AFP: All Over The Map On Hospital Provider Fee Follies

As the Denver Post’s Brian Eason reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling state lawmakers back next month for a narrowly-focused special session of the legislature–the purpose being to fix an error in a key piece of legislation passed this year that is resulting in unexpected budget cuts to specific programs:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday called lawmakers back to the Capitol to fix a bill-drafting error that has been costing Denver-based institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in marijuana revenue.

The special session set to start Oct. 2 will be the first in five years for Hickenlooper and the General Assembly, an extraordinary step for a governor who typically has deferred to lawmakers on legislative matters during his two terms.

“After hearing about the potential impact on citizens around the state, it is clear that this problem is best solved as soon as possible,” Hickenlooper said in a statement announcing his executive order, capping a day of speculation about his plans.

The error in question affects the bipartisan hospital provider fee and budget fix legislation Senate Bill 17-267, this year’s hard-won compromise bill hammered out between Democrats and Republicans led by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg that averted much larger and more painful budget cuts. Specifically, the mistake eliminated marijuana tax funding for Denver RTD and the metro area’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), along with a few other organizations, while intending to increase marijuana tax revenue–meaning an error completely counter to the bill’s intentions.

But as you might have expected, Republicans and conservative activists are howling over the special session and threatening to not cooperate–including Sen. Sonnenberg and Rep. Jon Becker, the two primary GOP sponsors of SB-267:

Intransigence that is outraging Democrats who worked with them:

As for the state’s biggest conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity-Colorado? Don’t bother. They’re all over the map. During the legislative session, AFP claimed to be “working with” Sen. Sonnenberg on SB-267, ostensibly to ensure it wasn’t too offensive to them. The organization was listed in lobbying disclosure forms as “monitoring” SB-267, not opposing, while then-AFP state director Michael Fields taunted Democrats about supposed GOP willingness to move forward:

And the group’s 2017 Colorado legislative scorecard–the first version, anyway–was a little confusing, but appeared to consider a “yes” SB-267 vote a good thing:

This is from the original legislative scorecard from AFP for this year, and they count “yes” votes on SB-267 as favorable toward legislators’ scores–despite the fact that the bill is listed in red, which would seemingly mean AFP opposed it. A confusing read, but one that sat dormant for months.

Until just yesterday, as this bill was once again bubbling up into current news–AFP released a new scorecard!

And suddenly, all those “yes” votes are unambiguously bad! You’ll notice the scores for legislators have been reweighted too, though that could be due to the introduction of other bills. Either way, it’s clear that AFP made a very large error of its own–and it could well be a result of them trying to rewrite their own history on this legislation.

Either way, what we’re talking about here is fixing what everyone agrees is an unintentional mistake–a mistake that is unintentionally costing institutions millions of dollars. There is simply no reason to hold these organizations hostage over this error to demand unrelated concessions. In fact, it could be extremely toxic politically for Republicans if they go down this road. You shouldn’t exploit bipartisan drafting errors to extract a political pound of flesh later. And if you do, voters should know that’s how you roll.

Because while voters don’t like hearing about drafting errors, they really don’t like hearing about shenanigans.

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Pseudonymous says:

    In fact, it could be extremely toxic politically for Republicans if they go down this road.

    Really?  How many Republicans represent districts covering "Denver-based institutions" that the "bill-drafting error…has been costing…hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in marijuana revenue?"  I doubt their voters really care about shenanigans that screw folks in Denver.

    • bullshit! says:

      I don't know about that. I know plenty of Republicans who are DMNS and other museum members. That's not straight party line.

      If Democrats can make this about Republicans fucking with the system just because they can, Dems can win this debate and hurt the GOP politically. They are obligated to at least try…

    • Moderatus says:

      You're damn right I don't care. This bill violated TABOR, and Colorado needs to wean itself off illegal marijuana money anyway. It's not our fault that Democrats can't write legislation right. Don't waste taxpayer dollars on this! The legislative session is four months away.

      • MichaelBowman says:

        So you want the rural hospitals closed now?  Please go find the nearest dispensary and medicate yourself with something natural (and legal).

      • Pseudonymous says:

        The Democrats?  Wasn't it Jerry Sonnenberg's white board I was looking at in news stories about the bill?

        Sure, the bill is unconstitutional, but not because of TABOR.  It fails to meet the single subject requirement under the constitution.  The legislature decided to hand-wave that by saying, "The general assembly further finds and declares that the sustainability of rural Colorado is directly connected to the economic vitality of the state as a whole…"  Of course, that's nonsense, because any bill could say that the things it contained affect all of Colorado, and then fit any old crap under the title.  The constitution was set up to specifically prevent the sort of horse trading that happened in this bill, and require legislators to legislate, but it looks like DC in CO will become the norm unless someone decides to challenge it.  I think the law's crap, but not because TABOR is great or weed is terrible.

  2. MichaelBowman says:

    So Rep Becker is a 'hard NO'? Being a member of the minority in the House perhaps he might take 10 minutes to read Mark Hillman's latest piece? He won’t even qualify as a speed bump as the House gives the green light to this fix.

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