Stan Garnett Opts Not To Run For AG

Boulder County DA Stan Garnett.

A bit of a surprise from the Longmont Times-Call’s John Fryar:

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett has decided not to make a second run for Colorado attorney general in next year’s statewide election, he announced this morning.

Garnett, a Boulder Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for AG in 2010, is in the first year of his third four-year term as the district attorney in Colorado’s 20th Judicial District. He the state AG’s job would “fit well with my background.”

However, Garnett said, after consulting with his staff, he decided the time it would take to conduct a statewide campaign for the AG’s post over the coming year and a half could prove to be “a huge distraction” from his oversight of the programs he’s launched or is expanding in the Boulder DA’s office.

Stan Garnett’s decision to not run for attorney general and focus on his work as the Boulder County DA is good news for Rep. Joe Salazar, who announced his run for AG already and was facing a tough primary:

[Garnett] said he filed his candidacy affidavit…to avoid any potential legal challenges under campaign finance laws about whether his public statements on any criminal justice issues might be interpreted as an AG’s candidate’s positions.

Garnett said he had called Salazar on Saturday to tell him of his decision not to run for attorney general.

“I had a nice conversation with Joe,” Garnett said.

It’s certainly possible that another Democrat could emerge to make a run at this office, but in the short run this gives Salazar some much-needed head room to consolidate support.

As for Garnett, he’ll have more opportunities to advance.

Meet Phil Covarrubias, Colorado’s Newest National Disgrace

Rep. Phil Covarrubias (R).

News this week of a freshman Republican legislator defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II didn’t move the needle much in Colorado media, but national outlets jumped on the story you read about here first–credit where due to the exception locally, Denverite’s Erica Meltzer:

The liberal site Colorado Pols (totally unrelated to Colorado Politics) first highlighted Covarrubias’ remarks and uploaded the YouTube video recorded from the state’s official legislative channel.

Then picked up in the Huffington Post:

Covarrubias compared the fears after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack to the fears Americans have now after recent acts of terrorism, such as in Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California.

“What happened prior to [the camps] that kicked all this off? I think we were attacked at Pearl Harbor,” he added. “I think we need to look at the Americans that are in fear from the terrorism and the things that we’ve seen over the last few years especially.”

Despite Covarrubias’ attempts to kill HB 1230, the bill passed the second reading and is headed to the House floor for a third and final reading before it goes to the Republican held Senate, where it’s chances of passage are slim, according to The Durango Herald.

And then the Washington Post:

“We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people. For anybody that has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions and find out who’s a citizen and who’s not,” Covarrubias said. “You don’t have that moment in time. You need to regroup. It’s easy to sit up here and say this stuff now. But if you’re in that moment, it looks a lot different than being able to be in a nice suit and tie.”

He continued: “I hear people saying that we need to respect other people’s rights, and I agree with that, but what about them respecting our rights and our country and our laws? Because I’m not hearing that up here.”

Later on in the hearing, Covarrubias once again seemed to defend the mass internment of Japanese American citizens by pointing out that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. That attack, he said, was “what happened prior … that kicked all this off.”

And then national NBC News:

CAPAC chair U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) called Covarrubias’ remarks unacceptable.

“It’s outrageous that we have to keep reiterating that the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was wrong,” she said Thursday in a statement. “History doesn’t repeat itself because we forget. It repeats itself because apologists like Rep. Covarrubias attempt to convince us these atrocious actions were justified.

(more…)

Tom Tancredo Behind Racist Joe Salazar Smear?

UPDATE #2: Salzman still on the case:

For our part, we stand by our original assertion that the Salazar/ISIS graphic was made by the same person who made various graphics for Tom Tancredo shown below. This shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

—–

UPDATE: Via Jason Salzman, Tom Tancredo denies being the source of this graphic:

So, maybe he needs to call his graphic guy.

