Republican Lawmakers Have a Plan (Just Kidding)

Back in action

The Colorado legislature re-convened today after a two month coronavirus break, with the main item on the agenda the constitutionally-mandated passage of a balanced state budget. We’ve heard a lot about the gut-wrenching decisions being made by Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee, but not much about how Republican lawmakers are planning to operate in these final weeks of the legislative session.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville outlined the Republican “plan” for tackling important issues at the State Capitol in an Op-Ed for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman. We mentioned one of Neville’s points earlier, but with much uncertainty regarding how Republicans plan to work with Democrats in the state legislature, we thought it valuable to run through Neville’s entire proposal.

On Tuesday, May 26, we return to the Gold Dome to tackle one critical task: our state budget. Colorado is facing a $3 billion-plus shortfall. Because of that we will have to make unprecedented spending cuts to keep the state afloat. However, we can not just leave it there. COVID-19 has taught us that we have more to address.

Legislative leaders have already made it clear that this is not the time to push forward a bunch of new bills when the legislature must finalize a couple of constitutionally-mandated priorities, such as balancing the budget. Neville knows this, but why start out honestly when you can just dive into the partisan muck?

Governor Polis has demonstrated that we have given the executive branch far too much emergency power. Governor Polis has abused his power by picking winners and losers among businesses and industries, shutting down small businesses like C&C Kitchen and letting larger ones remain open.

Governor Polis only allowed his favorite restaurants to remain open during the pandemic! It almost sounds like the governor singled out only the restaurants where Rep. Neville likes to eat. Not only is this untrue, the very premise is just plain stupid. But, here we are…

The legislature must take back power from the executive and curb these emergency powers. The next time our state faces a crisis like this, the Governor cannot have the unlimited power that Governor Polis is privileged to have today.

If you’re waiting for the explanation for how this proposal would work, you’ll want to get comfortable. This entire Op-Ed, much like the general strategy of legislative Republicans for the next three weeks, is to voice clear opposition to everything without proposing even a barebones outline of how to do something different.

 

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The Legislature Is Back And The Partisan Droplets Are Flying

UPDATE #2: Jesse Paul of the Colorado Sun:

Masks showcased a partisan divide in the Capitol. All Democratic lawmakers wore masks, but many Republicans did not.

State Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, said she didn’t wear a face covering because it inhibits her breathing and she has allergies. She also questioned their efficacy, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend them.

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UPDATE:


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We’re monitoring from a safe distance as the Colorado General Assembly gets back underway:

Watch this space for updates inside (and outside) the building today.

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Get More Smarter on [Squints] Memorial Day Weekend (May 22)

At long last, you can spend three straight days at home. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

In what is increasingly beginning to resemble a trend, this was not a good week for Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). Gardner picked a needless fight with the most-watched news outlet in town, then followed up that performance with a downright embarrassing flop on a threat to prevent the U.S. Senate from going into recess without passing another coronavirus relief bill. Click here for more on Gardner’s big clumsy fold.

Gardner is claiming that he backed off of his threat to hold up the Senate recess because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised a vote on full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); this is silly, since the LWCF pledge was already made months ago. Former Governor John Hickenlooper, Gardner’s likely opponent in the General Election, clapped back in a statement to POLITICO…followed by a pretty sad reply from Gardner himself:

“Cory Gardner made a big stink about keeping the Senate in Washington, but less than a day later, he’s given up and seems happy to do whatever Mitch McConnell says,” former Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement.

Asked about Hickenlooper’s comments, Gardner said the former governor is “under a lot of pressure” for his ethics issues.

“So I understand why he has to act out irrationally,” Gardner responded. “John Hickenlooper’s a kneejerk partisan and has no desire for Washington to succeed. His hope is Washington fails … shame on Gov. Hickenlooper.”

Gardner can’t call ANYONE a kneejerk partisan with a straight face.

As for Congress and coronavirus, NBC News has more on what might come next:

In the House, Democrats last week passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which includes state and local aid, another round of $1,200 direct payments, pay raises for front-line workers, an extension until January of the $600-per-week unemployment compensation and a raft of other measures that Republicans have derided as a “liberal wish list” unrelated to the suffering of Americans because of the pandemic.

President Donald Trump has dismissed the bill as “dead on arrival.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has replaced his suggestion to let cash-squeezed states go bankrupt with a call for a “pause” in new relief funding.

The Senate left town for a 10-day recess Thursday without taking up any coronavirus relief legislation, but while McConnell is urging patience, he hasn’t shut the door to another bill, indicating that discussions could begin next month.

McConnell has said repeatedly that he wants the next round of legislation to focus on liability protections for employers and a cut in unemployment benefits for all of those freeloading Americans without jobs.

 

Colorado has surpassed the 5,000 COVID-19 tests per day mark. Governor Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced a testing partnership on Thursday that will allow anyone in Colorado to get tested for the virus.


The 2019-20 school year is coming to a close. Today is the last day of “classes” for school districts in big counties such as Jefferson and Douglas. Denver Public Schools won’t wrap up until next Friday. Jefferson County Public Schools plans to release a plan for the 2020-21 school year today, as Denver7 reports:

On Friday, JeffCo Public Schools will release a draft of its reopening plan to the public. It will include a plan for in-person learning, but also some continuation of remote learning.

“We know we will have families who are afraid, or they have medical conditions, or a student is medically fragile or someone in-home has a medical condition — so we’re going to have to create remote learning options for them,” said Jason Glass, superintendent of JeffCo Public Schools.

Glass said remote learning will also remain an option in case schools has to shut down again.

As for the plan to get students back in the classroom, Glass said it will include screenings, hygiene procedures, and changes to the structure of the school day and scheduling to allow for increased social distancing. Parents, students, teachers, and administrators will be able to review the plan and provide feedback. The plan could also change throughout the summer as conditions with the novel coronavirus pandemic change.

Meanwhile, public education looks likely to take a 15% cut in the state budget because of the $3.3 billion hole created by COVID-19. As The Denver Post reports, the Joint Budget Committee did a good job limiting the education funding pain.

 

Governor Jared Polis is encouraging Coloradans to remain vigilant and stick to social-distancing practices. over the Memorial Day weekend. Polis says that restaurants in Colorado may begin to start opening early next week.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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You’ll Decide: Reality-Based Fiscal Policy Or Bloodletting

Under controversially relaxed signature-gathering rules in place to maximize voter participation during the ongoing pandemic, two opposing campaigns are petitioning to get on the November ballot with initiatives that can be credibly called tax cuts–or at least tax cuts for the overwhelming majority of Colorado residents. One measure, Initiative 271 (but don’t memorize that number because it will be different on the ballot), cuts the state’s income tax from 4.63% to 4.58% for everyone who makes less than $250,000 a year. For the wealthiest, the rate goes up to 7%–a move toward a progressive income tax structure used by a majority of states and the federal government. The net effect is a $2 billion increase in state revenue to help offset the enormous cuts coming even after federal COVID-19 economic stimulus factors in.

