Congrats, GOP! You’re The Anti-Vaxxer Party Again

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: GOP Rep. Mark Baisley explains the GOP’s party-line opposition to House Bill 19-1312 in a lengthy post today–and it’s a worst-case scenario, invoking the most discredited of misinformation about vaccines:

The stated goal of the bill is to reduce the occurrence of childhood diseases. Colorado averages approximately 90% current vaccinations for children under 3 years of age. But recent epidemics such as autism have arisen and parents are understandably suspicious of vaccines as the cause. [Pols emphasis] Citizens should not be coerced by the State to permit pharmaceutical injections into their children. Nor should they be shamed by their own government for their choice.

Furthermore, Colorado citizens entrust billions of their hard-earned dollars every year to their government to provide K12 education. This bill threatens to withhold delivering that service to children whose parents do not cooperate with their government’s controlling ambitions.

I stand in strong opposition to HB19-1312.

In today’s Republican Party, pseudoscience has triumphed. Who can argue otherwise?

—–

Measles.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reported in the wee hours, and then hopefully she went to bed:

A bill to make it harder for parents to get a vaccination exemption for their children passed out of a Colorado House committee on a 7-4 vote at about 4 a.m. Tuesday morning — nearly 14 hours after the hearing started.

It was the longest committee of the 2019 legislative session so far with hundred of parents bouncing and walking their children up and down the Capitol halls late into the night…

“This is about keeping Colorado’s kids safe. We need to be proactive, not reactive. We are in the midst of public health crisis and we can’t wait for a tragedy to occur,” Rep. Mullica, D-Northglenn, said in a statement released early Tuesday morning after the bill passed. “Experts believe this option will help improve Colorado’s dismal and dangerous immunization rates.”

Owing to the hefty Democratic majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, it should be noted that the 7-4 vote in favor of House Bill 19-1312 was in fact a party-line vote. All the Republicans on the House Health and Insurance Committee voted against the bill, which is itself a compromise from earlier proposed legislation that would have eliminated the personal-choice exemption for immunization of children headed to Colorado public schools. As we discussed previously, that proposal was considered too coercive by Gov. Jared Polis, leading to this compromise measure that should still help improve Colorado’s embarrassingly low child immunization rate.

The issue of childhood vaccinations, more to the point the highly prevalent misinformation suggesting a range of negative health effects from vaccinating children that has no scientific basis, doesn’t always divide cleanly along partisan lines. One of the areas of the state with a low rate of vaccinations is “progressive” Boulder County. Over the last few years, however, the “freedom” to not have children vaccinated has been championed almost exclusively in Colorado by Republican lawmakers on the fringy side of the caucus. Two now-defeated Republican Senators in particular, Laura Woods and Tim Neville, unapologetically championed both the pseudoscience behind anti-vaxxer ideology and conspiracy theories about children being “rounded up and vaccinated” without their parent’s consent.

In case you were wondering who was going to take up the anti-vaxxer cause now that Woods and Tim Neville are history, direct your attention to all the Republicans on the House Health and Insurance Committee.

Congratulations, Colorado Republicans, for taking ownership of this fringe issue. Again.

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Recall Polis Campaign Goes Psycho Over Sol Pais

UPDATE: Moderator of the Recall Polis Facebook group sounds the all clear:

It would appear that the faithful remain unconvinced.

—–

The news is breaking from multiple local outlets that an 18-year-old woman from Florida who was allegedly “obsessed” with the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton and made credible threats of violence against area schools is dead, having been found at Echo Lake near Mt. Evans this morning:

The FBI Denver office confirmed the agency had responded to the base of Mt. Evans Wednesday morning and, in a tweet just before 11 a.m., said there was no longer a threat to the community.

According to Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers, Pais’s body was found at 10:50 a.m. about a half-mile from Echo Lake Park, located near the Mount Evans Scenic Byway about 45 miles west of Denver.

The drama over threats made by Sol Pais and the resulting lock-out of hundreds of area public schools yesterday and again today has riveted media and dominated local social media discussion for the last 24 hours. And over at the closed Facebook group page for the conspiracy theory-positive Recall Polis campaign, there’s a clear consensus emerging that this is what’s known among the InfoWars crowd as a “false flag” operation:

Now, Jennifer McCreary may think she’s a “crazy woman” to think this could have been a trick to distract the voters of Colorado from the Polis recall campaign–and to be brutally honest, lots of our readers will agree. But you know who doesn’t think this is “crazy?”

Pastor Steven Grant and hundreds of fellow Recall Polis members, that’s who!

(more…)

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UPDATE: Caldara Now Skimming Galindo, Polis Recalls

We wrote last Thursday about the co-opting of the longshot and nasty campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which would require an unprecedented 600,000+ signatures in order to even qualify for the ballot necessitating a multimillion-dollar petition campaign on a scale never before seen in Colorado, by the Independence Institute–the decades-old local “nonpartisan nonprofit” run by right-wing prankster Jon Caldara. Caldara’s operation is taking over fundraising in particular for the Recall Polis campaign, via an online platform that automatically skims 6% plus a per-transaction fee from every donation. That’s more than double what GoFundMe, the processor the campaign was previously using, charges for the same donations.

Well folks, you can add the campaign to recall Rep. Rochelle Galindo to Caldara’s revenue stream:

As you can see they’re raised over $4,000 toward the Galindo recall, of which Team Caldara pocketed $246 at their stated 6% skim–plus a 30 cent per-transaction fee. Over at the Recall Polis page, the $16,290 they’ve raised translates to a cool $977 off the top to the Independence Institute. As you can see above, the “goal” of $2,500 for the Galindo recall has been met–which on fundraising sites like GoFundMe would mean the funds will be released for their intended purpose.

Over at the Recall Polis campaign, the “goal” is higher–$135,000, which they haven’t met.

But it doesn’t matter, rubes!

You see, the Recall Polis campaign is a “flexible” Freedomfy campaign, meaning they’re going to take your money whether or not they reach their fundraising goal. The FAQ page for the campaign explains that “funds are setup to deposit to the Issue Committee bank account every few days and will be used as they come in for advertising and materials to run the operation.” That means the campaign’s “goal” is irrelevant, and the money flows directly to the campaign less Caldara’s 6% cut no matter what happens. A fair amount of those funds can be expected to eaten up by invoices from former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who signed on as the lawyer for the campaign at the same time Caldara took over the money side.

Especially with the Polis recall, the enormous logistics that would be required to successfully collect the required signatures in the short 60 days allowed make success of the effort extremely unlikely–which in turn raises ethical questions about the revenue positive “help” the campaign is now getting from local right-wing usual suspects. For the Galindo recall the threshold is lower, of course, but using Caldara’s pricey platform for their fundraising siphons off valuable resources on a continuous basis from the campaign.