—–

House Bill 17-1230, the Ralph Carr Freedom Protection Act, passed the Colorado House yesterday after debate turned nasty–with freshman Rep. GOP Phil Covarrubias defending the internment of Japanese-Americans as a way to disparage Democrats’ choice to name the bill after Colorado’s wartime Gov. Ralph Carr. Carr, as local history students know well, stood up for Japanese-American internees arriving in Colorado under threats of violence.

Today, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar was subjected to a rather shocking racist and xenophobic attack from an anonymous social media source. Pardon our reposting, which isn’t meant to endorse its objectionable message:

So, this graphic appeared on the Twitter #copolitics channel, posted by an anonymous account that seems to be devoted to attacking Rep. Dan Pabon. But if you take a look at the colors and font used to make this Photoshopped image, there’s somebody else out there posting graphics that are strikingly similar–and not anonymously at all:

You can see clearly the same typeface being used in these Photoshopped graphics, produced either by former Rep. Tom Tancredo personally or someone working for him. Also, that’s the same pic of Rep. Salazar in the image above as is Photoshopped onto the ISIS commander in the latest image. All things being equal, this is about as close to being caught red-handed as the anonymous internets allow without a court order.

As anybody who knows his history knows well, Tancredo doesn’t shy away from controversial statements–he’s made a career of them, after all. So it’s interesting to see Tancredo hiding behind an anonymous Twitter troll to lob this kind of nastiness at Rep. Salazar.

Maybe even Tom Tancredo realizes when it’s going too far? Because this latest insult against Rep Salazar certainly does.

Developing: State Rep. Defends Japanese-American Internment

UPDATE: Release from Colorado House Democrats on today’s debate:

In the first real floor fight of the session, the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act by Reps. Joe Salazar and Daneya Esgar earned initial approval from the House on second reading this morning. The bill protects Colorado state agencies from being forced to participate in overreaching federal programs targeting religious or ethnic communities…

Through several attempted amendments, the House Republicans tried to weaken or alter the bill and to exempt undocumented Coloradans from the protections under the Ralph Carr Act. Had the amendments passed, it would have been a stark departure from settled law that establishes that the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution apply to everyone in the country, regardless of immigration status.

“The reason that we, the USA, are a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, is because the rights of the United States apply to everyone,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. “Every single amendment in the Constitution applies to everyone in the United States of America.”

Close to the end of the debate, Rep. Phil Covarrubias, R-Brighton, seemed to excuse the internment of Japanese Americans, including U.S. citizens, during World War II. “We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people—for anyone that has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on—there’s no time to ask questions and find out who is a citizen and who’s not,” he said.

The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act prohibits state and local governments from giving information about a Coloradan’s race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation to the federal government unless it is for a legal and constitutional purpose.

—–

We’re monitoring debate today on the floor of the Colorado House over House Bill 17-1230, the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act, a bill to protect “Colorado residents from federal government overreach based on a person’s status.” The bill draws its name from Gov. Ralph Carr, the Republican governor of Colorado who stood up for the welfare and dignity of Japanese-American internees during World War II, and gained new urgency after President Donald Trump began making good on his threats to ban travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim nations and rounding up immigrant mothers.

Debate on this bill today in the House has been fierce and ugly. Republicans have led a drive to pull Gov. Carr’s name off the bill, and to insert language from Rep. Dave Williams’ failed bill to penalize so-called “sanctuary cities”–both actions that Democrats found highly objectionable given the bill’s intentions and namesake.

And then freshman Rep. Philip Covarrubias, Republican of Adams County, took it a step beyond:

“We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people. For anybody who has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions about who’s a citizen and who’s not.

“You don’t have that moment in time. You need to regroup. It’s easy to sit up here and say this stuff now. If you’re in that moment, it looks a lot different than being able to be in a nice suit and tie. I hear people saying that we need to respect other people’s rights, and I agree with that. But what about THEM respecting OUR rights, our country and our laws? Because I’m not hearing that up here.”

