Gold Dome Sexual Harassment: Only An Election Can Fix This

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

As the Colorado Independent’s John Herrick reports, a few members of the Colorado General Assembly convened yesterday as a “Legislative Workplace Interim Study Committee,” to address an issue that dominated the headlines during the 2018 session of the legislature: what has been exposed to be a pervasive and well-entrenched culture of sexual harassment by lawmakers against lobbyists, legislative staffers, and even fellow elected officials.

Certainly no one can object to a meeting to address this crisis, which resulted in the expulsion of one lawmaker this year and what should have been career-ending allegations against at least one other. Unfortunately, as Herrick explains, there’s little reason to be optimistic that this committee will be able to effectively tackle the problem.

And why, you ask? Because Republicans and Democrats on this committee do not agree on the facts of what happened this year or what to do about it:

Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican, mostly dismissed sexual misconduct complaints brought against three members of his party: Baumgardner, Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial and Larry Crowder of Alamosa. In the House, Duran, a Democrat, called on Lebsock to resign before an investigation into allegations of harassment were completed. She also stripped him and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who was accused of making unwanted sexual advances on another gay man at a political event in 2012, of their committee leadership positions. Duran dismissed the complaint against Rosenthal because the allegations occurred before he was in office.

Hoping to iron out a policy that can be enforced fairly and consistently, leaders from both the House and Senate called for the summer committee to meet over the interim between sessions. From the Senate, they appointed Sens. Bob Gardner, a Republican from Colorado Springs, Beth Martinez Humenik, a Republican from Westminster, and Dominick Moreno, a Democrat from Commerce City. From the House, they named Lori Saine, a Republican from Firestone, and Faith Winter, a Democrat from Westminster. Speaker Duran — a term-limited Democrat from Denver — appointed herself to the committee that she chairs.

The choices made by Republicans to serve on this committee are problematic to say the least. Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik was a steadfast ally of Senate President Kevin Grantham as Grantham deliberately worked to undermine the investigation into Sen. Randy Baumgardner’s repeated confirmed instances of sexual harassment. It was Sen. Humenik who stood with Grantham at the press conference in which Grantham punted responsibility for the actions of his caucus, arguing that a criminal offense should be the minimum standard for intervening in harassment cases unlike every other workplace in Colorado. Worse, Humenik helped Senate Republicans deflect from the credible allegations against Baumgardner by filing an frivolous retaliatory complaint against a Democratic Senator accused of using an unmarked women’s bathroom.

As for Sen. Bob Gardner, as Herrick reports, he helped kill a bill to set new standards for sexual harassment cases on college campuses that even Sen. Humenik supported, in addition to his loquacious defense of Sen. Baumgardner during the unsuccessful hearing to expel Baumgardner from the Senate. Rep. Lori Saine, one of the legislature’s most embarrassment-prone members herself, claimed that Steve Lebsock’s serial harassment of women and retaliation against accusers simply didn’t rise to the level of expulsion–a view that fortunately didn’t prevail with her fellow House Republicans.

For all of these reasons, there is very little hope that this committee will be able to come up with anything like a comprehensive solution to ensure women who work at the state capitol in any capacity are protected from harassment and abuse. The actions of Republicans in the Colorado legislature have made such a mockery of the proper way any responsible employer should respond sexual harassment allegations that to expect them to come up with a solution is simply ludicrous. There’s no solving a problem when half the people tasked with solving the problem don’t think there’s a problem.

But there is one sure-fire way for the voters of Colorado to make this right, and that is to relieve the Republican Party of its one-seat Senate majority in the November elections. In the end, the failure of the Colorado General Assembly to police itself on sexual harassment is the failure of Republican Senate leadership. Every Colorado Senate race is now a battleground for the #MeToo movement.

If that’s not a powerful message to carry into election season, we don’t know what is.

Lang Sias Move Could Change Top Senate Race

Christine Jensen.

Walker Stapleton’s decision to tap Arvada Rep. Lang Sias to be his running mate at the top of the Republican ticket in 2018 may lead to a significant domino effect that could change the makeup of at least one big legislative race in Jefferson County.

Sias was running for re-election in HD-27, where he would almost certainly have won in November in what has proven to be a reliably-conservative district in recent years. But now that he is running for Lieutenant Governor, Sias can’t still be on the ballot in HD-27. Republicans will need a new candidate for that House seat.

