Get More Smarter on Friday (March 19)

Good news, hoop heads: The NCAA Men’s basketball tournament is back after a one year COVID-19 absence. 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 learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*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 

 

The public option bill is in the House (and, also, the Senate). From Colorado Newsline:

A group of Colorado Democrats officially introduced legislation that would potentially create the Colorado Option: a lower-cost, nonprofit-managed health insurance plan sold on the individual and small group markets that all providers would be required to accept.

Under the legislation, the Colorado Option would only become available — starting in 2025 — if private insurance carriers failed to reduce premiums by 20% over two years for standard individual and small group plans sold on the state’s exchange.

The public option would be carried by a quasi-governmental nonprofit entity called the Colorado Option Authority, set up by the state and managed by a board of directors. Individual and small group plans carried by the authority would have to achieve a 20% cut in premiums as compared with 2021 rates, and all health care providers in the state would be required to accept the plans.

The health care industry is all fired up in opposition to this, which should tell you everything you need to know about which side to be on.

 

► House Minority Leader Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) is about four months into his job. It’s not going well. McKean appears to be in over his head at the State Capitol.

Now, let’s catch up on more news from the Colorado legislature:

The Denver Post, The Colorado Sun, and Colorado Public Radio have more on the unveiling of a public option plan.

Jon Murray of The Denver Post looks at how lawmakers plan to fix Colorado’s transportation infrastructure problems. Colorado Public Radio also reports on the transportation discussions.

Colorado Newsline looks at the progress of legislation that would improve wages and working conditions for farm workers.

A proposal to put a fence around parts of the State Capitol continues to draw opposition from former Colorado leaders.

 

► Now that Colorado’s Independent Redistricting Commissions have been selected, it’s time to get to work on those new maps…maybe. As The Colorado Sun reports in its “Unaffiliated” newsletter:

This week, Gov. Jared Polis, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Colorado General Assembly, and the co-chairs of the campaign for Amendments Y and Z urged the congressional commission to push ahead using population estimates from 2019. There are, however, questions about the legality of doing so.

Jeremiah Barry, a legislative attorney and legal counsel for the congressional redistricting commission, said he isn’t opposed to using the estimated data to get the commission’s work started, but he thinks the Colorado Supreme Court should be asked first if that’s OK.

State lawmakers are now planning to do just that, said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat. Initially, legislative leaders were going to ask the Colorado Supreme Court to push back September and December map-drawing deadlines placed in the Colorado Constitution when voters passed Amendments Y and Z in 2018. That’s no longer in the cards.

The redistricting commissions should be able to start working on maps based on 2018 Census data, at the very least.

 

 Colorado is doing a great job of vaccinating adults over the age of 65. We aren’t doing quite so well with everyone else. The last subgroup to become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine is activated today; the next step is to open up eligibility for all Coloradans.

President Biden, meanwhile, says the U.S. should hit his goal of 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days by today — 40 days ahead of schedule.

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

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Sen. Bennet Sounds Ready To Ditch The Filibuster

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

CBS News reports today on building urgency in the narrowly Democratic United States Senate to do something to break the logjam of 60 votes required to push through crucial Democratic agenda items before the 2022 midterm elections:

“It will be Armageddon,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley told CBS News when asked whether Democrats will suffer in the midterms if they don’t enact filibuster reforms. “Our base will be so dispirited, so angry, so disaffected. They will stay home. And I understand why they will stay home if we failed them.”

Merkley has long been pushing for filibuster changes, and introduced the “talking filibuster” which would require senators to actually hold the floor to hold up legislation rather than the current practice of phoning it in. In an interview with ABC News, Mr. Biden said he supported that kind of reform, which reminded him of how the upper chamber operated in his early days as a senator. Now, he said, “It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.”

…[A]dvocates note that Republicans haven’t yet filibustered legislation, such as the COVID relief bill, which was passed on party lines through a reconciliation process that only requires majority support. Once the opposition begins in earnest to agenda items like voting rights, climate, immigration and other Democratic priorities, the calls from the base of the party to change the upper chamber’s rules will only grow louder.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-ish).

As CNN reports and everyone following this developing situation knows, “Pretendocrat” Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia holds all the cards as the deciding vote on any changes to the filibuster, and is as of now drawing a hard line against the most ambitious reforms in the spirit of his predecessor Sen. Robert Byrd:

Manchin says he’s protecting the rights of the minority, something he says Democrats will need whenever Republicans regain control of the chamber.

Manchin is open to some changes — such as requiring senators to stand on the floor and actually argue, a position Biden just adopted. Such a change to require a “talking filibuster” would amount to a departure from the silent filibuster permitted under current rules, which allow a simple threat to force the Senate into time-consuming procedural steps and a 60-vote threshold they must clear to advance bills.

But Manchin again made clear he is drawing a firm line: The 60-vote threshold will stay, and no exceptions will be allowed.

It remains to be seen whether this will remain a tenable position for Manchin and others considered reluctant to embrace the full “nuclear option” of eliminating the legislative filibuster as pressure to pass legislation send over from the U.S. House builds–an as-yet untested coalition that includes other moderates like Sens. Krysten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, and (yes) Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado. But in today’s Unaffiliated newsletter from the Colorado Sun, Colorado’s senior Sen. Michael Bennet is signaling a willingness to do what it takes:

“I hope we get to a place where at a minimum we can figure out how to bring back the talking filibuster,” said Bennet, referencing a proposal rule to make senators speak on the chamber floor while they are trying to block a bill.

