Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 21)

Sad trombone for Case Keenum. 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 sure looks like the Mueller probe is nearing a conclusion of some sort. As the Washington Post reports:

Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.

 

► If it looks like political retribution, and it smells like political retribution, and…oh, hell, this here is obviously a “spade.” From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it’s canceling $929 million of federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project and demanding the return of $2.6 billion that’s already been spent.

Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly denounced the move as political retribution for the state’s resistance to a southern border wall and said California will fight for the money…

…In a statement Tuesday, Newsom said, “It’s no coincidence that the administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the president’s farcical ‘national emergency.’ The president even tied the two issues together in a tweet this morning.”

The reference was to a tweet in which Trump asserted that with cost overruns that “are becoming world record setting,” California’s project “is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!”

► House Democrats plan to push forward a resolution on Friday in opposition to President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for building big ‘ol walls. Should such a resolution pass in the House, and it likely will, it will force Republican Senators to go on the record with a vote of support or opposition to Trump’s power grab. Sucks to be you, Sen. Cory Gardner!

 

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Neville Says Election Work by GOP Groups Was “Some of the Worst” He’s Seen

(Do tell – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) blames his loss in November’s election, in part, on “some of the worst execution” he’s seen by fellow Republicans who ran separate campaigns in support of Neville.

Emphasizing that he did the “things a candidate can do,” Neville told KNUS Saturday that outside groups launched ineffective advertising and messaging campaigns, including lousy mailers.

“It was extremely frustrating as a candidate to watch these [mailers] hit and have people call me and say, ‘Why are we getting all these mailers. They’ve got beauty shots of all your opponents on them. What’s going on?'” Neville told KNUS host Randy Corporon, saying it would have been illegal for him to tell the Senate Majority Fund and Colorado independent expenditure committees to bug off. [listen below]

On the radio, Neville named the Senate Majority Fund in particular, which until recently had been run by Andy George of Clear Creek Strategies. New Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert replaced George with former GOP state party spokesman Daniel Cole last week.

In addition to the Senate Majority Fund, the Colorado Economic Leadership Fund and the Colorado Republican Committee IE, among others, also spent money on Neville’s behalf.

Neville pointed to one mailed advertisement that was “apparently bankrolled by Colorado Concern, Mike Kopp’s group.” The deceptive mailer was paid for by an independent expenditure committee called the Business Opportunity Fund, with major money from Larry Mizel of MDC Holdings.

“It has a big picture, and it says Neville and Hickenlooper, working together for Colorado’s economy,” complained Neville on air, saying he got complaints that he was making it look like he was endorsed by Hickenlooper.

Neville contrasted the election work of Colorado Concern, the Senate Majority Fund, and other GOP groups with that of his son, Joseph Neville, who conducted independent campaigns (via Values First Colorado, Coloradans for Secure Borders and the Colorado Liberty PAC) in support of GOP candidates running for the state house.

Joseph Neville, who came under recent attack for his campaign decisions, manages the consulting company Rearden Strategic.

“I’m definitely proud of Joseph, and what he did and what he does to help candidates–and to effectively do things,” said Tim Neville, also praising his other son, Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, for “definitely fighting the good fight.”

Tim Neville, whose election loss helped Democrats take over Colorado state government, believes his campaign did everything it could do to win on the fundraising and mobilization side, saying he personally knocked on 18,000 doors, he said, and his campaign knocked on 25,000.

Neville did not reserve his criticism to fellow Republicans.

He was particularly upset at attacks from allies of Democrats that portrayed him as raking in big money from oil-and-gas interests, which also supported groups allied with Democrats.

“We don’t live in fancy houses and gated communities,” Neville told Corporon.

“Those that know me know pretty much how we live and how hard we work and what we do and how we serve the community,” said Neville.

As for future elections, Neville said Republicans need to improve their ground game and make sure they know where their donations are going, “before they give money.”

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Sometimes The Bad Guys Win

KNUS-AM host Steffan Tubbs.

9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reported last night on the decision by Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood to give up on trying to pass legislation this year to authorize a pilot safe injection site for people struggling with opioid addiction, which would have been established at the location of an existing needle exchange program in downtown Denver.

As we’ll explain, those details are important:

Democrats in the Colorado Legislature will not attempt to pass a bill this session that would allow Denver to open America’s first supervised drug injection site.

Democratic Senator Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood said Republican opponents have seized on the injection sites to “bring fear and misinformation.”

…Pettersen acknowledged that faltering support from her fellow Democrats doomed the yet-to-be-introduced bill. Democrats control both houses of the Colorado Legislature and would not have needed a single Republican vote to pass the bill.

Recognizing the difficulty of addressing the opioid crisis, which has overwhelmed public health and law enforcement authorities and prompted the more recent emphasis on treatment and compassion rather than criminalization of people who suffer from opioid addiction, we understand that opinions among any group of people including our readers of this particular solution will vary.

But in the end, the opposition to this year’s effort was not policy related at all. As Colorado Public Radio reports, this was all about Republican minority politics–their first chance to draw blood from Democrats who flattened them in last year’s elections. And they seized on the opportunity with all of the usual suspects joining in, and the usual factual challenges:

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville floated the idea of recall elections to remove Democratic lawmakers from office if they voted to support the legislation. In early February, the Colorado Republican Party sent out an email that called safe injection sites an oxymoron…

Local conservative talk radio also played an active role in opposition.

KNUS talk show host Peter Boyles visited Vancouver to see the impact of a facility there and created a “No Safe Sites,” webpage, part of an effort to derail a potential Denver program. “This is so dangerous and so frightening and the cost is so expensive,” Boyles said.

Employing the same wildly false rhetoric we saw during last year’s SD-22 race, AM radio in Denver whipped up right-wing opposition to safe injection sites early this year in anticipation of a legislative debate. Peter Boyles, longtime local radio bottom feeder who we’ve called out in this space for his regular breaches of factuality and decency, was joined by Steffan Tubbs–another KNUS host who was fired by the more mainstream 850 KOA after a domestic violence arrest and has been rebuilding his career in the bush leagues.

Again, views on this issue might not always align even on the left. But the attacks on this bill were simply not accurate. This was about setting up a pilot program at a location that already serves people suffering from addiction in downtown Denver, yet these talk radio hosts had their gullible suburban audiences believing that it would mean “addicts shooting up on your street”–a situation not far from the status quo. Much like the lunatic debate over this year’s bill on sex education, opponents simply disconnected from the facts and let their imaginations run wild.

But sometimes it works. Even the best-intended efforts can be rendered politically nonviable if opponents’ misinformation becomes the dominant narrative. That’s what happened in this case, and it’s our local talk radio lowlifes–normally and correctly relegated to the fringe–taking credit for shutting down rational debate.

Whatever your opinion, we can do better. We can debate better. And hopefully next time that’s what happens.

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The Knives Come Out For Clan Neville

Ex-Sen. Tim “Pa” Neville, Rep. Patrick “Boy” Neville.

The talk of the Colorado politics water-cooler set this Friday morning is a deep-dive from Marianne Goodland of the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette, covering in two detailed stories the intra-party division among legislative Republicans in the wake of the devastating 2018 wave election that gave Colorado Democrats almost unprecedented power at every level of state and county government.

