Walker Stapleton on commuting in the rain: “I might as well stay in bed”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Daily commutes are a grind, especially in lousy weather. Most of us, though, still grit our teeth, grab a jacket and get behind the wheel. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton? He hits the snooze button.

Earlier this year, Stapleton, who hopes to become the Republican nominee for governor, told a local conservative group that his commute from Greenwood Village to the State Capitol is so bad when it’s raining or snowing that he doesn’t bother getting out of bed.

I live in, uh, south of the city and my commute used to be a reliable fifteen minutes. Now it’s a reliable 45 minutes. And if there’s rain or snow, I might as well stay in bed for an extra hour or hang out at home, because I’m not going to get to work.

According to Google Maps, Stapleton’s commute from his house in the ritzy suburb he was unwilling to name, is about 13 miles. His 45-minute estimate puts him just a minute under the average Denver metro commute according to an October 2017 study conducted by staffing firm Robert Half. The company surveyed 2700 workers, though it is unknown whether they factored in those who decide to sleep in rather than face raindrops.

Stapleton’s disinclination for damp driving may explain accusations of absenteeism that have dogged him throughout the years. A 2014 campaign ad noted a pattern of late arrivals and frequent absences based on his Capitol key card records.

Official key-card records from his Denver office confirm Stapleton only bothers showing up at his office around 10 days a month, often, skipping the office for weeks at a time, or only showing up after 3 p.m.

That claim was denied by his campaign manager, who said Stapleton often forgets his key card and therefore is forced to use the public entrance where records aren’t kept.

Official attendance records again also caused trouble for the Treasurer when it came to his favorite topic: Public Employee Retirement Association meetings. Meeting minutes from 2012 – 2014 showed Stapleton showing up for only eight of 21 meetings.

The PERA board also held a meeting yesterday, May 3. According to journalist David Sirota, Stapleton didn’t show up. We don’t know why he wasn’t there, but we do know it was raining all day long.

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Just A “Concerned Citizen?” The Google Says No Way

Jeffrey Cummings.

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd has a story about the debate over transportation funding at the Colorado legislature with less than one week remaining in the 2018 session–a story seriously deficient in terms of proper disclosure of the principal source:

Maybe no one understands the sorry state of Colorado’s roads more than business owners like Jeff Cummings with Duffy Crane and Hauling…

“I would use insanely frustrated,” Cummings said.

Trucks that used to make two deliveries in the metro area a day, he says, now can only get in one. And he’s had to double the number of drivers it takes to haul the same amount of goods, as federal regulations restrict how many hours a trucker can be on the road and more and more time is spent in congestion.

And who is this concerned citizen mad at, you ask? Democrats, naturally!

After years of gridlock on the roads and at the State Capitol, Senate Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise last month that included $500 million for transportation this year.

A ballot measure is also asking voters to approve a $3 billion bond in November, but House Democrats didn’t like the deal and have been working on their own proposal for the last month.

“To have a unanimous vote on that topic, and that much bipartisanship is a big day in this state and it appears to be flushed down toilet in one day. Disappointed,” Cummings said.

CBS4’s longtime political reporter Shaun Boyd does note at one point in her story that Jeffrey Cummings has “been lobbying lawmakers for years to increase funding for transportation.” But readers of Boyd’s story might well think that Cummings has been “lobbying” for more transportation funding in some kind of personal capacity–or strictly as the owner of his own trucking business.

But as about five seconds of Googling makes plain, you’d be wrong:

At the Colorado Motor Carriers Association (CMCA) recent annual meeting, Jeffrey Cummings, the President of Duffy Companies, was selected as its Chairman of the Board for the upcoming year.

In this capacity he will lead CMCA, who represents over 650 companies that are either directly involved or affiliated with trucking and transportation in Colorado. Overall trucking related businesses employ almost 100,000 people within Colorado with an overall payroll exceeding $4.8 billion.

That’s right, folks. Jeffrey Cummings is in fact one of the state’s leading transportation industry lobbyists, representing over 650 trucking companies at the state capitol. Cummings was chairman of the board in 2016 and currently serves as the group’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs Chair. In addition, Cummings sits on the board of the state’s workman’s comp provider Pinnacol Assurance, and a member of the top-flight business lobbying group Colorado Concern.

And yes, Jeffrey Cummings is a registered Republican.

