Jared Polis Owns The Town Hall

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Jennifer Rios reports–this weekend, Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder held two public in-person town hall events in Broomfield and Fort Collins, both by all accounts highly successful and packed to the proverbial gills:

A warm welcome and words of gratitude greeted Rep. Jared Polis in Broomfield where the congressman answered community questions at the first of two town halls Sunday.

A mariachi group serenaded the approximately 1,000 constituents from Broomfield, Boulder, Longmont, Erie, Lafayette and Louisville who formed a line outside the Broomfield High School gymnasium.

Polis, who represents the 2nd congressional district, gave a short address before turning microphones over to residents who asked questions on topics that ranged from education and health care to the environment, as well as general fears and disdain about the Donald Trump administration.

And the Loveland Reporter-Herald’s Saja Hindi reports from Fort Collins:

Earlier, he held a town hall in Broomfield that drew 1,000 attendees. The CSU event attracted 800.

“So many people are engaged and worried about what’s going on or want to know what’s going on,” Polis said in an interview.

Despite the Republican majority in both houses of Congress and the White House, Polis told attendees at the event that he’s working on several bipartisan bills and said he would work with the president if there’s a way on tax policy and infrastructure.

However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold serious concerns, ones that attendees at the event appeared to share from their questions — the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement with one many won’t be able to afford; anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies; taking a step back on LGBTQ equal rights; and defunding Planned Parenthood; among others.

And with that, Rep. Polis just showed up every other member of Colorado’s congressional delegation! Polis isn’t the only Colorado congressional representative who makes a point of retail politicking–Rep. Ed Perlmutter regularly holds his “Government in the Grocery” outreach events as well, and Rep. Diana DeGette regularly engages locally including a press conference today in Denver on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Although GOP Rep. Scott Tipton hasn’t held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of he year, Tipton did show up unannounced to an in-absentia town hall in Paonia organized by the Indivisible group.

But as of now, Polis has set the standard that every other representative in both parties should live up to. That includes both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators. Yes, he faced a friendlier audience than a Republican would today, and found common ground with attendees where Republicans would meet with hostility.

But this, as much as anything, is their job.

(Some) Colorado Lawmakers React Angrily To Trump Weed Threats

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning reports:

Word that the White House could begin cracking down on the marijuana trade in states that have legalized the drug drew swift rebuke Thursday from Democratic lawmakers in Colorado, the first state to cultivate a recreational pot industry.

“Whether it is building a wall or stripping protections for trans students, President Trump has already shown he’s willing to trample Colorado values to further his regressive agenda,” said state Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, in a statement. “Now, he’s going to use his Department of Justice to trample states’ rights? The people of Colorado voted for the legalization of recreational marijuana, and the federal government needs to respect the will of Coloradans.”

…U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat and a founder of the bipartisan congressional Cannabis Caucus, invoked states’ rights and the burgeoning marijuana economy in his sharp criticism of Spicer’s statement.

“The president has said time and again that the decision about marijuana needs to be left to the states,” Polis said in a statement. “Now either the president is flip-flopping or his staff is, once again, speaking out of turn; either way, these comments leave doubt and uncertainty for the marijuana industry, stifling job growth in my state. The public has spoken on recreational marijuana, we’ve seen it work in Colorado, and now is the time to lift the federal prohibition.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper has a less strident but still fairly supportive tone, via Politico:

Hickenlooper also weighed in on the issue of legalized marijuana. Following White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s statement Thursday that the Department of Justice would be “taking action” on the recreational use of marijuana, Hickenlooper called legalized marijuana “one of the great experiments of the 21st century.”

He said while he was against legalized marijuana, the state has anecdotally seen less drug dealers and has not experienced an uptick in usage among teenagers.

Twenty-four hours since the Trump administration’s announcement of “greater enforcement” of federal law prohibiting recreational marijuana sales and possession, we’re struck by how little comment there’s been from Colorado politicians–especially Republican Colorado politicians who presumably would be opposed, and would have more pull interceding on Colorado’s behalf with Trump than Democratic lawmakers.

