GOP Challenger Touts Health While Opponent Recovers from Back Surgery

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

An Otero County Republican candidate forum got personal last week when primary challenger Don Bendell touted his health and pain tolerance at an event incumbent State Rep. Judy Reyher (R-Swink) was forced to miss while recovering from spinal surgery. 

Reyher is recovering from a May 22 spinal surgery for severe disc disintegration and was unable to attend. She sent a long letter explaining her absence, listing her legislative accomplishments and offering her priorities for her the upcoming year. It started with an extensive explanation of her recent surgery and the challenges that prevented her from attending the debate.

“When [the surgeons] got in there it was worse than they thought with the actual membrane surrounding the nerve being impaired.  I believed I could just drive La Junta for the forum today and and drive back tomorrow for my first post-op visit. My body put a full halt to that notion this morning as I was getting ready to make the trip. My body just has a lot of healing to do.”

Her opponent, Don Bendell, began his remarks by asking for prayers for Reyher’s recovery.

“I came here to debate. I really feel bad for my opponent, I’m sorry she couldn’t be here and I ask for you to join me in prayer for her quick recovery. I certainly can sympathize, since I started running I’ve had two 9mm kidney stones… It’s not fun dealing with pain but I’ve dealt with it my entire life. I had a broken back too, in 2011 and my prayers certainly go out to my opponent. I’m not here to say anything bad about my opponent but I am here to talk about her record.”

He then launched into a stump speech before taking questions from the audience. The first question was, “What do you have to offer Otero County?”

Here was his answer:

 

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How Colorado Republicans Blocked an Opportunity to Save Lives

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver)

I am respectfully responding to my colleague and friend Senator John Cooke’s recent op-ed regarding the “red flags” legislation introduced this session.  Red flag laws save lives.  When a person is in crisis, loved ones and law enforcement are often the first to see signs that they pose a threat.  The bi-partisan proposal we brought forward this year would have established a process to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose a serious threat before they harm themselves or others.

Red flag laws are on the books in eight states and are being proposed in over 25 others. Without laws like these, family members and law enforcement are often helpless to prevent tragedies despite having seen major warnings signs. One tragic example is Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish III – who we named this year’s legislation in honor of. Deputy Parrish was killed in the line of duty last New Year’s Eve by an individual in the middle of a mental health crisis. The shooter was identified as a significant risk by several law enforcement agencies and by his own mother months before the encounter, but there wasn’t anything law enforcement or his family could do, and on a fateful night, there were tragedies.

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans chose to oppose this commonsense measure that is proven to save lives and increase the safety of our first responders and Coloradans.  The op-ed used misleading and inaccurate opposition talking points, which I felt strongly should not go unanswered and uncorrected.

The Republicans argue that the bill goes too far in setting up an “ex parte” – or emergency hearing — process for issuing an emergency protection order.  But ex parte hearings are not extraordinary; this is the same process domestic violence survivors use to obtain a protection orders.

Sen. Cooke also claims the bill does not provide enough due process.  The fact is, this life saving bill included substantial due process safeguards. The bill provides for a full hearing before a judge within 7 days following the emergency order, places the burden of proof on the family member or law enforcement officer, requires they meet the highest standard of evidence to demonstrate why the order is needed, and allows the individual to request a hearing after an order is issued to reassess whether it is still necessary.  Additionally, challenges against similar laws in Indiana and Connecticut have been dismissed and this bill went beyond those states’ laws in protecting individuals’ due process rights.

Senate Republicans then argue that the bill did not go far enough in addressing mental health.  I would ask them to explain to the people of Colorado how a bill that was supported by Mental Health Colorado and which explicitly allows for individuals to seek the treatment they need does not address mental health.  Researchers who have studied this policy identify it as one of the most effective suicide prevention laws. And yet, opponents who claim to advocate for mental health hide behind the falsehood that this does nothing to support mental health.

The rest of the Republican arguments fare no better and reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the bill. For example, there are in fact dozens of safeguards in the bill to protect individuals from false and malicious claims, including prosecuting acts of perjury. It is frustrating that the Senate Republicans seem to have so little understanding of the details of the bill, when the reasons they used to justify voting against this life-saving measure are simply incorrect.

On the whole, the op-ed shows the internal conflict many Senate Republicans faced: if they were to vote for a sensible, well-measured bill that had support from unified law enforcement, leading Republicans statewide and House Republicans, they risked crossing the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and its boss, Dudley Brown.

Unfortunately, I could not convince them, even after weeks and weeks of discussions prior to introduction, to support the safety of our first responders and the public by going against the fringe gun groups that hold my Republican colleagues hostage under the threat that they will “primary them from the right.”

