Get More Smarter on Friday (February 16)

Prepare for some mighty blustery weather this 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…

► Immigration reform efforts didn’t even last the work week in Washington D.C., as Denver7 reports:

The U.S. Senate failed on Thursday to pass procedural hurdles on four separate immigration measures, most of which were aimed at extending citizenship to Dreamers and enhancing security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The failure of the measures came as little surprise Thursday afternoon after another morning of fighting between the White House, which adamantly opposed any measures that were not in line with its own, and the rest of the Senate.

And in the end, the White House’s proposal, which was sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, garnered the fewest number of votes, with just 39 voting to proceed to a final vote.

A bipartisan solution cosponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., which some had said was the most-likely of the four to pass, garnered 54 votes.

All of the proposals needed to clear a 60-vote hurdle before they could proceed to final votes. None of them did.

 

► The Denver Post is calling for state Sen. Randy Baumgardner to resign from office following allegations of sexual harassment and a bafflingly weak response from Senate Republican leadership.

 

► As the Washington Post reports, a younger generation of Americans is now asking why the government won’t do anything to keep them safe:

In the familiar aftermath of America’s latest mass shooting, something new stood out: This time, the kids who survived the rampage on Wednesday were demanding to know why the adults who run the country had not done more to prevent it…

…In the familiar aftermath of America’s latest mass shooting, something new stood out: This time, the kids who survived the rampage on Wednesday were demanding to know why the adults who run the country had not done more to prevent it.

Local officials in the Parkland, Florida region are not at all happy about President Trump’s plans to visit the area in the aftermath of Wednesday’s massacre.

 

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Denver Post: Time for Baumgardner to Resign

Sorry, did you say I should “resign”?

Senate Republicans are really, really, really not dealing well with allegations of sexual harassment against their own members. Today, the editorial board of the Denver Post made a very public call for change in arguing that State Sen. Randy Baumgardner should resign from office. More importantly, perhaps, the Post hangs plenty of blame on Senate GOP leadership:

We are disappointed that Republican Senate leaders — Senate President Kevin Grantham and Majority Leader Chris Holbert — have not taken action against Baumgardner by removing all but one of his committee assignments to at least send a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Instead, Grantham and Holbert ordered Baumgardner to take sensitivity training but then defended their colleague, saying the investigation was full of “inaccuracies, bias, conflicts of interest and inconsistencies.” They offered no specifics, which is unhelpful…

…Sexual harassment has been tolerated for far too long in the Colorado General Assembly and we are disappointed that Republicans in the Senate are choosing to enable those bad actors who would abuse their power at the expense of a professional and civil workplace environment. Whether intentional or not, Grantham and Holbert have also sent a clear message to any potential victims about how their accusations will be treated if they find the courage to speak up.

Amen to that.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 15)

There have now been 18 school shootings in 2018 alone. This year is only 45 days old. 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…

► In his first public response to Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump said that students should feel safe in their schools because, uh, well…

As the Associated Press reports:

President Donald Trump struck a solemn tone Thursday after the deadly school shooting in Florida, describing a “scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil” and promising to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” but avoiding any mention of guns…

…He did not answer shouted questions about guns as he exited the room.

While Republicans continue to say much but do nothing, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy is not mincing words in blaming Congress for sitting on its hands.

This image from CNN.com says everything in one word:

 

Here’s a brief look at what Colorado elected officials had to say in response to Wednesday’s shooting.

 

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Get More Smarter on Valentine’s Day (February 14)

Because true love is measured by heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. 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…

► Colorado Senate Republicans somehow managed to figure out a way to enact the worst possible response to claims of sexual harassment against one of its members. After waiting for weeks to take action on the results of an investigation into sexual harassment claims against state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, Senate President Kevin Grantham orchestrated a truly absurd response on Tuesday. This editorial from the Aurora Sentinel sums up the nonsense well:

It was, at best, one of the most astonishing exhibitions of political tone deafness ever to ring out in the State Capitol. More likely, it was an ill-conceived scheme to diminish or dismiss allegations against Baumgardner, which, as told, border on assault. Grantham issued a scathing letter to the press, in which he tries to undermine the investigation conducted by an outside human relations consultant, without ever offering any details or explanation as to why he denounced the process. Then Grantham issued an edict that he considers “the matter closed.”…

Baumgardner should either offer credible proof of his allegations that his accuser is a liar, or that the investigation was rigged, or he should offer a meaningful apology and resign from the state Senate.

