Ruling: It’s Open Season On Politicians’ Social Media

Senate President Leroy Garcia (D).

A significant development for online political poo-flingers we wanted to be sure got a mention, part of a reckoning that has been occurring across the nation as the implications of effortless social media speech–and the equally effortless censorship thereof–are weighed against constitutional rights taken for granted in every other medium. As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports:

Senate President Leroy Garcia was ordered to pay a $25,000 judgement this month by a Denver district court judge for blocking critical comments from a Pueblo man on Garcia’s Facebook page.

The April 12 decision from Judge R. Brooke Jackson said Garcia was wrong to block a critical comment from Alexander Armijo on Garcia’s Facebook page. The judge said that was a violation of Armijo’s First Amendment rights of free speech.

Courts have ruled that when an elected official operates a social media site in an official capacity, it is much like a public town hall meeting where the public comments generally cannot be censored.

You read that right–a critic of Senate President Leroy Garcia was actually paid $25,000 this month over the removal of a Facebook comment from Garcia’s page! The district court ruling reportedly allows a lawmaker to delete threats, defamatory comments, and advertisements. With those exceptions, your right to say whatever you want on a politician’s Facebook page and not have it deleted or otherwise censored from public view has been upheld in court with a pile of money to incentivize compliance.

All we can say is, we’ve got a lot of online political gadfly types among our readers, and you should all go check to see if you’ve been blocked, had comments deleted or suppressed, or any other kind of limitation placed on your free speech rights by a politician who has a social media presence where he public is allowed to interact with them.

Because that’s illegal now, and we seriously doubt Leroy Garcia is the only politician who’s recently deleted an undesirable comment from their page. So get out there and make this precedent stick, gadflies, while the going rate is still a boatload of money.

If you’re a politico or (more likely) a staffer reeling in horror at the prospect of your pages being overrun with angry trolls, don’t. Deleting such content is never the answer, as satisfying as it may be. It only emboldens your opponents to be censored, and denies your supporters the chance to sharpen their proverbial claws. It’s a far better practice in the long run to engage and defeat ideological opponents in any forum–and our own comment threads are a fine example of this principle working just fine over the course of many years.

So let a hundred flowers bloom! It’s the law, and it’ll be fine.

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There’s Stupid, Then There’s Sen. Ray Scott (R)


As the Colorado Independent’s Alex Burness reports, while everyone with a college education in Grand Junction (and plenty of students too) hangs their heads in shame:

Climate change has led to “massive improvements” and “the planet is a thing that heals itself,” state Sen. Ray Scott argued Thursday morning.

Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction, was speaking against Senate Bill 96, which would require the state to collect greenhouse gas emissions data from oil and gas wells, coal mines and other sources of planet-warming gases. Reports on emissions would be released annually, which supporters hope would help guide climate change policy.

“I will argue that climate change is occurring, but in the reverse order,” Scott told his colleagues on the Senate floor. “Anybody in this room and I can have a discussion about what was our climate like 100 years ago or 80 years ago or 50 years ago or 20 years ago. We have made massive improvements in our climate. Massive improvements.”

The clip above summarizes Sen. Scott’s singularly idiotic floor speech against Senate Bill 19-096 this morning, which can be most charitably described as a low-information conflation of particulate and other visible forms of air pollution with greenhouse gas emissions responsible for human-caused climate change. Legislation like the Clean Air Act, which Republicans of course vociferously oppose, has indeed led to a reduction in many dangerous forms of air pollution including a lot of the stuff one can see.

But of course we’re talking about the climate, not the “brown cloud”–and unless you’re stoked about the desertification of the Front Range and millions of climate refugees fleeing to high ground like Colorado from flooded coastal cities across the globe, it’s really, really hard to argue that we’re looking at anything you’d call a “massive improvement.”

Don’t spend too much time trying to figure his meaning out. All that matters is Sen. Scott doesn’t have a clue.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 15)

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is engulfed in flames, and it’s not clear if the iconic structure can be saved. 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 Washington Post reports, the (redacted) Mueller Report is expected to be released on Thursday:

…congressional Democrats have been sharply critical of Barr’s handling of the Mueller report, accusing the attorney general of soft-pedaling the findings to protect the president.

The House Judiciary Committee is poised to issue a subpoena for the report’s redacted portions.

Barr has spent weeks redacting sensitive information from the report in preparation for its public release. Barr is shielding four specific categories of information: grand jury material, details whose public release could harm ongoing investigations, any information that would “potentially compromise sources and methods” in intelligence collection, and anything that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

 

► As Politico reports, the late 2017 tax cut plan championed by President Trump and hammered through by Congressional Republicans is not at all popular:

Multiple polls show a majority of Americans don’t think they got a tax cut at all — even though independent analyses show they did. And only about a third of the country approves of the legislation itself, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Congress at the end of 2017.

So as Trump moves closer to full-time reelection mode later this year, he will have to battle a stark reality: While his personal rating on the economy remains high, his signature legislative achievement is widely viewed as a political dud, one that has drawn special anger in places with high state and local taxes and pricey housing markets where deductions were limited to reduce the overall cost of the tax plan.

White House officials are clearly aware of their vulnerability on the issue and officials are dubbing this Tax Cut Week, sending the president out to tout the impact of the legislation starting in Minnesota on Monday.

On the subject of taxes, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is now saying that Trump’s tax returns shouldn’t be released because they are just too complicated to understand anyway.

 

The recall grift in Colorado just keeps growing and growing and growing.

 

► Check out the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Show, featuring an in-depth interview with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

 

► Voters in Denver will receive mail ballots in the coming days in advance of a busy Spring ballot. The Denver Post runs down the candidates and issues battling it out in Colorado’s Capitol.

 

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Popular, Misunderstood “Red Flag” Bill Signed Into Law

UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller:

The Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Protection Act will officially go into law on Jan. 1, 2020, which is also the deadline law enforcement agencies statewide will have to adopt either model policies and procedures that are in the works or their own…

[Douglas County Sheriff Tony] Spurlock discussed how supportive Parrish’s parents were of the measure, which Spurlock began pushing for last year after Parrish was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve 2017 by a man who the department knew had a history of mental health issues and several weapons.

“For a father who lost his son and see it that way is inspiring to me and should be for to everyone in the state of Colorado. Because his concern is for other people,” Spurlock said of Parrish’s father. “And when I had that conversation with him … I knew then that I was doing the right thing to stand for this. … As the governor said, we can save lives. We can save lives today, tomorrow and the next day. And, most importantly, if we save one life, we create history for that family.”

—–

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports:

Beginning in January, Colorado judges will have the power to temporarily remove firearms from people believed to be at high risk of harming themselves or others, joining more than a dozen other states that have put into law some type of red-flag bill.

Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1177 on Friday at the state Capitol, after nearly two months of contentious legislative hearings marked by a familiar partisan divide over the issue of gun control.