The subject of today’s story is a dynastic Republican political family that we’ve written a great deal about in this space. Over the last few elections, the Neville family, led by now ex-Sen. Tim “Pa” Neville and his son House Minority Leader Patrick “Boy” Neville has acquired an outsize degree of influence in local Republican politics through both running family members and aggressive recruitment of loyal Republican candidates–leading in 2018 to management of the House GOP’s “independent expenditure” campaigns via the family’s political consultant business Rearden Strategic:

“It’s a family business and about controlling the power,” former Republican state Rep. B.J. Nikkel of Loveland, who served in the House from 2009 to 2013, told Colorado Politics.

Nikkel was referring to the control Neville, R-Castle Rock, and members of his family exercised over independent expenditures used to support Republicans running for the Legislature in 2018 or oppose their Democratic challengers — spending not coordinated with the candidates.

The Nevilles used that money “to keep their own little mountain of power,” Nikkel said, echoing comments made by other Republicans. [Pols emphasis]

Now, here’s the first thing to understand: there’s nothing out of the ordinary for the leadership in a given chamber to run the increasingly critical independent expenditure side of that party’s campaign. Before the Nevilles and Rearden Strategies did so for House Republicans in 2018, we had the example of GOP Senate President Bill Cadman’s Advantage Marketing–which very similarly to the Nevilles both developed the independent-side strategy for GOP Senate candidates and was widely seen as a vehicle for Cadman to cultivate his personal power base.

What’s the difference, you ask? On the surface it’s simple–Cadman won elections, while the Nevilles presided over one of the greatest humiliations for Colorado Republicans in the lifetime of anyone now living. But that’s not all: Cadman worked in concert with the state’s GOP elite and donor class, while the Nevilles sought to supplant that traditional Republican power structure with a much more radical model featuring the Neville family, hard-right movement ideologues, and Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners calling the shots.

Undeniably, there were some examples of what can only be called amateur work product, like the slate of Jefferson County candidates advertised by Rearden that was so riddled with errors it was worse than putting up nothing at all. Goodland also reports that over $300,000 in campaign funds were left unspent in 2018, which is sure to aggrieve every Republican House candidate who lost last year. So, there’s that.

But beyond the second-guessing over details, this backbiting against the Nevilles represents to us another attempt by establishment Republicans to purge themselves of what they consider to be out-of-touch losers holding the party down. Readers  may recall how two years ago, the same Anschutz-owned media outlet became deeply enmeshed in controversy over Bob Beauprez’s Pioneer Action group–who rather brazenly attempted to “frag” a number of Neville-backed Republican candidates in 2016. The Gazette aggressively attacked the Republican who filed complaints over Pioneer Action’s red-on-red attacks in 2016, only clamming up after the complaint against Beauprez’s group was upheld.

The shortest summary to all this is that there is a civil war going on behind the scenes for the soul of the Republican Party in Colorado. It is not a new struggle by any means, but last year’s historic defeat for Republicans has instilled figures on both sides of this fight with a sense of urgency. The factions at this point are well-defined: it’s a battle between the Republican establishment controlled by a few powerful wealthy donors like Phil Anschutz, versus an unruly GOP grassroots coalition that regards the wealthy donor class as part of the same problem along with the Democrats.

However this struggle resolves–and if it ever does–the political damage to the GOP will be significant.

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Tom Sullivan Makes Powerful Case for Red Flag Bill

State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation.

We wrote yesterday about so-called “Red Flag” gun safety legislation (also known as an “extreme risk protection order”) that is returning to the Colorado Legislature. Freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) is one of the bill’s sponsors, and on Thursday he delivered a heart-wrenching statement about his personal motivation for supporting the legislation. Sullivan’s son, Alex, was among the 12 people killed in the Aurora Theater Shooting on July 20, 2012.

You can watch Sullivan’s entire statement below via 9News. We have also provided a transcription of Sullivan’s statement, but you should really watch the video — just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.

State Representative Tom Sullivan (Feb. 14, 2019):

Not many people know how to talk to the parent of a murdered child. Certainly not one whose picture was on the front page of the newspaper, that they have all seen.

I mean, I’m wearing Alex’s jacket right now. I wear this jacket every day when I take the bus on in here. Because he’s with me. And I can feel him in me. And maybe that scares some of them.

But I’m not doing this for Alex and my family. I’m doing it for yours. Because this is as bad as you think it is. Watching your child’s body drop into the ground is as bad as it gets. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that none of you have to do that.

And I don’t care what Party you belong to. I don’t care what gender you are. I don’t care what country you came from. I’m going to do everything until this jacket falls off of me. I’m working every day to do this.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 13)

Joe Flacco, eh? Try to contain your excitement. 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…

► Congressional leaders are putting the final touches on legislation that will prevent another government shutdown. From the Washington Post:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Wednesday to finalize a sweeping spending bill that includes a compromise on border security two days ahead of a deadline for government funding to expire, as last-minute disputes arose on an array of issues.

While President Trump appeared open to signing the legislation — which includes far less funding than he has sought for construction of barriers along the southern border — White House officials said he was waiting to see the final package before making a decision.

Still pending were issues, including whether to use the bill to provide back pay to federal contractors who were caught in the middle of the recent government shutdown and to extend the federal Violence Against Women Act.

President Trump is likely to sign the legislation — despite not getting what he wants — and will try his damndest to make it look like this is some sort of victory for his administration and all wall-loving people. In reality, this is nothing short of a big, fat loss for the White House.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the rebranding of the wall debate is already underway.

 

► Denver teachers are still on strike, but negotiations have restarted between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was one of the first high-profile Republicans to endorse President Trump for re-election. Gardner is trying very hard to convince everyone else to agree with him.

 

► The U.S. Senate passed a massive public lands bill on Tuesday that includes reauthorization for the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It may be up to the House of Representatives to make sure LWCF is properly funded, however. At the very least, it’s nice to know that Congress isn’t completely broken. Just “mostly” broken.

 

 

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Colorado Republicans, Legislating with Crayons

L-E-G-I-S-L-A-T-I-O-N

Colorado Republicans lost pretty much everything in the 2018 election. There are a lot of reasons for why the GOP was wiped out in Colorado, from terrible candidates to just flat-out incompetence (not to mention a lot of this), but the GOP’s complete and utter inability to govern remains perhaps their biggest hurdle to gaining voter trust. In the final days of the 2018 election, former Senate President Kevin Grantham highlighted this problem when he made a late appeal to voters that was basically just a list of everything that Republicans failed to accomplish with their one-seat majority in the State Senate.

If the first six weeks of 2019 are any indication, Republicans don’t appear to have learned any lessons from their shellacking at the polls last fall. The GOP spent the first month of the 2019 legislative session vomiting out absurdities and engaging in prolonged idiotic arguments. On Monday, State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) proudly introduced a proposal for education funding that is just flat-out stupid.

As Anna Staver explains for the Denver Post:

Sonnenberg wants to ask voters in 2020 whether the General Assembly could take lottery dollars from the Great Outdoors Colorado fund and put them into the state’s education fund. If voters approved of the change, lawmakers in the 2021 legislative session would have the option to spend none, some or all of those outdoor dollars on public education.

“I think education funding is a priority. Colorado needs to make education funding a priority,” Sonnenberg said. “Truly, do we have enough outhouses and soccer fields? Can we now re-prioritize and use it for education? I want the voters to decide.”

