the draft bill in question (below) erroneously state 2017 as the coming legislative year. Since this legislation was filed last week, it’s obviously intended for the 2018 legislative session.

Thus illustrating again that errors, you know, happen. And then we fix them.

—–

As we reported earlier today, Gov. John Hickenlooper has called a special session of the Colorado General Assembly to convene early next month for the purpose of remedying a drafting error in Senate Bill 17-267: the large-scale bipartisan fiscal bill that averted large cuts to the budget this year, and in particular protected rural hospitals from possible closure. Although this language fix would save Denver RTD and the metro Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SFCD) from millions of dollars in unexpected cuts due to marijuana tax revenue they would not receive, Republicans appear to be rallying against making the fix–preferring instead to blast Hickenlooper for the “waste” of calling a special session to deal with the problem.

But we just found out something very important. Republicans already know about the problem.

This is an excerpt from a draft bill filed by GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg on September 5th. This draft legislation appears to accomplish the aim of the special session–ensuring that special taxing districts like RTD and SFCD can continue to levy their marijuana sales taxes even after the legislature exempted marijuana from the state’s regular sales tax:

Because state law specifies that the regional transportation district (RTD), the scientific and cultural facilities district (SCFD), and a health services district (HSD) may levy sales tax only on transactions upon which the state levies sales tax “pursuant to the provisions of article 26 of title 29. C.R.S.”, the exemption of retail marijuana sales from the general state sales tax had the unintended consequence of exempting such sales from RTD, SCFD, and HSD sales taxes even though the state continues to levy the retail marijuana sales tax pursuant to article 28.8. of title 39, C.R.S. In addition, other statutes that authorize certain special districts and authorities to levy sales taxes only upon transactions upon which the state levies sales tax but do not specifically reference article 26 are sufficiently ambiguous that they could also be interpreted to no longer authorize those special districts to levy sales tax on retail marijuana sales.

The bill clarifies that retail marijuana sales are subject to RTD, SCFD, and HSD sales taxes as well as other potentially affected special district and authority sales taxes.

Folks, this is the objective of the special session–to correct this exact error, and ensure these monies continue to flow to these special tax districts. To fail to pass this fix bill as quickly as possible will mean lost revenue for these entities. That’s why Gov. Hickenlooper called the special session.

Obviously, the fact that Republicans not only knew about this problem, but had already filed a draft bill for the 2018 legislation to address the problem, severely undercuts their feigned outrage over being called back to address it sooner–and it means they should have no problem supporting the bill whenever they get it. We have no idea how they intend to respond to the charge of blatant hypocrisy and political posturing here, but it’s one of the more egregious cases we’ve seen in recent memory.

In fact, this is exactly the kind of nonsense that makes the voting public hate politics.

AFP: All Over The Map On Hospital Provider Fee Follies

As the Denver Post’s Brian Eason reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling state lawmakers back next month for a narrowly-focused special session of the legislature–the purpose being to fix an error in a key piece of legislation passed this year that is resulting in unexpected budget cuts to specific programs:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday called lawmakers back to the Capitol to fix a bill-drafting error that has been costing Denver-based institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in marijuana revenue.

The special session set to start Oct. 2 will be the first in five years for Hickenlooper and the General Assembly, an extraordinary step for a governor who typically has deferred to lawmakers on legislative matters during his two terms.

“After hearing about the potential impact on citizens around the state, it is clear that this problem is best solved as soon as possible,” Hickenlooper said in a statement announcing his executive order, capping a day of speculation about his plans.

The error in question affects the bipartisan hospital provider fee and budget fix legislation Senate Bill 17-267, this year’s hard-won compromise bill hammered out between Democrats and Republicans led by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg that averted much larger and more painful budget cuts. Specifically, the mistake eliminated marijuana tax funding for Denver RTD and the metro area’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), along with a few other organizations, while intending to increase marijuana tax revenue–meaning an error completely counter to the bill’s intentions.