Yesterday’s announcement by White House spokesman Sean Spicer contained very little in the way of details on what the “greater enforcement” against marijuana would look like, and the administration has refused requests for more information. That vacuum leaves room for rumor and misinformation that further darkens the picture for this billion-dollar industry.

If we really do value the marijuana industry’s economic and public revenue benefits to our state, the time to speak up is right now. That includes, in fact it’s fair to say it depends on, Republicans with access to the new administration leading the opposition.

If they don’t? Well, there are going to be a lot of upset (and sober) stoners voting in 2018.

Ken Buck Only Member of Colo. Delegation to Back Travel Ban

Rep. Ken Buck presses whatever button President Trump prefers.

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) has generally refused to answer reporter questions about his position on Donald Trump’s travel ban for immigrants, leaving local news outlets such as Denver7 and the Denver Post to guess about his position on one of the more pressing issues in the country. But Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman will not be denied; as Luning reports, Rep. Buck on Monday offered his unqualified support for the Muslim travel ban:

“Our country has always offered hope for the oppressed and homeless, but hope also requires safety and security,” Buck said. We should not let people into this country unless we can thoroughly vet them. America welcomes Muslims from 190 countries and temporarily bans all individuals from 7 countries. The President’s executive order is a temporary effort that addresses a serious issue with terrorist hot spots.”

Congressman Buck is the only member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to offer his full support for Trump’s travel ban. Even Colorado Springs Rep. Doug Lamborn made it clear that he opposes Trump’s Executive Order creating the travel ban.

Jared Polis Attending Trump’s Inauguration and The Protest, Too

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Nick Coltrain reports:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jared Polis still plan to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, even as almost 50 of their Democratic congressional colleagues plan to boycott the event…

Polis and Bennet both stumped for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the fall. Polis has vowed to fight many of Trump’s proposals and said he would register as a Muslim in protest if Trump followed through with plans for a religion-based registry.

Polis will attend the inauguration “out of a respect for our democracy and the peaceful transition of power,” spokesperson Jessica Bralish told the Coloradoan. He will also join the Women’s March on Washington the day after “to display the importance of holding the Trump Administration accountable,” she said.

This seems like a good way to split the difference. The fact is that peaceful transfers of power to and from opposing political factions is a time-honored and very important component of the American political system. Even with a candidate as controversial and divisive as Donald Trump, there’s an understandable pull on lawmakers to honor the system if not, you know, the man. Your mileage may vary, but we can’t bring ourselves to disparage Democrats who make the choice to follow protocol on Friday.

On the other hand, we wouldn’t want to miss the fun on Saturday.

Rep. Polis Responds To Stephen Bannon Appointment

Stephen Bannon.

Stephen Bannon.

Here’s a statement from Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, whose office has been inundated with calls about the announcement by President-elect Donald Trump that controversial political strategist Stephen Bannon will take a high-level advisory job in the new administration:

Today community member after community member has contacted my office about the appointment of Steve Bannon to the Trump administration. I am heartened to serve a community that will not stand idly by. The country needs you now more than ever. They need to know you care and are willing to advocate for the principles and values we hold dear.

While Congress has no authority to stop Trump from appointing Bannon, like you – I choose to use my voice to speak out against discrimination. And like many of you, I find Steve Bannon’s history of racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric sickening. That is why I signed onto a letter with fellow U.S. Representatives asking Trump to reconsider. [Pols emphasis]

I assure you that in Congress, I will defend the freedom of all Americans, and advocate on behalf of those who Trump targeted during the election – women, Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and all minorities.

We know the truth. The truth is that our freedom and liberties are all tied together, and none of us can be truly free and liberated while holding back another group.

I still have faith in the American people, and I ask you to keep that faith too. Give your neighbors the benefit of doubt and go out of your way to be welcoming.

I remind you of what MLK said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Guess Who Hasn’t Voted Yet?

TUESDAY UPDATE: As of this morning, still no returned ballots for the Coffmans or Sen. Gardner.

