Why The Hell Would Republicans Oppose This Bill?

Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D).

The Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports on the curious story of Colorado House Bill 17-1270–bipartisan legislation that would accomplish a long-stated goal of Republicans in the state legislature, easing the “regulatory burden” on small businesses by allowing the state some flexibility on fines and a window to fix problems without penalty for minor first-time rule violators:

After helping to kill a Republican effort in the Colorado Legislature earlier this month to offer regulatory reform to small businesses, Democratic state Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp on Tuesday put her own regulatory-reform effort before a House committee, pushing the measure through its first test but running into partisan opposition that eventually could spell its doom.

House Bill 1270, which the Arvada Democrat is co-sponsoring with Roxborough Park GOP Rep. Polly Lawrence, requires that state agencies offer businesses of 50 or fewer employees 30 days to cure violations of new rules that don’t involve the public health or safety, and it gives them discretion to allow those companies even more time to seek remedies without getting fined…

The new effort differs from Senate Bill 1 in that it lowers from 500 workers to 50 the threshold for businesses that can be given the extra leniency by the state, and it gives agencies discretion to work more cooperatively with companies rather than forces them to do so.

SB 1 passed out of the Senate on a somewhat bipartisan 24-11 vote but died on a Democratic-led party-line vote on March 2 in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee — the same committee that passed HB 1270 by a tally of 9-4.

Republicans in this committee hearing yesterday were generally hostile towards the bill, despite the fact that it has bipartisan sponsorship and aims to accomplish a long-sought Republican policy goal. That appears to be because the bill only protects “small businesses” under 50 employees–a number that we think might honestly be a little flexible if Republicans were to join the process constructively, though the GOP’s goal of defining “small business” under the bill as 500 employees or fewer seems too excessive.

Regardless, this is a bill that would do something Republicans say they want–regulatory relief for small business. Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp has a reputation for being pro-business in the ways that matter most to her suburban district, and that means helping out small businesses. To be perfectly honest, we don’t really care much for this kind of regulation defanging for-its-own-sake exercise. The best regulatory relief we can think of for any business is, sorry to be rude about this, compliance.

But if the GOP isn’t willing to get on board with a significant concession to their framing on the issue of government regulations, more or less handed to them on a plate by pro-business Democrats, you have to ask whether they’ve lost sight of their priorities.

And maybe what their priorities really are.

The Trump Budget: 15 Threats to Opportunity in Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Trump released his “Skinny Budget” March 16, a broad outline of his priorities for the federal budget.  He proposes to increase spending on defense by $54 billion and pay for it with cuts to other areas.

Based on our initial review of the data provided, we find his budget to be shortsighted.  It chokes off investments that promote opportunity for moderate- and low-income Americans and shifts the costs from the federal government to the states and families. It hurts many of the people who Trump claims to represent and, when coupled with his other proposals on health care and tax reform, will exacerbate income inequality.

While there’s not much data in the skinny budget – he put more details in some of his tweets –Trump’s vision for America is clear.

About $8 billion or 30 percent of Colorado’s $27 billion total operating budget for this year comes from the federal government, most of it going to health care, human services, education and transportation.

While important, federal funding to the states has been declining for decades when measured as a percentage of the overall economy. Nationwide, federal spending on grants to the states is lower today than it was over three decades ago in 1980.  It is substantially lower than it was in 2010, with discretionary spending down by about one-third since then.

Here are some of more egregious proposed cuts and how they make it difficult for Coloradans to get ahead economically.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 21)

Colorado State University lost its game Monday, so you can stop pretending to care about the NIT. Please settle in as we 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…

► House Republicans are still working toward a Thursday vote on Trumpcare, and the President himself is on Capitol Hill making threats and demands. As the Washington Post reports, President Trump’s tough talk may not be enough to sway skeptical Republicans:

President Trump went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning to sell the House GOP leadership’s plan to overhaul the health-care system as the legislation races toward an expected vote on the House floor by the end of the week. Assuring Republicans that they would gain seats if they passed the bill, the president told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to stand up and take some advice.