But as you might have expected, Republicans and conservative activists are howling over the special session and threatening to not cooperate–including Sen. Sonnenberg and Rep. Jon Becker, the two primary GOP sponsors of SB-267:

Intransigence that is outraging Democrats who worked with them:


As for the state’s biggest conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity-Colorado? Don’t bother. They’re all over the map. During the legislative session, AFP claimed to be “working with” Sen. Sonnenberg on SB-267, ostensibly to ensure it wasn’t too offensive to them. The organization was listed in lobbying disclosure forms as “monitoring” SB-267, not opposing, while then-AFP state director Michael Fields taunted Democrats about supposed GOP willingness to move forward:

And the group’s 2017 Colorado legislative scorecard–the first version, anyway–was a little confusing, but appeared to consider a “yes” SB-267 vote a good thing:

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 12)

For those of you who fell asleep before Monday’s late game was over, the Denver Broncos are now 1-0 on the season. 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…

► Things were very good economically for the American middle class in 2016 (thanks, Donald Obama!) As the Washington Post reports:

America’s middle class had its highest-earning year ever in 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday…

…America’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, the lowest since 2007, the year before the financial crisis hit. The percent of Americans without health insurance for the entire year also dropped in 2016 to just 8.8 percent, largely thanks to expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Economists hailed the news as evidence the recovery is finally taking hold after years of frustration for the middle class, which watched the stock market soar while the average American’s income barely budged.

 

► Don’t stop us if you’ve heard this before (because you have): Congressional Republicans are eager to get to work on tax reform issues, but they’re a bit perplexed by the absence of anything resembling a specific proposal. As Politico reports:

“This time around there is no room for error. This has got to be a home run,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said, recalling the GOP’s Obamacare fiasco. “I would hope everyone wants to know what’s in it before you vote on it. That’s the old [Nancy] Pelosi joke on health care, it turned into a colossal joke. ‘You’ll find out what’s in it after we pass it.’”

A member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely said, “It is frustrating and concerning that we don’t have the details and yet we’re going to be asked in 60 days to vote on something,”

The member suggested that congressional and administration leaders negotiating a plan are holding back information either to avoid leaks or because they haven’t found enough common ground yet to share anything. [Pols emphasis]

Or…and we’re just spitballing here…perhaps not having a plan really is the plan. After all, you can’t oppose something that doesn’t exist.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

► Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Brauchler should also be seeking some advice on how to talk about water policy in Colorado. HINT: Don’t say that you are surprised that water is a big issue here.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Monday (September 11)

The Denver Broncos open their season late tonight; it may be Sept. 12 before the game finally concludes. 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…

► Officials are still assessing damage from Hurricane Irma, which hit South Florida on Sunday before moving up the western coast of Florida toward the Tampa Bay area. The storm left more than 6 million people without power across Florida, but the worst-case scenarios envisioned by weather forecasters last week seem largely to have been avoided.

 

► The Chair of the Colorado Republican Party is backing up comments made on the official Twitter accounts of the state party that were critical of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Citing articles critical of the SPLC “from across the political spectrum” and a letter written this week by prominent conservatives that calls the SPLC a “discredited, left-wing political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention,” State GOP Chair Jeff Hays told Colorado Politics he has no intention of apologizing.

“The notion that the Colorado Republican Party should apologize for joining this broad chorus of critics is ridiculous,” Hays said in a statement. “Our tweet was correct to suggest the SPLC is an unreliable source of information, and stories that cite it uncritically ought not to be trusted.”

If you are unfamiliar with the SPLC, you should know that they are one of the leading groups in the United States keeping track of “hate groups,” white supremacy, and other extremist organizations.

 

Steve Bannon, the former top strategist for President Trump who was resigned-fired last month, had plenty to say in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday. As CNN reports, Bannon pulled no punches in assessing Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon believes President Donald Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey was one of the worst mistakes in “modern political history.”

In a “60 Minutes” interview that was posted online Sunday night, Bannon was asked whether he considered Comey’s dismissal — which ignited a political firestorm and directly led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including potential ties to Trump’s campaign — the biggest mistake in political history.

Bannon responded, “That would be probably — that probably would be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history.”

Bannon is now back at Breitbart News, and it sounds like he is ready for an all-out war with the Republican Party.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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GOP Lawmakers Troll Well-Plugging Plan, Because Of Course

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports–a few weeks ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced measures intended to prevent the recurrence of an explosion inside a home in Firestone that killed two people and leveled the structure, an explosion later determined to be caused by methane gas seeping into the home’s foundations from an improperly abandoned well nearby. Flowlines from that well allowed the gas into the home, calling attention to a major statewide problem of abandoned oil and gas development infrastructure. Hickenlooper’s announced fixes have been debated as a potentially too-small response to a problem that will only get worse as the urbanizing Front Range expands into current and formerly drilled areas.

But as the Sentinel reports, a pair of energy biz-friendly GOP lawmakers is pushing back even against Hickenlooper’s small-scale proposed fixes:

State Sen. Ray Scott and state Rep. Bob Rankin are asking Colorado’s top oil and gas regulator to justify why more funds are needed to pay for plugging abandoned wells.

