Republicans Kill Transportation Funding Bill

No road repairs for you!

As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

A bipartisan measure backed by Colorado’s top lawmakers to seek a sales tax hike for transportation reached the end of the road Tuesday.

A state Senate panel defeated the proposal to pump $3.5 billion into improving the state’s highways along party-lines with the three Republican members citing ideological opposition to increasing taxes.

The outcome became clear a week earlier when the Senate’s bill sponsors hastily announced an impasse in the negotiations on the term’s No. 1 priority, a major setback for legislative leaders and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“This is a statewide solution bill,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City. “Yes it contains things both sides may cringe at. … But we must start looking at some of these things.”…

Most supporters urged the Senate Finance Committee to allow the measure to reach the Senate floor, where it has the votes to pass, and emphasized the need to take action. [Pols emphasis]

But the bulk of opponents criticized the tax hike and suggested lawmakers cut spending elsewhere to prioritize money for transportation, suggesting everything from reductions in spending on libraries to selling an airplane used by the governor.

As Frank notes, there were enough votes in the Senate as a whole to get this transportation legislation out of the Upper Chamber and onto the Governor’s desk…but three partisan Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee refused to allow the bill to advance (despite support from Senate President Kevin Grantham). Senators Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County), Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and Jack Tate (R-Centennial) did the bidding of the Koch-funded group Americans for Potholes Prosperity, making the same tired old argument that we can just find enough money in the couch cushions of various state offices if we look hard enough.

For partisan Republicans like Neville, Hill, and Tate, it’s easier to just say “NO” to everything than it is to try to actually come up with solutions.

Denver Post Adds Nice Postscript to “Keyser’s Law”

Former state Rep. Jon Keyser showing off his “terrified” face before being interviewed by Marshall Zelinger.

We wrote yesterday about the advancement of HB17-1088, otherwise known as “Keyser’s Law,” because the bill seeks to correct a rather large loophole in the signature-gathering process for candidates — a loophole that former Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser infamously exploited in his 2016 Senate bid.

Keyser’s Law” is headed to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper for his formal signature creating the new law, which will apply the same standards for checking signatures on candidate petitions as is already done for ballot measure petitions and mail ballots. Today, Megan Schrader of the Denver Post editorial board ties a neat little bow on this small piece of Colorado history:

Let’s recount the fun of the Republican showdown to get on the Colorado primary ballot in 2016 for U.S. Senate: one meme-inducing video, three court challenges, nine deaths by caucus and 34 felony forgery charges…

…This year, state lawmakers tried to come up with a solution. Only one idea has stuck so far.

House Bill 1088  — which is headed to the governor, who is reportedly likely to sign it — would require signature verification and allow candidates to remedy small errors before signatures get tossed out. The secretary of state will use voter signatures already retained in a database for ballot-verification purposes to verify signatures on petitions. No longer would the job fall to reporters like Mitchell — I mean Marshall — Zelinger, the former Channel 7 investigative reporter who chased down the fraudulent signatures that were included on candidate Jon Keyser’s petition. Keyser memorably botched Zelinger’s name, refused to answer the reporter’s questions about the signatures and instead issued a vague threat involving the size of his dog. [Pols emphasis]

Schrader notes that “the bill is a good idea,” and we don’t disagree. Unfortunately for Keyser and his campaign, there is no piece of legislation that will scrub this mother-of-all-political-disasters from anyone’s memory — not anytime soon.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 25)

Only one shopping day left until Administrative Professionals 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…

► ‘Tis better to try and fail than to never have tried at all. This quote pretty much sums up the latest political “maneuvering” from the White House. As the Washington Post reports:

Donald Trump blinked first – again.

After the bluster comes the inevitable bow to reality. Last night the president backed off his demand that any deal to fund the federal government include money to start construction on his border wall. At an event with conservative journalists, Trump said he’s okay waiting until September to have this fight.

While the mainstream media will cover this as another failure, the president’s core supporters will not see it that way. They see someone fighting to keep his promises and will give him an “A” for effort [Pols emphasis]…

…Trump’s approval rating is at record lows, but he maintains credibility with his base. Our new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that his overall approval rating is 42 percent, but his rating among those who voted for him is 94 percent. Only two percent of his voters now regret doing so.

