Don’t Worry, Colorado, Weed An “Essential Business”

SATURDAY UPDATE: Westword reports on new measures by Gov. Jared Polis to keep those “essential” dispensaries open and safe:

While pre-ordering marijuana products that you later pay for at the dispensary is already legal in Colorado — and something that many pot shops have suggested customers do to avoid interaction during the virus spread — paying for orders online and then picking them up curbside was not allowed until Polis’s new executive order.

“I temporarily suspend the prohibition on retail marijuana store online sales…to facilitate pick up by consumers twenty-one years of age and older in a manner consistent with social-distancing guidelines promulgated by the [state Department of Public Health and Environment],” Polis’s executive order reads.

—–

Essential in emergencies.

Coloradans in large numbers have been faithfully tuning in every day to Gov. Jared Polis’ regular briefings on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the state capitol, watching to see what measures are being taken here compared to both more lenient and far more stringent responses by other states. In particular, Colorado has not yet taken the step taken elsewhere of ordering “nonessential” businesses to completely shut down–which would result in substantial additional economic hardship and further restrict the availability of all kinds of products.

But as ABC News reports from California, one particular fairly recent business is being declared “essential” under the closure orders in that state and allowed to continue operating: legal marijuana shops!

Designated by many cities as “essential businesses,” legal weed purveyors from Oakland, California, to Denver have been reporting long lines of customers outside their shops similar to those recently seen at entrances to grocery stores and pharmacies.

“We’ve had both lines of cars and lines of people wrapping around our buildings,” Steve DeAngelo, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Harborside dispensaries in California, told ABC News. “It’s not about getting high, it’s about being well.”

Early numbers from the nationwide cannabis data intelligence firm Headset showed that legal marijuana sales in California skyrocketed 159% on Monday compared with the same day in 2019.

In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also declared liquor stores to be essential businesses that will be allowed remain operating along with grocery stores and pharmacies. In both cases, we’d say cutting citizens off en masse from their favored “medicinal” inebriants, in addition to all of the other stressors every homebound American is experiencing today, would be a mistake with harm outweighing any benefit.

Instead of puffing and passing, though, everybody smoke your own.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 20)

The world looks a lot different since Daylight Savings two weeks ago. Maybe we should change our clocks again. Anyway, it’s definitely time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of 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

 

Here’s the big coronavirus updates of the morning, neatly summarized by The Washington Post:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all workers in his state to stay home, except for those in essential services. The move came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered 40 million residents to remain at home. The dramatic measures came after confirmed U.S. cases doubled in just two days, in part because of increased testing. “I applaud them, they’re taking very strong, bold steps,” President Trump said…

…The U.S. tax filing deadline has been pushed back from April 15 to July 15. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Twitter.

Over in Congress, Senate Republicans are pushing to complete a trillion-dollar stimulus relief package by the end of the day. President Trump announced on Friday that he is suspending payments on federally-funded student loans.

 

 There are some new closures and regulations from late Thursday that you should know about. As 9News reports:

Hair and nail salons, massage studios, tattoo parlors and racetrack betting facilities will be closed through at least April 30, adding to the list of “nonessential services” that already included dining rooms in bars and restaurants, breweries, wineries, gyms, casinos and theaters…

…The order from the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) went into effect Thursday, the same day Gov. Jared Polis banned “non-essential” medical procedures, including surgeries.

A ban on in-restaurant dining was extended until April 30. Also on Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis opened a special health insurance enrollment period. From The Colorado Sun:

The enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans will begin on March 20 and last through April 3. People who need health insurance can buy plans on the state’s Affordable Care Act’s individual exchange — called Connect for Health Colorado — during that span.

Coloradans who have lost their jobs — or who may lose their jobs in the coming weeks — and find themselves without their employer-based coverage are allowed a 60-day window after their employment ends to enroll in an individual health insurance plan. There is no date restriction for people who fall into that category.

► As Blair Miller reports for Denver7, relief for small businesses in Colorado is on the way:

The state of Colorado and city of Denver both on Thursday announced initial economic relief packages to try to help businesses and workers affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Gov. Jared Polis announced Thursday that the Small Business Administration had granted disaster relief for small business loans in Colorado under the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program – something he had said he was seeking from the federal government in recent days.

The approval will allow small businesses, nonprofits, agricultural cooperatives and aquaculture enterprises affected by the virus outbreak to seek up to $2 million in low-interest federal loans to pay for debts, payroll and accounts payable, the state said.

But wait, there’s more…

Also Thursday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the city was creating an initial relief fund of $4 million to try to help small businesses affected by the outbreak.