Proponents of the extreme risk protection order bill say it could be instrumental in reducing the likelihood of another mass shooting while at the same time cutting down on the number of suicides in Colorado. Second Amendment backers say the law runs the risk of depriving Coloradans of their constitutional right to bear arms when it takes effect Jan. 1.

The signing of House Bill 19-1177 into law today brings to a close another ugly debate over gun policy in Colorado, riddled with misinformation intended to incite anger among gun owners and provoke political retaliation against majority Democrats. The legislation, which allows family members or law enforcement to go before a judge and prove to an evidentiary standard that a person represents a significant risk to themselves or others and temporarily remove firearms from that person’s custody, already exists in over a dozen other states where its judicious use has saved lives.

The reality of this legislation and expected very limited utilization–170 cases per year as estimated in the bill’s fiscal note–has very little relationship to the wild arguments that have been made against the bill by gun lobby opponents. Much like the far-out claims in 2013 that guns laws passed that year would result in “gun confiscation” and that “no one in Colorado can ever get a magazine again,” the gun lobby terrorized their grassroots base this year with baseless warnings of vengeful spying neighbors and bumper-sticker raids by police–none of which are rational outcomes of the bill.

The truth is that over 80% of Colorado voters support a “red flag” law, and none of the changes from 2018’s version justify the partisan closing of ranks we saw over the bill this year. The political reality is that Republicans who supported the legislation in 2018 peeled off under intense pressure from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, who helped Democrats take down Rep. Cole Wist and Attorney General candidate George Brauchler as punishment for supporting the bill last year. And make no mistake: Brauchler started backing away from the bill even before he lost the election last fall, having nothing to do with changes in the bill’s language. RMGO’s willingness to tear down fellow Republicans rather than compromise, even at the expense of their own agenda in helping replace Wist with an ardent supporter of gun control, was enough to chill further dissent.

Now, Democrats have the job of cutting through that misinformation. After 2013 we expect they get the urgency.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 12)

The Denver Nuggets start their playoff run on Saturday at home against the San Antonio Spurs. 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…

President Trump is affirming threats to release immigrant detainees into the home districts of prominent Democrats as punishment for not letting him build his big border wall. As the Washington Post reports:

Trump said Friday that his administration is giving “strong considerations” to a plan to release immigrant detainees into “sanctuary cities,” blaming Democrats for what he characterized as an unwillingness to change immigration laws.

His comments on Twitter followed a Washington Post report that the administration had been eyeing districts of political adversaries, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to release detainees.

“The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!” Trump wrote.

His tweets suggested that the plan, which immigration officials had rejected in November and February, was again viable.

Never underestimate the ability of President Trump to sink lower than you ever thought possible. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN:

The fact that this would even be considered speaks volumes about how Trump (and Miller) view not only the ongoing crisis at the border, but human beings more generally. [Pols emphasis]

Because this is, at heart, a story about people. People who tried to enter the country illegally, yes. But people nonetheless. And what the President of the United States wanted to do to these human beings was turn them, literally speaking, into political pawns. Ship them somewhere so that they could, maybe, accomplish a political goal of his — and, if not that, then just make things more uncomfortable for his political opponents…

…Only by seeing certain people as lesser or a threat can you treat them like political pawns on your broader chessboard.

And when you see people as something less than, well, people you can rationalize treating them in ways that no person should be treated. That’s where we are with President Trump on immigration. There is no bottom. He just keeps going lower and lower. [Pols emphasis]

 

► The Denver Post endorses Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for re-election:

Ballots for the city’s spring election will arrive in mailboxes next week, and we hope voters consider how very much is on the horizon in Denver to be excited about….

…Hancock’s administration and City Council have stood up to developers, even if at times we wish they had reacted more quickly: rejecting slot-home developments; closing a loophole that allowed developers of multi-family houses on small lots to not provide off-street parking; setting an ambitious goal for affordable housing, meeting it early and then creating a multi-million dollar fund to keep the progress going. We see the mayor’s leadership in creating Denver Day Works, a program that sets aside city work for day laborers, and in his commitment to creating new shelter beds, improving existing shelter spaces and building a daytime facility with showers and other resources.

More needs to be done, but Hancock is ready and willing to meet the challenges of a booming city and he is the only candidate ready to meet the challenges if this nation faces an economic downturn.

 

► What are Republican recall attempts in Colorado really about? Making money, of course.
 
 
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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 10)

Snowmageddon! 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…

► Attorney General William Barr continues to toss his credibility out the window. As CNN reports:

Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers Wednesday that he will be looking to the “genesis” of the the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into potential ties between members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government began in 2016, saying, “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal” — echoing some of the more inflammatory claims lobbed by President Donald Trump for months, but declining to elaborate on his concerns [Pols emphasis]

…”For the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections, I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said. I’m not suggesting those rules were violated but I think it’s important to look at. . . . I think it’s my obligation.” [Pols emphasis]

He added that he’s not launching a full blown investigation to the FBI, and does not view it as a problem that is “endemic” to the FBI, but has in mind some colleagues to help him “pull all this information together, and letting me know if there are some areas that should be looked at.”

Barr isn’t saying that it happened, but it could have happened, and maybe it did happen. But then again, maybe it didn’t…

As Paul Waldman writes for the Washington Post, Barr is very much the good clapping monkey that Trump was searching for when he hired a new Attorney General.

 

► The Denver Post reports on the advancement of paid family leave legislation in Colorado:

The proposed insurance program, five years in the making, cleared a key Senate committee on a party-line vote Tuesday afternoon after the sponsors amended the bill to allow businesses that already offer identical benefits and local governments to opt out, increase the share employees must contribute, and push back the rollout of the program to 2023.

The committee also reduced the amount of available time off to 12 weeks. The previous version allowed up to 16 weeks in some instances.

The bill still provides wage-replacement benefits and job protections for all employees who work at least 680 hours during a year and contribute to the state fund. Seasonal workers are not covered.

 

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#LOL: Senate Republicans Yuck It Up Over Obstruction

As posted to Facebook by Colorado Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert:

Colorado Senate GOP communications director Sage Naumann.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Sage Naumann is the communications director for the Colorado Senate GOP Minority Office–having succeeded the notably nasty former Colorado Springs City Councilman Sean Paige in the role following the loss of the majority in the 2018 elections. Naumann himself is no stranger to controversy, after a school-age bout of Nazi cosplay got him into trouble when he ran for the school board in ritzy Carlsbad, California:

He says he now regrets the Halloween costume and his Facebook comments, such as, “Sad Natsi mourns the loss of ze Fuhrer” and “Angry German waiting for candy.”

Of course, we’re as relieved as Mr. Naumann’s high school counselor to see that this youthful indiscretion wasn’t the end of his career in politics! Your mileage may vary if you prefer your communications people to not dress like Nazis. On the upside, he’s almost certainly learned his lesson and is unlikely to dress up like a Nazi, you know, going forward.

We digress.