“I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’ ” Trump said, according to several Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”

But after the meeting, Meadows told reporters that the president had not made the sale, that the call-out was good-natured and that conservative holdouts would continue to press for a tougher bill.

“I’m still a ‘no,’ ” he said. “I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their votes.”

After meeting with Republicans, Trump predicted “a real winner” following Thursday’s planned vote, though Politico also reports that members of the Freedom Caucus were not swayed by Trump’s appearance. Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) also says that he has not yet decided whether to support Trumpcare.

 

► Denver Judge Neil Gorsuch continues to take tough questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the first part of his confirmation hearing to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch was asked repeatedly this morning about how he might rule on cases relating to abortion, as Politico explains:

Gorsuch declined to say whether Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, was correctly decided more than four decades ago.

The comments came in an exchange about legal precedent with Grassley, who appeared eager to stave off Democratic attempts to pin Gorsuch down on controversial issues.

Roe “is a precedent of the United States Supreme Court,” Gorsuch testified.

“I’m not in a position to tell you whether I’d personally like or dislike any precedent. That’s not relevant to my job,” Gorsuch in the discussion with Grassley. “Precedent … deserves our respect. And to come in and think that just because I’m new or the latest thing I’d know better than everybody who comes before me would be an act of hubris.”

When asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) whether he viewed Roe as a “super precedent,” Gorsuch responded: “It has been reaffirmed many times, I can say that.”

Last weekend, the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University confidently proclaimed that Gorsuch would help to overturn Roe v. Wade. These are the same geniuses that think you should boycott the new Beauty and the Beast movie.

 

► Senate Republican leaders in the Colorado legislature killed a bipartisan measure intended to make adjustments to TABOR in order to free more money for education and infrastructure needs. Republican leadership instead offered up its own solution for dealing with Colorado’s budget woes…nah, just kidding.

 

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

Nyet, Comrade: Senate GOP Leadership Kills GOP TABOR Fix

Sen. Larry Crowder.

As the AP’s James Anderson reports:

A Senate committee led by Republicans who oppose tampering with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights on Monday defeated a measure to ask Colorado voters if they want to keep more tax revenue for roads, education and health care.

GOP Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa wanted to ask voters to change the way limits on state revenue are calculated under TABOR, the constitutional amendment adopted in 1992.

But the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee voted 3-2 along party lines to reject the bill.

Colorado Senate GOP leadership made no attempt to conceal their opposition to House Bill 1187, which would have changed the revenue limit under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights from being indexed against inflation and population growth to personal income growth:

Peter Marcus of the Colorado Springs Gazette adds:

What was unique about House Bill 1187 was that the bill was sponsored by two Republicans: Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa. It picked up one additional Republican vote in the House when Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, supported it.

The bill had the support of two other Republicans in committee – Reps. Polly Lawrence of Littleton and Phil Covarrubias of Brighton – but they pulled their support when the bill was up for a final vote in the Democratic-controlled House.

Right-leaning advocacy groups at the capitol led by the Independence Institute reportedly put intense pressure on the few “backsliding” Republicans willing to support asking the voters for this fix–which is supposed to be consistent with the spirit of TABOR, but in practice TABOR’s so-called defenders in the legislature reliably oppose.

This outcome is not unexpected of course, and in light of the transportation deal leadership in both chambers is also struggling to get through the Republican gauntlet, it’s a reasonable question whether the timing was right for this. Either way, certainly this has been one of the most visible bipartisan pushes to relax TABOR’s chokehold on state revenue since 2005’s Referendum C. And the case made by Rep. Dan Thurlow and Sen. Larry Crowder was compelling even while it was ignored by the Senate “kill committee.”

“We have to fix the process in order to make logical decisions on the budget,” Thurlow said recently. “If they want us to prioritize, they have to take away the restrictions.”