The Denver Economic Development and Opportunity (DEDO) will have a program to give qualifying businesses cash grants of up to $7,500 – with prioritization given to the most-impacted industries, like the restaurant industry.

Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is introducing legislation to make it easier for small businesses to get new loans. The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade is considering diverting incentive funds meant for recruiting new companies to Colorado toward a program that would help current Colorado businesses remain afloat.

 

► North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr apparently gave dire Coronavirus warnings to a small group of people at a private luncheon in late February, at the same time that he was publicly downplaying the threat. But this is peanuts compared to Burr’s real problem right now, as CNBC reports:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., is facing questions about his decision to sell between $630,000 and $1.7 million worth of stock one week before global financial markets began a historic slide in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A second Republican senator, Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler, also sold large amounts of stock in late January and early February, when U.S. markets were hitting all-time highs.

Both Burr and Loeffler have received non-public information about the global spread of coronavirus from Executive Branch officials, who have been briefing senators regularly since at least January.

Read that again or just pause and let it sink in a bit more. At least four Republican Senators — Burr, Loeffler, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma — appear to have dumped massive amounts of stock after being briefed on Coronavirus concerns.

Even Fox News talking monkey Tucker Carlson is calling for Sen. Burr to resign immediately. As Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post, Burr’s insider trading is directly linked to President Trump.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is also being scrutinized for selling a lot of stock in mid-February, though she claims that her assets are all held in a blind trust.

 

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

 

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Bloomberg Giveth And Taketh Away

Michael Bloomberg

CNN reports on the what appears to be the final disposition of Michael Bloomberg’s failed presidential campaign–a big check to the Democratic National Committee to help take out Donald Trump in November irrespective of the nominee:

Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign transferred $18 million to the Democratic National Committee on Friday, turning to the committee to fund and manage the effort to take down President Donald Trump instead of creating a Bloomberg-backed independent expenditure.

The transfer, according to memos from both Democratic groups, will go directly to increasing the size and scope of the DNC’s Battleground Build-Up 2020 effort, allowing the committee, according to an aide, to hire hundreds of organizers in a dozen key battleground states, including Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

When he launched his late-entry presidential campaign, Bloomberg pledged to fund organizers in key battleground states through November, whether he won the nomination or not. The billionaire was unable to turn his self-funded campaign into any significant wins on Super Tuesday — he only won American Samoa — so he bowed out of the race and backed former vice president.

As we noted in this space, Bloomberg’s short-lived campaign bought up a huge swath of Colorado’s top political organizing talent, paying salaries several multiples of what would normally be expected for such jobs–and promising new hires that they would remain employed through the November elections regardless of what happened with Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions.

As of today, that appears to be a broken promise to all concerned:

A DNC aide said that while the hundreds of Bloomberg organizers who had been employed by the campaign can apply for the organizing jobs with the committee, they will not be given preferential treatment and “will have to apply with everyone else.”

Just as they have in prior election cycles, Democrats should welcome Bloomberg’s millions to help them grow the House majority, retake the U.S. Senate, and above all end Donald Trump’s political career. Arguably the money will be better spent by the party as opposed to an independent expenditure committee. In the context of the half-billion dollars Bloomberg essentially set on fire during his spectacularly failed presidential campaign, though, it seems like a pittance. In the end, this campaign was about Michael Bloomberg, and not altruistically saving America.

Here’s hoping all the people he hired on what turned out to be false pretenses have a soft landing.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 19)

Hey, look: Snow! It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of 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

 

Two down, one to go?

The Senate on Wednesday approved the second major piece of legislation related to the Coronavirus outbreak, allowing lawmakers to fully focus on a massive stimulus bill. From Politico:

With Senate leaders vowing to work at “warp speed” to blunt the financial fallout from the pandemic, the Treasury Department unveiled to lawmakers a plan for $250 billion in direct payments to Americans starting April 6…

…According to the Treasury Department’s proposal, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, the so-called “phase three” proposal would include $50 billion to aid the hard-hit airline industry, $150 billion for other distressed sectors of the economy, two rounds of direct payments of $250 billion each on April 6 and May 18, and the creation of a small business interruption loan program.

The document notably does not mention a payroll tax cut, which President Donald Trump has suggested he wanted to be included in the package. But the idea lost steam in recent days as lawmakers from both parties rejected the idea, citing the need to grant immediate, large-scale relief.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES” on Wednesday; Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) did not cast a vote because he is currently in self-quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Bennet may have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus but has opted not to self-quarantine. Congress is not currently able to conduct tele-voting, but Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) says that he would be comfortable with such an option.

We posted this here yesterday, but it’s worth repeating for a reminder of the Coronavirus legislation being discussed:

BILL ONE
The first bill, which started in the House, passed the Senate, and was quickly signed by President Trump, dealt primarily with medical and emergency response needs. This was the bill that was opposed by only two House Members, one of who was Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). In the Senate, only Kentucky Republican Rand Paul voted “NO.”

