Quick! Throw Some Cold Water on Sen. Kevin Lundberg

Sen. Kevin Lundberg

Nothing gets state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) frothing at the mouth like “abortion.” Just say the word within earshot, and Lundberg reacts like Pavlov’s dog. You can practically see the ripples of electrical activity inside that ham sandwich between his ears.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, Sen. Lundberg is a member of the powerful and important Joint Budget Committee (JBC), a seat from where he’s happy to waste time on pointless discussions of imaginary abortion-related problems. As Lundberg happily explained to constituents via an email newsletter this week, he took the opportunity during a Jan. 25 JBC meeting to voice his opposition to funding school clinics because of some mysterious belief that school “nurses” might be referring sick kids to abortion providers. From Lundberg’s newsletter, dated Feb. 1:

During a Joint Budget Committee hearing several weeks ago I asked the Colorado Department of Education a question they found rather uncomfortable.  The Department was asking for additional funding for school clinics. In the description of school clinics it stated that they primarily provide referral services for medical care. [Pols emphasis] 

The question was: “do school clinics ever refer students to abortion clinics?” The Department said they do not know. My next question was what policy they have in place concerning this issue. Weeks later they essentially admitted they have no policy.

I asked this because the Colorado Constitution (Article V Section 50) prohibits any state funds from being used directly or indirectly for abortions. Referring a student to an abortion clinic is indirectly participating in the abortion.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s most recent constituent email update.

Maybe Lundberg has uncovered some vast new conspiracy.

Or…or maybe the Department of Education doesn’t actually have a formal policy that their school clinics are forbidden from referring children for abortions because why would they??? 

We went back to the recordings of the JBC meetings on Jan. 25 so we could hear Lundberg’s concerns firsthand. Here’s the play-by-play:

Sen. Lundberg: “I, consequently, will not vote for any funding or any reimbursement for funding … until their policy is clearly in coordination with the colorado Constitution [regarding abortion]…”

Rep. Young: “…this is for children with disabilities… some were wheelchair bound and needed transfers just for basic care…”

Sen. Lundberg: “Thats why it is important to be cleared up. I believe they need to act on this. I dont believe we should move forward with any funding or reimbursement of funding until they do the right thing.”

And finally, Lundberg’s closing statement:

“Until I see substantive evidence that they have a policy that says we dont go down the road of indirect funding for abortions … until that occurs, I dont see any reason for additional funding coming in any way.”

So…until we can assure Sen. Lundberg that school clinics are not recommending abortions to students, he cannot in good conscience approve any increased funding for children with disabilities.

Got it?

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 2)

You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.

Trump has a position on a topic, and everything else is wrong. If you are concerned about any of this, President Trump says, “Just don’t worry about it.

 

► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:

President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.

The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy. The shifts appear to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.

Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.

 

► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.

As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.

 

The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuchwhich is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 1)

You wanna march? Let’s march on that damn groundhog tomorrow so that we can hurry up and get to Spring. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Rules? Rules?!? We don’t need no stinking rules! Republicans in the U.S. Senate have decided to abandon rules and decorum and all that crap so that they can hurry up and ram through appointments for Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Republican leaders are trying hard to blame Democrats for this mess, conveniently ignoring the fact that the GOP started well down this road last year when it refused to hold hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

From Politico:

Democrats said they were boycotting the confirmation proceedings because of concerns that Price and Mnuchin had misled the committee, and that the nominees needed to provide more information.

Republicans slammed Democrats as being obstructionists and downplayed their concerns with the nominees.

 

► As expected, President Trump on Tuesday nominated Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) managed to squeeze in a meeting with Gorsuch at his office this morning in Washington D.C. — something Gardner refused to do for Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

For Senate Republicans, Gorsuch represents something of a reward for their 2016 efforts at preventing Garland from donning the black robes of a Supreme Court Justice. The Denver Post has more reaction from Colorado officials.