Sias’ departure from the race in HD-27 only makes this seat marginally more competitive for Democrats, but the bigger impact could be in nearby Senate District 20. State Rep. Jessie Danielson is the Democratic candidate in SD-20 who is running to succeed term-limited Democrat “Unaffiliated” Sen. Cheri Jahn; Democrats have generally fared well in this Wheat Ridge/Golden/Arvada district, but SD-20 is always among the most competitive State Senate races in the state because of its voter registration makeup, and it is again a top target for both parties in 2018. The Republican candidate here is Christine Jensen, a longtime resident who lost out to…wait for it…Lang Sias when a Republican vacancy committee needed to replace Rep. Libby Szabo in 2015.

It makes plenty of sense for Jensen to seek the HD-27 Republican vacancy once again, where she would be the favorite to waltz into office in November instead of running as a slight underdog in SD-20. Jensen would also be a better ideological fit in HD-27; she is probably a bit too conservative for the Senate district. This is similar to how Sias managed to salvage his political career after multiple losses in successive elections (Sias lost a GOP Primary in CD-7 before dropping successive State Senate bids, first to Democrat Evie Hudak and later in a Republican Primary for the same seat by Laura Woods; Democrat Rachel Zenzinger unseated Woods in 2016). Had Sias not made it through that 2015 GOP vacancy committee, he would not be in a position today to be Stapleton’s running mate, so there’s no shame in Jensen following a similar path.

If Jensen seeks the vacancy in HD-27, Republicans would have to scramble to find a new candidate in SD-20. This probably isn’t an ideal scenario for Senate Republicans, but it’s a pretty easy call for Jensen.

 

“Unite Colorado” Rally a Sad Sack of Fizzle

9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger Tweeted photos from today’s “rally” for the so-called Unite Colorado slate of candidates, formerly known as the Centrist Project–an out-of-state funded project supporting state legislative candidates running mostly in swing Democratic districts, with the clear purpose of splitting Democratic votes and electing Republicans despite an oncoming Democratic “wave year.”

As we’ve discussed it’s a novel strategy, but judging from today’s turnout it’s not amounting to much:

The “Unite Colorado” candidates running to disrupt tight Democratic races (with a few token Republican-held districts thrown in for what we assume are diversionary purposes) have quite a bit in common strategically with the “Walk Away” movement being promoted by conservative media outlets–both attempting to demoralize and divide Democrats, and thereby reduce what are almost universally expected to be major Democratic gains in the midterm elections. None of the Unite Colorado candidates need to win in order to achieve their objectives, only pull enough votes away from Democrats in close races to swing them–much the same way that Libertarian candidates have undercut Republicans in swing races for many years.

But where Libertarians have a well-established party apparatus and ideological niche they speak for, Unite Colorado is a contrived movement, led by a young conservative activist who actually says that “It doesn’t really matter to voters” where you “stand on the issues.” It doesn’t even matter if you agree! It’s only important, says Nick Troiano, that your candidates be “different.”

All told it’s an insult to the intelligence of all voters, but especially Democratic voters.

As of today, though, it doesn’t look like many real-life Democrats are buying in.

You In? Asks The Boob-Grabbin’ Senate GOP Majority

The Republican Colorado Senate Majority Fund kicked off their campaign to hold the GOP’s one-seat majority in the one chamber of the Colorado legislature they control last week–an uphill battle after sexual harassment scandals dominated the headlines from the past session, and the Republican leadership of the Senate in particular failed in dramatic fashion to confront the problem.

With that in mind, we respectfully submit a small change to the Senate Majority Fund’s “Defend the Majority” campaign logo — with the infamous “Boob Grabber” in mind:

We think this helps clarify the stakes in the 2018 elections…quite well.

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

How Ray Scott Beats The High Cost of Denver Living

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports–Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, who regularly appears in the political scandal sheets over such matters as his fraught business dealings and squabbles with local media, is in trouble once again for apparently double-billing both the state and his re-election campaign for a sizable reimbursement of transportation expenses:

Sen. Ray Scott billed state taxpayers for more than $1,000 in Uber rides during this year’s legislative session — expenses he also claimed on his campaign finance account.

