Get More Smarter on Friday (October 13)

Today is the second, and final, Friday the 13th of 2017. 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 destroying healthcare in America. Trump signed an Executive Order on Thursday that encourages the creation of cheap and largely worthless health insurance plans for healthier Americans — the result of which will likely drive up costs significantly for everyone else.

As the Denver Post reports, Colorado’s top insurance regulator is concerned about what comes next:

Colorado’s top insurance regulator responded on Thursday to President Donald Trump’s health care executive order with concern, saying the policies endorsed could lead to flimsier coverage in the state and much higher costs for the sick.

“The limited benefits, the focus on the healthy at the expense of those with pre-existing conditions, and lack of regulatory oversight will cause problems for the health insurance market as a whole,” said Marguerite Salazar, the state’s insurance commissioner…

…In her statement, Salazar said expanding the use of these plans — and loosening the requirements around them — could pull healthy people into skimpier plans, while heaping unbearable costs on the sick.

“Premiums may end up being lower for people buying these plans, but for many, paying for services not covered by the plans will be much more costly in the long run,” she said.

 

► Thursday’s Executive Order was just the first blow in a one-two combination thrown by Trump to bury the Affordable Care Act. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump plans to cut off subsidy payments to insurers selling Obamacare coverage in his most aggressive move yet to undermine his predecessor’s health care law.

The subsidies, which are worth an estimated $7 billion this year and are paid out in monthly installments, may stop almost immediately since Congress hasn’t appropriated funding for the program.

The decision — which leaked out only hours after Trump signed an executive order calling for new regulations to encourage cheap, loosely regulated health plans — delivered a double whammy to Obamacare after months of failed GOP efforts to repeal the law. With open enrollment for the 2018 plan year set to launch in two weeks, the moves seem aimed at dismantling the law through executive actions.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the decision in a statement emailed to reporters Thursday night.

How is Trump able to just cancel these subsidies? You can draw a straight line between this pending E.O. and legislation passed by Congress in 2014 with the support of Republicans Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

Vox.com has more on how and why Trump’s actions on Obamacare create a lose-lose situation for Americans.

 

► President Trump’s decision to use Executive Orders to cripple the Affordable Care Act puts the results — which aren’t likely to be good — squarely on his shoulders. As the Washington Post explains:

This is not “letting” Obamacare fail. Many nonpartisan experts believe that these active measures are likely to undermine the pillars of the 2010 law and hasten the collapse of the marketplaces.

The Pottery Barn rule comes to mind: You break it, you own it. Yes, the plate you just shattered had some cracks in it. But if you dropped it on the ground, the store is going to blame you.

As Barack Obama learned after the Great Recession, with heavy Democratic losses in the 2010 midterms, it’s hard to blame your predecessor for problems two years after you take office. Especially when your party has unified control of the federal government. No matter how much it might be the previous guy’s fault, many voters won’t buy it. People have very short attention spans.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper calls Trump’s healthcare decisions “cruel and irresponsible.” The editorial board at the New York Times calls on Congress to prevent Trump from destroying the healthcare marketplace.

 

► In non-healthcare news, President Trump has apparently made a decision on how to proceed with the Iran nuclear deal: He’s going to punt. Instead of scuttling the deal altogether, Trump is asking Congress to fix “flaws” in the agreement that was sealed by the Obama administration. Why Trump thinks Congress can fix anything is another question altogether.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (October 11)

Today is not international fried chicken day or anything else; for once, it’s just a 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…

President Trump reportedly asked military leaders to dramatically increase the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. As NBC News reports:

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

Trump responded to the NBC News report with his typical “fake news” diatribe, though with a new twist on his worn-out rhetoric. From Politico:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that NBC’s broadcast license should be pulled as punishment after NBC News published a report stating that the president sought a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

“Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning, equating the two TV news outlets he has most often lashed out against. “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”…

…The president’s stated willingness to potentially challenge the broadcast licenses of networks whose coverage he objects to opens a new front on Trump’s long-running battle with the media. The president has regularly complained about coverage he views as unfairly critical, labeling stories, reporters and entire outlets “fake news.”

Like most of the things Trump says, this threat is more fantasy than reality. It is extremely unlikely that Trump could somehow coerce the FCC into cutting off NBC’s broadcast license. The Politico story quotes Andrew Schwartzman, a communications lawyer with the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center, calling Trump’s grumbling “an empty threat.”

Nevertheless, Trump’s latest threat was met with a swift response from Democrats:

Bennet is also calling on the FCC to clarify that NBC is in no danger of losing its broadcast license.