The two made the request in a letter written Wednesday to Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

They wrote it after Gov. John Hickenlooper made several recommendations for new laws or regulations in response to the April home explosion in Firestone that killed two men and was linked to gas flowing from an abandoned flowline from a nearby well. One recommendation was the creation of a nonprofit fund to plug and abandon orphan wells and provide refunds for in-home methane monitors. Orphan wells are ones for which no owner or operator can be found, or the owner or operator is unwilling or unable to plug and properly abandon it.

“We are writing to request your assistance regarding the size and scope of the abandoned well situation in Colorado,” Scott and Rankin said in their letter to Lepore. They pointed to what they called Hickenlooper’s suggestion that “the abandoned well problem is so vast in scope that new taxes and fees are necessary to stand up a new organization to address the problem.”

Even Matt Lepore, Gov. Hickenlooper’s rather infamously pro-industry director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, says that the amount of money oil companies are required to bond for plugging old wells is inadequate, having last been increased almost a decade ago and to a level still not enough to cover the need.

But apparently even Hickenlooper’s limited actions in response to the Firestone explosion are too much for Republicans in the legislature! Politically, questioning these baby steps as potential “overreach” following such a high-profile disaster is incredibly tone-deaf–if not for the Western Slope “gaspatch Republicans” in this story, then certainly for Republicans who have to answer to worried suburban homeowners along the Front Range.

At some point, public safety has to come before private profit. Doesn’t it?

Biz Lobby Talks Transportation Initiative, Hard Right Freaks

As Denver Post business correspondent Aldo Svaldi reports, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is moving to resurrect of the major failed priorities from this year’s legislative session–a measure asking voters for more revenue to deal with the growing backlog of badly needed transportation projects all over the state of Colorado:

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce will pursue a ballot initiative next year to boost state transportation funding after the state legislature failed to send voters a measure to raise $3.5 billion for roads and transit this year…

Brough, in an interview after the announcement, said specifics are still being worked on with several other groups, but she hinted that the size and scope of the hard-fought but failed House Bill 1242 offers a starting point.

…The bill, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, sought to increase the statewide sales tax to 3.52 percent from 2.9 percent for 20 years to raise $3.5 billion for transportation funding.

But Senate conservatives, opposed in principle to tax increases and state spending priorities, contributed to the bill’s demise late in the session, ending what backers had hailed as a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats to address a critical need.

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

The state’s two principal right-wing ideological hard line groups, Americans for Prosperity-Colorado and the Independence Institute–who were chiefly responsible for killing the bipartisan “grand bargain” between Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham–reacted with predictable anger:

But we’ll be very interested in seeing what happens with this initiative, since it could take a major argument from local conservatives–that Medicaid and other “social spending” must be cut to pay for infrastructure upgrades everyone agrees are needed–off the table. The zero-sum paradigm forced on the state by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is an end unto itself for the ideological “starve the beast” right, and they have no interest in upholding the part of the law that allows voters to grow the proverbial pie if they choose.

But when even conservative Republicans like Kevin Grantham agree that something has to be done–and not on the backs of the sick and poor–there is legitimate reason to keep trying.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 5)

A lot of stuff can (and did) happen over the course of a three-day weekend. 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…

► After days of speculation, President Trump made Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce the news on Tuesday: The Obama-era immigration policy better known as DACA is coming to an end. As CNN reports:

The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and rescinded the Obama administration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday at the Justice Department.

In the five years since DACA was enacted, the nearly 800,000 individuals who have received the protections have started families, pursued careers and studied in schools and universities across the United States. The business community and education community at large has joined Democrats and many moderate Republicans in supporting the program, citing the contributions to society from the population and the sympathetic fact that many Dreamers have never known another home than the US…

…The administration also announced a plan to continue renewing permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months, giving Congress time to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the US.

Most Democrats and even some moderate Republicans have largely opposed scrapping DACA, and many business leaders are worried about the impact it will have on reducing the available workforce. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Trump’s decision on DACA shows just how much the Republican Party has changed in the last few years.

Here in Colorado, the end of DACA is estimated to impact more than 17,000 people, and many local, state, and federal lawmakers are pushing back on the decision. Students across Colorado responded this morning by walking out of classes and staging public protests. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), who has a mixed history on immigration reform in general, says he plans to enact a motion in Congress to force a vote on legislation intended to protect so-called DREAMERS.