While the Grand Junction Republican later corrected his campaign account for all of those Denver Uber trips, he did so only after The Daily Sentinel questioned him about the discrepancies in the two filings…

Even though Scott had a vehicle at the Capitol when he was in Denver during the 120-day session, Scott used Uber 47 times at a cost of $1,801. He said all of those trips were for campaign purposes.

But 17 of them also were listed in his state travel expense reports during the four-month session. He was reimbursed by the state for those trips, all to Denver International Airport, for a total of $1,037, according to Scott’s travel reimbursement expense reports obtained by the Sentinel through a Colorado Open Records Act request. Those reimbursements were on top of money the state paid him in travel costs, including $11,811 worth of plane flights to and from Grand Junction.

First of all, this is a revealing window into the kind of fringe benefits lawmakers receive, especially those representing outlying areas of the state. Many constituents would be surprised to discover that lawmakers can bill the state for thousands of dollars worth of air travel during the legislative session, in addition to the per diem benefits lawmakers receive to compensate for working in Denver for part of the year. Is a $35,000 a year part-time state lawmaker worth flying back and forth to Grand Junction all the time like we fly members of Congress back and forth to Washington? Maybe–but you have to know it’s happening to even ask the question.

But obviously, that’s not the real problem in this case. Double-billing the taxpayers and one’s own re-election campaign might seem like a victimless crime, but if you’re one of Sen. Scott’s campaign donors you’re unlikely to think so! Of course, billing the state for campaign-related travel expenses isn’t cool either. At the end of the day, the law allows for these line-items to be corrected without penalty once challenged–but it’s worth noting again that without the Sentinel’s scrutiny, nobody would in all likelihood be the wiser.

Which we expect would have been just fine with Ray Scott.

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.

 

 

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…

(more…)

“Red Flag” Bill Heads To Dudley Brown’s Stomping Ground

Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Denver7’s Oscar Contreras reports on the fully predictable yet unfortunate anticipated fate of House Bill 18-1436, the “red flag” bill to allow for the temporary removal of firearms from the possession of persons in the midst of a mental health crisis:

A bill that would allow judges to seize guns and ammunition away from people deemed to be in midst of a mental health crisis passed the Democratic-controlled House Friday night with very little Republican support.

House Bill 1436, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, passed the House by a 37-23 vote. Among those voting “aye” were two Republicans.

The so-called “red flag” bill still has to go through the Republican-led Senate, where chances of it passing appear dim.

The bill would allow the temporary order from the judge to stay in place for seven days, during which the person can petition to have their weapons returned.

The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul quotes GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham pretty much broadcasting how this is going to end:

“I don’t think it’s any secret where the three members stand on that particular subject when it comes to the potential for gun confiscation without the proper due process,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City. He was referencing the three senators who make up the GOP majority on the Senate’s State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, where the “red flag” bill will be heard.

“So, I don’t think it should be any surprise what happens to that bill once it goes through committee,” Grantham added.

It’s evident from the vote in the House, in which GOP sponsor Rep. Cole Wist was joined only by Rep. Dan Thurlow in voting for the bill, that the initial bipartisan support for the legislation when it was introduced was successfully beaten back by the hard-right gun lobby led by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The support for the bill expressed by AG candidate George Brauchler and Rep. Mike Coffman was not enough to sway Republicans in the legislature–certainly not with RMGO acrimoniously targeting Wist and openly threatening any other Republican who got on board.

Assuming there is no miraculous change of heart, this bill will die at the hands of the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate, either in its first committee or to “die on the calendar” without a hearing as the session comes to a close Wednesday. Either way, given the overwhelming public support for this legislation this is sure to be a potent election issue in the fall. This is a fight pitting the most extreme supporters of gun rights against everyone else–including mainstream Republicans and independent voters who could go either way. Even though Republican Senators may not have to personally vote to kill the bill, voters are smart enough to understand that this is happening because Republicans control the Colorado Senate.

A high price to pay just to keep Dudley Brown happy.

Frustrated Exchange Between Republicans Sparks Outrage

UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, we do think it’s important to note that Sen. Don Coram was the Senate sponsor of the bill in question to reduce youth suicides, House Bill 18-1177. Coram’s statement was apparently meant as a sarcastic response to Sen. Vicki Marble after Marble explained why she would be voting against the bill.

Like we said below, we never thought that Coram actually believed this. It’s just horrible, horrible timing for gallows humor–even if you could argue that Sen. Marble had it coming. We should all be able to agree that youth suicide is not a subject for which jokes are ever appropriate.

