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Winners and Losers of the 2018 Colorado legislative session

THE WINNERS

Colorado’s Kids

This year’s state budget had a little more room for funding for our public schools, and lawmakers did what they could to support education after years of painful cuts. The fight to properly fund public education at every level took center stage late in the session when thousands of teachers and their supporters rallied at the Capitol.


Drivers and Commuters

Everybody who drives, takes a bus, or rides a train in Colorado knows we need to invest more in our transportation infrastructure. This year, Republicans and Democrats hammered out a deal to make serious investments in transportation, with progressive lawmakers driving a hard bargain to make sure smart transportation options are available for everyone.


Economic growth for rural communities

Overall Colorado’s economy is booming, but some areas of the state aren’t seeing the benefits as much others. Key bipartisan efforts like the Agricultural Workforce Development Program and help for communities dealing with plant closures and other crises, and, after years of trying, major support for the deployment of broadband internet access in rural areas, will help ensure we can all succeed regardless of where in the state we call home.


The women of the Colorado House

2018 witnessed a day of reckoning in the Colorado General Assembly, when the first sitting legislator in over a century was expelled from the House. Steve Lebsock’s serial sexual harassment and retaliation against women who spoke out against him were an intolerable offense against the dignity of every woman in Colorado. While the men in charge of the Senate were bungling their response to mounting harassment claims (see: LOSERS), Rep. Faith Winter and women in House leadership took care of business.


The women who will save the Senate

As progressives prepare to retake the Colorado Senate in November, four women–Rep. Brittany Pettersen, Rep. Faith Winter, Rep. Jessie Danielson, and SD-16 candidate Tammy Story–represent the vanguard of long-term change for a body that has been tainted by corruption and scandal for nearly four years. From the illicit Cambridge Analytica “psychoanalytics” that helped Republicans win the Senate in 2014 to Senate President Kevin Grantham’s disastrous handling of the Senate’s sexual harassment cases, and a platform that openly puts fringe right wing interests ahead of Coloradans, voters will have a stark contrast to choose from in November.


Veterans in crisis

Our nation’s veterans risked everything to protect our freedom, and the social problems that result from the horrors of war need to be handled with respect. New legislation passed this year will help veterans in the criminal justice system in Colorado get the services and support they need to turn their lives around.


Rep. Alec Garnett

Rep. Alec Garnett’s riveting testimony during the hearing to expel Steve Lebsock, in which Garnett tearfully disclosed that he was wearing a bulletproof vest to protect himself from Lebsock’s retaliation, became a nationwide example of the difficulty of confronting sexual harassment in the workplace. Later in the session, Rep. Garnett helped bring some Republicans to the table to introduce “red flag” legislation to protect the public from the mentally ill. The bill did not pass the hard-liners in the Senate, but his coalition inspires hope that this issue will be addressed soon.


Families struggling with opioid addiction

Overprescription and overuse of opioid painkillers in America has claimed thousands of lives. This year, bipartisan legislation reached the governor’s desk to address the clinical practices of health care practitioners, provide much-needed funding for addiction treatment, and limit (with certain exceptions) the initial prescription for an opioid painkiller to seven days. This work came as a result of a bipartisan interim committee led by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, Rep. Jonathan Singer, Sen. Kent Lambert, Sen. Kevin Priola, Sen. Cheri Jahn proving, once again, that Colorado can still put partisanship aside and be a model for the nation when it comes to tackling real issues.


Colorado’s forests, lakes and rivers

Responding to the threat from invasive species that have wrought havoc on water infrastructure across the nation, the Colorado legislature passed the Mussel-free Colorado Act to support inspection efforts at recreation areas and provide stiffer penalties for invasive species regulation violations. Another new law creates a statutory prohibition against leaving a campfire unattended in Colorado’s forests. With the reauthorization of the Colorado Lottery through 2049, Coloradans will benefit from continued stewardship of our cherished parks and open spaces for decades to come.


Wall Street finance guys (PERA)

Wall Street wins, Colorado loses. While Colorado’s public employees face higher retirement contributions and benefit cuts, a major investigative report this month revealed that for-profit money managers have received almost $1 billion–that’s billion with a ‘b’–in investment fees in less than a decade while failing to make investments that pay off.


THE LOSERS

Colorado Senate Republican Leadership

Sexual harassment is a problem that knows no partisan boundaries. But when the Colorado General Assembly’s GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House were each confronted with credible allegations of harassment by their members, the difference in the response was night and day. Senate President Kevin Grantham and his henchman Chris Holbert made a mockery of their earlier lip service to putting a stop to harassment in their chamber. While the House expelled Steve Lebsock, Randy Baumgardner survived multiple investigations that validated the allegations against him by numerous women who worked in the Capitol. The message was loud and clear: sexual harassment in the Senate is okay as long as the cops can’t arrest you for it.


Women who work in the Colorado Senate

This point can’t be made strongly enough. The women who are forced by their profession to work in the Colorado Senate have been victimized on an ongoing basis by the Senate’s refusal to hold serial sexual harassers accountable. Even worse, Republican Senate leaders and legislative aides openly participated in attacks on accusers meant to humiliate and discredit them. The GOP’s response to sexual harassment allegations in the Senate was a textbook example of how to take an already difficult situation and make it much, much worse.


Steve Lebsock

Steve Lebsock was the first sitting member of the Colorado General Assembly to be expelled in 103 years. In the end, the final dishonor of a vote to expel was Lebsock’s choice. After a day of dramatic testimony on Lebsock’s conduct and retaliation against his accusers, rather than resigning before the chamber could vote to expel him, Lebsock, in a final act of vindictiveness, changed his party affiliation to Republican about one hour before the vote that sealed the end of his political career. Lebsock’s dishonorable career in politics is now over, and the one thing that can be considered a positive from his time in office is that his name is now a cautionary tale for predators who can’t keep their hands off other people they work with.