 

► Republican legislators in Colorado are trying to repeal Colorado’s health insurance marketplace at the same time that Connect for Health Colorado is seeing a record surge in people signing up for coverage. A large crowd gathered at the State Capitol on Tuesday to speak out against GOP efforts to dismantle the state health exchange.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 31)

So long, January! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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 Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday for supporting the Constitution over the demands of the President. From the Washington Post:

In a news release, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.” Trump named in her place Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Boente said he would enforce the president’s directive until he was replaced by Trump’s attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala)…

…The move came just hours after Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s immigration order, declaring in a memo that she was not convinced the order is lawful. Yates wrote that, as the leader of the Justice Department, she must ensure that the department’s position is “legally defensible” and “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix,” the big story isn’t that Trump fired Yates — it’s how he went about it:

There’s no problem with the Trump White House disagreeing with the past administration’s stance on immigration. That is, of course, their right. But, again, the scorched-earth condemnation of Yates strikes me as rhetorically overboard and, dare I say it, not terribly presidential…

…What Trump’s statement, viewed broadly, teaches us — or, maybe, re-teaches us — is that this president sees only two kinds of people in the world: Loyal friends and disloyal, terrible enemies.  Principled — or occasional — opposition is not part of that equation. You are either all the way for him or all the way against him. Black and white. No room for grays. [Pols emphasis]

And, thus, the reinvention of politicians such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). The website FiveThirtyEight has come up with a nifty formula to track Congressional votes in the age of President Trump. Yes, that’s Gardner with a 100% “Trump Score.”

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) says President Trump’s Muslim travel ban is “an embarrassment.” From the Denver Post:

During a brief interview Monday at Reagan National Airport, Coffman said, “I certainly would agree with the president that Islamic terrorism is a real threat to our national security.

“But I think the policy was poorly thought-out and badly executed and I think it’s just an embarrassment,” he said. “It seemed that it was more crafted by campaign operatives than national security experts.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Denver) also had strong words for Trump’s travel ban on Monday, saying that it “needlessly antagonizes our allies around the world.”

Elsewhere, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) finally issued a statement about the travel ban that was just a nonsense word salad. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) remains the only member of Colorado’s delegation to refuse to comment on the travel ban.

 

► The Denver Post takes a look at Denver Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is reportedly a finalist to be named by President Trump to the Supreme Court. Trump is scheduled to announce his Supreme Court nomination this evening. The Boulder Daily Camera has more on the potential nomination of Gorsuch.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (January 30)

Forget travel bans; if Donald Trump continues on this same path in the White House, soon nobody will want to come to America anyway. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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 Donald Trump says he will unveil his choice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court at 6:00 pm on Tuesday in the season premiere of “The Apprentice: White House.” Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are uniting in opposition to Trump’s potential nominee. From Politico:

Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy.

With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump’s nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

It’s a move that will prompt a massive partisan battle over Trump’s nominee and could lead to an unraveling of the Senate rules if Merkley is able to get 41 Democrats to join him in a filibuster. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also reminded her Twitter followers on Sunday night that Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority, unlike all other executive and judicial nominees.

Any senator can object to swift approval of a nominee and require a supermajority. Asked directly whether he would do that, Merkley replied: “I will definitely object to a simple majority” vote.

Senate Republicans are already crying foul here, but it’s hard for the GOP to generate much sympathy after the Senate refused to even hold a hearing on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court in 2016.

It is still unclear just who might be Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, though a handful of names seem to be emerging as finalists. Depending on who you ask, Trump could be leaning toward Thomas HardimanWilliam H. Pryor, or Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch.

 

► Backlash continues to grow around President Trump’s weekend Executive Order banning immigrants to the U.S. from several largely-Muslim countries. Donald Trump’s  Twitter Account, which may or may not be making autonomous decisions about the fate of the free world, has been busy trying to defend his poorly-received travel ban.

Meanwhile, Republicans are breaking ranks and openly criticizing Trump’s travel ban, as Politico reports. The list of outspoken GOP lawmakers includes Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who said that “a blanket travel ban goes too far.” Colorado Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) are still not commenting on Trump’s travel ban.

And as the New York Times reports, the Trump administration left several key officials in the dark in its weekend rush to enforce the “don’t-call-it-a-travel-ban” travel ban.