“Make an Effort at Making America Great Again.”

 

► Joe St. George at Fox 31 News ponders a potential federal government shutdown and what it would mean for Colorado:

The Denver Federal Center in Lakewood is the largest campus of civilian federal employees outside of Washington. More than 6,000 are employed there over 700 acres.

Employees said Monday the last time there was a shutdown, many contractors lost three weeks of pay.

Other possible consequences include the closure of national parks and forcing military employees to work without pay.

Congress may be able to avert a shutdown now that President Trump is backing off of demands to fund a border wall with Mexico.

 

 

► Conservation groups are worried about a potential Executive Order from President Trump that could threaten the status of three “national monuments” in Colorado. CBS4 Denver has more on the order that could be signed as soon as Wednesday.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 24)

Pop quiz: Name one of two top finishers in Sunday’s Presidential race in France. 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 very angry that he is being judged on the first 100 days of his Presidency, but at least he still has a job. The Washington Post examines the fate of 15 top Trump supporters who didn’t even make it to 100 days in the White House.

 

► President Trump sat down with Julie Pace of the Associated Press for an extensive interview that was absolutely bizarre. Trump is very touchy about any attempts to summarize his first 100 days in office — which have not gone well by any serious estimation — so the President spends most of his time talking about that time he won the 2016 election and about how he is the biggest ratings draw on cable television.

As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Trump is starting to sound awfully similar to Uncle Rico:

At issue for Trump is that he continues to seem more interested in how he won the office than what he will do with the office. An occasional reminder of a time when you won is great. But Trump is bordering on Uncle Rico (of “Napoleon Dynamite”) territory here.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, watch this:

“Back in ’82 I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile,” Uncle Rico recalls. “If coach would have put me in fourth quarter we would have been state champions….no doubt in my mind.”

The point is: Dwelling too much in the past makes you a prisoner of the past. Trump won a historic upset. No question.  But, now he’s president. So, how he got elected — and how no one called it — is now less relevant than what he plans to do in the office.

Michael Kruse of Politico takes a look at “How Trump Succeeds Without Succeeding.”

 

► “Keyser’s Law” becomes official in Colorado.

 

► Construction defects reform legislation passed out of the State House on a unanimous vote on Monday. It is now up to the State Senate to approve HB17-1279.

 

 

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Local Republicans join Trump in proposing to push people off state health insurance rolls

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a major change since last year, state Republicans are now proposing specific cuts to Medicaid, Colorado’s health care program for the elderly, disabled, and other poor people.

In 2016, local Republican leaders repeatedly blamed Medicaid, including its expansion under Obamacare, for Colorado’s budget woes, but they didn’t explain how they’d cut Medicaid or alter it to save funds.

But this year, state Republican legislators are advocating specific cuts that would throw people off the state health insurance rolls.

For example, all Colorado State House Republicans, except Bob Rankin of Carbondale and Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction, voted April 7 for a budget amendment to reduce Medicaid eligibility for “adults without dependent children.” The measure, which failed, was opposed by all House Democrats. (here at 807-808).

The amendment aimed to transfer $52 million in state hospital fees, which are used to cover Colorado’s nearly 10 percent contribution to Obamacare, to “rural and critical access hospitals.”

“The goal was to back fill the cuts to rural hospitals within existing resources, while still making sure the most vulnerable portion of the population of single individuals without children still received services,” said State Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton), the amendment’s sponsor, who’s also running for state treasurer.

Critics of the proposal questioned whether the amendment would, in fact, help hospitals, whose funding could be cut this year due to do a state budget crunch.

“When you rescind Medicaid eligibility, you’re actually putting us back in a situation where hospitals are going to have to care for uninsured people, which results in higher uncompensated care costs for the hospitals,” said Natalie Wood, a senior policy analyst with the Bell Policy Center,  a progressive organization that aims to “help Coloradans get ahead and stay ahead.” “And when hospitals have uncompensated care costs, they make up for it by passing costs to private patients, or it cuts into their profit margin. So that doesn’t seem like a solution to help hospitals deal with their pain.”

The number of Medicaid recipients who would lose coverage under Everett’s proposal isn’t known, but they’d be adults without dependent children who got insurance under Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. They must earn less than $15,800 annually to qualify for assistance.