Above all, what grassroots conservatives need to be asking is why, in response to their grassroots anger, all the “experienced” political operatives want to talk about is monetization of the recall campaigns. This is an especially urgent question given the novel way Caldara stands to reap a much higher percentage than the market rate off funds raised in support of both of these campaigns.

Short of that, we have to assume that these people are okay with being ripped off.

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Popular, Misunderstood “Red Flag” Bill Signed Into Law

UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller:

The Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Protection Act will officially go into law on Jan. 1, 2020, which is also the deadline law enforcement agencies statewide will have to adopt either model policies and procedures that are in the works or their own…

[Douglas County Sheriff Tony] Spurlock discussed how supportive Parrish’s parents were of the measure, which Spurlock began pushing for last year after Parrish was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve 2017 by a man who the department knew had a history of mental health issues and several weapons.

“For a father who lost his son and see it that way is inspiring to me and should be for to everyone in the state of Colorado. Because his concern is for other people,” Spurlock said of Parrish’s father. “And when I had that conversation with him … I knew then that I was doing the right thing to stand for this. … As the governor said, we can save lives. We can save lives today, tomorrow and the next day. And, most importantly, if we save one life, we create history for that family.”

—–

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports:

Beginning in January, Colorado judges will have the power to temporarily remove firearms from people believed to be at high risk of harming themselves or others, joining more than a dozen other states that have put into law some type of red-flag bill.

Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1177 on Friday at the state Capitol, after nearly two months of contentious legislative hearings marked by a familiar partisan divide over the issue of gun control.

Proponents of the extreme risk protection order bill say it could be instrumental in reducing the likelihood of another mass shooting while at the same time cutting down on the number of suicides in Colorado. Second Amendment backers say the law runs the risk of depriving Coloradans of their constitutional right to bear arms when it takes effect Jan. 1.

The signing of House Bill 19-1177 into law today brings to a close another ugly debate over gun policy in Colorado, riddled with misinformation intended to incite anger among gun owners and provoke political retaliation against majority Democrats. The legislation, which allows family members or law enforcement to go before a judge and prove to an evidentiary standard that a person represents a significant risk to themselves or others and temporarily remove firearms from that person’s custody, already exists in over a dozen other states where its judicious use has saved lives.

The reality of this legislation and expected very limited utilization–170 cases per year as estimated in the bill’s fiscal note–has very little relationship to the wild arguments that have been made against the bill by gun lobby opponents. Much like the far-out claims in 2013 that guns laws passed that year would result in “gun confiscation” and that “no one in Colorado can ever get a magazine again,” the gun lobby terrorized their grassroots base this year with baseless warnings of vengeful spying neighbors and bumper-sticker raids by police–none of which are rational outcomes of the bill.

The truth is that over 80% of Colorado voters support a “red flag” law, and none of the changes from 2018’s version justify the partisan closing of ranks we saw over the bill this year. The political reality is that Republicans who supported the legislation in 2018 peeled off under intense pressure from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, who helped Democrats take down Rep. Cole Wist and Attorney General candidate George Brauchler as punishment for supporting the bill last year. And make no mistake: Brauchler started backing away from the bill even before he lost the election last fall, having nothing to do with changes in the bill’s language. RMGO’s willingness to tear down fellow Republicans rather than compromise, even at the expense of their own agenda in helping replace Wist with an ardent supporter of gun control, was enough to chill further dissent.

Now, Democrats have the job of cutting through that misinformation. After 2013 we expect they get the urgency.

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Polis Recall: Never Mind The Details, The Grift Is On

UPDATE: A reader astutely points out that Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute has been using his Denver Post column as a vehicle for enthusiastically promoting recalls of late:

We’d say the opportunity for a “dollar sign” (see below) conflict of interest is rather large. Wouldn’t you?

—–

In the last 24 hours, the “campaign” to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which kicked off with a spate of nasty revelations about the anti-Semitic and otherwise unpalatably extreme views of its organizers, has shifted gears–into a new operation run by familiar faces in Colorado politics, and with a new sense of purpose.

What’s the purpose? We’ll let 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark explain:

“Dollar signs.” Lots of them. Here’s a TL;DR version:

Yesterday, it was announced that former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been “retained” as counsel for the Recall Polis organization, presumably to help the group navigate an unprecedented path to collecting over 600,000 valid Colorado voter signatures–many times the amount ever collected in a petition drive before. And that’s not all:

In a move just as noteworthy, fundraising for the Recall Polis campaign is being taken over by the Independence Institute , run by longtime local political walking clown show operative Jon Caldara, and their recently-deployed “Freedomfy” crowdfunding online platform. And with that bit of news, there’s something every person considering a donation to the Recall Polis campaign on “Freedomfy” needs to know:

Compared to every major crowdsource fundraising platform with the apparent exception of Indiegogo, “Freedomfy” is ripping you off. The Independence Institute charges an exorbitant fee of 6%, plus 30 cents for every individual transaction. That’s more than double the fees charged by GoFundMe, the platform the Recall Polis organization from is migrating away from. What’s more, GoFundMe has an active pool of over 50 million donors. We don’t know how many members “Freedomfy” has, but it’s not anywhere near 50 million.

With that said, there’s one thing GoFundMe hasn’t got–a percentage flowing to Jon Caldara.

We’ve already discussed at length how attempting to recall Gov. Jared Polis, a campaign that can’t even under the state constitution begin until he’s been in office six months, is a fool’s errand logistically. The massive signature requirement to place the question on the ballot would require a multimillion dollar petition gathering operation of unprecedented scale–to say nothing of what the actual recall election would cost proponents if it made the ballot. But that hasn’t dissuaded a strident segment of the Republican base in Colorado from raving.

And where there’s passion, especially poorly thought-out passion, there’s money! Caldara sets up a fundraising stream that he nets the skim from, and Gessler submits billable hours that there is now a stream of money to cover. That’s what they call a sustainable business model. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if there’s ever a recall of Gov. Polis–in fact that could be considered a less desirable outcome.

Just like when Ted Harvey discovered he could cash in by sending out fundraising letters with Hillary Clinton’s face on them, turning recalls into cash machines is an end unto itself.

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GOP Chairman Buck Defends Comparing Gays To Nazis

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

Readers were shocked this past week by an exchange in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Tuesday between Rep. Ken Buck, newly elected chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, and a woman who had experienced discrimination as an LGBT woman seeking pediatric care for her children:

Rep. Ken Buck: Um, is it your position that, uh a uh orthodox Jewish doctor should be required to work with a uh–an orthodox Jewish doctor whose grandparent was killed in the Holocaust be required to work with a–um, a Nazi, uh patient?

The clear suggestion here is that a doctor who doesn’t like gay people would be just as justified in refusing treatment to a gay family as a Jewish person who had ancestors killed in the Holocaust would be justified in refusing to treat a Nazi. Needless to say, this comparison is extremely offensive to both gay and, by cheapening the pertinent history to crassly make Buck’s point, Jewish people.