The other initiative is Initiative 306, an across the board tax cut to 4.5% regardless of income. This initiative is being run by the Independence Institute, the arch-conservative “stink tank” which has quarterbacked the opposition to every attempt to increase revenue for the state of Colorado since the 1980s. In his press release Monday announcing the launch of 306, Independence Institute honcho Jon Caldara makes it abundantly clear that his initiative is about muddying the waters for voters considering Initiative 271:

“The Colorado economy —pre-COVID-19— was on fire thanks to our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and our flat state income tax,” said Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute, and co-ballot proponent of the tax rate reduction. “We look forward to giving the voters a real choice [Pols emphasis] between a progressive tax increase which will be billed as a middle-class tax cut, and a real tax cut for every Coloradan. Question is: which one is actually the tax cut? Hint: Not the ballot question that starts “Shall state taxes be increased $2,000,000,000 annually…”

“We think that a small tax cut for everyone makes a lot more sense than a $2 billion tax increase,” said Michael Fields, Executive Director of Colorado Rising State Action. “And even if both pass, the tax cut only has to win by one vote over the tax hike to be implemented. So, we like our chances.”

Jon Caldara.

The context for these initiatives, of course, is the biggest fiscal crisis faced by the state of Colorado at least since the Great Depression. The estimated $3 billion shortfall lawmakers are wrestling with today is expected to be partially offset by federal economic stimulus, but not enough to close the gap completely–and certainly not in a recurring manner to meet the ongoing need. The state has faced a looming revenue shortfall for many years, resulting from the throttling effect on revenue growth over time relative to the need created by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR’s labyrinthine limits and regulations on revenue growth, and stilted language requirements the ballot questions it mandates for any tax increase, created a growing gap between need and revenue supply that the COVID-19 economic crisis has severely exacerbated. Colorado’s budget is already very tight, and the pandemic is a fiscal disaster the state can’t afford.

With this in mind, Colorado voters have to ask themselves a simple question: who has our state’s best interests at heart? Supporters of a measure to cut taxes for just about everybody while raising more net revenue the state desperately needs–or those who think the solution to a grave fiscal crisis is to make the crisis worse? Like with other extremely ill-advised ballot measures in previous years, like 2010’s infamous “Bad Three” or 2018’s nightmarish Amendment 74 which would have crippled local governments to empower the oil and gas industry, we’re obliged to trust the wisdom of Colorado voters to see through the misdirection. It’s honestly helpful when the bad actors admit up front like Caldara did here that they’re playing a political shell game instead of proposing serious policy.

Conservatives rely on the axiom that while voters may want the vital services government provides, they hate paying for them. That’s the unspoken presumption that turned TABOR into a blunt weapon against government instead of a tool to encourage responsible government. In Colorado, tax increase measures have slowly increased their percentage in consecutive losing efforts, reflecting the slow progress of years of educational efforts mounted by progressive fiscal policy groups as well as the state’s leftward-shifting electorate in general.

In 2020, this old battle will be fought once again. In a changed world, with higher stakes.

And we’ll find out if the old tricks still work for Caldara and friends.

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Another Reminder That Words Matter

Don’t be this guy

As the Aurora Sentinel reports, police have arrested a man for repeatedly vandalizing the Tri-County Health Department and making some pretty explicit threats:

Investigators believe Daniel Pesch, 36, drew graffiti on the facade of the Tri-County Health office at 15192 E Hampden Ave. and repeatedly threw rocks through the building’s windows between April 15 and May 11, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

Police have recommended charging Pesch with felony criminal mischief and a pair of misdemeanors: defacing property and harassment, according to court documents.

Pesch’s name was not attached to an email sent to a Tri-County secretary May 5 calling for “a hot-shooting, no-bulls*** civil war,” according to documents provided by the Greenwood Village Police Department. County officials declined to pursue charges in that case.

For nearly a month, Aurora police allege Pesch sent derogatory and sometimes threatening messages to Tri-County Health officials over Facebook Messenger. The messages appeared to be sent from Pesch’s personal Facebook account and often referenced the recent vandalism at the Tri-County Health building in Aurora.

“Hope you’re enjoying putting small businesses under,” Pesch wrote to a Tri-County official April 11. “Enjoy your broken windows a******s,” according to the affidavit.

Letter from Douglas County Republicans

While this guy caused a lot of damage with his vandalism, we’re lucky that he didn’t move forward with any of his more violent threats. We don’t directly blame any of this on the actions or words of specific elected officials in Colorado; but we’re not going to pretend there isn’t some relation here, and neither should anyone else.

Back in March, a group of Republican lawmakers in Colorado were really mad at the Tri-County Health Department — which covers Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties — for trying to prevent people from getting infected with the deadly COVID-19 virus. As the “logic” went, public health experts should not be making decisions about public health because they are not elected officials.

Six Republican lawmakers (Sen. Chris Holbert, Sen. Jim Smallwood, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, Rep. Kim Ransom, and Rep. Mark Baisley) signed a letter to the Douglas County Commissioners encouraging the county to terminate its contract with Tri-County Health Department in the middle of a freaking global pandemic because of freedom, or something. Douglas County Commissioners rightfully ignored this request, with one GOP Commissioner speaking out against the efforts of Holbert and Neville.

The Tri-County Health Department was, of course, acting in the interests of public health and not trying to disrupt businesses in some of Colorado’s most populous counties just for kicks. But other people no doubt heard a different message from Douglas County Republicans and nodded in agreement; the guy in the orange jumpsuit in the picture above may well have been one of those folks.

When politicians foment anger for the sake of appealing to a small base of supporters, it can have very real consequences. Words matter — even if they come from Patrick Neville — and no politician should take that truth lightly.

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Get More Smarter on Whatever Day This Is (May 20)

Hey, today is 5/20/20! There will be seven more of these in 2020. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

President Trump is really nervous about states implementing mail balloting for the 2020 election. As The Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Wednesday threatened to “hold up” federal funds to Michigan and Nevada in response to the states’ planned use of absentee and mail-in ballots in upcoming elections as a means to mitigate risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

In morning tweets, Trump did not specify which funds he might withhold, and he has not always followed through with similar threats. But his message comes as many states grapple with how to safely proceed with elections.

Amid the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in voting, claiming with scant evidence that it is subject to widespread fraud and has hurt Republicans in previous elections.

Trump took aim at Michigan a day after its secretary of state announced a plan to send absentee ballot applications to all of its 7.7 million voters for the state’s primary elections in August and general elections in November.

We noted last month that Trump was actively advising Republicans to oppose expanded voting efforts because of the belief — shared by others — that Democrats will benefit if more people vote.

 

President Trump is working hard to blame China over COVID-19 as the death toll in the United States surpasses 90,000.

 

Colorado Republicans are mad — because being mad is pretty much their 2020 strategy — about how Gov. Jared Polis is allocating some federal stimulus money. As Colorado Public Radio reports:

The legislature’s powerful Joint Budget Committee is currently drafting the state budget — one that has been hobbled by the pandemic. Republican State Sen. Bob Rankin has served on the committee for a number of years and was disappointed by the announcement.