—–

We’re trying to get our heads around a positively shocking clip of audio we were forwarded from Tuesday’s hearing of the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. At the end of debate on House Bill 18-1177, “Concerning multiple approaches to help prevent youth suicide,” GOP Sen. Don Coram of Montrose made a…we’re not sure what you call this.  A quip? A wisecrack?

Whatever you want to call it, on its face it’s one of the most horrible things we’ve ever heard uttered by a sitting Colorado lawmaker, and that says quite a lot. Obligatory trigger warning:

MARBLE: Senator Coram?

CORAM: I was just going to say I guess the positive side is, is uh, if we have enough suicides we can save [on the] cost of education. [Pols emphasis]

(silence)

MARBLE: That was a pretty low blow. Ms. Shipley would you please take the roll…

And that’s it. A roll call vote of the committee was then taken, and the Republican majority on the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to kill the bill. Chair Vicki Marble then adjourned the committee while those in the committee reportedly sat silently with their jaws open.

Folks, what the hell are we supposed to make of this? We understand, based on some kind of basic level of human decency that we have to believe we all share, that Sen. Coram was not seriously suggesting that youth suicides are a good thing because the state could “save [on the] cost of education.”

Except that is exactly what he said.

At the end of the day, you can’t excuse this as a joke falling flat. Teenage suicide is an incredibly difficult subject to reckon with under the very best of circumstances, and for families who have been affected these words are utterly poisonous whether intended in jest or not. To call this an irresponsible statement from a sitting lawmaker, especially right before his fellow Republicans voted to kill legislation to prevent youth suicide, is an understatement in the extreme.

In a legislative session maybe unprecedented for its many outrages, here is one that truly stands out.

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.

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.

Grantham’s Half-Assed Discipline of the “Boob Grabber”

Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner, shown here earning his nickname.

After six months, two separate investigations, and at least one cover-up related to more than a dozen accusations of sexual harassment against Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner, Senate President Kevin Grantham has finally decided to take action…with four days left in the 2018 legislative session.

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland has the story (again):

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham has stripped Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, from serving on any Senate committees effective as of May 2. Grantham requested the change after workplace harassment allegations from nine people have been found credible by two outside investigators.

“Please be advised immediately I am removing Senator Randy Baumgardner from Capital Development Committee, Transportation Legislation Review Committee, Water Resources Review Committee, and Wildfire Matters Review Committee,” stated Grantham in a letter (PDF) to Mike Mauer, the nonpartisan director of the Legislative Council.

In a separate letter, Majority Leader Chris Holbert appointed Sen. John Cooke (PDF), R-Greeley, as vice chair of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Unlike the House, the Senate does not require a member to serve on any committees.

The changes impact the committees that meet during the interim and remain in place until the next Senate president and majority leader are selected during the 2019 legislative session. One leadership team cannot bind the next, and Grantham is term limited.

Senate President Kevin Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (top) take it easy on Sen. Randy Baumgardner

As Marshall Zelinger of 9News quickly opined, Baumgardner’s punishment essentially means he just has less work to do for the remaining four days of the legislative session. Grantham is term-limited in 2018, so even if Republicans manage to maintain their majority in the State Senate, the “Boob Grabber” won’t be his problem anymore. Perhaps this move helps Grantham look at his mustache in the mirror, but it does absolutely nothing to indicate to victims of sexual harassment that their claims will be taken seriously by Colorado Republicans. As Birkeland notes:

“If we’re done and there’s no more consequences. I’m astonished,” said the male non-partisan Senate staffer who filed one of the complaints. “Removal from committees doesn’t mean anything to anybody except the Senator.”

In February, Grantham announced what amounted to a voluntary castigation for Baumgardner. Six weeks later, Baumgardner narrowly avoided expulsion from the Senate when a hastily-announced resolution failed by a near-party line vote (Republican Sen. Ray Scott voted yes, but “Independent” Sen. Cheri Jahn was a ‘NO’). That vote might have played out differently had Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert not worked together to temporarily bury a second investigation into accusations against Baumgardner. Senate Democrats called for a second expulsion vote in the wake of that cover-up, but Grantham and Holbert weren’t about to let that happen after working so hard to protect the “Boob Grabber” in the first place.

As far as Senate Republicans are concerned, a slap on the ass just gets a slap on the wrist.

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.