Voters created the outdoors fund, which is often called GOCO, in 1992. It has spent more than $1.2 billion, according to its website. Those dollars have built 900 miles of trails, upgraded 56 playgrounds and added more than 47,000 acres into the state parks system.

So much facepalming

Before we get into why the logic behind this proposal is so flawed, consider the raw numbers involved. As the Post notes, GOCO picked up about $66.2 million in 2018, which is less than 1 percent of Colorado’s $7 billion education budget. This is sort of like promising to end homelessness by building an igloo.

The GOP position on Colorado’s budgetary needs in recent years has been to make completely unsupported claims that the state actually has plenty of money…but somebody is hiding it somewhere, or something. If you could make money grow on trees just by saying that money grows on trees, Colorado Republicans would make us all very rich.

When Colorado Republicans aren’t dreaming of pots of gold under rainbows, their other go-to message for budgeting has been to spin the tired old yarn about making tough financial choices just like the average person does when sitting at their kitchen table, blah, blah, blah. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton often talked about how Colorado could fix its transportation funding shortfalls (which add up to billions of dollars each year) if only C-DOT hadn’t spent $150 million on a new office space. If you’re trying to do the math at home, it looks like this: “2 + 2 = potato.”

Sonnenberg is doing something similar with his new proposal, suggesting that Colorado’s funding problems can be solved by regularly flipping a coin between two different budgetary needs. You can have parks and recreation areas, or you can have schools, but not both! 

On a very literal scale, Sonnenberg’s logic could (perhaps) eventually balance a budget by suffocating half of all government programs, but this isn’t a real solution. We could probably fully fund law enforcement needs in Colorado if we stopped paying firefighters, for example, but that would be stupid.

You can’t solve Colorado’s budgetary needs with false choices or double spending, but that won’t stop Republicans from floating the same wrong answers to every fiscal question.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 11)

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday; those flowers aren’t going to order themselves. ” 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…

► Today is the day that Congressional leaders were supposed to announce a deal on keeping the federal government open, but there is no indication as of yet that a proposal is in the works. President Trump and the GOP are trying (again) to blame Democrats for inaction, but as James Downie writes for the Washington Post, Republicans are going through the exact same motions that drove us into the last shutdown:

The truth is, three weeks after the last shutdown ended, the White House and the GOP still have no idea how to get out of the corner they’ve worked themselves into. They promised the base a “border wall,” but they have even less leverage now than they did when the first shutdown started. So they’ve returned to the first page of the playbook: scaremongering about violent immigrants.

Of course, we all saw how well fanning fears over immigration worked for the president and his party during the last shutdown, not to mention during last fall’s midterms. If anything, one wonders whether spinning the bed issue will make any deal harder for the GOP base to swallow. What was once a nonissue becomes, in the base’s mind, another cave.

As CNN reports, you’ll need to look elsewhere for silver linings:

Bottom line: There is no agreement on the path forward on the conference committee. There is no agreement on what, if any, alternatives could pass both chambers and be signed by the President if the conference committee fails. Monday is a crucial day as lawmakers try and figure a way out of another mess, all as the clock ticks away. At this point, each day leading into the February 15 deadline is enormously consequential.

Shutdown 2: Electric Boogaloo.

 

► Denver teachers are off the job today as part of the first DPS strike in 25 years; many students are joining the picket lines in solidarity. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association will hold a rally on the West Steps of the State Capitol this afternoon.

For more information on all things strike-related, check out this FAQ from the Denver Post or this primer from Colorado Public Radio and the Associated Press.

 

► A growing number of Americans are expressing frustration that the great Republican tax cut of 2017 isn’t doing jack squat for them. From the Washington Post:

Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds.

People have already taken to social media, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many blame President Trump and the Republicans for shrinking refunds. Some on Twitter even said they wouldn’t vote for Trump again after seeing their refunds slashed.

The uproar follows the passage of a major overhaul to the tax code in December 2017, which was enacted with only Republican votes and is considered the biggest legislative achievement of Trump’s first year. While the vast majority of Americans received a tax cut in 2018, refunds are a different matter. Some refunds have decreased because of changes in the law, such as a new limit on property and local income tax deductions, and some have decreased because of how the IRS has altered withholding in paychecks…

…The average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year compared to last, the IRS reported Friday, and the number of people receiving a refund so far has dropped by almost a quarter.

Lower tax refunds mean bad news for the American economy.

 

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Fracking Fracas: The Bill Is Coming

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Bente Birkeland and Grace Hood at Colorado Public Radio offer another preview of the big fight on the near horizon in the Colorado General Assembly–meaningfully tightening regulations on the oil and gas industry after years of intra-Democratic gridlock on the issue under the previous administration:

All parties in the debate were locked in a holding pattern under former Gov. John Hickenlooper, but Gov. Jared Polis is expected to take a different approach. Some Democrats want 2019 to be the year that significantly changes the regulation of oil and gas companies.

There’s more than activists or oil and gas companies with their eyes on the state capitol. The Front Range cities of Lafayette, Superior and Erie have all enacted drilling moratoriums to wait and see what rules the legislature adopts in 2019…

Democrats will have a difficult needle to thread on oil and gas issues, that’s why they say they’re taking their time before unveiling legislation.

“Our bills now have a fighting chance, we have to make sure that we do it right,” said Democratic Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette. He has pushed for tougher regulations in previous years, and is one of the handful of lawmakers involved in negotiations this session. “In the past, the oil and gas bills that I introduced, were introduced for a specific reason. I thought that they faced uphill battles, and in fact they did, but we still had to push the issue forward.”

CPR reports that the final legislation is coming together now, and is expected to take the form of one large bill covering a variety of subjects from giving local communities more direct control in drilling decisions to legislatively undoing the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision that controversially declared public health and safety subordinate to the “fostering” of oil and gas resource development as prescribed by existing law.

The extremely high stakes in this debate, coupled with the changed political climate at the state capitol, makes this issue by orders of magnitude the biggest issue of the 2019 legislative session that nobody is talking about in public yet. Whatever the final form this bill takes, we fully expect Republicans and the oil and gas industry to freak out as hard as they possibly can, firing off the usual warnings of a million billion jobs lost and the entire population of Colorado freezing to death.

Somewhere between the industry’s absurd hyperbole and the very real status quo of the state valuing promotion of an industry over public health, you’ll find the legislative sweet spot Democrats need to land on. And as much as the oil and gas industry wants to kill this whole effort, base Democrats and independent voters who are passionate about energy policy and climate change–and who swept Democrats into power last year–expect results.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 4)

Let the record show that the New England Patriots officially killed the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2019; there was more drama during “The Puppy Bowl.” 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…

President Trump is still threatening that he might make an “emergency declaration” in order to build his great big border wall. But as the Washington Post reports, Senate Republicans are positively terrified because of what would happen next:

According to one of the country’s leading experts on national emergencies, it appears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can trigger a process that could require the GOP-controlled Senate to hold a vote on such a declaration by Trump — which would put Senate Republicans in a horrible political position.

Trump reiterated his threat to declare a national emergency in an interview with CBS News that aired over the weekend. “I don’t take anything off the table,” Trump said, adding in a typically mangled construction that he still retains the “alternative” of “national emergency.”

But Pelosi has recourse against such a declaration — and if she exercises it, Senate Republicans may have to vote on where they stand on it.