“For the governor to announce this allocation of funds — without so much as consulting the chief budgeting body — is not only a lapse in leadership but has now eliminated the people’s voice over how their money is spent,” he said in a statement.

Now, instead of a discussion on how to divide the federal dollars, the JBC will work through the technical aspects of the CARES money, how it can or cannot be used.

GOP Congressman Scott Tipton added that the $275 million local direct assistance might not be adequate “given some of the challenges that our counties have had.” He had early concerns that dollars for state and local governments would mainly stay at the state level.

We’ll give Tipton a little credit here — at least he has signed on to legislative efforts sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Boulderish) to increase federal funding for state and local governments. Anyway, as Denver7 notes, the bulk of the money in question is being allocated to local school districts, which is tough for anybody to complain about.

 

 Brian Eason of The Colorado Sun updates how Colorado lawmakers are thinking when it comes to dealing with a $3.3 billion hole in the state budget. 

The Joint Budget Committee tentatively decided to eliminate the state’s $225 million annual payment to the pension next budget year, which begins July 1. Because the pension’s money is invested over time, that would add an estimated $990 million to the pension’s long-term debt if it’s approved by the full legislature.

The vote represents just the latest domino to fall as the fiscal impact of the coronavirus shutdown reverberates across Colorado’s public sector. And there may be more to come. So far, budget writers have not taken action on several other PERA changes they’re considering that could add anywhere from $500 million to $2.5 billion more to the pension’s unfunded debt, deepening a financial hole that the pension was just beginning to repair.

For more on the state budget machinations, check out this interview with Rep. Daneya Esgar, the Chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee, in the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 19)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married on this day in 2018. So, that’s neat. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

Governor Jared Polis announced on Monday that Coloradans can now receive free COVID-19 testing. From The Denver Post:

Ten weeks after the coronavirus’s presence first was confirmed in the state, any Coloradan with COVID-19 symptoms can now get tested, for free, whether or not they have health insurance, Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday.

That’s a major change. In the initial months of the pandemic, testing was limited largely to front-line health workers and people who already were hospitalized with suspected COVID-19, or who had severe enough symptoms they could secure a doctor’s order.

Since mid-March, Polis has said the state needed to be testing up to 10,000 people every day in order to execute an appropriate response — but Colorado, for many weeks, was only testing a few hundred people every day. Only recently has the state consistently been testing several thousand people per day, with its daily peak of about 4,500 reached last week.

That it took the state so long to reach this testing capacity was a point of great frustration for the governor, who previously described himself as “so disappointed” in the country’s meager testing infrastructure.

If you feel like you have any coronavirus symptoms —  including a dry cough, shortness of breath or loss of a sense of smell — then you should get tested ASAP. Click here to locate a testing site near you.

 

 Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order outlining spending for federal stimulus funding related to the coronavirus outbreak — the bulk of which is going to local school districts. Republicans in the state Senate are very sad that Polis didn’t ask for their advice, or something.

 

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) can’t find the words to even come close to criticizing President Trump, and it’s killing his re-election hopes.

Here’s another bad sign for Gardner: He’s being used as a measuring stick for Senate Republican hopefuls in 2020:

 

President Trump told reporters on Monday that he has been taking a potentially-deadly medication for the last week or so in order to combat a virus that he doesn’t even have. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said that he is not taking hydroxychloroquine.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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The GMS Podcast: Rep. Daneya Esgar Gets More Smarter

Daneya Esgar

Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), Chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii talk with Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), the Chairwoman of Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee, about the agonizing decisions involved in setting a state budget with a $3.3 billion hole in revenue.

We also ponder the truth in the FreeDumb movement; Ian fights with FEMA on Twitter (no, really); and we return to our popular new segment, “What the Buck?”

If you missed last week’s episode, check it out when you’re done here.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

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Get More Smarter on Monday (May 18)

Happy “International Museum Day.” Please celebrate without actually going to a museum. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

A new edition of The Rocky Mountaineer — a polling and messaging project of Global Strategy Group and ProgressNow Colorado — is now available. From a press release:

President Trump’s approval rating has slid and he trails Joe Biden by double digits while he gets poor marks for his COVID response. Governor Jared Polis, on the other hand, has seen his ratings surge as voters reward his steady response to the crisis.

Finally, Colorado voters strongly support changing TABOR to allow higher taxes on the wealthy to close the state’s budget gap, and give high favorability marks to legislative and congressional Democrats while Trump drags down Republicans up and down the ticket heading into the summer.

Biden leads Trump in Colorado by 13 points, which is not as bad as Trump’s numbers in two recent polls but still not good news for the GOP. We broke down the horrible numbers for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in a separate post. Gardner’s numbers have been consistently brutal for several years now, and they keep trending downward.

On the Democratic Primary side, the race for the U.S. Senate nomination between former Gov. John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff is not looking good for the latter:

As The Washington Post reports, a $500 billion fund created for the Treasury department to assist American businesses isn’t doing much of anything.

 

New polling numbers from Gallup show that Congress is rated better by Americans than it has been in more than 10 years. As it turns out, Americans actually like when Congress does its job. This should be a bit of a wakeup call for the likes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is trying to slow-walk any further legislation through the end of the year.

 

It’s fun to pretend that everything is a conspiracy, but Colorado’s decision to change the way it reports COVID-19 deaths does NOT mean that the state was exaggerating earlier numbers. From The Denver Post:

How COVID-19 deaths are counted has become politically divisive, with critics claiming the numbers are inflated and medical experts saying deaths may actually be undercounted. Still, the number of deaths is a crucial data point that informs public understanding of the pandemic’s severity and health officials’ response to the crisis.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is now clarifying that its death tally includes the total number of fatalities among people who had COVID-19, including those deaths in which the respiratory disease was not the cause of death listed on the death certificate.

By the agency’s count, there were 1,150 people who had died with COVID-19 in their systems as of Thursday.

 

The New York Times has more on the firing of yet another inspector general late Friday:

The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump on Friday was investigating whether the administration had unlawfully declared an “emergency” last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their war in Yemen, according to a Democratic member of Congress who asked for the inquiry.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, said that investigation might have been “another reason” for the firing of the inspector general, Steve A. Linick. The White House announced the firing Friday night, and officials said the recommendation to remove Mr. Linick had come from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mr. Linick’s office, which has hundreds of employees assigned to look into fraud and waste at the State Department, was also examining the potential misuse by Mr. Pompeo of a political appointee to do personal errands for him and his wife, Susan Pompeo.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Even More Drain-Circling Poll Numbers For Cory Gardner

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reported Saturday, a new survey of Colorado voters shows solidifying trendlines indicated by previous polls–high marks for Gov. Jared Polis, relatively favorable opinion of the Democratic majority in the Colorado legislature ahead of next week’s “grand reopening,” and positively brutal numbers for Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump:

“This isn’t 2014, when Cory Gardner was a relative blank slate with the national winds at his back,” said Andrew Baumann, a Denver-based pollster with Global Strategy Group, a Democratic firm. “Colorado voters now clearly understand that Gardner has put his loyalty to Trump ahead of Coloradans, which has left him well-defined in a very negative way — and with a deeply unpopular albatross hanging around his neck.”

