Blockhead Republicans Prepare Another Idiotic Recall Attempt

Brittany Pettersen

State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood)

The big story in Colorado politics this week was the implosion of an asinine recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial). The Sullivan recall attempt fizzled amid an onslaught of terrible press, bickering over money, and a general sense from everyone with half a brain that this was a stupid idea altogether.

Naturally, this week in politics is coming to a close with ANOTHER absolutely idiotic recall attempt of a sitting lawmaker who was easily elected to office last November. This time, Republicans aren’t trying to recall a man who lost his son in a mass shooting over his support of gun safety legislation, but they found the next-worst look for a recall effort. As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Republican Nancy Pallozzi says she will mount a recall attempt against state Sen. Brittany Petterson of Lakewood in Senate District 22.

Petterson defeated Pallozzi in a 2016 race for a state House seat by 19 percentage points. [Pols emphasis]

On a closed Facebook page Pallozzi set up for the recall effort, she announced Thursday that “[e]verything is moving along and we are hoping to have the petitions in hand by July 16th, if not sooner. We are finalizing the wording to submit to the secretary of state’s office in July.”

According to the page, the Pettersen recall effort is intended to coordinate with a recall attempt against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

You read that correctly, dear readers: The Republican candidate who lost to Pettersen in a State House race by nearly 20 points in 2016 wants to recall her then-opponent, nevermind that Pettersen was swept into a State Senate seat two years later by a 16-point margin.

Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi believes that Pettersen should be recalled because of…well, there’s probably some sort of reason in there somewhere, but Goodland’s story doesn’t mention anything specific.

WHO DO WE WANT TO RECALL? Brittany Pettersen!

WHY DO WE WANT TO RECALL HER? We don’t know!

Please clap, or something.

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Who’s Who Of GOP Losers Oppose Statewide “De-Brucing”

Walker Stapleton is back.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reportsProposition CC, this fall’s referred measure to allow the state to retain revenues in excess of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ (TABOR) prescribed growth limits, has an opposition committee stocked with big-name Republicans past and present:

The group [Former Gov. Bill] Owens joined as an advisory board member is called the No on CC campaign, and its list of co-chairs includes former State Treasurers Walker Stapleton and Mark Hillman and 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler. Their goal is to convince voters that this request is different from the temporary TABOR refund timeout passed in 2005 because it’s permanent and because Colorado isn’t facing steep budget cuts from a recession.

Proposition CC asks voters to unwind part of a constitutional amendment called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The amendment changed how Colorado governments work in two important ways: It gave people the right to vote on all proposed tax increases, and it mandated that any money governments collected above a certain amount be refunded.

Although the requirement in TABOR that tax increase measures be subjected to a vote is of course the marquee feature of the 1992 law, held up as a model for the past 25 years despite no other state adopting a similar measure. That requirement sounded good enough to help pass TABOR by 53% in 1992, a margin that would not have allowed the measure to pass under current Colorado law.

George Brauchler.

But the lesser known restriction of revenue growth under TABOR has proven even more onerous, counterintuitively forcing the state to make painful choices even when times are good in order to stay under the measure’s artificial 6% cap–and refunding the money that goes over in pittance-sized refunds to taxpayers. Proposition CC would eliminate this cap, one of the less-understood but more pernicious effects of the law. Known as “de-Brucing,” it’s a step that most local governments in the state have already taken–as the Denver Post reported earlier this year:

Most local governments in Colorado no longer adhere to the TABOR spending limit.

All but four of Colorado’s 178 school districts have already “de-Bruced,” the nickname for permanently lifting the limit on the amount of tax dollars a government can keep. Eighty-five percent of Colorado’s municipalities and 51 of 64 counties have also convinced their voters to let them opt out.

“Nobody here is hopping mad at their local school district for doing this,” Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, said.

The fact that this measure is not asking for in increase in tax rates, but to eliminate a restriction on the back end of revenue growth that many voters would be surprised to learn even exists, make opposition to it more difficult. Most voters don’t even remember the last TABOR refunds of several years ago, which took the form of credits on income tax returns instead of a separate check and ranged from $13 to $41.

So how do you explain the opposition to Proposition CC by a crew of Republican usual suspects? That’s easy–TABOR is an article of faith to activist Colorado Republican base voters, to whom the measure’s net effect of throttling government revenue regardless of need is an ideological end unto itself. 2018 gubernatorial loser Walker Stapleton, attorney general loser George Brauchler, and long-irrelevant figures like Mark Hillman are all part of a generation of Colorado Republicans who rose to prominence in this political climate and will never turn against any aspect of TABOR publicly. As for ex-Gov. Bill Owens, who did turn against TABOR’s revenue caps in 2005? He’s spent every day since then trying to live Referendum C down–and opposing Proposition CC is just another chance to salvage his own dented conservative image.

Given the well-documented long-term fiscal challenges faced by the state of Colorado, there’s a strong argument that Proposition CC doesn’t do enough to alleviate TABOR’s chokehold on today’s priorities. But any way you slice it, the opposition to this measure is made up of the losing side of the past decade in Colorado politics.

Relics defending another relic.

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Chalk Up One For Pete Kolbenschlag

Pete Kolbenschlag.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports:

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed a bill slapping back at so-called SLAPP suits, like one a Paonia activist says was filed against him by an energy company…

Delta County District Court Judge Steven Schultz has ruled twice in favor of Paonia resident Pete Kolbenschlag in a libel case brought by SG Interests. The company sued over comments Kolbenschlag posted on a newspaper website about SG’s settlement with the federal government over alleged illegal bidding on oil and gas leases. In his second ruling, awarding attorney fees to Kolbenschlag, Schultz specifically found that the suit was frivolous and filed to retaliate against an industry critic, something SG Interests has denied. [Pols emphasis]

However, Kolbenschlag told the House Judiciary Committee in April that the suit remains a hardship for him in terms of finances, stress and time demands because it’s under appeal.

House Bill 19-1324 gives defendants in civil cases an expedited process to request a dismissal based on free exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and participation in public debate. Pete Kolbenschlag, a longtime contributor to this blog from Paonia, was sued by energy company SG Interests over a comment he made on a web story at a local newspaper. Kolbenschlag’s comment about SG paying over $1 million in an antitrust settlement related to bid rigging was correct, but the company sued Kolbenschlag for libel because their settlement allowed them to avoid formally admitting guilt.

This disproportionate legal response to a perfectly defensible comment on a news story is a textbook example of what’s known as a SLAPP–a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” SG Interests didn’t sue Kolbenschlag expecting to win, but their vastly greater financial resources with which to wage legal warfare on a private citizen could well have the effect of said citizen deciding further participation in debate over the issue just isn’t worth it. And the story of that person’s legal harassment serves as a deterrent to others who might follow their example.

This isn’t about getting rid of libel laws. But when a frivolous allegation of libel is being used to suppress free speech and that can be straightforwardly seen from the facts at hand, there needs to be a way to shut that suppression down. Otherwise constitutional rights become subordinate to wealth, which is a very bad thing.

Thanks to Pete Kolbenschlag, the little guy (in most cases that’s you) now has a tool to short-circuit a SLAPP.