But if Republicans dig in their heels? “We may end up with obstruction that is too intense. We may end up having to reform it in some other way,” said Bennet, who spoke at a Colorado Sun event on Thursday. [Pols emphasis]

What happens next in part depends on how Senate Republicans choose to deal with the increasing backlog of important legislation coming over from the House. The more Mitch McConnell accedes to the majority’s will voluntarily, the less likely it becomes that the “nuclear option” will be necessary. At the same time, Democrats are rightly wary of false concessions from Republicans that weaken their legislative agenda and may not result in GOP support even if adopted (see: Affordable Care Act, American Rescue Plan).

What we can say, and it’s a good thing for those of you who want real progress made in these two vanishing years of full Democratic control in Washington, is that Michael Bennet is tired of playing by rules that only benefit one side–like he was in 2013, when he voted to end the filibuster of most presidential nominees to forestall obstruction of Barack Obama’s second term. And as the pressure builds to get the legislation passed by the House to Joe Biden’s desk, Bennet is today where the base will expect all Democrats to be soon.

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In Which the House Minority Leader Has No Idea What He’s Doing

House Minority Leader Hugh McKean may be in over his head.

Shortly after the November 2020 election, Republicans in the state legislature selected Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) to replace Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Douglas County) as House Minority Leader. Republicans were smart to move on from Neville’s dysfunctional leadership (though Neville technically quit before he could get fired). Neville was good at grifting but not as good at politics; under his leadership Republicans suffered heavy losses in consecutive election cycles while Neville focused much of his time on intraparty Primary fights.

Colorado Republicans have a different kind of problem with McKean: The House Minority Leader doesn’t appear to have any idea what he is doing.

McKean doesn’t have a lot of leverage to impact policy given that Democrats hold a 41-24 advantage in the State House, but he’s failing at some pretty basic leadership tasks. Freshman Republicans are introducing bills that they don’t even remotely understand, which is the sort of mistake that a caucus leader should be able to prevent.

House Republicans are also making some very dumb errors in introducing legislation on key GOP issues. Earlier this month we wrote about the folly of moving forward with a school voucher bill that came attached with a gargantuan fiscal note. Republicans don’t have the votes to even move a voucher bill out of a committee hearing, but at the very least they could have avoided creating a $663 million talking point that voucher opponents can use for the next decade. Once Republicans knew the cost of HB21-1080, they should have pulled it from consideration instead of having a pointless debate in the House Committee on Education. As we wrote on March 1:

Either McKean truly didn’t know better, or he was powerless to stop such ridiculous legislation from advancing in his own caucus. Neither answer is good news for Colorado Republicans.

But $663 million is a pittance compared with the fiscal note attached to a bill that McKean himself recently sponsored. As Marshall Zelinger reports for 9News:

Concerned about the personal information the state health department has access to, as a result of contact tracing, House Minority Leader Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) sponsored a bill that would require state agencies to contact people every 90 days, alerting them to the information kept on file, and giving them the choice to have it deleted…

…”My bill would actually give people the opportunity to ask the state to purge their personally-identifiable information on a regular basis,” said McKean.

He wanted that to happen.

Until he found out how much it would cost.

According to the nonpartisan staff at Legislative Counsel Staff, McKean’s proposal (HB21-1111) would cost Colorado $2.7 BILLION DOLLARS…in the first year alone:

The fiscal note, which estimates how much legislation would cost the state, showed that it would take $2.7 billion and the equivalent of 6,800 employees from July 2021 to June 2022, and then $2 billion and 4,500 employees the next year.

McKean might not have been able to find out the exact cost of his proposal until the bill was formally introduced, but he could have done some basic research first. For example, he could have approached the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and asked if his idea was even possible to implement with its current computer and data systems. The answer would have been, “probably not,” which would have been a flashing red light for McKean to not proceed any further.

Math is not one of McKean’s stronger subjects — he also rejects the unassailable numbers that show Colorado has become a blue state — but you don’t need to be a numbers whiz to understand the problem with trying to legislate by the seat of your pants.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 18)

Happy Oil Expropriation Day! Please celebrate responsibly. 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 learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*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 

 

As CNN reports, the United States could be facing a new surge of COVID-19 infections:

Health officials have repeatedly warned about a potential fourth surge as state leaders eased restrictions and several lifted mask mandates. The first warning sign came when case numbers, after weeks of steep declines, appeared to level off — with the country still averaging tens of thousands of new cases daily. That kind of plateau previously predicted surges, some experts have said.

Cases of the worrying variants — notably the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant — have also climbed and are set to become the dominant strain by the end of March or early April…

…Now, as the country inches closer to 30 million reported infections, cases are rising by more than 10% in 14 states this week compared to last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data — with half of those states seeing a rise of more than 20%.

Wear your masks and get your shots, people!

 

► All three Republican members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation — Reps. Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck, and Doug Lambornvoted AGAINST reauthorization of the “Violence Against Women Act.” Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs has some nutty thoughts on his opposition to the bill.

 

POLITICO magazine tackles a question that we have been openly pondering in this space for weeks:

Via POLITICO magazine (3/18/21)

 

Democrats are relentlessly hyping President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, while Republicans are trying to change the subject to Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and the Mexican border. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, arguably the shrewdest Republican strategist in Washington, has started floating a half-hearted anti-stimulus message that the coming recovery would have happened anyway…

…It may be an overstated political cliché that if you’re explaining, you’re losing. But you’re almost certainly losing if you’re explaining, ahead of time, why the economic boom you’re expecting on your opponent’s watch shouldn’t be attributed to your opponent. One lesson of the volatility of the past dozen years is that fairly or not, the president’s party tends to get the credit or blame for the economy—or at least for the way people perceive the economy. Biden is visiting swing states this week to sell American Rescue Plan’s focus on giving Americans vaccines and money, but with economists across the ideological spectrum forecasting explosive growth, many veterans of the 2009 stimulus wars believe the economy will be all the sales pitch the bill needs.