What you have here, of course, is Senate Republicans making light of obstructive tactics that a few short weeks ago were high drama–taken out on bystanders like Senate staffer Andrew Carpenter who was tasked with reading legislation at length, before Democrats remembered that Google can do the hard labor for them. Senate Republicans prevailed in court on a challenge to reading bills at lightning speed, but then had another Friday night obstruction attempt go hilariously awry. Since then, Democrats have gotten a large portion of their 2019 agenda through despite several lengthy episodes of what’s known as “Bobbing”–Sen. Bob Gardner droning on for what feels every time like hours of your life you’ll never get back.

If bumper stickers no one outside the Dome will ever understand help console Colorado’s historically small and historically bitter GOP minority, we fully support them. We’d even buy a few so we can explain the “joke” to people. It’s sure to go over well.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 9)

Temperatures in Colorado could reach a high near 80 degrees; tomorrow it might snow as much as 7 inches. Please note that this does not give you the right to say things like, “That’s Colorado weather for ya!” 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…

► It seems clear that the Trump administration is in the midst of a calculated leadership purge within the Department of Homeland Security. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump continued to dismantle the leadership of the nation’s top domestic security agency Monday, as the White House announced the imminent removal of U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph D. “Tex” Alles, the latest in a series of head-spinning departures from the Department of Homeland Security.

A day after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to step aside following a White House meeting with Trump, senior DHS officials remained in a fog about the fate of their agency’s leaders, expecting more firings as part of a widening purge.

“They are decapitating the entire department,” said one DHS official, noting that the White House had given no cause for Alles’s removal.

As Politico reports, Congressional Republicans are at a loss for words in trying to understand what the White House is doing:

President Donald Trump’s congressional allies are alarmed by his purge at the Department of Homeland Security — urging him not to fire more top officials and warning him how hard it will be to solve twin crises at the border and the federal agencies overseeing immigration policy.

The president’s frantic four days of bloodletting at DHS and other agencies blindsided senior Republicans who are already fretting about difficult confirmation battles ahead. Some are worried about the rising influence of top White House aide Stephen Miller. And after November elections in which suburban voters rejected Trump’s hard-line immigration agenda, the president is once again making it the centerpiece of the GOP’s platform.

“It’s a mess,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, summing up the dynamic on the border and in Washington.

Chris Cillizza of CNN looks at the list of administration officials who said “No” to the big orange guy and subsequently lost their jobs.

 

► Attorney General William Barr said today that a redacted Mueller report will be delivered to Congress and the American public “within a week.” The New York Times has more details, including news that special counsel Robert Mueller did not review a four-page summary of the report that Barr announced last week. Elie Honig of CNN wonders how much of the report will end up blacked-out:

In the interest of transparency and public confidence in the Department of Justice, Barr should put away his redaction pen and disclose as much of Muller’s report as possible. Anything less will raise one big question: What is Barr trying to hide?

 

► These three sentences from Tyler Silvy of the Greeley Tribune tell you everything you need to know about the recall effort to oust Rep. Rochelle Galindo:

Former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard, who is leading the recall effort, in a phone interview Sunday went further when it comes to oil and gas — and the potential negative economic impact of SB 181 — being the reason for the recall.

“That’s our big thing; that’s our only thing,” Kjeldgaard said.

But then there’s this: When asked whether she would be working to recall Galindo if she had voted “no” on SB 181, Kjeldgaard said, “Absolutely.” [Pols emphasis]

Recalling a freshman Democratic Representative is about a lot of things — Galindo’s sexuality, Republican anger at getting drubbed in the 2018 election, and the enormous grift opportunity it presents for numerous right-wing political operatives, to name a few — but it ain’t about how Galindo voted on SB-181.

 

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The Colorado Springs Gazette is Very Silly

Last September, we took note in this space of a rather absurd editorial from the Colorado Springs Gazette which lambasted Colorado media outlets for not doing more to run with a story that very clearly was not a story unless you were a Republican political operative desperate for something to use to attack Democrat Jared Polis. The Springs Gazette editorial also took particular pains to bash 9News reporter/anchor Kyle Clark as a “liberal political activist” on account of the fact that Clark refused to report more on obviously-misleading claims against Polis; you’ll see why this is again relevant in a moment.

On Monday, the Gazette took another step toward firmly establishing itself as the Weekly World News of Colorado media outlets when it appropriated a landmark editorial from the Denver Post and applied it to State Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs). About one month ago, the Post ran a stunning editorial retracting its 2014 endorsement of Republican Cory Gardner for U.S. Senate after Gardner’s indefensible flip-flop in support of President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for wall-building money. The Gazette took that idea from the Post and used it to form a poorly-worded retraction of its own endorsement of Lee last October. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Gazette is apoplectic about Lee’s votes on a whole host of issues, from National Popular Vote legislation to Senate Bill 181, which it breathlessly proclaims will shuttle in the end of times in Colorado:

The measure threatens hundreds of thousands of good jobs and will almost certainly cause a long-term statewide recession.

“Almost certainly cause a long-term statewide recession.” That’s a bit much.

The Gazette also joins conservative Republicans who have completely lost their minds over a bill about sex education in Colorado:

Lee voted for a comprehensive statewide sex education bill that removes local control from decisions about sex education curricula. According to Lee, localities should hobble oil and gas production but have no say over their children’s education.

Um, yeah…that’s not what the sex ed bill does, but that was a neat segue!

The Gazette is predictably irritated about the passage of so-called “red flag” legislation, which generated this paragraph about how the newspaper can prove it is nevertheless not supportive of a recall election for Lee because another lawmaker read its editorial this one time:

One of our editorials against the bill reminded readers how District 11 voters recalled former Senate President John Morse for supporting unpopular gun laws. Lee responded by deliberately misrepresenting our editorial in a speech on the Senate floor. Though we have publicly — in writing — opposed recalls built on mere policy conflicts, Lee falsely accused us of “threatening” him with a recall. The written record shows we did no such thing. State Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, proved Lee’s misrepresentation by reading our editorial into the record.

The Gazette is here attempting to defend its March 19 editorial opposing the “red flag” legislation, which included this ominous language:

Today, Democratic Sen. Pete Lee represents District 11. The Gazette’s editorial board endorsed him, respecting his wisdom. We suspect he will use that wisdom to oppose Senate Bill 1177, avoiding a recall, [Pols emphasis] protecting his political future, and keeping District 11 a Democratic seat.

You really don’t need to read between the lines here.

In its un-endorsement of Lee on Monday, the Gazette also made sure to inexplicably attack media partner 9News once again. In discussing Lee’s initial support for House Bill 1030, the newspaper writes:

Democrat-friendly Channel 9 news anchor Kyle Clark texted confusion and surprise.

Even faux Democrat journalist Kyle Clark was baffled; that’s how you know it’s bad!

Let’s wrap this up and get to the Gazette’s conclusion, which is of course gramatically incorrect.

We cannot take it any more. The Gazette takes endorsements seriously, spending countless hours assessing the qualities of candidates, trying to make useful and informed recommendations. A large and growing body of evidence tells us we were wrong about Pete Lee.

