Rep. Ken Buck – Still lying, but nicely

Representative Buck is a good communicator. His conversational skills were on display in his Sterling Town Hall on July 29, 2017.  He does not always tell the truth, and his point of view is limited to what one would expect from one of the ten most conservative members of the House of Representatives, and proud member of the ultra-right wing Freedom Caucus.  I’ve listed Buck’s lies and lies by omission below.

Buck handles these town halls well – he doesn’t get flustered when confronted, and  stayed in control with a crowd that was at least 50% Democratic and progressive. The impromptu town hall in Longmont got a little rowdier, but Buck still kept his cool.  I’d call the overall tone of the Sterling meeting “polite but firm” , for all parties involved.

Over the course of the  one hour town hall meeting, Buck and his constituents discussed the budget process, the health care bills past, present, and future, education, water law, Bitcoin and “crypto-currency”, renewable energy, constitutional convention, the VA hospital, and civility in politics. I’ve highlighted some of the places in which Representative Buck strayed from the truth.

  • At 22:59, during a renewable energy discussion , Buck said that he’s against mandates, not renewable energy, even though Colorado now gets 24% of its electricity from wind and solar, and wind turbine jobs are the fastest growing job category in the country. . He was unable to justify his statement that renewable energy is hurting Coloradans and costing them money.
  • At 30:00 Buck says he’s against unfunded mandates in education, but doesn’t commit to fund them.
  • At 39:00, Buck lies about how much ACA coverage cost in 2014. (ACA = $1800, wife’s plan =$108 – but not mentioning that the  Federal Government subsidizes all congressmembers health at 90%, so his remaining 10% cost would have been $180/mo). If you recall, Cory Gardner  tried to scam voters with this same BS, and was never able to show any proof that his ACA payment was more expensive than his private plan.
  • At 40:00 Rep. Buck says he wants to drive down costs of premiums & deductibles, but neglects to mention that the House AHCA bill would have driven those way up for consumers.
  • At 49:45 , he says we should encourage people to be healthier and drive down health care costs that way (but the bill he supported would have eliminated ACA’s preventative medicine coverage).
  • Buck told a LIE again at 51:13 when he said that the GOP congress “never attempted to repeal and replace” Obamacare. The GOP Congress voted over 50 times to “repeal the ACA, and Buck personally voted 3X since he was elected in 2014 to repeal the ACA.
  • Again, at 53: 00 when Buck is asked what can be done about the lack of civility in DC, he blames the media for publicizing sensational stories, not a Republican administration which refuses to work across the aisle, nor a President who models terrible and uncivil behavior.
  • At 53:30, Buck is asked about his book Drain the Swamp, and  if it is true that he wants to change the Constitution. He replies that he would like to have a Constitutional Convention, but only to get a balanced budget and term limits. Whew. It’s not like there are any Koch brothers or nuts out there who want a Con-con just to repeal the last two centuries of progress.

Ken Buck apparently also has access to the Trump White House connection to Breitbart public relations  services. Buck’s humorous “Cut the Debt” video

features Trey Gowdy, Mia Love, Ted Cruz, and other Congress members, and promotes his point of view that cutting the national debt is an urgent priority. It was a front page Breitbart story on 3/15/2017.

Ken Buck is still one of the most conservative members of Congress. People running against him need to confront him on policy and votes. He’s not stupid or undisciplined – he’s not going to curse anyone out or get into a sex or money scandal. He’ll be a formidable foe not least because he is so “nice” and “personable”. Candidates running against him need to be prepared to confront him on votes, policies, and facts, stay polite and respectful, but call his lies out when necessary.

Representative Buck has other town hall meetings scheduled. See his website for updates.

Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

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Good News! June 16-23, 2017

(Because Lord knows we can use some – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This was a hard week to write “Good News” for. Still, there was some.

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about the heat, voters, immigrant rights, cannabis, and beer. Farmer’s markets. Buying local. No sports news, because the only sports I halfway understand are basketball and baseball. Anything else, I’m the one looking at you to see when to stand up and cheer.

Environmental / energy

It’s freaking hot in Colorado, especially on the western slope , down south, and in Denver, but the head of the EPA won’t say if climate change is a hoax, although his boss says it is.