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Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) once promised to spill the beans on his choice for President “when ballots go out.” Denver Post reporter Jon Murray followed up with Coffman’s campaign recently to see if and when the Congressman would make his choice at the top of the ticket, and we’re still waiting:

(more…)

Amendment 71 is a power grab by special interests

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

I am voting no on Amendment 71, otherwise known as “Raise the Bar,” a question that will be on your Colorado ballot that you will receive later this month. While Amendment 71 is being sold as a common sense reform package to the ballot initiative process, in reality, it’s nothing less than a power grab by the political and corporate elites and almost entirely funded by the oil and gas industry.

Amendment 71 would erode Coloradans’ right to petition their government for change, as well as reduce access to direct democracy through the ballot initiative process.

While there is a need for ballot reform in Colorado, there are plenty of reasonable approaches to do so without stripping away the rights of everyday Coloradans. Amendment 71 is not the solution.

Look no further than the powerful special interests that are funding this campaign to understand what this is all about: money and power. Nearly 75 percent of the money funding the pro-Amendment 71 effort, over three million dollars, comes from the oil and gas industry. Amendment 71 would not only make it much harder to bring forward initiatives to regulate drilling and fracking, it would also detrimentally impact nearly all the issues that we progressives care about.

For example, I was proud to help put forth Amendment 41 in 2006, a successful ballot initiative that banned lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers and established an independent ethics commission to protect the public interest from political corruption. Under the changes proposed in Amendment 71, our effort to protect the public interest from corruption would not have been successful.

Amendment 23 in 2000, which I helped bring forward to better fund schools, would also not have become law.

Amendment 71 changes the signature requirements for initiatives so that one State Senate District can veto the rest of the state’s wishes. It’s not hard to imagine how this will play out in future elections: Imagine, a group of civic leaders, teachers, parents and grassroots organizers come together to finally reform TABOR and provide adequate funding for Colorado schools. Now imagine the Koch brother’s vast network swoops in with a well-funded “decline to sign” campaign in just one State Senate District, say in El Paso county or Eastern Colorado, that prevents the grassroots effort from ever getting the signatures now needed under Amendment 71 to access that ballot. Teachers, students, and parents would lose, and dark-money Princes David and Charles Koch would win. This is unacceptable.

Let’s be clear, Amendment 71 dictates who is allowed to change the state constitution and who is not. Amendment 71 ensures that only corporations and the ultra wealthy will have the ability change the laws, and it shuts the door on citizens and grassroots movements from doing the same. In an era where we already have a dangerous level of concentrated power with the elites and special interests, Amendment 71 would be the nail in the coffin for grassroots social change in Colorado through initiatives.

I encourage you to join Colorado educators, Common Cause, and me in opposing dangerous Amendment 71 and spreading the word to your friends and neighbors.

Polis: Fracking Fight Is Not Going Away

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Via the Colorado Statesman’s David O. Williams, Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder responds to the failure of two statewide ballot measures to obtain enough petition signatures to qualify this year–one of which he financially supported:

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis on Monday told The Colorado Statesman that the battle for greater local control over oil and gas drilling will keep coming back every two years if the State Legislature is unable to take action on the emotionally charged issue of fracking in and around neighborhoods.

“Issues are always best addressed legislatively, but if the Legislature fails to address it, I’m sure proponents of ballot initiatives will be back,” Polis told The Statesman on Monday after Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams concluded supporters of two anti-fracking ballot initiatives — one of which Polis backed — didn’t collect enough valid voter signatures.

Polis gave $25,000 to Yes for Local Control Over Oil and Gas, the group pushing Initiative 75 that would have given local governments more regulatory control over oil and gas drilling within town and county boundaries, including possibly banning fracking in certain areas. Drilling is currently regulated primarily by the state…

Polis supported anti-fracking ballot initiatives in 2014 and worked toward a legislative solution in what would have been a special session designed to avoid a ballot fight. He later supported a deal with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper that formed an oil and gas task force to hopefully address the setback and local-control issues.