Negotiations over a final transportation deal continue as of this writing, and it’s still possible that an agreement will be reached that pleases the transportation lobby. Either way, this story from CBS4 Denver supplies no counterweight to Cummings’ blasting of Democrats for their supposed intransigence–and the failure to disclose that Cummings is a top Republican lobbyist greatly misrepresents his easily discernible partisan motives.

Reporting what somebody thinks about something is fine. But let’s be honest about who that somebody is.

Colorado GOP Tells Business Community To Cram It

As the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, mark this down as another example of why Colorado can’t have nice things:

Colorado Senate Republican leaders threw cold water Monday on a new, business-backed transportation-funding plan, saying they now believe there’s enough money in the budget for roads this year and next that lawmakers won’t have to ask voters for more.

A trio of business organizations — Colorado Concern, the Colorado Motor Carriers Association and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp. — are pushing a proposal that could generate billions of dollars by increasing the specific ownership tax on new and existing vehicles and pair that new revenue with as much as $300 million annually from the state budget…

However, leaders in the Republican-led Senate left no doubt during their weekly media briefing Monday: No such ballot referral from their body would be forthcoming. Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, said he’s told groups seeking a new source of revenue for roads and transit that they should prepare to work through the petition process rather than the Legislature to get something on the ballot. [Pols emphasis]

We don’t expect there to be unanimous agreement on the need for a tax increase to pay for backlogged transportation needs across the state. The point of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), which obliges elected leaders to run a statewide ballot campaign for most some revenue increases, is not that there will never be a need to raise taxes. In theory, the idea is that tax increases can happen as needed as long as the voters approve it.

But if Republicans won’t even refer a measure to ask the question, how can voters approve anything? Yes, the business lobby could run a ballot petition drive, though under 2016’s Amendment 71 constitutional amendment ballot questions have become substantially more difficult to qualify for the ballot. The biggest reason Republicans in the legislature don’t want to run a ballot measure, aside from the usual ideological mental blocks, is their own desire to float billions of dollars in new bond obligations–which the DBJ correctly notes could blow holes in future budgets if today’s rosy economic forecasts don’t pan out.

Either way, this is just another example of the business community’s generous support for Republican candidates for office coming back to bite them. The overwhelming consensus outside a narrow segment of conservative ideologues is that yes, the government needs more revenue for roads. Not rearranged or borrowed revenue, more revenue.

All you’ve got to do is convince a bunch of guys who want to “drown government in the bathtub.”

Who you helped elect.

The absolute last thing Colorado needs

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

While nearly everyone in Colorado is working on how to solve our challenges, the Koch-funded extremists at Americans for Prosperity are actually suggesting we reduce — or completely eradicate — our income tax at a time when General Fund expenditures are at nearly recessionary levels as a share of our economy.

Among their recently released priorities, we find this nugget: “Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a crown jewel of state policy and has been one of the primary reasons the state’s economy is among the strongest in the country, despite lacking other advantages like a right-to-work law or no income tax.”

Wait a minute. Play that back: “Despite lacking other advantages like…no income tax”?

This has to be one of the most irresponsible ideas we’ve ever seen proposed in Colorado, but its one that AFP seems to be recklessly importing here. Just this week, Sens. Grantham and Sonnenberg passed their proposal to reduce state income tax out of committee.

Clearly, AFP isn’t paying much attention to the reality of what’s happening in our economy and the role shrinking public investment is playing in Coloradans’ inability to get ahead.

Here are just a few of the ways Colorado is failing families:

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Trump’s Vaunted “Infrastructure Plan” Worth Squat To Colorado

With attention turning to a forthcoming proposal from the Trump administration to “spur” decades-backlogged infrastructure spending across the nation–“spur” being the word ominously substituting for the words “pay for“–Coloradans hoping for help with our own state’s aging transportation and communications networks are not seeing much to get excited about. As CBS4 Denver reports:

The Trump Administration is expected to release its plan to fund new roads and bridges. Pres. Donald Trump says he wants to make a trillion dollar investment but it may leave Colorado short.

The state is already in the hole billions of dollars when it comes to transportation funding. If the draft of Mr. Trump’s infrastructure plan is any indication, that hole could get much deeper.

And why is that, you ask? The same reason Colorado can’t step up to the pump to pay for the huge investments needed right now:

The draft calls for half of federal infrastructure dollars to be doled out as competitive grants and only states willing to invest more money themselves would be eligible.