 

► Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) says he is adamantly opposed to the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Said Bennet on Friday:

“The U.S. Attorney General must ensure equal justice under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Jeff Sessions has repeatedly opposed efforts to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans. I cannot support his nomination.”

 

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URGENT: Rally Next Tuesday To Stop Repeal of Colorado’s Insurance Marketplace

We urgently need your help next Tuesday at the Colorado State Capitol.

Far-right Republicans in the Colorado Senate, following the lead of Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress in Washington, have introduced legislation to repeal Colorado’s hugely successful health coverage marketplace. It hasn’t been a perfect system, of course, but the rate of uninsured in our state has plummeted to historic lows. Across the state, medical providers are expanding their facilities and service offerings due to a brighter financial outlook and burgeoning demand.

Repealing the insurance marketplace would have devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who have gained coverage since the system went live several years ago.

We don’t know what’s going to happen in Washington under President Trump, but one thing we do know is that lives of Coloradans have been saved by coverage they’ve obtained through Connect For Health Colorado.

Colorado won’t give up the gains we’ve made in health coverage. Join us next Tuesday at 1PM on the West Steps of the Colorado Capitol Building as we rally to STOP Senate Bill 3.

WHAT: Rally to stop the repeal of Colorado’s insurance marketplace
WHEN: Tuesday, January 31st at 1:00PM
WHERE: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax, Denver

Click here to RSVP via Facebook.

After the rally, we encourage everyone to stay for the Senate hearing on Senate Bill 3 and make your voices heard. If you are one of the thousands of Coloradans who would be uninsured right now without coverage obtained through Connect For Health Colorado, we want to hear your story. Drop us a line at resist@progressnowcolorado.org and tell us about yourself. In addition to next Tuesday’s hearing, we’re working on a variety of media projects to help tell your story to a broader audience.

Thanks as always for taking action on short notice. This is just one of the many hard battles we face in the coming months, but it’s critical that we stand together now to protect the historic gains in coverage Colorado has achieved under the Affordable Care Act. We can’t go back to the way it was before. Too many of our neighbors, friends, and family are counting on us.

Get More Smarter on Friday (January 27)

Donald Trump is finishing up his first full week as President. Things are not going well in the White House. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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 Donald Trump is embarking on what could end up being a full-scale trade war with Mexico. As the Denver Post reports, this makes plenty of Coloradans very nervous:

The Trump Administration on Thursday raised the possibility of imposing a 20 percent levy on Mexican imports to help pay for a border wall, a move that could cause Mexico to retaliate.

But any kind of trade war would put Colorado’s ranchers, manufacturers and natural gas producers most at risk, while also raising costs for U.S. consumers, trade experts said Thursday.

“Colorado firms rely on North American supply chains, and this import tariff will ultimately be passed on to the American consumer. Worse, it could lead to Mexico enacting retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods going into Mexico,” said Karen Gerwitz, president of the World Trade Center Denver.

The Denver Business Journal has more on the potential impact on Colorado businesses should relations with Mexico continue to deteriorate. But it’s not just Colorado where concern is rising; newspapers across the country are panning Trump’s proposed tariffs with Mexico. Trump spoke by telephone today with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto less than 24 hours after Nieto cancelled a planned meeting with the White House.

 

► Congressional Republicans are privately fretting about actually repealing Obamacare since they don’t have a plan to replace the legislation. As the Washington Post explains:

Republican lawmakers aired sharp concerns about their party’s quick push to repeal the Affordable Care Act inside a closed-door meeting Thursday, according to a recording of the session obtained by The Washington Post.

The recording reveals a GOP that appears to be filled with doubts about how to make good on a long-standing promise to get rid of Obamacare without explicit guidance from President Trump or his administration.

Senators and House members expressed a range of concerns about the task ahead: how to prepare a replacement plan that can be ready to launch at the time of repeal; how to avoid deep damage to the health insurance market; how to keep premiums affordable for middle-class families; even how to avoid the political consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood, the women’s health-care organization, as many Republicans hope to do with the repeal of the ACA.