 

You heard that correctly. That’s Rep. Phil Covarrubias defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

And then a little while later, he did it again:

“I’m wondering why the need for the Ralph Carr to explain Japanese-Americans [sic]. What happened prior to this that kicked this all off? I think we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. We need to look at the Americans that are in fear from terrorism, and all of things that we’ve seen over the last few years especially.

“Everybody’s talking about the ‘immigrants’ being in fear, or the other people being in fear. But what about our own people? What about Florida? What about San Bernardino? What about the things that we need to protect and we hold dear here in our own country? We need to take care of our home here and realize that we have plenty of citizens that are in fear. Yes, do we need a better path? Maybe so. But for right now today the way that the law is and the way that it stands, this is where we’re at. I want to protect us. Thank you.”


And with that, Gov. Carr can fairly be said to be rolling in his grave.

A Construction-Defects Compromise For Reals?

As the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning reports, hopes are running high at the state capitol today that a new compromise bill with bipartisan sponsorship on the perennially vexatious issue of addressing defects in multifamily residential construction might finally break a years-long logjam:

A bipartisan group of legislators introduced a compromise bill late Friday aimed at encouraging developers to build condominium projects while preserving the right of homeowners to have their day in court.

The legislation arrives at the end of a week that saw a Democratic-sponsored bill and a Republican-sponsored bill covering much of the same territory both run aground, stoking outrage and frustration that the Legislature might be unable to resolve a problem that has vexed lawmakers for years.

House Bill 1279 incorporates provisions in common between the two ill-fated bills, and its sponsors say they’ve removed offending elements that led Senate Republicans to sink Senate Bill 157 in committee and compelled House leadership to deliver Senate Bill 156 to the chamber’s “kill committee.”

But more importantly, the new bill’s sponsors say it will accomplish enough to restore confidence in the condo market for builders while maintaining a fair process for homeowners.

The word we’re hearing from homeowner advocates is positive about this new compromise bill–creating a process for filing suit against a builder for defects that requires more buy-in than simply the HOA board, without taking away the right to sue completely as a moribund bill from Senate Republicans would have done. This issue is sensitive, or at least should be sensitive for Republicans, since siding categorically with big builders over middle-class families is politically not a wonderful place to camp out. Likewise Democrats have to balance the arguments in favor of affordable housing with rights homeowners should not have to sign away just to buy a condo.

If this bill gets through, it could mark resolution on an issue that has taken up much more time and drama in the state legislature than it probably ever deserved. Whether you believe that the ability to sue developers for defects in construction is hurting housing affordability in Colorado or not, we think everybody’s ready to move on.

Hopefully, this is a compromise that gives all stakeholders enough to do that.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 15)

The NCAA Tournament starts tomorrow morning, so get those brackets filled out. Scroll down for more from Get More Smarter, which is also available through microwave ovens. 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…

► Trumpcare appears to be in trouble. Following a brutal Congressional Budget Office review of the GOP healthcare plan, many moderate Republicans are abandoning ship. As CNN reports:

Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said publicly Tuesday that she wouldn’t be able to support the GOP health care legislation after the CBO score revealed the high number of people who would lose insurance.

“I plan to vote NO on the current #AHCA bill. As written the plan leaves too many from my #SoFla district uninsured,” the Florida congresswoman wrote in two consecutive tweets. “As #AHCA stands, it will cut much needed help for #SoFla’s poor + elderly populations. Need a plan that will do more to protect them.”

Republican Rep. Leonard Lance, a moderate from New Jersey who Democrats believe will be vulnerable in 2018, told CNN that he believes the House bill will fail in the Senate. As he eyes his own reelection campaign next year, Lance said he doesn’t want to support a legislation that would be rejected by his Republican colleagues across the Capitol.

“I do not want to vote on a bill that has no chance of passing over in the Senate,” Lance said. “The CBO score has modified the dynamics.”