Elsewhere, Vox.com examines efforts by Republican Attorneys General to sue the federal government for giving money to local and state governments.

 

► Let’s get you caught up on the Colorado legislature…

Lawmakers are working on a couple of bills intended to help protect immigrants from being arrested over civil immigration violations.

The Associated Press reports on the status of legislation that would grant a minimum wage and overtime rights to thousands of farm workers in Colorado. 9News also reports on Senate Bill 87.

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, it is now up to the U.S. Department of Education to determine how many restrictions can be granted this year on standardized tests in Colorado.

CBS4 Denver reports on efforts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in Colorado.

Colorado Newsline reports on legislative efforts to balance the scales between landlords and tenants. The Colorado Sun has more on a proposal to make it easier for municipalities to require the construction of more affordable housing.

9News reports on an idiotic piece of legislation sponsored by House Minority Leader Hugh McKean that carried a $2.7 BILLION price tag.

Efforts to build a fence around parts of the State Capitol have not been well-received.

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

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A Few Words About That Proposed State Capitol Fence

As the Denver Post’s Alex Burness reported yesterday, an up-to-now confidential proposal to erect a permanent wrought-iron fence around the Colorado state capitol building, intended to help protect against future damage from civil disturbances like those experienced last summer during protests over police killings of Black people, is causing a great deal of consternation from those who didn’t know it was being considered–which for security reasons was most of us:

Lawmakers say the fence — one of several planned security enhancements — would primarily be a response to vandalism of and around the building during Black Lives Matter protests last year in the form of broken windows and anti-police graffiti. But they appear torn over the message it sends to erect a fence around a building often referred to as “the people’s house.”

“I don’t believe a fence says exactly what this building represents and stands for,” Senate President Leroy Garcia said of the planned fence in Denver. The Pueblo Democrat’s pickup truck was parked outside the Capitol and destroyed by protesters in late May.

Senate President Leroy Garcia doesn’t like the idea of a fence around the building, and as someone whose property was damaged during last year’s protests at the capitol we give him a lot of deference on this question. With that said, the proposal appears to be pretty far down the field in terms of approval, and has support from lawmakers in both parties:

GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg from Sterling said a fence would “help slow looters and rioters down from destroying the Capitol. I think it would be helpful.” No looting was reported at the Capitol during the protests, but officials said it cost more than $1 million to remove all the spray paint and clean up the grounds.

Speaking to CBS4, Democratic Rep. Susan Lontine, who chairs the Capitol Building Advisory Committee, says the fence erected closely around the Capitol building itself represents a compromise from the original proposal:

Colorado State Patrol handles security for the building. Earlier this year, they joined forces with the Department of Personnel and Administration to propose security enhancements after a summer of protests caused damage to the Capitol.

“Their original proposal included putting a fence around Lincoln Park and the Capitol building itself,” Lontine told CBS4’s Andrea Flores. “As this went through the process, the fence around Lincoln park was not approved, and the fence around the Capitol building was…”

“I understand the hurt and the anger and that this building is a symbol of government and oppression for many people, and the building got their ire,” said Lontine. “But damaging public property isn’t necessary to achieving that goal, so I think we’re trying to find the balance.”

Because discussions about security at the state capitol are necessarily carried out confidentially, yesterday’s disclosure of the plan to erect this fence by the Denver Post is the first word most people had–and the reaction has been almost uniformly negative from stakeholders, including former aides and legislators like former House Speaker Terrance Carroll:

As longtime Gold Dome denizens know, security at the Colorado Capitol has been an evolving question going back at least to 2007–when metal detectors and controlled access were first put in place after a man calling himself “Emperor of Colorado” and carrying a gun was killed by State Patrol inside the building near the governor’s offices on the first floor. Although the proposed fencing would not block the public entrances or stairways around the building, it would certainly render the exterior of the “People’s House” more imposing–and with security improvements like bullet-proof windows also in the works, this major aesthetic change asks a lot for a potentially small security improvement.

From Denver to Washington, D.C., the debate over security in the wake of civil unrest for all kinds of reasons in the last year has become fraught with larger considerations about what kind of a society we want in America–and how we should most constructively address social grievances both legitimate and, like Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat, not so much. That’s why, even though we agree with the critics who say this fence should not be erected, we’re not crying foul over it being considered.

Instead, like Colorado did by passing landmark police accountability legislation in response to the protests last year over police violence, let’s address these issues at the source.

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Bennet, Hickenlooper Co-Sponsor “For the People Act”

Sens. Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have signed on to co-sponsor the “For the People Act,” the election reform bill introduced today that is a companion to H.R. 1, which passed the House of Representatives on March 3.

As CNBC reports:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said “everything is on the table” to pass a comprehensive voting reform bill, the For the People Act, during a press conference introducing the legislation Wednesday.

“We will see if our Republican friends join us. If they don’t join us, our caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take,” Schumer said. “Failure is not an option.”

The legislation, also known as S.1, includes provisions that aim to make it easier to register and vote, prevent gerrymandering, improve election cybersecurity and reform campaign finance, among other initiatives.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would require a minimum of 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster and move to a final vote on passage.

Click here for a section-by-section breakdown of S.1, the “For the People Act.”