 

► Congressional Republican leaders say that “failure is not an option” when it comes to tax reform. Of course, they said similar things before failing repeatedly to repeal Obamacare.

The New York Times examines how a tax reform plan similar to the one being championed by President Trump was enacted in Kansas — and quickly repealed by lawmakers after disastrous results:

With the state hemorrhaging government revenue, Kansas lawmakers rolled back the tax law this year, but congressional Republicans and President Trump are trying to take the experiment with pass-through preferences national, beyond Wichita and Topeka to cities with residents who measure incomes in seven, eight or nine figures.

The Republican tax rewrite unveiled this month aims to jump-start economic growth in part by establishing a 25 percent tax rate on small businesses and other firms that operate as pass-through entities, a cut from the top rate of 39.6 percent that such business owners pay now.

But the abandoned experiment in Kansas points to how a carve-out intended to help raise growth and create jobs instead created an incentive for residents, particularly high earners, to avoid paying state income taxes by changing how they got paid.

 

► Colorado politicians — those not named Cory Gardner, anyway — continue to criticize the Trump administration’s War on Clean Energy, which took a new turn on Tuesday when EPA Chief Scott Pruitt ended the Obama-era “Clean Power Plan.” Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) do agree that a proposed tariff on the import of solar panels is a bad idea.

 

► Massive wildfires in California are straining emergency response systems.

 

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Get More Smarter On Monday (October 9)

Have a nice Columbus Day/ Indigenous People’s 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…

President Trump said last month that he would not require funding for a border wall with Mexico to be tied to DACA legislation. Of course, President Trump says a lot of things. As the Washington Post explains, that was then, and this is now:

The Trump administration released a list of hard-line immigration principles late Sunday that threaten to derail a deal in Congress to allow hundreds of thousands of younger undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally.

The administration’s wish list includes the funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a crackdown on the influx of Central American minors and curbs on federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” according to a document distributed to Congress and obtained by The Washington Post.

As Politico notes, Trump’s Sunday demands are likely to stop DACA legislation before it even gets moving:

On Sunday, Trump called on Congress to build a wall along the southern border — a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, which was premised on tougher immigration policies. But Democratic leaders left the dinner believing that Trump would not demand a border wall in exchange for signing legislation to provide legal status to immigrants who obtained protection from deportation and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program…

…The list will certainly turn off Democrats and even Republicans — many of whom have endorsed providing a pathway to legal status for “Dreamers,” or undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors. The White House said Sunday it was not interested in providing citizenship to DACA beneficiaries, even though the main proposals for Dreamers on Capitol Hill would allow a pathway to citizenship.

 

President Trump inexplicably picked a fight with retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker in a Twitter tirade on Sunday — a head-scratching decision that highlights Trump’s apparent inability to govern.

Corker did not hold back in his response:

Corker was also prompted by Trump’s tirade to speak out in an interview with the New York Times about concerns that Trump could be pushing the U.S. closer to war:

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”…

…Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

According to Corker, his views on Trump are most certainly not a minority opinion:

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

 

► As part of efforts to influence the 2016 election, Russian wrench-throwers spent big money on advertisements on Google platforms. Facebook has previously disclosed that Russian-connected groups spent heavily on misinformation ads during the 2016 cycle.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (October 6)

Enjoy your weekend — snow is coming on Monday. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is making it easier for companies to deny contraception coverage to female employees on “religious” grounds. As the Washington Post reports:

The Trump administration issued a rule Friday that sharply limits the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, a move that could mean many American women would no longer have access to birth control free of charge.

The new regulation, issued by the Health and Human Services Department, allows a much broader group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering contraceptives such as birth control pills on religious or moral grounds. The decision, anticipated from the Trump administration for months, is the latest twist in a seesawing legal and ideological fight that has surrounded this aspect of the 2010 health-care law nearly from the start.

Several religious groups, which battled the Obama administration for years over the controversial requirement, welcomed the action.

Women’s rights organizations and some medical professionals portrayed it as a blow to women’s health, warning that it could lead to a higher number of unintended pregnancies.

This is the part where we remind you that elections matter.

 

► Is the United States about to start a new military conflict? Tune in next week…

From CNN:

While taking photos alongside military leaders and their spouses before a dinner at the White House, President Donald Trump made an ambiguous statement, citing “the calm before the storm.”

“You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” Trump said at the photo op Thursday night, following a meeting with his top military commanders.
When reporters present asked what he meant, Trump replied: “It could be, the calm, the calm before the storm.”

As Chris Cillizza elaborates for CNNPresident Trump continues to act as though this is all just one big reality TV show.