Coloradans want leaders who stand for something, not against everything. They want elected officials who will continue fighting for solutions to address the scourge of gun violence and improve access to mental health services to those in crisis. Voters will remember where their elected officials stood on this issue in November.

Eighty percent of Coloradans support red flag laws. But this is not about polling. This bill is about saving lives. And when I introduce it again next year, I will again fight for Colorado to be among those leading the charge to save lives and protect communities.

Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver), is assistant majority leader of the Colorado House of Representatives

These Colorado Republicans Are Pushing the Limits of Anti-Immigrant and Race-Baiting Rhetoric

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton endorser Tom Tancredo has partnered with State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and his son Joe Neville to promote political messaging that reflects the anti-immigrant rhetoric of President Trump and pushes the limits of  limits of inflammatory and race-baiting statements. 

The new Tancredo-fronted group, Citizens for Secure Borders, claims to be “dedicated to providing the public with information regarding key issues related to preserving and promoting the safety and security of the public.” The group’s 501(c)4 articles of incorporation lists the home of Sen. Neville as its “principal office street address.” Its three board members are Joe Neville and two of his employees at consulting firm Rearden Strategic. Both Aaron Yates and Brandon Wark, like Joe Neville himself, are former employees of Dudley Brown’s right-wing gun rights advocacy groups, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners & National Association of Gun Rights. 

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Winners and Losers from 2018 Legislative Session

Since all political websites are legally required to produce a “Winners and Losers” list from the 2018 legislative session, here’s our contribution…

 

WINNERS

Rep. K.C. Becker
The House Majority Leader took a major political risk when she introduced a resolution to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock from the legislature, but she pressed forward with what she felt was the right thing to do and was ultimately validated for that decision. Lebsock, of course, was booted out of the State Capitol after a daylong hearing on March 2, marking the first expulsion of a sitting lawmaker in Colorado in more than 100 years. But it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t clear that there were enough votes to support expulsion when Becker was preparing the proposal (indeed, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville was working hard to hold Republicans together for a ‘NO’ vote).

 

Rep. Alec Garnett talks about the bulletproof vest he wears to work.

Rep. Alec Garnett
The two-term Democrat from Denver played a significant role in some of the most important discussions of the session, including partnering with Republican Rep. Cole Wist on a late attempt at passing controversial “Red Flag” legislation. Garnett was also responsible for one of the most powerful moments in many years at the legislature when he revealed — during Rep. Steve Lebsock’s expulsion hearing — that he had been wearing a bullet-proof vest under his dress shirt since the beginning of the session.

The next Speaker of the House will almost certainly be either Garnett or House Majority Leader K.C. Becker; both lawmakers proved in 2018 that they are up to the task.

 

Rep. Alex Skinny Winkler
Thornton Republican Alex Skinny Winkler was turned into a real boy legislator in late March to fill out the final six weeks for expelled Rep. Steve Lebsock. Winkler will now turn his attention to campaigning for a full term in HD-34, but residents in this Democratic-leaning district will almost certainly vote for a “Skinny Repeal” in November and return the seat to Democratic hands.

Oh well. At least Winkler gets to keep that giant legislator nametag.

 

Sen. Kerry Donovan
The first-term Senator represents one of Colorado’s largest (geographically-speaking) and most diverse districts in SD-5, and she delivered for rural Colorado in a big way in 2018. Donovan was a driving force behind two measures that will build out high-speed, broadband Internet service in some of the state’s most hard-to-reach areas, giving voters good reason to approve her re-election bid this fall.

 

RMGO
Dudley Brown and his Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) group have been relatively quiet in recent years, but they returned with force late in the legislative session to effectively kill bi-partisan “Red Flag” legislation that sought to temporarily remove firearms from the hands of emotionally-unstable Coloradans. The “Red Flag” bill had high-profile co-sponsors — Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver)and Rep. Cole Wist (R-Centennial) – and prominent support from the Colorado law enforcement community…but when Brown put his foot down, most of the Republican caucus scattered like cockroaches.

We would certainly argue that the RMGO’s militant opposition to any sort of gun violence legislation is neither sustainable for the organization nor helpful for House and Senate Republicans, but that’s not really the point here. The RMGO’s penchant for getting aggressively involved in Republican Primaries over the years has scared the wits out of the even the most right-wing legislators; Dudley Brown asketh, and RMGO receiveth.

 

Anybody Who Profits From Photocopiers and Ink Sales
There were a record number of bills introduced during this legislative session that together formed an absolute mountain of paper documents. The House and Senate combined to produce 786 different pieces of legislation, which works out to an average of nearly 9 bills for every member.

