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.

So Long, Cambridge Analytica

BBC reports, the highly controversial political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which played a role in Republican victories in Colorado elections in 2014 before going on to help Donald Trump become President of the United States, will shut down after exposure of its sources and methods tainted both the company and the politicians who benefited:

Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy at the centre of the Facebook data-sharing scandal, is shutting down.

The firm was accused of improperly obtaining personal information on behalf of political clients.

According to Facebook, data about up to 87 million of its members was harvested by an app and then passed onto the political consultancy…

Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended in March after secretly being recorded by Channel 4 News.

In the video he suggested that the London-based firm had helped run Donald Trump’s digital election campaign. He also detailed ways that it could discredit other politicians, including sending “girls around to the candidate’s house”.

Here in Colorado, John Frank and Mark Matthews of the Denver Post uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by Republicans to Cambridge Analytica for research and consulting on election communications. In addition to helping strategize crucial state senate races, Cambridge reportedly helped craft messages that helped Cory Gardner narrowly defeat Mark Udall in the 2014 U.S. Senate race–the most bitter defeat for Democrats in Colorado since their political resurgence ten years before. As recently as March of this year, Cambridge Analytica was still soliciting Colorado Republican campaigns for business, though by then it seems Republicans were as surprised to be hearing from the tainted organization as anyone else.

At this point, there is no one left to defend Cambridge Analytica–only politicians in office, from the Colorado Senate to the U.S. Senate Senate to the White House itself, answering for their own connection to this scandal with a shrug.

We would end by saying “don’t get fooled again,” but as a nation we almost certainly will.

Republican family feud: Nevilles attack colleague on gun policy

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post was first published on the Colorado Times Recorder.

Baumgardner’s Social Media Pages Are Pretty Gross

(Scroll down to see why his nickname is “Boob Grabber” — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

WARNING: Some images in this post may be considered slightly NSFW, because that’s the low standard of professionalism that *some people* who work in our state’s Capitol adhere to these days, apparently. 

Multiple social media posts from state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a Republican who’s been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct, reveal that he is, in fact, a total creep.

In what should come as a shock to absolutely no one given the multiple credible complaints of sexual harassment against him, Baumgardner is one of those guys who use social media to ogle photos of scantily clad women.

See the Facebook posts below, which Baumgardner liked last year, but again, be warned: they’re slightly NSFW.

 

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