Good news: It’s not as hot as Phoenix’s 119 degrees . Even AZ Sen. McCain thinks this global warming thing is the real deal.   Plastic mailboxes are melting in Arizona – it’s that hot.  (Photo from reddit, via Buzzfeed)

 

MacGregor Ranch is piloting a program to work closely with the NRCS to cut underbrush and mitigate wildfire risk, since it is so freaking hot in Colorado. Drought and wildfires are the two main hazards Colorado experiences from climate change. Here’s the video from the pilot project.

Virgin Mobile and several other big retailers are planning to conserve energy by running their trucking fleets more efficiently.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, will shut down 37 of its mines that are no longer economically viable. The lost energy will be replaced mainly with solar.

Clean energy jobs remain the fastest-growing employment sector in Colorado  – with 62,000 added last year.  65% of those jobs are in energy efficiency.   This all helps Colorado to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.3%.    Rates for youth under 24 were at 6%, and for Hispanics at 5%, still lower than most other states.

There’s still some good fishing around Colorado. Get’em while there’s still water enough to fish in.

And you can drive to your fishing spot on roads you won’t have to pay an extra tax on, per the Colorado Business Coalition. Amendment 267 passed, funding $3 Billion for road repair and maintenance; however, $10 billion was needed. Where will that come from?

The “Dog Days” are  approaching. If you see poor Puddles panting in a hot car, you can break in to save the pet – but not legally,  in Colorado, until August.

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Buck Blasts U.S. Chamber of Commerce

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

The schism between business groups and some members of the Republican Party in Colorado came into sharp focus Saturday when U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), speaking on conservative radio, lit into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In an interview about his book Drain the Swamp, Buck was asked by KNUS 710-AM’s Chuck Bonniwell about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (Listen, hour 3, at 15 min)

“They are one of the big problems in Washington DC,” replied Buck. “They affirmatively go after conservatives. Tim Huelskamp lost his seat in the western district of Kansas because of the U.S. Chamber targeting Tim as a conservative, and defeating him. They play, and they play very hard. We have some groups on the right, like Club for Growth, that also target folks. But, you know, the Chamber is a corporate cronyist organization that promotes corporate interests at the expense of conservative values. There are a lot of stories to tell about the swamp, and if I didn’t mention the Chamber, they certainly deserve to be mentioned.”

A spokesman from the Chamber promised to return my call with the Chamber’s decision on whether to respond to Buck.

Syndicated right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, who resides in Colorado, has a similar view of the Chamber, writing in 2014. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a politically entrenched synod of special interests. These fat cats do not represent the best interests of American entrepreneurs, American workers, American parents and students, or Americans of any race, class, or age who believe in low taxes and limited government. The chamber’s business is the big business of the Beltway, not the business of mainstream America.”

Buck’s comments came after some Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly appeared to anger business groups by voting against a measure that classified a hospital fee as a business enterprise within the Colorado budget, freeing millions of dollars for health, transportation, and other state priorities.

After his vote against the legislation, which passed, State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Alamosa) alleged that the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce was so angry at him that the organization refused to read Scott’s letter about the General Assembly session at an annual breakfast.

Scott wrote on Facebook that he’s either “chopped liver” or, according to Scott, “they wanted to see how many would notice” [his absence from the meeting].

Good news! Week of June 11- 17, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine. And that’s fine. Something I’m missing? Add it in the comments.

LGBT:

Massive Marches may move us, but the  biggest and gayest parade this year in Colorado will be Pridefest, this Sunday June 18. Civic Center Park will host the celebration all weekend. For your daily minimum requirement of fabulousness, go to Pridefest Denver. (Photo from 2016 Pridefest, Wikipedia Commons)

Pridefest Denver 2016 -from Wikipedia commons

LGBT hero: One of the Capitol Police agents wounded in the recent terrorist attack in DC was Crystal Griner, a married lesbian woman. Griner and her fellow officers, including David Bailey , rushed the shooter, taking him down and preventing a massacre.

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At Least He’s Not Your Governor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

For the last few years under ultra-conservative Gov. Sam Brownback, our neighbors in Kansas have been part of an experiment to see what happens if you do what conservative lawmakers from coast to coast say they want: cut taxes, cut them a lot, and then keep cutting in hope that if you cut taxes enough eventually more money will flow into state coffers to pay for the stuff that matters.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, it didn’t work:

The grand economic experiment on the prairie has ended.