 

LOSERS

 

Republican Leadership
Whoever invented the phrase “herding cats” would have loved watching Colorado Republicans over the last couple of months. Both Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville had a hell of a time corralling their respective caucuses; Republican lawmakers largely planted their flagsalongside a right-wing base and a few heavy-handed interest groups (see RMGO above), leaving virtually no room for compromise. Internal battlesplayed out regularly as members such as Rep. Dave Williams prioritized short-term soundbites and appearances on Fox News over getting anything done in the legislature. Even (theoretically) straightforward decisions turned into public freak-out sessions.

 

Sen. Tim Neville
In 2015, the Jefferson County Republican looked like the next big thing for the Colorado GOP, pulling the strings for the caucus behind the scenes and setting himself up for a U.S. Senate run. Neville’s statewide ambitions were rudely extinguished at the 2016 Republican State Convention, and he’s now one of the top targets for Democrats in 2018 as they look to re-take control of the State Senate. Neville has obstinately remained a right-wing voice in a senate district that is fairly equally-divided among Democrats and Republicans. In his last legislative session before asking voters to send him back for another term, Neville continued to act like a lawmaker from a solid-red area, seemingly showing no interest in trying to appeal to the rest of the voters in SD-16.

 

Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner

Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner
State Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner narrowly escaped expulsion from the Senate in April thanks to Sen. Cheri Jahn and some helpful covering-up by Senate President Kevin Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert. Colorado Pols readers are plenty familiar with Baumgardner’s story, so we won’t rehash his terrible year in this space. We’ll just leave it at this: When your legislative legacy is earning the nickname “Boob Grabber,” you can be confident in your place as a 2018 “Loser.”

 

Sen. Cheri Jahn
State Sen. Cheri Jahn (Wheat Ridge) served four terms in the State House and is on the back end of her second term in the State Senate. Her (likely) final legislative session played out in strange fashion, leaving her a questionable legacy and an even murkier political future.

Jahn spent the bulk of her career as a Democrat before announcing in late December that she had changed her party registration to “Unaffiliated,” thus relegating herself to a caucus of one for her swan song under the Gold Dome. It is unclear how Jahn might have benefitted from her newfound “independence,” other than perhaps setting herself up for a job with a group like the “Centrist Project.” Jahn has long been a champion of predatory payday lenders and whatever cause was supported by right-leaning “business” lobbyists such as CACI (Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry), so her departure from the Democratic Party was thus both unexpected and unsurprising.

Jahn will perhaps be most remembered for her curious “NO” vote that saved Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner from being expelled by the State Senate over multiple charges of sexual harassment. That’s not ideal.

 

Governor John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper called the 2018 legislative session the most successful of his governorship, which is interesting because the Governor appeared to have very little to do with anything that happened in the last five months. Hickenlooper took no political risks in his final legislative session – normally a time when an incumbent Governor makes a push to shore up a legacy – and seemed to spend most of his time “aw-shucksing” questions about a potential bid for President in 2020. When he did speak out on an issue, Hick displayed a maddening propensity for carefully taking every side possible – even on questions about sexual harassment under the Gold Dome.

When Hickenlooper made a last-minute pitch to House and Senate Democrats (he showed up at 10:00 pm on the final day of the session to wrangle votes on a PERA reform bill), it was emblematic of his 8 years in office and a Dickensian glimpse of what might have been.

 

 

You’ve Got To Be Kidding, Paul Rosenthal

A Tweet from Dan Haley, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association from that organization’s end-of-session debrief, provoked spit takes from, well, everyone who wasn’t in that energy industry-friendly room:

Full stop. It’s true that Rep. Paul Rosenthal, Democrat representing southeast Denver, lost the Democratic primary for re-election to his House seat after failing to qualify for the primary ballot at the assembly. But whatever votes Rosenthal may have taken on oil and gas during his time in the legislature, that was not the only reason, or even a principal reason, for his failure to win a spot on the 2018 ballot.

As our readers know well, Rep. Rosenthal was accused of several incidents of sexual harassment as part of the revelations of widespread harassment in the Colorado General Assembly that began last fall. One complaint failed because the alleged incident was from Rosenthal’s time as a candidate, not as a lawmaker where the House would have jurisdiction. But those allegations, combined with Rosenthal’s total lack of preparation for a competitive primary, are the real reasons why Rosenthal didn’t qualify for the ballot. As for Rosenthal’s voting record in the House, we believe liberal Denver voters would be at least as upset by his votes against relief for homeless people as his votes in favor of fracking.