Baumann and Global Strategy Group surveyed 800 registered voters in Colorado online between May 7 and 11. They found 37% of voters approve of the job Gardner is doing, which is lower than the 41% of Colorado voters who approve of the job Trump is doing. Thirty percent approved of Gardner’s work on coronavirus response.

There’s a lot of data to unpack in the latest issue of the Rocky Mountaineer, and if that’s not enough you can further digest the details here. Highlights include a declining approval rating for Donald Trump, a double-digit lead for Joe Biden, John Hickenlooper’s name ID owning the Democratic Senate primary, and great news for Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly looking to expand their majority even beyond 2018’s historic wins. As for Cory Gardner, his sub-Trump approval rating is a continuing sign that he is weak on both flanks–and his base support is heavily dependent on his continued fealty to Trump, even though Gardner’s servility to Trump seals his doom with many more voters.

That all looks right to us, folks.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 13)

It was two months ago today that President Trump declared a national emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic (on Friday the 13th, no less). Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

House Democrats are pushing for a massive new coronavirus relief bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell flatly opposes. On Wednesday, Democrats found a new ally in Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who warned in no uncertain terms that more stimulus funding is a necessity for the American economy. From The Washington Post:

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gave a dire warning Wednesday that the U.S. economy could become stuck in a painful multi-year recession if Congress and the White House do not approve more aid to address the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout. [Pols emphasis]

“Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” Powell said in a videoconference with the Peterson Institute for International Economics…

…The Fed chair urged Congress to remember that the longer people remain out of work, the deeper the scarring becomes on the U.S. economy. There is a domino effect where consumers lose jobs and sharply cut spending, and that can cause more businesses to close, hurting more jobs. Companies that go out of business also stop paying their suppliers, which can drag down other firms.

Central banks across the country are also encouraging Congress to hurry up and pass another big relief bill, as are bipartisan leaders of the National Governors Association.

Governor Jared Polis is meeting personally with President Trump at the White House today to lobby for more relief for state and local governments. Polis is scheduled to take questions from the media following his afternoon meeting.

 

Forecasts for Colorado’s state budget are worse than anticipated, as The Denver Post reports:

At least a tenth of Colorado’s state budget for next year must be cut, lawmakers were advised Tuesday morning.

For weeks, economists and lawmakers have been preparing for a hard hit, but now they have a specific number to work with: The total shortfall for this year and the fiscal year that begins July 1 is about $3.3 billion — including just shy of a $900 million reduction for 2019-20 — according to nonpartisan legislative analysts.

“Colorado is facing what may be the most dire budget situation in our state’s history, but I know that we will join together and meet this challenge,” said state Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, chair of the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee.

The projected loss will eat about 10% of the overall state budget and 25% of the state’s general fund, which covers core services such as education and transportation. The governor’s budget director, Lauren Larson, described this decline in revenue as “precipitous and alarming.”

As we’ve mentioned before, you can blame the coronavirus here so long as you spend equal time complaining about TABOR.

Colorado’s budgetary problems are about to get even worse, as 9News reports:

The pandemic has already slowed Colorado’s economy to a crawl. But now the state’s complicated tax laws are promising to cut residential property taxes by 18% according to a new forecast presented to the Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday. That would be one of the biggest drops in state history.

While it may be welcome news to homeowners, the projection shows the cuts could cost school districts $491 million and county governments, which fund services including libraries and fire departments with that tax revenue, more than $200 million when the new tax rates are set in 2022.

You can blame The Gallagher Amendment for this one.

 

► Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, gave a somber warning about re-opening the country too soon during his Senate testimony on Tuesday.

 

At least he’s not your law-breaking state party chair…well, unless you are a Republican in Colorado.

 

Arguments in Colorado’s “faithless electors” case are being by the U.S. Supreme Court today.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 12)

Happy International Nurses Day, which should probably just be every day from here on out. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

The big political and coronavirus story in Colorado yesterday involved a Castle Rock restaurant called C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen, which opened its doors to swarms of people on Sunday in defiance of local and state orders to please not make it easier for people to die from COVID-19. On Monday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis pulled the restaurant’s business license indefinitely for creating a public health hazard.

As Kyle Clark reports for 9News, this was not the plan for anti-social distancing activists:

 

The Denver Post explains the latest Colorado coronavirus update from Gov. Jared Polis:

State parks will once again allow camping beginning Tuesday, Polis said, while a decision on whether ski resorts, restaurants and summer camps can reopen will be made May 25.

Additional steps in the state’s ongoing “safer at home” plan to gradually restart businesses and ease some social distancing will be considered after June 1, the governor added.

Those dates were chosen based on the availability of data on the novel coronavirus in Colorado, Polis said, which lags about 10 to 14 days behind the actual spread of the virus in the state.

 

► Dr. Anthony Fauci is testifying before a Senate committee today on the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is not mincing words, saying: “We don’t have the coronavirus outbreak under control.”

 

No, it’s not just you: We have no idea what President Trump is talking about when he throws out the word “Obamagate.” As MSNBC reports:

The president has recently been issuing tweets about something he’s calling ‘Obamagate,’ which he declined to discuss in further detail when asked Monday during a White House briefing.

Trump says that “Obamagate” is “the biggest political crime in American history.” Republican Senators seem as perplexed by this as everyone else, as POLITICO explains:

President Donald Trump’s aggressive campaign to encourage sweeping investigations of his predecessor Barack Obama met a unanimous response from Senate Republicans: No thanks. [Pols emphasis]

Trump’s Senate allies on Monday stopped short of echoing Trump’s claim that Obama acted illegally when the Justice Department began probing incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn in late 2016. And they indicated that the Senate would pass on investigating the former president as they conduct their own investigations that could soon ensnare other senior Obama administration officials.

Trump mentioned “Obamagate” in a bizarre press conference on Monday that ended with The Big Orange Guy storming off in anger because he didn’t like questions being posed by reporters.

 

Arguments in Colorado’s “faithless electors” case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow. According to a press release from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office:

On Wednesday, May 13, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Colorado Department of State v. Baca. The case will be heard at 9 a.m. Mountain Time and for the first time, audio will be streamed live at www.supremecourt.gov and on CSPAN…

…Attorney General Phil Weiser will make the arguments on behalf of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. Of 20 cases that the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear, due to COVID-19, it will only hear ten. Colorado Department of State v. Baca is one of them.

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: What the Buck?

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii discuss two polls that spell doom for our second favorite U.S. Senator from Colorado; everything is totally under control with the coronavirus as cases mount well past one million; Republicans still want to kill Obamacare (even though it’s one of the few things actually helping during this pandemic); and the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party commits at least one crime.