Kansas’ Republican-held Legislature delivered a stunning defeat to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday, voting to demolish his massive tax cut that led to massive budget shortfalls and sent Kansas into a political tailspin.

It was a Waterloo moment for the conservative second-term governor, who refused to back down from the tea-party-inspired plan he signed in 2012 to promote business growth in the state.

After the Legislature passed a bill Tuesday morning, just after midnight, to roll back most of Brownback’s tax agenda, the governor exercised his veto power to kill it. But a coalition of Republicans and Democrats united Tuesday night to override the veto with a two-third’s majority in both chambers.

You see, rather than fulfilling the long-held conservative axiom that cutting taxes increases overall tax revenue by stimulating economic growth, in Kansas the Brownback tax cuts plunged the state into a fully avoidable fiscal crisis. Instead of growing revenues, the state faced an almost $900 million deficit for the coming fiscal year–a hard reality that forced Republican lawmakers to take action counter to their ideological convictions.

But Gov. Brownback, more or less by himself, refuses to concede he was in the wrong:

“The state has taken a big step backwards,” Brownback said. “I think it’s the wrong philosophy. I just think this is the wrong way for us to go.”

…Brownback said a lot of people mistakenly made the override votes on tax policy about the governor himself.

“But it’s not about me. It’s about Kansas. It’s about the future of the state. It’s about which way we want to go. Do we want to be a high-tax, low-growth or no-growth state? Or a pro-growth state?” Brownback said.

In the end, Kansas decided it wants to be a functional state. It seems to us there is no more important foundation for growth. The “experiment” of Kansas slashing taxes for the sake of slashing taxes is now a cautionary tale, showing again how the excesses of theoretical ideology can prove destructive in the real world.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (June 6)

Do not cuddle up with your chickens. 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…ugh. From the New York Times:

President Trump thrust himself into a bitter Persian Gulf dispute on Tuesday, claiming credit for Saudi Arabia’s move to isolate its smaller neighbor, Qatar, which is a major American military partner.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Mr. Trump said in a morning post on Twitter. “Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”

On Monday, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen broke diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, citing its support for terrorist groups. Mr. Trump, who made the cutting of terrorist funding a centerpiece of his trip to Saudi Arabia in May, said he was responsible…

…Mr. Trump’s Twitter messages also appeared to contradict that of the American ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, who tweeted earlier in the week that Qatar had made “great progress” in curbing financial support for terrorists. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been previously accused of support for extremist militants.

At the Pentagon, some Defense Department officials said they were taken aback by Mr. Trump’s decision to thrust the United States into the middle of a fight with its close partners, particularly given the American military’s deep ties to Qatar.

We can’t even…

 

 If the Super Bowl and Election Day were held at the same time, it might approximate the level of coverage you can expect to see on Thursday when former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee. All of the major television networks will cover the Comey hearings LIVE, and you can be sure that there will be many hours worth of follow-up news coverage throughout the rest of the day. Corey’s testimony is scheduled to begin at 8:00 am (MST) on Thursday.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will have dinner tonight at the White House with “Two Scoops” Trump. From the Denver Post:

President Donald Trump plans to discuss foreign policy — including his first overseas trip as chief executive — during a Tuesday night dinner at the White House with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and five other congressional Republicans…

…The dinner also could provide a platform for Gardner to talk about his own overseas travels, including a controversial meeting with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte that Gardner said last week included a discussion of Duterte’s brutal crackdown on drug dealers and users that’s left thousands dead. Trump has praised that bloody approach and has invited Duterte to the White House in the future.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall for this dinner meeting…So, Cory, how about that Duterte fellow?

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Get More Smarter on Monday (June 5)

Don’t forget the sunscreen, friends; Climate Change doesn’t care if you believe in it or not. 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 totally winning…the award for most unpopular President ever. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

Trump finds himself in the midst of his worst extended poll run of his presidency. Starting on May 28 when Gallup put his job approval at 42%, Trump has been sliding downward. The latest Gallup track on June 3 put Trump’s job approval at a dismal 36% — a single percentage point away from the lowest ebb of his time in the White House. (On March 28, Trump’s job approval was at 35%.)

The Gallup numbers are no anomaly. A Quinnipiac University poll released in late May put Trump’s job approval at 37%. A Monmouth poll conducted in mid-May put Trump’s job approval at 39%.