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Matt Arnold Beats Bob Beauprez–Again

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

A press release from perennial conservative gadfly Matt Arnold announces his latest David-and-Goliath victory over former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s political machine–a battle that has its roots in the 2016 elections and an attempt by Beauprez to “purge” the GOP caucus in the state legislature of undesired Republicans:

Notching yet another appellate victory, Campaign Integrity Watchdog prevailed against the desperate attempt of “Both-Ways Bob” Beauprez” to appeal his ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) committee’s conviction for multiple violations of state law issued over two years ago.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruling (case 2017CA883) was issued Thursday 30 May 2019 and not only affirms the trial court finding that ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) was guilty of failing to register as a political committee and disclose donors, but also affirmed the monetary penalty imposed on CPA while reversing the imposition of attorney fees on CIW’s officer Matt Arnold.

‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) will thus be required not only to finally (after over three years of operating in violation of law) to register as a political committee, disclose its contributors, and pay penalties imposed in the trial court ruling, but also will be required to pay CIW’s court costs incurred as a result of CPA’s meritless appeal.

“The wheels of justice grind slowly,” stated Campaign Integrity Watchdog officer Matt Arnold, “but they do grind – and have ground CPA’s groundless appeal to dust.” Arnold continued, “Campaign Integrity Watchdog calls on Beauprez and Colorado Pioneer Action to quickly and fully comply with the orders of the trial and appellate courts, including registering the entity with the Secretary of State, filing required disclosures, and paying penalties imposed by law. CPA has defied the law long enough; time to man up and pay the piper.”

To briefly recap the history here, Bob Beauprez’s political organization started up a group called Pioneer Action to run ads in the 2016 election cycle. This group proceeded to launch attacks in Republican primaries on both GOP incumbents and candidates aligned with Dudley Brown and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, including “pistol-packing” Rep. Lori Saine among a number of others. This “red on red” campaign outraged the targeted candidates and their hard-right backers, and drove a wedge within the Colorado Republican Party still playing out today in the recall of Rep. Tom Sullivan.

The problem for Pioneer Action is that they did not meet the so-called “primary purpose” test required of politically active nonprofits who aren’t required to disclose their donors. Indeed the group was apparently solely focused on electioneering communications–and it doesn’t matter that these were intra-GOP attacks. Matt Arnold sued and won contending that Pioneer Action should be required to disclose their spending like any other solely election-focused organization. This appellate decision cements that victory and ensures Arnold’s attorney fees will be paid by Pioneer Action.

It’s worth noting that Beauprez’s attempt to “purge” the GOP of undesired candidates was not in the end successful, and today the state house leadership as well as leadership of the Colorado Republican Party is dominated by RMGO’s allies. Arnold himself is now the registered agent for Values First Colorado, the House GOP’s “independent” communications arm directly involved with the Sullivan recall.

Once considered a pest to both sides of the aisle, Matt Arnold’s continuing victories over the vastly better funded Beauprez political operation and his current leadership role in the ascendant Neville faction show how the power has shifted within the Colorado GOP. It’s not our role today to judge the morality or long-term implications of this shift–but there is no longer any denying it.

Its Matt Arnold’s party now.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 24)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named first team All-NBA on Thursday — only the second player in Nuggets history to accomplish such a feat. It’s time “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…

► As the country prepares to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, President Trump is sending more military forces to the Middle East so that he can show Iran that he has the bigger…um, pen. From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration, facing rising tensions with Iran, plans to reinforce its military presence in the Middle East by sending another few thousand forces to the region to step up missile defense and surveillance, according to U.S. officials.

The decision to send the additional forces to U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations across the Middle East, was made late Thursday during a meeting at the White House between President Trump and top Pentagon leaders, the officials said.

Ahead of the meeting, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said the purpose of any additional troops would be to ensure the protection of U.S. forces and avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation that could lead to a broader conflict.

“Our job is deterrence. This is not about war,” Shanahan said

President Trump may also commemorate Memorial Day by issuing pardons for several Americans accused of war crimes. Why would he do this? Because Fox News wants it to happen.

 

An effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora) by Colorado Republicans and the “no compromises” gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) has become a complete messaging disaster for the GOP.

 

► “Gardner’s office declined an interview request from The Denver Post this week…”

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to dodge reporters seeking answers from him about his position on abortion after Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion measure in the country earlier this month.

 

 Colorado is the first state in the country to cap rising prices of insulin. Governor Jared Polis signed legislation on Wednesday that limits the co-pay for the life saving medicine to $100 per month.

 

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Colorado Makes National Headlines for Insulin Caps


As CNN reports today:

The skyrocketing prices of insulin are a nationwide issue and Colorado has become the first state to pass legislation that tackles the problem.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law Wednesday that places a $100 per month cap on insulin co-pays, regardless of how much insulin a patient uses. Insurance companies will pay anything more than the $100 co-pay, according to the new law.

The law also enlists the Colorado attorney general to investigate the rising prices of insulin in the state and to make recommendations back to the legislature.

“Today we will finally declare that the days of insulin price gouging are over in Colorado,” Gov. Polis said before signing the bill on Wednesday.

As CBS4 Denver notes, many Coloradans were paying as much as $900 per month for insulin medication.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 21)

The Denver Nuggets would not have been swept by the Golden State Warriors. It’s time “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…

► As expected, former White House Counsel Don McGahn failed to show up for a hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is pretty steamed about this, as the Washington Post explains:

Nadler vowed that his panel would eventually hear McGahn’s testimony about alleged obstruction of justice by Trump “even if we have to go to court to secure it.”

“We will not allow the president to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law,” Nadler said. “We will not allow the president to stop this investigation, and nothing in these unjustified and unjustifiable legal attacks will stop us from pressing forward with our work on behalf of the American people. We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other.”

Nadler’s remarks came at the outset of the second “empty chair” hearing this month held by the Judiciary Committee. Three weeks ago, Attorney General William P. Barr declined to appear.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s all-out blitz to prevent Congress from seeing or hearing anything about pretty much anything — including his financial records — ran into a legal wall on Monday. As CNN reports:

A federal district judge has told the accounting firm Mazars it will need to turn over Donald Trump’s accounting records from before he was President to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee.

In a 41-page opinion, Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court dealt a significant blow to the White House as he rejected Trump’s attempt to block the committee’s subpoena, asserting that Congress is well within its authority to investigate the President…

…Congress specifically can probe the President for conflicts of interest and ethical questions, Mehta wrote, reaching into history — citing everything from the presidency of James Buchanan, to the Teapot Dome scandal, to Watergate and Whitewater — to back up his ruling.

In a delicious bit of irony, Trump’s lawyers will now appeal in a federal court overseen by none other than Judge Merrick Garland himself. Garland was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama in early 2016, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans so that a Republican President (Trump) could fill the vacancy instead.

As Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post:

We see a crack opening in Trump’s unconstitutional stonewall strategy. It’s the courts that might have the will and the ability to defuse a constitutional standoff.

As Elie Honig explains for CNN, Trump’s “legal” strategy for avoiding Congress is, in a word, “nuts”:

The White House previously invoked executive privilege in an effort to prevent McGahn from producing documents to Congress. Now the White House — perhaps recognizing that its executive privilege invocation would likely fail on the legal merits — has changed tack and instead made an even broader claim that Congress cannot ever compel testimony from a senior adviser to the President.

This is nuts. The White House is relying on a brand new memo from the Office of Legal Counsel claiming that, as an absolute matter of separation of powers and executive branch autonomy, Congress cannot force the President’s senior advisers to testify.

Notably, the memo cites not a single court decision to support this novel proposition. The memo does begrudgingly note in passing that the only court opinion on the matter, a 2008 decision relating to testimony from former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, actually reaches the opposite conclusion: Senior advisers to the President are not immune from compelled congressional testimony.

 

Some House Democrats, including freshman Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) are pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. From Politico:

Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado — all members of Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.