BILL TWO (Families First CoronaVirus Response Act)
The second bill, which also started in the House, deals with issues like paid family leave and Coronavirus testing and health care regulations (Rep. Buck also voted against this bill). Since the bill passed in the House on Saturday, outside groups have been pressuring Republican Senators to add their support. The Senate approved this measure on Wednesday and President Trump signed it into law today.

BILL THREE
This is the trillion-dollar “bailout” bill that will likely include sending money directly to Americans within the next couple of weeks. As The Washington Post reports:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the Trump administration is working on a plan that would send most Americans $1,000 within three weeks and an additional $500 for every child as a way to flood the country with money and try to blunt the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy…

…Mnuchin’s comments are part of the rapidly evolving fiscal stimulus plan that the White House and congressional leaders are scrambling to assemble amid growing signs that large parts of the economy are grinding to a halt. House Democrats, meanwhile, are working on their own set of proposals, and negotiations with the White House are expected to begin very soon.

For more on federal legislative efforts and a host of other Coronavirus-related questions, check out this interview from Tuesday with Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) on The Get More Smarter Podcast.

 

► President Trump spoke today at another Coronavirus press briefing, which German Lopez of Vox.com called “a disastrous failure in leadership.” You won’t be shocked to learn that he made another big mistake:

11:49: *Trump starts playing with ball of yarn

11:51: *Trump threatens to use Marines to invade Coronavirus

11:52: *Trump pulls a piece of meatloaf from his breast pocket and takes a bite

 

► Two Members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah).

The first state lawmaker in Colorado (that we know of) has tested positive for COVID-19. Two members of a municipal delegation that recently traveled to Washington D.C. have also tested positive.

 

► Governor Jared Polis ordered all Colorado schools to close until April 17 as part of continuing efforts to contain the Coronavirus outbreak. Polis also ordered a temporary ban of any gathering of more than 10 people.

Most Colorado school districts closed their schools late last week. Polis said Wednesday that it is “increasingly unlikely” that Colorado schools will open again before the end of the school year.

The Denver Post breaks down some of the other “emergency powers” that Gov. Polis could choose to activate.

 

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

 

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Rep. Ken Buck’s Dangerous Irresponsibility Rolls On

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports–after Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado became a national embarrassment as one of only two House votes against the initial coronavirus relief legislation to pass Congress, and one of a relatively small contingent of House Republicans to vote against the second, Buck is doubling down on his “what, me worry?” approach to the rapidly-widening global pandemic:

“You don’t shut restaurants down for 30 days,” Buck said in an interview Wednesday, referring to a policy enacted in Colorado and many other states.

“I have no problem with (stopping) sporting events or things that don’t impact our civil liberties and don’t impact everyday life. Those are things that I think we can suspend for a period of time. But it’s just craziness to shut down businesses or parts of the economy that are absolutely necessary,” the congressman added…

“We don’t have a leader. It was FDR who said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ We need leaders to stand up and say we’re going to have a measured response,” said Buck, who is usually a defender of President Donald Trump.

That’s right, readers–Colorado’s far-right lightning rod congressman/state GOP chairman just invoked FDR to criticize President Donald Trump! That is of course interesting, but it’s a distraction from the larger problem here so don’t get stuck on it. There’s no question that the emergency public health measures taken by the state of Colorado along with many others are very painful economically. That’s why Congress needs to pass relief legislation for American workers affected by the pandemic considerably broader in scope than what’s currently being offered by the GOP Senate majority.

With that said, virtually every public health expert literally on the entire planet says these measures, and even more strict isolation measures than exist in most places in the United States today including Colorado, are desperately needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus–or if not contain it, at least spread out the rate of infection enough to not overwhelm the hospitals. If this all sounds old hat to you, that’s because it’s beaten into all of our heads for weeks.

But not Rep. Ken Buck, folks! Buck doesn’t want to hear any of your damn pesky “expert” warnings about any global pandemic. When you’ve already made the decision to blow off the science on a whole range of issues from guns to climate change, ignoring the coronavirus threat comes…well, frighteningly easy, apparently.

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Polis Signs Order For Socially Distanced Assemblies

A jolly caucus race!

Among the many developments yesterday in the state of Colorado’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was an order from Gov. Jared Polis, carrying out legislation passed as the Colorado General Assembly got out of Dodge last weekend to allow for party nominating assemblies and conventions to go forward with the appropriate health safeguards. CBS4:

The executive order allows “Colorado’s political parties to amend certain rules and procedures governing the conduct of their assemblies and conventions and to limit in-person contact during nominating assemblies and conventions.”