In light of the new CBO report, Lance said House leaders must make changes to their existing bill and only bring to the floor a version that can survive in the Senate.

It’s not difficult to see the political calculations taking place here. Skittish House Republicans are going to oppose Trumpcare as written because they’ll say that it can’t pass the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans will demand changes to the bill and just refuse to do anything unless/until the legislation passes through the House.

For a terrific breakdown of Trumpcare, check out this page from the Denver Post.

 

► Allies of President Trump, meanwhile, are warning the big orange man that the GOP healthcare legislation is doomed and are encouraging the President to cut bait before he gets sucked too far into the debate (we’d argue that this has already happened, but, whatever). From the Washington Post:

A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Donald Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push, with a chorus of influential voices suspicious of the proposal warning the president to abandon it.

From headlines at Breitbart to chatter on Fox News Channel and right-wing talk radio, as well as among friends who have Trump’s ear, the message has been blunt: The plan is being advanced by congressional Republican leaders is deeply flawed – and, at worst, a political trap. [Pols emphasis]

Trump’s allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wis., arguing that it would fracture Trump’s coalition of working- and middle-class voters, many of them older and subsisting on federal aid.

It is a bit strange to hear Republicans referring to the American Health Care Act as a “political trap.” If it is indeed a trap, it is one that the GOP set for itself.

 

► Fringe right-wing interest groups in Colorado are demonstrating that they are absolutely not interested in any sort of constructive outcome on, well, anything.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Another Try At “Rolling Coal” Ban This Year?

“Rolling coal” is not sexy.

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Nick Coltrain reports–after a substantial outcry over the killing of bipartisan legislation from GOP Sen. Don Coram and Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal to outlaw “rolling coal,” modifying your diesel vehicle to spew clouds of black smoke on demand, Sen. Coram is planning to try again before the end of the legislative session with a new bill introduced in the GOP-held Colorado Senate:

The effort to outlaw rolling coal may have stalled out early on this legislative session, but don’t count it out just yet.

State Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, plans to introduce a similar bill later this session targeted at stopping drivers who harass others by blasting smoke from their diesel trucks. It would not seek to make the modifications that make doing so possible illegal.

“(Rolling coal) is not done for fuel economy, I can tell you that,” Coram, a rancher by trade, said. “It’s just harassment.” [Pols emphasis]

Each year Ginal’s bill passed the House and failed in a Senate committee on partisan lines with Republicans in dissent. She hoped that Coram sponsoring this year’s version in the Senate would bridge that divide.

Instead, it fell among Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s fears that it would lead to California-like emissions regulations for Colorado motorists.

Coltrain reports that Sen. Coram is going to “tweak” the bill in an attempt to allay Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s concerns and get the bill through the Senate, and Rep. Ginal will serve at the House sponsor of the new bill. It’s anybody’s guess whether Coram will have more success next time, but it’s face-saving on behalf of his fellow Republican Senators for him to at least try.

Will Colorado finally summon up the will to crack down on the noxious practice of “coal rolling?” We know plenty of pedestrians, bicyclists, and Prius owners who sincerely hope so.

Wingnut Pressure Groups: Why Colorado Can’t Have Nice Things

We mentioned this developing story in today’s Get More Smarter roundup, but the crisis over Republican intransigence on a deal to increase revenue for transportation spending in Colorado is getting worse by the minute–recapping the Denver Post’s report today on an “alternative” to the bipartisan deal between the Senate and House leadership from the #2 Republican in the Senate:

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads.

“I am going to do a supplemental transportation bill that may reduce the tax increase, may provide for some help if this transportation bill doesn’t pass,” he said Monday in a briefing with reporters in Grantham’s office.

At the same time, conservative activists led by the Independence Institute are pushing an “alternative measure” called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” which directs the state to find money in the existing budget to pay for roads improvements:

On Friday, Jon Caldara, head of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, filed his own ballot measure with the Colorado Legislative Council that calls for $2.5 billion in bonding without the tax increase and without the transit funding. There’s enough money in the existing budget to pay for road improvements, he said, and the legislature needs to stop messing around.