Raskin — a former law professor — said he wasn’t advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda. [Pols emphasis]

 

Could Colorado follow in the footsteps of states such as Alabama and Missouri in passing legislation to essentially make abortion illegal? We could be closer than you might think.

Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) took time out from running away from reporters to answer a question about abortion with an intentionally-vague and pointless statement that laws should be left “up to the states.” Gardner knows full well that the entire point of strict anti-abortion laws passed by individual states is to ultimately force a reconsideration of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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As Democrats Seek Gun Violence Solutions, Republicans Push More Guns

Students evacuate from a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month.

In the wake of the shooting at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month, Colorado Democrats are considering legislation to tighten the state’s laws around gun storage and child access, as the Colorado Sun reports:

“The end goal is that someone who shouldn’t have access to a firearm can’t access it,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, who revealed conversations about the potential policies at The Colorado Sun’s legislative forum last week. “Usually that would be a minor, but theoretically would include someone who just isn’t allowed to have a firearm.”…

…There are reports that the shooters in the STEM School attack, which left one student dead and eight more wounded, obtained their weapons by breaking into a gun safe belonging to one of their parents. The suspects are 18 and 16 years old, too young to legally purchase handguns, which authorities say were used in the attack.

About a dozen U.S. states have laws stipulating how guns are stored and how to prevent children from accessing them. Colorado is not among them, though it does have a law against providing a handgun to a juvenile. The older suspect in the STEM attack, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, is accused of committing that crime, according to online court records.

Image of a flyer from “Bullets Both Ways” distributed at a gun rights rally on Saturday.

Republican lawmakers are not enthusiastic about this idea. Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert dismissed the proposal in an interview with the Sun, as did Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley), who reverted to a particularly stupid argument about the fallibility of laws in general:

“We have laws against murder. It doesn’t stop people from murdering. If you’re not storing your gun responsibly, a law is not going to change that.”

Why have laws at all? 

The per-capita rate of deaths from gun violence in Colorado is at its highest level in more than 30 years, so what are Colorado Republicans going to do about the problem? They’re not going to do anything, as we’ve seen time and time again, but if backed into a corner the GOP solution continues to be to put more guns in public places.

Over the weekend, firearm enthusiasts gathered by the dozens at the State Capitol for a “Rally For Our Rights” event billed as a protest against a so-called “red flag” bill that passed through the state legislature this Spring. House Bill 1177, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in April, allows Colorado families and law enforcement officials to petition a court for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) to temporarily remove firearms from the hands of individuals who deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. Many Republican lawmakers opposed the “red flag” bill, including Sens. Holbert and Cooke. Perhaps the most vocal opponent was House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who has been openly advocating for recall elections against Democrats who supported the legislation (including Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, a co-sponsor of HB-1177 and the father of a victim of the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting) .

Neville’s “solution” to gun violence has been the same since he first joined the State House in  2105; he is a leader of the movement to get more guns in the hands of teachers. This is a sentiment shared by others in the “Rally For Our Rights” circle. Among the organizations on hand for Saturday’s “more guns” rally was a Colorado-based group called “Bullets Both Ways” that believes that “Bullets Both Ways are better in our nation’s schools than bullets one way coming from an unchallenged perpetrator.” This is asinine.

What Neville and groups like “Bullets Both Ways” don’t mention, of course, is that the “more bullets” approach to gun violence actually creates…more danger for innocent people. As the Denver Post reported last week:

The district attorney for Teller and El Paso counties will review whether a security guard accused of firing at deputies responding to the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch should face criminal charges.

The source said a deputy has told authorities that the security guard, who has not been publicly identified, fired a shot at him or her while sheriff’s responders were arriving at the school. [Pols emphasis]

Investigators also are trying to determine whether the trajectory of the bullet indicates the guard may have struck and injured a student, the source said. Eight students were injured in Tuesday’s shooting, which also claimed the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo.

According to an attorney for the security guard, the armed man spent four years in the Marine Corps, which means he was probably plenty experienced with firearms. Yet he still may have mistakenly fired his weapon at students and law enforcement officers responding to the scene of the shooting. It’s ludicrous to expect that anyone other than the most highly-trained law enforcement officers would be able to safely handle a weapon in the midst of a school shooting, but if Neville and other gun advocates had their way, inexperienced shooters would be firing weapons in every direction at the first sign of a threat.

We need real solutions to our gun violence epidemic, not silly fantasies of promoting “a good guy with a gun.”

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 17)

Go forth and make us proud, graduates. It’s time “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…

► Supporters of President Trump would love for you to believe that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and potential collusion/obstruction involving contacts with Russia should be classified “case closed.” The reality is much more complicated, as the Washington Post reports:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…

…Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.

Chris Cillizza of CNN lays out one big lesson from this news:

At nearly every turn of the probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election, President Donald Trump was working to make sure Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, knew that the White House was on his side — and that the President himself thought Flynn was a good guy.

Now we seem to know why.

Trump was worried — and it turns out, rightly — that Flynn knew things that would be problematic for the President as it related to Russia. And that if Flynn cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — as he eventually did — it would have negative consequences for the administration. Court records released Thursday night revealed previously unknown details of Flynn’s cooperation.

 

Recall fever in Colorado is exposing some significant bad blood between Republicans and the “no compromises” gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is working hard on trying to brand himself as a supporter of LGBTQ rights. The organization “One Colorado” isn’t buying it.

 

Colorado’s outdoor industry is bracing for massive financial hits because of President Trump’s trade war with China; one local retailer says that “people will be shocked” at the extent of necessary price increases. Colorado’s economy in general is not well-positioned to withstand heavy losses from rising tariffs.

Meanwhile, a proposed aid package for American farmers harmed by Trump’s trade war could reach $20 billion.

 

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Watch The Senate GOP’s Unwatchable Session Recap Video

This morning, the Colorado Senate Republican minority comms office put out a video attacking Democrats for their supposed “overreach” in the 2019 session. We’re embedding it below, but we’ll warn you in advance that we got more than a little nauseous watching it–not due to its unpersuasive arguments, but the weird overexposed shaky-cam effect they used in iMovie or whatever to produce it:

Yikes! We’ve admittedly both seen and made a few videos that weren’t ready for prime time post-productionwise, but it was at least not on purpose. This weird shaky flashy thing they’ve done here seems to be deliberate, and that means there’s no good excuse for inflicting the resulting queasiness on the political water cooler class of Colorado. It may not be as bad as the episode of Pokemon that gave Japanese children seizures, but it’s not a pleasant experience.

On the other hand, the parodies more or less produce themselves! They’re at least more ironic before the headache sets in:

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 10)

Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you forgot to order flowers, enjoy that premium pricing! It’s time “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…

► Our great negotiator-in-chief Donald Trump is defending his decision to raise import tariffs on some Chinese goods from 10% to 25%, even as economists warn of the damage this could do to businesses in the United States. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Friday defended his decision to impose steep tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports and promised that much steeper penalties would follow, putting the rest of the world on notice that he will follow through on his protectionist agenda no matter the blowback. [Pols emphasis]…

…The chain of events that began with higher tariffs and continued through Trump’s tweets have sown unrest in financial markets around the world and have left investors and business executives unsure of what is to come. Trump in the past has threatened severe penalties only to back down days later, but he has also shown a willingness to dig in and trust his instincts, even if advisers have warned against it. He believes the strength of the economy gives him leverage to use aggressive trade tactics.

“At this stage, it is difficult to envision this as a bluff anymore,” said Eswar Prasad, a senior professor of trade policy at Cornell University. “He seems deadly serious about taking on China in a broad economic confrontation irrespective of the consequences to the U.S. economy.” [Pols emphasis]

“No matter the blowback.” Swell.