“We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created” with repeal, said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). “That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”

 

► Meanwhile, Colorado Republicans are moving forward with plans to eliminate the State Health Exchange and direct Coloradans to a Federal Health Exchange that may or may not exist in the near future. As the Grand Junction Sentinel reports, GOP Sen. Jim Smallwood doesn’t quite have his talking points in order, however:

Still, Smallwood, who said he doesn’t oppose all aspects of Obamacare, said he couldn’t guarantee that eliminating the state exchange and forcing people to use the national exchange would help lower their premiums or give them more options. [Pols emphasis]

“Unless we have parallel universes, we’ll never know what would have been better one way or the other,” he said. “I think we can look to other states that made the transition, like Kentucky and Nevada, where they have seen a slightly improved marketplace because of that transition. The way I look at it is, I don’t think that it could be any worse.”

The bill is scheduled for its first hearing on Tuesday.

This might actually make things worse, but let’s do it anyway!

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 26)

Happy Australia Day! You may want to start getting more familiar with foreign holidays considering the way things are going in the Trump administration. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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 Donald Trump is going to have trouble “Making America Great Again” if he can’t even manage to find loyal and competent people to work for him. Less than a week into his Presidency, Trump is already facing massive leaks from the White House categorizing him as a “clueless child.

Trump can’t be happy about his leaky ship, but at least people are still actually working in the White House. There’s breaking news this morning of a mass exodus of senior leadership from the State Department as many career officials are choosing the great unknown paycheck over toiling under Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In the meantime, Trump continues to push the canard that his Inauguration was witnessed by gazillions of people.

Oh, and for good measure, Mexico’s President has cancelled a scheduled meeting with Trump. Mexico probably just wants more time to write that giant check for the border wall that Trump is promising.

 

► The Denver Post reports on President Trump’s efforts to clamp down on so-called “sanctuary cities” with a look at the potential impact on Denver and Aurora.

 

► For the third consecutive year, state lawmakers have killed legislation from Republicans designed to allow people to discriminate based on religious views.

 

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Owen Hill advocates for less local control in school funding, less accountability for teacher licensing

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Owen Hill.

State Senator Owen Hill, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, appeared on KNUS last Saturday to discuss upcoming legislation which will impact school funding and licensure for Colorado teachers.

Earlier in same “Weekend Wakeup” show, hosts Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden featured another guest, Stacy Rader, from the Colorado League of Charter Schools.  Both Rader and Sen. Hill advocated in favor of legislation that would mandate equal sharing of all tax revenues between public schools and charter schools, which receive public funding but are independently operated.

Sen. Hill and Rader also oppose possible legislation that would mandate that teachers in publicly funded schools be licensed by the state.

While Senator Hill maintained that there is bipartisan support for the equal funding proposal, the interviews with him and Rader revealed that lawmakers may not be in agreement that these two categories of schools operate under the same rules and laws governing their accountability and transparency, and that funding is discriminately unfair to charters.

Despite the differences in management, accountability, and oversight,  Owen Hill and Vader work hard to frame both categories of schools as “public”.  They appear to want to blur the lines of distinction between them for funding purposes, but insist on distinguishing them for purposes of teacher accountability.

It gets confusing when charter advocates demand local and independent control for charters, but reject state-wide mandates for accountability and oversight of teachers.  Yet, at the same time, they reject the current laws which allow local districts to fund their schools according to the needs and demands of their communities.

COLORADO STATE SENATOR AND CHAIRMAN OF THE STATE SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, OWEN HILL:  Absolutely.  We’ve got a bipartisan opportunity here. We have two kind of main categories of our public schools in Colorado.  We have the traditional neighborhood schools, and then we have public charter schools.  So when you hear about people going to charter school, these are all public schools as well.  But sadly, there are many districts in Colorado that don’t share the tax dollars — the property tax dollars or the bonding money — they don’t share that money equally with these public charter schools.  […]  So, when you pay your taxes to the state, you know, every April, those are all shared equally.  But when you write that check for your property taxes — usually it will come out of your mortgage — that property tax money, that is not shared equally.  And many districts are saying they are going to fund public charters at about 75 to 80% of the other traditional charter — [correcting himself] or  traditional public schools.  And so we need to honor our constitution and say, “Every single one of the public school students will be treated equally and fairly.”  That’s what our bill will do this year.  […] We give our local school boards the opportunity to determine how that funding is shared.  And sadly, many of these local school boards have this — uh, they kind of treat the public charters like a, uh, inferior—

BONNIWELL: Red-headed, left-handed stepchild.  Yeah.