House Minority Leader Patrick Neville

Patrick Neville, the leader of the Republican minority in the Colorado House, had a backward agenda that went nowhere. Neville’s partnership with his father Sen. Tim Neville to weaken Colorado’s gun laws was soundly defeated. Neville was mostly sidelined during negotiations over major legislation this year, with the House minority overruled and bypassed in negotiations between House and Senate leadership. During the process that led to the expulsion of Steve Lebsock from the House, Neville even lobbied his members unsuccessfully to vote against expulsion–a low point for Neville’s leadership and Republicans in the Colorado House as a whole.


Anti-abortion radicals (this time)

In 2018, the progressive majority in the Colorado House fought off bills to dramatically restrict abortion rights in Colorado–including a bill that would make almost every abortion in our state a felony crime. These radical anti-abortion bills are totally out of touch with the needs and rights of Colorado women. Unfortunately, we need only look to states like Iowa, which just last week signed a six-week abortion ban into law, to realize that abortion rights can never be taken for granted.


Middle-class families

This year, progressive lawmakers proposed numerous pieces of legislation to help Colorado’s middle-class families in every part of the state get ahead. Sadly, the right-wing majority in the Colorado Senate killed all of these important bills–paid family leave, secure retirement savings, the option for cities and counties to raise their minimum wages, and many more. We can do better, but we need change in the Colorado Senate to make these changes reality.


Sen. “Both Ways” Beth Humenik

Once a bright hope for Republicans in the Colorado Senate, Sen. Beth Humenik was a willing participant in Senate Republican leadership’s disgraceful campaign to discredit the victims of harassment and assault. Humenik compounded that disgrace by filing a ridiculous counter-complaint against a Democratic Senator over his innocent use of an unmarked bathroom. Humenik’s support for radical school voucher bills and vote last year against saving rural hospitals show she is not the responsible leader her Adams County constituents need.


Gun nuts (this time)

Despite the failure of “red flag” legislation, it wasn’t all bad news for common-sense gun safety at the Colorado Capitol in 2018. As they have every year since 2013, the far-right gun lobby made another attempt to weaken Colorado gun laws, even as public support for tighter gun control has grown after recent mass shootings. But we’re reminded again that only a progressive majority in the Colorado House and a governor committed to gun safety can keep the gun lobby at bay. We’re never more than one election away from going backward.


Rural Coloradans

Everyone knows there is a major problem confronting Coloradans in rural areas buying health insurance in the private market. Premiums are too high and provider choices are starkly limited. This year, progressives in the legislature put forward numerous great proposals to bring down costs–reinsurance, premium subsidies for rural parts of the state, increasing health care pricing transparency, and studying innovate new options for care delivery–that all ran into a buzzsaw in the Republican-controlled Senate.


Conservatives

Student-led rallies for gun violence prevention. Teacher rallies for education funding. LGBTQ Coloradans and their allies outraged over the right’s attacks on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The #metoo movement. When you look any just about any issue that impacted the daily news from Colorado’s legislature in 2018, political momentum for progressives is plainly evident. A “perfect storm” of accountability, boosted by national politics but very much driven by local events and characters, could well result in an historic defeat for Colorado conservatives in November.


Doug Robinson Talks Petitions, Opponents, and Baumgardner

Mitt Romney’s Nephew

ICYMI: Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson (Mitt Romney’s Nephew) was a guest on “The Get More Smarter Show” last week, where he talked about topics ranging from Colorado’s goofy ballot access process to how he would deal with sexual harassment allegations at the State Capitol.

Click here to watch the entire interview, and read on for some of the more notable tidbits:

[On challenging legality of petition signatures submitted by Republican candidate Walker Stapleton]:

We weren’t looking to do that. I just wanted to stand up and do the right thing…

…[There was one case] at the Columbine Library where there was a Walker Stapleton solicitor and the guy came over and just said, ‘Oh, I just moved here from Florida.’ And he was fully engaging about how he’d just come in here to do this. Red flags went up, we Googled him online and so on. And we said, well maybe we need to look at this a little closer.

This is something — I’m glad I brought it up, because this process is fraught with stuff that needs to change.

We need to change it, absolutely. The whole reason behind it, I think, is that you want to make sure that it’s not just anybody who is getting on the ballot…even within the existing system, the rules are vague.

And then this problem of people coming in from out of state to do it…that’s got to be cleaned up, too.

[On bringing up Walker Stapleton’s record stemming from a DUI/hit-and-run case]:

You have to speak truth about the other candidates…

I think it’s relevant because of the importance of the race in November. The Democrats are going to have that information out there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s going to be all of the time. So I think we do need to think about who can best represent our state. As Republicans, we want to win. We think we have a better vision for how Colorado goes, and we want to put our candidate who is best able to win that race. We know that whether it’s Jared Polis or Cary Kennedy or Mike Johnston or Donna Lynne, they’re all going to have resources behind them. This is going to be a national fight…

Yes, it’s important, because people need to understand, hey this sort of stuff is going to come out, and that can really put our candidate at a disadvantage when you have [an opponent] who doesn’t have those things in their background.

[On Stapleton and PERA reform]:

I’m tired of the talk. I’m tired of people saying they’ve been a voice on this issue or that issue. Yet, you’ve been on the board for seven years and it’s not done. The problem is bigger today that it was before…

I’m upset about this. In remember in 2010, PERA was in a big crisis and they said they made changes and they fixed it. And now it’s almost double the liability that it was at that time, and the stock market has more than doubled during that time…

You know what the real problem is? It’s a governance issue.