Given the oil and gas industry’s recent push to highlight their gender diversity and pay lip service to liberal social issues, the choice of COGA’s CEO to give a platform to a disgraced lawmaker who lost his seat over sexual harassment allegations in order to make excuses for his disgrace is…well, it says a lot.

And it doesn’t say anything good about the oil and gas industry.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 8)

Today is the 73rd anniversary of VE Day. 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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► It’s (Primary) Election Day in several states. Voters will make some important choices today in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia.

In West Virginia, ex-con coal baron Don Blankenship might be surging at the right time. If Blankenship is able to win a three-way race for the Republican Senate nomination, re-election will get a whole lot easier for Democratic Sen. Joe Minchin (and the 2018 cycle will get a lot worse for Sen. Cory Gardner, chair of the NRSC).

In Ohio, Republican candidates are jockeying for the right to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. Also in Ohio, former Congressman and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich tries to resurrect his political career with a victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Republicans in Indiana are fighting a nasty battle to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable incumbents of 2018.

And in North Carolina…there are some moderately-interesting primary races for a couple of Congressional seats.

For more on today’s big races, check out Politico’s “seven things to watch.” That’s two more “things to watch” than the Huffington Post will discuss.

 

► The 2018 legislative session in Colorado comes to a close on Wednesday. In the meantime, lawmakers are rushing to complete work on several important pieces of legislation, including a transportation and infrastructure bill that was the first Senate bill introduced this year (SB-1). Blair Miller of Denver7 explains the transportation compromise:

According to the chamber leaders, the amended bill would put $495 million in General Fund money into transportation projects this year, and an additional $150 million next year.

The state would then send $50 million in General Fund money each of the following years.

The amended version also would ask state voters to approve a $2.3 billion transportation bonding measure in 2019, which the lawmakers say would be paid off by the General Fund appropriations. The funds would be split: 70 percent would go to state highway projects, 15 percent to local road projects, and another 15 percent would go to transit “multi-modal” projects.

The maximum estimated repayment could amount to $3.25 billion when combined with transportation money passed during last year’s session.

 

► The Republican-controlled Senate killed a “Red Flag” bill on Monday despite wide support among law enforcement officials. From the Denver Post:

A contentious measure that would have allowed Colorado judges to order the seizure of guns from people considered a “significant risk” to themselves or others was rejected Monday night by Republicans in a GOP-controlled state Senate panel.

The so-called “red flag” legislation — House Bill 1436 — failed on a 3-2, party-line vote in the Senate’s State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, as expected.

The measure’s demise comes after it cleared the Democratic-controlled House on Friday night by a 37-23 vote — with only two Republicans voting “aye.” One of those was Assistant House Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, a prime sponsor of the legislation along with Assistant House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver.

Despite its legislative failure, the “Red Flag” bill will likely reverberate for months as candidates for major office in Colorado are asked to give their opinions on the proposal.

 

President Trump is expected to squash a waiver of sanctions against Iran, a key part of the United States’ participation in a controversial 2015 deal with Iran over its nuclear weapon pursuits. From the Washington Post:

The decision follows the failure of last-ditch efforts by the three European signatories to the agreement to convince Trump that his concerns about “flaws” in the 2015 accord could be addressed without violating its terms or ending it altogether.

While the deal itself contains no provisions for withdrawal, Iran has threatened to reactivate its nuclear program if the United States reneges on any of its obligations under the pact’s terms.

France and Germany, whose leaders visited Washington in recent weeks to appeal to Trump, have warned that nullification of the agreement could lead to all-out war in the Middle East. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in Washington on Monday, said that as far as he knows, the administration has no clear “Plan B” for what to do next.

The New York Times reports that Trump has already informed French President Emmanuel Macron of his intentions to essentially scuttle the Iran deal.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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One Election Away: Iowa Passes Six-Week Abortion Ban

As the Des Moines Register reports:

With a middle-of-the-night vote that followed hours of heated debate, Iowa Republicans have approved a measure that would ban most abortions in the state and give the state the strictest abortion law in the nation.

The move came in the final days of the legislative session, after mounting pressure from the Legislature’s most ardently anti-abortion corners to pass the so-called heartbeat bill before adjournment. It was accompanied by legislative threats and predictions — even hopes — the resulting law will be challenged in court.

Senate File 359, if signed into law, would ban nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can occur about six weeks into a pregnancy and often before a woman realizes she’s pregnant.

Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds hasn’t said for sure if she intends to sign the bill into law, but she campaigned for office as a pro-life conservative and the pressure on her to sign the bill is very intense. Passage of this legislation will of course provoke an immediate court challenge and in all probability an injunction against enforcement while that lawsuit takes place. That legal battle, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, is exactly the point of this legislation–setting up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade before the most conservative Supreme Court in decades.