“We cannot take it anymore.” One word, not two. The correct way to write this would be as follows:

We cannot take the Gazette editorial board seriously anymore. And neither should you.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 5)

Today is “Opening Day” for the Colorado Rockies; have fun parking downtown this afternoon. 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…

► Remember when President Trump asserted that he was “totally exonerated” after Attorney General William Barr issued a summary of the Mueller report? That talking point is not aging well.

As the Washington Post reports:

Revelations that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s still-confidential report may contain damaging information about President Trump ignited a fresh round of political fighting on Thursday, ushering in a new phase of the nearly two-year-old battle over the Russia probe.

Members of Mueller’s team have told associates they are frustrated with the limited information that Attorney General William P. Barr has provided about their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

While Barr concluded the special counsel’s evidence was not sufficient to prove that the president obstructed justice, some of Mueller’s investigators have said their findings on obstruction were alarming and significant, one person with knowledge of their thinking said.

Some on the special counsel’s team were also frustrated that summaries they had prepared for different sections of the report — with the view that they could be made public fairly quickly — were not released by Barr, two people familiar with the matter said.

The truth shall set you free, as the saying goes…though it may yet have the opposite effect for many in Trumpland. Attorney General William Barr appears to be well on his way to getting tossed under the ol’ bus.

 

► Colorado lawmakers have reached an agreement on transportation funding, though as the Denver Post reports, the details are murky:

Colorado’s Republican and Democratic lawmakers reached a second and potentially final deal to spend $300 million more on transportation in the next budget year, but the big question still left to answer is what gets cut to pay for it.

This new deal struck Thursday afternoon is $36 million less than the amount agreed to in the Senate last week. The House got approval from their counterparts before announcing this compromise, which directs the six members of the Joint Budget Committee to find $70 million for the Department of Transportation in the $30.5 billion state budget.

“We are giving permission for your JBC members to go into conference committee and dig through the couch cushions a little harder,” Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, told her fellow Democrats during a meeting to explain the agreement.

This can serve as your regular reminder that TABOR is awful.

 

► Elections matter. Leadership matters.

Consider the rollout on Thursday of a plan from Gov. Jared Polis to reduce health care costs in Colorado. The “Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care” includes several pieces of legislation that have bipartisan support. Most of these bills could have been passed and implemented in prior years, but Senate Republicans had no interest in governing with their one-seat majority. This is why Colorado voters overwhelmingly elected Democrats in 2018.

 

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Polis Health Care Plan Shows Why Elections Matter

“Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care” rollout on Thursday

Governor Jared Polis rolled out a detailed plan on Thursday morning for reducing health care costs in Colorado called the “Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care.”

In an event at Denver Health Medical Center, Polis outlined a proposal that includes several pieces of legislation currently making their way through the State Capitol. As KOAA News reports:

Polis already signed a hospital transparency bill into law last week.  That law requires hospitals to report their annual spending and expenditures as part of an effort to lower health care prices.

There are already bills going through the legislature to import prescription drugs from Canada and introduce a reinsurance pool designed to lower premiums for private insurers.

In addition to short-term solutions, Polis also mentioned plans to incentivize preventative care, introduce healthy options to children at schools, improve immunization rates and introduce a separate plan to address behavioral health.

Here’s more detail from a press release:

“Health care costs too much,” said Governor Jared Polis. “No Coloradan should have to go without care because they can’t afford it. This roadmap will be our guide to saving people money on healthcare and ensuring better access to affordable care for everyone in our state.”

Colorado has taken significant steps to increase access to health care and insurance coverage during the past decade. As a result, today only 6.5 percent of Coloradans don’t have health insurance compared to 15.8 percent in 2013. Despite this improvement, the cost of care has been increasing at an alarming rate, especially in rural areas and mountain communities.

All of the central legislative efforts outlined in Polis’ health care proposal have bipartisan support. In other words, these are all bills that could have been shepherded through the legislative process at any point in the last several years.

The reason you aren’t already saving more money on health care costs is because that would have required Senate Republicans to do something other than obstructing Democratic bills and obfuscating about sexual harassment with their one-seat majority in 2017 and 2018. Republicans such as former Senate President Kevin Grantham liked to say that they served as a “check” on Democratic control; in reality, they were an obstacle to reasonable discussions about all sorts of common-sense legislative approaches.

There is absolutely no way that these health care savings efforts would have been produced without Colorado voters giving Democrats both a majority and a mandate in November 2018. The right leadership matters. Elections matter.

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Oil and Gas Reform Bill Clears Final Hurdle, Now Awaits Governor’s Signature

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg

One of the most heavily-discussed bills in Colorado completed its journey through the state legislature on Wednesday. Senate Bill 181 was given final approval by the State Senate — including all amendments added by the State House — and now moves to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis, who is expected to sign the legislation within the coming days.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, one of the prime sponsors of SB-181, announced the bill’s success in an email message earlier today:

SB181 marks the most sweeping and comprehensive reforms to oil and gas laws our state has seen in over 60 years! Health and safety will finally be the top priority in the regulation of oil and gas. Local governments will finally be able to have a voice in what is happening in their communities.

Here’s a quick summary of what the bill accomplishes:

♦ Puts health and safety first by clarifying the mission of the regulator, the COGCC, is to regulate (not foster) the oil and gas industry.

♦ Empowers local governments to have decision-making authority over the siting of oil & gas activities in their community and allows local regulations to be stronger than state requirements.

♦ Strengthens protections for wildlife, dramatically increases air quality and emissions standards, and addresses & prevents abandoned orphan wells.

♦ Protects property owners from forced pooling by increasing the threshold of consent required before forcing other mineral interest owners.

♦ Enhances worker safety by raising safety and training standards.

♦ Reforms the COGCC by reducing industry representation and influence on the commission.

9News has more on the final passage of SB-181, which included more than 30 hours of public testimony.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 3)

Sign us up as investors in the first business to start delivering marijuana AND fast food at the same time. Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Attorney General William Barr says that he will make a “redacted” version of the Mueller report available to lawmakers by mid-April. The House Judiciary Committee isn’t satisfied with that approach, as CNN reports:

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a subpoena to obtain the full confidential report from special counsel Robert Mueller, sending a warning to Attorney General William Barr not to redact Mueller’s report and setting the stage for a clash between Congress and the Trump administration.

Wednesday’s vote, which was divided along party lines, comes the day after an April 2 deadline House Democrats set for Barr to provide the full Mueller report to Congress. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler now has the ability to issue a subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted report as well as the underlying evidence collected during the 22-month investigation into Trump’s team…

…”The big question is, do we get the entire report and the documentation? Or does he redact it so it’s meaningless?” Nadler told on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

Colorado is represented on the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

 

► So-called “red flag” gun safety legislation is through the state legislature and awaiting the signature of Gov. Jared Polis. The editorial board of the Pueblo Chieftain has a strong message for those who think they are doing their community a service if they refuse to enforce the new law:

Sheriffs and the deputies who work for them are supposed to be in the business of enforcing laws. That’s why it’s a little surreal to hear so many of them across Colorado vowing not to enforce the so-called “red flag” bill…

…The larger point here is that sheriffs shouldn’t be in the position of picking which laws they choose to enforce. That’s a slippery slope that, taken to its extreme, would lead to anarchy.