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Mayor Coffman’s New Groove: Packing Aurora City Council

Mayor Mike Coffman (R-Aurora).

The Aurora Sentinel reports on fresh intrigue in that city’s politics under Mayor Mike Coffman, the former Republican Congressman plotting his next political moves–and getting help from old friends to help…well, old friends:

Mayor Mike Coffman has filed a lawsuit against Aurora and the city clerk, aiming to reverse recently enacted campaign finance rules…

“That new law prohibits Mayor Coffman (and others like him) from doing anything effective to campaign for another candidate or in support of a ballot issue. In essence, it unconstitutionally restricts the rights to free speech and association for both candidates in the current election cycle and others who could potentially run in some future election,” the lawsuit says of the rules.

The nine-page complaint was penned on Coffman’s behalf by attorney Dan Burrows, who is affiliated with the Lakewood-based Public Trust Institute, a conservative non-profit group “created to uphold our state’s constitution and defend the principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility on which Colorado was founded,” according to the group’s website. The suit was filed in Arapahoe County District Court shortly before 10 a.m. March 17, a clerk confirmed.

In short, Mayor Mike Coffman is pre-emptively filing suit against the city’s new campaign finance regulations with the help of the right-wing Public Trust Institute, the “ethics group” formed by former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty to wage politically expedient legal campaigns against Democrats. The city of Aurora’s newest campaign finance regulations reportedly disallow candidates from fundraising for each other. And that’s a big problem for Mayor Mike, because:

Coffman says in the lawsuit that he already supports a candidate in the 2021 city council race and wants to help funnel money into the person’s campaign.

He told the Sentinel that candidate is Dustin Zvonek. He’s a candidate for an at-large seat who was Coffman’s spokesperson and aide when he represented the 6th Congressional district in Congress. [Pols emphasis]

You read that right! Coffman is looking to help elect his own former congressional aide and campaign manager, Dustin Zvonek, to the Aurora City Council. Obviously, a councilmember Mayor Coffman is accustomed to giving orders to would be great for Coffman’s problems getting the city council to do his bidding! The best analogy we can think of is Josef Stalin demanding the Ukrainian and Belorussian SSRs get seats in the United Nations in 1946 as if they were separate countries, which they most assuredly were not at the time.

There’s nothing illegal about a known partisan political legal hit squad filing suit on Coffman’s behalf, or even in Coffman trying to install a subordinate employee on the City Council. We’ll have to see what the court says about the merits of Coffman’s case, though the irony of the GOP’s “ethics in government group” suing on the side of “dark money” and pro-crony collusion makes for a messy political situation to say the least. However the court case works out, too much press about Coffman pushing his waterboy for city council might make the question academic for Aurora’s voters.

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What in the Hell is Lauren Boebert Talking About?

UPDATE: Dave Weigel of The Washington Post noticed the same bizarre answer that caught our attention.

—–

Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert wore her full costume at a “town hall” meeting in Montrose on Monday.

More reporting is coming out about Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert’s town hall meeting in Montrose on Monday (the one that you weren’t supposed to tell anyone about), and every new piece of information is as bizarre as the last.

The Montrose Daily Press provided video of Boebert’s opening speech, which rolled quickly into some strange tangents:

You know, I’ve decided I don’t want Democrats to call me congresswoman. I want them to acknowledge the man is a gender neutral term and they can call me Congressman Boebert.

Um, sure.

Boebert’s opening speech also included strange proselytizing like this:

To this cancel culture, this is nothing new. This is something that has been around since the beginning of time. Go back to the Book of Genesis: Cain canceled Abel. He didn’t like the sacrifices he was given to God. And he canceled him?

And this…

We see these radical social Democrats wanting to cancel Christianity now. They tried to cancel Jesus. You can’t cancel God.

If you’re wondering what sort of audience Boebert might be pandering to, Gavin Dahl of KVNF radio provided some, uh, “color” on the crowd at the Turn of the Century Saloon:

At least 95% of the attendees at the Saloon were unmasked, and there was no room for social distancing. Just before she hit the stage, at the table where I found a seat, attendees were complaining about Hillary Clinton, quote ‘Jews,’ and quote ‘Illegals.’

Gah!

But perhaps the strangest exchange of the evening came near the end of the “town hall” event. As Dennis Anderson writes for The Delta County Independent:

The last question of the night drew a bizarre response from Boebert.

“Is there any hope for the people that top level government officials when they violate the law… will they ever be held accountable?”

“I want to tell you, I heard someone who is in very close contact with President Trump and the ins and outs of the White House under that administration. They talked to the owners of the Epoch Times and they said don’t change anything, you are right over the target. So anyone who tries and tells you that this is a fringe newspaper. Don’t listen to them. I have very good sources that tell me this is very good information. Is it 100%? I don’t know but it’s very good information. We all know that there was information that was declassified just a few days before President Trump left office. I know someone who is involved in declassifying that. This person is getting very tired of waiting on the DOJ to do something about it. And we’ll be hearing about it very, very soon. This is my opinion with that information that I have. I believe we’ll see resignations begin to take place and I think we can take back the majority in the House and the Senate before 2022.’”

Whaaaa???

If you like “Weekly World News,” you’ll love “The Epoch Times.”

If you’re not familiar with The Epoch Times, check out this recent profile from The Atlantic. In short, The Epoch Times is sorta like the political equivalent of Weekly World News; calling it a “fringe newspaper” would almost be a compliment. The Epoch Times was created by a follower of the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong and refers to COVID-19 as the “CCP Virus” (shorthand for “Chinese Communist Party”). It became a reliable right-wing mouthpiece during the administration of President Trump, who espoused the kind of anti-China rhetoric that agreed with the Times’ founder.