“If Colorado doesn’t pass increased revenue this year, Colorado won’t be able to compete,” said Ed Rendell, head of the bipartisan group Building America’s Future.

Trump’s infrastructure plan proposes federal investment of a mere $200 billion, a small fraction of the number Trump used on the campaign trail when boasting of his plans to comprehensively rebuild America’s roads and bridges. The remaining $800 billion of Trump’s “$1 trillion plan” would be ponied up by the state and local governments who would benefit from the improvements.

The short version: Colorado’s GOP-engineered revenue restrictions would leave the state unable to take advantage of the national Republican Party’s own infrastructure plan.

The principle Trump is operating on with this plan, that beneficiaries of infrastructure improvement should have some “skin in the game,” breaks down in the case of states like Colorado who don’t have the fiscal ability to keep up. Even with the perverse “unexpected” revenue boost from the federal tax bill for Colorado, the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights prevents lawmakers from taking the action that would be needed to make the investment the Trump administration expects.

There are politically mitigating factors that could play in here, like Colorado Republicans embracing a ballot measure to meaningfully raise revenue in 2018. But for obvious reasons, we’re not holding our breath. The more likely scenario is the obvious contradiction is allowed to play out with no acknowledgement–let alone action to actually resolve it.

For Colorado, the whole business is just another lesson in why we can’t have nice things.

Colorado Republicans Celebrate Higher Taxes (Yes, Really)

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R).

Colorado Public Radio reported yesterday on a provision in the GOP’s tax cut bill that could perversely (to the bill’s stated intent, anyway) increase the state and local taxes paid by residents of Colorado and several other states:

There are winners and losers in the GOP tax bill, and a lot of the coverage has focused on what it means for businesses and individuals, but state and local governments have a lot at stake too.

The Republican plan will add about $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit, yet it potentially will add money to Colorado’s coffers. State budget experts estimate roughly $300 million more in state taxes will be paid as a result.

How, you may ask?

Even though many taxpayers will see a rate cut, people’s taxable income, on average, is expected to increase because of changes with federal deductions. Specifically, line 43 of your federal form — “taxable income” — will be larger. That number carries over onto your Colorado return. Since the Centennial State’s income tax is a flat 4.63 percent of your federal taxable income, a bigger number means more dough coming in.

And of course, more “dough coming in” means more taxes being paid! With Colorado’s reckoning of your taxable income being linked to your federal taxable income, your total state taxes will increase with the loss of deductions. Even if the tax rate on that income goes down at the federal level, Colorado can’t afford to match the rate cut–especially not with the likelihood of big federal budget cuts down the road to pay for these tax cuts today.

Now, you might think that this change of events would have local Republicans upset about hiking taxes on Coloradans as a consequence of cutting taxes nationwide. But you’d be wrong! A statement from Republican House Minority Leader Patrick Neville celebrates new reports of revenue growth in Colorado–including hundreds of millions in new Colorado tax revenue specifically from the GOP “tax cut” bill:

The forecast prepared by the Legislative Council showed the General Fund is expected to grow $748 million over the previous fiscal year, and if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is passed by Congress this week, that number could be as high as $962.7 million for 2018-19 spending… [Pols emphasis]

Roads are our top priority, and there is no reason why nearly all of this new revenue should not go to widening highways and expanding primary arteries.

Can you imagine the outcry from the TABOR-diehard fiscal hawks in the Colorado General Assembly if Democrats in Washington had passed legislation that for any reason, intended or unintended, had the effect of increasing tax revenues in Colorado? This surely must be the first time Rep. Neville has ever cheered higher taxes under any circumstances–and we can’t help but think the straightforward partisan explanation for it is the most probable one.

Does Colorado need the money, for roads and a long list of other priorities? You bet. This and a lot more is needed based on every responsible long-term look at the state’s revenue sources and obligations that has been conducted in the past decade.

But what we need is more revenue generated responsibly for Colorado–not as an unintended side effect of a bad idea in Washington. It would also be nice for the state to be able to keep revenues generated in boom times instead of refunding it via insultingly paltry TABOR checks, but we think Neville’s newfound largesse would stop well short of that too.

Above all, in the context of everything the GOP tax bill will do in the long term, it’s critical to understand that this is not any kind of “windfall.” Every dollar Colorado nets in the short term from this change in taxable income will be cancelled out and then some by future federal cuts affecting all manner of vital programs. The only people who don’t think so are purposefully deluding themselves.