[On how he would respond to sexual harassment allegations, specifically against former Rep. Steve Lebsock and state Sen. Randy Baumgardner]:

I would have ousted them all. All of them. I have no tolerance for that in government…

In my business I had to fire a guy for inappropriate emails with another woman in the office…We didn’t debate about it. We met with him and said, ‘Is this you? What are you doing? Pack your bags.’

[Baumgardner] should be gone. Republican, Democrat, it doesn’t matter. We don’t have tolerance for that…I would not tolerate it if I were Governor.

Click here for more episodes of “The Get More Smarter Show.”

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 30)

The 2018 Primary election is eight weeks away. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► The 2018 Colorado legislative session only seems like it has been going on forever. John Frank previews the final 10 days of the session for the Denver Post:

The General Assembly’s to-do list includes: a measure to stabilize the crippled state pension systemthat covers 1 in 10 Coloradans; an effort to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into improving the state’s roads and highways; the renewal of a commission tasked with defending civil rights; two ballot measures that revamp how political districts are drawn; and more.

At the same time, Democrats in the state Senate are again pushing to expela Republican lawmaker for harassment after new credible allegations surface. The Democrats’ action amplifies the partisan tension in the Capitol.

More than 700 bills have been filed during this legislative session.

 

► Get ready for a trade war, as the New York Times reports:

A few weeks ago, it felt as if a trade war pitting the United States against allies like Australia, Canada and the European Union was over before it even began. The Trump administration dispensed so many temporary exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs that many countries figured the threats were just political theater.

But with only days left before the exemptions expire and punitive tariffs take effect, it’s dawning on foreign leaders that decades of warm relations with the United States carry little weight with a president dismissive of diplomatic norms and hostile toward the ground rules of international trade.

What began as a way to protect American steel and aluminum jobs has since become a cudgel that the Trump administration is using to extract concessions in other areas, including car exports to Europe or negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

As a May 1 deadline looms, the decision on whether to grant permanent exemptions to the steel and aluminum tariffs, and to whom, appears likely to come down to the whims of President Trump, who has seesawed between scrapping and rejoining global trade deals.

Chinese officials are signaling that they will oppose two of President Trump’s top trade priorities.

 

► Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) is making a final effort to make the June Primary ballot via a federal courtroom today. Ernest Luning has more for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman. Lamborn is appealing a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that invalidated enough of his petition signatures to keep him off of the Republican Primary ballot.

 

► Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson (Mitt Romney’s Nephew) was a guest on The Get More Smarter Show last week. Check out the full interview here.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

How The General Assembly Became a Hotbed of Skeeze, Sleaze

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on the results of a long-awaited investigative report into the overall culture of the Colorado General Assembly with regard to sexual harassment in the workplace–and as women have been pleading with anyone who would listen since at least last fall, it’s a real problem:

In the report publicly released Thursday, which was provided to lawmakers earlier this week, the investigators note 10 problems involving the General Assembly’s current policies and offer a series of possible solutions, which lawmakers will have to vote to adopt before the end of this year’s session on May 9. Some of the lawmakers were skeptical Thursday they could get the new policy done by that date.

It says that “almost everyone” surveyed felt “safe” or “comfortable” working at the Capitol, though 30 percent of respondents told investigators they’d either seen or experienced harassment themselves. Only a small percentage reported the harassment, they told the investigators.

And about half of people the team interviewed said they’d seen sexist or “seriously disrespectful” behavior among people working at the Capitol.

The report says most of the people who didn’t report behavior they’d witnessed said they didn’t do so because they feared reprisal.

CBS Denver adds:

The report says retaliation is a real concern that’s not being adequately addressed. Surveyors say the need for anonymous reporting was brought up by several employees. [Pols emphasis]

Investigations Law Group recommends a Standing Workplace Culture Committee for each chamber. That committee would receive the results of investigations and be responsible for disciplinary action.

The issue of retaliation against accusers was a major factor in the lopsided vote in favor of expelling Rep. Steve Lebsock from the House. In addition to publicly smearing his accusers on a personal level, Lebsock infamously promised to take others “down with me”–a threat that prompted at least two lawmakers to start wearing bulletproof vests at the Capitol.

Unfortunately, Rep. Lebsock is not the only case of retaliation against accusers since the harassment scandal broke last fall. The defense of Sen. Jack Tate, against whom an allegation of harassment was found credible by outside investigators, began with lobbyists rushing to the media to discredit the allegations by claiming said behavior was just an example of Tate’s “southern manners.” When that backfired, a Republican legislative aide went to a different reporter at the same conservative outlet to disparage the accuser’s “personal indiscretions,” a form of retaliation known as “slut shaming” or “victim blaming.”

When we talk about a workplace culture that facilitates sexual harassment, the two principal ingredients necessary are men with power willing to exploit it for sex, and a lack of safeguards to respect and protect victims who come forward. The former has been amply demonstrated by the credible allegations of harassment that have been leveled against numerous lawmakers. The latter is evident in the horrible treatment victims have endured at the hands of Republican leaders and staff–willingly assisted by bad actors in the local press.

In 2018, the General Assembly has taken the first steps toward acknowledging and confronting a problem that has plagued the institution–and American society writ large–for longer than any of us have been alive. In doing so, theye have only just begun to reckon with the extent of the problem, so deeply entrenched that rooting it out is uncovering some truly vile beliefs and values among civic leaders with substantial power and influence. In the Colorado Senate, Republican Senate leadership has stopped the drive for accountability in its tracks, and transformed what should have been a nonpartisan appeal to decency into a partisan food fight. Assuming the November elections result in sweeping Democratic victories as is generally forecast today, Senate President Kevin Grantham’s refusal to hold his caucus accountable for sexual harassment will be remembered as another nail in the coffin of the GOP Senate’s one-seat majority.