And at the top of the Republican food chain, national conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is leading opposition under the Gold Dome to the bipartisan roads compromise:

Watching Americans for Prosperity tear into Senate GOP leadership is particularly interesting, since there has been famously little daylight between that group and Senate Republicans ever since former Senate President Bill Cadman credited AFP with the Republican majority after the 2014 elections. The spokesman for Senate Republicans, Sean Paige, is himself a former AFP staffer–and taking fire from his former shop must be an unusual experience.

Both AFP and the Independence Institute are demonstrating a dogmatic unwillingness to compromise on this important issue, placing them well outside even the Republican mainstream–the proof of that being their opposition to a plan negotiated by a Republican Senate President. Both AFP and the Independence Institute have celebrated the “fiscal responsibility” that the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires the state to observe, but still claim there is hundreds of millions of dollars of waste in the budget that can be “reprioritized” to fund road repairs. Obviously, only one of those can be true.

At some point, you just have to understand that these groups are not interested in a constructive outcome. Their proposals can afford to be unworkable because they are not intended to be serious. These “alternatives” only exist to thwart debate on the real deal. It’s fine for outside pressure groups to draw an ideological hard line like this, but that shouldn’t be the final answer from responsible elected government officials. Governing, after all, is all about compromise.

Unfortunately, these groups wield enormous power. And too often, they write the script that Republican lawmakers read.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 14)

If you’re having trouble reading today’s edition of Get More Smarter, note that we are also sending it out via microwave ovens. 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…

► Republicans from Capitol Hill to the White House may publicly insist that Monday’s CBO score of Trumpcare is bogus, but reality is likely to intervene. As the Washington Post reports:

The worse-than-expected Congressional Budget Office forecast seems certain to force meaningful changes to the Obamacare repeal bill now under consideration in the House.

An alarm bell for GOP leadership: Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) is exactly the kind of mainstream conservative whose support House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to secure passage of his pending legislation. After reading the CBO report last night, he came out against the plan…

…Senate Republicans are making it increasingly clear that the House bill, as presently constituted, will be dead on arrival in their chamber.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate that Trumpcare would leave 24 million Americans without health insurance might have actually been generous compared to a separate analysis from the White House. As Politico reports:

A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

The preliminary analysis from the Office of Management and Budget forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates. [Pols emphasis] The White House has made efforts to discredit the forecasts from the nonpartisan CBO.

 

► An increasing number of prominent Republicans are backing away from Trumpcare in the wake of Monday’s news (“Let’s say the CBO is half-right; that should be cause for concern,’’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham), but Congressional leaders are still trying to convince members to choke down this shit sandwich. The Republican-aligned “American Action Network” is running advertisements praising Congressional Republicans — including Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) — for committing to support the Trumpcare disaster. On Monday, Coffman said that he supports the GOP healthcare bill “in its current form.”

 

► Conversations at the State Capitol about a potential sales tax increase for road construction are getting more convoluted as conservative Republicans balk at the idea. From the Denver Post:

How troubled is the much-acclaimed deal at the Capitol to spend $3.5 billion on Colorado roads to relieve traffic congestion?

Here’s the best indication to date: The No. 2 Republican in the state Senate said Monday he is proposing an alternative to the measure unveiled last week by the Senate’s No. 1 Republican.

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads. [Pols emphasis]

Way to get a handle on your caucus, Sen. Grantham.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Rep. Joe Salazar Runs for Attorney General

UPDATE: FOX 31’s Joe St. George updating via Twitter that Boulder County DA Stan Garnett has also filed to run for AG, but hasn’t formally committed yet:

—–

Rep. Joe Salazar.

FOX 31 reporting Friday afternoon:

“I will be fearless in standing up to bullies like Donald Trump, who would use their power to restrict our freedoms and undermine our civil rights.”