Anyway, we THINK Boebert is talking here about something related to Trump’s authorization in his final days in office to “declassify” some Department of Justice documents related to the probe into Russian interference of the 2016 election. As to how this could lead to “resignations” or Republicans taking control of Congress BEFORE 2022…well, your guess is as good as ours.

Do Boebert and her supporters actually understand any of this gibberish? It’s impossible to say, but they THINK they do, and that’s the important part. None of these talking points are at all normal for an actual Member of Congress, but nonsense is the fuel that keeps the Boebert circus in operation.

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Election Denier GOP Chair Race Gets Crazy It Deserves

Colorado GOP chair candidates Scott Gessler, Kristi Burton Brown.

The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul takes an in-depth look today at the field of candidates running to succeed outgoing Rep. Ken Buck as the next chair of the Colorado Republican Party. With five candidates nominally in the race, the real competition has narrowed between former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler and current party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown–and as we noted early this month, almost all the candidates in the race share one abiding belief that the 2020 elections were stolen from Donald Trump:

Four of the five candidates running to be the next leader of the Colorado GOP continue to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election. That’s despite all of them admitting there is no evidence of a level of fraud or wrongdoing that would have changed the outcome…

Scott Gessler, Colorado’s former secretary of state and another candidate running to be party chair, said during the recent forum with Mancuso and the other candidates that “I think there’s a very high likelihood the election was stolen from Trump in Nevada.”

“We did have, I think, huge problems nationally,” he said. (There has not been any proof of major problems with the 2020 election across the nation.)

As for Kristi Burton Brown? She’s not quite as forceful as the “Honey Badger,” but still maintaining the fictional pretense:

“We need more answers,” she said. “A lot of people want us to take a hard-core stand and say, ‘We know something.’ But there’s not enough evidence to prove one way or the other. Yet I believe that there are very valid questions still being asked about the 2020 election.”

As we wrote previously about this race, this fixation on thoroughly discredited claims of election fraud on the part of Scott Gessler in particular is an ominous sign that Colorado Republicans are about to waste the next two years rehashing Donald Trump’s fantasies instead of recovering from historic losses over the last two election cycles. Lucid Republicans including former state party chair Dick Wadhams are warning that this is exactly the wrong path for the party to take–but for Gessler, whose career flatlined in 2014 after his quest to expose “tens of thousands” of illegal voters in Colorado came to nothing, this is a dead horse which he is incapable of stopping the beating of.

And in case you think this baseless conjecture about elections doesn’t have a negative impact, think again:

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 17)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It’s too cold and virus-y to get black out drunk. 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 learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*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 

 

Republican Attorneys General are threatening to sue the federal government for providing stimulus funds to state and local governments. As The Washington Post explains:

Twenty-one Republican state attorneys general on Tuesday threatened to take action against the Biden administration over its new $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus law, decrying it for imposing “unprecedented and unconstitutional” limits on their states’ ability to lower taxes.

The letter marks one of the first major political and legal salvos against the relief package since President Biden signed it last week — evincing the sustained Republican opposition that the White House faces as it implements the signature element of the president’s economic policy agenda.

The attorneys general take issue with a $350 billion pot of money set aside under the stimulus, known as the American Rescue Plan, to help cash-strapped cities, counties and states pay for the costs of the pandemic. Congressional lawmakers opted to restrict states from tapping these federal dollars to finance local tax cuts.

How dare the federal government make it harder for states to take things away from people! Republicans will do everything in their power to stop you from getting help…and that’s a really weird political strategy.

Republicans would do well to take the advice of former GOP Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. As POLITICO reports, some Republicans are finally seeing how much they screwed up here by focusing their attention on Dr. Seuss and genderless Potato Head toys:

…in conservative circles, a feeling of missed opportunity has taken root in the wake of the passage of the Covid-relief bill last week. Republicans were never expected to support the measure and unanimously opposed it when the time came for a vote. But in interviews with top GOP operatives, Trump confidantes, and congressional aides, there was a common refrain that the party could have done more to frame it for the public. Instead, periodic claims that the bill was bloated with progressive add-ons and bailout money for blue states were overshadowed by a more relentless focus on the culture wars du jour…

…None of the attack lines seemed to resonate with voters, who began receiving stimulus checks as early as last weekend and appear overwhelmingly supportive of the law. A CBS-YouGov survey released on Sunday showed 71 percent of adults believe the American Rescue Plan will benefit the middle class more than wealthy Americans. The bill’s passage coincides with an uptick in vaccinations and recognition from Democrats and allied teachers unions that schools need to reopen soon — which together have the potential for improving the electoral landscape for Democrats as they try to keep both chambers of the Congress.

 

As CNN reports, there is an obvious similarity with Russian election interference efforts and Republican proposals to roll back voting rights:

A new US intelligence report that finds Russia interfered in the 2020 election to help Donald Trump and hurt Joe Biden also underscores a fundamental truth: The gravest threat to US democracy comes from within.

The report, released by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, finds that Moscow sought to inject misleading information about Biden into the campaign through officials and others close to Trump.

The real bombshell it contains is not the confidence of the spy agencies that Russia hoped to subvert American democracy. It is that US intelligence experts effectively confirmed that for the second election in a row, Trump acolytes repeatedly used, knowingly or otherwise, misinformation produced by the spies of one of America’s most sworn foreign adversaries to try to win a US election. [Pols emphasis]

Some Republicans will no doubt decry any comparisons to Russian election meddling, but they’re clearly on the same side of this fight.