And in 2019, a new conversation will begin.

Sen. Cheri Jahn’s Sad Legacy: It’s a Man’s World

Sen. Cheri Jahn (U).

One lingering lowlight from yesterday’s failure by the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate to follow the House’s precedent for accountability for perpetrators of sexual harassment and expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner that we wanted to be sure received a dishonorable mention–as Colorado Public Radio’s Sam Brasch reports:

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham had resisted over a month of calls from Democrats to hold a debate and vote on Baumgardner, who faces three harassment complaints. Baumgardner has denied the accusations, although an outside investigation found Baumgardner likely grabbed and slapped a former aide on the buttocks multiple times in 2016.

Grantham relented on Monday evening, and allowed hours of debate. But from the outset, it was clear Democrats lacked 24 votes needed to force Baumgardner from the chamber. Only Democrats stood as a Senate clerk read the resolution on the Senate floor. State Sen. Cheri Jahn, a former Democrat who became an independent in December 2017, also stayed in her seat… [Pols emphasis]

The Denver Post’s John Frank:

Sen. Cheri Jahn, a Wheat Ridge Democrat who became an independent this session, said before the vote that she didn’t believe Baumgardner’s action rose “to the ultimate level of expulsion.”

And she expressed concern about the current political climate and the numerous sexual harassment complaints being filed against lawmakers. “I think we have to be very careful,” Jahn said.

Term limited Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge, who disaffiliated from the Democratic Party late last year as part of the publicity kick-off for the so-called Centrist Project (now known as “Unite Colorado”), has a long record of voting against workplace discrimination protections such as the landmark Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act Of 2013. Her votes against most of the Democratic caucus on this issue were generally considered to be due to her “pro-business” leanings, not wanting to “place burdens on small business” like not allowing them to discriminate.

Not something to be proud of, but Jahn’s votes with the caucus on other matters helped preserve an uneasy peace.

After last night’s vote against the expulsion of Sen. Baumgardner, in which Jahn asserted that credible findings of sexual harassment which would result in termination of employment at any responsible Colorado business do not “rise to the level” of expulsion, we’re left wondering if Sen. Jahn just doesn’t think discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace is a problem. Her vote, like the votes of sixteen Republican Senators, unmistakably sends that message.

Once the dust settles, this will not be viewed as a positive development either for Sen. Jahn’s political career or the “Unite Colorado” campaign to elect “centrist” unaffiliated candidates to office. Much like the Unite Colorado campaign is in truth run by a conservative former Republican congressional candidate, Jahn didn’t take anything like a “centrist” position by voting to protect Baumgardner. She sided with Republicans, against victims of sexual harassment, after an independent investigation validated the allegations.

Good luck finding a majority of voters to support that–without an (R) after your name, anyway.

Colorado Senate Stays Safe Space For Sexual Harassment

Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R).

Denverite had the story ready to go:

The Colorado Senate on Monday rejected a resolution to expel Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

Baumgardner was investigated for sexual misconduct based on allegations made by a former legislative aide that were found credible by a third-party investigation, according to the Associated Press. The resolution read Monday said Baumgardner allegedly grabbed and smacked an aide’s buttocks multiple times during the 2016 legislative session.

The tone during Monday’s debate was far more business-like than last month’s emotionally-charged deliberations in the House that ended with then-state Rep. Steve Lebsock’s expulsion.

The final vote on the resolution to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner over allegations of sexual harassment that were confirmed credible by an outside investigation conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council was 17-17 with Sen. Baumgardner abstaining. GOP Sen. Ray Scott unexpectedly crossed party lines to vote to expel Baumgardner, while “Pretendocrat” Sen. Cheri Jahn (U) voted with Republicans against Baumgardner’s expulsion.

NARAL Pro Choice Colorado had their statement ready, too:

Sexual harassment should not be tolerated in the Capitol, or any where else. Senator Baumgardner, like Rep. Lebsock, should have been expelled.

The message that Senators who voted against the resolution sent to the women of Colorado is this: we are okay with this behavior. We are okay with the abuse of power represented by sexual harassment. We are okay with behavior that would not be tolerated in another workplace.

Everyone should be held to to the same standard and everyone deserves to feel safe at their place of work. That includes those aides and interns an independent investigator found Sen. Baumgardner more likely than not harassed.

This is fundamentally about the abuse of power and the public trust. Those that abuse their power to take advantage of others betrays the public trust and should not remain in the building. Sexual harassment isn’t partisan and a harasser’s party identification should not matter.

Speaker Duran and members of both parties in House of Representatives held a member of the majority party accountable for his actions towards women. The same standard should apply in the Senate with Senator Baumgardner.

We stand with Senator Baumgardner’s victims, and with all survivors of sexual abuse and harassment.

The failure of tonight’s vote was fully predictable. In the last two weeks, conservative blogs, social media, and friendly journalists in the Capitol press corps have flooded the news cycle with “hot take” defenses of Baumgardner along with other storylines intended to discredit and downplay sexual harassment allegations. Senate President Kevin Grantham’s bad faith in negotiations with Democrats over the fate of Baumgardner and two other Republicans credibly accused of harassment and diversionary slander against Sen. Daniel Kagan further indicated that accountability for Baumgardner was not in the offing. The night-and-day contrast between the handling of sexual harassment allegations by the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate is, with this vote, clearly defined for voters in the November elections–where we fully expect voters to dispense the justice Baumgardner’s victims were denied this evening.

Until then, all women at the Capitol can do is stick together–and make sure the new employees know who to stay away from.

If this victory for the status quo sounds disgraceful to you, that’s because it is.

Meet Rep.-Designate Alex Skinny Winkler While You Can

Rep.-designate Alex Skinny Winkler (R).