► The newly-elected Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party wasted no time in embarrassing the State GOP on Tuesday. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) made the wrong kind of headlines for his questioning during a hearing to amend the Equality Act when he asked a witness (who was testifying about her experience with discrimination after a same-sex marriage) if she thought requiring Christian doctors to treat gay patients was comparable to forcing Jewish doctors to treat Nazis. From Yahoo! News:

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo, posed an even more outlandish scenario to one of the witnesses, Jami Contreras, who faced discrimination in seeking medical care for her child because she is in a same-sex marriage.

“Is it your position,” Buck asked Contreras, “that an Orthodox Jewish doctor whose grandparent was killed in the Holocaust be required to work with a Nazi patient?”

Nazis are not a protected class, meaning that adherents of a political ideology — in this case, fascism — are not covered by the anti-discrimination statute of the Civil Rights Act. A seemingly confused Contreras answered by pointing out that she and her wife were raising their child according to “Christian values” and wanted only protection from prejudice.

Click here for the full exchange during Tuesday’s hearing.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 2)

At least you don’t have to worry about lame April Fool’s Day jokes for another year. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Trump administration may or may not have an actual plan for health care reform, but the answer to that question won’t be settled anytime soon. President Trump is heeding Republican worries about picking another health care reform fight ahead of the 2020 election cycle, as CNN reports:

President Donald Trump on Monday night backed away from his push for a vote on an Obamacare replacement until after the 2020 elections, bowing to the political reality that major health care legislation cannot pass in the current Congress.

Trump’s statements come a week after his administration announced that it now agreed with a judge’s ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act should be scrapped. The opinion was a dramatic reversal from the administration’s previous stance that only portions of the act could not be defended…

…”The Republicans are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House. It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America,” Trump declared in a series of tweets. “Also, Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions. The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare. Meantime, the USA is doing better than ever & is respected again!”

Trump’s decision comes at a good time for White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who has been getting hammered by media outlets for nonsensical health care statements he made on the talk show circuit last weekend.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) says that he opposes President Trump’s latest threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border. Of course, Gardner says a lot of stuff that he doesn’t mean, like his “opposition” to Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall money.

 

► The Associated Press reports on the advancement of some significant legislation at the State Capitol:

A House committee on Monday advanced a bill to ask Colorado voters if the state can retain excess tax revenue and a companion bill that would spend that revenue on roads and schools.

The House Finance Committee votes came after Democratic Speaker KC Becker argued the state should do all it can — especially at a time of sustained economic growth — to address Colorado’s chronically underfunded transportation and education needs…

…One bill would ask voters in November if the state can keep excess revenue that would otherwise be refunded under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The other would allocate that excess revenue in equal parts to K-12 schools, higher education and transportation.

Even some of the most staunch defenders of TABOR are admitting that the spending restrictions need to be changed — and soon.

 

► So-called “red flag” gun safety legislation has officially made it through the state legislature and is now on its way to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis. From 9News:

The bill would allow the seizure of weapons from persons the court deems to pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

The 38-25 passing vote included two Democrats who voted against it: Rep. Bri Buentello (D-Pueblo) and Rep. Donald Valdez (D-La Jara)…

…Colorado Republicans defeated a similar bill last year, insisting it infringed on citizens’ Second Amendment rights. But Democrats won both statehouse chambers in November, and Polis called for a “red flag” law while campaigning last year.

It would allow family or law enforcement to seek a court order to have guns seized if they believe the owner is a threat. If approved, a subsequent court hearing would be held to determine whether to extend the seizure, up to 364 days.

Polis is expected to sign the legislation, which is overwhelmingly popular among most Colorado voters.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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“Gun Sanctuary” Resolutions Being Adopted by Some CO Counties Have White Supremacist Roots

(Know your history or repeat it – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Nearly half of Colorado’s 64 counties are joining a nationwide trend of passing resolutions opposing laws they don’t like, asserting that their elected county sheriffs need not enforce measures they view as unconstitutional and harkening back to a movement that has roots in white supremacy.

A proposed measure to allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals who are proven to be dangerous has led many Colorado counties to declare themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, meaning they don’t want their elected sheriffs to enforce gun restrictions like the so-called “red flag” bill that’s progressing in the state’s legislature. One Colorado sheriff, Steve Reams of Weld County, told CNN that he’d go to jail before enforcing the proposed law.

This idea of county supremacy, where sheriffs are seen as defenders of the constitution in the face of what conservatives view as overreach from state and federal governments, has roots in far-right and white supremacist movements.

The Posse Comitatus movement, from the Latin for “power of the county,” began in the ’70s, and grew out of the Ku Klux Klan. It aimed to protect white Americans from civil rights laws that they viewed as unconstitutional. They believed that there was no legitimate form of government beyond the county level, and that there was no higher law enforcement authority than the county sheriff. Its founder, William Potter Gale, believed that the U.S. Constitution was a divinely inspired document meant to elevate white Americans above Jews and people of color.

The Posse Comitatus is no longer active, but lives on today in the form of the constitutional sheriff movement. The Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officer Association (CSPOA) formed in 2011, and is based around the same extremist constitutional theory as the Posse Comitatus – that sheriffs can and should disregard laws they see as unconstitutional.

The movement has continued to grow alongside the anti-federal sentiment that was sparked during the Obama administration, with Colorado occasionally at the center of it, especially when it comes to gun control legislation.

(more…)

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Big Oil’s a Great Neighbor–Just Ask New Orleans

Former Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

AP reports via the Colorado Springs Gazette on a lawsuit filed by the city of New Orleans, Louisiana against several oil companies alleging massive damage to wetlands that used to protect the city from flooding and hurricanes:

Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Friday announced the lawsuit, which alleges that pipeline work has caused massive damage to Louisiana’s wetlands and “threatened the safety of our people.”

Cantrell’s statement cites analyses from Tulane, Louisiana State University and the Rand Corporation, saying coastal land loss could cost the state more than $133 billion in lost capital.

“New Orleans has been harmed. … The land that’s been lost was a protective barrier defending us from hurricanes and floods. If the current trend holds, New Orleans will be a literal coastal city within the next fifty years,” she said.

It’s a newsworthy development but how does this affect Colorado, you ask?

Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation, a subsidiary of Whiting Petroleum Corporation, and Aspect Energy LLC, both based in Denver, also are among the firms named in the suit.