If you missed last week’s episode, check it out when you’re done here.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 8)

It’s almost the weekend! Remember when we had weekends? Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

The unemployment rate in the United States has reached a level not seen since the Great Depression. As Vox.com reports:

The US shed 20.5 million jobs, and the unemployment rate surged to 14.7 percent in April, according to preliminary data released by the US Department of Labor Friday morning — worse than any unemployment rate on record in modern data, and higher than anything experienced since the Great Depression.

To make matters even worse, this figure almost certainly understates the true situation. April unemployment numbers are released in May based on surveys that took place during the week that contained April 12. And since April 12 in the US, things have only gotten worse: The initial unemployment insurance claims figures released in the final two weeks of April indicate that the labor market continued to deteriorate at a rapid pace, albeit slightly less rapidly than in the first weeks.

Ernie Tedeschi, a labor market economist, projected Thursday based on real-time data that the current unemployment rate is actually 20 percent. And in the jobs report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said it believes murky classification of temporary unemployment in the household survey caused the official number to be about 5 percentage points lower.

As Denver7 reports, about 420,000 Coloradans have filed unemployment claims in the last seven weeks.

 

►  Don’t worry too much about the current state of affairs, because The Economy Fairy is here to save us! From Greg Sargent at The Washington Post:

President Trump’s campaign has already telegraphed its argument along these lines. And at its core is one of Trump’s biggest and most insulting lies yet.

The claim is that, having once created the most spectacular economy in the known universe, he will now do so a second time.

“We built the greatest economy the world has ever seen,” Trump intones in a major new ad campaign. “And we’re going to do it again.” That ad heralds “the greatest comeback story,” which in truth signals an extraordinarily audacious and propagandistic rewriting of recent history.

For all of you who already understand full well that Trump had virtually nothing to do with the pre-coronavirus economy, this is your stop:

Trump didn’t build the pre-coronavirus economy he hails as his own. He inherited its major trends. This is true by just about every major metric, such as job growth and the decline in the unemployment rate, both of which had been steady during the Obama years and carried over into Trump’s presidency.

 

The Donald Trump Justice Department announced on Thursday afternoon that it was DROPPING ITS CASE against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn…even though Flynn has repeatedly admitted guilt for his crimes. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post calls it “another corrupt act by the most corrupt attorney general ever,” in reference to AG William Barr. National Public Radio tries to understand how this is even happening, while Charlie Savage of The New York Times sums things up with a single lede:

The Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, even though he had twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, was extraordinary and had no obvious precedent, a range of criminal law specialists said on Thursday. [Pols emphasis]

The New York Times reportedly separately on Thursday that the White House had been preparing for President Trump to issue a pardon for Flynn, but advisers urged Trump to let the Justice Department do it for him wait a little longer.

 

 Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the State Republican Party Chair (or vice-versa) is caught trying to force a local Republican official to put a candidate on the Primary ballot who failed to qualify through the caucus/assembly process. Conrad Swanson of The Denver Post updates a story that is quickly going from worse to worser for Buck:

Kris Cook, chair of the Denver Republican Party, found out about it Wednesday only to hear hours later that Buck canceled a committee meeting that had been scheduled for Friday.

“We’re touching on something here that’s not quite clean, and it’s not quite the image I have of what the party ought to be,” Cook said, later adding: “I think it’s worth questioning whether him in that role is going to have a negative effect on the rest of this cycle.” [Pols emphasis]

We’ll go ahead and answer that one now: Yes.

 

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Ken Buck Caught Red-Handed Manipulating GOP Primary

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

A story from the Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson is roiling Colorado Republican Party insiders today, with allegations of criminal demands on party officials to ensure an underperforming state senate candidate appeared on the June 30th party primary ballot despite not qualifying–and the finger is being pointed squarely at Colorado GOP chairman Ken Buck:

Colorado Republican Party Chair Ken Buck, a U.S. representative from Windsor, pressured a local party official to submit incorrect election results to set the primary ballot for a state Senate seat, according to an audio recording of a conference call obtained by The Denver Post.

“You’ve got a sitting congressman, a sitting state party chair, who is trying to bully a volunteer — I’m a volunteer; I don’t get paid for this — into committing a crime,” [Pols emphasis] Eli Bremer, the GOP chairman for state Senate District 10, told The Post on Wednesday, confirming the authenticity of the recording. “To say it’s damning is an understatement.”

The district in question is Senate District 10, currently held by term-limited (and apparently ceilinged in his political career) Sen. Owen Hill. Longtime El Paso County Republican bit player Rep. Larry Liston pulled down the lion’s share of support at the district assembly, enough to keep challenger David Stiver under 30% and off the ballot.

But as Swanson continues, that’s when Ken Buck intervened:

“Do you understand the order of the executive committee and the central committee that you will submit the paperwork to include Mr. Stiver and Mr. Liston on the ballot, with Mr. Liston receiving the top-line vote?” Buck said on the call.

“Uh, yes, sir, I understand the central committee has adopted a resolution that requires me to sign a false affidavit to the state,” Bremer replied. [Pols emphasis]

It’s pretty simple: David Stiver only got 24% of the vote at the district assembly, therefore the party chair for SD-10 cannot legally sign an affidavit stating that Stiver got 30% and met the legal qualification for the ballot. The Colorado GOP central committee apparently decided that because attendance at the socially-distanced GOP assemblies was down this year, the result keeping Stiver off the ballot was “unfair.”

The problem with that is, if the assembly process is valid at all, as Eli Bremer was being asked to swear it was, the law is the law. If a former district attorney doesn’t understand that, who would? It’s another case where ignorance, never a valid defense against breaking the law yet the only defense Buck can offer, makes the perpetrator look even worse.

And as we learned during Donald Trump’s impeachment, lawbreaking doesn’t faze this lawman.

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The Pandemic Comes Home To Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R).

The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul has an in-depth look today at the county suffering the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the entire state of Colorado. It’s not Weld County, whose disproportionate death rate during the ongoing pandemic has made for a cruel backdrop to the political posturing of the area’s conservative elected officials against basically every necessary albeit economically painful step that has been taken to slow the spread.

Today, the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Colorado is in neighboring Morgan County, also on the Eastern Plains. And here’s their story:

In Morgan County, where outbreaks of the disease at a meatpacking plant, a dairy processing facility and a nursing home have pushed the count of COVID-19 cases to 439 and killed at least 21 people through Wednesday, the rate of infection is more than three times that of Denver. [Pols emphasis]

The situation has become so dire that county health officials are using a refrigerated trailer to store the bodies of the dead because local morgue capacity has been reached. The trailer was put to use the day after it arrived in Fort Morgan, about 60 miles southeast of Greeley…

Morgan County’s infection rate is 1,540 per every 100,000 people. In neighboring Weld County, which has been hard hit by the virus, the rate is 632 infections per every 100,000 people, compared with 512 for every 100,000 people in Denver.

Like Weld County to the north and west, Morgan County is represented in Congress by Rep. Ken Buck, and Buck’s highly conspicuous votes against coronavirus relief bills while scoffing at basic protective measures like wearing a mask have already made him nationally infamous. But in the Colorado Senate, Morgan County is represented by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg–another rural Republican politico who has frequently been the subject of derision for saying things that don’t age well.