 

► As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Republicans are quietly — and anonymously — admitting that they don’t have a lot of hope for a big electoral comeback in 2020:

It’ll be nearly impossible for Republicans to win a majority next year in the Colorado House, where GOP candidates could win every competitive district and still fail to net the nine seats necessary to control the chamber.

That Republicans have no hope to win control of the State House won’t surprise many political observers, but even the State Senate could be out of reach for the GOP:

Next year, there won’t be as many narrowly divided districts on the ballot — and Republicans will be playing defense in some tough races, including an open seat in a district that’s trending Democratic.

By general agreement, the Republicans’ top target next year will be Jefferson County’s Senate District 19, held by Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, while the Democrats’ top targets will be Adams County’s Senate District 25, held by Republican Kevin Priola, and Arapahoe County’s Senate District 27, held by Republican Jack Tate, who won’t be seeking another term…

…There is a wild card, however, that could tilt the balance of power in the Senate after the 2020 election. Several threatened recall elections might put additional, off-cycle Senate seats in play next year, opening the door at least a crack to a Republican majority in the chamber.

Speaking of those recall elections, read on…

 

► As we’ve noted in this space on several occasions, the attempted recall elections in various stages of reality in Colorado are all about A) Grift, and B) Republicans looking for a way around General Elections that they can’t seem to win anymore. The “CEO” of the Colorado Republican Party, Steve House, said the quiet part out loud last weekend in Pueblo.

 

 

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Steve House Says the Quiet Part Out Loud on Recalls

Republicans gathered at the Pueblo Convention Center last Saturday for their annual “Derby Day Lincoln Dinner,” promoted as an “Evening with James O’Keefe of Project Veritas.” Inbetween dinner and O’Keefe hawking his latest book, Republicans in attendance heard a lot about recall elections in Colorado — perhaps a little too much.

One of the speakers at the Pueblo event was Steve House, the former GOP State Party Chair who is now the “CEO” of the State Party under new Republican Chairman Ken Buck. As you can hear in the audio clip below, House lays out a handful of priorities for the Colorado Republican Party that include supporting recall efforts across the state:

“We are going to support the recalls. We have to support the recalls, because, people…people are justifiably angry about what’s going on. And we need to, first of all, give a voice to that anger. And secondly, the process of identifying more voters for Trump, and for Cory Gardner, and for getting the State Senate back, starts as well with those recalls.” [Pols emphasis]

D’oh!

Recalls are how Republicans can start “getting the State Senate back.” This is the part about the recall efforts that House shouldn’t be discussing out loud: That Republicans see this as a way to subvert a regular election process that they are no longer capable of winning. 

Ken Buck and Steve House

Recall enthusiasts admitted last month that the rationale behind trying to oust Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley) didn’t really have anything to do with her actual votes on issues; former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard told the Greeley Tribune that they would be working to recall Galindo regardless of how she voted in the legislature. As we first reported in this space last month, GOP consultants have been caught explaining how recalls should be viewed as a neat way to elect more Republicans because of the opportunity to catch the majority of voters napping.

Hearing these sentiments from House is a bit different, however, because House is the guy running the day-to-day operations of the Colorado Republican Party. While Buck has generally tried to avoid specifics on the subject of recalls, House doesn’t even pretend that this isn’t about sneaking Republican candidates in through the back door.

As we’ve discussed in this space before, recall elections in Colorado are — first and foremost — about grift for Republican consultants and “issue groups” looking to make some cash in a non-election year. Various Republican-aligned groups and individuals are spending as much time attacking each other as they are promoting their recall elections, because nobody wants to share their space at the fundraising spigot.

Once you get past the wallet-stuffing aspect of the recall elections, the strategerie is clear. Galindo, for example, was first elected in November and must stand for re-election in just 18 months. The State Republican Party could should be spending their time organizing for November 2020, but those darn General Elections are too hard!

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 9)

The Colorado Avalanche are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a controversial loss in Game 7 on Wednesday, but the Denver Nuggets can advance to the Western Conference Finals with a win tonight in Portland. It’s time “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…

► If there’s one thing you can count on from President Trump (other than lots of Tweeting), it’s inconsistency. As CNN reports:

Trump reversed course again Thursday that he will leave it up to Attorney General William Barr as to whether special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress.

“I’m going to leave that up to our very great attorney general. He’ll make a decision on that,” Trump said, adding that Mueller’s report has come out and it is done.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted, “Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!” But an administration official told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump was merely “expressing his opinion,” and was not necessarily expressing intent to block Mueller’s testimony.

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora), whose district includes the Highlands Ranch STEM school that was the scene of a shooting earlier this week, is introducing new gun safety legislation. From the Aurora Sentinel:

A proposed federal law from Aurora Democratic Congressman Jason Crow would ban immediate, over-the-counter sales of rifles and shotguns to buyers in states where they do not live.

Crow said the law closes a loophole “that allows purchasers to immediately obtain rifles and shotguns, but not handguns, when traveling out-of state.”…

…The proposed same-day gun legislation comes nearly a month after Sol Pais, a Florida woman traveled to Colorado, bought a shotgun and killed herself, as police across the Front Range sought her for unspecified threats to local schools the FBI deemed as credible. Law enforcement said she was “infatuated” with the Columbine High School shooting. She traveled to Colorado just days before the 20th anniversary of the shooting.

The threats caused most Front Range schools to cancel school as law enforcement searched for Pais.

Crow says this legislation would have prevented Pais from immediately purchasing a shotgun upon her arrival in Colorado.

 

► The Colorado Independent reports on Wednesday’s vote in the House Judiciary Committee to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt:

The committee voted 24-16 along party lines to approve a resolution recommending that the full U.S. House find Barr in contempt for his refusal to comply with a committee subpoena seeking an unredacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election…

…Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said that, given the threats to U.S. democracy from a foreign adversary that were revealed in the Mueller report, he was “at a loss for understanding” why his GOP colleagues wouldn’t join Democrats’ efforts to secure the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. “We have no choice but to move forward with a contempt citation,” he said.

Neguse and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) both sit on the House Judiciary Committee. Buck was a ‘NO’ vote, urging his colleagues to “move on and not attack the attorney general in this way.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that there may be more contempt charges in the near future for Trump associates who persist in efforts to stonewall Congress.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get Rid of the Politicians Who Won’t Act on Gun Violence

Students evacuate from a STEM school in Highlands Ranch on Tuesday.

One dead. Eight injured. Two students accused of shooting classmates at a charter school in Highlands Ranch where 1,800 children – some as young as kindergarteners – attend classes daily.

The deadly attack at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch is the fourth school shooting in Colorado since the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. It is the 12th school shooting in the United States in 2019 alone. Last year, 113 people were killed or injured in school shootings in America.

The numbers are terrifying. The pictures are heart-wrenching. The reality is undeniable.

Gun rights advocates always default to saying that this is a complicated political issue – that solving the problem requires a delicate balance between 2ndAmendment rights and protecting children from being shot in their classrooms. This is patently absurd. There can be no more “on the other hand…” rationalizing on this subject. If we can shield children from being gunned down at school, we do it. What is the point of allowing for a “well-armed militia” to protect a country that won’t even protect its own children?

As Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry explains in a column today, we can’t hope to curb gun violence until we get rid of the politicians who will do everything in their power to stand in the way of solutions:

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock)

…the state House legislator who represents the community where this shooting occurred has been a stalwart opponent of the red-flag and other common-sense gun control bills. GOP state Rep. Patrick Neville not only attended Columbine High School during the school shooting there 20 years ago, he is a lauded leader in the movement to arm teachers in schools, rather than pass gun control laws.

After I criticized Neville earlier this year for his moronic stance, Republican staffers in the House emailed reporters here saying no Sentinel writers would be permitted to speak with GOP House members because of my editorial views on the opinion page.

That’s who’s calling the shots, folks. Elected officials beholden to the likes of the National Rifle Association and, worse, wild-eyed and vicious gun-extremists from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners…[Pols emphasis]

…Here’s what will happen if the Nevilles in Colorado and the nation get booted: Other Republicans and cringing pro-gun Democrats will vote with gun-control advocates because they value their seats in Congress and state legislatures more than they value gun rights. And they know it. And you know it.

As news of the shooting in Highlands Ranch was breaking on Tuesday, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER Pat Neville Tweeted the following:

Fix it? Fix it??? This is the very same Rep. Pat Neville who has been openly advocating for recall elections against Colorado lawmakers who supported so-called “red flag” legislation that allows law enforcement officials to temporarily remove weapons — via Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) — from the hands of people believed to be a danger to themselves or others. This is the very same Rep. Pat Neville who talks about the need to prioritize mental health instead of gun control, yet voted against a separate mental health bill that passed through the legislature nonetheless.

This is the very same Rep. Pat Neville whose brother, Joe Neville, is the political consultant behind “Values First Colorado,” which was literally running these ads on Facebook yesterday:

 

The Nevilles have long been closely aligned with Dudley Brown and his “no compromises” gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) – which recently filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn the “red flag” legislation and is excitedly advocating for recalls across the state. When RMGO announced their lawsuit at a press conference last week, Rep. Neville stood proudly behind the dais in solidarity. We know where Rep. Neville stands on the issue of preventing gun violence – it’s the same place he’s always stood.

Pat Neville isn’t going to do a goddamn thing to prevent gun violence in Colorado or anywhere else. He’s not the only Colorado politician who will continue to sit on his hands while innocent children are killed, but this is the guy who House Republicans have consistently chosen to lead their caucus. If we want to take real steps to curb gun violence, we must first oust the politicians who have demonstrated time and again that they have no serious interest in supporting anything that might possibly reduce the number of guns available to anyone at any time. On the federal level, this includes politicians like Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), the latter of whom is now the State Republican Party Chairman.

For politicians in Colorado and the rest of the country, preventing gun violence in schools is a binary choice. Either you work to solve the problem, or you don’t. Period.

It’s time for voters to make the same choice.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (May 6)

The Colorado Avalanche are looking for force a Game 7 with a win over the San Jose Sharks tonight at Pepsi Center; on Tuesday the Denver Nuggets return home try to take a 3-2 series lead over the Portland Trailblazers. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The 2019 Colorado legislative session came to a close on Friday, which means it’s recap time for media outlets across the state. Saturday’s Denver Post summarized the legislative session with a pretty straightforward message from Colorado Democrats. From Nic Garcia of the Post:

Front page of Denver Post, 5/4/19

Sweeping changes on education, health care and the environment, coupled with a host of social policy changes such as a ban on gay conversion therapy and new gun control legislation, ensure the 2019 legislative session will be remembered as one of the most transformative in decades…

…Democrats, who had complete control of the legislative agenda for the first time in four years, and Gov. Jared Polis were able to pass legislation they believe will drive down the cost of health care, pay for full-day kindergarten and overhaul regulations for the oil and gas industry.

“This is what we ran on,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat and freshman lawmaker. “This is the transformative policy we fought for.”

Elsewhere, Colorado Public Radio reporters discuss their impressions of the 2019 session; ProgressNow Colorado churns out its annual “Winners and Losers” list; and the editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel gives the legislative session an ‘A’ for “delivering progress.”

 

► Anna Staver of the Denver Post looks at two big measures coming to a ballot near you in November, including a much-needed TABOR overhaul and a question about legalizing sports betting in Colorado.

 

President Trump is once again amping up his trade war with China, as the New York Times reports:

The prospect of a wider trade war between the United States and China sent global financial markets whipsawing on Monday and could force Beijing to make difficult decisions if it hopes to preserve its nascent economic recovery.

President Trump upended what appeared to be steady progress toward reaching a trade pact after he threatened on Sunday to impose still more tariffs on Chinese-made goods unless Beijing moves closer to a deal. Liu He, the Chinese vice premier overseeing economic policy and Beijing’s lead trade negotiator, had been set to travel to Washington for talks scheduled for Wednesday that were widely seen as the potential last round before reaching a trade deal.

What a negotiator!

 

► There’s an election in Denver tomorrow. Westword explains how to make sure your ballot is properly returned.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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GOP Lawmakers Who Need Media Literacy Training Vote Against It

This fake news remains on Scott’s Facebook page to this day.

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(Those who need it most always want it least – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Multiple Colorado Republicans voted last week against legislation, now awaiting Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ signature, aimed at boosting media literacy in public education, even though they would have clearly benefited from media-literacy education themselves when they were in school.

I’m talking about lawmakers who’ve shared fake news on their Facebook pages–or otherwise undermined professional journalism’s mission of illuminating facts and exposing misinformation and lies.

One lawmaker who voted against the bill, yet needs serious schooling in media literacy, is State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) who notoriously called the Grand Junction Sentinel “fake news.”

But Scott’s complete and total absence of media-literacy skills came a few days after he called the Sentinel “fake news,” when he actually promoted Sentinel articles he agreed with on Facebook, as if a news outlet is only fake when you disagree with it.

What’s more, Scott then refused to remove from his Facebook page a fake news item titled, “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS…Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL! Breaking News.”

This fake news remains on Scott’s Facebook page to this day.

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Winners and Losers of the 2019 Colorado Legislative Session


(Let the recaps begin – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

THE WINNERS

Regular people

The Colorado State Capitol is the place where more law is made that directly impacts our daily lives than anywhere else. In 2019, the progressive majority went to work protecting college students from drowning in debt, helping Coloradans save for retirement, and tackling the problem of addiction with compassion. These are changes you’ll see and feel.


Local communities

For decades, one industry had the power to run roughshod over the local land use authority that everyone takes for granted to keep their homes, schools, and businesses safe. Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 181, locals have more power to control where oil and gas drilling happens, and the state’s focus is on public safety over profit.


Kindergarteners (and their parents)

Gov. Jared Polis took office in January with a promise to make full-day kindergarten a reality for every public school student in our state. It took some time personally lobbying lawmakers, but in the end a bipartisan vote, helmed by education champions Rep. Barbara McLachlan and Jim Wilson, kept Polis’ top promise to the families of Colorado.


People who need healthcare

The progressive majority in the Colorado legislature took action on health care in a big way in 2019. Legislation to reduce insurance premiums by up to 20%, import pharmaceutical products from Canada at big savings, ensuring access to mental health care–the list goes on and on.


LGBTQ youth

After years of unsuccessfully trying, in 2019 the Colorado legislature finally passed a bill to outlaw the hateful practice of so-called “conversion therapy” on LGBTQ children. Legislation also passed to make the process of gender transition more dignified. Colorado is a hate state no more.


Gov. Jared Polis

Gov. Jared Polis’ first legislative session proved he’s a new kind of leader for Colorado. In addition to delivering on his promise for full-day kindergarten, Gov. Polis helped steer the landmark oil and gas drilling reform bill through the process, and played a big role in the passage of health care bills that will reduce the cost of care for everyone.