Both Whiting and Aspect Energy are local energy firms with deep political connections to Colorado. Whiting Petroleum’s Vice President of Corporate and Government Relations is none other than former Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman, who also ran GOP Senate “independent expenditure” campaign through his public relations company a la the Neville family’s Rearden Strategic and the 2018 House IE effort. In his position as VP of Corporate and Government Relations, we expect Cadman is intimately involved in the company’s dispute with New Orleans–and not on the side of New Orleans.

But don’t worry, Colorado! Coastal Louisiana might have been devastated over the course of decades by the oil and gas industry’s irresponsible development and at-best half-hearted remediation, but apart from the occasional house blowing up in Colorado…wait, never mind, that’s not a persuasive argument! Scratch that. We are a mile above sea level, which admittedly makes coastal flooding less likely. So, there’s that. We still get floods though, in the same places that oil companies drill

On second thought, maybe Coloradans should be paying attention? Louisiana’s experience with oil and gas development is more relevant to the present debate than the industry’s surrogates in Colorado will ever admit.

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#NotAllRepublicans, Red Flag Edition

Amid all the acrimony directed at majority Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly over the passage of House Bill 19-1177, the bill to create Extreme Risk Protection Orders to temporarily remove firearms from people judged in court to be a threat to themselves or the public, it bears repeating that the legislation enjoys overwhelming public support in every poll that’s been conducted on the issue–including a 2018 poll in Colorado that found support for a “red flag” law north of 80%.

That includes a large segment of Republican voters, though they may be reticent to speak up at this particular moment–and one such Republican sent flowers this weekend to the prime Senate sponsor of House Bill 19-1177, Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood:

It’s an anecdotal example of how this issue has evolved since the last round of legislative action on guns six years ago, but also how the issue has never cut cleanly along partisan lines–despite the insistence by the NRA and the “no compromise” gun lobby that unfettered gun rights are a Republican litmus test. Just like the old saying that “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged,” today a supporter of gun control can be a conservative who has either woke to–or been personally affected by–gun violence.

In the next few months, sensible conservatives like this one may get to do more than send flowers.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 29)

March is on its way out in a sorta lion-lamb hybrid style. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Grand Junction Sentinel reports on the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s new Secretary of Interior: Rifle, Colorado native David Bernhardt.

Bernhardt on Thursday touted his experience and defended his ethics — denying one senator’s accusation he lied about his ethical integrity — during his Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to become secretary of the Department of Interior.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who strongly backs Bernhardt’s nomination, said in introducing him to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee that he believes Bernhardt would become the seventh Interior secretary from Colorado if confirmed. Recent secretaries from the state include Ken Salazar during the Obama administration and Gale Norton during the George W. Bush administration…

…Bernhardt’s work as an attorney and lobbyist for oil and gas, water and other industries affected by Interior Department policies has caused him to come under intense scrutiny from critics over the policies he has espoused during the Trump administration and questions about possible conflicts of interest.

That scrutiny was laid bare during Thursday’s hearing when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told Bernhardt he’d read recently obtained department documents showing Bernhardt had blocked release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report with new analysis of the dangerous effects of toxic chemicals.

As the Colorado Independent reports, Bernhardt says he will stop recusing himself from cases that might cause a conflict with his former lobbying clients. That’s some straightforward graft right there.

During Thursday’s confirmation hearing, Bernhardt also updated news about the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to move its headquarters to the Western U.S. — perhaps in Grand Junction.

 

► Lawmakers in the United Kingdom rejected a third proposal for managing England’s Brexit. As CNN explains:

The defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286 came on the same day that Britain was originally supposed to leave the European Union, and left the path forward on Brexit unclear.

The rejection of May’s plan raises the chances of a lengthy delay to Brexit or Britain crashing out of Europe without a deal on the new deadline of April 12.

May had offered to resign if Parliament passed her deal, but ultimately she was unable to persuade enough MPs to back a plan they had resoundingly rejected in two previous votes.

It may now rest on British lawmakers to find a way out of the impasse when they run a second vote on alternatives to May’s deal on Monday.

 

► As Colorado Public Radio reports, a last-minute budget deal that includes new money for transportation funding may yet be held up before passage.

 

► So-called “red flag” gun safety legislation has passed out of the State Senate and now returns to the State House for consideration of amendments. House Bill 19-1177 is expected to win final approval in the House before making its way to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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“Red Flag” Wins Final State Senate Passage

Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Lois Court (D).

A press release from the Senate sponsors of House Bill 19-1177, the long-debated bill to create a process to temporarily remove firearms from persons found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others that won final passage in the Colorado Senate today:

The Colorado State Senate today voted 18-to-17 to pass HB19-1177, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, a bill sponsored by Senators Lois Court (D-Denver) and Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) that will save lives by allowing family members and law enforcement to request a court order to temporarily remove firearms from someone who is deemed a danger to themselves or to others. The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives for consideration of amendments.

“After years of working to pass similar legislation, I am proud that the Senate has finally voted to advance a commonsense gun safety bill that will ultimately save the lives of Coloradans and law enforcement officers,” said Senator Court. “Thoughts and prayers don’t save lives, but extreme risk protection orders will, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

“This bill is supported by an overwhelming majority of Coloradans, and outside of this building, it is not controversial,” said Senator Pettersen. “We passed this bill and did what is right for our law enforcement, domestic violence survivors, our kids who just want to feel safe when they go to school, and the countless family members who have lost someone to unnecessary gun violence.”

HB19-1177 is named in honor of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish III who was killed on duty in 2017 by an individual whose mental health concerns were well-known to others around him. This legislation would give law enforcement and family members the opportunity to seek a temporary order for someone who appears at risk of dangerous behavior.

To successfully block firearm access, a petitioner would have to demonstrate a preponderance of evidence that the individual poses a significant threat to themselves or others by possessing a firearm. After a petition is filed, a court would place a temporary order for up to two weeks until a hearing determines whether a full protection order is appropriate. A full protection order could then be approved for up to 364 days.

Although Senate President Leroy Garcia voted as expected against HB19-1177, the rest of the Democratic caucus held together and sent the bill by an 18-17 vote back to the House for one more reconciliation stop before heading to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk and his expected signature. Garcia could have utilized his power as Senate President to override the majority ready to pass the bill but commendably chose not to–insulating himself politically from any potential fallout back home in Pueblo but not standing in the way of one of the biggest Democratic priorities of the session.

It’s fully expected that Republicans and the gun lobby will respond with maximum outrage to final passage of a red flag bill, and the legislation is already part of the rubric of those who want to organize a recall either of legislators or Gov. Polis. Now that the bill is passed, proponents now have the task of demystifying the legislation and reminding the short-attention-span media about the overwhelming support for the bill expressed in public polling. Despite the angry bluster from the right, it’s by no means a given that this legislation will provoke the same degree of backlash seen in 2013 against that year’s gun laws. As we’ve discussed at length in this space, the issue and the electorate have both evolved considerably.

What we can say with certainty is that a big Democratic campaign promise is about to be kept.

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Throwback Thursday: Going Gun Crazy In 2013!