Where Trump’s numbers do stand out is compared to his presidential predecessors. President Obama was at 61% in the Gallup tracking poll in early June 2009. George W. Bush was at 55% in Gallup at this time in 2001.

Former President Bill Clinton was polling at 37% in June 1993, which was the lowest mark of his Presidency. Things got better for Clinton after June — his first-term approval ratings averaged out at 50% — but it’s probably more likely that Trump continues his downward trend for the foreseeable future.

 

 Senate Republicans are not encouraged by the prospects of coming up with some sort of healthcare legislation to compare to the nonsense bill produced by the House last month. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is among the Senate Republicans tasked with drafting some sort of compromise legislation, which apparently isn’t as easy as just complaining about Obamacare.

 

► It has been nearly seven months since the 2016 election, and there is no sign of waning interest from protestors upset with the Trump administration. As the Denver Post reports:

A few hundred people showed up for Denver’s March for Truth rally at Commons Park Saturday, calling for greater transparency regarding President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia.

The protest was a mix of politically charged speeches, a march through the streets and a concert as protesters sang newly created activist songs, such as “Let the Country See Your Taxes” to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” and “We Shall Find the Truth” to the tune of “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

“March for Truth” events were held throughout the country on Saturday. In a separate event in Colorado Springs, about 100 people showed up over the weekend to protest President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Trump’s Budget Basically Calls For Killing Poor People

UPDATE #3: If you’re doing the math at home, 2+2=7.

—–

UPDATE #2: Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez is all smiles, kill the poor to stop terrorism:

As the House develops the budget resolution that will guide the FY18 appropriations process, I welcome the president’s input on federal spending priorities. Our country is at a critical junction, and the federal government cannot continue to spend money it doesn’t have. As terrorist groups continue to perpetrate evil acts and spread fear around the world, we must prioritize funding for national defense and diplomacy. It is also critical that we focus federal resources on programs that deliver results for Americans and create jobs, and we must ensure our social safety nets are sustainable for those who truly need them. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the budget and appropriations committees to ensure the priorities of the Third Congressional District are reflected in our budget blueprint and upcoming appropriations bills.

—–

UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver rips into Trump’s budget:

“The President’s heartless budget proposal amply shows his lack of concern for Americans’ health, financial struggles and hopes for a better life for their kids,” DeGette said. “It punishes the most vulnerable while propping up the wealthy and making preposterous assumptions about the country’s economic growth. And it guts funding for diplomacy and development at a time when we should be investing more in our country’s leadership in an unstable world – a short-sighted approach that will leave us weaker.”

Among the President Trump’s health-related changes that will harm the middle class and the poor are a $610 billion cut to Medicaid over 10 years, a steep reduction in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and a $7 billion decrease in the budget of the National Institutes of Health. The President’s proposal would slash the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31.4 percent and the State Department and related programs by 29 percent. It also eliminates Health and Human Services support for Planned Parenthood and funds for international family planning.

Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder:

This is a reckless budget that would weaken America.

President Trump’s budget not only goes against his campaign promise to protect Medicare and Social Security and ensure that no American would lose their health insurance, it does so while increasing deficit military spending even though we spend more than the next seven nations combined on our military already.

The budget is a clear statement of the President’s values. In it, special interests win over the middle-class, multi-national corporations win over small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge interests win over the middle-class, multi-national corporations win over small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge tax cut at the expense of children, science, and our future.

In the 21st century, we need solutions that lift Americans up rather than knocking them down, and the President’s budget would knock down the knocking them down, and the President’s budget would knock down the very foundations that make our country great.

—–

The New York Times reports on President Donald Trump’s budget proposal being released formally today in Washington–a budget nothing short of jaw-dropping for its massive cuts to basic safety net programs Americans have been backstopped by for generations, setting up the next battle royale and moral crisis for the Republican-controlled Congress:

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.

Of course, the president does not actually write the budget–that’s the job of Congress, just like it’s the job of the state legislature in Colorado every year. To pass Trump’s budget as-is would be a very straightforward kind of political suicide for Republicans, locking in huge losses in 2018 that are already broadly feared. At the same time, the ideological far right is clamoring for such sweeping change, with no regard for the political consequences.