Crowder’s rural southern Colorado district has suffered because of budget-balancing tactics that include reducing fees paid by hospitals to secure matching federal funds. Those fees are counted as state revenue under TABOR, and when they are cut to balance the budget, rural hospitals get less.

“If you look at it realistically, what are we doing here if we can’t govern?” Crowder said. “There is no holy grail in government. Period. Including TABOR.” [Pols emphasis]

A commendable effort that deserves better than it got yesterday from the Senate State Affairs committee. Here’s to this small crack in the highest wall in Colorado politics growing bigger next year.

Make America Great (Except for Science, Arts, and Poor People)

President Trump unveiled his federal budget plans today, and HOLYCRAPWHATAREYOUTHINKING? As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad.

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals.

“President Trump’s proposed budget will have devastating consequences for our country and for Colorado. I will do my best to fight against the cuts affecting hardworking families, federal employees, businesses and research organizations.”

— Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Trump probably doesn’t have the support in Congress to enact this budget proposal, which includes dramatic cuts to popular programs that nobody in their right mind would stand behind. Indeed many Congressional Republicans reacted with swift opposition. Again, from the Washington Post:

Congressional Republicans also protested cuts that might hurt their districts and states. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who had been White House budget director under President George W. Bush,  issued a statement “strongly opposing” Trump’s proposed elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Portman vowed to “fight to preserve” the program, which he said had been “an invaluable resource” to Ohio by generating more than $80 billion in benefits in health, tourism and recreation. [Pols emphasis]

Yeah. Good luck finding a lot of Members of Congress who are willing to look the other way while popular local initiatives get whacked. The attack ads for someone like Sen. Portman virtually write themselves (here’s an outline of the specific programs that would be all but eliminated under Trump’s proposal). In fact, congress may be protecting Trump from himself by opposing this plan; as Politico explains, the result of Trump’s budget proposal would be a devastating blow to a good number of Trump voters:

But while Trump’s first stab at budget politics has some eye-popping cuts, if passed it would also hurt many of the voters who supported him as a result of its slashing of after-school programs, job training and disease-fighting research — a line item that both Republicans and Democrats tend to support.

Unless the Department of Defense is ready with an advanced new weapon that can blow up cancer and keep kids from getting in trouble after school, Trump’s $54 billion in extra defense spending isn’t going to mean squat for most Americans.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 14)

If you’re having trouble reading today’s edition of Get More Smarter, note that we are also sending it out via microwave ovens. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Trumpcare Would Leave 24 Million Without Health Coverage

Vice President Mike Pence announcing support for Trumpcare last week (Sen. Cory Gardner is on the left of the photo)

The numbers are in! As the Associated Press reports, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reviewed the House Republican healthcare plan, also known as Trumpcare, and the math doesn’t look good:

Fourteen million Americans would lose coverage next year under House Republican legislation remaking the nation’s health care system, and that figure would grow to 24 million by 2026, Congress’ nonpartisan budget analysts projected Monday. [Pols emphasis] The figures dealt a blow to a GOP drive already under fire from both parties and large segments of the medical industry.

The report by the Congressional Budget Office flies in the face of President Donald Trump’s aim of “insurance for everybody,” and he has been assailing the credibility of the CBO in advance of the release. Administration officials quickly took strong issue with it.

Congressional Republicans and The White House had anticipated poor marks from the CBO, which is why they spent much of the last week talking about how little confidence they had in the CBO’s forecasting abilities. But today’s CBO report may be much worse than Republicans could have predicted; remember those claims that Obamacare is unstable and on the verge of collapse? Yeah, not so much:

“Insurance for everybody!”

— President Trump speaking about GOP healthcare plans in January.

 

It also undercuts a central argument that he and other Republicans have cited for swiftly rolling back former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul: that the health insurance markets created under the 2010 law are unstable and about to implode. The congressional experts said that largely would not be the case and the market for individual health insurance policies “would probably be stable in most areas either under current law or the (GOP) legislation.”