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports–after Colorado Republicans decided to go ahead and own the legacy of expelled Rep. Steve Lebsock by claiming the right to appoint Lebsock’s replacement due to Lebsock switching parties literally one hour before his expulsion, there was, as there always is, an opportunity for them to make a smarter choice. Perhaps to nominate a brilliantly qualified and locally-beloved statesman who would be able to put up an actual fight for a district that, while trending Democratic, might be flippable under a certain set of circumstances.

Yeah, you knew that wasn’t going to happen!

[Alexander “Skinny”] Winkler lost to Lebsock in 2014 and made a failed bid in 2016 to become an Adams County commissioner. He said he doesn’t think he would have voted to expel Lebsock if he had been part of the legislature when the decision was made — “I don’t think the proper procedure was followed,” he said — though he thinks there should have been discipline for the allegations leveled against the former lawmaker…

Winkler said he most identifies with Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, in the Colorado House. Everett is known as “Dr. No” for his propensity to reject legislation.

“I’m a small government fella,” Winkler said. “Any bills that seek to lessen the role of government, if you will, would win my favor.”

So, the first thing we’d like to get resolved with Rep.-designate Alex Skinny Winkler is whether or not the (we assume) nickname “Skinny” is meant to be written with quotation marks. We do see that’s what the Denver Post did, but they could have been following the AP Manual of Style or something rather than, you know, Skinny’s preference. On Skinny’s Facebook page, you’ll notice that he does not use quotation marks, so we expect in the very, very limited time we’ll be talking about Skinny Winkler we’ll follow his lead.

As Paul notes above, Skinny lost to Rep. Lebsock in 2014 by 9.8%. In 2016, Skinny lost by a similar margin to incumbent Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry. Skinny in fact lost by a bigger margin to Lebsock in 2014 than a subsequent Republican challenger did in 2016, though a Green candidate in 2016 did pull some votes away from Lebsock. The point is that Skinny has not ever even come close to performing well in an Adams County election. Given that Skinny’s introduction to the Colorado political big-time after his appointment consisted of defending Lebsock, who was expelled from the House by an overwhelming bipartisan margin, and promising to govern in the style of one of the legislature’s biggest (and sleepiest) Ayn Randian obstructionists, we’re not seeing anything like a good fit here.

In November, we fully expect Skinny’s legislative career to end as ignominiously as it began.

Tate’s Harassment Victim Sick of Senate GOP Stonewall

Sen. Jack Tate (R-Handsy).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland once again breaks news that casts Senate Republicans in an unfavorable light as the foot-dragging reluctance by Senate President Kevin Grantham to take action against Senators found by independent investigations to have committed harassment becomes the story–despite desperate attempts to muddy the waters:

It has been nearly two months since an independent investigator with the Employer’s Council concluded and found the accuser to be credible in allegations of sexual harassment against Sen. Jack Tate. Weeks later, there have been no consequences as a result and the accuser said she wants to know why. So she says she now wants to make the investigator’s report public, which is allowed under the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy, in hopes it will spur action.

Senate President Kevin Grantham is charged with determining consequences for Tate, R-Centennial. When asked about it in early March Grantham, also a Republican, said he didn’t feel obligated to rush to a conclusion when dealing with something this serious.

“If we’re going to take action on these we have to make sure we’re crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” Grantham said. “If I cross t’s and dot i’s to a fault, I’ll take that. But I want to make sure that we do things right.”

Two months since the investigation into Sen. Jack Tate’s conduct was completed with a finding that the alleged harassment occurred based on the preponderance of the evidence. Two months that Grantham has known the allegations were credible, and the victim has known that her voice has been heard–yet nothing has been done.

So the victim authorized the release of the investigative report in its redacted entirety:

The investigator said she found the accuser credible generally because of the specific details she gave that made the allegations seem plausible, and because she didn’t appear to have a reason to make up the allegations. The report said the accuser gave Tate the benefit of the doubt, “that his actions were based on not understanding personal space. This leniency… bolsters her credibility.”

The investigator questioned Tate’s credibility because she said he attempted to sway the investigation with outside information, because his answers appeared rehearsed with his attorney by his side and because of Tate’s general demeanor. [Pols emphasis]

It’s very easy to see from the full contents of the investigative report documenting the allegations against Sen. Tate why Senate Republicans attempted to distract the press and public with their ill-conceived attack on Sen. Daniel Kagan. It didn’t work, and appears to be backfiring–but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand why they tried.

It’s because this is a PR disaster of the highest order. It indicts the entire GOP Senate leadership, which has been sitting on the results of this investigation for almost two months while women have no choice but come to work at the Capitol with Tate and other lawmakers credibly accused of harassment. And after the House took bipartisan action to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock, the Senate’s failure to take any meaningful action to deal with their own sexual harassment problem has created an unacceptable double standard.

If the Republican leadership of the Colorado Senate won’t fix this, it falls to the voters in every single Colorado Senate district to ensure Republicans no longer hold the majority in that chamber in 2019. All we can say is this: Republican Senate leadership is giving Democrats everything they need to accomplish that goal and then some.

How Long Can Senate Business Go On Like This?

Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

Jesse Paul at the Denver Post (say a prayer for them) reports on the ongoing crisis over sexual harassment allegations in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate, and the increasing difficulty of conducting essential business in an environment where three Republican Senators have had credible allegations made against them–yet every day, dozens of women who are vocationally obliged to go to the State Capitol must deal with:

The sexual harassment complaint against GOP state Sen. Randy Baumgardner has spilled into a contentious statehouse debate about legislation to fix Colorado’s roads, with Democrats pushing back on the measure over policy disagreements and the lawmaker’s role as one of the bill’s main sponsors.