Although it sets up Trump to be loathed even more than his dismal approval ratings indicate today, we assume this budget is meant to be a negotiating position as opposed to a final proposal. By chipping away around the margins of these draconian proposed cuts, congressional Republicans get to “play savior” while still making cuts that will hurt a lot of people. It’s cynical politics, to be sure, but it’s also a clever way to obscure the blame.

Because there is going to be blame. Even a fraction of these cuts are doing to do harm that will a prove a major political liability for every lawmaker who votes yes. Much like the dogma-driven campaign to repeal Obamacare, a campaign that has outlived its political usefulness but can’t be stopped now for political reasons, the nation is now forced to examine the consequences of what Republicans have advocated for years.

And it’s scary stuff.

FOX News Just Makes Stuff Up About Durango, Colorado

FOX News reporter Joseph Kolb.

Locals in the picturesque southwest Colorado town of Durango wondered what “Durango” FOX News was talking about, as the Herald’s Shane Benjamin reports:

The story, headlined “Legalized marijuana turns Colorado resort town into homeless magnet,” was the most-read U.S. story Wednesday on www.FoxNews.com.

It was written by Joseph J. Kolb, a Fox contributor who was in town for a soccer shootout last weekend, according to those he interviewed. For his 850-word piece, Kolb quoted five sources: a man holding a cardboard sign; a gift shop manager; an anonymous hotel clerk; Durango Police Chief Kamran Afzal; and Tim Walsworth, executive director of Durango Business Improvement District,

In an interview Wednesday, Walsworth took exception with Kolb and his story, saying the reporter barely identified himself, omitted comments that didn’t fit his angle and based the article on a few opinions. The result was a superficial glance at an issue in a community the writer was passing through, those who talked to him said.

“I question the credibility of the reporter,” Walsworth said.

And he wasn’t the only one:

“Just this year there has been a major influx of people between 20 to 30 who are just hanging out on the streets,” [gift shop owner Caleb] Preston was quoted as saying. “The problem is while many are pretty mellow, there are many more who are violent.”

Preston said he didn’t say those exact words, and his comments centered around the idea that panhandling has risen to the forefront of public discourse; not that the problem has become worse. [Pols emphasis]

The consensus seems to be that FOX News reporter Joseph Kolb was determined to write a story about how legal marijuana had turned Durango into a “haven for recreational pot users” regardless of what local sources actually told him. And sure enough, Kolb’s portrayal of Durango is nothing any of us who have been there would recognize:

The picturesque town near the New Mexico border, once a vibrant, upscale community dotted with luxury hotels, is being overrun by panhandlers – thanks, in part, to the legalization of marijuana.

The town suddenly became a haven for recreational pot users, drawing in transients, panhandlers and a large number of homeless drug addicts, according to officials and business owners. Many are coming from New Mexico, Arizona and even New York.

So folks, let us reassure from personal experience that Durango is very much still a “vibrant, upscale community,” and the luxury hotels are busy in all four seasons. We recommend the historic Strater Hotel downtown, though it’s far from the only choice. There is absolutely no appearance along Durango’s Main Avenue that the place is being “overrun” by homeless folks in town for pot or anything else.

In short, the entire story is textbook FOX News cockamamie bullshit. We sincerely hope this misinformation doesn’t do anything to harm Durango’s tourism economy–and to help make sure it doesn’t, we’re booking a weekend at the Strater. We encourage you all to do the same.

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 5)

Remember, kids: Don’t put the guacamole in your tortilla-chip hat until just before you are ready to leave the house. 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…

► As you may have heard, Congressional Republicans finally passed a bill on Thursday related to the repeal and destruction of Obamacare. Republicans toasted to the (poor) health of Americans at the White House last evening, but the political blowback is already underway. From CNN:

The Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign handicapping service, changed the ratings on 20 GOP-held districts Friday morning — all of them moving in Democrats’ favor in advance of the 2018 midterm election…

…Two of the 20 changes affected members who actually opposed the AHCA: Leonard Lance of New Jersey and Mike Coffman of Colorado. Of Coffman, Wasserman wrote: “Coffman ended up voting against the AHCA, but his hesitation to announce his position likely won’t assuage voters who want to send a message to President Trump next year.” [Pols emphasis]

Think about the changes the Cook Report made this way: To win back the House majority, Democrats need to gain 24 GOP seats. Twenty Republican seats just moved toward Democrats — in less than a day and with a single congressional vote.

That’s a big deal.