 

► A group trying to change the redistricting/reapportionment process in Colorado is losing some of its key supporters, as the Colorado Independent reports:

Two former Democratic politicians, former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and ex-lawmaker Abel Tapia, have pulled their names as supporters of a campaign that seeks to change the way Colorado draws its political boundaries.

The campaign, called Fair Districts Colorado, comes as multiple other states look to reform legislative and congressional redistricting and reapportionment and as the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case about whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution

In Colorado, the movement is trying to get three measures on the Nov. 2018 statewide ballot to create a new, more independent commission that would draw legislative and congressional district lines, among other changes.

Garcia told The Colorado Independent it became clear to him that the Fair Districts campaign and its efforts are “more controversial and potentially partisan” than he realized.

 

► The U.S. House passed a 2018 budget resolution on Thursday, the first step in advancing a nonsensical Republican tax reform plan.

 

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The Greatest Tax Reform Proposal in the History of Never

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) was the only Colorado Republican to press the ‘NO’ button on the budget today.

The House of Representatives today passed its 2018 budget resolution in a party-line vote, the first step for Congressional Republicans are they endeavor to mold some sort of amazing tax “reform” policy. Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Doug Lamborn (R-Imbecile), and Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) voted in favor of the budget; Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) was the only Colorado Republican to vote ‘NO,’ where he was joined by all three Democrats from the state’s delegation.

As The Hill reports:

In a 219-206 vote, lawmakers approved a budget resolution for 2018 that sets up a process for shielding the GOP tax bill from a filibuster in the Senate…

…The budget reconciliation rules would allow Republicans in the Senate to pass tax reform without any Democratic votes, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can only afford two defections.

Republicans used the same strategy for ObamaCare repeal but failed, and are hoping for a better outcome on taxes.

Yet there are already signs of trouble, with some Republicans questioning whether the tax proposal would add too much to the deficit, and others balking at plans to eliminate a deduction for state and local taxes. The tax plan is now estimated to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade, but that figure would grow if the state and local tax deduction is not eliminated. [Pols emphasis]

Trouble? Wait…you mean to say that Congressional Republicans aren’t unified about how to overhaul the nation’s tax laws?

The problem Republicans are facing with tax reform legislation is strangely similar to what they ran into with repeated attempts at repealing Obamacare: Lawmakers are starting to understand that what they’re being sold by GOP leadership is vastly different than what the tax proposal would actually accomplish. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and President Trump are in general agreement on a set of talking points that are about as authentic as a Rex Tillerson press conference. Trump and friends are trying to sell a 1988 Ford Taurus with talking points from a Ferrari dealership, and Republicans aren’t buying it:

Senator Paul is far from the only Republican confused by this new tax proposal. As NPR reports:

President Trump and congressional Republicans have pitched their tax plan as a boost for the middle class.

“The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with lawmakers in mid-September.

But analysts at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who studied the proposal reached a very different conclusion. They predict that nearly three-quarters of the savings from the tax overhaul would go to the top 20 percent of earners — those making more than $149,000. More than half the savings would go to the top 1 percent — people who earn more than $732,800. [Pols emphasis] The tax breaks are even more tilted to the wealthy by the 10th year of the overhaul, when the Tax Policy Center projects nearly 80 percent of the savings would go to the top 1 percent of earners.

Republican leaders want to sell this proposal as a huge — YUGE! — benefit to the American middle class, but the math doesn’t add up. It’s no wonder that Senate Republicans are trying to get rid of a rule that requires a CBO score of legislation to be made public for at least 28 hours before a vote. Again, from NPR:

The tax benefits for the rich in the GOP plan are direct, obvious and easily quantified. Many of the promised benefits for the middle class, on the other hand, are indirect, speculative and uncertain…

So how do the tax plan’s supporters claim that it’s focused on the middle class? By highlighting speculative, indirect gains that are supposed to result from economic growth…

…Rather than simply promise that the government will cut the tax bill for working families — many of whom pay little income tax already — the GOP is arguing that its tax plan will promote growth, which in turn will boost employment, and over time result in higher wages. Break any link of that chain and the middle-class “winnings” end up in someone else’s pocket. [Pols emphasis]…

And so on, and so forth, until the middle class becomes so obscenely wealthy that they have to start lobbying for another round of tax cuts for rich people like them. This theory of “supply side economics,” or as it came to be known in the Reagan era, “trickle-down economics” does not work. We don’t have to speculate about whether or not it could work. It doesn’t. There is plenty of data to prove this. It is (again) no wonder why President Trump’s administration recently suppressed a 2012 report from the Office of Tax Analysis (OTA) that essentially lays bare the fact that this tax proposal would do the exact opposite of what Trump claims would happen.