fracksmokeRep. Polis did not contribute to Initiative 78, which would have mandated a very large 2,500 foot setback for new oil and gas development from existing structures. Likewise, leading environmental advocacy group Conservation Colorado endorsed Initiative 75 (local control) but not 78. Although both the local control and setback ballot measures were jointly promoted during the petition drive, opinions on the two different approaches even among environmentalists are not unanimous. For everyone except those who very deliberately are seeking to completely ban the practice of “fracking” for oil and gas, the large inflexible setbacks in Initiative 78 just aren’t workable–and if you want to ban fracking, you should be honest about that in your proposal.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the realistic battleground in the ongoing debate over oil and gas development under the urbanizing Front Range of Colorado is going to be over the rights of local cities to regulate the industry within their boundaries to a greater degree than the state oil and gas commission. The ballot measure fights in 2014 and this year both stem from decisions by local voters and governments in Front Range cities to ban or place moratoria on fracking within their boundaries. Many of those bans and moratoria have been overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court, but Polis is absolutely correct that the issue isn’t going away. Until a better deal is struck between mineral rights holders and the growing population centers on the surface–one that recognizes that human beings on the surface do indeed matter more than the minerals beneath–every election is going to be haunted by these unsatisfied grievances.

In the Denver Post today, even Gov. John “Frackenlooper” Hickenlooper paid lip service to this ongoing challenge:

The Democratic governor said he wants to “continue the discussions” between the energy sector and supporters of the two unsuccessful ballot measures, which would have prohibited new oil and gas facilities within 2,500 feet of homes, and given more power to local governments to restrict fracking. But he offered no specifics. [Pols emphasis]

“I think most of the people I’ve talked to both in the environmental community and the oil and gas industry recognize that there is more work to be done,” he said.

The trick, as we’ve learned now in two disappointing election cycles, will be turning that lip service into something tangible–for local residents and local governments who have been pleading with Hickenlooper’s administration for years for better protections. “Banning fracking” should not be the goal of environmentalists in Colorado, but effective control of oil and gas drilling to ensure local governments can make land-use decisions that are appropriate for their communities.

Every legislative session, like every election, is a fresh chance to do the right thing.

Another Early GOP Ad Full of Bull


As the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Nick Coltrain reports:

The first ad produced in the race for Larimer County’s Congressional seat takes some liberties in explaining incumbent Jared Polis’ positions and wealth.

Nic Morse, a Fort Collins Republican hoping to head to Washington next year, posted a 30-second spot on YouTube earlier this month that characterizes the Democrat House District 2 representative as a “disconnected billionaire” who wants to raise workers’ payroll taxes to pay for single-payer health care, insinuating that Polis supports a state constitutional amendment to that effect.

Problem is, while Polis routinely ranks among the wealthiest members of Congress, he’s not a billionaire. Nor has he advocated for ColoradoCare, the name for the proposed Amendment 69 to create single-payer health care in the state…

Although it might be tough to tell from our lowly middle-class vantage point, there is indeed a difference between a “millionaire” and a “billionaire”–most importantly that a “billionaire” needs to have assets of, well, at least one thousand million dollars. Otherwise they’re a millionaire, like Rep. Jared Polis.

It’s also a fact that Polis does not support Amendment 69, the ColoradoCare single-payer health care proposal headed for the ballot this November. In fact Polis disavowed the initiative last February, which right-wing advocacy group Advancing Colorado gleefully noted for the record at the time.

So what gives? Like the ad from U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser that claims Michael Bennet and Barack Obama are “all for” Iran developing nuclear weapons, this is an ad whose central claims are flat-out wrong. Not a question of interpretation, but just simple BS that takes seconds to prove. In both cases we believe the choice to tell outrageous falsehoods in the ads is deliberate–intended to spark discussion about the candidate and raise their name ID regardless of whether the press they’re getting is good or bad.

It’s lowlife politics for sure, but if you’re already a long shot candidate there seems to be little downside.

And that’s a real shame.

Don’t let 80,000 Coloradans down

The following is from Dr. Christine Gilroy of Colorado Health OP:

“I am writing to explain what you will see in the news in the next few days.

The feds have quietly been shutting down co-ops in other states over the last 3 months. New York and Nevada were most recent. I am speaking now, as they have since issued gag orders to these co-ops.

The reason these co-ops were closed was that they were successful in the Individual Market. New York had 200,000 members.