Aurora Republican Mike Coffman did indeed vote “NO” on Trumpcare 2.0 on Thursday, but it doesn’t appear as though Coffman is going to get any real political cover from the decision. Coffman’s vote on Thursday won’t extinguish the memory of his longstanding support for repealing Obamacare, including the fact that he was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the failed Trumpcare bill in March of this year.

 

► The healthcare legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate, and its future is as uncertain as ever. Republican Senate leaders are already questioning the wisdom of the House passing a bill that many members never even had a chance to read first.

Check out this video of a reporter asking Republican Members of Congress if they had read the healthcare legislation — that’s Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) who walks quickly away from the question near the end of the clip.

 

► Other than Mike Coffman, Colorado’s Congressional delegation voted along party lines on Trumpcare 2.0. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) had been coy about his support for the latest healthcare bill, but as the Grand Junction Sentinel reports, Tipton is drinking all of the GOP Kool-Aid:

The most recent version of the American Health Care Act passed the House on Thursday with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., saying it met his test of making insurance more affordable.

“As the House developed the American Health Care Act, I was adamant that the replacement plan needed to ensure people with pre-existing conditions would have access to affordable health insurance,” Tipton said in a statement after the vote. “The bill provides these assurances.”…

…Critics took immediate issue with Tipton, among them ProgressNow Colorado, whose executive director noted Tipton’s comment to The Daily Sentinel in February that, “Every policy is still going to be in effect. People are not going to be left without coverage.” Tipton broke his promise to constituents with his vote, said Ian Silverii.

Tipton’s comments are complete and utter nonsense. It has been widely reported that the GOP healthcare bill would all but eliminate the requirement that insurance companies don’t penalize people with pre-existing conditions.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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So Basically, You’re Never Going To Be Happy

Beauvallon, a Denver construction-defect horror story.

The Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports on final passage of House Bill 17-1279, the hard-fought bipartisan compromise legislation to address developer concerns about liability for defects in the construction of new condominium developments.

A compromise that builders are already declaring insufficient:

Now that state lawmakers have passed the first measure in years to abate construction-related lawsuits against condo builders, new developments should start sprouting across the metro area like so many spring flowers.

Right?

Not so fast, says Home Builders Association of Denver CEO Jeff Whiton.

House Bill 1279, which stipulates that legal action against a builder for alleged construction flaws can only proceed when more than half of all homeowners in a condominium complex agree to it, is “not the cure-all” for what has become an anemic number of condo starts in Colorado.

More needs to be done to reduce the number of lawsuits filed against condo builders, which he said drive up insurance rates and chase developers from the state.

“The job’s not done yet,” Whiton said. “There’s still plenty of heavy lifting to do to give builders confidence to build condominiums and not be harassed by lawsuits.”

As anyone who has followed legislative politics in Colorado in recent years knows, the builder industry has been clamoring for “reform” of construction defects laws in our state for a long time. The industry’s lobbyists insist that a downturn in new condo development projects in the state is the direct result of the ease with which builders can be sued for defects in construction–and have demanded sweeping changes in the law to force homeowners in condo developments into binding arbitration over defect claims, and taking away power from homeowner’s associations to file suit.

The compromise legislation approved this year requires a majority of homeowners to initiate legal action, not the HOA board–and requires homeowners be informed about the potential effect of litigation on the ability to sell their properties. For homeowner groups and lawyers who represent them, that’s as far as they see the need to go. Opponents of the homebuilders in this fight argue that the real solution is for developers and builders to stand by their work–avoiding construction defects to begin with, and fixing problems in good faith quickly when they occur.

With all of this in mind, it’s revealing that builder lobbyists are already declaring their intention to return next year to push the same bills that died this year. It’s long been suspected that builders are misusing Colorado’s hot housing market to extract concessions from lawmakers, and blaming liability over construction defects for many other factors that have led to a shortage of affordable housing in this state. After years of complaining, now even after a bipartisan compromise has passed, it’s time to ask the question: is anything short of stripping homeowners of their legal rights to protect their biggest investment going to make the developers happy?

Because if not, maybe it’s time to tell them enough is enough.

Lawmakers Announce For-Reals Hospital Provider Fee Fix

Sausage factory. Don’t look inside unless you want to lose your appetite.