The NPR story we cited above is an excellent resource for understanding the ins and outs of the Republican tax plan, but it’s a bit of a long read. For an even more briefer-er look, we put together this graphic to help you understand Republican math on healthcare and tax reform. If any of this makes sense to you, then you might be a Member of Congress:

Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 5)

The Colorado Rockies made the playoffs this year, but you missed it if you didn’t catch Wednesday’s game in Arizona. 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…

► Tens of thousands of Colorado children are in serious trouble if Congress does not renew funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program that expired at the end of September. The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday took the first step toward renewing CHIP funding with a bill sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

 

► Today is the last day for DACA recipients to renew permits before the process is closed under a policy shift announced last month by the Trump administration.

 

► Colorado Senate Republican leaders pledged not to do their jobs when the legislature convened for a brief session to fix an unintentional legislative error this week, and they succeeded in doing nothing once again. But the decisions of Republican leaders such as Senate President Kevin Grantham are looking even worse with the news that legislation to fix SB-267 would have passed in the Senate had a floor vote been permitted.

State Sen. Chris Holbert is among those Republican leaders whose reputations took a hit this week. Holbert was quoted by the Denver Post saying that he “did not swear an oath to uphold the opinion of a court” and preferred to follow his constituents’ interpretation of the State Constitution rather than, you know, facts.

 

► Former Judge Roy Moore, who easily defeated Sen. Luther Strange in a Republican Primary in Alabama last month, showed up unexpectedly in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and caused quite a stir. As the Washington Post reports, Moore apparently met with NRSC head Cory Gardner, despite the best efforts of both men to pretend othewise:

Rather than meeting with McConnell, Moore was on the House side of the Capitol on Wednesday. In a brief interview as he left the office of Rep. Robert B. Aderholt in the afternoon, Moore said he had no meetings set up with McConnell or members of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate majority’s campaign arm, which spent millions trying to defeat Moore in the primary.

“Nothing confirmed,” he said casually, as an aide tried to head off questions. Asked why he decided to come to Washington, Moore simply replied: “Beautiful place.”

In the evening, Moore met with the NRSC chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), according to a Republican close to Gardner and a second Republican familiar with the talk who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door session. Moore’s campaign declined to comment.

The meeting appeared to be hastily arranged, given Moore’s afternoon remark and Gardner’s uncertainty earlier in the day, as he and other Republicans struggled to save face.

“I haven’t looked at the schedule — I don’t know that yet,” Gardner said around midday, when asked whether he planned to meet with Moore.

The entire story is worth a read; Republicans who feared Moore and his right-wing supporters seem to have plenty of reason to be nervous. Moore’s Senate campaign was also a referendum on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom the Alabama nominee has openly criticized.

 

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Winners and Losers from Special Session are Obvious…and Troubling

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham does the bidding of AFP

The special legislative session ended on Tuesday when Senate Republicans killed the second of two bills aimed at fixing an unintended glitch from the 2017 session that is costing special tax districts millions of dollars.

As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, the “winners and losers” from the special session help tell an all-too-familiar tale of an era where right-wing special interest groups have a stranglehold on Republican lawmakers. The big winner this week, as Luning explains, is the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP):

The conservative organization hit the special session early and hit it hard, mobilizing hundreds of members and supporters to contact legislators to make their opposition clear, and it worked. Not every Republican was on board with the strictest reading of TABOR’s requirements when the call went out, but by the time lawmakers filled the Capitol, AFP’s approach was widely shared and set the tone for the GOP. A deluge of digital ads over the weekend ahead of the session — five figures’ worth, state director Jesse Mallory said — helped reinforce the party line. The session also gave AFP a second chance to whack at Senate Bill 267, which has come under heavy fire from conservatives for lifting the state’s revenue ceiling allowed under TABOR, as well as flouting a constitutional requirement that a bill have a single subject.

Luning lists Senate Democrats as the only other “winner” of the special session, arguing that Senate Republicans put themselves in a tough spot with the voting public as they try to maintain their one-vote majority in the state Senate.

The big losers of the special session are easy to find: Colorado’s middle and working class. Buses, hospitals, museums and zoos will all suffer because Senate Republicans were more interested in proving their fealty to AFP than in doing right by hard-working Coloradans:

Nine special districts across the state — from the Denver metro area’s Regional Transportation District and Scientific and Cultural Facilities District to regional transportation authorities in El Paso County and some mountain towns and a hospital district in Montezuma — won’t be banking a total of roughly $590,000  in recreational marijuana sales tax each month the law remains as it is…

…the governor said he was calling the session because special districts insisted they faced a funding emergency — and couldn’t wait until January for a regular-session fix — and they came up empty-handed.