And when that happens, don’t look to Patrick Neville for help.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 8)

In these times of escalating partisan rancor, it’s nice to know that we can all come together in a shared dislike of Tom Brady. 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…

► Congress this morning gave final approval to a $15 billion disaster relief package in the wake of Hurricane Harvey…just as Hurricane Irma prepares to throttle Florida. President Trump is apparently quite excited that his show of “bipartisanship” this week has attracted so much positive media coverage. As NBC News reports:

Trump expressed that he was thrilled with the positive news coverage the debt limit deal had received, a senior Democratic aide told NBC News.

“The people of the United States want to see a coming together, at least to an extent. We’re different parties, we have different thoughts, different feelings, different ideas. But I think you’re coming to see a much stronger coming together,” Trump told reporters at the White House Thursday.

Earlier in the day he said he looks forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats.

You’re a good wittle President, aren’t you? Yes, you are! 

 

► Anyway, back to the hurricane news…As the New York Times reports, nearly the entire state of Florida is in danger from one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded:

One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded crescendoed over the Caribbean on Thursday, crumpling islands better known as beach paradises into half-habitable emergency zones and sideswiping Puerto Rico before churning north. It is expected to hit the Florida Keys and South Florida by Saturday night…

…Gov. Rick Scott of Florida urged extreme caution in the face of a powerful storm that could quickly change course. “Every Florida family must prepare to evacuate regardless of the coast you live on,” he said.

Hurricane Irma is the size of France — like, the entire country. Miami could take a near-direct hit by Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, a third potentially major hurricane, Jose, is right on the heels of Irma. And a major 8.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded off the southern coast of Mexico.

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has already dropped his plans to push a discharge petition for a House vote on DACA. As The Hill reports:

Coffman said he made an agreement with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to hold off on gathering support for his discharge petition for the bill, which would extend protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years.

Coffman filed the discharge petition on Tuesday, which would need 218 signatures to trigger a House floor vote. Discharge petitions are typically used by the House minority party to bring attention to legislation ignored by the majority-party leadership — but are rarely successful.

For a member of the House majority like Coffman to file a discharge petition was an exceedingly rare move.

If you were cynical about Coffman’s newfound commitment to DACA, well, go ahead and say, “I told you so.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — Mike Coffman’s former spouse — doesn’t want any part of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program for children of undocumented immigrants. Elsewhere, a group of 11 Democratic Governors are urging Congress to take swift action to assist DREAMERS.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Biz Lobby Talks Transportation Initiative, Hard Right Freaks

As Denver Post business correspondent Aldo Svaldi reports, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is moving to resurrect of the major failed priorities from this year’s legislative session–a measure asking voters for more revenue to deal with the growing backlog of badly needed transportation projects all over the state of Colorado:

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce will pursue a ballot initiative next year to boost state transportation funding after the state legislature failed to send voters a measure to raise $3.5 billion for roads and transit this year…

Brough, in an interview after the announcement, said specifics are still being worked on with several other groups, but she hinted that the size and scope of the hard-fought but failed House Bill 1242 offers a starting point.

…The bill, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, sought to increase the statewide sales tax to 3.52 percent from 2.9 percent for 20 years to raise $3.5 billion for transportation funding.

But Senate conservatives, opposed in principle to tax increases and state spending priorities, contributed to the bill’s demise late in the session, ending what backers had hailed as a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats to address a critical need.

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

The state’s two principal right-wing ideological hard line groups, Americans for Prosperity-Colorado and the Independence Institute–who were chiefly responsible for killing the bipartisan “grand bargain” between Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham–reacted with predictable anger:

But we’ll be very interested in seeing what happens with this initiative, since it could take a major argument from local conservatives–that Medicaid and other “social spending” must be cut to pay for infrastructure upgrades everyone agrees are needed–off the table. The zero-sum paradigm forced on the state by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is an end unto itself for the ideological “starve the beast” right, and they have no interest in upholding the part of the law that allows voters to grow the proverbial pie if they choose.

But when even conservative Republicans like Kevin Grantham agree that something has to be done–and not on the backs of the sick and poor–there is legitimate reason to keep trying.

Good News! June 16-23, 2017

(Because Lord knows we can use some – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This was a hard week to write “Good News” for. Still, there was some.

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about the heat, voters, immigrant rights, cannabis, and beer. Farmer’s markets. Buying local. No sports news, because the only sports I halfway understand are basketball and baseball. Anything else, I’m the one looking at you to see when to stand up and cheer.