Grantham has shown he hasn’t the temperament, the understanding nor the ethical temerity to lead the Senate chamber. He should step down as president now. [Pols emphasis]

Grantham will have a few more opportunities to screw this up even further. An investigation into an allegation of sexual harassment against Republican state Sen. Jack Tate was made available to Grantham on Monday — the same day that second sexual harassment complaint was formally filed against Baumgardner.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing ahead with a resolution to expel Baumgardner from the State Capitol entirely.

 

► Republicans are losing fundraising battles all across the country as more evidence of a rising Blue Wave presents itself. As Politico explains:

For the third Florida bellwether election in a row, the Republican candidate lost to the Democrat, giving activists and elites in both parties a sense that the GOP’s political grip is slipping in the nation’s largest swing state heading into President Donald Trump’s first midterm election.

Aside from her big 7.4 percentage-point win, what made Margaret Good’s victory Tuesday night over Republican James Buchanan so significant was that it took place in Florida’s 72nd House District. It had been held by a Republican in Sarasota County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12,000, or about 10 percentage points. Buchanan, the son of local Congressman Vern Buchanan, also had an advantage in name ID.

And Trump had carried the district by 4.6 percentage points in a state that he won by just 1.2 points in November.

Have fun with this, “Chairman Gardner.”

 

► Questions surrounding the White House’s coddling of former staff secretary/domestic abuser Rob Porter continue to grow as more evidence suggests the Trump administration made a conscious effort to keep Porter on the job. From the Washington Post:

The White House struggled Tuesday to contain a widening crisis over its handling of domestic violence allegations against a senior official, as it reeled after sworn testimony by the FBI chief directly contradicted what President Trump’s aides had presented as the official version of events.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau had completed a background report on then-staff secretary Rob Porter last July and closed out the case entirely last month. Wray’s account is at odds with White House claims that the investigation required for Porter’s security clearance was “ongoing” until he left his job last week, after his two ex-wives publicly alleged physical and emotional abuse.

The latest bout of turbulence is exacerbated by the administration’s reputation, earned over 13 chaotic months, for flouting institutional norms and misrepresenting facts to the public — a culture set by the president himself.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 13)

Mr. Vice President, Jesus is on line one. 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…

► Top intelligence officials in the U.S. told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee today that they fully expect Russia to attempt to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections. From the Washington Post:

Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said that Russia will continue using propaganda, false personas and social media to undermine the upcoming elections.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts” to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign “as a success,” and it “views the 2018 midterm elections” as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Coats, testifying at the committee’s annual worldwide threats hearing.

His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.

The committee’s Democratic vice chairman faulted the Trump administration for not preparing for potential Russian interference in the 2018 elections.

 

► The White House under President Trump is setting an historic pace…for staff departures. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

More than one in three Trump administration staffers have left the White House in its first year, a pace that far eclipses the rate of departures in the previous five White Houses, according to a study done by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institute.

The pace of resignations, firings and other assorted departures from the Trump White House is twice what it was in George W. Bush’s first year as president and triple that of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

And, it’s not just any sorts of departures; a large number of Trump’s senior-most staff have left in the first year alone.

One in three. Incredible.

 

► Senate President Kevin Grantham continues to sit on his hands regarding sexual harassment allegations in the State Senate. A second formal complaint of harassment against Sen. Randy Baumgardner has now been filed; investigations are complete into an earlier complaint against Baumgardner and state Sen. Jack Tate.

 

$7.1 trillion.

That’s how much the U.S. deficit would expand over the next decade under a budget proposal introduced Monday by President Trump. From Politico:

The result is to exacerbate the nation’s already tenuous fiscal situation. Even if Trump were to get all the spending cuts he wants, plus his ambitious 3 percent growth, deficits over the next decade would total $7.1 trillion. That’s twice what the Office of Management and Budget forecast last spring.