 

► Congress is back at “work” today following its annual month-long August recess. As the Washington Post explains, lawmakers have a lot on their schedule:

If you want to understand the situation facing Congress in September, imagine resolving the thorniest problem you can think of in the space of one month.

Now multiply that task by four and add President Trump.

This is what awaits lawmakers as they return from summer break this week. In the small number of working days between now and the end of the month, Congress faces the following decisions: passing a bill to avert a U.S. debt default, renewing government funding to avoid a partial shutdown, reauthorizing critical programs including the Federal Aviation Administration, extending funds for health insurance for about 9 million children and agreeing on emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

And that’s all while trying to anticipate the behavior of an unpredictable president.

Oh, but that’s not all. Not even close:

Trump has said he wants members to start working on tax cuts. There’s a chance Congress will respond if Trump phases out protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, as he is expected to do. Lawmakers are under pressure to fund Obamacare cost-sharing reduction payments before Sept. 27, when insurers have to commit to offering plans on the exchanges next year. The Senate needs to pass a defense authorization bill. Committees are expected to interview members of Trump’s inner circle about Russia. Depending on how Hurricane Irma evolves, Capitol Hill could find itself responding to yet another destructive storm.

 

► Colorado’s air quality is suffering from multiple major wildfires burning in the Western United States. As the Denver Post reports:

Heavy smoke from forest fires in the Northwest has triggered a health advisory for ozone and fine particulates along the northern Front Range through 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Outdoor air quality is at unsafe levels for sensitive groups, such as the elderly and those with health problems. In some areas, particulates are at high levels unhealthy for the public at large, according to the “Action Day Alert” from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The elderly, the very young and those in poor health are urged to remains indoors and to relocate if outside smoke is worsening indoor air quality. Even those in good health should avoid heavy exertion outdoors, such as jogging, until the alert is lifted.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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AFP Colorado Rally Fizzles Despite “FREE BBQ LUNCH”

Lavishly-funded conservative activist group American For Prosperity-Colorado promoted the hell out of today’s No More, Uncle Sam! Reform the Tax Code! rally in Lincoln Park across from the Colorado State Capitol:

“Bring your friends and Rally with AFP-Colorado to REFORM the TAX CODE Now! FREE BBQ LUNCH!” Blared the ads on social media for this rally well in advance, giving AFP’s allegedly huge cadre of supporters plenty of time to make a plan to show. But despite all that preparation and the promise of a literal “free lunch,” initial reports from the scene in Lincoln Park would appear to indicate…well, plenty of leftovers:

If you know anybody from Occupy Denver, send them to Lincoln Park for some quick eats before it’s over! Failing that we hope the surplus gets donated to hungry folks close by. Napoleon said it best, “an army marches on its stomach.” But sometimes, as AFP Colorado learned today, not even a free hot meal can fire up the troops–not with Republican morale facing the daily acid test of President Donald Trump.

But free food certainly means they tried. And you can’t blame an astroturf front group for trying.

Denver City Council: Preserve immigrant rights. Williams: More deportations!

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver City Council Chambers  were packed Monday night with an overflow crowd, wearing white to show support of immigrants and refugees, cheering Denver City Council’s passing of the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act.   (PSEPA)  The PSEPA ordinance codifies a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Share” policy  for requesting immigration documents, while also preserving exceptions for violent or wanted criminals, and provides for notifying ICE when detainees “of interest” are released. PSEPA is viewed as a compromise which preserves immigrant’s Constitutional  due process rights, while also protecting public safety.

It is the result of months of negotiations between city officials and immigration rights activists.

Here is ovation greeting #DenverCouncil 10-0 vote to pass #immigration ordinance that is don’t ask/don’t share but still notify of releases. pic.twitter.com/v90cHqqneC — Jon Murray (@JonMurray) August 29, 2017

While Denver City Council was debating this compromise legislation, HD15 State Representative David Williams wrote to President Trump and AG Sessions, claiming that Denver is not deporting enough people, and detention / deportation needs to be increased. Williams has called for an investigation into “sanctuary city politicians”, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Williams’ letter, released Sunday, per reporting by Kasey Kershner of KRDO News13, asks for federal intervention concerning illegal immigration in the Denver area. It specifically calls out Denver City Council’s PSEPA ordinance as a “sanctuary city ordinance”.

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Beware the Big-Number Boogeyman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s total state budget is $29 billion. That’s right; billion with a “B.” That’s a big number. It’s bigger this year than it was two years ago.

All too often, Colorado’s most extreme conservatives use these oversimplified statements as if they are some kind of thunderclap in the raging debate over our state’s finances. It’s a particular line of attack I call the “Big-Number Boogeyman” argument.