Yesterday, 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger broadcast an interview with Rep. Buck in which he’s asked about this ghastly comparison–and Buck launched into a defense of his words that demonstrates he meant exactly what he said:

“My point was, and it’s similar to the (Masterpiece Cakeshop) baker case in Jefferson County. We’re getting to the point where we’re forcing people to conduct business that they may not want to conduct. We have to be very careful, it’s not a line we haven’t crossed in the past, we’ve certainly crossed that line with African-Americans in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and it was very appropriate not to have segregated lunch counters, not to have segregated buses, but we keep finding more and more groups that we are putting into a category of forcing people to conduct business with,” said Buck.

What Buck is trying to say here is that he doesn’t think LGBT people should be a protected class of people under discrimination law, as they would be under the legislation under debate and are in Buck’s home state of Colorado as well as 20 other states. That’s consistent with the ballot measure Amendment 2 passed by Colorado in 1992 and later found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Buck’s brazen contempt for the law in the state he represents in Congress invites its own criticism.

But more importantly, what Buck’s “clarification” doesn’t contain is any reasonable justification for comparing gay people to Nazis. The underlying assumptions necessary to make this a valid comparison are simply unworkable for anyone who doesn’t virulently hate LGBT people. It seems fundamentally absurd to even have to write this, but the Nazis were directly responsible for the deaths of six million Jewish people, and started a war that killed 50 million people globally. To compare that abominable history to LGBT Americans who want health care without being victims of discrimination is…

It’s sick, folks. And treating this as a defensible viewpoint for a member of Congress from the state of Colorado, not to mention the chairman of the state party, is totally unacceptable. We honestly do believe that in previous years, before Donald Trump desensitized the nation from outrage, Buck would have been compelled to apologize for these comments–not double down on them on prime time TV. But if it isn’t clear from this episode how deep the moral rot in today’s Republican Party runs, erupting to the surface in the hate-rooted recall campaigns against Rep. Rochelle Galindo and Gov. Jared Polis, here may be all the proof you’ll ever need.

Ordinarily one would call on the Colorado Republican Party to stand up against these kinds of outrages, like when Ryan Call called out Vicki Marble for blaming African American health problems on eating too much chicken–but that’s obviously a problem in this case! In the end, despite all the protestations to the contrary, history may be forced to conclude that the unconcealed hatred common in Buck’s horrific analogy and the stated motivations of recall organizers reflects who Colorado Republicans really are.

Want to prove us wrong? For God’s sake, somebody condemn this madness.

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Polis Health Care Plan Shows Why Elections Matter

“Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care” rollout on Thursday

Governor Jared Polis rolled out a detailed plan on Thursday morning for reducing health care costs in Colorado called the “Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care.”

In an event at Denver Health Medical Center, Polis outlined a proposal that includes several pieces of legislation currently making their way through the State Capitol. As KOAA News reports:

Polis already signed a hospital transparency bill into law last week.  That law requires hospitals to report their annual spending and expenditures as part of an effort to lower health care prices.

There are already bills going through the legislature to import prescription drugs from Canada and introduce a reinsurance pool designed to lower premiums for private insurers.

In addition to short-term solutions, Polis also mentioned plans to incentivize preventative care, introduce healthy options to children at schools, improve immunization rates and introduce a separate plan to address behavioral health.

Here’s more detail from a press release:

“Health care costs too much,” said Governor Jared Polis. “No Coloradan should have to go without care because they can’t afford it. This roadmap will be our guide to saving people money on healthcare and ensuring better access to affordable care for everyone in our state.”

Colorado has taken significant steps to increase access to health care and insurance coverage during the past decade. As a result, today only 6.5 percent of Coloradans don’t have health insurance compared to 15.8 percent in 2013. Despite this improvement, the cost of care has been increasing at an alarming rate, especially in rural areas and mountain communities.

All of the central legislative efforts outlined in Polis’ health care proposal have bipartisan support. In other words, these are all bills that could have been shepherded through the legislative process at any point in the last several years.

The reason you aren’t already saving more money on health care costs is because that would have required Senate Republicans to do something other than obstructing Democratic bills and obfuscating about sexual harassment with their one-seat majority in 2017 and 2018. Republicans such as former Senate President Kevin Grantham liked to say that they served as a “check” on Democratic control; in reality, they were an obstacle to reasonable discussions about all sorts of common-sense legislative approaches.

There is absolutely no way that these health care savings efforts would have been produced without Colorado voters giving Democrats both a majority and a mandate in November 2018. The right leadership matters. Elections matter.

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Here’s The Dumbest Thing You’ll Read All Day

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Conservative message group Compass Colorado, one of a stable of press release-issuing GOP aligned front groups who pop up in inboxes from time to time, thinks they have figured out what’s really motivating Gov. Jared Polis to, their words, “stymie” Colorado oil and gas through the passage of Senate Bill 19-181–and Compass Colorado director Kelly Maher isn’t talking the usual capitalism-destroying cave-dwelling econightmare that the left has been fighting for all these years.

Why, Polis is doing it to (cue evil laughter) make money, of course!

According to his own financial disclosure statements, Polis is an investor in two Denver-based Bow River Capital funds that invest heavily in the Canadian oil and gas industry – a market with a much looser regulatory framework than that of Colorado or the United States. Polis personally has more than $250,000 invested in these funds. [Pols emphasis] If Polis scuttles oil and natural gas development in Colorado, the value of his personal investment holdings in Canada could increase as domestic supply contracts as a result.

Shortly after Polis started investing in Bow River energy funds, he joined forces with a fellow Democrat Congressman to sponsor legislation that would impose a burdensome regulatory framework on the oil and gas industry domestically. Polis’ pursuit of this legislation asking the oil and gas industry to follow the same rules as other industries is hypocritical given his investment in the more-lax Canadian oil and gas industry.

“Jared Polis’ radical environmental agenda could cost Colorado families hundreds of dollars a year in increased utility costs,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “As part of this agenda, Polis also wants to end oil and gas development in Colorado, which will hurt our economy and cost our state hundreds of high-paying jobs. If he’s a “true believer” when it comes to the dog whistles he’s sending out to his radical environmental base, why does he continue to profit off of the investments in Canadian oil and gas?”

It all sounds terribly damning like there should be taiko drums thundering in the background, until you apply a bit of crucial context to this wild allegation. Gov. Polis’ 2015 congressional financial disclosure listed his net worth as somewhere between $142 million and $468 million, the range reflecting the value range of assets reported in the disclosure. Most informal estimates place Polis’ net worth on the high side of that range, and the booming markets of the last couple of years have most likely not been adverse to his bottom line either.