Start up insurance requires 3 years to build Risk Based Capital. Starting Co-ops required an initial start-up loan, the feds promised second year funds to Risk Based Capital, which they reneged on in the CROMNIBUS budget of 12/9/14.

They told us at the same time we could not accept Venture Capital loans or Angel Investor dollars that help other start-ups through their initial capitalization period.

The Feds also promised to support the new individual market for 2 years through Reinsurance of the Risk Corridors. This meant that insurance companies would be incentivized to take all comers through the exchanges, and more insurance companies would participate to dilute the risk.

Today they broke their promise to Colorado, and denied us the Risk Corridor funds we were promised. They offered 12%. This affects every company that participated in the individual exchanges, not just Colorado HealthOP. Colorado HealthOP only needed 35% risk payment, and would have required no further infusions of federal money to be profitable in 2016, and are currently on track to pay back our loans — with interest –before they were due.

Short-sighted partisan politics are harming the people of Colorado.

The ACA was successful in lowering individual health premiums throughout Colorado. The Colorado HealthOP is part of that.

Please, call your Congresspeople. 80,000 Coloradans rely on Colorado HealthOP to provide access to affordable care. Let’s make sure they keep their promises to the people of this state.

Polis Walks Back Campus Rape Comments

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Alex Burness reports, following up on a controversy we touched on over the weekend:

Congressman Jared Polis wrote in a column Tuesday that he “misspoke” last week when he suggested colleges should be able to expel students accused of sexual assault even if they’re innocent…

In a piece published online Tuesday by the Daily Camera and on Medium.com, Polis called his remarks “a major gaffe” that “went too far.”

But he did not apologize for arguing last week that colleges may be wise to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard — a lower threshold than criminal courts would use — in deciding whether to punish or expel a student.

For one, that practice is already in place. As Polis notes in his column, the Department of Education required four years ago that schools use a standard based on preponderance of evidence to rid campuses of alleged sexual assailants.

A little more from Rep. Polis’ column published today:

I committed a major gaffe during the back-and-forth exchange with a witness who was advocating for removing the authority of colleges to adjudicate sexual assault cases that happen on their campuses. My words did not convey my beliefs nor the policies I now or have ever supported

During that exchange I went too far by implying that I support expelling innocent students from college campuses, which is something neither I nor other advocates of justice for survivors of sexual assault support. That is not what I meant to say and I apologize for my poor choice of words…

To most people who don’t know much about this issue, it makes sense to solely adjudicate these cases in our criminal justice system, just like we do other crimes…this is a deeply dangerous idea that demonstrates a cursory and superficial understanding of the issue. Ask any sexual assault advocate and they’ll tell you the same thing.

As we noted last Sunday and Rep. Polis tried to clarify after his remarks became controversial late last week, at no point was he suggesting that a lower standard of proof be allowable for criminal convictions of rape. And as Polis makes clear in his column today, colleges already use a lower standard of proof than the strict “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in criminal proceedings when investigating alleged sexual assaults. Polis explained that his statements were in response to a witness who asserted that law enforcement should handle all sexual assault investigations on campus, instead of the status quo allowing colleges to conduct investigations with a “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof.

In the context of Rep. Polis arguing against requiring only the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard be used in sexual assault investigations, his remarks make a bit more sense, but in hindsight it does appear his remarks did more to confound the popular debate over responding to sexual assault allegations than to elucidate it (as he admitted in his apology). It’s just too easy for the criminal justice system’s protection of the rights of the accused to be invoked here, which of course makes Polis look pretty bad–unless you understand that a different standard already applies, and for good reasons. Nobody wants to see innocent people punished, but the issue is not so clear cut that you can say with confidence a strict criminal evidentiary standard is called for in all cases. Sometimes that’s just not what’s needed to get justice.

In the end, we think this episode is a good lesson in why word choice is very, very important.

Polis Rape Remarks Stoke Necessary (?) Controversy

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

MONDAY UPDATE: Rep. Polis himself answers some questions in the comment section below.