“During this challenging time, we must continue to work together to ensure Coloradans have every opportunity to participate in the democratic process,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “I thank the state legislature and leadership for their work to quickly send this bipartisan bill to my desk.”

House Bill 20-1359 operates in conjunction with the executive order and allows for parties to provide a remote participation in nominating assemblies and conventions. It also allows “delegates to vote by email, mail, telephone or app, allows an individual who is physically present to carry up to five proxies, and allows the party to reduce the number of participants required for quorum. The executive order directs the Secretary of State to issue emergency rules to allow eligible voters to safely participate in the primary election.”

Here’s Gov. Polis’ full order. Colorado is a vanguard state for all-mail ballots — and we expect many more states to follow our example, boosting turnout in those states in addition to minimizing contagions of all descriptions. This year’s precinct caucuses in Colorado, on the other hand, were less than successful in the confusing immediate wake of our presidential primary–but obviously the process needs to be safely concluded.

Anyway, it’s one less thing to worry about. The socially-distanced show will go on.

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Perlmutter Okay with Tele-Voting, But Congress Isn’t There Yet

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Colorado’s legislature has suspended work until March 30 as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, but what about Congress? As Amber Phillips writes today for The Washington Post, we still don’t have much of an alternative to requiring a group of mostly older Americans to continue to congregate in person in Washington D.C.:

Every minute they stay in session to do that, they are putting their own health at risk. More than a dozen lawmakers have self quarantined after brushes with coronavirus. Yet any delay would put Americans’ lives and livelihoods at risk. There is no way to fully do what health officials are calling for — social distancing — while passing legislation.

There has been a bipartisan effort to get all this done as quickly as possible, but politics is also creeping in and delaying action.

Congress does not currently allow for remote or tele-voting in any scenario, which is something you can probably add to the list of changes that will be discussed sooner rather than later.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter was a guest on The Get More Smarter Podcast on Tuesday with hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii. The Jefferson County Democrat discussed a number of questions related to Coronavirus and the federal government response — including this issue. Here’s a snippet of that conversation relating to whether or not Congress could change the way it conducts business:

BANE: The Colorado legislature has suspended work until the end of the month. What is the scenario in which Congress could do something similar? Could you hold votes remotely? Is that even possible?

PERLMUTTER: Well, there is a section of the House rules that deals with voting when there has been some kind of an attack, or a natural disaster, or contagion — it actually addresses contagion. It allows for a lower quorum, but at this point, I think, there is no provision for tele-voting, if you will. 

There’s been a request by a number to have that put into place, but at this point, if we have a big vote, then we’re going to be given, I think, 24 hours notice. Those who can get on a plane will go back and vote. And we’re going to vote not en masse like we ordinarily do, because that seems to be the petri dish for passing this virus. But we’ll [vote] in small groups at a time until everybody who is there can vote and has voted. 

There are a lot of things in play right now, but the Congress is still in session.

BANE: Do you think you would be comfortable with voting remotely, tele-voting? For you personally, are you okay with that?

PERLMUTTER: Yes. Yeah, I would be comfortable with it. 

Obviously we have to make sure that it’s well-secured, and can’t be hacked, but there are a number of ways that we could protect against it. Again, in a situation where there’s an emergency that doesn’t allow people to get back to the chamber. So, I am comfortable with that…

…There are others in the caucus who are not comfortable with that and want us back at the seat of government in the Capitol, or nearby, anyway. 

You can listen to the entire interview at GetMoreSmarter.com, or click on the audio player embedded after the jump below…

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 18)

Welcome to the Coronavirus outbreak, Fox News viewers; we’ve been busy. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of 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 says the Senate is moving “at warp speed” (which is about “half-speed” in regular person parlance) on producing a massive stimulus bill in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. As CNN reports:

Two GOP sources told CNN’s Manu Raju that Republican senators are close to reaching an agreement among themselves on the details of Mnuchin’s plan. The conference plans to meet later on Wednesday to discuss where they stand, with one of the sources expecting an agreement by lunchtime.

The idea is to cut a deal among themselves, and then try to hammer out a bipartisan agreement with Democrats on a massive package that could pass Congress in a matter of days. But Democrats have their own plans, so there are hard-fought negotiations ahead.

The bill McConnell is talking about would be the third major piece of federal legislation to move through Congress this month:

BILL ONE
The first bill, which started in the House, passed the Senate, and was quickly signed by President Trump, dealt primarily with medical and emergency response needs. This was the bill that was opposed by only two House Members, one of who was Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). In the Senate, only Kentucky Republican Rand Paul voted “NO.”