So far, about 450,000 Coloradans gained Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, which is the prime reason the uninsured rate in the state decreased by about half between 2013 (14.3 %) and 2015 (6.7%), according to the Colorado Health Institute.

The change in Republican proposals, from calls for unspecified Medicaid cuts last year to this year’s proposals to strip low-income Coloradans of their health insurance, is already emerging on the 2018 campaign trail.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 19)

Enjoy the sunshine today before the rain arrives. 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 lawmakers appear to have finally reached consensus on so-called “construction defects reform” legislation, which could bring an end to a long-running argument — five years, in fact — regarding legal liabilities for homebuilders. The House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee is expected to make amendments that will advance HB17-1279 this afternoon. 

Elsewhere, state legislators are still battling over the state budget, which is the only bill that they are Constitutionally-mandated to pass each session. Governor John Hickenlooper is expressing confidence that there will be no need for a “special session” later this summer.

 

► Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief after an upstart Democrat just fell short of the 50% required to win outright a Congressional seat that had been represented by Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services). Democrat Jon Ossoff will now face Republican Karen Handel in a June runoff election for a seat that has historically been reliably-Republican. Democrats, meanwhile, are feeling good about what the Georgia Congressional race could portend for 2018.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a 90-day stay on the enforcement of new methane emissions rules. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, informed the oil and gas industry of the move in a letter Wednesday to the American Petroleum Institute.

 

 

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Yes, (Some) GOP Senators Did Something Objectively Good

Rep. Lois Landgraf (R) and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D) celebrate passage of HB17-1186 in the House.

Colorado Capitol observers are still getting their collective heads around a fairly surprising development in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate: House Bill 17-1186, a bill requiring insurers to cover dispensing 12 months worth of contraceptives to women with insurance coverage, has passed the chamber and is now awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature. Similar legislation died in committee in the Senate last year–but with bipartisan sponsorship this session, Colorado Senate GOP leadership not only let the bill go to the floor but celebrated its passage out of the Senate’s “kill committee” in a press release:

Republican Bill Guaranteeing Women’s Health Care Passes Committee

House Bill 17-1186 asks health insurers that are required under current law to provide contraception coverage to extend coverage to provide 12-month’s worth of oral contraceptives for a woman with a prescription…

Reducing barriers to health care for women, and improving access to contraception improves the overall health and well-being of Colorado,” said Coram. “Women’s health care needs require near-constant attention and lifelong commitments. In rural Colorado, the nearest pharmacy can be an hour away and frequent trips are not a reality many Coloradans can afford. Today, we helped improve access for those who need it most, and took a crucial step in decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and the associated repercussions in Colorado.”

After this “Republican” bill passed Senate State Affairs, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado sang its praises:

“This is an incredible step toward for women and families. It means fewer trips to the pharmacy for people with busy lives or who live in rural areas with longer travel times. It also will result in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, with a longer reliable supply of birth control. It just gives more stability to women and gives families’ ability to plan their lives,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, Vice President of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

The bill’s final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk was 22-11–while certainly not a majority of the Republican Senate caucus, a much healthier margin than many expected. In large part this can be attributed to the work of Sen. Don Coram in the Senate, winning swingable votes on policy by explaining how supporting this measure would also be good politics.

For those of you looking for a “but,” or a last-minute twist that allows for a clean partisan vilification, in the case of House Bill 17-1186 there isn’t one. What happened here was an objectively good thing; reasonable bipartisan cooperation on an issue that hasn’t seen nearly enough bipartisanship. Republicans who supported it can feel good morally and politically, while Democrats achieved a long-sought policy victory for women.

American politics need more stories like this. Many more.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 18)

Happy Tax Day, everybody! 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 Democrats are taking the occasion of Tax Day to push legislation that would make it more difficult for politicians like Donald Trump to refuse to release tax returns. As Marianne Goodland writes for the Colorado Independent:

Two days after an estimated 7,000 people took to Denver’s Civic Center Park to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, a House committee okayed a bill to require presidential candidates to make their returns public.

The measure, which is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Edie Hooten of Boulder and Chris Hansen of Denver, would require both presidential and vice-presidential candidates to submit the most recent five years of tax returns. Those who don’t submit those documents won’t appear on Colorado’s presidential election ballot, under the bill.