As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports, the long-sought bipartisan deal to fix a vexing budgetary problem in Colorado that would free up hundreds of millions of dollars, reclassifying the state’s Hospital Provider Fee program to no longer count against revenue limits under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), is apparently close to fruition.

This week, negotiations between the bill’s sponsors became very tense over a provision hiking Medicaid co-pays for prescriptions and both inpatient and outpatient visits. Democrats led by House Majority Leader K.C. Becker and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman insisted they never agreed to that, and would not–while co-sponsoring Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg demanded that the copays increase as part of the deal.

As of today, as Goodland reports, Republicans appear to have successfully extracted their pound of flesh:

Two House lawmakers and two Senate leaders have reached bipartisan agreement on a high-stakes and hard-fought state finance deal that fell apart as many times as it came together.

The bill, which centers around reclassifying the state’s hospital provider fee into a government-owned enterprise, seeks to reverse a $264 million cut to hospitals statewide, which was part of the $26.8 billion budget sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper Wednesday. With just five working days left in the 2017 session, lawmakers fear what would happen to hospitals if an agreement couldn’t be reached.

If approved, the measure, “Sustainability of Rural Colorado,” would save close to a dozen rural hospitals, fund rural schools, give small businesses a break on business personal property taxes, and set aside money for long overdue transportation projects. But perhaps its most sought-after achievement — at least by Democrats — lies in reclassifying the hospital provider fee. The fee helps cover the cost of medical care for low-income Coloradans and is matched by federal dollars. Reclassifying it moves roughly $600 million to $700 million out from beneath state constitutionally-mandated revenue limits set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).

So that’s the good news–a long-sought fix for the Hospital Provider Fee that prevents its growth from impacting other areas of the budget. But here’s what Republicans got in return:

The last major sticking point was whether to require Medicaid recipients to pay a little more for prescriptions and outpatient care. Democratic Rep. Becker of Boulder indicated that was a non-starter for her caucus, while Republican Sonnenberg of Sterling said it was not something he would back away from.

Under the agreement, the cost for prescriptions for Medicaid recipients would double from $1 to $2; outpatient copays would also double from $2 to $4. Both may vary slightly based on family income. A previous agreement also called for patients to pay more for daily inpatient hospital stays, but to appease Democrats, that provision was nixed…

What remains unchanged: The $200 million reduction in the state’s TABOR limits, currently set at about $13.3 billion. The reduction is meant to counterbalance the removal of provider fee revenues – about $656 million in 2017-18 – from the state’s revenue limit into a government-owned enterprise. TABOR allows for enterprises. Among the largest: college tuition , which pays for college costs, and fees paid at state parks, which pay for the operations of those parks.

Also unchanged: State agencies would be required for the 2018-19 fiscal year to submit budgets to the governor’s budget office showing a 2 percent across-the-board cut.

In addition, the deal includes a small business property tax cut that Republicans have wanted for some time. The added burden on Medicaid patients is the highest-profile “victory” that Republicans can claim in this deal–and given Sonnenberg’s unwillingness to compromise over costs that sound trivial to, well, everyone but poor folks on Medicaid, they can’t claim anything like the moral high ground. Other purely ideological “victories” like across-the-board cuts do nothing good politically for Republicans outside their own base voters.

As for Democrats, they accomplished significantly more of their own long-standing objectives despite some painful concessions. Whatever the momentary sticking points were in the negotiations, Republican backs were against the wall. The peril of rural conservative Republican lawmakers with hospitals in their districts that may have closed without this deal, more than any other factor, is what kept Sen. Sonnenberg and Rep. Jon Becker at the bargaining table.

In short, this deal is probably as good as you’re going to get with right-wing activist group Americans For Prosperity calling the shots in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate. With everything weighed in the balance, Democrats got some long-sought things accomplished–and the hospitals in Jerry Sonnenberg’s district that will stay open constitute an objectively good outcome.

If you want a better deal, your next step is the 2018 elections.

New Poll Shows Tough 2018 Road for Colorado Republicans

Magellan Strategies, a Colorado-based polling firm that is known to lean-Republican, released a fresh new batch of polling numbers in Colorado today. For Republicans hoping to see better results after an awful Keating Research poll in March…

Well, let’s just say that things are looking up — but only because Republican numbers are essentially upside-down.