With this in mind, the idea that Polis is supporting this bill in order to “profit off investments in Canadian oil and gas” is without a doubt one of the silliest allegations leveled in a legislative debate that has been severely factually challenged from the beginning. The theory that Democrats want to plunge the world into some kind of primitivist dark age, as dumb as that is, at least has some anecdotal one-liners that can be thrown around in a debate. This is just prima facie stupid.

Gov. Polis’ GOP opponents (and yes, a Democrat or two) have tried for years to turn his wealth into a liability, but the arithmetic falls apart under even casual scrutiny. There’s just no rational way to make the charge stick. In addition, there’s something perhaps even more contemptible about wealth-adoring Republicans suddenly upset about Democrats who possess money.

But that’s for another blog post. For today, let’s just try to keep it somewhere in the vicinity of real.

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UPDATE: Polis Recall Responds To Anti-Semitism Report

UPDATE: After a segment last night on 9NEWS recounting the Greeley Tribune’s story of anti-Semitic views held by organizers of a possible recall of Gov. Jared Polis, it looks like the Recall Polis organizers may be taking steps to come across as less overtly anti-Semitic:

In the aftermath of that report, a post went up on the Facebook group suggesting that one of its “high profile” leaders, presumably group administrator Judy Spady of “Israel did 9/11” infamy, has been excused:

“The highest standards of humanity”–now with one less Nazi! Here’s to getting the “vetting” right next time.

We feel better about the whole thing now, really.

—–

On Sunday we blogged about a story from the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy, which took an unflattering look at some of the “grassroots” activists behind a Facebook group with nearly 30,000 members who are organizing for a potential recall of Gov. Jared Polis. At least two organizers of this group including its purported leader Shane Donnelley have made what can be characterized as highly anti-Semitic postings to social media over the years, to include commenting that ‘Hitler was good to the German people’ and another claiming that “Israel did 9/11.” Our blog of this report has spread fairly widely on social media along with the original story since Sunday, and Colorado Public Radio mentioned the story briefly in their interview on the subject with Gov. Polis yesterday.

Overnight last night, two people identifying themselves as principal organizers of the Recall Polis campaign, Christine Martinez and Juli-Andra Fuentes, responded at length to our post, perhaps mistaking us for the original outlet but in any event seeking to clear the air surrounding the Greeley Tribune’s disclosures and the intentions of the Recall Polis group.

Because we strive to be eminently fair, and also because we didn’t want to see any of this memorable response deleted once…well, you know, folks sobered up, we’ve reprinted Martinez’s two comments from the original post in their entirety after the jump. If you’re in a hurry, the TL;DR version:

Needless to say, the “suggestion” that we take down our post is respectfully declined.

(more…)

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Check Out Colorado’s New Logo!

As introduced today by Gov. Jared Polis in his inimitable style:

We think it looks cool! Your mileage may vary. Reportedly this logo was in existence prior to Gov. Polis taking office, but was used in other contexts than the “official” logo while former Gov. John Hickenlooper was in office. Hickenlooper’s logo design, featuring a monochrome green triangle with a second down-facing triangle serving as the logo for various departments, is what graces state vehicles, literature, and signage today:

It’s a design that was criticized in some circles, especially the department logos featuring a drill bit to “honor” the state’s mineral extraction heritage. We haven’t seen how those departmental logos will update to match the new main logo, but we’d guess that the drill bit’s days are numbered–perhaps excepting departments that deal with, you know, drilling.

Out with the old, in with the new-ish.

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Repeal A Law? Beats Repealing People

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Joe Vaccarelli reports, Republican faithful looking to act on their frustrations over the massive defeat for their party in the 2018 elections and the resulting loss of any power to stall legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly have a few options beyond the most obvious and probably best choice of trying harder to not lose in 2020.

If you’re not interested in signing on with the virulent anti-Semites who want to recall Gov. Jared Polis or helping the Neville family live down their disastrous management of House Republican electoral messaging but would still like to lodge your disapproval, try this:

Hundreds of Grand Junction voters turned out Saturday to make their voice heard regarding a recently passed state law.

While they weren’t casting ballots this day, they hope to in the future. Voters signed petitions to support an effort to put a question on the 2020 ballot to repeal the National Popular Vote Bill, which was signed into law March 15…

The effort to place a question on the ballot is led by Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and Town of Monument Mayor Don Wilson. The bill — which would change the way Colorado commits its presidential electoral votes in future elections — passed through the State House of Representatives in February and was later signed by Gov. Jared Polis.

Colorado law provides a method by which voters can petition to have a recently-passed statute put before the voters for a second guess. In order to qualify such a repeal question for the ballot, opponents need to collect a similar number of valid signatures to what’s required to place a statewide proposition before voters. And time is short: the petition deadline is August 1st, and if they can’t get enough signatures to qualify the question the national popular vote compact law will “take effect”–which in this case means nothing unless enough states join the compact to produce an Electoral College majority.

If you support changing the system to reduce the possibility that the Electoral College might come to a different result than the popular vote, as most recently occurred in 2000 and 2016 resulting in the election of Republican presidents in both cases, you’re not going to be very excited about a petition campaign to block the law from taking effect. On the other hand, collecting over 125,000 valid Colorado voter signatures to force a 2020 ballot question on blocking Colorado from joining the National Popular Vote Compact, which is years from becoming binding if it ever happens at all, is a tall order–leading to an expenditure of resources that Republicans would arguably be much better served by devoting to Republican candidates in the 2020 general election.

But the fact remains that blocking a law from taking effect by petition is a legitimate process permitted under Colorado law, and it’s a far more appropriate protest than attempting to recall lawmakers for passing legislation. And the fact is, if opponents do manage to achieve this lofty goal it would be a more potent statement in their favor than an opportunistic recall of some legislator nobody outside their district has heard of.

Again, the best way to handle defeat in any election is to try to not lose the next election. But if you’re a vengeful Republican with money burning a hole in your pocket, this is perhaps a more honorable way to console yourself.

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Who’s Running The Polis Recall? Nazis. Yes, Really.

Over the past couple of weeks there have been a number of stories about groups organizing to recall Gov. Jared Polis from office. Because Gov. Polis is constitutionally protected from a recall effort for the for six months he is in office, it has not been possible for these groups to gather any signatures, and the massive requirement of over 600,000 valid signatures makes the attempt as a practical matter highly unlikely. Regardless, the agitation is contributing to the current zeitgeist of GOP rebelliousness against Democrats, who won in an historic landslide election in 2018 leaving Republicans with no way of stopping Democrats from passing desired legislation.

But for all the legitimizing press the Polis recall proponents have received this month, there’s been something very important missing–information about the people behind the effort. And as the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy reports today in one of the biggest stories ever from that media outlet, this data point is extremely significant.

Because some of them are Nazis.

Recall Governor Jared Polis page, a closed Facebook group, is nearly 30,000 members strong after adopting that name.