The Big-Number Boogeyman’s tactic is cynical, yet effective. He throws around big numbers most of us can’t relate to and points out how the budget keeps growing. He is quick to dismiss those advocating for more public investment as hopelessly greedy liberals who can’t prioritize.

Last week, the Colorado Springs Gazette took a page out of the Big-Number Boogeyman’s handbook.

In an editorial, it erroneously depicted a shrinking K-12 budget as a direct consequence of the state’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage for those with incomes at 133 percent of the federal poverty line ($16,000/year).

To make its argument, the Gazette relied on the wrong facts. Instead of looking at the $11 billion general fund, it used Colorado’s $29 billion total state budget (all funds).

(If you’re starting to think like the Boogeyman and his followers, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wow, $11 billion is a big number.” Before I lose you, divide that $11 billion by our population. It accounts to a mere $2,000 for every man, woman, and child.)

Remove the Big-Number Boogeyman bias and here’s what’s left: It may seem like Medicaid’s share of the budget is exploding, but that’s because Medicaid expansion is funded by a federal government match. When you look at the general fund — the true measure of where our tax dollars are going — you see percentages for Medicaid have remained virtually unchanged over the last five years.

Based on its incorrect theory, the Gazette then declared a solution to the problem (one it created by using out-of-context numbers): If we want higher paid teachers, kick people off Medicaid. Fiscal crisis solved!

The Big-Number Boogeyman and his henchmen went wild.

“$29 billion and we can’t find money for roads and schools?”
“We just need to prioritize better!”
“The budget grows bigger every year. How much more do you want?”

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (August 9)

Members of Congress are holding fewer town hall meetings in August than they have in recent years — try to contain your surprise. 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…

► The war of words between the United States and North Korea reached a new level on Tuesday after President Trump promised to unleash “fire and fury” on the reclusive country if it continues to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons. Trump’s strong rhetoric is raising concerns in Asia, and as the New York Times reports, Trump’s bombastic (pun intended) statements caught his own staff off guard:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them. [Pols emphasis]

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

Yes, you read that correctly. President Trump improvised threatening North Korea. If we end up in a military conflict with North Korea, maybe Trump can go do the fighting himself, too.

Hopefully, North Korea is listening more closely to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

 

Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch calls for more transparency in campaign fundraising in light of a Denver Post story that Treasurer Walker Stapleton is using a big loophole in the law to raise unlimited amounts of money for his upcoming campaign for governor. The editorial board of the Denver Post is also not thrilled with Stapleton’s loophole maneuvering:

While his move can be viewed as an understandable and inevitable outgrowth of the reality of how tangled campaign finance laws corrupt our politics, we wish the treasurer had set a better example and not led us down this path — for others surely will follow.

As The Denver Post’s Mark K. Matthews reported, the Republican plans to appear at a high-dollar fundraiser on Aug. 21 on behalf of BetterColoradoNow, an independent expenditure committee that seeks to cause trouble for Democratic candidates. Stapleton is doing so even though he hasn’t made his candidacy official. His coyness allows him to avoid rules that prohibit cooperation between such committees and candidates.

We argue that Stapleton’s planned workaround violates the spirit of the law and the clear expectation of Colorado voters, who have consistently sought to set strict limits on political fundraising. Such dodges add to the reasons voters feel down in their bones that the system is falling apart.

 

► Big news from the Washington Post regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign:

FBI agents raided the Alexandria home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman late last month, using a search warrant to seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, confirmed that agents executed a warrant at one of the political consultant’s homes and that Manafort cooperated with the search.

As “The Fix” concludes, there are few phrases scarier than “predawn raid” when it comes to the topic of a federal investigation.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (August 8)

Worried that people don’t like you? Your approval ratings can’t be worse than those of Cory Gardner. 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…

► President Trump is a model of consistency when it comes to low approval ratings. As CNN explains:

Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s overall approval rating stands at its lowest point in CNN polling, while three-quarters of Americans say they can’t trust most of what they hear from the White House.

Overall, 38% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with 56% saying they disapprove. Just one other newly-elected president has held an approval rating below 50% at this point in his presidency since modern polling began: Bill Clinton, whose approval rating stood at 44% at this point in 1993.

Enthusiasm breaks against Trump by a 2-to-1 margin. Nearly half in the new poll say they strongly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the job (47%), while just a quarter say they feel strongly positive about Trump’s performance (24%).

Trump has been President for 200 days already? Covfefe!