Senate Republicans would likely be forced to take a public position on an “emergency declaration,” which leaves them backed into a corner between a rock and a hard place:

…the Senate could vote not to consider that resolution or change its rules to avoid such a vote. But in those scenarios, the Senate would, in effect, be voting to greenlight Trump’s emergency declaration.

D’oh!

 

Politico answers your questions about the State of the Union speech, which President Trump is scheduled to deliver on Tuesday.

 

► Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is expected to enter the 2020 race for U.S. Senate, according to Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman. Romanoff kinda, sorta leaked his Senate plans in mid-December before  an associate walked it back on his behalf.

Romanoff unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2010; in 2014 he came up short against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in CO-6. Former State Senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston announced his U.S. Senate bid last week.

 

 

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Again, Who’s Afraid of the NRA?

NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch (top) and CEO Wayne LaPierre

As Roll Call’s Kate Ackley reports, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading political advocacy group for gun owners that has morphed into a much broader “movement conservative” organization closely aligned with the Republican Party, seems to be losing its fabled edge in the era of Donald Trump:

The influence of the National Rifle Association, the nation’s highest-profile Second Amendment-rights organization and a longtime powerhouse against gun-control laws, is showing signs of potential decline.

The NRA’s own tax forms show a dip in revenue. And even as the group, now under the leadership of new president Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame, continues to spend big money on federal lobbying and political campaigns, its opponents in the gun-control movement, after decades of ever more deadly mass shootings and seemingly random incidents of gun violence, have been on the rise…

The NRA has found itself ensnared in controversy in recent months, some of it stemming from the special counsel probe into foreign interference in the 2016 elections. The group had ties to Maria Butina, a Russian who pleaded guilty late last year to charges of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent. Whether the gun group has allowed foreign money to infiltrate its campaign coffers also may be under investigation, according to news reports. And it’s on the hot seat for possible campaign finance violations of improperly coordinating its independent campaign expenditures with candidates, after a report by the liberal magazine Mother Jones.

The NRA faces a combination of circumstances that aggregate into a real threat, if not to the organization’s long-term existence which seems assured, than certainly the organization’s once (pardon us) bulletproof sway among virtually all Republican lawmakers and no small number of Democrats. President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 provoked a massive buying spree of firearms by (needlessly) panicked gun owners, and gun manufacturers obligingly plowed those profits right back into the NRA’s advocacy budget. But with Trump as President, the hype that motivated the frenzied buying of guns under Obama just doesn’t exist.

At the same time, the continuing and worsening toll of mass shooting events in the United States has forced the debate over guns outside the NRA’s strictly-enforced boundaries. Here in Colorado, public reaction to gun safety laws that led to recall campaigns against Democrats in 2013 would look very different now, after so many intervening mass shootings with body counts that dwarf the 2012 Aurora theater massacre.

Still another factor negatively impacting the NRA’s political strength is a perception among hardened gun-rights advocates that the NRA has gotten “soft” on the issue–a view eagerly promoted by Colorado’s own Dudley Brown, who wields great influence within the gun enthusiast community through his local and national front groups. The NRA’s recent broadening into multi-issue conservative advocacy was meant to counter this ebb in support, but it also has had the effect of driving politically neutral or even left of center supporters away.

For all of these reasons, it’s not a surprise to us that the NRA’s political relevance is on the wane. If the present trend of radicalization among gun owners continues, along with a growing movement in the United States for gun safety laws considerably tighter than the status quo today, it’s a trend that could continue. For intelligent gun-rights supporters, giving the Dudley Browns of the world more power to disrupt Republican election strategy like they did in 2018 is a disastrous prospect–but that is the trajectory today.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 30)

At least you don’t live anywhere East of Kansas, where temperatures are cooler than a penguin’s refrigerator. Let’s warm up with “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…

President Trump is taking another crap on U.S. Intelligence agencies, as the Washington Post reports:

President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the nuclear danger posed by Iran and pushing back on their assessments of the Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing.

In tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on an array of global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration.

Trump was most pointed in his pushback on the assessment of Iran. During testimony, officials said that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon and was in compliance with an agreement forged during the Obama administration from which Trump subsequently withdrew the United States…

…“Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” the president added.

Panelists at the Senate hearing included Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, so this wasn’t exactly the “C” team doing the talking.

 

► According to a new poll of Colorado voters, most people don’t support a border wall, President Trump, or Sen. Cory Gardner.

As Politico notes in a new poll about another potential government shutdown, voters have no appetite to support President Trump’s threats:

Only 31 percent of voters support shutting the government down again to force Congress to appropriate money for the wall, while nearly twice that many, 58 percent, oppose another shutdown. If the government does shut down again, a combined 54 percent would blame Trump and congressional Republicans, while just 33 percent would blame Democrats in Congress.

Trump has suggested that he could declare a “national emergency” to avert a shutdown but still build the wall — but that, too, is unpopular. A narrow, 51 percent majority opposes declaring an emergency, which is supported by 38 percent.

 

► Contract negotiations between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union are expected to resume on Thursday.

 

 

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Sen. Vicki Marble Recycles The Honey Badger

Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a.k.a. the “Honey Badger.”

Today, the Colorado Senate passed an important piece of legislation that will ensure Colorado’s Electoral College votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote–a controversial subject in smaller states including Colorado, but after the last two Republican presidents won office despite losing the popular vote, in President Donald Trump’s case by almost three million votes nationwide, a matter of increasing urgency.

Senate Bill 19-042 seems headed into law with the House likely to pass it and Gov. Jared Polis already indicating he will sign it. But Republicans in the Senate have bitterly sounded the alarm over this bill, declaring it a usurpation of Colorado’s sacred right to individual votes in presidential elections that count for more than individual votes in California and New York.

And in the case of Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, one of the fieriest of the Republican firebrands left in the Senate GOP minority, the arguments against this bill quickly veered into the twilight zone:

Transcribed:

MARBLE: Thank you Mr. Chair, I did vote against this in committee, and I am against this today. We’re talking about “every vote counts.” And I’m going to come around to this a little bit different way than anybody else has spoke on it this, this morning and afternoon and in committee. In Colorado, we are so fortunate because we have the most secure voting system in the United States. It’s really sad that all Secretary of States aren’t created equal and neither are their systems. My vote does count in Colorado, I am assured of that. But on the national level, I have a question that I want to pose to you.

When you look at Texas, 95,000 people identified by the Department of Public Safety were non-US citizens, and 58,000 of those voted in one or more Texas elections. But voter fraud isn’t just in Texas. [Pols emphasis] It’s in voting districts nationwide. Eight Virginia counties had 1,046 noncitizen registered to vote. In Pennsylvania, they sent out 100,000 voter registration cards. And they weren’t sent to people who were registered voters, they were just sent to people who had driver’s licenses.

My vote and your vote should not be cancelled out by the national popular vote of those who may not even be citizens and we know a lot of them aren’t. Until we get equal, equal safety precautions across our nation, in the Secretary of States to be able to ensure that our voters are having their voice heard. But my vote and your vote should not be cancelled out by another state who is registering people who have no legal authority to vote. The national popular vote for U.S. citizens or the national vote for just anybody who cares to cast their vote on that day, this is exactly what this bill does. The Boston Herald is the one who came out with all of these numbers, and I’m glad that did. It was updated today. Perfect timing for second reading.

But honestly, when you look at Colorado and how lucky we are, how can we give our votes to the national popular vote when we don’t even know if these people are U.S. citizens. So I am a no, a very very huge no, on 42.