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It’s been a hot topic for a couple of days now, as the Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez reported late last week:

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis said Thursday that colleges should be able to use a lower standard of proof to expel students accused of sexual assaults on campus…

“If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” Polis said. “We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.”

A private college, Polis also argued, may want to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard or lower threshold, such as a “likelihood standard.”

“If I was running one I might say, well you know, even if there is only a 20 or 30 percent chance that it happened, I would want to remove this individual,” he said.

The audience at the hearing applauded his stance at one point, but the remark drew a sharp reaction from critics.

“Sharp reaction” may be a bit of an understatement. The fierce debate over laws and due process rights in sexual assault cases has pitched wildly back and forth in recent years, as an increasing preponderance of evidence that rape is a huge problem on college campuses is pushed back on by a vocal and generally conservative “men’s rights” movement. Anecdotal events like questionable reporting by Rolling Stone about a rape case at the University of Virginia are misused to discredit a mountain of statistical data. New individual studies released on the subject are immediately attacked by a robust internet and popular media culture of self-reinforcing rape apologetics.

Into this fraught debate steps Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, who with his characteristic machete-through-red-tape attitude declares that a lower burden of proof may be sufficient in some cases for some schools, as he disclaimed it private schools. Polis Tweeted not long after, clarifying again that he wasn’t talking about a criminal burden of proof. Pundits from the Boulder Daily Camera to the Washington Post nonetheless have reacted more or less in rhetorical horror, warning of the loss of fundamental due process rights for the accused this would invite, and scoffing at the idea that having to change schools is a minor inconvenience for persons accused of rape.

For our part, we feel obliged to err on the side of sensitivity toward victims of sexual assault, recognizant of the struggles faced historically and today with a culture that tends to excuse or at least downplay this pervasive crime in too many cases. That means we’re not going to criticize Rep. Polis for making what we know many readers will believe is staking out controversial but necessary ground–in a debate that sorely needs better acknowledgement of what rape victims face seeking justice.

For those who are going to disagree, the comment section is open for you too.

How The Hell Can You Oppose This Bill?

The Schlagetters.

The Schlagetters.

The Colorado Independent’s Nat Stein reports on legislation co-sponsored by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, along with Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis in the House:

Sen. Michael Bennet joined 21 other senators to introduce a bill on Monday that would reinstate honor for the estimated 100,000 military service members discharged since World War II for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act has 97 co-sponsors in the House version, including Democrats Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter. An identical bill failed along party lines last session.

Before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, service members outed as LGBT were forced out of the military with the status of “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable,” depending on the situation. Without honor, these veterans don’t have access to certain benefits they earned, such as health care, the GI bill and military burial. An other-than-honorable-discharge status is treated as a felony in some states, making it impossible to vote and nearly impossible to find employment.

“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a backward looking policy that undermined our national security and stood contrary to our national values,” Sen. Bennet said in a release. “It’s time to take steps that will help ensure these men and women receive the benefits they rightfully earned.”

The bill would correct the record by forcing the Department of Defense to remove mention of sexual orientation from discharge, reissue personnel records and hear oral testimony from people who experienced discrimination in the military. The move is more than symbolic — it would legally restore the rights that LGBT veterans have been denied.

With the end of the military’s much-reviled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” along with changes in civilian law like the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage in the states, restoring/upgrading the discharge status of thousands of military members who were discharged over the years due to their sexual orientation seems like a no-brainer. We would compare such an action to the government’s apologies to segregated minority servicemen, or even Japanese internees–all similarly victims of past discriminatory policies that have now been repudiated. Of course we should do this.

Unfortunately, this measure by all accounts has very little chance of passage in the fully GOP-controlled Congress. Without at least a few Republican Senators willing to buck prejudice within their party and help move this bill forward, it remains what seems like a no-brainer, but in the present reality is a nonstarter.

And despite everything LGBT Americans have to celebrate today, that really sucks.

Think Frackapalooza Is Over? Think Again

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The AP’s Dan Elliot updates the state of play on the always-controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” near Colorado’s populated areas. After a compromise last year that ended the threat of a ballot measure increasing setbacks for drilling from existing development, a task force convened that issued limited recommendations for improving local control over drilling in February. The drilling industry was very happy with the limited scope of the task force’s recommendations, but conservation activists and local communities–including northern Front Range cities that already had passed bans and moratoria on fracking–felt betrayed.