This is how Democratic State Representative Joe Salazar began his informal announcement for his candidacy for Colorado Attorney General Friday.

Salazar has filed the required paperwork to establish his candidacy and plans a more formal announcement later in the year.

Salazar is in his third term representing House District 31, which includes parts of Thornton and unincorporated Adams County. He serves as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Joe Salazar’s decision to run for Attorney General narrows the Democratic field in the 2018 gubernatorial race, where he had longed been rumored as a possible contender. Salazar would likely enjoy the support of the Bernie Sanders wing of the Colorado Democratic Party, after vocally supporting Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary.

Salazar’s chances of advancement are much better in the AG race in 2018 than a crowded gubernatorial primary in which he would have likely been overmatched by senior competitors. But don’t rule out a primary in this race either, between Salazar and one (or more) other interested Democratic contenders.

With that said, Joe Salazar is a well-qualified candidate who’s not afraid to scrap.

Get More Smarter on Friday (March 10)

Fifty. That’s how many days Donald Trump has now been in the White House. Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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…

► Congressional Republicans are nervously awaiting the results of a Congressional Budget Office assessment of Trumpcare. As Politico reports:

The fate of Obamacare may lie in the hands of a number-crunching Republican appointee whose bottom line might single-handedly blow up the GOP quest to repeal and replace it.

Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall was handpicked two years ago by top Republicans in Congress — including now Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price — to lead a nonpartisan office that will soon release its estimate of how many Americans the Republican health care bill will cover and whether it shrinks or balloons the federal deficit…

…Hall, in the post for two years, has already signaled that his office won’t soft-pedal the coverage assessments. If a health plan doesn’t have comprehensive benefits, it won’t count as coverage. Fearing a bad CBO “score,” Republicans facing backlash in their drive to gut Obamacare are turning the budget agency and its team of professional economic analysts into a punching bag as they try to discredit it. [Pols emphasis]

Republican leaders, meanwhile, are finding that it is difficult to enact new healthcare legislation at the same time that President Trump is sowing widespread confusion with differing remarks on a potential compromise policy.

 

► Colorado business leaders (and the Denver Post editorial board) are praising a potential legislative compromise that could place a tax increase for infrastructure improvements on the November ballot. As the Denver Business Journal reports, that doesn’t mean some conservative Republicans won’t continue to oppose the idea:

Conservative politicians and organizations savaged a bipartisan transportation-funding bill Thursday as offering a burdensome tax hike without commensurate spending cuts, while liberal groups gave it better reviews, despite the proposal containing less transit funding than they had sought.

The reaction — particularly a statement from state House Republican leaders that they will “aggressively oppose” the plan — showed that House Bill 1242, introduced late Wednesday, will have tough roads to travel even to get onto the November statewide ballot.

That path is difficult enough, in fact, that the Colorado Contractors Association, one of the primary supporters of this and past road-funding measures, will go ahead and file its own tax-increase ballot measure on Friday as a back-up plan in the event that the Legislature kills HB 1242.

The Denver Post has more on the predictable knee-jerk reaction from conservative Republicans who don’t have a solution of their own to Colorado’s transportation problems but simply oppose any effort to raise taxes for any reason whatsoever.

 

► Politico takes a look at the prospects for President Trump’s border wall with Mexico, which may or may not end up being built out of Legos:

Trump is claiming that the ambitious — and hugely controversial — construction plan is “way, way, way ahead of schedule,” but in reality, there is growing evidence that Trump’s central campaign pledge is in political peril…

…As the issues mount, several prominent Republicans are making their concerns more explicit.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told constituents during a telephone town hall Wednesday that “billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed” to secure the border, according to audio obtained by POLITICO on Thursday. “I don’t support a tariff to pay for any kind of wall.”…

…”We shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done,” Gardner said.