Indeed, the level of red ink could be understated, since all these calculations rest on very favorable economic assumptions and do not include a full accounting of the recent spending increases and additional tax cuts enacted in recent weeks.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Second Sexual Harassment Complaint Filed Against Baumgardner

Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner

Colorado Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham says that he will not be rushed into making “snap decisions” about potential discipline for Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who has now been formally accused of sexual harassment for the second time. As KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reports:

Sen. Randy Baumgardner is now facing a second formal sexual harassment complaint at the Colorado Capitol. Megan Creeden, who served as an intern for another lawmaker, said she filed the complaint “hoping it will trigger something to happen.”

An earlier investigation into allegations against the Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs concluded that “it appears more likely than not that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped a legislative aide’s buttocks four times during the 2016 legislative session.”

Senate leadership has had the investigation’s results for about two weeks. Creeden said she made her complaint official because she has not seen Baumgardner held publicly accountable for his actions.

“All I want is for that behavior to not be something aides and interns and legislators in the future have to deal with and put up with,” Creeden said. [Pols emphasis]

Senate President Kevin Grantham

We wrote yesterday about Grantham’s baffling display of foot-dragging on what has become the most prominent issue of the 2018 legislative session. Birkeland’s latest story, which was published online late Monday evening, is another damning indictment of Baumgardner’s oft-rumored behavior and Grantham’s inexplicable paralysis regarding the problem of sexual harassment under the Gold Dome. It should not be overlooked that news of the second Baumgardner complaint also came on the same day that the Denver Post reported on the completion of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Republican State Sen. Jack Tate.

Senate Democrats have called on Baumgardner to resign from the legislature, but thus far the two-term Republican has maintained his status as a committee chairman and is still the lead sponsor of the top legislative priority for Senate Republicans (quite literally, Senate Bill 1). Grantham said on Monday that he expects to make a decision on Baumgardner’s fate by the end of this week, which would mark three weeks since he first received findings from an independent investigation into the initial complaint against Baumgardner; at this rate, it could be another month before Grantham bothers to take any action regarding the complaint against Tate.

We’ve said it before in this space, but it bears repeating: Choosing not to act is a decision in itself.

Trump Infrastructure Plan Lands with Predictable Thud

Great plan, Mr. President

We wrote in this space a couple of weeks ago about President Trump’s plan to beef up America’s crumbling infrastructure by moving around some decimal points in the federal budget and then telling individual states to write big checks to cover the rest of the costs. The White House formally unveiled their big plan today to much puzzlement from people who get paid to do the math on these sort of things.

As the New York Times reports:

The proposal, to be unveiled the same day as Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget, faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where members of both parties — particularly Democrats — are skeptical of any plan that fails to create a dedicated new funding stream to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Lawmakers are also doubtful that such a small federal investment will be sufficient to spur an infrastructure spending boom…

…The odds of such a bipartisan effort coming together in the current political environment are long. White House officials said the new spending would be offset by unspecified cuts elsewhere in the budget, which are all but certain to be roundly criticized by Democrats.

Many infrastructure experts consider the ratio Mr. Trump’s aides are proposing for a public-private plan — essentially creating $6.50 in private investment for every federal dollar spent — to be largely out of reach. And the president plans to leave it up to lawmakers, who are deeply divided on how to finance any infrastructure effort, to decide on key questions such as whether to enact a gas tax to pay for it or slash other types of spending.

The White House is privately conceding that this infrastructure plan isn’t going to go anywhere with Democrats or Republicans on Capitol Hill on account of it being completely stupid. The Trump plan touts $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending, which is magically created from $200 billion in federal funding and is nothing close to what we actually need (The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. needs an infrastructure investment of $4.59 trillion by 2025). In short, as Vox.com writes, the Trump plan contains “no actual source of new money.”

Critics say the Trump infrastructure plan is particularly unworkable in rural communities. Here in Colorado, we know that the Trump proposal isn’t workable anywhere. As John Frank explained in a story for the Denver Post in late January:

“On first blush, it sounds like a token effort,” said Ted Ott, the CEO of Colorado Barricade Co., a specialized contractor that works with construction companies.