That sums up Sen. Sonnenberg’s March 26 guest column in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

What if you are the employee, especially an employee who isn’t in the vulnerable population nor living with others who are? Will the consequences be worse than the virus?

We now have a shortage of resources, scared citizens, and a police state in which the government controls every aspect of our lives. The coronavirus has created conditions that could fool our younger generations into thinking that communism seems like freedom; at least with communism people were still free to leave their homes! [Pols emphasis]

As for the relative danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sen. Sonnenberg had this to say:

Last year there were over 34,000 U.S. deaths attributed to the flu. In 2009 H1N1 killed more than 12,000 Americans. Each and every year there are 35,000 deaths in car crashes with another 2+ million injured! But we didn’t shutter the economy over those health challenges, nor have we banned cars. Isn’t there a better response to this SARS-CoV-2 threat than a police state on the verge of martial law?

The very next day, March 27, Sen. Sonnenberg signed a letter from most Republican state senators excoriating Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order:

When Coloradans from across this state visit your office’s dedicated COVID-19 website – covid19.colorado.gov – they are met with data indicating that 44 out of 64 Colorado counties currently have fewer than five cases of the virus. [Pols emphasis] Understandably, the data you have been presented within private briefings with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is most likely more comprehensive, but that data has not been shared with the public or with our caucus. With the Denver metro area already under a “stay at home order,” what is accomplished by closing down the business activity and daily routines of Coloradans living in a county that has fewer than five cases of COVID-19 after weeks of dealing with this crisis?

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg was far from alone in his wholesale disregard for the threat faced by his constituents in the early stages of the pandemic. All but two Colorado Senate Republicans signed the letter to Polis bemoaning the fact that most counties, which were at that time generally beet-red rural counties represented by safe-seat Republicans at every level, had “fewer than five cases” of the virus.

But like Ken Buck, Jerry Sonnenberg’s extra effort to disparage steps to control the virus looks more like deadly negligence as the pandemic rages through the heart of his district, as in Weld County killing in numbers disproportionate to urban areas of the state. The same urban areas Buck and Sonnenberg claimed Gov. Polis was imposing a “police state” from that wasn’t needed in the countryside.

Today we know the truth: Ken Buck was wrong. Jerry Sonnenberg was wrong.

And we are learning of their error the worst possible way. Their constituents are dying.

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Former GOP Senate President Is Ready For Holy War

Here’s a recent Facebook post from the immediate past Republican President of the Colorado Senate, Kevin Grantham, now running for a better paying seat on the Fremont County Board of Commissioners. He’s reportedly a reader, so we’ll open the floor without further commentary and you can answer Grantham’s curious line of questions:

Grantham’s a little past the face mask debate as you can see! At least he’s no longer in charge of the Colorado Senate. In case you were wondering, there have been no cases anywhere in the country we can find of the National Guard “shutting down churches,” despite some false rumors in red states and this great story about a church adopting a National Guard unit in Georgia fighting the pandemic. In Colorado, officials are catching flak for being too lenient. This public-health resistance fantasy world Grantham imagines is simply detached from the reality the rest of us inhabit.

Let’s all take a step back and remember what Jesus would do, which is the opposite of getting people sick.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 5)

Happy Cinco de Mayo; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

We’ve said it again and again in this space, but it bears repeating: The vast majority of Americans DO NOT want the country to open up too quickly because they are still afraid of COVID-19. As The Washington Post reports:

Americans clearly oppose the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses, even as governors begin to lift restrictions that have kept the economy locked down in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

The opposition expressed by sizable majorities of Americans reflects other cautions and concerns revealed in the survey, including continuing fears among most people that they could become infected by the coronavirus, as well as a belief that the worst of the medical crisis is not yet over…

…Americans continue to give President Trump negative marks for his response to the outbreak, while offering widely positive assessments of their state governors, a trend that has been consistent throughout the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as POLITICO reports, federal government workers are slow to return to their offices, in part because they have no idea what President Trump wants them to do:

The Trump administration last month laid out guidelines for reopening government offices and bringing operations back to normal, looking to gradually reduce the number of employees who are teleworking across the country. But the memo from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management did not set any time lines or mandates, leaving significant discretion to the individual agencies. Democratic lawmakers, labor leaders and more than a half dozen federal employees POLITICO spoke to complained there has been little transparency or clear guidance from the agencies about the way forward.

 

CNN reports on a potential bombshell of a story about a whistleblower, coronavirus, and the Trump Administration:

Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, formally filed an extensive whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that his caution at a treatment favored by President Donald Trump led to his removal. [Pols emphasis]

Bright had led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority since 2016 until last month, when was reassigned to a narrower position at the National Institutes of Health.

In his whistleblower complaint, Bright says he raised concerns about US preparedness for coronavirus starting in January but was met with “indifference which then developed into hostility” by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

►  TABOR + COVID-19 = Bummer for Colorado.

 

The Denver Post reports on local decisions about extending (or not) stay-at-home guidelines:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will not extend his stay-at-home order past Friday, his office said Monday — instead, he will begin to slowly relax restrictions that have been in place for well over a month.

Details about the next phase of reopening have not yet been provided, except that face masks will be required in public places beginning Wednesday. Hancock and other city officials will discuss guidelines for reopening businesses and progress on coronavirus testing at a 1 p.m. Tuesday press conference.

In addition, Tri-County Health Department will make an announcement Tuesday about Adams and Arapahoe counties’ stay-at-home orders, a representative for that agency said.

Colorado Public Radio has more on how Colorado is gradually moving to re-open.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

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Get More Smarter and May the Fourth Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

Governors around the country — including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis — are reporting that they have had to literally hide shipments of emergency medical supplies from the federal government. As Gov. Polis told Colorado Public Radio last week:

On buying more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea, but not announcing they’d arrived:

“We kept it under wraps. We simply didn’t know if anybody would swoop in. I mean we didn’t want another state or the feds or anybody. … We don’t want to give the competition, which could mean other countries, could mean our own country, could mean other states — we don’t want to give them a heads up of what we’re doing.”

Republican governors in Massachusetts and Maryland have reported similar practices. Last week, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called out Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) for not doing more to help Colorado in this regard.

Meanwhile, as Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, the Trump administration is pushing back on claims from Governors that medical supplies have been snatched up by the federal government.

 

President Trump is trying to fire the acting inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services because she did her job and reported on supply shortages and testing delays.

 

As The Washington Post reports, President Trump is being advised on coronavirus response strategies by “experts” who don’t really know what they are talking about:

The span of 34 days between March 29, when Trump agreed to extend strict social-distancing guidelines, and this past week, when he celebrated the reopening of some states as a harbinger of economic revival, tells a story of desperation and dysfunction.

So determined was Trump to extinguish the deadly virus that he repeatedly embraced fantasy cure-alls and tuned out both the reality that the first wave has yet to significantly recede and the possibility of a potentially worse second wave in the fall.