So, there’s a lot of crazy to unpack. It’s very interesting to see Sen. Marble laud Colorado’s mail ballot election system as the “most secure in the United States,” since the overwhelming consensus among the vote-fraud conspiracy theory crowd is that Colorado’s elections are wildly insecure.

But the really interesting part here is Marble’s claim that 58,000 “noncitizens” voted in Texas elections. Politifact just addressed this false claim after President Donald Trump himself Tweeted about it, and their debunking will ring quite familiar to followers of Colorado politics:

State officials looked at two sets of data for their current investigation: the names of people who provided documents indicating they were not citizens when they obtained a driver’s license or a state ID, and the names of people who registered to vote.

That resulted in a list of 95,000 people with a current driver’s license or state ID who also had a voter registration record in Texas. Of those, 58,000 people voted in elections back to 1996, said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the secretary of State…

“Indeed, between 52,000-63,000 are naturalized every year in Texas,” Texas Civil Rights Project spokesman Zenén Jaimes Pérez told PolitiFact. [Pols emphasis]

Back in 2011, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler performed a very similar “analysis” of Colorado records to produce a list of thousands of supposed “noncitizen voters.” In truth Gessler’s wild claims of thousands of illegal voters resulted in a ridiculously tiny number of actual prosecutions for vote fraud–literally less than a dozen. The reason was simple: although some voters had obtained driver’s licenses as noncitizens, during the period in question tens of thousands of Colorado residents became U.S. citizens–more than enough to account for any supposed discrepancy. Similarly in Texas, enough people are naturalized every year to account for the 58,000 alleged to have voted since 1996.

It’s remarkable to us that four years after Gessler left office, the false claims he made that were debunked all those years ago–and even the same flawed methodology that produced them–are being repeated in Texas, reported uncritically by Texas media, and then regurgitated back here in Colorado where everyone should know better.

Anyway, now you do. Please tell your friends.

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So, About That GOP Tax Cut Bill…

TUESDAY UPDATE: Apropos from the Colorado Sun’s Brian Eason:

President Donald Trump’s $400 billion federal tax cut for pass-through businesses has emerged as a top target of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis as he looks to eliminate corporate tax breaks to pay for a statewide income tax cut.

The Democratic governor’s goal: A permanent cut to the state income tax rate that would lower the tax bills of most Colorado households and many businesses. But to pay for it, some wealthy households and businesses — namely large retailers and a wide category of companies that includes law firms and much of the financial industry — would see their taxes go up…

Polis wants to eliminate an unspecified amount of corporate income tax breaks to pay for a cut to the state’s income tax rate. In the campaign Polis said he hoped to reduce income taxes by 3 to 5 percent — or up to $450 million. But administration officials now are cautioning that the number will depend on the value of the tax breaks they’re able to eliminate. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Just over a week ago, the Colorado Fiscal Institute put out their detailed analysis of a Republican tax cut bill introduced this session–Senate Bill 19-055, which would cut the state’s income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.49%, would cost the state an estimated $280 million while reducing taxes by a whopping $59 on a resident earning $60,000 per year.

The net effect (or lack thereof) was best illustrated by this table from the CFI:

The politics of this bill, which is likely to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate Finance Committee tomorrow afternoon, were briefly scrambled after Gov. Jared Polis Tweeted in apparent support shortly after it was announced by the Senate GOP minority. One of Gov. Polis’ platform planks as he took office, after all, was a shake-up of the tax system, with the goal of relief for individuals and more skin in the game for wealthy corporate interests.

Under the hood, as CFI explained well in their analysis, this legislation doesn’t do anything to accomplish Polis’ goal of changing the tax system in a “revenue neutral” manner. It simply cuts taxes, and regressively at that–providing almost no relief to the residents who everyone likes to say need tax relief the most. If we really want to give meaningful tax relief to working families, programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit are a far better way to direct it.

Because this particular bill never really had a chance in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, most observers we’ve talked to think that Gov. Polis was more interested in showing good faith on one component of his agenda, with the party who wants to hear about that part the most. In reality, a reduction in any particular tax rate will have to be part of a larger conversation–one that takes into account the state’s long-term fiscal shortfall, and a realistic appraisal of the backlog in funding priorities of every kind.

Suffice to say that we’re in the very earliest stages of that discussion.

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Time To Hang Up And Drive, Colorado?

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd reports on a perennial bill introduced in the Colorado legislature that, while it hasn’t passed in previous sessions, might see a different outcome this year in under unified Democratic control–legislation to expand on the state’s existing ban on texting while driving to requiring drivers to be fully hands-free if the call truly can’t wait:

A state lawmaker says it’s not enough to ban texting while driving, the current law in Colorado. Sen. Lois Court, a Democrat representing Denver, wants to ban drivers from using hand-held phones altogether.

“This is designed to stop dangerous behavior,” said Court…

Opponents, including the ACLU and Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, say the bill goes too far, equating holding a phone while driving with reckless driving.

“Bills like this become symbolism, they don’t give you results,” Denise Maes with the ACLU told lawmakers.

A vote on Sen. Lois Court’s bill was delayed following testimony yesterday to give proponents a chance to make changes suggested during the hearing. Banning holding a phone while driving isn’t a proposal that necessarily has clean partisan cleavage, and there are legitimate countervailing public safety and personal freedom arguments to consider. Much the same way they say “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged,” it’s possible that your view of this bill will depend on how close you’ve personally come to being in a space-time conflict with a driver distracted by their phone.

A poll follows–good idea, or trampling your sacred right to screen addiction?

Should Colorado ban the use of hand-held phones while driving?
Yes
No
Not sure/other
RECALL
View Result
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Get More Smarter on Friday (January 25)

Roger Stone channels Richard Nixon. 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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone has been arrested by the FBI after being indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice. As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains, this is a YUGE deal:

The indictment and arrest of longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone Friday morning in Florida fills in a big missing piece of the emerging picture that special counsel Robert Mueller is painting: The Trump campaign actively sought to communicate and coordinate with WikiLeaks in regard to stolen emails aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Here’s more from the Washington Post, including Stone’s reference to the “Godfather” movies:

The most politically explosive allegation in special counsel Bob Mueller’s seven-count indictment of Roger Stone — who was arrested early Friday morning during an FBI raid of his home in Florida — is that he lied to Congress when he denied discussing his advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ email dumps with anyone involved in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign…

…Prosecutors say Stone made repeated references to “The Godfather: Part II” in December 2017 as he pushed an unnamed “Person 2” to not tell the truth to the House Intelligence Committee so he could cover up his role. “People close to the case said Person 2 is New York comedian Randy Credico,” per Rosalind Helderman, Devlin Barrett and John Wagner.

 

On Day 35 of the federal government shutdown, the airports began to buckle. As the New York Times reports:

Significant flight delays were rippling across the Northeast on Friday because of a shortage of air traffic controllers as a result of the government shutdown, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The delays were cascading along the Eastern Seaboard, reaching as far north as Boston. But La Guardia was the only airport that had been closed off to departing flights from other cities because it was so crowded with planes taking off and landing on a weekday morning. Delays on flights into La Guardia were averaging almost an hour and a half, the F.A.A. said.