HILL:  There you go, that’s exactly right.

Following the discussion on equal funding for charter schools, host Chuck Bonniwell questioned Hill about a possible teacher licensing mandate, which seemed to dismiss pedagogical study and training, while conflating advanced degrees in different subject areas with a person’s ability and expertise to understand and implement proven, effective, developmentally appropriate practices in the classroom.

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Schrader column should inspire more aggressive reporting on Medicaid

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Reporters covering the Medicaid debate at the state Capitol should read Denver Post opinion writer Megan Schrader’s column today and act on it.

Schrader: “It’s simply disingenuous to imply that there are easy cuts to be made in the Medicaid portion of the budget, or to blame the state budget’s woes on the expansion pushed by Obama and adopted by Gov. John Hickenlooper.”

Translation for journalists: When Republican leaders blame Medicaid for state budget woes, reporters should ask them how they want to cut the state-federal program, which offers healthcare for children, elderly, the disabled, and other poor people.

Last year, Republicans, led by then State Senator Bill Cadman repeatedly claimed Medicaid was siphoning money from “every other program” in the state budget, including roads and schools.

Cadman told 9News: “[Democrats] have ignored the needs and demands of about five million people to specifically support one program, and it cannibalizes every other program. They’ve ignored the Constitution and put K-12 money into this program. I mean, they’ve ignored the roads, and put money into this program.

But in an epic fail, journalists never really reported how Cadman or other Republicans proposed cutting Medicaid or saving money on the program through higher fees or the like. They reported the attack on the program but let the details slide by.

In her column, Schrader encourages Democrats and Republicans to try to find savings, and she acknowledges the difficulty in talking about them–which is precisely why reporters should be asking for specifics, especially from Republicans, who, unlike Democrats, are arguing that Medicaid cuts are a major part of the path out of Colorado’s budget woes.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 25)

Today’s “Get More Smarter” is being read by more people on earth than any other website ever. EVER! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Got concerns? Calling the office of Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will only get you to a voicemail box…if you are lucky enough for the voicemail to even pick up. Senator Gardner seems rather nonplussed by the fact that his constituents can’t reach his office. Jonathan Romeo of the Durango Herald has a detailed story on the rising anger of constituents who are flabbergasted that they can’t even reach Gardner’s office.

The Denver Post has a primer on how to go about trying to contact your Congressional representatives.

 

► President Donald Trump is proving to be the world’s sorest winner as he continues to make completely unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump plans to ask “for a major investigation” into allegations of widespread voter fraud, as he continues to claim without providing evidence that he lost the popular vote in November’s election because millions of illegal votes were cast, according to tweets posted Wednesday.

The White House has yet to provide details, but Trump said in back-to-back tweets that the investigation would cover “those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal” and “those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).” Trump used all capitals — VOTER FRAUD — for emphasis.

“Depending on results,” Trump tweeted, “we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

So, uh, you know how people call you President Trump now? That’s because you won. You can’t win the 2016 election again.

Election officials in Colorado, meanwhile, continue to reiterate that there is absolutely no reason to suspect large-scale voter fraud.

 

► President Trump was set to sign Executive Orders today that would theoretically lead to the beginning of construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico that Mexico totally isn’t going to pay for in any way whatsoever. Trump is rolling out a few other immigration-related measures today.

 

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Colorado Latin@ Lawmakers Tell Trump To Leave DACA Kids Alone

Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

A release from Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran a short while ago asks President-elect Donald Trump for some compassion for undocumented students in the United States through no fault of their own:

Speaker Crisanta Duran, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and the seven other members of the Latino Democratic Caucus issued a letter this morning to President-elect Donald Trump asking that he declare Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients will be allowed to remain in the U.S. under his administration.