The result has been two days of politically charged floor discussion on Senate Bill 1 with no signs of compromise. While Republicans have the votes to pass the measure and send it to the House, without any Democratic support, its future in the lower chamber looks dim.

“How do I work with a colleague from across the aisle who has this cloud hanging over him?” Sen. Rachel Zenzinger,D-Arvada, said in an interview. She is one of two Democrats on the Senate Transportation Committee, which first heard the bill, and has raised concerns about how the GOP would pay for and sustain it.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have consistently refused to acknowledge the real issue behind the increasing Democratic resistance to business as usual, instead focusing on the parliamentary tactic and the legislation supplying the battleground for the more pressing concern:

The problem is not the details of Senate Bill 18-001, which would refer a measure to voters to take out a large bond obligation for road projects–although you may well find the GOP’s plan for billions in new debt “without raising taxes” is the not the responsible way to solve Colorado’s transportation problems as we suspect the Democratic House will.

The problem is that Sen. Randy Baumgardner is the sponsor of the bill.

With each passing day since the House voted overwhelmingly to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock after multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Lebsock were found credible, the Senate’s failure to take meaningful action over similarly credible complaints against multiple Republican Senators is reinforcing the hostile environment the women who work for and vocationally interact with the Colorado Senate have experienced for years. That is why every day recently in the Senate has begun with some manner of protest against these men, especially Sen. Baumgardner, continuing to serve. It’s a situation that would not be tolerated in any private workplace, and Senate President Kevin Grantham’s declaration that sexual harassment by Senators not rising to the level of a crime will go unpunished results in an environment no woman should ever be forced to work in.

And yet women who work at the Colorado Capitol are. Every. Single. Day.

Something’s got to give, folks.

We are not prescribing a specific remedy. We only say this morally cannot be allowed to continue.

Colorado Week in Review: 3/9/18

Your deliberately oversimplified glance at what happened in Colorado this week.

Online Conservative Group Turns on Republicans

(Whatever happened to… – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Divisiveness among Colorado Republicans is a familiar challenge for the state party. Extreme social conservatives and gun rights advocates have challenged the more moderate establishment for years.

Over the past year, however, a previously ordinary Republican entity has launched surprisingly aggressive attacks against its own party. The reason? It’s under new management.

Advancing Colorado is a 501(c)4 entity that in past years has been essentially an online brand used by conservatives to promote “edgy” messages against progressive policies and -obliquely- Democratic candidates. From a 2015 Colorado Independent profile of its former executive director Jonathan Lockwood:

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Colorado Senate Sexual Harassment Crisis Nears Breaking Point

UPDATE #2: From the Senate floor moments ago:

Note Sen. “Handsy” Jack Tate in the background looking at the carpet.

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UPDATE: The Denver Post and Aurora Sentinel both call out the GOP-controlled Senate’s inaction in hard-hitting editorials:

GOP leaders there don’t want to admit what Winter and a lot of fellow House Republicans made perfectly clear as they took turns testifying against Lebsock and others who perpetrate sexual harassment as lawmakers.

To Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City and outed pervy GOP state senators Randy “Spanky” Baumgardner and Jack “Oh, Leery” Tate, it’s not that big of a deal. They say no law was broken, so move along, folks…

There were crimes committed by these men. There’s just no law — yet — against a legislator using his or her position to extort sex from or bully Capitol staffers, lobbyists or each other.

The only difference between other forms of bribery, blackmail and assault is that the sexual kind is perfectly legal for state elected officials.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 8)

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The State Senate is on the verge of grinding to a halt because Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham is completely abdicating responsibility on taking action against members of his caucus accused of sexual harassment. Both the Denver Post and Aurora Sentinel published editorials on Wednesday afternoon that were highly critical of Grantham’s inaction.

 

President Trump appears to be wavering on his proposals for imposing strict steel and aluminum tariffs. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump said Thursday he would soon announce tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, but he said he would be “very flexible” and exempt Canada, Mexico and an unspecified number of other allied nations, including possibly Australia.

Trump’s remarks at a midday Cabinet meeting came as his White House was enveloped in an air of uncertainty over when Trump would effectively launch a trade war with the tariffs and how many countries would be affected by them.

Trump reiterated that the tariffs would be 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports, but he promised flexibility in how the government levies them…

…Republican congressional leaders and even some of Trump’s own advisers were scrambling to convince the president to hold off on his announcement and abandon his plan for tariffs, warning of severe domestic economic ramifications and possible retaliation from global trade partners.

 

► Florida lawmakers approved a mixed bag of changes on gun control, as NBC News reports:

Florida’s House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to approve a gun and school safety bill that would raise the age to buy all firearms to 21 and impose a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases — and potentially put guns into the hands of some educators…

…The bill passed by the Florida House also provides new mental health programs for schools and provisions to keep guns away from people who show signs of mental illness or violent behavior.

The measure also prohibits “bump stocks,” devices which allow semi-automatic firearms to fire faster, and which police said were used in an Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead.

It also would create a so-called guardian program that would let some school employees and teachers carry handguns if they go through law enforcement training and if the school district decides to participate in the program.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he is unsure about whether he will sign the legislation because of his disagreement over the provision that would put guns into the hands of teachers and support staff.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is taking a lot of heat from Democrats over his support for legislation that would weaken oversight of the banking industry. Critics say the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act would significantly weaken the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed after the last recession.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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GOP Harassment Intransigence Untenable, Catastrophic

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

As KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reports and we discussed in some detail yesterday the historic expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock from the Colorado House last Friday has shifted attention in the widening crisis over sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly to the Colorado Senate, where two Republican Senators have been accused of their own serial bad behavior–allegations that, like those against Rep. Lebsock, were found credible by an outside investigator.