BILL TWO
The second bill, which also started in the House, deals with issues like paid family leave and Coronavirus testing and health care regulations (Rep. Buck also voted against this bill). McConnell is pushing the Senate to vote on the legislation this week — though Sen. Rand Paul is again throwing wrenches — and it will almost certainly be signed by President Trump shortly thereafter. Outside groups have been pressuring Republican Senators to quickly support this legislation.

BILL THREE
This is the trillion-dollar “bailout” bill that will likely include sending money directly to Americans within the next couple of weeks. Politico has more on this third major piece of legislation:

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Tuesday there is a “high level of interest” among Republicans for a Trump administration proposal to send as many as two $1,000 checks directly to individual Americans to help respond to the economic slowdown, a move that could cost an estimated $500 billion, according to GOP sources.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a pitch for the initiative at a lunch with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, part of an $800 billion-plus package being floated by the White House that also includes as much as $250 billion in emergency loans for smalls businesses being hit by the economic slowdown.

Under the Mnuchin plan, direct payments — on a means-tested basis — could be sent to American via the IRS as early as next month, although even that may not be as fast as some in Congress want.

For more on these bills and a host of other Coronavirus-related questions, check out this interview from Tuesday with Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) on The Get More Smarter Podcast:

Two members of Colorado’s congressional delegation are in self-quarantine after being alerted that they may have had contact with an infected person. From The Denver Post:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Jason Crow both announced Tuesday that they’re self-quarantining after coming into contact last week with a constituent who subsequently was found to have the coronavirus.

It’s not clear if it was the same constituent, but the contact was on the same day — March 11 — and both men were notified of the contact by the same health department.

“I was alerted today by the Tri-County Health Department that a Coloradan who visited my Washington office for a constituent meeting has tested positive for coronavirus,” Gardner, a Yuma Republican, said in a press release.

“While I am not showing any symptoms at this time, I have made the decision to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution,” he added.

Crow is also not reporting showing any symptoms but is self-quarantining for precautionary reasons.

 

► President Trump is finally getting his border shutdown…with Canada. The United States and Canada have agreed to close the border to all non-essential travel.

 

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

 

(more…)

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Coronavirus Culls Democratic Senate Field (Not Really)

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Lorena Garcia (D).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, yesterday’s deadline to submit petition signatures in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary appears to have winnowed the clown-car field of minor candidates in this race by a couple of entries–with a notable exception we don’t want to give short shrift:

After weeks of uncertainty and difficulty brought about by coronavirus, Colorado candidates for U.S. Senate ran into a crucial signature-gathering deadline Tuesday with varying success.

Lorena Garcia turned in more than the necessary 10,500 signatures, but the secretary of state’s office must see whether she has enough valid ones to join John Hickenlooper and, in all likelihood, Andrew Romanoff on the Democratic primary ballot. Two other candidates turned in fewer than the required number of signatures.

“We didn’t make it, and we would have if it was not for coronavirus,” said Michelle Ferrigno Warren, who said she collected about 9,000 signatures…

Senate “candidates” Michelle Ferrigno Warren and Diana Bray both fell short in terms of the absolute number of signatures required, which in any normal situation would mean unceremonious “game over.” It’s unknown how they fared with the secondary requirement that at least 1,500 valid signatures be collected from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, but the latter is in practice the greater logistical challenge–and, well, we doubt this important requirement was met either. As for blaming the coronavirus, while it’s true that the curtailment of public activities in the days immediately before yesterday’s deadline likely had some effect, we have trouble believing it was the real cause of the shortfall in these two particular cases. There’s no nice way to say this, but these simply were not viable candidates for the U.S. Senate.

The exception we’re obliged to make here is the one candidate who did turn in enough signatures yesterday to make the ballot–albeit barely, with a chance of disappointment if the validity rate doesn’t hold. Lorena Garcia, a Denver-based nonprofit executive and Latina activist, turned in almost 14,000 signatures. We can’t speak to the petition efforts mounted by the candidates who didn’t meet the threshold, but in Garcia’s case her field campaign deserves credit for working the lines aggressively at Democratic presidential campaign stops and other recent events. In the event Lorena Garcia does make the primary ballot, she introduces an unpredictable element to a race that was headed for a repeat of the 2010 U.S. Senate primary–in which Andrew Romanoff was defeated by his better-funded opponent Michael Bennet.

Garcia has consistently appealed to the left wing of the Democratic primary electorate, and has directed quite a bit of fire at Andrew Romanoff in particular over Romanoff’s role in the controversial 2006 special session of the Colorado legislature to pass anti-immigrant legislation–which Romanoff has only recently apologized for, and is one of the principal holes in Romanoff’s claim to be the “progressive champion” in the race.