Republican lawmakers will tell themselves that they did the right thing because groups like AFP are happy, but as the Denver Post opined on Monday, “none of that background noise justifies blocking the simple-fix legislation.”

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (October 3)

Nothing shows compassion more than stupid budget jokes. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Senate Republicans pledged not to do their jobs when the legislature convened for a brief session to fix an unintentional error in SB-267, and that’s exactly what happened on Monday. The editorial board of the Denver Post blasted Republicans for their petty response to a fixable problem:

Colorado’s Republican lawmakers blew off responsibility on the first day of a special legislative session Monday, when three GOP lawmakers cast a spiteful, obstructionist vote to score political points and punish innocent government entities with small but significant erroneous budget cuts.

Clearly, the three Republican senators who cast that very vote on Monday, signaling the end to the October special session just as it began, don’t have an answer for their scorn-worthy actions…

..Certainly, Republicans were entitled to complain about how Gov. John Hickenlooper failed to consult with many GOP leaders before calling a rare special session. Hickenlooper even provided them with additional fodder, floating an ill-conceived proposal that the special districts hurt by the error pay for the $25,000 a day it would cost to bring lawmakers back early.

But once gathered in the Capitol for the work of the people, none of that background noise justifies blocking the simple-fix legislation. [Pols emphasis]

Blair Miller of Denver7 has more on the partisan bickering from Monday. The special session could essentially come to an end today when Senate Republicans kill a House-sponsored fix to SB-267.

 

Colorado lawmakers reacted to the shooting massacre in Las Vegas, with Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulderish) calling on Congress to react swiftly to the deadliest mass shooting in American history. As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, on Monday urged Congress to pass stricter gun control measures in the wake of a mass shooting overnight in Las Vegas that left at least 58 people dead and more than 500 injured.

“I am devastated and horrified, but not shocked,” said Polis in a statement. “Mass shootings must not become the new normal. While I am praying for the victims and everyone affected, I am also calling on my fellow members of Congress to act. If not now, when? We can save lives while protecting our Second Amendment rights.”

Polis’ comments echo those of Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who previously served as a Congressman in the district where the Sandy Hook shootings took place in 2012. Said Murphy on Monday:

“It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.” [Pols emphasis]

Elsewhere, Las Vegas native Jimmy Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue on Monday to open his Jimmy Kimmel Live! television show.

On a more positive note, blood donations in Colorado saw a huge increase in response to the Las Vegas shooting.

 

► President Trump is in Puerto Rico today and is mighty proud of himself for responding to calls for help in the wake of Hurricane Maria. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump praised himself for the “great job” he claims his administration has done in responding to the hurricane that decimated Puerto Rico last month, speaking as he prepared to depart for his first visit to the devastated island territory.

But Trump’s comments — and his trip to Puerto Rico — come nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria first ravaged the island, and the president will touch down in San Juan amid harsh criticism of the administration’s slow response to the natural disaster.

Trump’s highly scripted visit will include a briefing on relief efforts, a meeting with senior military personnel — as well as with Govs. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico and Kenneth Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands — and an opportunity to visit with people impacted by the storm and the Navy and Marine Corps.

The president, who will be accompanied by the first lady, is not expected to stray far from San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital and largest city, where recovery is furthest along.

 

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Republicans Compound Bad Ideas with Bad Decisions

“Privacy Scarf,” Senate President Kevin Grantham

“There are no bad ideas, just bad decisions.”

You’ve probably heard a variation of that quote at some point in your life, and there are plenty of examples to back it up. The “Privacy Scarf” was an actual (bad) idea that someone once had for a new product. Fortunately, nobody ever made the equally-bad decision to invest money in the mass production of this product.

Where you really get into trouble in life is when you follow up a bad idea with a bad decision…which brings us to Colorado Republican lawmakers and next week’s “special session.” Two weeks ago, Governor John Hickenlooper called for a “special legislative session” so that lawmakers could make a quick fix to an inadvertent error from the 2017 legislative session, and Republicans are now pledging to not do their jobs.