At least eight other states are working on similar legislation to require those tax returns, Hooten said; six are states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. In other states, although not Colorado, the legislation is referred to as the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act, or TRUMP Act.

Trump is the first major party candidate in 40 years (since President Gerald Ford ran for election in 1976) to not provide his returns, according to Politifact.

At least a dozen Congressional Republicans also agree that Trump needs to release his tax returns before they will take any sort of action on a Trump tax reform plan.

Meanwhile, the Colorado legislature remains gridlocked over the state budget, with both Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of mucking things up. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 10.

 

President Trump is embracing the idea that today’s special election in Georgia could be a referendum on Trump. It’s true that the special election to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) is being watched closely as a sign of how voters are feeling about the first 90-odd days of the Trump administration. But as Chris Cillizza explains, Trump may be getting louder about today’s election because he could be getting word that Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is unlikely to surpass 50% of the vote and thus avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates.

 

► British Prime Minister Theresa May shocked European political observers — and even those in the United States who even sorta understand how the British election system works — by calling a surprise election on June 8. Here’s a helpful summary from CNN about what happened and why it is such a surprise (and why you should care):

British governments generally last for five years, and the Conservative Party’s administration — then led by May’s predecessor David Cameron — was elected in 2015. The next election was not due to take place until May 2020…

…May, who took over when Cameron resigned in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, wants to seek a stronger mandate in Brexit talks.

The UK government formally served divorce papers on the European Union last month, signaling the beginning of the end of a relationship that endured for 44 years.

But her party only has a slim majority in Parliament, and opposition parties have attempted to throw rocks in her path towards Brexit.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 17)

You know there is still a rogue Easter Egg in your backyard somewhere. 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…

► We’re halfway through the month of April, and there is still no end in sight to the large-scale protests of Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. Denver7 has more on a big Denver rally on Saturday:

Thousands took to the streets in Denver demanding to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Protesters gathered at Civic Center Park and rallied together Saturday afternoon to ask for transparency and honesty from the president when it comes to his financial dealings.

The Tax March in Denver, one of more than 150 held across the nation, was also held in the hopes of creating pressure for Congress to enact legislation forcing elected officials to release their tax returns.

More rallies are planned for this weekend with a focus on addressing Climate Change.

 

► One of the biggest political stories in the country this week is taking place in Georgia, where the outcome of a special race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) could foretell big changes in the 2018 election. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff may be able to get better than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s election and avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates. As CNN explains:

That’s what makes this race so fascinating: It shouldn’t be competitive. When Rep. Tom Price was tapped as Donald Trump’s health secretary, Georgia politicos were readying for what was likely to be an all-Republican fight featuring a few token Democrats. But Ossoff has jolted the 18-candidate field and unified most of the district’s Democrats and Trump skeptics.

Republicans are concerned enough about this race that President Trump took to bashing Ossoff on Twitter this morning.

 

► The White House is taking criticism from a late Friday announcement that visitor logs would no longer be made public. As the Washington Post writes:

Donald Trump appears to have made a cynical calculation that he will not pay a high political price for being the most secretive president since Richard Nixon.

All the leaks about infighting among senior staff and the president’s proclivity for tweeting have created a false sense that the public knows what is happening inside his White House. In fact, the administration has gone to great lengths to conceal pertinent information from the American people.

After dodging questions on the subject for weeks, the administration waited until the afternoon of Good Friday to dump the news that it will not follow former president Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex. The president’s communications director cited “grave national security risks” as a justification, even though Obama had made an exception for national security.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 14)

Have a Good Friday. For that matter, have a good Saturday and Sunday, too. 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…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has been all over the news in the last few days following a town hall meeting earlier this week that did not go particularly well for the longtime Republican politician. On Thursday, Coffman made some interesting statements in an interview with Kyle Clark of 9News that included a sharp rebuke to Republicans who continue to complain — with no evidence — about “fake protestors” badgering Members of Congress. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

CLARK: Do you think they’re ‘fake protesters?’