Don Coram

Sen. Don Coram of Montrose once again proved a partner across the aisle for passing important legislation that will make his constituents’ lives better. From water conservation to wildfire prevention and rural education, Sen. Coram commendably put the interests of the state above party and was part of the solution instead of the problem.


Spurlock & Sullivan

Two men with first-person experience with the tragedy of gun violence, Sheriff Tony Spurlock of Douglas County and Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora shooting, worked together to pass legislation to prevent gun violence by people suffering from mental illness in crisis–the most important gun law passed in Colorado since 2013.


The Earth

Colorado isn’t waiting for politicians in Washington to stop playing games. This year, the Colorado Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050 was passed into law, making Colorado a leader not just in America but the entire world in doing our part to clean up the damage we’ve done to Mother Earth.


Jon Caldara

He might not be able to win elections, but longtime political stuntman Jon Caldara of the right-wing Independence Institute has finally figured out a way to cash in on duping his angry followers: a fundraising platform where he takes a 6% cut plus fees of every transaction! That’s nice work if you can get it.


Actual Legislating

After four years of divided government, in which good policy ideas would go to die in a Senate kill committee, the session was a productive breakthrough. While in the past as much time was spent positioning each party for the next election as writing bills with a chance to see the governor’s signature, 2019 was the year where lawmakers could actually make laws again. While some partisans were complaining about too much, too fast, their real beef might have been with working harder.


THE LOSERS

Polluters

Look, it sucks that the state’s #1 job is not to “foster oil and gas development” instead of looking out for public health and safety. Actually, no that doesn’t suck. That’s great news for everyone except polluters! The truth is that the industry isn’t going out of business in Colorado–but regular people just might breathe easier.


Internet trolls

Democrats are coming to take your guns! Democrats want you to freeze in the dark! Insane allegations about legislation flew wildly on social media, but the reality doesn’t live up to the rumors. The new gun law is supported by over 80% of the public and even Big Oil says they’re going to survive after all. Don’t believe the hype!


Clan Neville

Much like Jon Caldara, the Neville political dynasty can’t win elections and they proved it again in 2018–but hope springs eternal as the possibility of recalls gives the Nevilles a chance to raise more money for their family political consultant business. Unfortunately, the Neville’s loser reputation precedes them–and many locals give them the side-eye.


Gun lobby

The usual suspects at the NRA and the local Rocky Mountain Gun Owners tried once again to frighten both ordinary gun owners and politicians on both sides by threatening them over the new “red flag” law to temporarily remove guns from people who are a threat to themselves or others. But it didn’t work, and now this law supported by 80% of Coloradans will save lives.


Owen Hill

Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs didn’t take his party’s defeat in the 2018 elections well, and used 2019 as basically one long temper tantrum. Besides leading the charge on misusing Senate rules to grind the process to a halt and defending the handling of the GOP’s sexual harassment fiasco, Hill actually said that Americans should be able to “buy and own a rocket launcher.” Yikes!


Anti-Gay Activists

A mostly positive legislative session turned ugly with the introduction of a bill updating Colorado’s comprehensive sex-ed laws. Opponents organized activists out of the Centennial Institute under the banner of parental rights, but were discovered within minutes of committee testimony to simply harbor prejudice against LGBTQ people. While this sort of thing is good for ginning email lists and fundraising, it further marginalized conservative groups from the mainstream.


Lori Saine

Colorado’s most embarrassing member of the House now that Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt is history struck again this year with fictional civil rights history, a fact-challenged defense of Christopher Columbus, and leading the charge to repeal Colorado gun laws after being caught with a loaded gun in a DIA security line.


“ICEholes”

If you own an electric vehicle, there are few things more irritating than finding an old-school internal combustion engine vehicle parked in an EV charging space. Thanks to House Bill 1298, “ICEholes” will face a $150 fine–literally clearing a path to making electric vehicles a viable option for more people.


Secession (again)

Every time progressives win a majority in Colorado elections, which happens most of the time these days, disaffected conservatives get much more serious than they should about a few rural counties in northeast Colorado either seceding or joining another state. It’s a fool’s errand and only makes its proponents look silly, which happened again this year.


Vicki Marble

Lori Saine’s counterpart in crazy in the Colorado Senate, GOP Sen. Vicki Marble, kept her unbroken string of dim-bulb lowlights going with threats against reporters, baseless speculation about nonexistent illegal voters, and asking of climate change, “is anything a settled science?”


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Republicans Prove Insincerity on Mental Health and Gun Safety


Senator Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker)

On the opening day of the 2019 legislative session, Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) delivered his prepared remarks to a packed Senate chamber now controlled by Democrats after sweeping election victories two months earlier. As Senate Minority Leader, it was Holbert’s job to plot out legislative strategy for a Party that could do little more than disrupt and delay without the votes to move individual pieces of legislation.

“We have the voice, but not the votes,” acknowledged Holbert. As such, he used his time at the podium to pre-emptively position his caucus on a number of key issues, bookended by rote Republican warnings about overspending and overregulating. When it came time to talk about his concerns with so-called “red flag” gun safety legislation, Holbert stuck to the standard Republican script about focusing instead on improving mental health resources in Colorado.

“Rather than empower government to seize property, let’s focus on securing help for those persons who need our help the most.  For opioid addition, red flag scenarios, and other instances when people cry out for help, let us avoid rewarding bad behavior or trampling on the Constitution. Rather, let us work together to provide more and better mental health resources including beds, mental and physical health care, and healing for those who need our help the most.” [Pols emphasis]

Gun violence, said Holbert, is a mental health problem and not an issue about access to deadly weapons. This is a common Republican approach in pushing back against the “librul gun grabbers” who threaten their political existence. The sentiment is about as sincere as a form letter.

Pretend mental health advocate Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Severence)

Colorado Republicans have been vocal about their opposition to “red flag” legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis on April 12. The Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Protection Act provides for the enforcement of “extreme risk protection orders” for the purpose of temporarily disarming people who are deemed a danger to themselves or to others. Here’s what a peeved Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Severence) told the Grand Junction Sentinel in March:

“We should be looking at this issue as a mental health issue and not right away immediately going after someone’s constitutional right.”

Oh, really?

In the last week, lawmakers finalized the passage of HB19-1269, the “Behavioral Health Care Coverage Modernization Act,” which will improve access to mental health care for Coloradans. The bill made it through both legislative chambers despite widespread opposition from the same Republicans who regularly insist on prioritizing mental health improvements over gun safety measures. A total of 24 Republicans VOTED AGAINST HB-1269, including Holbert and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. And Steve Humphrey.

Meanwhile, Republicans are still trying to rally supporters to action over the “red flag” legislation – and still claiming to be interested in prioritizing mental health improvements. On Thursday, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) group held a press conference at the State Capitol to announce a silly lawsuit attempting to overturn the “red flag” measure. Standing alongside RMGO head honcho Dudley Brown were Rep. Neville, Rep. Humphrey, Rep. Dave Williams, and Rep. Lori Saine. All four Republican lawmakers voted ‘NO’ on the mental health bill two days earlier.

Colorado Republicans are free to express their opposition to any sort of gun safety legislation, but they can’t keep pretending that it has anything to do with prioritizing mental health improvements.

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Weld County Loves Big Oil So Much It’s Ridiculous


Weld County loves them some Big Oil.