Here in Colorado, the political press corps can scarcely be bothered to report on abortion bans and onerous restrictions like mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds introduced year after year by conservative Republicans in the state legislature. The presumption is that with Democrats in control of one chamber and the governor’s office, abortion ban bills “aren’t a story” since they stand no realistic chance of becoming law.

What’s happening in Iowa is a sobering reminder of how wrong that complacency is. The worst case scenario is never more than a single election away. If the Republicans in office in Colorado right now had the legislative majority they’re going to pitch Colorado voters to give them this fall, and a Republican governor like the one they want Colorado to elect, they would not hesitate to pass the bill Iowa’s legislature just passed.

And that is something every voter in Colorado needs to know.

Colorado Dems just introduced one of the most progressive reproductive health bills in the U.S.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill yesterday that aims to increase access to all reproductive care and protect Coloradans from the Trump administration’s rollbacks.

The Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Act would require all public and private health insurance plans regulated by the state of Colorado to cover the entire gamut of reproductive care, from cancer screenings and prenatal care to contraceptives and abortion, at no cost to the patient. And the bill guarantees that coverage for everyone, regardless of gender identity, income, or immigration status.

According to the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) it’s a “proactive bill with some real teeth,” and the bill aims to address a key barrier to reproductive care: affordability.

“When it comes to marginalized communities, affordability is one of the biggest hurdles,” said COLOR’s Karla Gonzales Garcia. “You can have the right to seek reproductive health care and abortion, but if you can’t afford the care, you can’t access that right.”

Maternal mortality is on the rise in the U.S. Graph shows # of deaths per 100,000 live births. Credit: Rob Weychert/ProPublica

In addition to improving access to services like abortion and contraception, the bill also seeks to improve maternal health, a critical undertaking given that the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world by a wide margin. And that rate continues to rise while other countries have managed to make childbirth safer.

Women of color bear the brunt of the country’s maternal health crisis. Women of color are more likely to die during childbirth, and black women are at particularly high risk, dying during childbirth at three times the rate of white women.

“A lot of it is due to complications in labor and during pregnancy, but a lot of it is also happening postpartum when people don’t have appropriate care for healing or post-delivery complications, when they frankly don’t have health coverage and then they’re having long-term health consequences and even dying,” said Garcia. “And so we see this legislation as really important to addressing maternal mortality and maternal health issues for women of color.”

As it stands, women who receive Medicaid coverage during pregnancy also receive 60 days of postpartum care. This bill would extend that coverage period to 180 days.

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RMGO Desperately Works To Kill “Red Flag” Bill

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports–despite bipartisan support for legislation to temporarily remove firearms from persons in a mental health crisis while preserving due process rights, Colorado’s gun lobby led by no-compromise gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) is working overtime to lock down Republicans against the bill. As a result, the final vote in the House has been pushed back to Friday:

The bill, introduced Monday, would allow family members or law enforcement to ask a judge for a temporary extreme risk protection order that would allow officers to take firearms and ammunition away from people deemed to be in the midst of a mental health crisis.

The temporary order would stay in place for seven days, during which the person can petition to have their weapons returned…

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and some Republicans have said the proposal is more of a gun bill and less of a mental health bill, as the bill’s proponents and state sheriffs and police organizations have said – in support of the measure.

The final recorded House vote on Friday will be a good indicator of how successful GOP backers of House Bill 18-1436 have been at winning over their own. Politically, this bill sets up a major predicament for Republicans, who have paid much lip service to the need to “focus on mental health” as a response to mass shootings in lieu of measures outlawing specific guns or gun components. Now, with just such an opportunity before them, we’ll see if Republicans really mean what they say about “focusing on mental health”–or if it’s just another deflection from politicians with no authentic desire to address gun violence.

We know that’s where RMGO stands. Now let’s find out if RMGO still owns the GOP caucus. If the right thing gets done here, we’ll be first in line to praise the Republicans responsible for making it happen.

Pleasantly surprise us for a change.

Just A “Concerned Citizen?” The Google Says No Way

Jeffrey Cummings.

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd has a story about the debate over transportation funding at the Colorado legislature with less than one week remaining in the 2018 session–a story seriously deficient in terms of proper disclosure of the principal source:

Maybe no one understands the sorry state of Colorado’s roads more than business owners like Jeff Cummings with Duffy Crane and Hauling…

“I would use insanely frustrated,” Cummings said.

Trucks that used to make two deliveries in the metro area a day, he says, now can only get in one. And he’s had to double the number of drivers it takes to haul the same amount of goods, as federal regulations restrict how many hours a trucker can be on the road and more and more time is spent in congestion.