Federal budget gurus are trying to figure out the most cost-effective material for a wall, but they still haven’t even begun to deal with the “eminent domain” problem that could skyrocket the potential price tag.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 9)

Ask your boss if you can work outside this afternoon. Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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 lawmakers are getting closer to approving legislation that would put a tax increase on the November ballot in order to fund necessary transportation infrastructure upgrades. As the Denver Business Journal reports:

Following eight months of negotiations, the Colorado Legislature’s leaders late Wednesday introduced a 20-year transportation-funding bill asking voters to approve a sales tax hike to generate some $677 million per year for highway and transit projects — without making significant cuts to existing state revenues.

Observers, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, quickly referred to House Bill 1242 as a starting point, saying they expect details about everything from the size of the tax hike, to the allocation of new revenues, to be up for debate in the two months that the Legislature has left in its 2017 session.

But House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and state Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, both expressed gratitude at finding a compromise they believe can muster support of their two parties’ lawmakers before they take their case to voters.

We still have a couple of months of negotiating before any proposal moves toward the ballot, but this is a good sign that the Republican caucus has at least a few adults in the room who aren’t going to continue to pretend that we can finance major infrastructure projects with magic fairy dust and generic speeches about financial belt-tightening.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) held a telephone “town hall” meeting on Wednesday night that included a smackdown of President Trump’s plans for a border wall with Mexico. As Eli Stokols reports for Politico:

“We do need security on the border,” Gardner said. “That may mean personnel. It may mean a fence. That may mean an electronic fence,” the first-term lawmaker said. “But we shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done.” [Pols emphasis]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also scoffed Thursday morning at Trump’s claim that he will be able to get Mexico to pay for the wall.

“Uh, no,” McConnell said.

McConnell’s comments this morning about a proposed border wall are getting a lot of attention from national media outlets.

 

Trumpcare has passed two initial hurdles by limping through a couple of House committees, but Senate leaders continue to take a wait-and-see approach until cost and coverage estimates are available:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said lawmakers need to see the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how the bill will affect the federal deficit.

“I think we need to know that,” McConnell said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico, adding that the CBO report could be released by Monday.

McConnell was the first in growing chorus of high-ranking Senate Republicans to question the wisdom of moving forward on the health bill without an official budget tally. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), whose committee will help craft a Senate response to the House legislation, told reporters on Thursday that he believes CBO score is a valuable tool.

The New York Times has more on Republican backlash to the Trumpcare proposal. Here in Colorado, the Bell Policy Institute outlines how Trumpcare would be a major problem for our state.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 8)

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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 has joined with House Republicans to promote a major healthcare policy change that some Republicans are calling “Obamacare-lite” (in order to conserve letters, we’re just going to stick with “Trumpcare”). Despite any happy talk you may hear from individual lawmakers, the conservative backlash is well underway. Today, the American Medical Association announced that it could not support Trumpcare, either.

Good luck trying to find consensus on Trumpcare among Colorado’s Republican delegation to Congress. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has been a vocal supporter of the new health care legislation — even before he had a chance to read the draft document. Coffman is excited about what he calls a massive entitlement reform that would quickly eliminate Medicaid. Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to insist that he is opposed to any proposal that would gut Medicaid.

Politico examines seven specific pitfalls that could derail Trumpcare entirely, including a poor reception from the healthcare insurers and providers. Many conservative Republicans are also not happy with the plan being pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

 

► House Republicans are moving quickly as they try to enact Trumpcare. As the Washington Post explains, outside groups are being left to figure out the details:

The House GOP is moving so fast — with debate starting in the Ways and Means Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee less than 48 hours after they unveiled their bills — that lawmakers have not yet received any estimates from congressional budget analysts of how much the plans would cost or, significantly, how many Americans could be expected to gain or lose insurance coverage…

…An analysis by S&P Global predicts the legislation would lead to a loss of coverage for 2 million to 4 million of the roughly 16 million Americans who bought their own health plans through the ACA’s marketplaces or separately. More adults 35 and younger would gain coverage, while fewer adults 45 and older would be insured, according to the analysis…

…The GOP plans also would undo an ACA rule that allows insurers to charge their oldest customers no more than three times what they charge their youngest and healthiest ones. Instead, insurers could charge five times as much…

…Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said more low-income people would have a hard time affording benefits under the Republicans’ American Health Care Act. “There will be more losers than winners,” he said.