With all of the meta-discussion in this latter half of the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly about the prospect of backlash, blocking statutes by petition, recalls, and all the other bellicose threats from the losers of the 2018 elections over the agenda of the winners, we thought it would be useful to highlight once again some of the rhetoric that underpinned the discontent that ultimately led to the 2013 recall elections against two Democratic targets of opportunity on the Colorado Senate.

Like this statement from then-GOP Sen. Kent Lambert on March 27, 2013, six years ago yesterday:

We have banned, effectively banned gun ownership, from the citizens of the state, including our active duty military members, and our National Guard members.

That’s Sen. Lambert claiming during the debate on the 2013 budget that the laws passed that year, closing the private sale background check loophole and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds, “effectively banned gun ownership.” Today, with the 2013 laws on the books for six years and guns continuing to be sold at a brisk pace, we know that this assertion was absolute nonsense–but back in 2013, with Republican opposition to the bills raging at a fever pitch, the local press did almost nothing to fact-check the just plain stupid accusations that sent hundreds of angry gun owners to the Capitol in protest.

And of course, Sen. Lambert was far from alone:

That’s Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute–who in 2013 warned that if Colorado House Bill 13-1224 limiting gun magazine capacity to 15 rounds were to pass, “almost all guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again.” This false claim was based on a purposefully strained interpretation of the plain language of the bill, debunked in an implementation memo from Republican Attorney General John Suthers. But much like Lambert’s claim that Democrats were “effectively banning gun ownership,” the lie traveled around the state before anyone had a chance to refute it.

This kind of absurd lying went on and on, unchecked all the way through the 2013 recall season. Senate President Bill Cadman said the state should “shut down the Department of Natural Resources” since hunters can’t bring their guns to the state anymore, a statement that had no basis in reality whatsoever. In a radio interview on March 23, 2013, Sen. Lambert had gone even further, actually claiming that “everybody” would have their guns confiscated within a couple of years:

And now, you know, with everybody having their guns confiscated or taken away here over the next couple years, almost completely overturning the Second Amendment, what’s going to happen to our crime rate?

In addition to motivating grassroots support for the recalls, these falsehoods also had the effect of sowing confusion ahead of Colorado’s highly revenue-positive hunting season–so much so that then-Rep. Bob Rankin actually proposed a budget amendment for an education program to explain to misinformed gun owners that yes, you can still hunt in Colorado with your own very much still-legal guns! There’s little question in retrospect that much of the desperate anger instilled in grassroots supporters of the 2013 recalls was fueled by this deliberate misinformation.

Today, all the talking heads in Colorado politics are chattering about the prospect of recalls, and citing the events of 2013 as evidence of the danger to majority Democrats. But the two things that nobody seems to be talking about are how the politics of guns have shifted since 2013 toward support for more gun control, and how the 2013 recalls were driven by falsehoods that should embarrass those who spread them today.

Some if the names have changed. Some haven’t. But the smell remains the same.

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Will Leroy Garcia Scuttle “Red Flag?”

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

“This bill is supported by an overwhelming majority of Coloradans, and outside of this building, it is not controversial,” said Democratic Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, the bill’s main sponsor. “We are going to pass this bill and do what’s right for our law enforcement, domestic violence survivors, our kids who just want to feel safe when they go to school, and the countless family members who have lost someone to unnecessary gun violence.”

She said she’s still confident it will pass its final vote in the Senate, even without Garcia’s support.

—–

Senate President Leroy Garcia (D).

As the Colorado Independent’s John Herrick reports, one of the major agenda items for Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly is in jeopardy after Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia announced he will vote no on House Bill 19-1177, the “red flag” bill to enact a process for the temporary removal of firearms from people in a mental health crisis:

Garcia’s decision, first reported in The Pueblo Chieftain Tuesday, comes amid threats of recalls targeting Democratic lawmakers in vulnerable seats who support gun control legislation.

“I took a hard look at this bill, and while I strongly believe in its intent of preventing gun violence, this is simply not the right legislation for the people of Pueblo and southern Colorado,” Garcia said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon.

House Bill 1177, which passed the House 38-25 earlier this month, would allow police to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms if the person is deemed a threat to themselves or others. Since the February 2017 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., over a dozen states have passed similar red-flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders…

Democrats control the Senate 19-16. If one more Democrat joins Senate President Garcia and decides to vote against the bill, it will fail.

We’ll try to summarize all of the moving parts in play: the briefest and easiest explanation is that Senate President Garcia remains haunted by the ghosts of the recalls that sacked his predecessor Angela Giron back in 2013. But there’s more to the story than that, in both mitigating and aggravating ways for Garcia personally. Garcia has been consistently less supportive of gun safety laws than many other Democrats, having voted to repeal the state’s 15-round magazine limit in previous years–a position he claims is in line with the will of constituents in Pueblo and Southern Colorado. As Senate President in 2019, Garcia has faced extreme intransigence from the Republican minority as they’ve sought to obstruct majority Democrats, leading to tough calls like the decision to keep the chamber open during the recent “bomb cyclone” blizzard.

This is all happening in the context of a bill that failed in 2018 despite bipartisan lawmaker support–support the bill lost this year, ostensibly due to changes made at the request of law enforcement that opponents say shift the burden of proof to the accused. But despite the gun lobby’s intense campaign against, we’re still talking about legislation that enjoys overwhelming public support. Could an amendment reverting to the 2018 language bring sides back to the table–or at least reveal the bad faith of opponents? Is Garcia pulling a safety valve to forestall another grassroots rebellion from the right by coming out against this bill, or caving in the face of bullying by the gun lobby? Right now there are more questions than answers.

History will record this moment either as an act of leadership, or something else.

We’ll have to wait and see how it ends.

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So Much BS, So Little Time

Last night a “reporter” employed by the right-wing Independence Institute, Sherrie Peif, Tweeted out from the Capitol that a large natural gas project had been withdrawn from consideration by the energy company responsible, DCP Midstream, due to “uncertainty” regarding new legislation to regulate the oil and gas industry making its way through the Colorado General Assembly.

A claim immediately picked up and recirculated by political groups opposed to Senate Bill 19-181:

There’s just one problem, as the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy reports today: none of this is true.

DCP Midstream has no intention of reducing investments in Weld County, and it did not pull its application for a $350 million gas processing facility…

“We are pursuing a variety of options related to compression,” Sandberg said. “We pulled a permit for one compressor station. The remainder of the project has not been canceled. The pulling of the compressor had nothing to do with 181.”

DCP has invested billions of dollars in Weld County, including its Grand Parkway — 62 miles of steel pipeline just completed last year. Sandberg said those investments are not stopping any time soon.

This is far from the only example of blatant disinformation being spread to sow fear over passage of this legislation. The truth is that the energy industry has recently suffered far more from low natural gas prices than any regulatory burden. While grassroots outreach campaigns funded by the oil and gas industry warn of billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, the truth is there’s no way to predict that–and the industry’s estimates predicate on a total shutdown of the oil and gas industry, which is not going to happen, are completely worthless.