COFFMAN: You know, I really don’t. You know, God bless the Republican Party for what it does, but I don’t–the fact is that they had to register for the event because we wanted to make sure that the people were from the district. And so, ah, uh, I thought it was a great event, I thought it was very lively, uh, I thought, I felt they were very committed, uh, to their issues, uh granted the audience leans left relative to the district, but they’re the people who are most concerned. With potential changes, mostly to Medicaid. And so I respect the fact that, you know that they were there, they were voicing their views, and they were not shy about it…

…I mean the fact is that, I think that the reality is, that sure there are some organizers there. But the vast majority of these people are simply committed activists in their own right. Uh, and they are not paid. They are simply, this is where their heart is. And I respect that.

Coffman’s answer here is not only a rebuke to the hysterical nonsense coming from partisan Republicans, but a sharp blow to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) as well. Gardner has been trying to months to make the argument that people who are disappointed with his actions are “fake” or “paid” protestors, and Coffman’s words make this a difficult narrative to continue.

 

► Not all is well for Rep. Coffman, who is still getting poor reviews for his ham-handed town-hall event on Wednesday.

 

► As for Gardner, he is meeting today with employees of CoBank in Greenwood Village. It’s sorta like a town-hall meeting, except that you can’t come. Gardner took a tour of Devils Canyon in Western Colorado on Wednesday; he’ll go anywhere so long as he isn’t likely to run into actual constituents.

 

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Andy Kerr First to Make Big Launch for CD-7

State Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood)

As Peter Marcus writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette, state Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) kicks off today what could be a long and complicated race to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter in CD-7:

In a launch video, Kerr said he plans to “take leadership to Washington, the Colorado way.”

“Colorado has taught me what it means to be a leader,” Kerr said in the more than three-minute video. “I’ve learned that good leaders are known for what they do, not for what they say. That’s leadership, the Colorado way.”

The video features images of scenic Colorado views, Kerr with his family, teaching a group of students in a classroom, holding a town hall in a brewery, snowboarding, and, of course, Kerr riding his bike, something that has become a staple of his image…

…Kerr will hold a formal campaign kickoff Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at  Dunstan Middle School in Lakewood. He also on Wednesday launched his official campaign website.

Also announced in the Democratic race is state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, also from Lakewood. Pettersen, like Kerr, made her intentions known shortly after Perlmutter announced his run for governor.

Kerr is a middle school teacher in Jefferson County who has also served in the state legislature since 2006, both of which make him the early leader in this race. We are still waiting to hear more about which Republican candidates will take a look at this open seat in 2018, but it is expected to get crowded.

Republican Lawmaker Defends Driver’s License Vote Amid GOP Attack

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) last week took to Facebook to defend his vote for a state program providing drivers licenses to immigrants.

McKean was under attack by fellow Republican State Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs, who called Democrats and Republicans “shameful” for opposing a budget amendment Friday that would have cut a program giving drivers licenses to, in Williams’ words, “illegal aliens.”

“This program is something that I have been told by farmers in my District is vital to help their employees in obtaining insurance so that they can limit their liability when those workers have to leave the farm, even for a few hundred yards,” McKean wrote on Facebook in response to Williams attack. “After an hour of debate, virtually none of which was related to the budget discussion, nothing was offered to mitigate the effects of a very broken federal immigration system. I will continue to vote for my District and continue to put pressure on our Congressional delegation and our President to fix this flawed system. I will never tell my colleagues in the House how to vote. I count on them to know their Districts and know what their people need.”

Williams use’ of the word “illegal immigrant” in his amendment angered Democrats, like Thornton Rep. Joe Salazar.

“This is an alt-right show,” Salazar told the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic. “When you pass a policy like this, people learn how to drive better and they have insurance. They take tests that insure they know how to drive on our roads safely, which lowers insurance rates… But it has to be a show for some, not about policy, not about what’s good for Colorado, but because we have to put sparklers and glitter over a show and use hateful language in order to get people’s attention. We should rise above the show.”

“What we should be talking about here are citizens, the citizens we’re supposed to be representing and protecting,” Williams told the Statesman. “This program is another program that attracts illegal aliens to our state and in turn endangers our public… This is a sanctuary city policy. If by keeping this policy in place the majority wants to endanger our citizens, I won’t be a part of it.”