The early details suggest the plan includes $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years and puts state and local governments on the hook for 80 percent of highway projects — a reversal of the current ratio. Moreover, the proposal appears to prioritize states with a dedicated state revenue source for transportation money, potentially putting Colorado at a disadvantage.

At least the Trump infrastructure plan won’t require Colorado to sell Denver International Airport. As Politico reports:

The Trump administration’s infrastructure plan released Monday proposes that the federal government consider selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport…

…It also includes the George Washington and Baltimore Washington parkways, the Washington Aqueduct and the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration on the list for “potential divestiture.”

The Trump administration also wants to turn the International Space Station (ISS) into some sort of “orbiting real estate venture” overseen by private industry. Even Republicans such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are dumfounded by the idea of just turning the ISS over to private enterprise considering that the U.S. government has spent nearly $100 billion on the project.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you when Trump tries selling the moon to the Martians.

Former GOP Senator Lashes Out Over Latest Harassment Story

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reports on the latest case of alleged sexual harassment to hit the Colorado Senate GOP majority–this time an allegation from a fellow lawmaker against Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa:

Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, is the latest lawmaker to be named publicly in allegations of sexual misconduct.

His accuser, Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, cited two incidents. She said Crowder pinched her buttocks and made an inappropriate sexual comment. She formally complained on Nov. 30, 2017, and in January an outside investigation found the allegations to be credible.

Under the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy, Senate and House leadership determine the consequences for credible allegations against legislators in their respective chambers. Lontine did not ask for disciplinary action, but outlined next steps she hoped would happen. She asked that he receive sexual harassment training and convey a “sincere recognition of inappropriate behavior.”

At a meeting on Monday (Feb. 5, 2018) attended by Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran, Lontine claimed that’s not what happened. She said Crowder apologized, but did not admit to doing anything wrong…

This latest case brings the number of Republican Senators implicated in the widening scandal over sexual harassment in the Colorado general Assembly to three–but this evening the story took on a far uglier dimension after former GOP Sen. Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield, who has reportedly never even met Rep. Sue Lontine, had what can be best described as a misogynist meltdown over her story on Facebook:

If it was former Sen. Mitchell’s intention to demonstrate sexual harassment by a Colorado Republican, no less than a Republican who served in the upper legislative chamber, mission accomplished. Mitchell’s profane outburst against Rep. Lontine is stunning in its senseless validation of the worst fears and experiences of women in any workplace.

And if Mitchell was hoping to serve as some kind of lightning rod, it didn’t work. The collateral damage for Mitchell’s fellow Republicans from this deplorable behavior will be measurable in votes. Maybe in seats.

For today, though, just shake your head in disgust. And maybe send Rep. Lontine a kind word.

Why Colorado Can’t Have Nice Things, Megan Schrader Edition

Megan Schrader of the Denver Post editorial board.

As the battle in the Colorado legislature once again heats up over a bill to create a paid family leave program for Colorado workers akin to what exists in California and and several other forward-thinking states, we were struck by a recent column from Megan Schrader of the Denver Post editorial board on the subject that helps illustrate why the pace of change on a broad range of issues can be so agonizingly slow. It’s a lesson applicable to many settings, but Schrader’s self-defeating logic on the FAMLI bill is remarkable for its expenditure of words in the service of…well, nothing:

Lawmakers in Colorado are considering the FAMLI Act, which would create a $568 million to $1.6 billion income tax to fund paid family leave benefits for working Coloradans who are dealing with a long-term illness or caring for a sick family member, a newborn or newly adopted child.

The bill has been considered before and is modeled after a 0.9 percent income tax in California, in place since 2004, that offers several weeks of partially paid leave to employees.