Whether she’s a spoiler or a progressive alternative, if Garcia does make the ballot she’ll earn a second look.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Rep. Perlmutter Talks COVID-19

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii (he’s back!) devote an entire episode to the Coronavirus with a special guest, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County). Our interview with Perlmutter took place Tuesday morning, so this is as fresh as we get!

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

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

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House GOP Chief of Staff Goes Full-On “COVID Truther”

Colorado House GOP Chief of Staff Jim Pfaff.

As the Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson reports:

A prominent Colorado Republican is siding with several other high-profile personalities in attacking America’s response to the novel coronavirus.

Over the past several days, Jim Pfaff, chief of staff for the state House Republican caucus and a Woodland Park City Council candidate, has posted messages on Facebook and Twitter opposing social distancing measures, calling the closures of bars and restaurants “socialist” and mentioning a nationwide effort to “ban Trump rallies.”

…Early Monday, Pfaff posted on Facebook that he agreed with Republican Rep. Devin Nunes’ message encouraging people to go to local restaurants and pubs despite warnings from public health officials. on March 9, Pfaff shared on Twitter a clip from Fox Business anchor Trish Regan in which she accuses Democrats of using the coronavirus to create “mass hysteria to encourage a market sell-off” and to “demonize and destroy the president.”

Despite the fact that even President Donald Trump has stopped downplaying the threat of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and as Swanson reports Fox Business host Trish Regan was benched after she tried to politicize the measures belatedly taken to reduce the spread, Colorado House GOP House Chief of Staff Jim Pfaff didn’t get the memo that downplaying season is over! Every major point of misinformation, after all, inevitably has its faithful believers who never get the message that the proverbial war is over–or if they do, they don’t care. Given Mr. Pfaff’s track record, we feel like we can safely assume the latter is the case.

Speaking Darwinistically, Jim Pfaff is simply on the wrong side of time-honored theory of natural selection–and in this he is far from alone. With that said, it seems reasonable based on this epidemiological blind spot to question Pfaff’s fitness to serve as chief of staff for the Colorado House Republicans.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 17)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day; you’ll have to get piss drunk by yourself this year. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of 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…

* For the latest Colorado-related Coronavirus information, go to this website from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

► President Trump appears to have FINALLY figured out that the Coronavirus is kind of a big deal. As The New York Times reports:

Sweeping new federal recommendations announced on Monday for Americans to sharply limit their activities appeared to draw on a dire scientific report warning that, without action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of coronavirus and suppress new cases, 2.2 million people in the United States could die.

To curb the epidemic, there would need to be drastic restrictions on work, school and social gatherings for periods of time until a vaccine was available, which could take 18 months, according to the report, compiled by British researchers. They cautioned that such steps carried enormous costs that could also affect people’s health, but concluded they were “the only viable strategy at the current time.”

That is because different steps, intended to drive down transmission by isolating patients, quarantining those in contact with them and keeping the most vulnerable apart from others for three months, could only cut the predicted death toll by half, the new report said.

Trump’s newfound understanding of the scope of the problem won’t fix his public image. As a new NPR/PBS/Marist poll demonstrates, Trump has lost the faith of the American public on this crisis:

Americans have little trust in the information they are hearing from President Trump about the novel coronavirus, and their confidence in the federal government’s response to it is declining sharply, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Just 46% of Americans now say the federal government is doing enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, down from 61% in February.

 

You can count Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) among those in the Senate who favor proposals for the federal government to bail out actual people:


If you’re looking for Colorado’s other U.S. Senator, you’ll find Cory Gardner in the back of the room.

As The Washington Post reports, the White House seems to be open to the idea of direct payments to individuals:

The Trump administration expressed support on Tuesday for sending direct cash payments to Americans as part of a massive economic stimulus package of around $850 billion, which the White House hopes could stanch the economic free fall caused by the coronavirus.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Tuesday at a briefing. “And I mean, now in the next two weeks.”

The White House’s support of this idea, which has won backing from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, shows how fast talks are evolving. President Trump had initially supported a payroll tax holiday, but said Tuesday that would take too long to deliver relief to Americans..

The eventual price tag for a coronavirus stimulus is likely to exceed $1 trillion dollars, as Politico reports.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is launching a new program to make sure that credit continues to flow for corporations.

 

On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis announced a 30-day closure of restaurants (except for take-out and delivery services), bars, gyms and other businesses where large groups of people might congregate. As The Denver Post reports, Polis is generally receiving high marks for his handling of the Coronavirus outbreak response.

Two of the biggest electric and water utilities in Colorado announced that they will not cut off service for nonpayment during the crisis.

 

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

 

(more…)

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Enjoy That Nice Long Weekend, Cory Gardner?