 

► The Senate held votes on two bills Thursday aimed at (theoretically) ending the government shutdown, but both pieces of legislation were DOA. From the Washington Post:

Senate leaders scrambled Friday in search of a deal that would satisfy President Trump on border security and end the partial government shutdown as major delays at airports around the country produced a heightened sense of urgency.

“We’re still working on it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview outside his office when asked if an agreement might emerge Friday with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) did a very Gardner-esque thing by voting YES on both failed bills. As Westword notes:

Gardner issued a statement praising President Trump’s weekend proposal to end the government shutdown, which asks for Democrats to give him $5.7 billion for his Mexico border wall/collection of steel slats in exchange for a three-year reprieve involving participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Gardner voted for it and the rival Democratic measure that would have ended the ongoing partial federal shutdown without funding the wall.

Talk about trying to have it both ways. [Pols emphasis]

Some 800,000 federal workers will miss another paycheck today.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is making national headlines after going OFF on the Senate floor Thursday in response to a nonsense speech from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. As The Denver Post explains:

“I seldom, as you know, rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side,” Bennet said during a floor speech. “I have worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer, with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.”

Cruz took the floor ahead of Thursday’s failed votes on two different bills to reopen the government and urged Democrats to vote for a bill to appropriate the money needed to pay federal workers during the shutdown.

That bothered Bennet because the Texas Republican led a charge to shut down the federal government in 2013 over funding for the Affordable Care Act. That 16-day shutdown coincided with the aftermath of a deadly flood that killed eight people in Colorado, and Bennet said the government’s closure delayed relief efforts.

 
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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 23)

Happy “Bounty Day,” everyone; be sure to celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Here’s the latest news on the government shutdown, now in its 33rd day. From the Washington Post:

House Democrats are prepared to support new levels of border security funding, but not a wall, if President Trump agrees to reopen the government first, lawmakers and aides said Wednesday.

The proposal, which Democrats plan to put into a formal letter to Trump, will include border security improvements such as retrofitting ports of entry, new sensors and drones, more immigration judges and border patrol agents, and additional technology, among other measures.

The letter was not final and the exact figure Democrats will suggest was not yet determined, but aides said it would be higher than the levels Democrats have supported in the past, which have ranged from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.

Some Democrats suggested they would even be willing to meet Trump’s request for $5.7 billion — as long as it goes for technology and other improvements, not the physical wall the president is seeking.

Democrats remain opposed to offering any funding for Trump’s great big wall, and new polling data shows that they are on the right side of the American public. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump’s disapproval rating is at an all-time high amid a historically long partial government shutdown and concerns about the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Nearly 6-in-10 voters — 57 percent — disapprove of Trump’s job performance, compared to the 40 percent that approve. In addition, 54 percent of voters blame Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill for the government shutdown. Only 35 percent blame congressional Democrats…

…While 43 percent support the construction of a border wall — compared to 49 percent who oppose construction — only 7 percent of voters said that they support dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way to end the government shutdown. [Pols emphasis]

That’s compared to 72 percent who oppose dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way.

In local shutdown news, CBS4 Denver reports on local “Dreamers” who see President Trump’s offer of temporary protections for immigrants as a “bargaining chip for our lives.”

 

President Trump is insisting that he be allowed to deliver his State of the Union Speech in the House chambers. As CNN reports:

President Donald Trump insisted in a letter Wednesday he would deliver his annual State of the Union address from the chamber of the US House next week as planned, telling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi her concerns about security during a partial government shutdown were unfounded…

…He said the speech would occur on January 29 from the House chamber.

“It would be so very sad for our country, if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” he wrote. [Pols emphasis]

As speaker, it is Pelosi’s prerogative to invite the President to deliver the annual address. Both the House and the Senate would need to pass resolutions convening a Joint Session of Congress before the President’s appearance. And it’s not yet clear — despite Trump’s insistence he would be appearing in the Capitol next Tuesday — whether Pelosi would take the required steps.

In times like these — with a record government shutdown and an administration under investigation for federal crimes — it’s important that we focus on the things that are most important. You know, like making sure that the State of the Union speech is delivered at its traditional location.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is still getting whacked over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols).

Saine’s ridiculous antics — this is a pattern of behavior, remember — has earned her a new title from Westword: “Colorado’s Nastiest, Most Clueless Politician.”

This week, Colorado Representative Lori Saine stirred controversy (again) with a “tribute” to Martin Luther King Jr. in which she argued that blacks and whites were once lynched in “almost equal numbers.” She also struck back against naysayers by claiming that a fellow white Republican was a victim of reverse racism.

This combination of idiocy and vindictiveness is Saine’s brand, as Westword has documented over the past decade.

Even the Russians think Saine is a bit nutty. Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, remain silent about Saine.

 

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Who’s “Overreaching” On Guns Again?

Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Denver7’s Russell Haythorn reports on the debate over gun legislation at the Colorado Capitol this year, which primarily centers on a bill allowing a court to temporarily order the removal of firearms from persons in a mental health crisis–legislation which passed last year in the House with bipartisan support only to die in the then-GOP held Senate, but is greased to pass this year:

With the balance of power now squarely in the hands of Democrats at the Colorado statehouse, there’s a new push for stronger gun control.

The so-called “red flag” bill would allow judge’s in Colorado to seize firearms from gun owners who are deemed mentally unstable.

Gun-rights advocates call that measure a shameless ploy.

“Make no mistake about it, this bill is designed to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens,” said Dudley Brown, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

A poll released last May by Keating Research shows that in Colorado, 81% of the public supports a “red flag” law of the kind that died last year at the hands of the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. It’s a similar situation to the gun safety laws that were passed in 2013, which similarly enjoyed majority public support even as they were savaged by the extremely vocal gun lobby. “Red flag” bills have passed in a total of 13 states, including states with Republican governors and legislatures like Indiana and Florida.

On any other issue, it would be a considerable stretch to call legislation with 81% public support an example of “legislative overreach,” but as Haythorn reports, it was gun legislation that drove the 2013 recalls against state senate Democrats–recalls that have served as a catch-all boogeyman invoked by Republicans against Democrats ever since.

Outside the angry bubble of the gun lobby, however, the gun issue has politically evolved since 2013. Continuing mass shooting tragedies with record-setting body counts like the October 2017 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have shifted public opinion, and made the no-compromise stonewall from Republicans under the influence of the gun lobby politically unsustainable. That’s one reason why in 2018, you saw a number of high-profile Colorado Republicans like attorney general candidate George Brauchler and Rep. Cole Wist come out in support of a red flag bill. RMGO responded by targeting both Brauchler and Wist with negative messages to the Republican base in 2018–and they both lost, satisfying Dudley Brown but only making passage of this bill more likely.

“Gun owners across this state are worried that the legislature is going to do again – what it did in 2013,” Brown said. “And that is take big leaps to turn us into California.”

Colorado’s 2013 legislature banned high capacity magazines and private gun sales.

The move backfired on some Democrats. Some lawmakers were recalled, and the party lost control of the state legislature in 2014.

With all of this in mind, to accuse Democrats of “overreach” for passing a red flag law supported by over 80% of the public, just like in 2013 when Democrats passed a universal background check law supported by a similar overwhelming majority, is spin to the point of absurdity. That this is not immediately apparent in every relevant local news story reflects the way the fringe of the gun debate–in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners–has dictated the terms of this debate for years.