“Nobody will be worse off financially…”

— Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, speaking about Trumpcare on Sunday.

Today’s report also undercuts statements made by President Trump just this morning, when he said, “Things are gonna be very bad this year for the people with Obamacare. They’re gonna have tremendous increases.” As it turns out, according to the CBO, Trumpcare would cost Americans much more than Obamacare:

…The budget office found that average premiums for individuals would rise in 2018 and 2019 by 15 percent to 20 percent compared to current law, because Republicans would eliminate the penalties designed to induce people to buy insurance coverage.

Aside from the fact that Trumpcare will leave 24 million people uninsured and will be more expensive for those who can still manage to get coverage, this is a great piece of legislation!

All Eyes on Cory Gardner: Protect Main Street, not Wall Street

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

By Rich Jones

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

A critical vote could come in the U.S. Senate as soon as this week. And Sen. Cory Gardner has the chance to stand up for his constituents instead of appeasing Wall Street interests lobbying him to stymie local and state efforts to tackle our nation’s retirement needs. Nearly 800,000 Coloradans have no access to retirement plans at work and many businesses struggle to offer their employees low-fee options. Colorado is selling itself as a start-up friendly state. But few entrepreneurs can easily offer benefits like retirement programs. Making it easy for everyone to begin building wealth early in their careers helps all Coloradans.

Last month, the U.S. House approved H.J Res. 66 & H.J. Res. 67 and sent these ill-conceived measures to the Senate. They would bar state and local governments from creating low-fee savings plans that help people without options at work to get a jump start on saving.

Our country faces a retirement crisis of epic proportions. The U.S. Census bureau just released data showing that 55 million Americans have no retirement plan at work. Even worse, the average retirement savings is a paltry $5,000.

When individuals save, states do too. Economists in Utah found that if retirees who had the smallest nest eggs had boosted their savings by just 10 percent, or about $14,000 on average during their working years, taxpayers could have spent $194 million less to support them.

Given the gravity of the crisis, it’s perplexing that members of Congress would want to halt innovation in the states, especially Republicans who have long touted states’ rights. These plans have the backing of numerous state officials — including many Republican state treasurers — in Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, and Utah.  The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures urges the Senate to defeat H.J. Res 66 writing, “Passage of this resolution … will result in an unwarranted preemption of state innovation, will restrict the ability of millions of hardworking Americans to save for retirement, and will prove costly to federal and state budgets”.

Dig beneath the surface on the vote in the House and you’ll see that many Congress members are trying to pay back their pals in the finance industry who don’t want average Americans to have low-fee, automatic alternatives. Senators should be more sensible and help workers of all ages save for their later years.

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GOP Lawmakers Say Reform TABOR! GOP Leaders Say, “Meh”

Colorado Senate President Snidely Whiplash Kevin Grantham.

Peter Marcus of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the ongoing effort by a pair of Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, to enact a change to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that would allow the state to keep more revenue when economic times are good–by changing TABOR’s revenue cap growth index from the rate of inflation plus population to the growth of personal incomes in the state.

Senate Republican leadership on Tuesday described an effort to reform TABOR as “interesting,” though leaders say it is not representative of the majority of the caucus’ priorities.

Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City responded when asked about the proposal, which has sponsorship from two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa.

The lawmakers are proposing that the state’s spending cap under TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution — be tied to personal income rather than the current formula: inflation plus population change. The idea is that government would be allowed to grow when economic times are good…

Crowder and Thurlow have both ran afoul of conservative advocacy groups at the state capitol over stands that deviated from the hard party line. Crowder in particular angered well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity with his DOA proposal last year to exempt the state’s hospital provider fee from TABOR’s revenue limit, one of the biggest public breaks for a Republican from the pro-TABOR orthodoxy since 2005’s Referendum C backed by then-Gov. Bill Owens. Like in 2005, what we’re seeing today is TABOR forcing an arbitrary limit on revenue the state can keep–creating the bizarre conundrum of meager tax refund checks going out to citizens while basic functions of government face heavy budget cuts.

