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.
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► 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…
SERIOUSLY, THERE WILL BE NON-CORONAVIRUS NEWS MOMENTARILY…
► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is expressing great concern that the U.S. Senate might recess without passing another coronavirus relief bill. For somebody who fashions himself as a leader in the Republican caucus, you’d think he could do more than just send a bunch of tweets.
► Skyline Prison in Cañon City looks to be a victim of the state budget cutting process.
► Colorado lawmakers won’t be required to wear masks when the legislature reconvenes next week. That’s probably welcome news for House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who apparently doesn’t understand the whole “wear a mask and slow the spread of COVID-19” thing.
► As POLITICO reports, local officials across the country are defying state leaders on reopening too soon amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
► A federal watchdog will testify about coronavirus response problems in front of a House committee next week. As The Washington Post reports:
The federal watchdog who issued an early report documenting acute shortages of coronavirus tests and personal protective equipment at overwhelmed hospitals will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, a congressional aide said.
Christi A. Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, documented “severe shortages” of supplies in late March and described hospitals’ intense frustration with government authorities who were unequipped to address the scarcity.
After Grimm issued her report on April 3, President Trump criticized her for serving during the Obama administration and disputed the findings. On May 1, Trump nominated a permanent HHS inspector general to replace Grimm — one of several moves he has made to oust inspectors general who served Barack Obama and previous presidents.
The odds are pretty good that President Trump will again try to fire Grimm on Friday.
► Denver7 is hosting a town hall-style meeting tonight with education leaders to discuss how Colorado might plan to reopen schools in the fall.
Colorado universities, meanwhile, are still trying to figure out how they will instruct students once the new school year starts in August.
► The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released details on how restaurants may be able to reopen in Colorado. From The Denver Post:
On May 25, Memorial Day, the state will decide if, and when, restaurants can begin reopening and what level of parameters they’ll face to safely operate. The draft proposal includes plans for pickup-only service, as well as indoor and outdoor on-premise dining. The guidelines include consideration of premise space, along with safety expectations for employees and customers.
Pickup-only guidelines include the continuance of take-out beer and cocktail sales. Clearly designated pickup waiting areas, marked with proper distancing, will also be continued. Marked space in check-out lines will comply to six-foot distancing.
Guideline proposals for reopening premise dining, both indoor and outdoor, which was shut down on March 16 to help stop the spread of COVID-19, include limited capacity to be determined “based on science,” according to the draft document. Requirements include 8 feet of spacing table to table with all employees wearing facial coverings and gloves. Party sizes could be limited to six or less. Bars that do not serve food could seat customers if distancing protocols are followed.
► Lauren “Yosemite Samantha” Boebert dials up the martyr meter to 100.
► Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams is sad that a federal court ruled that his county needs to do a better job of keeping inmates safe from COVID-19.
AT LAST: POLITICAL NEWS THAT IS (MOSTLY) NOT ABOUT CORONAVIRUS…
► Smoking gun?!? Eh, not so much. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN:
On Tuesday, acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell released a previously classified email sent by Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice on January 20, 2017 — detailing a meeting between the president, vice president, FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on January 5 of that year to discuss Michael Flynn.
Republicans seized on the email as proof that Flynn, a top adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign and the soon-to-be national security adviser, had, in fact been the target of a covert operation by the outgoing president in an effort to hamstring his successor….
…There’s just one problem here: Rice’s email proves nothing of the sort. In fact, it proves the opposite of what Cruz, Trump and lots of other Republicans have been insisting for years was going on in the final days of the Obama administration. Rather than revealing some sort of rogue, extralegal spying by Obama and his top advisers, it shows a president going out of his way to ensure that all laws and rules are followed — while also acknowledging that Flynn’s dealing with the Russians meant that everyone involved needed to proceed very carefully. [Pols emphasis]
► Like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Maine Sen. Susan Collins is considered one of the most endangered Republican incumbents of 2020. Unlike Gardner, Collins is actually willing to criticize President Trump, as the Colorado Times-Recorder explains:
You might think Collins and Gardner would be on the same page about criticizing the president, given that both their states voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, and they’re widely seen as the two most endangered members of the Senate.
But it turns out Collins is much more likely to criticize the president than Gardner — including over the pandemic. This, even though Clinton won by a greater margin in Colorado (4.9%) than in Maine (3%).
► These are not real ideas, Colorado Republicans.
► Denver7 reports from the virtual campaign trail.
► Hundreds of janitors rallied in downtown Denver on Tuesday in support of better benefits as they negotiate a new contract.
► Don’t ever turn your back on Sen. Cory Gardner.
► Republican Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) are now on a crusade against TikTok.
Your Daily Dose Of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
— Jo Rae Perkins (@PerkinsForUSSen) May 20, 2020
► Speaking of Republican candidates for federal office:
► Beaches are closed in Colorado. That is a very strange sentence.
► Locust infestation? This seems about right.
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