Magellan Strategies polled 502 “likely 2018 General Election voters in Colorado” on April 26 and 27, and the results are pretty dismal for Republicans. Take a look at some of the “key findings” as presented by Magellan:

♦ Among likely 2018 voters, 47% approve and 49% disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as President. Among unaffiliated voters, 40% approve and 53% disapprove of the job he is doing.

♦ The generic Congressional ballot shows voters prefer the Democrat candidate to the Republican candidate by a 5-point margin, 39% to 34% respectively. Among unaffiliated voters, the generic Democrat candidate leads the generic Republican candidate by a 13-point margin, 34% to 21% respectively.

♦ Among all respondents, 34% approve of the job the Republicans in Congress are doing and 58% disapprove.

♦ Among likely 2018 voters, 40% approve of the job Senator Cory Gardner is doing, 37% disapprove, and 23% do not have an opinion. Among unaffiliated voters 37% approve of the job Senator Gardner is doing and 35% disapprove.

President Trump’s approval ratings are definitely upside-down in Colorado. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is right on the precipice of being flipped on his head, but remember here that Magellan Strategies generally tilts rightward in its poll results.

Gardner should also be worried that he continues to poll far below Trump among likely Republican voters. In the Keating Research poll from March, Gardner had a 63% approval rating among Republicans compared to 83% for Trump. According to Magellan Strategies, Gardner has a 59% approval rating among Republicans compared to 85% for Trump. In short, Gardner is losing support among Colorado Republicans at the same time that Trump is slowly gaining favor.

There are a lot of reasons why Gardner is losing favor among voters, including Republicans, and it starts with his disinterest in speaking with constituents. It doesn’t help that Gardner is getting splinters in his pants from regularly riding the fence on issues while he bends over backward to show deference to Trump on subjects that are supposed to be right in his wheelhouse.

The only good news for Trump and Gardner is that they won’t have to appear again on a Colorado ballot until 2020. But for Republicans campaigning in 2018, these numbers must be absolutely terrifying.

Construction Defects Compromise Redux: Oh Lordy, Kumbaya

Denver’s Beauvallon, a construction-defects horror story.

As the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, a hammed-up drama that most ordinary people couldn’t care less about, the years-long campaign by condominium builders to shield themselves as much as possible from legal liability over defects in their construction, is nearing a possible solution after numerous fits and starts this session:

After four years of failed negotiations, business leaders and Democratic Colorado legislators finally have reached an agreement to move forward a bill that will reform construction-defects law with the aim of jump-starting what is largely a non-existent condominium construction market…

Just three weeks ago, Rep. Alec Garnett, the Denver Democrat leading negotiations with reform backers, announced that talks had hit a major impasse over demands from business leaders that the statute of limitations on discovering purported defects not be extended by as much as six months while condo owners vote on whether to proceed with a lawsuit.

However, a variety of interest groups agreed late Tuesday to reduce the time frame for extending the statute of limitations by just 90 days while narrowing the types of homeowners that could not vote in the election and defining more specifically how that election will occur, said Mike Kopp, the president and CEO of Colorado Concern who had a lead role in the negotiations…

Condominiums now make up less than 3 percent of the new housing stock in Colorado, and builders say they are unwilling to build because current law makes it too easy for just a small group of homeowners association board members to file multi-million-dollar defects lawsuits.

The change that brought parties back to the table on House Bill 17-1279 isn’t a dealbreaker for either side, and this bill preserves the right of condo owners to file suit instead of being forced into binding arbitration to resolve their claims. The position of homeowners’ groups and attorneys who represent homeowners in construction defects claims was always that preserving legal rights for homeowners is their hard limit. What this bill does do is put the decision in the hands of homeowners directly via an election instead of HOA boards, and requires notification of homeowners that a lawsuit might affect their ability to quickly sell their property.

Everyone agrees that Colorado needs more affordable housing, and suburban cities want to make the most of new trends like transit-oriented development. Although builders want to place the blame solely on being made to stand behind their work, there are more complicated market forces in play–as well as politics, since in recent years it’s arguable that builders had a straightforward political motive for not pursuing condo projects.

If the final bill passes with this latest compromise, all parties seem prepared to live with it–and in theory, new condo starts should pick up. Democrats led by Rep. Alec Garnett deserve credit for not abandoning their principles while working hard to get a deal that will finally put this inside-baseball issue to rest.

As for the public, they couldn’t care less–but if their condo’s roof starts leaking, they expect it to be fixed.