 

► Keep wearing those masks, people! COVID-related hospitalizations are rising in Colorado, as The Denver Post reports. Meanwhile, more mass vaccination sites are opening around the state.

 

► Let’s get you caught up on the Colorado legislature…

Governor Jared Polis signed a bill that suspends standardized testing for certain grades in Colorado on account of COVID-19. Another bill to restructure CMAS assessments is winding its way through the legislature.

A bill that seeks to slow the increase of prescription drug prices is expected to be opposed by the pharmaceutical industry…which tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

The Colorado Springs Independent summarizes some new and pending laws in Colorado.

Democrats are working on legislation to enhance protections for agricultural workers.

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

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Bob Beauprez Warns GOP on Stimulus Objections

If there’s one thing that Bob Beauprez understands, it’s bull crap (er, horse crap).

Last week the House of Representatives gave final approval to The American Rescue Plan (ARP), a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that President Biden promptly signed into law. The ARP contains all kinds of helpful things for Americans of all political backgrounds, including $1,400 direct payments to families; extended unemployment benefits; the expansion of child tax credits that could cut child poverty by 50%; much-needed relief for state and local governments; and new money to help schools reopen as quickly as possible.

Not one Republican in either chamber of Congress voted in support of the ARP. Congresswoman Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert (R-ifle) spoke for Colorado Republicans in opposition to the bill, rattling off a bunch of debunked facts and figures as part of her rudderless attack on what has proven to be one of the most popular pieces of legislation in modern American history. Just this week, Boebert tried out another attack on the legislation that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Republicans are having a hard time making a logical argument against the ARP, for obvious reasons. As James Downie writes for The Washington Post:

The just-passed stimulus package is a rarity in today’s Washington: a major new law that’s a win in terms of both politics and policy. Poll after poll shows overwhelming support. As my colleague Greg Sargent notes, the bill is even popular with both lower-income Republicans and non-college Whites, two key components of the Trump-era GOP coalition. Millions of Americans are already receiving desperately needed payments to help the country get back on its feet from a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert’s rhetoric on the stimulus bill doesn’t match the chryons.

A lack of a coherent message won’t stop Republicans from crapping on a stimulus package that they should have just supported in the first place. But as the right-wing Washington Examiner explains, Republicans might want to listen to former Colorado Congressman and two-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s warning about relentlessly attacking something that people are generally happy about:

Another former Republican congressman, Bob Beauprez of Colorado, refused to call Biden’s spending package a “legislative win” given it wasn’t a bipartisan agreement. But he did echo Heye’s point about what conservatives call irrelevant inclusions in the framework.

“I’m not sure I’d want people to talk about it much more because they might actually find out what’s in it,” he joked. [Pols emphasis]

Beauprez questioned the package’s positive polling — “Free money? That does sound good.” — and the pressure it places on the country’s finances — “buying votes with borrowed money.” But those are more nuanced messages that are harder to convey to the public.

Beauprez may have been a terrible statewide candidate in Colorado, but he’s no dummy: He understands that Republicans have backed themselves into a corner by attacking a stimulus package that is really helpful to base Republican voters. Americans need help NOW, and Democrats are providing that help; Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping that people will overlook this help because they are more concerned about nebulous federal deficits down the road. It’s not a fair fight, and rational Republicans know this.

We can’t believe we’re saying this, but…Republicans should listen to Bob Beauprez.

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Whither Grand Junction, BLM?

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports, Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the next Secretary of the Interior, elevating a 35th generation Pueblo Native American to the highest authority over the nation’s land use policies short of the President himself. It’s an historic moment.

A big backlog of thorny issues awaits Haaland as she settles into this crucially important leadership role over the American West, not least the fate of the highly controversial move of the Bureau of Land Management (known since 2020 as the “other BLM”) from its former headquarters in Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado during the previous administration:

Haaland…previously has criticized the Trump administration’s relocation of the BLM’s headquarters from Washington to Grand Junction. The agency moved 41 largely top-level jobs to the city, and many more from Washington to other locations in the West. Hickenlooper and Bennet support having what they call a fully functioning headquarters in Grand Junction but say the Trump administration didn’t follow through on its commitment to the city by moving only 41 jobs there.

Haaland said during her confirmation hearing that she would keep an open dialogue with western senators on the issue and accepted Hickenlooper’s invitation to visit the new headquarters if confirmed. She said it will be important to look at the headquarters issue while first considering the well-being of the career staff there.

Outside the new BLM HQ building in Grand Junction, shared with various oil companies.

It’s necessary to be honest about this: the issue of the BLM headquarters’ move to Grand Junction has split Colorado’s top Democratic elected officials from many of their colleagues, as well as the bulk of the environmental advocacy community. Environmental groups including local advocacy organizations like the Center for Western Priorities have been clear from the beginning that this move was a terrible idea taking place for all the wrong reasons:

Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, described the move in blunt terms.

“This headquarters move has just been a total failure,” Weiss said.

Some people would argue that trimming government is not necessarily a bad thing, and supporters of the move have argued that BLM employees unwilling to relocate closer to the lands they manage weren’t a good fit for the agency anyway. But for Weiss, the numbers confirmed his worst fears about the Trump administration’s real motivation.