UPDATE: Not confidence inspiring:

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

The U.S. Senate is getting back to work today after adjourning for a long weekend of flying back to home states to…well, obviously not to practice good “social distancing,” which would have been better served by staying in their D.C. residences. Sen. Cory Gardner flew back to Colorado late last week, before an emergency coronavirus relief bill was passed by the House–crucial days wasted, says Rocky Mountain Values in a press release today:

On Saturday at 12:51 am ET, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a critical package of legislation that will provide free testing, paid sick, family, and medical leave for workers, stronger unemployment benefits, food assistance for children and families, and enhanced Medicaid funding.

But rather than immediately pick up the bill and take action in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner are waiting in silence — for days… [Pols emphasis]

“This is malpractice. Coloradans deserve to know where Cory is and why he isn’t doing his job to pass coronavirus legislation. Our hope is that this clock will remind Senator Gardner that time is precious during a crisis, and we can’t wait another day for him to take action.” -Marie Aberger, a spokesperson for Cut the Strings CO, a project of RMV

Visit wherescory.org and call on Senator Gardner to pass coronavirus legislation in the Senate TODAY.

The latest word we have is that the Senate GOP, back and rested up we hope, is going to get to work right after lunch–though there appears to be residual quibbling about provisions in the bill like paid sick leave, leaving plenty of room for the political uncertainly Americans can’t get enough of in time of crisis! This, in case you are unclear given the state of things, is sarcasm.

Whatever happens next, look for Sen. Gardner somewhere in the back.

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Tuesday Open Thread

“We occasionally stumble over the truth but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

–Winston Churchill

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Hickenlooper Makes Ballot, Exits Assembly

UPDATE: According to the Hickenlooper campaign, they collected a total of 14,925 valid signatures for a validity rate of 86%. Here’s how that breaks down by congressional district (1,500 is required):

♦ Congressional District 1: 2,220

♦ Congressional District 2: 2,199

♦ Congressional District 3: 2,206

♦ Congressional District 4: 2,054

♦ Congressional District 5: 2,210

♦ Congressional District 6: 1,979

♦ Congressional District 7: 2,057

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Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, former Gov. John Hickenlooper has qualified for the ballot by submitting the required number of valid petition signatures in record time–and will withdraw from the now-imperiled assembly process:

Since he’s already qualified for the ballot, Hickenlooper told Colorado Politics he plans to withdraw from the assembly process, which has been upended in recent days as the state scrambles to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Today we received word that, thanks to the tremendous work of our team and grassroots volunteers, we have qualified for the U.S. Senate ballot,” Hickenlooper said in statement.

“Because we have already earned a place on the ballot and ongoing public health and safety concerns, we will be withdrawing from the assembly process at this time. This will allow us to direct our resources towards building a campaign ready to win the nomination in June and defeat Senator Gardner in November.”

This year’s non-presidential precinct caucuses were very poorly attended, and at this point it’s unknown exactly how the assembly process is going to proceed during the ongoing public health emergency. There’s little question the present complicating factors are disruptive to every candidate and every campaign–but candidates who are better organized are still going to have the advantage.

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Trump to Governors: Find Your Own Medical Equipment

As The New York Times reports:

President Trump told a group of governors on Monday morning that they should not wait for the federal government to fill the growing demand for respirators needed to treat people with coronavirus.

“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times. “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.” [Pols emphasis]

The suggestion surprised some of the governors, who have been scrambling to contain the outbreak and are increasingly looking to the federal government for help with equipment, personnel and financial aid. Last Wednesday, Mr. Trump directed his labor secretary to increase the availability of respirators, and he has generally played down fears of shortages.

Governors Jay Inslee of Washington, whose state is at the epicenter of the domestic outbreak, and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico both reacted angrily to the administration’s slow response to the crisis.

We’ll probably be angry at some point, too. Right now we’re too flabbergasted by Trump’s “leadership” to register any specific emotions.

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Buck Keeps Making Colorado Look Bad (COVID Edition)

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As the Denver Post’s Sam Tabachnik reports, it’s ugly deja vu all over again:

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck said the massive federal coronavirus relief package that he voted against early Saturday morning is “a 110-page, multi-billion dollar boondoggle.”

He was Colorado’s only House member — and one of only 40 in the chamber — to vote against the measure, which would deliver $50 billion toward paid sick leave, free virus testing and enhanced unemployment benefits…

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, called the relief measure “imperfect” but said in a statement that he voted in favor because there would be “much more severe consequences should Congress have failed to unite and act with great urgency tonight.”

The Colorado Independent:

[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi was engaged in intense negotiations over the bill with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional Republicans ahead of the vote. Trump tweeted his support for the measure ahead of its passage.