But as the whole nation’s attention suddenly turns to Colorado as the new model for holding perpetrators of sexual harassment in positions of power accountable, there’s a problem.

The men in charge of the Colorado Senate don’t want to make history. They like the status quo.

The leader of Colorado’s Senate said that last week’s historic decision in the House to expel a legislator amid sexual harassment allegations would have no bearing on how similar cases in the Senate are resolved. Senate President Kevin Grantham said the House made a tough decision to remove a fellow legislator from the Capitol.

He added that a criminal conviction would be the standard for expelling a legislator from the Senate…

Grantham said an investigation that finds allegations of sexual harassment credible is not enough for him to support the removal of a lawmaker. He said criminal charges would be.

“If we’re going to talk about expulsion, then there still has to be criminal acts and indictments and convictions,” said Grantham. [Pols emphasis]

As of yesterday, Senate Democrats are publicly ramping up the pressure on Grantham with a daily demand to introduce for debate the resolution to expel Sen. Randy BaumgardnerDenver Post:

For the second time this week, Democrats in the Colorado Senate called for Republican leadership to allow debate on the resolution they sponsored to expel GOP Sen. Randy Baumgardner over accusations of sexual harassment…

She said Baumgardner’s actions created an intimidating, hostile and offensive workplace environment.

“For this reason, the members of the Senate Democratic caucus ask that the Senate resolution we prepared and submitted for introduction … be promptly introduced and brought to the floor for debate,” Sen. Irene Aguilar, a fellow Denver Democrat, said the day before.

First of all, let’s dispense with the absurd notion that a criminal conviction is now or should ever be the standard for taking disciplinary action in cases of sexual harassment. That’s simply not the standard in any other workplace in Colorado, where investigations with far less independence and thoroughness are routinely the basis for corrective actions up to and including termination of employment. To declare a criminal conviction, or even criminal charges, to be the minimum standard for intervening in a case of sexual harassment gives members of the Colorado Senate protection that no one else enjoys–not even, as of last Friday, their colleagues in the House.

The Democrats and Republicans in the House who voted for expulsion rejected Grantham’s argument.

“This wasn’t a criminal investigation; this was a workplace investigation,” said Rep. Polly Lawrence, R- Roxborough Park.

Grantham’s off-base call last week for Denver District Attorney Beth McCann to investigate for criminal violations fell flat precisely because of what it represented: a moving of the goalposts after GOP Senate leadership decided they didn’t like the results of the independent investigation into Republican Senators. Grantham and accused Senators like “Handsy” Jack Tate might not like it, but sexual harassment that falls short of a criminal act most certainly does exist.

And Senate President Kevin Grantham just declared that in his chamber, sexual harassment not rising to the level of a criminal act may be carried out by Senators with impunity. Or at least, unlike any other workplace in Colorado, without getting fired.

Folks, this is a political disaster of the likes rarely seen at any level of government. Republicans already lose women voters by significant margins in Colorado elections, a gap that has made the difference between defeat and victory in close races (see: Bennet, Michael).

This a mistake that could help ensure a whole generation of women never, ever vote Republican again.

What you can do to fight back this week (March 5)

Last Friday, the Colorado House of Representatives did something incredible.

They expelled a sitting lawmaker for the first time in 103 years. [1]

For years, a culture of sexual harassment without accountability flourished at the Colorado Capitol. Women who work there banded together to warn each other about who to never be caught alone with. Elected officials treated women in ways that are frankly unspeakable.

And then Rep. Faith Winter decided enough is enough.

All over the country, women are fighting back against decades of harassment and denigration at the hands of powerful men. The serial sexual harasser who was expelled from the Colorado House last Friday must not be the last. From Colorado’s halls of power to the White House itself, the work to change our culture and put an end to the harassment and abuse of people, especially women in the workplace is just beginning.

But we will change—for the better. The hard lessons our nation is being forced to learn after Donald Trump’s election are making a difference. We will emerge from the Trump presidency a better nation, just not for the reasons Trump thinks. We will be better despite him.

In that spirit, find a way to take action for the week of March 5:


Colorado People’s Alliance: American Dream Becomes a Nightmare

With the Trump-mandated deadline to end DACA rapidly approaching, March 5 is the day that we say Enough is Enough. We will tell Trump and Congress that immigrant youth are not political pawns, they are human beings and we are coming together to defend them and their families from this Administration’s deportation force.

Where: 1961 Stout St, Denver
When: Monday, March 5 at 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Screening of “Care in Chaos” with Rewire’s Jessica Pieklo

Join Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, NARAL and the ACLU for this screening of the documentary “Care in Chaos.”

Where: Downtown Colorado Springs (RSVP for location)
When: Monday, March 5 at 7:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


The Denver Press Club: We Are Parkland

After Parkland, we’ve been hearing from Florida teenagers. Here’s a chance to listen to Colorado’s. Colorado high school students weren’t even born when Columbine happened. To them, school shootings are a way of life. How are they covering school security in their high school newspapers? What are the headlines? Do they feel safe? What would make them safe?

Where: The Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Pl, Denver
When: Tuesday, March 6 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Reproductive Freedom Lobby Day!

Join Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, Boulder Valley Women’s Health, Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Freedom Fund, AAUW, NCJW – Colorado Section and the ACLU of Colorado as we join forces to fight for abortion and birth control access!

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax Ave, Denver
When: Wednesday, March 7 at 8:00am

Click here to RSVP.


Women’s Lobby of Colorado: #MeToo Policies and How We Can Support Them

Women’s Lobby of Colorado is hosting this discussion with our lobby team, legislators and leaders of our survivors of sexual assault advocacy community. There will be light appetizers served.