And who is this concerned citizen mad at, you ask? Democrats, naturally!

After years of gridlock on the roads and at the State Capitol, Senate Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise last month that included $500 million for transportation this year.

A ballot measure is also asking voters to approve a $3 billion bond in November, but House Democrats didn’t like the deal and have been working on their own proposal for the last month.

“To have a unanimous vote on that topic, and that much bipartisanship is a big day in this state and it appears to be flushed down toilet in one day. Disappointed,” Cummings said.

CBS4’s longtime political reporter Shaun Boyd does note at one point in her story that Jeffrey Cummings has “been lobbying lawmakers for years to increase funding for transportation.” But readers of Boyd’s story might well think that Cummings has been “lobbying” for more transportation funding in some kind of personal capacity–or strictly as the owner of his own trucking business.

But as about five seconds of Googling makes plain, you’d be wrong:

At the Colorado Motor Carriers Association (CMCA) recent annual meeting, Jeffrey Cummings, the President of Duffy Companies, was selected as its Chairman of the Board for the upcoming year.

In this capacity he will lead CMCA, who represents over 650 companies that are either directly involved or affiliated with trucking and transportation in Colorado. Overall trucking related businesses employ almost 100,000 people within Colorado with an overall payroll exceeding $4.8 billion.

That’s right, folks. Jeffrey Cummings is in fact one of the state’s leading transportation industry lobbyists, representing over 650 trucking companies at the state capitol. Cummings was chairman of the board in 2016 and currently serves as the group’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs Chair. In addition, Cummings sits on the board of the state’s workman’s comp provider Pinnacol Assurance, and a member of the top-flight business lobbying group Colorado Concern.

And yes, Jeffrey Cummings is a registered Republican.

Negotiations over a final transportation deal continue as of this writing, and it’s still possible that an agreement will be reached that pleases the transportation lobby. Either way, this story from CBS4 Denver supplies no counterweight to Cummings’ blasting of Democrats for their supposed intransigence–and the failure to disclose that Cummings is a top Republican lobbyist greatly misrepresents his easily discernible partisan motives.

Reporting what somebody thinks about something is fine. But let’s be honest about who that somebody is.

Republican family feud: Nevilles attack colleague on gun policy

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A pair of state representatives introduced a bipartisan bill to address gun safety and mental health. Despite several prominent Republican elected officials publicly supporting the bill, Rep. Cole Wist’s (R-Centennial) decision to sponsor it with Democrat Alec Garnett (D-Denver) prompted immediate outrage from some of his Republican colleagues.

The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reported on a Monday evening caucus meeting held to address the situation:

“Like any close family we have arguments,” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, said of a caucus meeting where the legislation was discussed. “But like any close family, we’re still united at the end of the day.”

9News reporter Brandon Rittiman also mentioned the caucus meeting in a tweet, calling it a “family feud”:

A review of social media indeed reveals a close family that remains united. However, it isn’t the metaphorical family of House Republicans, but rather literal relatives from one particular political family -the Nevilles- attacking other Republicans. Their primary target is Patrick Neville’s nominal partner in House leadership, Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist.

The attacks have been led by Advancing Colorado, a 501(c)4 online entity run by Joe Neville’s consulting firm.  On Facebook the group called Wist a “Republican Traitor” who “wants to seize your guns.” It also liked comments calling Wist “treasonous,” a traitor who should be ‘removed by force,’ and a “FK TARD.” Advancing Colorado has posted numerous items over the past two days, many of which include photoshopped images attacking Wist, along with Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler (who is also the Republican candidate for Colorado Attorney General) and Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock. 

Joe Neville’s brother, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville commented on one of these posts, stating “I am 100% AGAINST this bill!”  Later he told Colorado Politics’ Joey Bunch, “None of us are happy about him supporting the bill, and he’s re-evaluating that. I think he got some advice he regrets, but, hey, we’ll move on.”

On Tuesday he apparently used his leadership authority to take Wist’s seat on the House Judiciary committee where the bill was assigned to be heard this afternoon. It is unknown if Wist’s removal is temporary.

Barb Neville, mother of Patrick and Joe, wife of GOP State Sen. Tim Neville (and manager of the senator’s Facebook page) shared one of Advancing Colorado’s posts. She added her own comment wondering what sort of bribe Wist and other Republicans must have been promised to support the bill.