Shane Donnelly is one of the admins for the page, and appears to be in charge, as he has called the page “my group,” and commented that he “created this movement.”

He also once posted that Hitler was good to the German people, and “its time america has someone american.” Donnelly hasn’t responded to a Facebook message seeking comment. [Pols emphasis]

There’s no way we can effectively summarize all the the damning detail in this story, so make sure you click through and read it all. The short version is that an online right-wing activist named Shane Donnelly is the principal organizer of the “official” Polis recall closed Facebook group and the issue committee of the same name. The Tribune reports on a recent split between that organization and another group calling itself the Resist Polis PAC. Regardless it’s Donnelly’s group that has almost 30,000 members, the only hard indicator of support that exists for any of this.

And Shane Donnelly is not the only Nazi in the group.

Then there’s the OFFICIAL RECALL ELECTION COMMITTEE, which would discuss potential candidates for election to take Polis’ place should a recall be successful.

Judy Spady is officially involved with both committees, and she’s also an admin for the Facebook group, earning that title following Good’s exodus.

Spady’s public Facebook page is rife with anti-semitic posts, including a post from September 2017 saying “Israel did 9/11,” and another that credits the western world with creating radical Islam to “use fear to push the Jew World Order.” [Pols emphasis]

Now, let’s compare this revelation to the outrage over Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments about “allegiance to a foreign power” in reference to support for Israel, the advisability of which remains a subject of hot contention among Democrats after a push to condemn Omar via a resolution went sideways. Republicans of course had no such division in their ranks, if anything with a few like Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado voting against the watered-down Omar resolution because it didn’t single out anti-Semitism above all other forms of oppression:

In the history of the world, no group has suffered more insidious hatred than the Jews. Anti-Semitism can’t be compared with any other hate speech without marginalizing the history of Jewish oppression. I will not vote to overlook the anti-Semitism which has been covered up by the Democratic leadership…

Well folks, we’re sorry to inform Rep. Buck that the campaign to recall Jared Polis–which he’d better handle with care as a candidate for Colorado Republican Party chairman–is run by people who aren’t at all ambiguous in their hatred of Jewish people.

There’s a lot more to say about this, and it’s time for that conversation to happen. It’s not just that these vile fringe figures were given credibility in multiple news reports that they never deserved. The Recall Polis campaign is trading on the same ginned-up outrage as the recall campaign against House members personally fronted by GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. It’s the same message, motivating the same segment of the electorate. If anything, Neville would love to have the nearly 30,000 members of Donnelly’s Recall Polis group give Neville’s relatively obscure Recall Colorado page a like.

This is who they are. If it’s not who you are, and you’re part of their movement, you know what to do.

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So You Wanna Recall Jared Polis, Do You?

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As Colorado Public Radio’s Hayley Sanchez reports, good luck with that:

The rules for recalling a governor include collecting signatures from 25 percent of the number of the voters who cast a ballot in the last election for governor.

More than 2.5 million people voted in last year’s governor’s race, said Colorado Secretary of State office spokeswoman Serena Woods. To get the recall on the ballot, the groups will need more than 631,000 signatures in the 60 days after the petition is approved by the state’s office. If they fall short, there will be no recall.

On top of that, no recall effort can begin circulating until after a governor has been in office for at least six months. Polis has been in office for two. Woods said the groups could still submit their paperwork to the state’s office but nothing can be done until the six-month period has passed.

In the past few weeks the rhetoric among Republican agitators has ramped up to a fever pitch, accusing majority Democrats in the legislature and Gov. Jared Polis of the highest imaginable crimes for passing in marathon public hearings the agenda they won the majority in 2018 campaigning on. Zeroing in on three principal grievances–the already-signed bill to join Colorado with the National Popular Vote Compact, a popular “red flag” bill to temporarily remove firearms from people in a mental health crisis, and of course the oil and gas drilling reform measure Senate Bill 19-181–Republicans have openly declared their intention to rekindle the rebellious fires of 2013 and punish Democrats for having the temerity to keep their promises.

If it seems like this is the new normal when Republicans can’t win a straight electoral fight, that’s because it is.

In the legislature, a recall movement is getting underway as an unprecedented in-house campaign operation run by the GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. However that controversial move unfolds, initiating a recall against a statewide officeholder is a far more daunting prospect as evidenced by the massive signature count required to place the question on the ballot. Attempting to recall Gov. Polis, especially after letting passions cool the required six months to obtain a 60-day window to collect many times more valid signatures than a ballot measure requires, is not just a fool’s errand but a significant resource sink for Republicans already beset with infighting and demoralization.

The one thing we know in both cases is that no one can tell these people anything strategic. None of this is about political strategy. It’s about bitterness, ruthlessness, and at least in the case of Clan Neville it’s about money. The only thing that can stop it is…well, failure.

In this case, failure is the most likely outcome.

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South Jeffco Tea Party Removes FB Post Saying Stapleton’s Advisors Should be Drawn & Quartered

Drawn & Quartered

It’s been a busy week both online and in real life for the South Jeffco Tea Party. On Tuesday one of its members called out the Republican establishment in no uncertain terms and tonight the group is hosting a VIP Meet & Greet followed by a public forum for state GOP party official candidates.

Embracing its anti-establishment spirit, the South JeffCo Tea Party account posted a poll on Facebook earlier this week, asking its followers which they “hold in higher regard: ‘Chlamydia’ or the ‘RNC National Committee.’

A commenter asked “Is this same RNC that ran Walker Stapleton? I’ll have to think about that.”

While one might expect a Tea Party group to pile on the criticism of an establishment candidate like Stapleton, the SJCTP instead celebrated the democratic process, saying “We Coloradans picked Walker Stapleton and there was nothing wrong with that, he’s a fair enough candidate…”

But then things got dark:

(more…)

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Now THIS is the Real “Overreach”

UPDATE: These recalls are brought to you by the Neville clan.

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Even before the final votes were counted in a 2018 election that saw sweeping victories for Colorado Democrats, local Republicans were keen on telling anyone who would listen to expect Democrats to “overreach” in the 2019 legislative session.

As we noted in this space last November, “overreach” is the kind of term normally reserved for the losers of a given election:

As all sides in Colorado politics take stock of this year’s landslide victory for Democrats up and down the ballot, we’re seeing reactions that closely parallel–at least on the surface–the response to the last big Democratic surge in Colorado in the 2012 elections. Hand-wringing about the supposed horrors of life under Democratic control in Colorado leads to talk of certain areas of the state either seceding or (new in 2018) joining Wyoming.

And that’s how it’s spun: Democratic “overreach” prompts a completely unhinged secession movement that is nonetheless taken at least somewhat seriously. And of course, in 2013 Democratic “overreach” led to recalls! Some variation of this faux concern warning  to victorious Democrats has been the conclusion of the majority of post-election opinion from conservatives, as well as the state’s crop of aging white male “centrist” opinionmakers.