Williams’ amendment was one of a slew of measures offered last week by Republicans who said they wanted to transfer funds from existing programs to transportation. Other GOP amendments, also defeated, would have raised Medicaid co-pays, reduced Medicaid eligibility, and eliminated funding for red-light cameras and a state patrol aircraft program.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 11)

The Colorado Rockies are 5-3 going into tonight’s home series against San Diego, currently one of the worst teams in baseball. Here’s hoping baseball will matter in Colorado this summer. 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…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has already drawn a Democratic challenger for 2018. As Brian Eason writes for the Denver PostJason Crow brings a solid military background to the race:

An Army veteran, the 38-year-old Crow served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, first as a paratrooper and then as a Ranger, before returning to Colorado for law school. Today, he’s a partner at the Denver law firm Holland and Hart, where he advises businesses on compliance issues involving government regulations.

Calling the country’s politics broken, Crow said he wants to focus on the issues that matter to working families and to break through the divisive partisanship that increasingly has come to define Congress and Washington.

 

► With Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s decision to run for Governor in 2018, the race to succeed him in CD-7 is underway. State Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) has already announced her bid, and state Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) will formally kick-off his campaign on Wednesday.

 

► Voters in Kansas get the first chance to use the ballot box to voice their displeasure with President Trump today. Republicans are nervous about a special election in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, where Democrat James Thompson is making a late surge to defeat Republican Ron Estes in a fight for the seat that opened up when former Rep. Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Director of the CIA. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

The race was clearly moving in Democrats’ favor over its final days. Noted nonpartisan political handicapping site The Cook Political Report moved the race from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican on Monday. “Republicans familiar with recent polling describe extremely high Democratic intensity and very low GOP enthusiasm in what is likely to be a very low turnout special,” wrote Cook House analyst David Wasserman.

A loss here would be a huge problem for Republicans — especially considering that they appear to be no better than an even-money bet to hold Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s now-vacant seat in another special election next Tuesday in Georgia’s 6th district.

President Trump carried this district by 27 points last November, so even a close race would be a major concern for the GOP.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 5)

Welcome back, Springtime. 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

► Senate Democrats are trying to conduct a filibuster over the Supreme Court nomination of Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch, but as “The Fix” explains, there’s probably not much the minority party can do to stop this train:

Mostly while we slept Tuesday night, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) seized the Senate floor for roughly 15 hours in an attempt to launch an old-school filibuster to block Judge Neil Gorsuch from getting on the Supreme Court. He ended it around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

But his filibuster came too late to be able to derail or even delay Gorsuch’s confirmation. In fact, it probably wasn’t even technically be a filibuster. That’s because procedurally, there’s nothing he nor his colleagues can do to stop Gorsuch from getting a vote on Thursday to advance his nomination — and, ultimately, not much they can do stop him from getting on the court…

…there is one thing that can force a talking senator to yield the floor. And it’s the one thing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set in place Tuesday: A vote to end debate on Gorsuch.

There aren’t many rules on how long a senator can talk, but there are tons of rules about how long senators have to wait to vote. For example, McConnell knew his colleagues in the minority were going to filibuster Gorsuch — either by actually talking, like Merkley is, or threatening to talk, like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has. So before anything began, McConnell filed a motion to vote to end that debate. That motion, called a cloture motion, has to wait two days before it is “ripened” and senators can actually vote on it.

 

► Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is running for governor — for reals this time — and will seek to become the Republican nominee in 2018 through the convention/caucus process. Brauchler is one of many likely Republican candidates in 2018, including State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell. As Brauchler told the Colorado Statesman at his campaign launch today, he’s be a better governor than John Hickenlooper because…everything:

“For instance,” Brauchler said, “on transportation, I would have taken a much more hands-on approach to figuring out a way to resolve the transportation issue. We’re here on the precipice where we’re at because we really haven’t prioritized transportation. I would have taken a much stronger approach to education funding. I would have stood up to the federal government that sought to triple the size of Medicaid though Obamacare in our state. And I would have found a way to bring more liberty to more people in a way that would provide the opportunity for greater prosperity in this state.”