Barb Neville attacks Rep. Cole Wist over gun safety“First they built the DNA Lab, now this, what’s next? Why are these three prominent republicans sleeping with Colorado Cease Fire and Michael Bloomberg. It makes one wonder what kind of golden nugget has been promised them. Call Cole Wist and URGE him to remove his name from this bill and VOTE NO on it: Cole Wist’s office: 303-866-5510”

Sen. Tim Neville, who represents Littleton, hasn’t attacked Wist publicly, as his wife and sons have, but he made his opinion of the bill known to KDVR TV reporter Joe St. George immediately before the bill’s hearing on Tuesday afternoon. St. George tweeted: “@NevilleforCO tells me he has “’no interest in this bill.’”

Sometime between the Monday press conference and the start of the bill’s hearing, Wist shut down his Facebook account. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Dudley Brown confirmed this in a comment on the RMGO page stating that the reason Wist shut down his Facebook page was because “our heat was too much.”

This post was first published on the Colorado Times Recorder.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 1)

Mayday! Oh, wait…May Day! 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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► The New York Times obtained a list of questions that special prosecutor Robert Mueller would like to ask President Trump:

The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that it was “disgraceful” that questions the special counsel would like to ask him were publicly disclosed, and he incorrectly noted that there were no questions about collusion. The president also said collusion was a “phony” crime.

The questions provide the most detailed look yet inside Mr. Mueller’s investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy since he was appointed nearly a year ago.

 

► Teacher walkouts across the country aren’t just about low salaries, as Brian Eason reports for the Associated Press:

Teachers usually say a persistent funding shortage, which has cost public schools $6.6 billion since 2009, led them to walk off the job and close down schools last week. But among the biggest reasons for lagging pay is one of the least understood: The rising cost of state pensions…

…In Colorado, school district payments to the public pension fund have roughly doubled since 2006, from around 10 percent of payroll to 20 percent. That has squeezed personnel budgets when the state also was cutting funding during the economic downturn.

In that time, average teacher salaries have grown 21 percent, from $44,439 to $53,768, according to salary data from the National Education Association. But inflation in the greater Denver area has outpaced it, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, leaving teachers with an 8 percentage point drop in buying power.

 

► The Republican sponsor of boneheaded legislation that would have jailed teachers for going on strike has decided to pull his bill from consideration. As the Denver Post reports:

The Republican state senator who brought a bill seeking to prohibit Colorado teachers from strikingby threatening firings, fines or even jail time said Monday he will kill his own measure, citing concerns over lawmakers’ already large workloadin the waning days of this legislative session.

“We don’t have time to have two hours of testimony for a bill that won’t move forward,” said Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs. “You introduce bills for public policy discussions as much as anything, and the bill certainly caused that.”

Gardner’s legislation, Senate Bill 264, which came as thousands of teachers were gearing up to protest education funding and educator payat the state Capitol, drew swift outrage from teachers across Colorado and statehouse Democrats after it was introduced earlier this month.

Even Gardner’s fellow Republicans were wary of the bill.

Pulling the SB-264 from consideration will help mitigate some of the damage for Republicans in November, but this asinine bill should have never been allowed to move forward in the first place.

 

► The political future of Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) is now in the hands of a federal judge after a hearing Monday in which Lamborn’s campaign appealed a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court that has left his name off of the June Primary ballot. As KRDO in Colorado Springs reports, a decision is expected to be made public by this afternoon.

 

 

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RMGO Rages as Bipartisan “Red Flag” Bill Introduced

UPDATE #2: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners takes aim at GOP Rep. Cole Wist:

Cole “The Mole.” That will come in handy for Democrats someday.

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UPDATE: Press release from Colorado Ceasefire:

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) provide a process to enable families and law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from an individual who is at an elevated risk of danger to themselves or others. It is a civil legal procedure with due process for the affected individual.

Colorado Ceasefire has been promoting this legislation since it held a forum for behavioral health professionals, law enforcement and legislators in May of 2016. Our efforts ramped up, even in the face of a divided legislature, on December 31 st , when Douglas County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed, and Zackari Parrish fatally shot, by a shooter whose own mother had tried to take his guns away.

“There might have been a very different outcome on December 31 st if this bill had been law,” noted Mary Blegen of Colorado Ceasefire. “No one who is a danger to himself or others should have access to firearms, and 85% of Americans agree with that,” she concluded.

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As Denver7’s Blair Miller reports, a last-minute bill is being introduced with a surprising degree of bipartisan support to temporarily remove weapons from the possession of persons in the midst of a mental health crisis:

The measure will be named after Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish, who was shot and killed while on duty on New Year’s Eve. The man accused of killing him and wounding several other deputies and officers had mental health issues and weapons – which Parrish and his fellow officers knew ahead of their encounter.

Unveiling the proposal Monday were lawmakers from both parties, several metro-area sheriffs, 18th Judicial District Attorney and Republican Attorney General candidate George Brauchler, and mental health professionals.