It was silly for Republicans to predict a Democratic “overreach” in 2019 when you consider the results of the 2018 election. Democrats won every statewide office, something that neither political party had accomplished in decades; Jared Polis was elected Governor by a double-digit margin; and Democrats added seats to their State House majority and took control of the State Senate. Nevertheless, Republicans clung fast to their “overreach” message, using the same club to whack away at issues from gun safety to a National Popular Vote for President.

While Republicans yell “overreach” every time a Democrat grabs for a cup of coffee, the real “overreach” is happening within their own ranks. As Marianne Goodland reports today for the Colorado Springs Gazette,

Recall petitions are underway against two Colorado Democratic lawmakers over their votes on Senate Bill 42, the bill that will add Colorado to the national popular vote interstate compact.

And a Facebook page has been set up to start the process for a recall of Gov. Jared Polis, though he has yet to sign the bill.

Statements of purpose, the first step before the petition filing, have been submitted to the secretary of state. They target state Sen. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village and Rep. Meg Froelich of Englewood. Both voted in favor of Senate Bill 42.

Sorry, wrong Jeff Bridges. But maybe they’ll try to recall him, too.

We’re a bit surprised that the first recall attempt of Democratic lawmakers is in reaction to National Popular Vote legislation; we would have put better odds on the first recall attempt coming in overreaction to so-called “red flag” legislation, since the 2013 GOP recall efforts were related to the darn libruls taking everybody’s guns high-capacity magazines.

It also strikes us as odd that the first recall targets would be Denver-area Democrats from House District 3. Last November, incumbent Rep. Jeff Bridges pummeled Republican challenger Toren Mushovic by a 61-39 margin; you can’t make much of an argument that HD-3 voters were on the fence about Bridges in 2018. Bridges has since been appointed to fill the remainder of Daniel Kagan’s State Senate term, with Froehlich selected to replace Bridges in the State House. In the case of Froehlich, we’re talking about a recall attempt of a legislator who has not yet been elected by voters; local residents approached about signing a recall petition for Froehlich will be excused for being confused.

And finally, as Goodland reports, any effort to recall Gov. Jared Polis will require more than just a Facebook page:

Recalling the governor (who has not yet signed Senate Bill 42) will take more than 631,000 signatures to get to the ballot. And he cannot be recalled until he’s been in office for six months, according to the secretary of state.

To recap, an “effort” is underway to recall a legislator who won re-election by 22 points just four months ago. Another group is trying to oust Gov. Polis — who was elected by an 11-point margin — which is something they can’t even legally attempt until later this summer.

This should work out well.

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The O&G Bill That Was So Secret Democrats Held a Giant Press Conference to Introduce It

We wrote earlier today about efforts by oil and gas interests to delay legislation intended to prioritize the health and safety of Coloradans over profits or other motives in regulating oil and gas drilling operations. The O&G industry is pushing hard to establish a narrative of Democrats crafting Senate Bill 181 in secret and “rushing” the bill through the legislature.

This narrative runs into trouble, however, when you remember that Democrats HELD A GIGANTIC PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING THE LEGISLATION just last week. Take a look at this headline from the Denver Business Journal in which the photograph used at the top of the story completely contradicts the headline:

This was such a big secret that dozens of people — including the House Speaker and the Governor — gathered for a press conference last Thursday. From the Denver Business Journal, 3/4/19

As we also mentioned earlier today, the O&G industry is panicking over their loss of control with Democrats in charge of both legislative chambers and a Democrat in the Governor’s office, which has them resorting to specious claims of a secret, super-fast bill process.

Headline aside, Ed Sealover’s story for the Journal does include a few telling quotes about how and why the industry ended up here in the first place:

Becker said at a Monday morning media briefing that she believes there will be plenty of time to discuss what is likely to be one of the most debated bills of 2019. It will have to go through the energy, finance and appropriations committees before getting to the Senate floor and then run another gauntlet of three committees in the House, giving people plenty of opportunity to comment on the measure, she said…

…But she also said pointedly that there was a lack of trust for some in the industry after the campaign for Amendment 74, which would have given property or mineral-rights owners greatly expanded ability to sue local governments for any decisions they make that could impair the value of their properties. Statewide voters defeated that measure, which Becker called “such bad policy and so destructive,” handily in November.

The O&G industry tried to pass a destructive measure in Amendment 74 so that they could have leverage in discussions with lawmakers. That didn’t work, so now the industry is left grasping at laughable straws like “secrecy” that are easily disproved.

Elections have consequences.

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Cracking Down On Vaccine Scofflaws: No Brainer, Right?

Measles.

Denver7’s Jennifer Kovaleski reports on legislation awaited in the Colorado General Assembly that would tighten Colorado’s very loose standards for immunization of children in order to attend public school, proposing the elimination of a “personal belief” exemption considered responsible for the state’s bottom-of-the-nation ranking on immunizations even ask preventable epidemics rage in other states:

Colorado has the lowest rate of vaccinations in the nation, with less than 89 percent of kindergarteners receiving vaccinations to prevent illness such as measles and bumps — far less than the national average and 95 percent threshold needed to prevent an outbreak.

“To hear that we were last in the entire country was concerning, it was embarrassing,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn. “This is not a political issue, this is about our kids being safe.”

Mullica is drafting legislation that could eliminate the personal belief exemption in Colorado, which lets parents opt out of vaccinating their kids for personal reasons.

We’ve written at length in this space about battles over child immunization policy in the Colorado state legislature in the past few years, mostly stemming from a push from suburban Republican lawmakers like former Sens. Tim Neville and Laura Woods to further weaken the state’s already highly permissive standards. Sen. Woods warned baselessly of children being “rounded up and vaccinated” in Denver schools, while Neville tried to do away with the opt-out waiver process for immunizations altogether as a “privacy issue.”

Woods and Neville represented an extreme on the issue of vaccinations, but as Denver7 continues, the opposition to Rep. Kyle Mullica’s bill to eliminate the personal belief exemption–a significant step in the other direction–includes as of this writing none other than Gov. Jared Polis himself:

“Governor Polis is concerned about how low vaccination rates negatively impact public health. He believes there are successful strategies we can use to increase vaccination rates that don’t put big government in the middle of the parent-child relationship and protect our freedom,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Governor Polis believes that forcing people to receive shots they don’t want creates mistrust of government, mistrust of vaccinations, and would ultimately backfire and hurt public health.” [Pols emphasis]

And with that, we have a disagreement that is no longer a clean partisan split–which it never really was, despite the recent backward push on the issue from local Republicans. It’s not entirely unexpected either, after the Colorado Sun’s John Frank reported last week that Polis opposed mandatory vaccinations in Congress–even though Gov. Polis makes clear that his own children have been vaccinated and he personally thinks it’s the right thing to do.