To briefly recap the situation, a key bipartisan fiscal stabilization bill (SB17-267) was passed this year and signed into law to protect rural hospitals from possible closure. Unknown to either its Democratic or Republican sponsors, the bill contained a drafting error that has had the effect of eliminating marijuana sales tax revenues collected by special tax districts around the state – two of the better examples being Denver RTD and the Denver metro’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SFCD), which includes the Denver Zoo and the Museum of Natural History; RTD alone stands to lose millions of dollars in uncollected revenue between now and when the legislature reconvenes in January. Rural hospitals and transportation districts also face significant revenue losses.

As John Frank writes for the Denver Post, these revenue shortfalls necessitate a quick fix to the problem that can’t wait for the legislature to reconvene in January:

The sense of urgency in certain parts of the state is what prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to call state lawmakers back into a special session to fix legislation that mistakenly exempted retail marijuana from sales taxes in nine special districts around the state.

But not all share the same outlook. The leaders of the Republican-controlled state Senate made clear they plan to adjourn the special session without passing legislation to fix the glitch. [Pols emphasis]

Republican lawmakers, led by Senate President Kevin Grantham, are all bent out of shape over the idea of the special session. The GOP’s opposition here is more about hurt feelings than anything else, with Republican leaders complaining that Hickenlooper didn’t do enough to consult them before calling the special session.

What Republicans cannot do with a straight face is pretend that this is a problem that doesn’t need fixing; state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg was already preparing legislation on the matterOn Friday, Hickenlooper called out Republican lawmakers over their stubborn refusal to work with Democrats to address the problem, as Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

“What do they benefit? (How) does the conservative principles of the Republican Party benefit?” Hickenlooper said. “The only people who really benefit are the marijuana smokers and fundraising support of the Republicans.

“This is turning into a political circus,” he added. “It defies logic, from my perspective.”

Are Republicans really going to show up for the special session on Monday and essentially just refuse to do their jobs? Approval ratings for the Republican Party recently hit an all-time low, in large part because people are fed up with the GOP’s inability to get anything done; yet here again Republicans are preparing to hand Democrats another stick to beat them with in 2018? This kind of boneheaded decision could prove fatal for the re-election hopes of someone like state Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, who is already on record opposing the original legislation.

This debacle for Grantham and friends is similar to how someone like Sen. Cory Gardner ends up paralyzed on healthcare reform because he is terrified about what a couple of big donors are saying. Republicans seem to be so completely beholden to a handful of interest groups that they can no longer even register the tar pit right in front of them.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 29)

The next time you read this, it will be October. 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…

► Governor John Hickenlooper is blasting Republican lawmakers over their tantrum about a special session called by the Governor to fix an error in the “Hospital Provider Fee” legislation. As Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

In a fiery press briefing, an agitated Gov. John Hickenlooper took swipes at GOP leaders, saying Republican lawmakers had turned next week’s special session into a “political circus.”

Hickenlooper earlier this month took the extraordinary step of calling lawmakers back to Denver for their first special session in five years — a move he said was needed to fix a bill-drafting error that has cost special taxing districts such as the Regional Transportation District millions of dollars in marijuana revenue.

But Republicans, who control the state Senate, have balked at the need for a special session, saying there’s no emergency and the error can be fixed when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January.

Despite the GOP opposition, Hickenlooper on Friday pledged to press forward with the special session, announcing that the affected taxing districts have offered to pay for the $25,000-a-day session out of their pot sales taxes once the revenue stream is restored — a move apparently aimed at sidestepping one of the political arguments against it.

Republican lawmakers apparently had their feelings hurt because they say Hickenlooper didn’t do enough “outreach” with them before calling the special session. As we’ve written before in this space, this temper tantrum from Senate President Kevin Grantham and friends is a really bad look heading into a 2018 election cycle that already looks difficult for Republicans.

 

► Former Congressman Tom Tancredo is inching closer and closer toward running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018. Tancredo revealed on Thursday that he met this week with former Trump advisor and current Breitbart boss Steve Bannon about entering the race. Bannon is leading a national effort to push back against establishment Republicans; his cause picked up a big win this week when Roy Moore won a Republican Primary for U.S. Senate in Alabama.

For more on Tancredo, check out this interview with Stan Bush at CBS4. Tancredo tells Bush that there is polling data showing him at the top of the Republican field for Governor.

 

► Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, deserves a standing ovation for his response to racist messages found at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School this week. As CNN reports:

When someone left racist slurs on the message boards of five black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School, the academy’s superintendent didn’t even try to suppress his outrage.

In a video making the rounds on social media and posted to the Air Force Academy’s Facebook page, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria ordered his cadets to line up and pull out their phones.

“If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”

“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place. That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School,” Silveria said…

…”It’s the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all make-up, all upbringing,” he said. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.”