In 2016, it looks like they may well get another shot:

“I think the fossil fuels industry won,” said Karen Dike, a member of Coloradans Against Fracking.

Fracking is a pressing issue in Colorado, the nation’s No. 7 energy-producing state. Along the urban Front Range, expanding suburbs and booming oilfields are running into each other, and drilling rigs sometimes show up near public schools. Several municipal attempts to ban fracking have failed, and the industry warns that local control would stifle energy development.

Dike and others won’t say whether they plan to put measures that would restrict fracking on the 2016 ballot, but they don’t rule it out…

[Rep Jared] Polis said fracking could be on the 2016 ballot if state officials don’t further regulate the industry. He stopped short of saying whether he would organize the effort, but he wants lawmakers and regulators to adopt three proposals that weren’t formally recommended by the task force.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis became involved in the state-level debate over fracking after a drilling company illegally sited a well too close to structures on Weld County land owned by the wealthy congressman. After his own experience, which resulted in a hefty fine against the offending driller, Polis came out in support of two specific ballot measures: a general “bill of rights” empowering local communities to regulate land uses within their boundaries, and a measure increasing setbacks for drilling from existing development to 2,000 feet. The failure of the task force he helped broker via the threat of a well-funded ballot measure reportedly did anger Polis, but so did the unreasonable reaction of anti-fracking activists who bitterly denounced his good-faith attempts to forge a compromise.

Today, it’s true that some of the pressure on this debate has dissipated as energy prices have plummeted during OPEC’s anti-fracking price war. The drilling industry, just last year very bullish about its future growth, has seen new drilling projects slow dramatically, and hiring postings turn into layoffs. The reduced pressure from less demand for new drilling creates a situation where the industry claims victimhood indiscriminately, blaming “fractivists” for industry downturns that have nothing to do with their efforts.

Both the industry and the far left wing of environmentalists would prefer the debate be about a wholesale ban on fracking statewide. The industry uses the simplistic arguments surrounding a ban to divide the opposition, while the far left…well, they’re just not realistic about what can be achieved in a major energy producing state like Colorado. Certainly there is a problem with all-or-nothing argumentation on both sides of this debate, but we continue to believe that what the energy industry fears most are reasonable, targeted proposals to mandate better protection of residential communities.

The reason is simple: they could actually pass.

One would let local governments impose stricter rules than the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, charged with regulating drilling statewide. Another would change the commission’s role from facilitating oil and gas development to simply regulating it. The third would set up a panel to resolve disputes between energy companies and local governments or property owners before they land in court.

None of these proposals fit the industry’s alarmist predictions of what would happen if Colorado “banned fracking.” If the industry and surrogates are able to continue to define the debate in those black-and-white terms, they’ll win. If pragmatic-minded conservationists can keep focused on proposals that would genuinely help protect communities while avoiding the industry’s semantic games, they could accomplish something that would have much more of an impact on our state’s health and environment in the long run.

We’ll just have to wait and see who’s smarter about it.

Polis “Smoking Crayfish” Retort Goes Viral

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported earlier this week on an animated exchange between Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and a Louisiana Republican, Rep. John Fleming, over whether the federal government should keep its claws off Colorado’s legalized marijuana. Rep. Fleming instigated the fight by making a number of dubious claims about supposed negative impacts of legalized marijuana in Colorado, which Polis disputed with his trademark forcefulness:

Rep. Polis, a Democrat, took offense at the comments by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., who talked about what he sees as the negative impacts of legalizing marijuana on Colorado and its children. The Colorado congressman disputed Fleming’s concerns…

“I’m not going to send federal troops into Louisiana to arrest people for whatever you do down there, smoking crayfish. Want me to ban that and send federal troops down there? I bet maybe smoking crayfish ain’t good for you. What if it’s fried? Might clog your arteries, huh?”

Well folks, the internets got ahold of Polis’ comments, turning them into, among other things, some hilarious Vines:

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