With outbreaks of preventable diseases in other states continuing to lend urgency to the debate over Colorado’s low rate of childhood vaccinations just as they did a few years ago when Neville and Woods brought their ill-conceived legislation, and all credible research continuing to soundly reject the idea that vaccines produce the vast range of negative health effects its often pseudoscientific critics insist they do…

Sorry, folks, but this is not an issue that has any room for political spin. If Rep. Mullica’s approach is not the right way to move Colorado out of literal last place with regard to childhood immunizations, let’s hear the alternative. Because the problem is not up for responsible debate.

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Enough About Sad Club 20; This Argument is Settled

Colorado Governor Jared Polis

In today’s Denver Post political newsletter “The Spot,” reporter Nic Garcia resurrects a topic that was a brief flashpoint last summer: The demise of Club 20 as a statewide political power. Garcia takes a tone that is oddly deferential to Club 20 and glosses over the reality that the organization made itself irrelevant with a rightward partisan lurch over the last decade:

It has been 205 days since then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis declined to debate his Republican opponent, Walker Stapleton, in front a crowd of Western Slope movers and shakers.

While Polis’ apparent snub of Club 20 meant little to the general public, his calendar conflict sent shock waves through the state’s political class and reinforced – rightly or wrongly – a long-held belief that Colorado Democrats don’t care about the rural parts of the state. [Pols emphasis]

Enough.

This “Democrats hate rural voters” narrative is what Club 20 has clung to in its desperation to remain relevant, but the truth is much simpler: Polis skipped the group’s annual kiss-the-ring gathering in Grand Junction in 2018 because he and his campaign correctly understood that Club 20 doesn’t represent rural Coloradans any more than groups like the Colorado chapter of the NFIB accurately reflect the interests of everyday small business owners.

Club 20 has long presented itself as the voice of the Western Slope, which might have been true at one point; but in the last several election cycles, Club 20 has consistently favored right-wing candidates and oil and gas interests at the expense of all other constituents. When Club 20 zigged right, it never bothered to turn around to check if anyone else was following along. It is true that the annual Club 20 debates were once a key date on the election calendar; people also used to wear leg warmers in public. Things change.

Last summer, Club 20 complained loudly about Polis’ decision to skip their gubernatorial debate – at one point, calling the decision “simply outrageous” – but the absence of the Democratic nominee did little to hurt his General Election hopes. The Republican Governor’s Association later tried hard to spin the Club 20 snub as a broader diss of the Western Slope…which also went nowhere.

This is the point where we remind you that Polis won the election by nearly 11 points over Republican Walker Stapleton.

Polis is Governor today because he outperformed Stapleton in the more heavily-populated parts of Colorado, but he also held his own on the Western Slope. Take a look at this county-by-county map of the 2018 gubernatorial election via the New York Times. You’ll notice that the left side of the map is not engulfed in a giant swatch of red:

Results from 2018 Governor’s race in Colorado, via The New York Times

 

Stapleton carried West Slope counties like Mesa, Delta, and Montrose. But Polis actually came out ahead in counties like Garfield, Routt, and Gunnison. Polis held events all across the Western Slope and did just fine, proving that a statewide candidate can differentiate between the lobby groups and the West Slope voters.

The headline of “The Spot” newsletter posits the wrong question when it asks, “After apparent snub, has Polis regained this group’s trust?” To whatever degree that there is a burden of reconciliation in this case, that responsibility rests solely on Club 20.

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Denver Teachers Win Big After Successful Strike

Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell reports on the developing conclusion to the three-day strike by teachers of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, ending in victory for the teachers and heralding a new ascendancy for organized labor power in Colorado under Gov. Jared Polis:

Details are not yet available, but the deal includes an average 11.7 percent pay raise and annual cost of living increases, according to the school district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, a labor union representing more than 5,000 educators in Denver public schools. It will also include raises for school support staff. Bus drivers and cafeteria workers may also get a raise, but that’s not part of the official agreement with the teachers union.

It also addresses the teachers’ biggest concern: the need to overhaul the merit-pay system, which relies heavily on annual bonuses that fluctuate from year to year. The new system will place more emphasis on education and training when considering promotions, while keeping some bonuses in place…

Teachers did make some concessions, but the deal represents a remarkable win for Denver’s teachers, who have been picketing and rallying in the streets for the past two days, while school administrators struggled to keep classes on schedule. It’s also a sign of the overwhelming momentum teachers have on their side from months of widespread teacher strikes across the country over school funding cuts and low teacher pay.

After the DCTA voted by 93% to walk out, the state Department of Labor and Employment under the direction of Gov. Polis could have ordered a so-called “cooling off period” of up to six months, which would have deprived teachers of their power to back up their negotiations with action. There was considerable worry that Polis would do just that, especially after the governor and his staff took an active role in attempting to mediate between the sides early on.

In the end, though, the decision by Gov. Polis not to curtail the teachers’ ability to strike made it clear who would have the upper hand. In addition Denver Public Schools management did very little to ingratiate themselves with the public, after a message to visa-holding noncitizen teachers wrongly threatening to report them to immigration officials and stories of school administrators trying to censor students documenting the dysfunction on campus.

The proposed new contract, which still needs to be ratified by the teachers, gives the teachers much more than they were offered before the strike–which is, of course, the most important measurement of success. And for Gov. Polis, his campaign promise to be an advocate for working people and organized labor in particular is looking well-kept as of now.

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BREAKING: Polis Will Not Intervene, DPS Strikes Next Week

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday declined to intervene in the impending Denver teacher strike, which could have delayed a teacher walkout by up to 180 days…

At the heart of the disagreement is Denver’s teacher compensation plan ProComp. Both sides have proposals they claim improve the pay scale that determines how and what teachers get paid. DCTA’s proposal kicks in about $28.5 million toward teacher compensation, while the district’s is about $20.8 million.

In addition to the $8 million difference in teachers pay plans, the district and union disagree on how educators should advance along their proposed compensation schedules. The union’s plan allows for more opportunities for teachers to bump up in pay as they accrue credits toward advancing their education.

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That’s the breaking word from the first floor of the state capitol, Gov. Jared Polis will NOT order a 180-day cooling-off period via the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, returning power to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association to commence a strike if a deal isn’t reached by Monday, February 11th.

We’ll update with coverage and statements, but this is a big win for teachers that will shore up Polis’ left flank on the hot-button issue of public education–and puts teeth in Polis’ campaign pledge to help organized workers flex their muscles.

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Walker Wants Our Water

(He’s never running in Colorado again, that’s for sure – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton shared a new money-making strategy with his Twitter followers today: invest in water!

The article shared by Stapleton encourages investing “Like Dr. Michael Burry from the Big Short.”