Both programs are intended to operate like short-term disability insurance policies. In Colorado, to avoid required voter approval for tax increases, the mandatory employee payroll deduction would disingenuously be called a “premium.” I’m not buying that — voters should have the say on what is obviously a huge tax increase…

Last fall as Gov. John Hickenlooper prepared to call a special session of the legislature to address a glitch in a major fiscal bill that was costing special tax districts millions of dollars in tax revenue, Schrader wrote a column agreeing with Republicans that the glitch couldn’t be legally fixed under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights without a statewide vote. But then Schrader went on to complain to Republicans:

Nitpicking over this interpretation of TABOR, at this time, does not support their cause.

Do we really want a government so crippled by technicalities that it cannot fix a simple mistake without going to a vote of the people?

The thing of it is, Schrader was the one doing the “nitpicking”–or at least validating the Republican position before weakly coming around at the end and saying their politics are misplaced. Of course, no Republican bothered to read past the part where she told them they are right–and Schrader’s column was used to justify their actions even though way down below the fold, it really didn’t.

Fast-forward to Schrader’s latest column:

…but that doesn’t mean the FAMLI Act is bad public policy. [Pols emphasis]

Again we see the exact same formula. Schrader declares the solution now up for debate to solve the problem unworkable–then proceeds to pay lip service to the need for a solution! Again, no Republican reading this column is going to care about her arguments in favor of the FAMLI bill as good policy. They’re going to stop cold where she calls the bill “disingenuous” and says “voters should have the say.”

Bottom line: Megan Schrader was wrong when she insisted the pot tax glitch could only be fixed by a vote of the people. Even Republicans have moved past that argument and are passing legislation to accomplish the goals of the special session. We believe that given recent Colorado Supreme Court decisions on TABOR’s narrow language that the FAMLI insurance program is perfectly constitutional as well.

And at the end of the day, this maddening habit of Schrader’s to trash specific solutions with Republican talking points, then contradict herself by validating the problem, does everyone a disservice. The only thing accomplished is obstruction, and the only ones happy don’t even agree that there is a problem to solve.

In that case, it might be better to not write a column at all.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 9)

Look on the bright side — at least you didn’t get traded to Cleveland. 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…

► While you were sleeping, the federal government shut down and then re-opened again. We’ll let the Washington Post take it from here:

President Trump ended the second government shutdown of his tenure early Friday morning, signing a sweeping spending bill hours after Congress backed the bipartisan budget deal that stands to add hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending on the military, domestic programs and disaster relief.

The 240-to-186 House vote gaveled to a close just after 5:30 a.m., nearly four hours after the Senate cleared the legislation on a vote of 71 to 28, with wide bipartisan support.

But action did not come soon enough to avoid a brief government shutdown — the second in three weeks — thanks to a one-man protest from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who delayed the Senate vote past midnight to mark his opposition to an estimated $320 billion addition to the federal budget deficit.

After signing the bill, Trump used his Twitter machine to say that Congress wouldn’t be able to pass a more cost-conscious budget until more Republicans are elected to office. As James Hohmann writes for the Washington Post, hypocrisy abounds:

This is the largest increase in federal spending since the stimulus passed during the depths of the Great Recession. Republicans almost universally opposed that bill in 2009, which cost $787 billion over 10 years, on the grounds that it would increase the debt too much…

Rand doesn’t have a totally clean nose here. He voted in December for the tax bill that will grow the debt by more than $1 trillion over the next decade — and probably more. His pushback is that overhauling the code will generate economic growth to offset the lost revenue.

Because Republicans slashed taxes and are now jacking up spending, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget forecasts that this bill will ensure permanent trillion-dollar deficits. The projected deficit in 2019 is now $1.1 trillion, compared to $439 billion in 2015. (Don’t forget, Trump called for an additional $1.5 trillion infrastructure package during his State of the Union.)

Politico ponders whether we just lived through “the dumbest shutdown ever.”

 

► White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned on Wednesday amid allegations of extensive spousal abuse. As the New York Times reports, top Trump staffers were well aware of Porter’s background but chose to ignore it instead:

White House officials conceded Thursday that they regretted the way they handled accusations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned Wednesday after two former wives publicly accused him of abusing them. But they refused to provide any information about when President Trump’s most senior advisers first learned about the episodes.