 

► Here in Colorado, new poll results show that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) remains less popular than President Trump. Gardner’s approval/disapproval split is 24/56, compared to 40/53 for Trump.

Back in March, Gardner’s approval ratings were at a miserable 39%. At the rate he’s going, Gardner’s approval ratings will be in the single digits by Christmas.

 

► An in-depth Climate Change study compiled by a slew of federal agencies tells a story that President Trump may not want to hear. From the New York Times:

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited…

…The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

One government scientist who worked on the report, Katharine Hayhoe, a professor of political science at Texas Tech University, called the conclusions among “the most comprehensive climate science reports” to be published. Another scientist involved in the process, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said he and others were concerned that it would be suppressed.

Each one of 13 federal agencies — including the EPA — is supposed to “approve” the report for distribution by August 18. Scientists are worried that the Trump administration will dismiss this report entirely.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Rep. Ken Buck – Still lying, but nicely

Representative Buck is a good communicator. His conversational skills were on display in his Sterling Town Hall on July 29, 2017.  He does not always tell the truth, and his point of view is limited to what one would expect from one of the ten most conservative members of the House of Representatives, and proud member of the ultra-right wing Freedom Caucus.  I’ve listed Buck’s lies and lies by omission below.

Buck handles these town halls well – he doesn’t get flustered when confronted, and  stayed in control with a crowd that was at least 50% Democratic and progressive. The impromptu town hall in Longmont got a little rowdier, but Buck still kept his cool.  I’d call the overall tone of the Sterling meeting “polite but firm” , for all parties involved.

Over the course of the  one hour town hall meeting, Buck and his constituents discussed the budget process, the health care bills past, present, and future, education, water law, Bitcoin and “crypto-currency”, renewable energy, constitutional convention, the VA hospital, and civility in politics. I’ve highlighted some of the places in which Representative Buck strayed from the truth.

  • At 22:59, during a renewable energy discussion , Buck said that he’s against mandates, not renewable energy, even though Colorado now gets 24% of its electricity from wind and solar, and wind turbine jobs are the fastest growing job category in the country. . He was unable to justify his statement that renewable energy is hurting Coloradans and costing them money.
  • At 30:00 Buck says he’s against unfunded mandates in education, but doesn’t commit to fund them.
  • At 39:00, Buck lies about how much ACA coverage cost in 2014. (ACA = $1800, wife’s plan =$108 – but not mentioning that the  Federal Government subsidizes all congressmembers health at 90%, so his remaining 10% cost would have been $180/mo). If you recall, Cory Gardner  tried to scam voters with this same BS, and was never able to show any proof that his ACA payment was more expensive than his private plan.
  • At 40:00 Rep. Buck says he wants to drive down costs of premiums & deductibles, but neglects to mention that the House AHCA bill would have driven those way up for consumers.
  • At 49:45 , he says we should encourage people to be healthier and drive down health care costs that way (but the bill he supported would have eliminated ACA’s preventative medicine coverage).
  • Buck told a LIE again at 51:13 when he said that the GOP congress “never attempted to repeal and replace” Obamacare. The GOP Congress voted over 50 times to “repeal the ACA, and Buck personally voted 3X since he was elected in 2014 to repeal the ACA.
  • Again, at 53: 00 when Buck is asked what can be done about the lack of civility in DC, he blames the media for publicizing sensational stories, not a Republican administration which refuses to work across the aisle, nor a President who models terrible and uncivil behavior.
  • At 53:30, Buck is asked about his book Drain the Swamp, and  if it is true that he wants to change the Constitution. He replies that he would like to have a Constitutional Convention, but only to get a balanced budget and term limits. Whew. It’s not like there are any Koch brothers or nuts out there who want a Con-con just to repeal the last two centuries of progress.

Ken Buck apparently also has access to the Trump White House connection to Breitbart public relations  services. Buck’s humorous “Cut the Debt” video

features Trey Gowdy, Mia Love, Ted Cruz, and other Congress members, and promotes his point of view that cutting the national debt is an urgent priority. It was a front page Breitbart story on 3/15/2017.

Ken Buck is still one of the most conservative members of Congress. People running against him need to confront him on policy and votes. He’s not stupid or undisciplined – he’s not going to curse anyone out or get into a sex or money scandal. He’ll be a formidable foe not least because he is so “nice” and “personable”. Candidates running against him need to be prepared to confront him on votes, policies, and facts, stay polite and respectful, but call his lies out when necessary.

Representative Buck has other town hall meetings scheduled. See his website for updates.