“We are simply asking that the president-elect put an end to the fear and uncertainty of the 742,000 men, women and children, and the millions of our fellow Americans that know them as our friends, neighbors, family members and coworkers,” stated Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, the first Latina Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives. “We are talking about keeping families—children and mothers and fathers—together. This is their home and they are a part of us.”

“Hard-working Coloradans, from the Front Range to the San Luis Valley, have made so many positive contributions to the communities they grew up in. Yet, now they live in fear of being torn apart from their families. The President-elect must send a message that the American dream is open to them, and commit to keeping DACA in place,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver.

In Colorado, undocumented students who have graduated from our state’s high schools are able to attend state colleges and universities at essentially in-state rates–a privilege undocumented students don’t enjoy everywhere. The program is a rough equivalent to the federal DREAM Act, which stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress and is now a non-starter under Trump. Colorado’s ASSET law eliminates a formidable barrier to these kids maximizing their contribution to the American economy.

Which is of course all they want to do. It’s worth noting that children who registered under the DACA program did so in good faith, under the promise that they would be spared from deportation and given work authorizations. Unfortunately for DACA registrees, they are now the best-documented undocumented residents of the United States. Which means if Trump decides to throw them out now, they’ll be much easier to find than most undocumented immigrants. In that event, those trying hardest to play by the rules would pay the highest price.

About the only thing we can say confidently is that whatever happens won’t be long now. We hope it’s an outcome that all Americans can be proud of.

GOP Shower Stall Showboating Backfires

UPDATE: Denver Post reporting, Jerry Sonnenberg says let ’em hang:

The three GOP lawmakers who voted against the project were Sonnenberg, Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, and Rep. Jon Becker, R- Fort Morgan.

The department’s request is part of an ongoing suicide mitigation program and came after a patient unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide last year using a pair of pants and the shower head in a bathroom at the Pueblo facility.

Moments after the committee meeting ended, Gherardini said the agency remains committed to the project and will continue to push its case to the Joint Budget Committee, despite the negative recommendation from the Capital Development panel.

—–

Rapper Birdman’s golden toilet.

The Denver Post’s Jennifer Brown reports on a Colorado budget line-item raising hackles among Republican lawmakers:

A request for $235,109 to make nine bathrooms at a state mental-health hospital suicide-proof is prompting outrage from Republican lawmakers who suggest it is evidence of wasteful government spending.

The reaction to the proposal in the context of a $28 billion budget illustrates the intensity of the spending battles expected in the 2017 session as Colorado lawmakers negotiate a deal to find more money for big-ticket priorities, such as a potential $500 million bond to improve roads and transit…

“Are you using the same contractor that the feds and military does that costs us a million (dollars) a toilet?” asked Sen. Jerry Sonneberg, R-Sterling. “You simply do the math, it’s $20,000 a shower. Couldn’t you remodel a whole bathroom for that?”

Sonnenberg later took to Twitter to say of the request: “You can’t make this stuff up.” He included a photo of the budget request document and wrote “NO” at the top.

As the Post reports, this budget request stems from a suicide attempt last year at the Pueblo state mental hospital. That attempt identified a need to change the design of showers at the facility to make it harder to tie off a noose. Of course we’re not talking about your home bathroom, which would likely cost less than $20,000 to remodel. These are bathrooms in a secure facility, designed to be tamperproof and to protect mentally ill Coloradans from self-harm. The changes would continue existing suicide-proofing that has already occurred at other state facilities.

Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, suggested the price tag is too much and remains unconvinced it is necessary, even as he acknowledges that preventing suicide “is a great thing.” [Pols emphasis]

We haven’t heard yet if this request was approved today by the Capital Development Committee, but we’ve heard that Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s public disparagement of this line-item is making at least some fellow Republicans politically uneasy. The amount may sound excessive at first glance, but in the proper context it’s not really unreasonable at all.