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Dr. Burry is one of a handful of financial speculators who anticipated the 2008 mortgage crash and bet against the market, making billions off the massive losses in value sustained by millions of American families, homeowners and retirees.

Why water? Because it’s a limited resource that’s dwindling by the day! To make its point, the article addresses the shortage from a global perspective:

By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with 2/3rds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions. …Ask the residents of Flint, Michigan, who are experiencing firsthand the effects of America’s aging water infrastructure. Clearly there’s a growing and critical demand for access to freshwater and for related products and services. So how can an intelligent investor profit from it?

None of this is news to those of us in Colorado, where drought conditions have lowered reservoir levels to near-record lows. Last year’s snow-melt was so small that the Colorado River Basin received just a third of its average annual water volume. This forced the state to close the Yampa river to fishing and boating last summer and eventually to cut water to some users in September.

(more…)

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Fracking Fracas: The Bill Is Coming

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Bente Birkeland and Grace Hood at Colorado Public Radio offer another preview of the big fight on the near horizon in the Colorado General Assembly–meaningfully tightening regulations on the oil and gas industry after years of intra-Democratic gridlock on the issue under the previous administration:

All parties in the debate were locked in a holding pattern under former Gov. John Hickenlooper, but Gov. Jared Polis is expected to take a different approach. Some Democrats want 2019 to be the year that significantly changes the regulation of oil and gas companies.

There’s more than activists or oil and gas companies with their eyes on the state capitol. The Front Range cities of Lafayette, Superior and Erie have all enacted drilling moratoriums to wait and see what rules the legislature adopts in 2019…

Democrats will have a difficult needle to thread on oil and gas issues, that’s why they say they’re taking their time before unveiling legislation.

“Our bills now have a fighting chance, we have to make sure that we do it right,” said Democratic Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette. He has pushed for tougher regulations in previous years, and is one of the handful of lawmakers involved in negotiations this session. “In the past, the oil and gas bills that I introduced, were introduced for a specific reason. I thought that they faced uphill battles, and in fact they did, but we still had to push the issue forward.”

CPR reports that the final legislation is coming together now, and is expected to take the form of one large bill covering a variety of subjects from giving local communities more direct control in drilling decisions to legislatively undoing the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision that controversially declared public health and safety subordinate to the “fostering” of oil and gas resource development as prescribed by existing law.

The extremely high stakes in this debate, coupled with the changed political climate at the state capitol, makes this issue by orders of magnitude the biggest issue of the 2019 legislative session that nobody is talking about in public yet. Whatever the final form this bill takes, we fully expect Republicans and the oil and gas industry to freak out as hard as they possibly can, firing off the usual warnings of a million billion jobs lost and the entire population of Colorado freezing to death.

Somewhere between the industry’s absurd hyperbole and the very real status quo of the state valuing promotion of an industry over public health, you’ll find the legislative sweet spot Democrats need to land on. And as much as the oil and gas industry wants to kill this whole effort, base Democrats and independent voters who are passionate about energy policy and climate change–and who swept Democrats into power last year–expect results.

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Will Polis Let ‘Em Strike?

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin reports as the standoff between the Denver Public Schools management and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) grinds on with no sign of rapprochement between the sides:

Gov. Jared Polis is making one last attempt to meet with both sides in Denver’s contentious teacher labor dispute and broker an agreement before the state decides whether it will intervene…

Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment will decide whether or not to step in by Feb. 11. In the meantime the strike teachers voted for is on hold. If the state decides to intervene, it could postpone a strike for up to 180 days.

In a letter, the agency said a lack of meaningful dialogue, a fundamental disagreement over the facts and costs of competing proposals, and the reopening of negotiations last week that turned into “political theater at its worst,” all weigh heavily on the state’s decision.

In response, the teacher’s union insisted the state not get involved.

With negotiations between DPS management and the DCTA effectively stalled and teachers itching to get out on the picket line, there is undeniable pushback building over Gov. Jared Polis’ attempt to informally broker a compromise. The real deadline now is the one observed by the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), who will soon decide whether or not to order a six-month “cooling off period”–a decision that would buoy management’s negotiating position but greatly increase tensions between the teachers and the governor’s office.

As we said last week, all parties are watching closely to see how Gov. Polis navigates this situation, the first real political controversy of his brand-new administration. Polis campaigned with the strong support of organized labor in this state, but also has been a supporter of the sometimes-divisive education “reform” agenda that underlies the dispute between teachers and Denver Public Schools officials.

The only thing we can say for sure is that kids won’t get to play hooky either way.

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So, About That GOP Tax Cut Bill…

TUESDAY UPDATE: Apropos from the Colorado Sun’s Brian Eason:

President Donald Trump’s $400 billion federal tax cut for pass-through businesses has emerged as a top target of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis as he looks to eliminate corporate tax breaks to pay for a statewide income tax cut.

The Democratic governor’s goal: A permanent cut to the state income tax rate that would lower the tax bills of most Colorado households and many businesses. But to pay for it, some wealthy households and businesses — namely large retailers and a wide category of companies that includes law firms and much of the financial industry — would see their taxes go up…

Polis wants to eliminate an unspecified amount of corporate income tax breaks to pay for a cut to the state’s income tax rate. In the campaign Polis said he hoped to reduce income taxes by 3 to 5 percent — or up to $450 million. But administration officials now are cautioning that the number will depend on the value of the tax breaks they’re able to eliminate. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Just over a week ago, the Colorado Fiscal Institute put out their detailed analysis of a Republican tax cut bill introduced this session–Senate Bill 19-055, which would cut the state’s income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.49%, would cost the state an estimated $280 million while reducing taxes by a whopping $59 on a resident earning $60,000 per year.

The net effect (or lack thereof) was best illustrated by this table from the CFI:

The politics of this bill, which is likely to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate Finance Committee tomorrow afternoon, were briefly scrambled after Gov. Jared Polis Tweeted in apparent support shortly after it was announced by the Senate GOP minority. One of Gov. Polis’ platform planks as he took office, after all, was a shake-up of the tax system, with the goal of relief for individuals and more skin in the game for wealthy corporate interests.

Under the hood, as CFI explained well in their analysis, this legislation doesn’t do anything to accomplish Polis’ goal of changing the tax system in a “revenue neutral” manner. It simply cuts taxes, and regressively at that–providing almost no relief to the residents who everyone likes to say need tax relief the most. If we really want to give meaningful tax relief to working families, programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit are a far better way to direct it.

Because this particular bill never really had a chance in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, most observers we’ve talked to think that Gov. Polis was more interested in showing good faith on one component of his agenda, with the party who wants to hear about that part the most. In reality, a reduction in any particular tax rate will have to be part of a larger conversation–one that takes into account the state’s long-term fiscal shortfall, and a realistic appraisal of the backlog in funding priorities of every kind.

Suffice to say that we’re in the very earliest stages of that discussion.

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