George Brauchler.

The measure, the Deputy Zackari Parrish Violence Protection Act, is sponsored by Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Boulder Co., and Rep. Cole Wist, R-Arapahoe Co. Both were praised Monday for their weeks of work on the measure.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler, the prosecutor who failed to put the Aurora theater shooter on death row and has been forced to juggle traditional GOP anti-gun control shibboleths with his responsibility to public safety, is commendably choosing the latter in support of the “red flag” bill:

“I’m skeptical of giving the government authority like this, but skepticism is not an excuse for inaction,” he added, saying Colorado’s version of the bill had the “most due process protection” of any bill in the country.

“Those who are out there who are going to characterize this as a gun-grabber bill…I tell you to read the bill,” Brauchler said. [Pols emphasis] “To do nothing at this point no longer makes sense…there’s nothing that so better balances the needs of public safety and mental health.”

With this legislation being supported by the principal Republican candidate for attorney general and a Republican cosponsor in the House, in theory there is a better change of progress being made on this long-vexing issue than we’ve seen in many years. Colorado already passed common-sense measures being debated nationally in response to mass shootings, like requiring background checks for private sales of guns and limiting magazine capacity. The next logical step–and according to some gun-policy activists, the more pragmatic step–is to develop a process to protect the public from gun owners in a mental health crisis while preserving a reasonable degree of due process.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s arch-enemies of common-sense gun safety, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, are signaling early and loudly that they will not be on board:

A GUN CONFISCATION bill is moving through the Colorado legislature at a rapid pace, and your phone calls are needed to stop it!

This poorly written legislation drafted by anti-gun radical Rep. Garnett called the “The Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill” or “Red Flag Law”, is gun confiscation plain and simple. If passed, it would allow virtually anyone to report you ANONYMOUSLY as “emotionally unable” and have your right to bear arms stripped indefinitely, without due process. It also provides immunity for “good faith” lies to courts to obtain an order. There is no penalty in the bill for using the process to harass or intimidate you…

Who are Coloradans supposed to believe? Lawmakers in both parties, the Republican DA who prosecuted the Aurora shooter, Republican Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, who lost a deputy to a deranged shooter that might have been stopped by this law–or Dudley Brown and RMGO? Lip service about “focusing on mental health” after mass shootings is the go-to response from Republicans who want to avoid regulating guns themselves, and here is just such a proposal. For the majority of Colorado residents, we would have to think this bill is a no-brainer.

In the RMGO-dominated GOP-controlled Colorado Senate? Sadly, we’ll have to wait and see. And based on RMGO’s bellicose first response, we’re not at all confident.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 30)

The 2018 Primary election is eight weeks away. 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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► The 2018 Colorado legislative session only seems like it has been going on forever. John Frank previews the final 10 days of the session for the Denver Post:

The General Assembly’s to-do list includes: a measure to stabilize the crippled state pension systemthat covers 1 in 10 Coloradans; an effort to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into improving the state’s roads and highways; the renewal of a commission tasked with defending civil rights; two ballot measures that revamp how political districts are drawn; and more.

At the same time, Democrats in the state Senate are again pushing to expela Republican lawmaker for harassment after new credible allegations surface. The Democrats’ action amplifies the partisan tension in the Capitol.

More than 700 bills have been filed during this legislative session.

 

► Get ready for a trade war, as the New York Times reports:

A few weeks ago, it felt as if a trade war pitting the United States against allies like Australia, Canada and the European Union was over before it even began. The Trump administration dispensed so many temporary exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs that many countries figured the threats were just political theater.

But with only days left before the exemptions expire and punitive tariffs take effect, it’s dawning on foreign leaders that decades of warm relations with the United States carry little weight with a president dismissive of diplomatic norms and hostile toward the ground rules of international trade.

What began as a way to protect American steel and aluminum jobs has since become a cudgel that the Trump administration is using to extract concessions in other areas, including car exports to Europe or negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

As a May 1 deadline looms, the decision on whether to grant permanent exemptions to the steel and aluminum tariffs, and to whom, appears likely to come down to the whims of President Trump, who has seesawed between scrapping and rejoining global trade deals.

Chinese officials are signaling that they will oppose two of President Trump’s top trade priorities.

 

► Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) is making a final effort to make the June Primary ballot via a federal courtroom today. Ernest Luning has more for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman. Lamborn is appealing a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that invalidated enough of his petition signatures to keep him off of the Republican Primary ballot.

 

► Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson (Mitt Romney’s Nephew) was a guest on The Get More Smarter Show last week. Check out the full interview here.

 

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