And suicide prevention is just not something we would advise grandstanding against.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 19)

It’s your last night in the White House, so you know what that means…who is picking up the keg? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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 continue to push ahead in trying to repeal (and possibly replace, maybe) Obamacare despite the fact that public opinion polls regularly show rising support for the Affordable Care Act. As the Washington Post reports, this has led to a political strategy whereby GOP elected officials go out of their way to avoid talking about the issue to other people:

After Sen. Thom Tillis said he would be talking to constituents live on Facebook Wednesday, more than 200 people submitted questions — many of them pointed queries about his views on health care.

While Tillis’s office had advertised a 30-minute event, the senator ultimately appeared on camera for 11 minutes, answering eight questions read to him by a staff member…

…Tillis did not acknowledge any of the follow-up questions that popped up in the comments alongside his video, including requests for more details on the GOP replacement plan. But he did avoid the sort of viral spectacle that many of his fellow lawmakers have encountered over the past week as the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act got underway in Washington…

…Seven years after unruly Democratic town halls helped stoke public outrage over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans now appear keen to avoid the kind of dust-ups capable of racking up millions of views on YouTube and ending up in a 2018 campaign commercial. Only a handful of GOP lawmakers have held or are planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all comers — the sort of large-scale events that helped feed the original Obamacare backlash in the summer of 2009.

There is definitely a very good plan somewhere, so don’t you worry about that. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wouldn’t lie to you, now would he? Jason Salzman calls on Colorado media outlets to be specific in their questions for Republicans about actual replacement specifics.

 

► Congressman Tom PriceDonald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, took a heavy grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in his first batch of Senate confirmation hearings — with a good deal of discussion focused on Obamacare and the mythical Republican “replacement plan.” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) sounded fed up with this vacant talk of a replacement plan and absolutely went off on Price.

 

► If you are planning on attending the “Women’s March” in Denver on Saturday, the Denver Post has some suggestions for navigating the event. More than 40,000 people are expected to descend on Civic Center Park on Saturday morning.

 

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

Um, What? Legislature to Consider Legalizing Switchblades

Musical theater enthusiasts know full well the dangers of switchblades.

After last week’s pomp and speechifying, members of the Colorado legislature will finally start getting to work on tackling issues of vital importance to the citizens of our great state.

Also…legalizing switchblades.

Over the weekend we were forwarded a constituent newsletter sent out by state Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), in which the two-term Republican explains his legislative priorities for the 2017 session. “There are three bills I am working on right now with the help from our community,” writes Hill before launching into details about legislation surrounding school funding, legalizing self-driving cars, and his approach for dealing with the “construction defects reform” issue.

State Sen. Owen Hill contemplates a world where switchblades are legal.

Curiously, Sen. Hill fails to make any mention of a fourth bill that he is sponsoring: SB17-008, which seeks to legalize switchblades and “gravity knives” in Colorado. Here’s the title of that legislation, which is co-sponsored by state Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Northglenn):

The bill legalizes the possession of a gravity knife or switchblade knife by removing such knives from the definition of “illegal weapon”.

Okay, but…why?

According to the draft legislation, the term “illegal weapon” refers to a “blackjack,” “gas gun,” OR “metallic knuckles.” Hill and Lebsock want to change state statute so that switchblades and “gravity knives” aren’t included in that same definition. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last February to legalize switchblades in Cheeseland, following similar efforts in states such as Oklahoma and Nevada that aim to fight back against the perception of “the misunderstood switchblade.” No, seriously, this is an actual argument made by adults.

But what of the switchblade comb?

Last fall, Colorado Republicans spent millions of dollars holding onto their one-seat majority in the State Senate. Presumably, this effort was not undertaken so that people like Hill could engage in discussions about the usefulness of spring-powered knives; on the other hand, Senate Republicans are introducing this as one of their first 10 pieces of legislation of the 2017 session.

Did the GOP just run out of new ideas for a commemorative license plate?

Look, if you are too embarrassed to mention your “legalizing switchblades” bill in your constituent outreach materials, then you probably should be spending your time working on something else.