At some point, maybe the local press will realize the guy on the 19% side of the equation doesn’t deserve “equal time.”

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 22)

If you have gone the entire month without once writing “2018,” then give yourself a nice pat on the back. Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The federal government shutdown is now in its 32nd day, and supporters of President Trump are increasingly getting fed up with the man they helped elect to the White House. From the Washington Post:

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?”  [Pols emphasis] he asked the other night inside a Walmart here, in an area of blue-collar suburban Detroit that helped deliver the presidency to Trump.

While Trump’s relationship with much of his base remains strong, two years after his inauguration his ties are fraying with voters like Jeff Daudert, the kind who voted in droves for Trump in key pockets throughout the industrial Midwest, flipping previously Democratic states to him in 2016. The shutdown fight, as it has played out over the past month, is further eroding the president’s support among voters who like the idea of beefing up border security — but not enough to close the government.

Many here, even those who still support Trump, say they hold him most responsible. They recite his comment from the Oval Office that he would be “proud to shut down the government.” When he said it, they listened. [Pols emphasis]

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?” If there is a more perfect quote for Trump supporters, we’d love to see it.

 

► In local shutdown news, Colorado has spent more than $100,000 on unemployment benefits for federal workers who aren’t getting paychecks anymore; Gov. Jared Polis authorized an emergency rule to allow federal employees who remain on the job (without pay) to apply for unemployment benefits.

As the Denver Post reports, the shutdown is causing significant economic damage across a broad range of sectors in Colorado.

 

Senate Republicans have ceded the shutdown/border wall debate to President Trump, offering little resistance to their man in the White House. And as Politico reports, upcoming Senate legislation to end the shutdown is filled with sharp, pointy bits that won’t do much for a compromise:

A 1,300-page spending bill released by Senate Republicans Monday night contains provisions to restrict asylum and other hard-line immigration changes that make it unlikely to generate bipartisan support.

Democrats already were poised to reject President Donald Trump’s proposal to pass his $5.7 billion funding request for a border wall in exchange for temporary protections for some immigrants brought to the United States as children and others covered by a humanitarian status. But hawkish measures embedded in the Republican spending bill will give Democrats even more reason to spurn the legislation.

“This is a Stephen Miller special,” Kerri Talbot, a director with the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Hub, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a Trojan horse with many extreme immigration proposals included.”

The bill doesn’t appear likely to end a partial shutdown of the federal government that stretched into its 32nd day Tuesday.

Elsewhere, CNN takes a look at six potential scenarios that could possibly lead to an end of the government shutdown.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is getting blasted in both local and national press over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols). Here’s a brief rundown of the coverage.

You know you done f*cked up when even Fox News calls you out.

 

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A Few Words About Democratic Women And GOP Sausage Fests

2019 Womxn’s March Denver.

2019’s long MLK Day weekend kicked off with the third annual Womxn’s March in Denver and cities across the nation, and in that spirit Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland takes stock today of the growing legislative power of women in our state–an historic majority comprised of women in the Colorado House, and continued gains in the Colorado Senate, all of which were realized in 2018 by Democratic candidates:

In 1894, Colorado elected the nation’s first female state lawmakers in three Republican women. However, these days the gender gains mostly happen on the other side of the aisle.

When Democratic Rep. Meg Froelich was sworn in to fill a vacancy left by a male colleague who moved to the Senate earlier this month, she helped cement the chamber’s new female majority 34 to 31 — 26 of those women are Democrats. Overall, the Democratic majority is 41 to 24…

A total of 286 women have served in the General Assembly in contrast to 3,081 men, going back to when Colorado was a territory, according to figures from the Legislative Council. Statehood was ratified in August of 1876. Most of the gains for women in the legislature have come in modern times and in recent years groups like Emerge Colorado have played a role. The local affiliate is part of a national organization working across half of the states in the U.S. Emerge recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.

Although 2018 saw big gains for both women generally and Democratic women candidates in particular, As Birkeland reports Republicans actually lost two women in the Colorado General Assembly. One reason for this difference has been the robust effort by local Democrats to recruit and train qualified women through organizations like Emerge Colorado, combined with a an affirmative political strategy to field women candidates for which there simply was no equivalent among Republicans. In wins for Democratic women against male Republicans last year, including the ouster of entrenched Republicans like Tim Neville, the results speak for themselves.

But for Republicans, especially the Colorado Senate GOP minority, the one bit of progress we can report is there are finally as many women in their caucus as guys named Kevin! Because one of the two Kevins, former Sen. Kevin Lundberg, was termed out last year. There’s no real way to make excuses for this massive disparity, since from Donald Trump to Randy Baumgardner the reasons are obvious. You can only choose not to care.

And again–in 2018, the results of that strategy spoke for themselves.

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Income Tax Rate Reduction Benefits Highest Income Coloradans Most

POLS UPDATE: The Colorado Sun’s Brian Eason reports on the budding debate over SB19-055 after Gov. Jared Polis Tweeted favorably about it yesterday afternoon:

Hours after Democratic Gov. Jared Polis cheered a Republican effort to cut income taxes by 3 percent, a liberal policy group issued a sharp rebuttal…

To be clear, there are key differences between Polis’ plan to cut taxes up to 5 percent by eliminating as much as $450 million in corporate tax breaks and the Republican bill, which would just cut taxes without offsets.

But at best, liberals view Polis’ tax plan as a missed opportunity to spend the money diverted from corporate tax breaks on top priorities.

It’s important to note the difference between Gov. Jared Polis’ proposal to pay for any income tax cuts with the elimination of tax breaks, which he characterized as “revenue-neutral” in his State of the State address last week, versus perennial Republican proposals to simply cut taxes and absorb the future cost with spending cuts. It’s early in the first legislative session of Polis’ new term, and Polis’ warm reception of a Republican tax cut bill could be viewed differently in the broader context of Polis’ full fiscal agenda.

Or not. Shrewd strategy or a first misstep? We’ll be watching closely. Original post follows:

—–

(Crossposted from ColoradoFiscal.org)

Impact of an income tax rate reduction from 4.63 percent to 4.49 percent

The wealthiest see the greatest reduction

Reducing the Colorado income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.49 percent, the amount proposed in recently introduced legislation at the state capitol (SB19-055), will mean $280 million less for essential public investments. That’s because the income tax is the largest revenue source for the General Fund – the part of the state budget responsible for funding schools, Medicaid, colleges, courts, prisons, and human services. This retreat of state support would affect the budgets of all Colorado families, making it more difficult for them to make ends meet. And while proponents of tax cuts claim they provide “relief” to Coloradans, the top 1 percent would see the amount they pay in taxes fall by a greater amount than the dollar amount of the reduction for the bottom 70 percent of taxpayers.

Put another way, because an across-the-board income tax rate reduction reflects the current concentration of the incomes of Colorado taxpayers, those earning $1 million will see their tax bills fall by around $1,250 while the tax obligation for a worker earning the minimum wage will be reduced by just $6.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 15)

We’re halfway through the NBA season, and the Denver Nuggets are still the best team in the Western Conference. Get on the bandwagon, people! Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump’s nominee to be the next Attorney General is sitting before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Confirmation hearings for William Barr are largely focused on how the former George H.W. Bush AG would handle the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation into potential collusion between Trump and Russia. The New York Times is following Barr’s confirmation hearings with live updates.