Well done, sir. Well done.

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (September 28)

You can read this standing or kneeling. Or even sitting. 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 and Congressional Republicans unveiled their new tax plan on Wednesday, and while the rollout was short on details, some of the major potential impacts are not hard to understand. As Vox.com reports:

Here is what you need to know about the Republican tax plan released Wednesday: It’s not a tax reform plan at all.

It is a sketch of an outline of a preliminary notion of a tax cut for some — and a tax hike for others. The components read like the jumble of ideas you might expect a table of slightly inebriated Chamber of Commerce types to shout out when polled for their tax reform suggestions…

…We can identify at least one taxpayer who will hugely benefit from the proposal: President Donald Trump. We still haven’t seen his tax returns, but thanks to leaked documents we know that at least at some point in the past, the only income tax he paid was the alternative minimum tax (the AMT). We also know that his businesses operate through “pass-through” vehicles (partnerships, LLCs and S corporations). A regular corporation pays tax on its income; shareholders in turn pay tax on the dividends they receive. In pass-through vehicles, by contrast, business income is taxed only in the hands of the owners of the business, rather than at the entity level.

The Republican tax plan eliminates the AMT, which would be a significant benefit to one Donald J. Trump.

Republican rhetoric about their tax plan is oddly reminiscent of Congressional attempts to repeal Obamacare, as NBC News explains. For more of a Colorado-based perspective, check out this analysis from 9News.

 

► Earlier this week, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) challenged former Rep. Tom Tancredo to run against him in a Republican primary in CD-6. Tancredo threw down a different gauntlet in prodding Coffman to run against him in a Republican gubernatorial primary in 2018.

 

► The big election-related news this week was Tuesday’s Republican Senate Primary in Alabama, where Roy Moore ousted establishment favorite Luther Strange by a sizable margin. Moore’s victory is causing much hand-wringing among Republican leaders who worry that right-wing candidates will be emboldened to challenge incumbent Republicans in 2018. But as CNN notes, there were two other important election results this week that portend bad news for the GOP in a General Election:

In Florida, Democrat Annette Tadeo won a Republican-held state Senate district 51% to 47%. In New Hampshire, Democrat Kari Lerner beat a former Republican state representative to fill a state House district that Donald Trump won by 23 points last November.

Those twin wins make it eight Republican-controlled state legislative seats that Democrats have flipped in 2017 alone. (Republicans flipped a Democratic state House seat in Louisiana earlier this year although Democrats didn’t even field a candidate in that race.)

That means that of the 27 Republican-held state legislative seats that have come open in 2017 to date, Democrats have now flipped almost 30% of them — a remarkable number in anycircumstance but especially so when you consider the average Trump margin in these seats in 2016 was 19 points.

Approval ratings for Republicans overall reached a record low this week, and the generic “Democrat or Republican” ballot question now has Democrats with a +9 advantage. If these trends hold, Republicans are in danger of losing both chambers in Congress next November.

 

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Polis Lands Big Endorsement in Governor’s Race

As Joey Bunch writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

In some races, certain endorsements matter much more than others, and Jared Polis bagged a big one early in the Democratic race for governor Wednesday.

Colorado Politics is the first to report that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Colorado State Conference of Electrical Workers is backing the congressman from Boulder in the nine-candidate Democratic primary. Polis, in turn, cites the union’s role in his energy and infrastructure plans…

…While labor unions aren’t as politically potent as they used to, the endorsement remains coveted in Democratic circles.

This is a big deal for Polis, particularly in a competitive Democratic primary for Governor. Along with SEIU (nurses, janitors) and UFCW (grocery workers), the IBEW is one of the most influential labor unions in Colorado. Labor unions won’t necessarily follow the same path of candidate endorsements in a high-profile race, but landing IBEW certainly gives Polis an advantage in courting support from other labor groups.

Polis is already the frontrunner in the Democratic Primary, and endorsements like this are particularly important because of who doesn’t receive them; this is the kind of support that candidates such as Cary Kennedy and Mike Johnston desperately need in order to differentiate themselves with Democratic voters next June.

Get More Smarter on Monday (September 18)

A lot of stuff happened in the political world over the weekend; let’s get you caught up. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (September 13)

Go away, (Hurricane) Jose. 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…

► Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is introducing a “Medicare for All” healthcare plan today with significant support from well-known Senate Democrats. As the Washington Post reports:

Sanders’s bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, has no chance of passage in a Republican-run Congress. But after months of behind-the-scenes meetings and a public pressure campaign, the bill is already backed by most of the senators seen as likely 2020 Democratic candidates — if not by most senators facing tough reelection battles in 2018.