 

How’s this for irony? The coronavirus appears to have killed the “public option” — at least for now. As Jesse Paul reports for The Colorado Sun:

Democrats in the Colorado legislature announced Monday that they are setting aside their contentious effort this year to pass a bill creating a public health insurance option.

The prime backers of the legislation, House Bill 1349, say the coronavirus crisis has made it impossible to ensure that all of the relevant stakeholders — hospitals, doctors and insurance companies — can be involved in the lawmaking process.

But the Democrats pushing for the measure, which is a priority of Gov. Jared Polis, say the pandemic has highlighted the need for the public option, which was set to really be a private insurance plan that’s offered through the state with strict regulations.

While COVID-19 may have illuminated the problems with our current healthcare system, the chaos of the pandemic has made it extremely difficult for the legislature to tackle bigger issues like a public option. Last week lawmakers also announced that legislation to create a paid family leave program in Colorado was also put on hold because of coronavirus.

 

 The Denver Post helps explain which businesses can re-open in Colorado beginning today, with an important caveat:

The relaxed measures do not apply to counties where stay-at-home restrictions have been extended until May 8: Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin and Jefferson.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: U.F…Oh, Who Even Cares?

This week on the Get More Smarter Podcast…we talk about UFOs! No, seriously. Hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii also discuss the latest on coronavirus; Sen. Cory Gardner poppin’ bottles; a potential ballot initiative nightmare this November; and an update on a couple of important stories that we’ve discussed before. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett joins us later to talk about how and when the legislature will return to work.

If you missed last week’s episode with Rep. Joe Neguse, check it out when you’re done here.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

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At Least It’s Not Your State Capitol

FRIDAY UPDATE: It’s more than a little disconcerting to bring you this update, but the President of the United States has thrown his lot in with the armed protesters who stormed the Michigan state capitol building yesterday.

We’re not sure what to say about this right now, except that we hope it’s not a preview of Election Day 2020.

—–

Protestors try to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber in Lansing, Michigan on April 30, 2020. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

NBC News reports on a frightening scene today outside and inside the Michigan state capitol building in Lansing:

Hundreds of Michigan residents protested outside the state Capitol building in Lansing on Thursday, with some pushing inside while the Legislature was debating an extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters held signs, waved American flags and even carried firearms while some chanted, “Let us in!” and “This is the people’s house, you cannot lock us out,” and others tried to get onto the House floor but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms, according to WDIV-TV, an NBC affiliate in Detroit.

A state police spokesman told NBC News that it is legal in Michigan to carry firearms as long as it is done with lawful intent and the weapon is visible…

Still, men carrying semiautomatic long guns in the galleries of the legislature shouting threats down at lawmakers can only be considered a highly alarming development for anyone who’s a fan of representative small-d democracy, and we hope that’s all of our readers. We acknowledge the (we hope) small fraction of Americans who think elected officials work better when being personally threatened with violence, but we think a majority will agree this isn’t how we do things in America even in a pandemic.

Here in Colorado, it’s not legal to openly carry weapons in the city of Denver where our capitol building is located, and inside the only people allowed to carry concealed weapons are lawmakers who controversially consider themselves exempt from the ban on firearms everyone else must observe. Last Sunday, a “Reopen Colorado” protester openly carrying a gun across the street from the building had to relearn Denver’s gun laws the hard way.

With that said, there are certainly those among our local pro-COVID “freedom fighters” who would do this if they could.

Let’s hope they all got the memo last Sunday and know better than to try.

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Republican Senator Thrilled With Massive Budget Shortfall

As Colorado Public Radio reports, state lawmakers are starting to consider where to make cuts in the state budget because of a coronavirus-related revenue shortfall of somewhere between $3 billion and $4 billion (out of a total budget of around $34 billion):

Since the start of the pandemic, personal income and sales taxes have plummeted. The committee has to undo much of the budget that was nearly finalized before the coronavirus ground state revenues to a near halt.

“I think those 10-20 percent scenarios of reducing the budget are fairly realistic,” said Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, the vice-chair of the joint budget committee. He said the cuts couldn’t come at a worse time, as the state tries to recover from COVID-19 and help Coloradans who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and the economy shutting down.

“I think everyone’s worry is getting rid of that safety net. So many people are relying on it. The most sinister piece of all of this is when the state encounters revenue declines, that’s when government services are needed the most,” Moreno said. “It’s really a sinister cycle we’re embarking on.”

Non-partisan budget staff released a range of proposals for the legislature to consider depending on how deep the budget cuts must go. The committee expects Colorado will need to budget to the deepest proposed cuts.

State lawmakers are required by Colorado’s Constitution to balance the state budget every year — even in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic that is gutting the world economy. The legislature needs to finalize a state budget by the end of May because Colorado’s fiscal year starts on July 1.

It’s fair to say that most lawmakers are not looking forward to making agonizing decisions such as suspending property tax exemptions for seniors, or cutting grants for K-12 school construction projects and mental health programs. But not every legislator is bummed about budget cuts, as The Colorado Sun reports, Sen. John Cooke (R-Weld County), the Assistant Minority Leader for the Republican caucus, is damn near giddy:

“I’m happy it will cut back their agenda by quite a bit. I think there is going to be pain for both sides, but more on the Democrat agenda than ours.”

The Republican legislative “agenda” in recent years has been almost entirely focused on simply opposing anything that Democrats propose under the Gold Dome…that is, when they can be bothered to pay attention at all. Senator Cooke, a former Weld County Sheriff, has never been shy about blurting out his opposition to pretty much any forward-thinking policy. He’s even proposed ignoring laws that don’t agree with his personal politics.

Within this context, Sen. Cooke’s comments are not a complete surprise, but they’re still ghoulishly inappropriate.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 28)

Happy National Superhero Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

► Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be softening on his resistance to providing federal aid to local municipal governments decimated by the coronavirus. McConnell has spent much of the past week in vocal opposition to helping out local governments, which has not been a popular stance. As The Washington Post reports, McConnell and President Trump may be getting the message:

As states across the country see their budgets decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, attempts by President Trump and top Republican lawmakers to paint the issue in partisan terms have been directly challenged by a growing cast of voices from across the political spectrum.

Republican and Democratic governors are warning of financial calamity if Washington doesn’t provide relief, some GOP lawmakers have joined with Democrats to call for a massive aid bill, and budget experts contend that leaving states to fend for themselves will only prolong the nation’s recovery from the economic shock brought on by the pandemic.

Still, Trump has pushed the idea that a federal aid package would largely benefit fiscally irresponsible states run by Democrats. It’s the latest attempt by the president to cast a partisan frame around a crisis that has ravaged much of the country with little regard for political affiliation.

Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Boulderish) is the sponsor of The Coronavirus Community Relief Act, a measure to assist local governments which has broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Neguse discusses this legislation in the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast.

Check out CNN for more on McConnell’s shifting stance on this issue.