“The headquarters move was not a move. It was simply an evisceration of the agency,” Weiss said. [Pols emphasis]

In a January statement, Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper reiterated their support for the agency’s move to Grand Junction under President Joe Biden, while making the case that the Trump administration had executed it poorly:

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Caption This Photo: Ken Buck Wears Lauren Boebert’s Tagline

It’s another photo of Colorado Republican Party Chairman Rep. Ken Buck with his beloved boltless AR-15 at his Washington, D.C. office, but with a twist: this time wearing a face mask emblazoned with Rep. Lauren Boebert’s famous retort to Beto O’Rourke in September of 2019 in Aurora, arguably the moment that launched Boebert’s unlikely political career: “hell no, you’re not taking my AR-15.”

On the one hand, it’s quite a metaphor for how Boebert has taken over as the face of her party.

On the other, Ken Buck is wearing a face mask. Let’s make sure to encourage this behavior.

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Boebert Voted Against Your Check But Also Says It’s Your Money

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R).

As The Hill reported last week, since the passage and signing into law of the American Rescue Plan, the historic $1.9 trillion economic relief package that many of you are already seeing in your bank accounts today, some Republicans who voted against the plan–and remember, that’s every single Republican in the U.S. House and Senate–have suddenly found things to like well enough to celebrate with their constituents, in a way that looks an awful lot like, well, taking credit for a bill they opposed:

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on Wednesday applauded a portion of the American Rescue Plan that provides relief for restaurants after he voted against the COVID-19 relief bill as a whole.

Wicker in a tweet celebrated that Congress approved a $28.6 billion grant program for the restaurant and bar industry as part of the $1.9 trillion relief bill. He and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) proposed an amendment including the funding.

In a tweet, the senator said that “independent restaurant operators have won $28.6 billion worth of targeted relief” through the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

“This funding will ensure small businesses can survive the pandemic by helping to adapt their operations and keep their employees on the payroll,” Wicker added.

The problem, of course, is that even though Sen. Roger Wicker proposed this amendment that was successfully adopted by Democrats, he voted against the final bill along with every other Republican. Back in 2004, then-Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was intensely ridiculed for claiming he “actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it” in a similar situation with military funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is most certainly on the same order of lampoonability.

But at least in Sen. Wicker’s case, he was able to say he supported this individual amendment if not the whole bill. In the case of Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado? Once again, her audacity knocks you back for a moment like the recoil from a hand cannon:

Help us out here, folks. If the $1,400 stimulus check you either just got or are getting soon is “money that you and your fellow countrymen already paid into the system,” why the hell did Boebert vote against letting you have it back? It’s a dubious characterization of money that arguably has not been paid into the system, or even earned yet by those who will ultimately pay–or as proponents argue will return dividends in the long term that make this short-term zero-sum quantification meaningless. But by Boebert’s own interpretation, this relief is something she should have philosophically welcomed for her constituents.

After all, not everybody has access to extremely well-timed mileage reimbursements to make ends meet.

It’s clear from these developments that Republicans are struggling mightily with being on the wrong side of this enormously popular piece of legislation, and are looking for ways to glom on to the positive feelings now sweeping the country along with badly-needed economic assistance for hundreds of millions of Americans. All told, though, it would be better for Republicans to keep quiet. The hypocrisy is too much.

This is a payday Lauren Boebert didn’t want you to see.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (March 15)

You survived #Snowpocalypse2021! here’s a look at snowfall totals around the Denver Metro area. 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 learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

CORONAVIRUS INFO…

*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 

 

If you live in the Denver Metro area, or anywhere else that was impacted by heavy snowfall, please do not try to drive today. From The Denver Post:

Road and traffic officials are asking people not to drive in the Denver area on Monday if possible.

“Today is the day to stay home,” AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley said. “I can tell you that for everyone who runs a fleet in Colorado … today is the day we’re worried about…

…The outlook for the roads is, in some ways, worse than it was during this weekend’s blizzard, which dropped 27.1 inches of snow at Denver International Airport to make it the city’s second largest snowstorm in 75 years and the largest since 2003.

Traveling by air is not much of an option today, either; all flights in and out of Denver International Airport were grounded until at least Monday afternoon.

 

► The Colorado legislature is not in session today on account of the snow, but there’s still legislative news to discuss…

Colorado Newsline previews the coming battle over a Public Option health care proposal:

Under the draft bill, the state would first ask private insurance carriers to reduce their premium rates on all three levels of a standardized individual plan by 20% in every zip code in the state.

If, by 2025, insurance carriers hadn’t met those reduction targets — or if fewer than two standard plans were offered on the individual market in any zip code — then the Colorado Option would kick in…

…The proposal’s health-care-industry critics say insurance carriers wouldn’t be able to reduce premiums by 20% from 2021 levels, so if the bill passed, the public option would be inevitable. Though the bill hasn’t been introduced, opponents have already poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into fighting it at the Capitol.

Elsewhere…

The Colorado Sun explains legislation — which could get the Governor’s signature this week — that will change how Colorado handles standardized tests this year.

Pro tip: Before you agree to sponsor legislation, it’s a good idea to take some time to understand your own bill.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that goes after institutions that cover up child sexual abuse.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel previews the week ahead at the State Capitol.

 

As The New York Times reports, nationwide Republican efforts to make it harder to vote in 2022 are spurring a new voting rights movement:

State and national voting-rights advocates are waging the most consequential political struggle over access to the ballot since the civil rights era, a fight increasingly focused on a far-reaching federal overhaul of election rules in a last-ditch bid to offset a wave of voting restrictions sweeping Republican-controlled state legislatures.

The federal voting bill, which passed in the House this month with only Democratic support, includes a landmark national expansion of voting rights, an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and new transparency requirements on the flood of dark money financing elections that would override the rash of new state laws.