Yes, Brauchler would have just waved his magic wand to fund transportation and infrastructure upgrades.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Whackadoo Republicans Drop Ghost-Written Anti-Muslim Bill

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

A new bill has been introduced late in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate–Senate Bill 17-277, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble and Rep. Tim Leonard, “concerning the application of foreign laws in Colorado courts.”

The bill addresses the use of foreign laws, legal codes, or systems (foreign laws) by Colorado courts, arbitrations, tribunals, or administrative agencies (courts) in making decisions or rulings. Any court decision or ruling based on such foreign laws violates the public policy of Colorado and is void and unenforceable if the application of the foreign law does not grant the affected parties the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of Colorado and the United States.

If the summary of the bill doesn’t clue you in as to its purpose, it’s an attempt to pre-empt the use of foreign laws by local courts–a problem that legal experts say doesn’t really exist, since American law already holds primacy over any foreign laws that might be applied in the United States regarding a contract or other dispute. Of course that might not hold true if Muslims were to, you know, take over America! And apparently that’s the fear, however unlikely and even laughable to most observers, driving this legislation.

And as it turns out, this bill isn’t even Sen. Marble’s and Rep. Leonard’s idea at all. SB17-277 appears to be composed almost entirely of stock language written by the right-wing American Public Policy Alliance. Here’s a sample from their stock language:

The [general assembly/legislature] finds that it shall be the public policy of this state to protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application of a foreign law will result in the violation of a right guaranteed by the constitution of this state or of the United States, including but not limited to due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.

The [general assembly/state legislature] fully recognizes the right to contract freely under the laws of this state, and also recognizes that this right may be reasonably and rationally circumscribed pursuant to the state’s interest to protect and promote rights and privileges granted under the United States or [State] Constitution…

And here’s the same stock language in Senate Bill 17-277:

The state of Colorado has a compelling state interest in protecting its citizens and lawful residents from the application of foreign laws that would result in the violation of any right guaranteed by the Colorado and United States constitutions, including the rights of due process, freedom of religion, speech, press, and the rights to privacy, property, and to bear arms in the defense of self or others;

Now, therefore, although the Colorado general assembly fully recognizes the right to contract freely under the laws of this state, it also recognizes that this right may be reasonably and rationally circumscribed pursuant to the state’s interest in protecting and promoting rights and privileges guaranteed under the constitutions of Colorado and the United States…

Apparently this bill has been shopped in a number of states, and has become law in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona, and Kansas. We haven’t found any reports of the law actually being used–but in Idaho, where the bill died last year, local analysis found lots of potential problems:

The fact is, American courts routinely, by necessity, rely on “foreign law” to adjudicate everything from contracts, wills, estates, and tort law, to judgments, marriage and divorce, and child custody. Here’s a simple example: An Idaho driver gets injured in a car accident in Canada with a Canadian driver who also happens to live in Idaho. Because both drivers live here, the American driver sues the Canadian driver in Idaho court, claming the Canadian driver violated traffic laws. Which traffic laws apply? Canada’s, of course.

Explicitly barring “foreign law” in Idaho could have unintended consequences, as noted in the legal opinion on the bill the state Attorney General prepared for Redman. Nothing in the bill on its face violates federal or state law, the AG’s office said, but the legislation “may present contract impairment issues.”

What kind of issues? Let’s take the case of an overseas company doing business in Idaho. What would happen if, under state law, company contracts originating overseas, or judgments involving it, were unenforceable in Idaho? Under those circumstances, would any foreign firm do business here?

As it turns out, the law is necessarily a lot more complex than the xenophobia of a few Republican lawmakers! The legislation says it is effective when foreign law would undermine “fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of Colorado and the United States”–apparently without realizing our state and federal constitutions already protect us from that.

In short, this bill is unsalvageably stupid. Perhaps the only saving grace for the fringe lawmakers who introduced it is that they didn’t write it, because that would have required enough critical thinking to realize the legislation serves no purpose other than to disparage foreigners in general and Muslims in particular. Not explicitly, like the version of this law that passed in Oklahoma in 2010 specifically invoking Shariah law and was later thrown out by the courts–but every debate of this bill, wherever it’s introduced, turns into a free-ranging discussion on the nasty Old Testament-style particulars of Islamic law.

Don’t believe us? Come to the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for SB17-277 on April 12th, and witness the sorry spectacle for yourself.