 

The White House is not happy that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is advising Senators and candidates to avoid defending President Trump on his coronavirus response. From POLITICO:

On Monday — just days after POLITICO first reported the existence of the memo — Trump political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that any Republican candidate who followed the memo’s advice shouldn’t expect the active support of the reelection campaign and risked losing the support of Republican voters.

McLaughlin responded by saying he agreed with the Trump campaign’s position and, according to two people familiar with the conversation, clarified that the committee wasn’t advising candidates to not defend Trump over his response…

…The 57-page memo, which was authored by a top GOP strategist, was perceived by Trump aides as giving candidates leeway to avoid backing the president on what could be the defining issue of the 2020 campaign. And they held a series of conversations on Friday and over the weekend figuring out how to respond.

The memo urged GOP Senate candidates to stay relentlessly on message with attacks against China, where the coronavirus originated, when pressed about the pandemic on the campaign trail. When asked about Trump’s response to the pandemic, the document advised candidates to pivot to an attack on the authoritarian country rather than offer an explicit defense of Trump’s response.

It’s hard to argue with the NRSC’s logic here. How do you defend the indefensible?

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) apparently got the memo.

 

Colorado is joining forces with other Western states on a shared path toward reducing stay-at-home guidelines. As Denver7 reports:

The Western States Pact is a group of governors from the western states that have a shared vision for modifying the stay-at-home orders and continuing to fight the novel coronavirus. The governors have pledged that health outcomes and science, and not politics, will guide their decisions regarding COVID-19.

The Western States Pact is centered around three core principles: 1) Prioritizing the health of residents, 2) Relying on science, not politics, in making decisions about reducing restrictions, and 3) Working together with other states on a common rollout. Colorado joins Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington in The Western States Pact.

 

Governor Jared Polis is reminding Coloradans that we could return to “stay-at-home” status if the new “safer-at-home” program doesn’t slow the coronavirus.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 23)

Today is definitely Thursday; we triple-checked. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks that state and local governments should just declare bankruptcy and stop bothering Congress for help. From POLITICO:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday insisted that flailing state and local governments should be able to “use the bankruptcy route” rather than receive aid from the federal government — signaling renewed opposition to a top Democratic demand for the next coronavirus relief package.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the Kentucky Republican also expressed concern about adding billions more to the national debt in addition to the nearly $3 trillion Congress has already sent out the door to combat the economic and public health challenges of the pandemic…

States do not have the ability to declare bankruptcy under current law, and modifying the bankruptcy code would likely be a heavy lift in Congress. [Pols emphasis]

Oh, so NOW McConnell is worried about the national debt; he didn’t seem too concerned about this when Republicans were ramming through a massive tax cut for the wealthy.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is debating today on a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that has already passed the Senate; the legislation does NOT provide financial relief for state governments.

 

President Trump totally agrees with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s aggressive plans to re-open his state. Or he definitely disagrees. It’s hard to know, really. From CNN:

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both called Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday night and expressed support and praise for the Republican’s move to reopen businesses in his state starting Friday, a source familiar with the call said. Trump later said the opposite — that he told Kemp he disagreed “strongly” with the decision.

The call came as public health officials warned that Kemp is moving too quickly, some business owners said they would keep their doors closed and mayors said they feared Kemp’s action would deepen the coronavirus crisis in their communities…

…But the President said during Wednesday’s news conference that he told Kemp he disagreed “strongly” with the governor’s decision to reopen some businesses in his state.

As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains further, it does indeed seem that Trump is tossing Kemp under the bus in a major way:

It’s an absolutely remarkable bit of political blaming — made all the worse (or better depending on where you stand) by the fact that Kemp likely went into Wednesday night’s coronavirus task force press briefing believing that, even while criticism was mounting, he still had Trump’s support to fall back on. It’s like a trust fall exercise where the person behind you assures you they will catch you and then not only lets you fall but stomps on you when you are on the ground.

For Kemp, it’s a painful lesson to learn: Loyalty is a one-way street for Trump. [Pols emphasis] Trump expects totally fealty — he was not happy with Kemp when the governor passed over Rep. Doug Collins for the appointment to Georgia’s vacant Senate seat — and feels no real need to reciprocate. You need to be loyal to him. He will be loyal to you — as long as it serves his interests.

 

The OVERWHELMING majority of Americans continue to believe that governments should move slowly in reopening society and are worried more about the health crisis than the economy.

Via Navigator Research

 

Denver7 offers more clarity on Colorado’s new “safer at home” coronavirus response plan:

While Gov. Jared Polis announced the safer-at-home plans on Monday, he explained in more detail at a news conference Wednesday about what life will look like in Colorado beginning next week.

Polis used two Colorado analogies to summarize the new phase. For skiers, we’re moving from the bunny slopes to the greens, Polis explained. For hikers, we’re at a trailhead with 14,000 feet to go.

“If we fall down on green, it’s back to the bunny hill,” Polis said.

The safer-at-home phase, Polis explained, is a step forward for some businesses to re-open and employees to return to work. But many of the practices and measures enacted during the stay-at-home order will still be strongly encouraged.

 

Looking for GOOD news related to the coronavirus outbreak? Here’s a heartwarming story.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 22)

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first “Earth Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

Chris Cillizza of CNN highlights a very important moment from Tuesday that might be getting lost because of coronavirus news:

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, released its long-awaited 156-page report detailing its investigation into allegations that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election.

And what did their investigation find? That Russia engaged in a deep and broad effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 race, aiming to help Donald Trump win. “The Committee found no reason to dispute the Intelligence Community’s conclusions,” said Burr in a statement on his committee’s findings…

…Here’s the thing that the Senate Intelligence Committee report should drive home for Trump — and everyone else: it is now entirely and completely beyond dispute that Russia sought to interfere in the last presidential election to help Trump and hurt Clinton.

In order to not believe that, you have to accept that the entire intelligence community, Mueller and his entire team and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee are ALL in on some sort of elaborate and incredibly well-coordinated scheme to deceive the American public because, uh, they all don’t like Trump or something? [Pols emphasis]

 

The director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, is warning that a winter round of coronavirus could be much, much worse. From The Washington Post:

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”

“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said. Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health-care system, he said. The first wave of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers.

In a wide-ranging interview, Redfield said federal and state officials need to use the coming months to prepare for what lies ahead. As stay-at-home orders are lifted, officials need to stress the continued importance of social distancing. Officials also need to massively scale up their ability to identify the infected through testing and find everyone they interact with through contact tracing. Doing so prevents new cases from becoming larger outbreaks.

Asked about the appropriateness of protests against stay-at-home orders and calls on states to be “liberated” from restrictions, Redfield said: “It’s not helpful.” [Pols emphasis]

True as it may be, that last line probably means that Redfield won’t get to talk to reporters again for awhile. Saying mean things about President Trump gets you put into “time out” in this administration.

 

 Colorado Public Radio digs into the differences between “stay-at-home” and “safe-at-home” as Colorado takes cautious steps toward relaxing social distancing guidelines.

 

Here’s your daily CNN fact-check of President Trump’s coronavirus briefing.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

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