Mr. Porter abruptly departed the West Wing on Thursday afternoon, one day after John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, and other senior officials had issued statements defending him and said they would prefer that he remain in his post.

Among the questions he left behind was whether Mr. Kelly and other members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle had been willing to ignore accusations of domestic violence to protect a trusted aide. Raj Shah, the deputy White House press secretary, said that Mr. Kelly had not been made “fully aware” of them until this week. But two people close to the White House said that Mr. Kelly and Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations, as well as Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, had known of the issues since late fall.

Domestic violence allegations had prevented Porter from obtaining a top security clearance, which makes it very difficult for top White House staffers to pretend they didn’t know about Porter’s violent past.

 

► Republicans on Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee are blocking funding for Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission in part because of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that has yet to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans are sad that Colorado businesses are not allowed to discriminate against gay people.

 

► Senate Republicans in the Colorado legislature are almost at the point where they just pretend not to recognize the name Randy BaumgardnerWe will not stand for sexual harassment! We will sit on our hands instead.

Colorado Democrats, meanwhile, are calling on Baumgardner and his mustache to resign from the State Senate immediately.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Behold! The Dumbest Legislation of 2018!

So much stupid.

We’ve seen some pretty ridiculous legislative proposals emerge from the State Capitol over the years, from cat microchips to a pre-emptive ban on microchipping humans. Most of these stupid proposals have little support and are quickly killed in committee, but sometimes idiotic legislation emerges that somehow garners the support of multiple lawmakers.

The primary sponsors of House Bill 18-1206 are Republicans — State Rep. Stephen Humphrey and GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg — but 19 other Republicans were listed as co-sponsors at last check. The legislation seeks to establish something called the “Live and Let Live Act,” which is outlined in 16 pages of some of the most excruciating gibberish you’ll ever read. The primary purpose of HB-1206 is to make it legal for religious- and faith-based organizations to discriminate on the basis of their opposition to any sort of marriage that does not involve one woman and one man.

It doesn’t take long before the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which originated in Lakewood, Colorado, garners a mention…though the explanation is a little bizarre:

In Colorado, a cake baker who willingly served customers from every walk of life [Pols emphasis] was forced to shut down an entire facet of his business, forced to undergo government “reeducation,” and required to file constant compliance reports when he declined to add his artistic talents to the creation of a wedding cake that would have celebrated a marriage his conscience required him not to participate in.”

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips in fact refused to bake a cake for two men who were planning a wedding. The only reason we even know about any of this is because Phillips expressly refused to serve customers “from every walk of life.”

“Protecting religious freedom from government intrusion is a state interest of the highest order. Legislation advances this interest by remedying, deterring, and preventing government interference with religious exercise in a way that complements the protections mandated by the state and federal Constitutions.”

In other words, the “Live and Let Live Act” is a fancy way of saying that it should totally be okay for people to discriminate against others based on their personal opinions of the definition of marriage. A similar “Live and Let Live” bill was passed in the Arizona legislature in 2014 — The New York Times called it “A License to Discriminate” — and was  subsequently vetoed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

House Bill 18-1206 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will likely be killed good and dead.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 7)

Valentine’s Day is one week from today, so get off your ass. 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 reiterated his desire to talk with special counsel Robert Mueller about allegations of collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice concerns. Lawyers for Trump do not want the President to speak with Mueller in person because they are worried that he will get caught in a lie or two; of course, saying that they don’t want Trump to talk to Mueller probably only ensured that he would sit down with the former FBI Director.

As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN:

“He thinks he can work this,” one person familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN’s Sara Murray. “He doesn’t realize how high the stakes are.”

Because, of course he does (and doesn’t).

 

► Congressional Republicans are working feverishly in advance of yet another deadline for avoiding a federal government shutdown; if successful, this would mark the fifth stopgap spending measure approved by Congress since September 30, 2017. House Democrats, however, are pushing back on supporting another proposal unless a promised vote on immigration reform becomes…uh, more promised?

Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) voted in favor of the short-term spending bill on Tuesday, as did the rest of Colorado’s Republican delegation. According to the New York Times, Senate Republicans may have reached a deal to kick the budget can down the road a bit longer:

Senate leaders, disregarding President Trump’s threats to shut down the government, neared a far-reaching agreement on Wednesday to set spending levels on military and domestic spending for the next two years, breaking the cycle of fiscal crises that have bedeviled the Capitol since last summer.

The accord was expected to also include disaster relief for areas hit by last year’s hurricanes and wildfires…

…The budget deal would be paired with a stopgap spending measure that would keep federal agencies open past Thursday, when the current funding measure is set to expire.

There are several reports now that the Senate has indeed reached agreement on a two-year spending deal.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is still standing strong in his “pot blockade,” as the Denver Post reports. Elsewhere, The Cannabist takes a look at how U.S. Attorneys around the country view last month’s decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the so-called “Cole Memo.”

 

► Check out the latest episode of “The Get More Smarter Show”, featuring an interview with Democratic Congressional candidate Jason Crow.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Colorado Dems Pick Fight Over Paid Medical Leave

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

Eric Galatas of Colorado News Connection reports on a bill up for debate in the House Business Committee today that Democrats hope to leverage politically against Republicans in the single-seat majority Colorado Senate–legislation to create a paid family medical leave system in Colorado akin to what exists in California and several other states:

Neha Mahajan, state director of the group 9to5 Colorado, says even though Colorado’s economy is booming, many families are still living paycheck to paycheck. She says the new program would ensure that all workers have a baseline for economic security.

“They’re not facing financial crisis when they have to take time off of work to bond with a new baby or an adopted child, for their own serious illness, for taking care of the serious illness of a family member and loved one,” she explains.

She says workers would contribute from $2 to $5 a week to create an insurance pool that can be tapped for up to 12 weeks of partial wages in a calendar year. Similar measures have stalled in the past four sessions.

The FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program, this year’s symbolically important House Bill 1001, has been proposed repeatedly in recent years by Democrats in the Colorado legislature–but foundered each time as Republicans locked down in opposition to the plan. Over time, Democratic stragglers who opposed the bill have been brought on board, and this year the bill is expected to pass the House with a united Democratic caucus and quite possibly the support of a few moderate Republicans.

From there, the legislation of course faces much longer odds in the Republican Senate. The hope is that this year an opening may exist for Senate President Kevin Grantham to allow the bill to the Senate floor instead of shunting it to the so-called “kill committee,” where a moderate Republican or two might well again cross over to support a bill that would pay big political dividends–with everyone outside “dead-enders” in the thrall of usual suspect right-wing advocacy groups.

That would be the smart play for GOP Senate leadership. In the likely event they don’t take the opportunity, the FAMLI bill can be made to serve a secondary objective–as a potent message to use against Republican lawmakers with in the upcoming elections.

After all, they’re the “party of family values.”

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 6)

Happy Waitangi Day! 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 stock market is stabilizing, somewhat, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday saw its largest single-day loss in trading history. Fears of inflation in the U.S. are partly to blame for a big drop in financial markets, (the S&P 500 also saw its biggest single-day decline since August 2011) as the New York Times explains:

For months, markets seemed to sleepwalk ever higher, as measures of volatility — the ups and downs of stock prices — hit remarkably calm levels. Investors appeared to grow accustomed to an economic backdrop of lackluster growth and inflation, a state of affairs that ensured powerful global central banks would continue to support markets with a range of policies.

But the peaceful climb ended in recent days. Investors have become worried that the solid economy in the United States could be showing early signals of inflation pressure. Those concerns drove yields on long-term Treasury bonds sharply higher in recent weeks, as economic data — such as the Labor Department’s jobs report last Friday — showed wages growing at their fastest clip in years.

Before long there was panic that stock values had peaked, that a long-awaited correction was underway, and that investors would suffer even bigger losses if they waited too long to dump their holdings. The result was Monday’s sell-off.

As the Washington Post explains, this big drop in the stock market is a problem that President Trump and Republicans walked right into :

President Trump and congressional Republicans have spent much of the past year trying to connect a giddy stock market rally with their economic agenda, but stocks’ precipitous plunge in the past five days has delivered a sobering reality: What goes up can come back down — quickly and with little warning.