It’s not all bad news — Trumpcare is great if you are already rich.

 

► The Colorado legislature could end up convening a special session this summer if Trumpcare makes it through Congress.

 

► Women haven’t disappeared in Colorado, but this is what it might look like if they did.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Colorado House Passes “Conversion Therapy” Ban (Again)

A press release from One Colorado, the state’s principal LGBT advocacy group, cheers the state house passage of House Bill 17-1156this year’s bill to ban the controversial practice of what’s known as “conversion therapy” to “cure” LGBT kids of their homosexuality:

“House Bill 1156 will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in Colorado from discredited and dangerous efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is extremely harmful to the well-being of young people.

“Every mainstream mental and medical professional association in the country has discounted conversion therapy. In Colorado, many major behavioral and mental health organizations — including the Colorado Psychological Association, the Colorado Psychiatric Society, the Colorado Counseling Association, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, Mental Health Colorado, and the National Association of Social Workers – Colorado Chapter — support HB-1156.

“These harmful practices use rejection, shame, and psychological abuse to force young people to try to change who they are. Unfortunately, many young people are coerced and subjected to conversion therapy, which puts them at increased risk for depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

“No young person should ever be shamed by a mental health professional into thinking that who they are or who they love is wrong. As this bill moves over to the Colorado Senate, we hope that Republican leadership will give the bill a fair committee assignment and hearing.”

The bill passed on a 38-27 vote in the House, with GOP Rep. Dan Thurlow joining with Democrats to advance the bill to the Republican-controlled Senate. In past years, that has been where this bill has died despite widespread opposition to the practice of “conversion therapy” by mainstream psychologists and LGBT advocates. This year, Republican allies against conversion therapy are perhaps more vocal than they have been in previous years, reflecting increasing impatience with the party’s socially conservative moral grandstanders:

We’ll let you know if it makes a difference in the Colorado Senate this year.

Far Right Bullies GOP Legislators Out of TABOR Reform

Jon Caldara.

The intra-GOP fight over House Bill 17-1187, legislation that would refer to voters a change to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights allowing the state to keep more revenue by basing the caps in the law on personal income growth, appears to be heating up rapidly as the bill heads for passage in the Colorado House. This initiative from two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder, marks the first serious attempt from Republicans to address the law’s excesses since 2005’s successful bipartisan Referendum C campaign.

So naturally, right-wing conservative interests led by the Independence Institute are working overtime to peel Republican support off the bill:

That’s GOP freshman Rep. Philip Covarrubias of Brighton today, a Republican lawmaker who had initially supported the plan before…well, somebody called him. It’s possible that he was called by an HD-56 constituent, or a number of HD-56 constituents. Maybe they were constituents encouraged to contact Covarrubias by Jon Caldara.

Or maybe it was just Jon Caldara. In any event, the heat is on Republicans considering this option as a way to address the state’s self-perpetuating budget problems. Despite the plan’s GOP origins, it was always going to be Republican lawmakers who put the kibosh on it–a fate foreshadowed by Senate President Kevin Grantham, who basically dismissed out of hand any idea that would leave the state with more revenue.

And so we see yet another attempt to address TABOR, in exactly the way TABOR prescribes with a vote of the people of Colorado, being scuttled by ideologues who don’t even want voters asked the question. That might not violate the true intention of TABOR’s author, convicted felon tax cheat Doug Bruce, but it’s hardly what the voters wanted when they gave themselves the power to approve tax increases.

If the words people use to glorify TABOR served any real purpose besides obstruction, this would be an outrage.