Where: The Spring Café, 1373 Grant St, Denver
When: Wednesday, March 7 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Repro Rights Roadshow—Denver

JOIN US to learn how the Colorado Reproductive Health Rights and Justice Coalition is working to preserve and strengthen reproductive rights in Colorado. We’ll talk about what’s going on at the Capitol and how you can help. We also want to hear from you! Tell us what’s happening in your schools and community and how we can help make your community and the state of Colorado a leader in Reproductive Rights.

Where: Woodbury Branch Library, 3265 Federal Blvd, Denver
When: Thursday, March 8 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Alliance to Reclaim our Schools Colorado: The Illusion of School Choice

The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools Colorado and the Caucus of Today’s Teachers present a community forum to discuss the inequities of our education system and the damage that corporate reforms have inflicted on our communities. This event is open to the Denver Metro community, including neighboring districts.

Where: Abraham Lincoln High School, 2285 S Federal Blvd, Denver
When: Thursday, March 8 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Fighting Ageism and More in 2018!

We’ll start at 5:30 with refreshments and networking, then kickoff a discussion of what you’d like to see in 2018. At 6:15, you’ll hear about a groundbreaking initiative that is going to be happening locally and nationally to shift perceptions about aging and to fight ageism, and how you can be involved. Then we’ll be doing a workshop from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. about key concepts and messaging, what to say (and what not to) and how you can become part of identifying and fighting ageism.

Where: Daniels Fund, 101 Monroe St, Denver
When: Thursday, March 8 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


International Womxn’s Day Celebration and Open Mic

Celebrate International Womxn’s Day with us at Bellwether on Colfax. The event will start with a brief talk on the revolutionary history of International Womxn’s Day. This will be followed by an open mic featuring performances of all kinds – comedy, poetry, music – anything!

Where: Bellwether, 5126 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver
When: Thursday, March 8 at 7:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Denver Human Services: Community Network Meeting: Services for Immigrants and Refugees

Join us for our next Community Network Meeting on Friday, March 9, 2018. We will be sharing resources available for immigrants and refugees. The presentation line up is still being confirmed, however, we hope to have representatives from the Denver City Attorney’s Office, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, and more!

Where: Denver Human Service Building-East, 3815 Steele St, Denver
When: Friday, March 9 at 8:30am

Click here to RSVP.


Colorado People’s Action: Movement Politics Candidate Training

Are you planning on running for office? Do you what to help support someone running for office?Join CPA to build skills as a candidate and transform the way in which we engage with politics and the political system and work with and keep our Representatives accountable.

¿Está planeando postularse para una oficina? ¿Quiere apoyar a alguien que se postula para un cargo? Únase a CPA para desarrollar habilidades como candidato y transformar la forma en que involucramos con la política y el sistema político y trabajar con nuestros Representantes y mantenerlos responsables.

Where: 14707 E 2nd Ave, Aurora (Suite 100)
When: Saturday, March 10 at 10:00am

Click here to RSVP.


Asian Pacific Development Center: Know Your Rights Workshop

APDC’s Know Your Rights workshops are designed educate and equip participants with need-to-know information: What do I do (and not do) when interacting with police? What can I do to protect myself when dealing with immigration enforcement? What can I do if I may have experienced wage theft? Additional modules are available addressing hate crimes or renters rights. Participants will have a chance to share their stories and experiences with APDC, or the group, if they would like. Each workshop is a space to learn how to protect yourself, your family, and your community!

Where: Asian Pacific Development Center, 1537 Alton St, Aurora
When: Saturday, March 10 at 10:30am

Click here to RSVP.


Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition: What Are Our Rights? ¿Cuáles Son Tus Derechos?

Comprendiendo y Protegiendo los Derechos de los Inmigrantes, las Mujeres, y los Trabajadores/Understanding and Protecting Workers’, Women’s, and Immigrant Rights.

Where: Asian Pacific Development Center, 1537 Alton St, Aurora
When: Saturday, March 10 at 12:30pm

Click here to RSVP.


Kick Off Potluck – Colorado Labor Education and Art Collaborative

Colorado Labor Community! Join us for a Launch Celebration and Potluck for the Colorado Labor Education and Arts Collaborative (CLEAC) AND Student Labor Action Project (SLAP). Students and Faculty in UCD’s Political Science Department invite workers, organizers, union members, students, and educators across Colorado to this new network whose mission is to support and create arts-based events that educate the public about labor history and support current labor struggles.

Where: Multi-Cultural Lounge, Tivoli Student Union, Auraria Campus, Denver
When: Saturday, March 10 at 4:00pm

Click here to RSVP.


Colorado Latino Advocacy Day 2018

Don’t forget to Save the Date for LAD’s (Latino/a Advocacy Day) 12th year anniversary! Join us Sunday, March 11th and Monday, March 12th. Political power starts with YOU! This two-day program provides advocacy trainings and briefings on policy issues that most impact Latinos in Colorado. Over 200 Latinxs from across Colorado are expected at LAD this year. TWO HUNDRED policy advocates swarming the State Capitol to demand change for our communities. Imagine that!

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax Ave, Denver
When: Sunday, March 11 – Monday, March 12

Click here to RSVP.


Warm Cookies of the Revolution: Netflix & Chill (With Strangers!): “If A Tree Falls”

You bring a pillow and we’ll bring the popcorn, candy, and drinks. We’ll watch this incredible documentary that explores the effectiveness and limits of activism, as well as who we label “terrorist” and why, then talk about our own connection to these issues.

Where: McNichols Civic Center Building, 144 West Colfax Ave, Denver
When: Sunday, March 11 at 11:00am

Click here to RSVP.


Thanks again! We’re grateful for everything you do, and we’ll see you next week with more ways to make a difference.