So it’s great to see this effort from two Republican lawmakers to make a small but sensible change to TABOR: one that preserves the law’s stated objectives, while not imposing a limit to revenue growth that deprives the state of the ability to carry out essential functions to serve our growing population. But unfortunately, Thurlow’s and Crowder’s good intentions are hitting a wall with the GOP leadership in the Colorado Senate:

“It’s an interesting concept,” [Senate President Kevin] Grantham said. “We have to look at what’s the end result of what this bill will do. The end result will be more money out of taxpayer’s pockets. They like to call that state revenue. When I hear that, I hear money out of taxpayer’s pockets.” [Pols emphasis]

And with that, any chance of an adult discussion of this Republican-authored proposal to help the state to carry out its basic responsibilities…evaporates.

Better luck in 2019, we guess.

Worst Construction Defects Bill Ever?

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

Denver7’s Lance Hernandez reports–the issue of reforming state law as it pertains to homeowner rights to sue builders over defects in the construction of their homes, in particular multifamily residential developments, has been an annual flashpoint in the Colorado General Assembly for several years. Lobbyists for construction companies claim it’s “too easy” to sue over defects, while homeowners say the only “problem” is that builders don’t want to stand behind their work.

After some talk of bipartisanship on the issue early in the session, Republicans in the Colorado Senate “moved beyond” the compromise that had been agreed upon between themselves and the Democratic House, and introduced legislation that would crack down on homeowner’s rights. Among those bills, GOP Sen. Jack Tate’s Senate Bill 155 might be the shortest in length–and the most brazen in terms of screwing homeowners:

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Weld County, seeks to redefine the term “construction defect” to mean, “a defect in the design or construction of any improvement to real property that causes damage, the loss of use or personal injury.”

“It’s absurd,” said Fort Collins homeowner Michael Pretz. “You have to have a bad outcome before you can consider it a construction [defect].”

Pretz said he and his neighbors sued their developer because some of the attics in their townhomes didn’t have adequate drywall between the firewalls, and because retaining walls were not built with adequate anchors.

“I worked in the fire service for 35 years,” he said. “When you get a fire that goes unchecked from unit to unit, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Pretz said under this proposed bill, you wouldn’t have any recourse unless there was a fire that caused significant damage. [Pols emphasis]

Requiring homeowners to suffer the consequences from a construction defect before being able to sue to fix it goes against any reasonable policy goal of harm reduction–for the sole purpose of reducing the liability of construction companies to situations where their shoddy workmanship has actually hurt people. We think most people would agree it’s a lot better to get a known construction defect fixed before it hurts people, even if that’s maybe not the most financially advantageous situation for construction companies.

It’s one of those bills that’s so bad you can hardly believe a legislator had the gall to put their name on it.

And yet here we are.

Republican Legislators Can’t Keep Healthcare Talking Points Straight

State Sen. Jimmy Smallwood

As you may have heard, President Trump and Congressional Republicans would like to repeal Obamacare…except that they have no idea what to do for a replacement plan. Here in Colorado, GOP lawmakers have their own proposal to tank the State Health Exchange, part of a nonsense plan that would rely on the Affordable Care Act to pick up the slack at a federal level (of course, the ACA may or may not continue to exist under the current Congress).

As John Frank of the Denver Post reported earlier this week, state Sen. Jim Smallwood is leading Republican efforts to repeal the state health exchange. Take a look at how he explains the GOP rationale here:

Sen. Jim Smallwood, a health insurance broker, is leading the effort to repeal the state exchange, a move that would send Colorado residents to the federal marketplace to buy insurance. The bill is not expected to advance through the Democratic-led House, but the GOP is rallying to the cause.