“I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act,” he wrote. “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! … Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”

The president’s endorsement was not enough to sway Buck, who took to Twitter to call the package “a 110-page, multi-billion dollar boondoggle shoved on us at the stroke of midnight.”

A little less than two weeks ago, as readers know, Rep. Ken Buck of Greeley was one of only two votes against an initial coronavirus relief bill backed by President Donald Trump. This time, Buck was part of a small (but at least greater than two) faction of hard-right conservatives, for whom showing rock-ribbed “fiscal discipline” as their constituents grapple with a global pandemic is apparently good politics.

Given the relative safety of Buck’s strongly Republican-leaning rural and small-town district, it’s possible that these high-profile contrarian votes against bills addressing headline dominating issues aren’t career-enders for Buck even if they are totally inimical to the best interests of the people Buck represents. That’s the conventional wisdom which has allowed Buck to take progressively more extreme public stands that would seriously threaten politicians in most districts, but we have to wonder if this unprecedented situation could endanger even the most basic political presumptions.

Either way, as the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, it’s surprising that Buck really seems to have no idea how these kinds of ideological lightning-rod grandstands affect the entire Republican brand–and can only further imperil fellow Republicans ahead of another very difficult election. If Buck can’t even think past his own antics long enough to consider the damage to the party he leads, he should not have the job.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (March 16)

If you need a new playlist of songs, here are some timely suggestions from readers of Colorado Pols. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of 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…

* For the latest Colorado-related Coronavirus information, go to this website from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

The Coronavirus is totally no big deal if you live inside President Trump’s big orange melon. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

While Trump creating his own set of facts — in which he is always the best, always the winner, always the hero of the story — isn’t new, the stakes here are radically different. Now is not a time for happy talk. Now is a time for buckling down, for staying home, for understanding that this virus isn’t something we have ever experienced as a society before.

When the President of the United States gets up in front of the American people and talks the way Trump talked on Sunday, it sends the wrong signal to people. And that wrong signal encourages behavior that is detrimental to slowing the spread of the virus, which we know is vital if we want to protect ourselves.

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post takes this argument a step further in the context of Trump’s “fake news” narrative:

It’s bad enough that President Trump has relentlessly minimized the coronavirus threat for nakedly political reasons, disastrously hampering the federal government response to the crisis, with untold consequences to come.

Determined not to be outdone by his own malice and depravity, Trump is taking new steps that threaten to make all of it worse. He’s telling millions of Americans to entirely shut out any and all correctives to his falsehoods. He’s insisting they must plug their ears to any criticism designed to hold his government accountable for the failures we’re seeing, even though such criticism could nudge the response in a more constructive direction…

…But also note Trump’s declaration that, in a larger sense, the media is not being truthful at a time of crisis. Trump is using his megaphone to tell the American people not to trust an institution they must rely on for information amid an ongoing public health emergency, all because that institution held him accountable for his own failures on this front.

David Leonhardt of The New York Times is keeping track of President Trump’s bag of lies regarding Coronavirus. ICYMI on Friday, Trump definitively stated that “I don’t take responsibility at all” for botching the federal government response to the Coronavirus:

 
The stock market is not responding well to the Federal Reserve’s decision to drop interest rates to zero.

 

Tuesday is another big day in the Democratic Presidential Primary, but Coronavirus is changing some voting equations. From The Washington Post:

Voters, campaigns and election officials in four states holding contests Tuesday are braced for a presidential primary day unlike any in memory, as the surging threat of the novel coronavirus has forced major changes at voting locations, rattled poll workers and left voters worried about how to cast their ballots.

In Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, election officials have raced to replace poll workers who have said they will not show Tuesday, supply thousands of precincts with sanitizing supplies, and notify voters whose polling locations, many in senior facilities, have been moved as a result of the pandemic.

Voters, meanwhile, have flooded information hotlines. Among their urgent questions: where to vote, how to deliver a ballot if they are under quarantine and how to vote if they registered while attending a college that is now closed.

As the coronavirus spreads, the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico announced Sunday that it would seek to postpone the territory’s March 29 primaries, joining Louisiana and Georgia. One New York election official said Sunday that discussions are underway about whether to delay that state’s contests.

Bernie Sanders is suggesting that perhaps we should postpone all remaining Primary elections.

 

The Colorado General Assembly has suspended work until March 30. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett discussed preparations for such a move in last week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast.

 

The Denver Post has the latest facts and figures on Coronavirus in Colorado, including a special warning for high country residents and others who have recently visited mountain communities. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock updated the city’s Coronavirus response, which includes closing down restaurant dining areas.

 

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

 

(more…)

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