With Monday’s steep fall, Trump has presided over the biggest stock market drop in U.S. history, when measured by points in the Dow Jones industrial average. The free fall began in earnest Jan. 30 and snowballed Friday and Monday, for a combined loss of almost 2,100 points, or 8 percent of the Dow’s value.

 

► It has been difficult over the past few months to keep up with all of the swirling political news coming out of Washington D.C. As NBC News’ “First Read” points out today, all of this upheaval brings up a bigger question:

In a span of 48 hours, we moved from a furious back-and-forth over the Nunes memo, to a sinking stock market, to President Trump accusing Democrats of “treason” for not applauding at the State of the Union and to a report that Trump’s lawyers don’t want him to speak to Robert Mueller.

But here’s maybe the biggest news of all: With another potential government shutdown looming, where’s the governing? [Pols emphasis]

As Politico reports, House Republicans are rushing to come up with a plan to avoid a government shutdown…but it doesn’t look like they have a deal that Senate Republicans will accept.

 

► Former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa — aka “The Shirtless Sheriff” — skated once more after a re-trial on corruption charges. This could be a political killer for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is trying to win the Republican nomination for Attorney General.

 

► Lawyers for President Trump don’t want him to agree to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller because they are afraid that Trump will get caught lying.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

GOP’s “Broactive” Double Standard on Full Ugly Display

UPDATE: We would be remiss if we didn’t include the response from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg on the question of Sen. Randy Baumgardner’s expulsion–keep in mind this is the same Sen. Sonnenberg who referred to a fellow Senator as “eye candy” in a 2016 legislative hearing:

“I have nothing to add. Let’s talk about those issues that the vast majority of people want to talk about in Colorado,” the Sterling lawmaker said, such as “how are we going to fix our roads.”

Now that’s the way you show you care, ladies and gentlemen.

—–

Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R).

The Denver Post’s John Frank follows up last week’s news that a sexual harassment complaint filed against GOP Sen. Randy Baumgardner has been deemed “credible” by investigators–another step in a long and uneven road to accountability for perpetrators of what’s been revealed to be widespread harassment at the Colorado General Assembly. Readers will recall that two Democratic House members have been stripped of their committee chairmanships after allegations were leveled against them.

But over in the GOP-controlled Senate, a very different climate prevails:

Senate President Kevin Grantham on Monday disputed suggestions that the outcome of the credible complaint against Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, will remain private — even as he declined to promise to release it.

An outside investigation verified a complaint against Baumgardner that he allegedly slapped and grabbed the buttocks of a legislative aide multiple times during the 2016 legislative session.

Grantham — along with the Senate majority and minority leader — are now deciding whether the complaint merits disciplinary action, which ranges from nothing to expulsion. But the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy does not state whether the disciplinary action will become public.

As of this writing, no disciplinary action of any kind has been taken against Sen. Baumgardner. Baumgardner remains the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and the prime sponsor of that chamber’s centerpiece transportation bill. This point is very important in contrast to House Speaker Crisanta Duran’s removal of Reps. Steve Lebsock and Paul Rosenthal from their committee chair and vice-chair. And it is critical to understand that the removal of these men from their chairs was not just punitive: it was done to minimize the chance of victims coming in contact with perpetrators, and above all, to prevent new offenses.

Unfortunately, protecting victims from perpetrators while the complaint process plays out has not been a priority for Senate President Kevin Grantham. The obvious prioritization of accused Republican lawmakers over their victims by GOP Senate leadership cannot help but intimidate victims and discourage more from coming forward. In the case of Sen. Baumgardner, as we’ve said repeatedly since the sexual harassment scandal broke, the behavior was sufficiently common knowledge at the Capitol that there is no plausible way Senate leadership can profess ignorance.

The sordid revelations from the Colorado General Assembly of lawmakers who can’t keep their hands off women forced to work with them have been nobody’s finest hour, except perhaps for the brave women who came forward and the relatively-obscure public radio reporter who single-handedly blew up the culture of harassment under the Gold Dome.

But there is one party, and one chamber, that is looking worse by the day.