The energy in support for it radiates from well-financed veteran organizers to unpaid volunteers, many who were called to political activism after former President Donald J. Trump’s upset win in 2016. It is engaging Democrats in Washington and voting rights activists in crucial states from Georgia to Iowa to West Virginia to Arizona — some facing rollbacks in access to the ballot, some with senators who will play pivotal roles and some with both.

 

More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…

 

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Do Not Share This Lauren Boebert Town Hall Announcement

MONDAY UPDATE: The Montrose Press reports that Lauren Boebert’s town hall is still on despite the unfortunate fact of the public having heard about it:

Although the initial announcement, which was shared with the Montrose Daily Press by third parties, asked people not to share or post the event to social media, citing security reasons, word spread all the same.

Local GOP Chairman Spencer Hamner said he does not have security concerns, as long as the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office or Montrose Police Department is available. A previous event featuring Boebert that had been set for Montrose was canceled after unspecified threats to the venue and host.

Rural Colorado United, a Pueblo-based political action committee opposed to Boebert, will be holding a town hall Tuesday, March 16, at 12:15 p.m. in Riverbottom Park. Organizers have dubbed it the “Thanks for Nothing, Boebert” town hall and in the announcement criticized Boebert’s no vote on the recent coronavirus relief bill.

We’ll update as events unfold.

—–

As seen (wait for it) on Facebook today:

That’s right, folks. What we have here is a shareable graphic announcing a town hall meeting in Montrose starring Rep. Lauren Boebert on Monday. But the graphic says “for security purposes, please do not share or post this event to social media. Thank you.”

In the future, we recommend:

  1. Don’t make a social media graphic to publicize an event you don’t want to publicize.
  2. If you do make the mistake of #1, don’t say on the social media graphic not to share it on social media, because that’s of course what everyone is going to do.

Also, don’t blame us for “exposing” Boebert’s super-secret town hall, like we said it’s all over Facebook. Snow on the Front Range ought to keep those pesky Antifa types away, and Boebert has…extreme security on call.

So don’t accept any excuses, Montrose! Get down there and respectfully ask the hard questions.

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Polis Promises Vaccines Open To Every Adult By Mid-April

Denver7’s Ryan Osborne reports on the heels of President Joe Biden announcement yesterday that all American adults will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis plans to beat that goal of eligibility to all adults by a couple of weeks at least:

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday said he expects all adult Coloradans to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-April, aiming for a sooner target date than the national goal of May 1 that was announced by President Joe Biden this week.

Colorado is also moving up the eligibility date for phase 1.B4 by two days to March 19. At that point, half of the state population will be eligible to receive the vaccine. Phase 1.B4 includes all 50-and-older Coloradans, plus essential workers such as restaurant employees. In total, 2,505,310 people will be eligible in 1.B4…

Colorado is receiving about 200,000 doses of the vaccine per week, a total comprised of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. The state is also receiving smaller shipments of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and expects up to 84,500 doses in the week of April 4.

It’s big news for everyone who wants to get back to that thing they call normal, or more accurately the “new normal,” and though we can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to look like we’re all very excited to get there.

Good news is good, folks. Let the novelty of it tickle you.

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Please Support My Legislation, Whatever It Is

State Rep. Mary Bradfield (R-El Paso County)

It is no secret that outside interests and lobbyists often craft legislation that an elected representative ends up carrying on their behalf. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this practice — particularly in a state like Colorado where legislators are not full-time lawmakers and only convene for about four months every year — but it’s been our experience that competent interest groups and legislators generally make sure that everyone is on the same page before a bill gets formally introduced.

Most of the time, anyway.

On Thursday, freshman State Rep. Mary Bradfield (R-El Paso County) attempted to make a case for legislation she is sponsoring during testimony in front of the House Committee on State, Civic, Military, & Veterans Affairs. House Bill 21-1074, of which Bradfield is the sole sponsor, seeks to “establish immunity from civil liability for entities for any act or omission that results in exposure, loss, damage, injury, or death arising out of COVID-19 if the entity attempts in good faith to comply with applicable public health guidelines.” That’s what it says in the bill text, anyway; we’d give you a more straightforward explanation, but Bradfield herself did not present one.

Bradfield’s HB21-1074 was ultimately killed in committee on Thursday after it became very clear that she had no idea what her bill was supposed to accomplish. We can sum up what happened with this brief Q&A after witness testimony concluded between Bradfield and Committee Chair Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood):

KENNEDY: My understanding of how the current civil tort system works is that if a claimant did want to receive damages for harm that they believe happened to them, they would have a “preponderance of evidence” standard. So I’m curious why the “clear and convincing” standard seems more fitting for this kind of case.

BRADFIELD: Mr. Chair, um, that sounds like a very legal question, of which I am no lawyer, nor do I profess to be. I just follow the best advice of the people who know better than I. So, in other words, plain and simple, I have no idea. Thank you. [Pols emphasis]

You couldn’t listen to Bradfield’s presentation on Thursday and convince yourself that she had any real understanding of her own bill. It was more than obvious from Bradfield’s presentation that she was reading from prepared notes that were written by someone else — and possibly for the first time. Bradfield would stop and start her presentation at strange points, just as you might stammer when reading aloud a sentence that gets cut off by a page break.

Bradfield should probably not be sponsoring legislation that she doesn’t understand, and that’s on her. But some organization or lobbyist prepared this bill and didn’t make much of an effort to make sure that its sponsor — a freshman lawmaker — could offer even a modest defense of the legislation. This is shoddy work; if we were Bradfield and House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, we would not be happy about any of it.

You can listen yourself to the State Affairs committee discussion on HB21-1074, or check out the full transcription after the jump below…

 

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