Back on April 22, the Weld County board of commissioners met to unanimously approve a resolution in support of the oil and gas industry–a significant component of the county’s economy, putatively “under threat” by the now-signed Senate Bill 19-181. As the Greeley Tribune reported then:

A banner declaring Weld County a “proud supporter of the oil and gas industry” hung outside the Weld County Administration building Monday morning, in anticipation of the Weld County Commissioners reading a proclamation all five signed declaring their support for the industry…

Inside, televisions and projector screens showed the same image, as did signs hanging by each commissioner’s nameplate, and dozens of oil and gas employees and supporters gathered to share their concerns about the bill.

You’ve got to admire the theatricality of it if nothing else. This was a meeting of a government body to nominally debate and then vote on a measure, but the propaganda blazing on every monitor screen and on signs and banners around the meeting singing the praises of the oil and gas industry makes it clear that the outcome of the vote was never in doubt. And as the Trib reports today, taxpayers even picked up the tab for the signage!

The banners, signs and bumper stickers declaring Weld County a supporter of the oil and gas industry displayed and handed out at an April Weld County Commissioners meeting were paid for from the county’s general fund.

Two banners, 500 bumper stickers and 1,000 window signs cost the county $1,977.84, said Jennifer Finch, communications director for the county, in an email.

To be clear, our purpose today is not to question the propriety of spending almost two thousand taxpayer dollars on signs and banners to fellate what is by far the most politically cantankerous and defensive private industry in the state–although we expect that some will, including some Weld County taxpayers with standing to complain. We assume that Weld County commissioners have got a petty cash fund to cover this kind of thing that’s entirely within their discretion to spend, much like ex-Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ $700 cowboy boots.

But this demonstration of boot-licking obeisance to the oil and gas industry by a local government in Colorado does reinforce a very important fact about Senate Bill 181. Because the bill empowers local authorities like the Board of Commissioners in Weld County to exercise much more control over oil and gas drilling decisions, that means Weld County will still have broad authority to let the industry “drill baby drill” within the boundaries of Weld County. Make no mistake, they don’t get to be more permissive than statewide rules, but we know now that the dust has settled that this law was not written to put the industry out of business in Colorado.

So yes, while it’s kind of pathetic, supporters of the industry can take heart! Weld County loves you, and thanks to Senate Bill 181 they’re empowered to show you–with much more than taxpayer-funded bumper stickers.

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It’s a Big Deal: Enviros Celebrate Climate Action Plan Passage


A press release from Conservation Colorado yesterday celebrates the passage of House Bill 19-1261, the Colorado Climate Action Plan legislation that commits the state to large reductions of greenhouse gas emissions–90% less than 2005 levels by 2050:

Today, the Colorado legislature voted on final passage of HB 19-1261, the Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution. Once signed, HB 19-1261 will:

  • Create a framework to tackle climate change by setting science-based goals to reduce carbon pollution, the underlying cause of climate change, of at least 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

  • Direct the experts at the Air Quality Control Commission to create cost-effective regulations for the goals.

  • Ensure ample opportunity for public input on the best ways to meet the pollution limits in order to ensure a fair outcome for Coloradans across the state.

Coloradans are already seeing the negative impacts of climate change every day. It manifests as poor air quality affecting our health, extreme wildfires, disrupted growing seasons for agriculture, shorter ski seasons, and reduced river flows for rafting and fishing are changing how we live our lives and threatening things we love about our state. In fact, 62% of Coloradans – a full 12 points more than the next-highest Western state – say climate change is a serious problem.

We’ll reprint statements celebrating final passage of the Climate Action Plan from a number of local conservation and advocacy groups after the jump. But before that, we’d like you to take just a moment to consider the  opposition to House Bill 19-1261 from Sen. Vicki Marble, putting the bookend on another memorable session for Colorado’s most headline-grabbing-and-not-in-a-good-way Republican Senator:

MARBLE: Is global warming a settled science? Is anything a settled science? [Pols emphasis] I don’t think so.

Between this and Sen. Ray Scott’s jubilation over “massive improvements in our climate” earlier this month, we can now say, as certainly as the global scientific community says about the reality of human-caused climate change, that Colorado Republicans are not credible on matters of basically any kind of science. Fortunately for those of you who expect laws to be made by lawmakers who are intellectually qualified to debate the subject matter of said laws, as of last November Republicans like Sens. Marble and Scott no longer make up a majority in the Colorado Senate.

For all the debate over the tenor of this mercifully concluding legislative session, and the acrimony against majority Democrats for having the audacity to keep their 2018 campaign promises, what’s been missing from the commentary is an acknowledgement of the ignorance that stalled progress in the upper chamber of Colorado’s legislature for the past four years under Republican control.

Here it is, folks. Anybody who wants to defend them has the floor.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 2)


May Day! Oh, wait, that was yesterday. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The editorial board of the Washington Post pulls no punches in blasting Attorney General William Barr over his embarrassing testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Mr. Barr has lit his reputation on fire, and he just added more fuel during his Wednesday testimony before a Senate panel.

Much of the hearing centered on the attorney general’s decision to release a highly misleading representationof the findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. In particular, Mr. Barr failed to acknowledge the alarming nature of Mr. Mueller’s analysis on whether President Trump obstructed justice, and he did not explain why the special counsel declined to say whether Mr. Trump was guilty of the charge. This really matters: Given the damning account in Mr. Mueller’s report, what appeared to be keeping the special counsel from accusing the president of criminal acts was not the lack of evidence but the fact that the president cannot be charged under Justice Department rules…

…Mr. Barr’s long history in Washington belies his argument: He should have known how his pre-spinning of the Mueller report would distort the truth of the special counsel’s damning findings to the president’s benefit. He did it anyway.

Several prominent Democrats called on Barr to resign as Attorney General following his horrible day of testimony on Wednesday; CNN takes a detailed look at whether or not Barr lied to Congress.

Barr was supposed to testify today in front of the House Judiciary Committee but didn’t show up. As the New York Times explains:

The House Judiciary Committee convened at 9 a.m. despite the fact that the witness chair — where Attorney General William P. Barr was supposed to sit — was empty. After opening statements from the chairman and ranking Republican, it adjourned.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the committee’s chairman, gave opening remarks castigating the attorney general and what Democrats are increasingly labeling wholesale obstruction of their inquiries by the Trump administration.

Following the hearing, Nadler indicated that Democrats may proceed with a formal process of holding Barr in contempt for refusing to testify.

 

► With two days left in the 2019 legislative session, Colorado Democrats are working feverishly to finish off several important bills as Republican talking points on obstructionism  implode. A proposal from Gov. Jared Polis to ask voters to increase nicotine taxes took some big steps toward passage on Wednesday. A separate bill designed to improve vaccination rates in Colorado also continues to move forward.

The Colorado School Finance Act is close to receiving final approval, as is legislation to protect Coloradans from surprise medical bills. Another Climate Change bill also passed Wednesday; HB-1261, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado now awaits the Governor’s signature.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) officially announced his candidacy for President this morning. Bennet is the 21st Democrat to join the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

 

► University of Colorado Regents are expected to vote today on whether to officially name dumpster fire Mark Kennedy as the new President of the university system. Kennedy’s candidacy continues to generate poor reviews from lawmakers, former elected officials, and even the editorial board of the Denver Post.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Um, Your Talking Points Are Broken


Republican obstructionism at the State Capitol has been a key story in Colorado politics for much of the 2019 legislative session. This topic has only trended more with lawmakers scrambling to finish up work before Sine Die on Friday.

Republican obstruction — particularly in the State Senate — is putting a number of bipartisan measures important to everyday Coloradans at risk of failure, which is starting to prompt calls for a special legislative session. While there’s no indication as of yet that Republicans will actually work with Democrats to pass important bills before the end of the session (at Midnight on Friday), GOP talking points on their obstruction rationale have now fallen apart completely.