 

► President Trump may own the ongoing federal government shutdown, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are more-than-willing partners. McConnell and pals — like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner — are getting more attention as enablers of Trump’s disastrous policies.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Colorado Democrats are pushing hard for an end to the shutdown:

As the country entered the fourth week of the partial government shutdown, Colorado’s Democratic delegation to Congress had a unified message for Republican leadership: End the shutdown now. Discuss border security later.

U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet held a news conference Monday at Denver International Airport that overlooked airport security, where Transportation Security Administration workers served travelers without pay.

There are more than 15,000 federal employees that are furloughed or working without pay in Colorado.

The legislators emphasized that if the Democratic House majority and the Republican Senate majority work together, they can end the partial government shutdown without President Trump’s approval.

Meanwhile, stories about the local impact of the shutdown continue to dominate headlines here in Colorado. The City of Denver is offering grants for federal workers to help them make mortgage payments.

 

► As the New York Times reports, a federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s attempts to put a citizenship query on the next U.S. Census questionnaire:

The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.

In a lengthy and stinging ruling, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, committed “a veritable smorgasbord” of violations of federal procedural law when he ordered the citizenship question added.

Mr. Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Judge Furman wrote.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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2018 Colorado House Vote Totals

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Much of the attention has been about the 41 seats out of 65 that Democrats captured in the house or the double digit margin of victory for Jared Polis in the governor’s race. A margin of 10.62% is nothing to disparage, but the Democratic victory in the Colorado House of Representatives was even larger. Adding up all the votes for house candidates shows that Democrats won the statewide vote by a margin of 12.27%.

This result shows the power of turn out. There were 27,178 fewer votes for Democratic candidates than they picked up for governor, but the Republicans suffered a down ballot drop-off of 55,036. Put another way Democratic candidates performed 2.01% worse than their candidate for governor, but Republicans performed 5.09% worse. Some of this is Republicans entirely failing to field a candidate in five very blue districts, but looking at similar districts and the lower turn out for the unopposed Democrats it seems likely to me that the Democratic margin would only have been reduced to 11.75% if the Republicans had run in every district.

Because there is no easy way to compare Colorado State Senate districts using the spreadsheet provided by the SoS office I have not tried to do so, but it is interesting that Democrats did not win the same way they did in the house. Is this the power of incumbency? The districts being slightly more conservative? I am not sure. Though it seems likely that when 2022 comes around there will be big state senate gains for Democrats due to redistricting and the large population gains along the front range.

Governor
53.42% Democratic 1,348,888
42.80% Republican 1,080,801
2.75%   Libertarian 69,519
1.02%   Unity Party 25,854
Total votes: 2,525,062

State House
54.80% Democratic 1,321,710
42.53% Republican 1,025,765
1.42% Independent 34,298
0.71% Libertarian 17,153
0.50% unaffiliated 12,149
0.04% Unity Party 874
Total votes: 2411949
Total Drop-off: -4.48% : -113,113
Dem Drop-off: -2.01% : -27,178
Rep Drop-off: -5.09% : -55,036

State Senate
50.32% Democratic 608,037
46.75% Republican 564,971
1.98% Libertarian 23,898
0.67% Independent 8,156
0.28% unaffiliated 3,328
Total votes: 1,208,390

Next Time: What the executive races say about how the Democrats did in 2018.

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Sen. Owen Hill Hits a New Low

Sen. Owen Hill (R).

Yesterday, the Colorado General Assembly held a training session on workplace sexual harassment to address the issue, following an historic reckoning in the 2018 session that resulted in the first-in-a-century expulsion of a sitting lawmaker, Democratic-turned-Republican Rep. Steve Lebsock, and the eventual resignation of by some accounts the worst offender of all, Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs. A second Republican Senator, Jack Tate, announced that he will not run again following an investigation into his misconduct with a Senate aide.

Although politically a no-brainer, yesterday’s training was not expressly mandatory–and as 9NEWS reports, two Republican Senators chose not only to forego the training but complain about it the indignity of it all:

The training was not mandatory and two state Senators decided not to attend. 9NEWS spoke to both Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who gave varying reasons for not attending.

Coram said it was hinted to him the training was mandatory and said he didn’t like being bullied…

Note that the “bullying” alleged here appears to be Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, who 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger reports “strongly encouraged” Republican Senators to attend. But we’ll set aside Sen. Don Coram’s red-on-red objections to focus on the comments of another Republican, Sen. Owen Hill. Not content to simply tell reporters he didn’t have to attend, Hill launched into a hypocritical tirade over yesterday’s sexual harassment training that obliges a response:

[Sen. Owen] Hill, on the other hand, took a different tack, saying the training was “sanctimonious hypocrisy.”

“The Senate Leadership illegally fired ou[r] Senate secretary for taking a stand against sexual harassment and now they want to lecture me?” he asked. [Pols emphasis]

In order to understand just how egregiously Sen. Hill is misrepresenting the facts, let’s review. In response to the findings by multiple redundant investigations that allegations of sexual harassment at least two Republican Senators were credible, a retaliatory complaint was filed against Democratic Sen. Daniel Kagan by now-ousted GOP Sen. Beth Humenik. This complaint alleged that Sen. Kagan had used an unmarked restroom reserved for female Senators and staff. No allegation of any misconduct other than using the wrong unmarked bathroom was ever made or found by the resulting investigation.

As we wrote about when it occurred last November, the former Senate Secretary Effie Ameen who served under GOP majority leadership was fired by incoming Democrats, reportedly due to her handling of sexual harassment complaints against Baumgardner and Tate–all the while helping to throw Kagan under the bus for his comparatively minor offense. The details here are critical to understand: as Democrats pushed last spring for a vote to expel Baumgardner, the results of a second investigation validating the allegations against him were kept under wraps by GOP Senate leadership–who then rushed a vote on the motion to expel before that second investigation could be disclosed. We only know what has been reported on the aftermath of this, principally by Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland, but it’s clear that Democrats held Ameen partly responsible for this cover-up.

Either way it’s a wholesale falsehood for Hill to claim that the former Senate Secretary “took a stand against sexual harassment” with regard to Kagan, because Kagan was never accused of sexual harassment. The truth of the matter as we understand it is that Kagan had medical problems that fully account for his use of the wrong unmarked bathroom–and nothing more needs to be said.

With that established, what we have is Owen Hill disgracefully turning a blind eye to the reality of sexual harassment committed by fellow Republican lawmakers–choosing instead to falsely attack a Democratic lawmaker who did not commit sexual harassment, all the while declaring that he has no need to attend sexual harassment training.

In short, Hill just proved why yesterday’s training should have been mandatory.

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Senator Owen Hill: Poetry Critic

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Owen Hill (R).

UPDATE: Senator Hill replied with a statement at the end of this post.

Governor Jared Polis took the oath of office today on the west steps of the state capitol. The ceremony featured a diverse group of speakers, religious leaders, poets and performers, all celebrating the inauguration of Colorado’s 43rd governor.

State Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) attended the event. The Senator is known to like yoga but apparently not poetry, or at least not the poetry he heard today. Hill used Facebook to dismiss at least one of the two poets who read their work at today’s inauguration ceremony for Governor Jared Polis, saying, “Just because you dress funny and no one understands what you are talking about, it doesn’t make you a poet.”

The two poets on the inaugural agenda were Anne Waldman and Toluwanimi Obiwole. Both have received considerable acclaim for their work.

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