In this case, the energy company was nice enough to admit that their lobbyist was not truthful:

Sandberg acknowledged [DCP Midstream lobbyist Patrick] Groom said the company was pulling out due to regulatory and other reasons, “but ultimately, it’s not related to SB 181.” [Pols emphasis]

Take note when this happens, because it doesn’t very often.

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Senate GOP Friday Night Obstruction Fails Hilariously

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver and Nic Garcia report, last night’s attempt by Colorado Senate Republicans to procedurally obstruct legislation from passing that chamber, continuing a campaign of obstruction from the Senate GOP minority that began with a demand to read a 2,000-page technical cleanup bill into the record and continued yesterday with Republicans ordering more bills read at length and endless ad nauseum speechifying by GOP caucus members…didn’t end off the way Republicans were hoping:

The debate over House Bill 1177 ran nearly 12 hours, but the vote came down as expected, with Republicans opposing the extreme risk protection order or “red flag” bill and Democrats supporting it.

The voice vote at about 7:30 p.m. was only the beginning of the drama on the Senate floor, as Republicans triggered a procedure to continue debate, keeping senators at work…

And that’s where the tables turned on Republicans, who thought they had gummed up the works yet again:

At about 9 p.m., Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo asked for all senators to return to the chamber. That triggered a search by the state Highway Patrol to find five Republican senators who had left the building hours earlier. [Pols emphasis] According to a GOP Senate spokesperson, two were on their way to the Western Slope and at least one had left the state altogether.

As it turns out, gentle reader, if you’re trying to force endless debate into late in the night on a Friday and a third of your caucus bails on you without permission, your protest loses its intended effect! Not to mention that Senate President Leroy Garcia can and apparently did send armed State Patrol to cart your wayward caucus members back to the Senate chamber. In a late-night session forced by the same GOP minority, this was a moment of absurdity that no Democrat could have better engineered.

Ultimately, party leaders brokered a deal to proceed with debate and end the search for the absent senators — Don Coram, Ray Scott, Kevin Priola, Jim Smallwood and Larry Crowder — but mark them absent during debate on a bill that their party sees as a top-priority Second Amendment issue.

In the end, the “red flag” bill passed second reading and Senators went home around 10:00PM last night. Whether this embarrassing episode results in a check on the Senate GOP’s “slowdown” campaign when the body reconvenes on Monday is anybody’s guess, but whatever message victory Republicans were hoping to achieve with yesterday’s no-doubt exhausting effort was squandered–by five Republican Senators who decided beating the traffic out of town was more important than Minority Leader Chris Holbert’s no-win pissing match with the majority.

It’s not the message Republicans wanted to send, but it says a mouthful.

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Colorado Democrats Look to Clear the Air. Literally.

The mountains are still there. Probably. (photo of Denver area in early March, via Streetsblog Denver)

Carbon. Mercury. Sulfur Dioxide.

These are fine things to be discussing in a chemistry class, but not to be inhaling into your lungs in copious amounts. Concerns about air quality and Climate Change were a top priority for Colorado voters even before a disgusting gray soup settled over the Denver Metro area in recent months. At one point in early March, Colorado’s air quality measured more than three times worse than moderate air quality levels in Beijing, China, where people regularly walk around with masks over their nose and mouth.

On Thursday, Democrats in the State House of Representatives introduced legislation that is intended to clean up Colorado’s air quality: House Bill 19-1261, “Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution.” The bill sets goals for reducing carbon pollution by at least 25 percent by 2026, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 by directing Colorado’s Air quality Control Commission to “reduce, prevent, and control air pollution throughout the state of Colorado.” As House Speaker K.C. Becker tells the Denver Post, HB-1261 contains no new fees for pollution and would have little impact on oil and gas operations that follow methane regulations.

House Bill 1261 is sure to draw opposition from some critics who will try to compare it to the “Green New Deal” proposed by Congressional Democrats, but Colorado’s legislation is focused solely on reducing carbon pollution in our state in an effort to reduce adverse health effects such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Even your phone knows that Colorado’s air quality sucks.

From a purely political perspective, this bill follows many of the promises made by Democratic candidates in 2018; its goals are widely supported by Colorado voters, as poll after poll has confirmed. A full 90% of Coloradans support increasing the use of clean, renewable energy in Colorado, and 62% believe that Climate Change is a significant issue. Polling conducted after the 2018 election further validates this approach.

As Kelly Nordini pointed out in a December opinion piece for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, voters were clear about their concerns in November:

When asked which policy issue was “most important in your vote for governor,” 42 percent of independents selected “energy and the environment” as one of their top two choices – the most of any issue tested. Coming in second place was health care at 35 percent, followed by education at 32 percent.

In other words, it wasn’t the economy, healthcare, education, immigration, or taxes that rose to the top for Colorado’s independents as they headed to the ballot box. The most important policy issue for this key voting bloc was energy and environment, with a strong plurality of the state’s independents going for pro-environment candidates.

Of course, Gov.-Elect Jared Polis won the Colorado governor’s race in a landslide against State Treasurer Walker Stapleton by running as a fierce advocate for Colorado’s environment, pledging to transition Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, pushing for common-sense safeguards on oil and gas drilling, and calling for protecting the state’s parks and public lands.

Breathe easier, Colorado — your legislative leaders are paying attention.

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Watch Senate Republicans Waste Everyone’s Time

“Frankly, it feels like we’re negotiating with children sometimes.”

— Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (3/21/19)

Republicans in the State Senate (and to a lesser extent, the State House) have decided to go all-in on their tantrum strategy of “delay, delay, delay” because they don’t have the votes to stop legislation that makes them sad. It is perfectly within the rules for a legislator to demand that everything be read aloud, but usually nobody makes this request because it is a complete waste of time and money.

Denver7 has more on this “childish obstruction”:

“The constitution gives us the right to say ‘Slow down. Don’t make these big changes,’” Senator Own [sic] Hill from Colorado Springs said.

On Thursday, Hill requested that the Senate journal, or minutes from the previous day’s session, be read back in full before work could start. That took a half hour to complete. Hill then asked for multiple bills to be read out loud in full before they were voted on…

…The Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate disagreed with the tactic, calling it “obstructionist.”

“They’re basically slowing things down to a crawl and creating an embarrassment for the institution of the democratic process,” Senator Steve Fenberg said…

…It took the Senate two-and-a-half hours to vote on two total bills on Thursday morning. [Pols emphasis]

Per the demands of Sen. Owen Hill and friends, Senate staffers have been required to read the entire journal from the previous day, including the votes taken by every Senator on every bill (Senate Journal for March 21, 2019 starts here on page 509).

Reading the entire journal aloud on Thursday took about 48 minutes. This is what it sounded like:

 

Marshall Zelinger of 9News has more on the poor bastard whose job it is to read aloud to a bunch of grown men and women. We’re looking forward to Senate Republicans trying to explain this nonsense to voters in 2020.

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