The bill would revolutionize America’s health-care system, replacing it with a public system that would be paid for by higher taxes. Everything from emergency surgery to prescription drugs, from mental health to eye care, would be covered, with no co-payments. Americans younger than 18 would immediately obtain “universal Medicare cards,” while Americans not currently eligible for Medicare would be phased into the program over four years. Employer-provided health care would be replaced, with the employers paying higher taxes but no longer on the hook for insurance.

Private insurers would remain, with fewer customers, to pay for elective treatments such as cosmetic surgery — a system similar to that in Australia, which President Trump has praised for having a “much better” insurance regimen than the United States.

Republicans will immediately point to projections showing big tax increases under such a plan, but Americans might actually end up saving money in this scenario because of the reduction or elimination of copays, premiums, and deductibles.

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy announced her support for a “Medicaid for All” proposal in Colorado.

 

► Jefferson County Republicans are mad as hell (at Republicans) and they’re not above issuing toothless threats to prove it! As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

The Jefferson County Republican Party is demanding Congress immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act or, if it can’t, to elect new congressional leadership.

A strongly worded resolution adopted unanimously by the county party’s executive committee Monday night maintains that the failure of congressional Republicans to overturn the sweeping health care legislation known as Obamacare “has caused great consternation and angst among registered Republicans in Jefferson County” and put GOP candidates “in great election peril.”

The county party is giving Congress until Nov. 1 to “repeal the abominable legislation,” but if Republicans “fail to meet our demand … and continue in their deceit of the voters,” the Jefferson County GOP want different Republicans in charge of the House and Senate…

…“[I]t is imperative that we differentiate ourselves from the National GOP,” the county party wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “Otherwise, our local and state candidates will be painted with the same brush as the GOP in Washington. Those in Washington are not doing what they promised, and we intend to hold their feet to the fire.”

The irony is strong with this one. By unanimously demanding that Congress immediately repeal Obamacare, the Jefferson County Republican Party has painted every one of its 2018 candidates into a tight little corner.

 

► Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is in Colorado today touring schools, and will finish her visit with a visit to the Air Force Academy this afternoon.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (September 8)

In these times of escalating partisan rancor, it’s nice to know that we can all come together in a shared dislike of Tom Brady. 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…

► Congress this morning gave final approval to a $15 billion disaster relief package in the wake of Hurricane Harvey…just as Hurricane Irma prepares to throttle Florida. President Trump is apparently quite excited that his show of “bipartisanship” this week has attracted so much positive media coverage. As NBC News reports:

Trump expressed that he was thrilled with the positive news coverage the debt limit deal had received, a senior Democratic aide told NBC News.

“The people of the United States want to see a coming together, at least to an extent. We’re different parties, we have different thoughts, different feelings, different ideas. But I think you’re coming to see a much stronger coming together,” Trump told reporters at the White House Thursday.

Earlier in the day he said he looks forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats.

You’re a good wittle President, aren’t you? Yes, you are! 

 

► Anyway, back to the hurricane news…As the New York Times reports, nearly the entire state of Florida is in danger from one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded:

One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded crescendoed over the Caribbean on Thursday, crumpling islands better known as beach paradises into half-habitable emergency zones and sideswiping Puerto Rico before churning north. It is expected to hit the Florida Keys and South Florida by Saturday night…

…Gov. Rick Scott of Florida urged extreme caution in the face of a powerful storm that could quickly change course. “Every Florida family must prepare to evacuate regardless of the coast you live on,” he said.

Hurricane Irma is the size of France — like, the entire country. Miami could take a near-direct hit by Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, a third potentially major hurricane, Jose, is right on the heels of Irma. And a major 8.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded off the southern coast of Mexico.

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has already dropped his plans to push a discharge petition for a House vote on DACA. As The Hill reports:

Coffman said he made an agreement with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to hold off on gathering support for his discharge petition for the bill, which would extend protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years.

Coffman filed the discharge petition on Tuesday, which would need 218 signatures to trigger a House floor vote. Discharge petitions are typically used by the House minority party to bring attention to legislation ignored by the majority-party leadership — but are rarely successful.

For a member of the House majority like Coffman to file a discharge petition was an exceedingly rare move.

If you were cynical about Coffman’s newfound commitment to DACA, well, go ahead and say, “I told you so.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — Mike Coffman’s former spouse — doesn’t want any part of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program for children of undocumented immigrants. Elsewhere, a group of 11 Democratic Governors are urging Congress to take swift action to assist DREAMERS.

 

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