The freshman Republican lawmaker from Parker is adamant that his bill is not a political statement or “a vendetta against President Obama.” [Pols emphasis] Instead, he argues, the measure is designed to save the state money by eliminating a tax break for insurance companies and preventing future fees on health care plans…

…”There appear to be some obvious failures systemically within the gut of our state-based exchange, and my thought was, would the same thing happen if we were on healthcare.gov?” Smallwood said in a recent interview.

According to Sen. Smallwood, local efforts to eliminate the state health exchange have nothing at all to do with partisan rancor over Obamacare.

State Sen. Owen Hill

Except…well, that’s not what state Sen. Owen Hill says in an Op-Ed for the Colorado Statesman this week:

It won’t be easy, but Republicans have promised the American people a better way on health care, and our state and national leaders must deliver. [Pols emphasis]

Voters have elected a Republican majority in D.C., expecting them to repeal Obamacare…

…I’m proud that my fellow Republicans in Washington are determined to fulfill their campaign promise to repeal the ACA. But this is no mere public policy debate because real people’s lives and jobs are on the line. The GOP Congress and President Trump must also keep another of their campaign promises — to do right by American workers — if they want this repeal to truly improve the lives and health care of the American people.

When Republicans in Congress repeal Obamacare as they have pledged, they must make sure to replace it with a fair and free market where the government plays by the same rules as the rest of us. This means paying fair market value for health care services. Washington D.C. has mismanaged Medicare and Medicaid for years, forcing the rest of us to pick up the tab in other ways.

Republican legislators are saying two totally different things in response to concerns about trying to eliminate the state health exchange. Sen. Smallwood says this has nothing to do with the ACA and that his bill would allow the federal insurance market to pick up the slack for Colorado. Sen. Hill says this has everything to do with the ACA and is hopeful that there won’t even be a federal marketplace for healthcare sometime soon.

This entire exercise is completely idiotic, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the State Senate Majority can’t even keep their talking points straight.

Trump Takes First Step in Dumping TPP; Sen. Gardner Left Hanging

Sen. Cory Gardner isn’t saying much of anything about TPP since Donald Trump was elected.

President Donald Trump signed a couple of executive orders this morning aimed at backing up some of his campaign rhetoric, including the first step in withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As the New York Times reports:

President Trump formally abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday, pulling away from Asia and scrapping his predecessor’s most significant trade deal on his first full weekday in office, administration officials said.

Mr. Trump sharply criticized the partnership agreement during last year’s campaign, calling it a bad deal for American workers. Although the deal had not been approved by Congress, the decision to withdraw the American signature at the start of Mr. Trump’s administration is a signal that he plans to follow through on promises to take a more aggressive stance against foreign competitors…

…The president’s withdrawal from the Asian-Pacific trade pact amounted to a drastic reversal of decades of economic policy in which presidents of both parties have lowered trade barriers and expanded ties around the world. Although candidates have often criticized trade deals on the campaign trail, those who made it to the White House, including President Barack Obama, ended up extending their reach.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Mr. Trump said as he signed a document formalizing his decision. The withdrawal from the trade pact, he added, is a “great thing for the American worker.”

Trump may not be “down with TPP,” but this move puts Republicans such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in a difficult position. Gardner, of course, has long been an outspoken supporter of the controversial trade deal. In an address to the Forum for Global Leadership in Denver, Colorado in July 2015 (video below), Gardner called the TPP “perhaps one of the most important achievements of this Congress” and was effusive in praising its merits:

“One of the best opportunities we have in a generation is the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Since the election of Donald Trump as President, however, Gardner has largely avoided the issue of TPP in favor of general blustery statements about the importance of international trade in general. Here’s Gardner speaking with National Public Radio (NPR) last week:

It is extremely important that the United States lead on matters of trade. We want a world trade opportunity that looks like it’s based on U.S. norms and the values that we hold, in terms of free markets and economic value. So it is important that we continue to advance trade alliances and opportunities to enter into trade agreements.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) has had a mixed history with TPP, but said in October that he opposed the deal in its current form. Bennet’s role here is much less significant than that of Gardner, who also happens to be the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy (under the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Gardner is in a leadership position in the Republican Senate, with a specific focus on trade with Asia, and he is working under a newly-inaugurated President of the same political party who made it one of his priorities to ditch TPP on his first full workday in the Oval Office.