As Bente Birkeland reports for Colorado Public Radio:

“Any bills that die on the calendar are the result of poor calendar management by the Democrats,” Republican Senate spokesman Sage Naumann said. “If bipartisan pieces of legislation are unfortunately postponed to the next session in an effort to stop bills that violate the rights of our constituents and put their livelihoods at risk, then that’s a price we’re willing to pay.” [Pols emphasis]

Naumann is the Communications Director for the Republican State Senate Minority, where he has delighted in promoting GOP maneuvers for forcing bills to be read at length or insisting on pointless amendments — all for the sole purpose of trying to run out the session clock. But Naumann is now mixing up his messaging, as you can see in those two incongruent sentences above.

Republicans can A) Take credit for obstruction as their sacred duty, or B) Accuse Democrats of mismanaging the legislative calendar. But they can’t do both. That would be sort of like getting stranded somewhere after slashing your car tires…and then accusing someone else of forgetting to put gas in the car.

On one hand, it’s not terribly surprising that Senate Republicans are confused about their own obstructionist messaging. Earlier this week, Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) was quoted decrying Democratic efforts to speed up debate on legislation just hours after he was caught literally watching a movie at his desk on the Senate floor. It’s hard to take Scott seriously about being mad at the pace of debate when he obviously isn’t paying any attention anyway. Naumann’s messaging disaster puts the rest of the GOP caucus in a similar bind.

(h/t 2Jung2Die)

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Republicans Will Have Trouble Explaining This in 2020


WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel is seeing the same thing as everybody else and suggests that Gov. Jared Polis call a special legislative session to focus on health care bills:

All the time-wasting stunts have pushed important bills to the end of the session. These Republican antics will now likely cost every Colorado resident money and heartache as the clock runs out against critical issues such as health care…

…There is no way state lawmakers can successfully tackle these big-ticket items among myriad other bills and obstruction from Republicans — in less than a week.

Polis needs to call a special session.

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Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) watching a movie on Monday

Chase Woodruff of Westword picks up on a theme we’ve been highlighting at length in this space for some time now: Republican lawmakers in Colorado have taken their gleeful obstructionism to such an extreme that real Coloradans could soon begin to suffer as a result…

An arms-race of parliamentary tactics has ensued, as Democrats invoked a rule limiting debate on each bill to an hour, and Republicans responded by offering dozens of doomed amendments to various pieces of legislation in an attempt to slow things down further. In more than five hours of floor work early Tuesday morning, the upper chamber was able to advance just four pieces of legislation.

Tensions appear to be rising once again in a legislative session that has often been fraught with conflict. Republicans are posting photos of Democrats sleeping at their desks. Democrats are sharing videos of Republicans watching poorly reviewed Mark Wahlberg movies on their cellphones. Things are getting weird.

But with the clock ticking and dozens of major bills hanging in the balance, the stakes for Coloradans are high. Some of the most notable pieces of legislation remaining on the calendar will have to get through a legislative bottleneck in the Senate in the next two days if they are to have any chance of passing.

Woodruff highlights a handful of bills in need of some legislative laxative, including HB-1261 (Climate Change); HB-1210 (Minimum Wage); and HB-1032 (sex education). To that list, we would add HB-1168 (Hospital Reinsurance); HB-1216 (Reduce Insulin Prices); HB-1085 (Grants for Low Income Seniors With Disabilities); HB-1120 (Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention).

Republicans in the State Senate are continuing to slow down discussion in the final week of the 2019 session because of certain bills that they don’t like, but that could mean that plenty of other important — and not particularly controversial — pieces of legislation don’t get finished. Lower health care costs, reduced prices for insulin, programs to help seniors with disabilities, and youth suicide prevention efforts — this is the price of Republican obstructionism.

Tastes like chocolate(d)

Oh, and what about “rural Colorado,” which Republican lawmakers always claim is woefully underrepresented? SB-267 (Rural Grant Program), SB-020 (Wildland Fire Airspace Patrol System), and SB-107 (Broadband Infrastructure Installation) are at risk of dying on the vine BECAUSE Republicans are pouring molasses onto everything. Sorry about that rural grant program, but we needed to make sure that somebody read the daily journal out loud!

During their prolonged bouts of time-wasting at the State Capitol this legislative session, Republicans have repeatedly insisted that voters elected them to…not do anything, which is weird. But they have also argued that there must be more — MORE! — time for debate so that they can air all of their grievances without having to risk spraining a muscle in their shaking fists. Predictably, this is having the opposite effect of what Republicans are pretending to desire.

Colorado Republicans are betting that voters will appreciate these antics more than they might lament any lack of legislative results. That’s not a bet we’d want to take next year.

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Sen. Owen J. Hill, Everybody


As posted to Facebook moments ago by the sitting GOP Senator from eastern Colorado Springs:

Please blow this specious argument up, gentle readers! Metaphorically speaking of course.

And of course, be glad you don’t live in Venezuela…or anywhere near Sen. Owen Hill.

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As Democrats Govern, Republicans Complain and Watch Movies


Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) paid more attention to this movie than the Senate floor on Monday.

We wrote yesterday about a busy final week of the 2019 legislative session, in which Democrats were pushing to complete work on important issues while Republicans continued their strategy of gleeful obstruction.

As Nic Garcia reports today for the Denver Post, Senate Democrats finally got fed up with Republicans insisting that bills be read at length and trying to run out the clock rather than doing the job voters elected them to finish:

Parliamentary fireworks exploded in the Colorado Senate late Monday as Democrats attempted to advance their agenda in the waning days of the legislative session and Republicans continued their effort to run out the clock on a handful of bills they object to.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, invoked a rule to limit discussion on bills, ultimately leading to an all-night marathon that included preliminary approval of two bills that seek to tackle climate change and train workers for clean energy jobs.

The State Senate was in session until 5:30 am this morning as Democrats methodically moved forward with legislative priorities on issues such as Climate Change — issues that Democrats campaigned on in 2018 and voters approved in wide numbers. This made Senate Republicans very unhappy, of course, which led to a snarky line from exactly the wrong messenger:

Senate Republicans have taken the approach that one of the only levers of power they have after losing the majority is the ability to slow bills down by talking about them for hours on end and having bills read in full. So, they took umbrage at Fenberg’s procedural move.

“They pushed the nuclear button,” said state Sen. Ray Scott, a Grand Junction Republican. [Pols emphasis]

Why is it so rich to hear Senator Ray Scott complaining that Democrats “pushed the nuclear button”? Because Sen. Scott spent part of his day on the Senate floor Monday afternoon WATCHING A MOVIE ON HIS PHONE:

You can see, unambiguously, that Scott is watching a movie — with earphones, no less — and Scott did not deny this to 9News. Scott responded to 9News with a snarky comment about trying to stave off boredom, or something, but this story on “Next” ran at 6:00 — long before Scott shook his fist and dialed up his “nuclear option” comment.

(SIDE NOTE: It appears that Scott is watching a Mark Wahlberg flick called “Mile 22,” which was so poorly-reviewed that it’s difficult for Scott to claim that this was more interesting than what he was supposed to be doing.)

Why does Sen. Scott care if the Democrats dial back debate on legislation in order to get work done before Sine Die on Friday? Scott isn’t even paying attention anyway.

Scott’s theatrical whims are yet another laughable #FAIL in Republican obstructionism this session, in which the minority party does everything in its power to avoid doing its job and makes even less effort justifying their indifference.

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