Gardner’s opinion here is more than relevant, but speaking out against Trump won’t help him get off the President’s naughty list, so Gardner will do little more than wave as TPP slinks away.

Boeing Survives Trump Twitter Onslaught–This Time

UPDATE: MarketWatch tallies the damage:

—–

President-elect Donald Trump.

President-elect Donald Trump.

President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which may or may not be making autonomous decisions about the fate of the free world at this point, struck again early this morning with an outburst directed at one of America’s most important worldwide export businesses, aircraft manufacturer Boeing:

Donald Trump on Tuesday called for the cancellation of a Defense Department contract with Boeing to build the next generation of presidential aircraft, decrying the deal as too expensive.

“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” the president-elect wrote on Twitter.

As it turns out, Trump’s Twitter tirade against Boeing came in response to comments from the CEO of the company that were apparently not supportive enough of the incoming President’s trade policies:

Trump’s tweet came just 22 minutes after the Chicago Tribune published comments by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who said he worried that Trump’s promises of a more protectionist trade policy could hurt his company, which does robust business with China. Muilenburg told the Tribune that he would urge the president-elect to take a warmer stance toward the kinds of trade deals he railed against on the campaign trail, warning, “If we do not lead when it comes to writing these rules, our competitors will write them for us.”

Per usual, nobody knows where Trump got these numbers from, as Yahoo! News’ Michael Walsh reports:

It’s not clear how Trump, who frequently tweets exaggerated or baseless claims, arrived at that number. Reuters, citing budget documents, reported that the “budgeted costs for the Air Force One replacement program are $2.87 billion for the fiscal years 2015 through 2021.”

The aircraft manufacturing company issued a statement clarifying that it is currently under contract for $170 million to determine the capabilities of the new aircraft.

But who cares? The message Trump wanted to send was sent.

Boeing stock slumped Tuesday morning in the wake of the president-elect’s remark, [Pols emphasis] but rebounded somewhat as the morning progressed.

Yes, Boeing’s stock price rebounded once the market realized Trump’s attacks were baseless, but Trump’s ability to hurt Boeing’s market valuation just by Tweeting about them is a warning that very few CEOs in America will miss. The nexus of President-elect Trump’s celebrity influence and the real power he is about to have as President is producing something new in our politics.

And if Trump is going to use it to silence his critics, it’s both new and scary.

Act before it’s too late for overtime pay!

Yesterday, a federal judge in Texas “temporarily” blocked President Barack Obama’s new overtime rules, which would have given millions of the hardest-working Americans a fairer deal for the long hours they put in. Preventing the new overtime rule from taking effect means the next President avoids the blame for taking millions of dollars in earnings away from American workers who need it most.

It’s a terrible swindle just in time to get buried by a long holiday weekend.

We’re running out of time to fix this before President Obama leaves office. This misguided ruling must be reversed now. Sign our petition: tell the Obama administration’s Labor Department to immediately appeal to a higher court and fight to the last day they’re in office.

The rules governing overtime pay for millions of salaried American workers haven’t been updated in 40 years. That’s the reason workers making as little as $24,000 a year can be exempted from overtime laws. The new rules would have put money into the pockets of over four million middle class working Americans starting December 1st.

Now it’s not going to happen, and we have to speak out. Salaried workers making between $25,000 and $50,000 per year are the heart of our economy–the next aspiring middle class, young families and professionals, made up of Americans of every ethnicity and background. If we can’t protect the American Dream for these hardworking Americans putting in 60, 70 or more hours per week thanklessly, what kind of country are we going to leave to the next generation?

Help us send the message right now that our fellow Americans deserve better. Tell President Obama’s Labor Department to do whatever it takes to implement the new overtime pay rule.

Thank you for taking action on this critical issue.