Environmental / energy

It’s freaking hot in Colorado, especially on the western slope , down south, and in Denver, but the head of the EPA won’t say if climate change is a hoax, although his boss says it is.

Good news: It’s not as hot as Phoenix’s 119 degrees . Even AZ Sen. McCain thinks this global warming thing is the real deal.   Plastic mailboxes are melting in Arizona – it’s that hot.  (Photo from reddit, via Buzzfeed)

 

MacGregor Ranch is piloting a program to work closely with the NRCS to cut underbrush and mitigate wildfire risk, since it is so freaking hot in Colorado. Drought and wildfires are the two main hazards Colorado experiences from climate change. Here’s the video from the pilot project.

Virgin Mobile and several other big retailers are planning to conserve energy by running their trucking fleets more efficiently.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, will shut down 37 of its mines that are no longer economically viable. The lost energy will be replaced mainly with solar.

Clean energy jobs remain the fastest-growing employment sector in Colorado  – with 62,000 added last year.  65% of those jobs are in energy efficiency.   This all helps Colorado to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.3%.    Rates for youth under 24 were at 6%, and for Hispanics at 5%, still lower than most other states.

There’s still some good fishing around Colorado. Get’em while there’s still water enough to fish in.

And you can drive to your fishing spot on roads you won’t have to pay an extra tax on, per the Colorado Business Coalition. Amendment 267 passed, funding $3 Billion for road repair and maintenance; however, $10 billion was needed. Where will that come from?

The “Dog Days” are  approaching. If you see poor Puddles panting in a hot car, you can break in to save the pet – but not legally,  in Colorado, until August.

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Good news! Week of June 11- 17, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine. And that’s fine. Something I’m missing? Add it in the comments.

LGBT:

Massive Marches may move us, but the  biggest and gayest parade this year in Colorado will be Pridefest, this Sunday June 18. Civic Center Park will host the celebration all weekend. For your daily minimum requirement of fabulousness, go to Pridefest Denver. (Photo from 2016 Pridefest, Wikipedia Commons)

Pridefest Denver 2016 -from Wikipedia commons

LGBT hero: One of the Capitol Police agents wounded in the recent terrorist attack in DC was Crystal Griner, a married lesbian woman. Griner and her fellow officers, including David Bailey , rushed the shooter, taking him down and preventing a massacre.

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Bipartisan Triumph Over “Rolling Coal”

The soon-to-be-illegal practice of “rolling coal.”

After three tries in two years, we’re delighted to note for the record what the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic reports:

Senate Bill 278, sponsored in the House by Fort Collins Democrat JoAnn Ginal and in the Senate by Durango Republican Don Coram, passed a final reading in the House today by a wide margin, 40-25.

This is the second version of the bill this year. The first version was killed in a Republican-controlled Senate committee by members who thought the proposed law might net agricultural workers and freight haulers and lead to stricter general vehicle emissions laws. The new version made the behavior and type of vehicles targeted by the law more explicit.

Rolling coal has caught on as a form of defiant cultural protest in the era of climate change and emissions-free vehicles. Drivers pass unsuspecting cyclists and electric car drivers on the road and unleash clouds of toxic black smoke. Coal rollers often post videos of themselves in the act.

The Colorado bill would make rolling coal a traffic infraction and subject drivers to a $100 fine.

Although the bill still could not obtain Republican majority support in either chamber, the support and persistence of Sen. Don Coram was instrumental in getting the second iteration of this bill out of the GOP-controlled Senate. Frankly it’s difficult to understand what the objection to this bill ever was–unless way down deep in your heart, you just think people should be allowed to billow clouds of toxic smoke at hybrid cars, protesters, bicyclists, or whoever else makes the mistake of sharing the road with you.

Thanks to Colorado Democrats and just enough thoughtful Republicans, we can breathe the free air again.

Republicans Kill Transportation Funding Bill

No road repairs for you!

As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

A bipartisan measure backed by Colorado’s top lawmakers to seek a sales tax hike for transportation reached the end of the road Tuesday.

A state Senate panel defeated the proposal to pump $3.5 billion into improving the state’s highways along party-lines with the three Republican members citing ideological opposition to increasing taxes.

The outcome became clear a week earlier when the Senate’s bill sponsors hastily announced an impasse in the negotiations on the term’s No. 1 priority, a major setback for legislative leaders and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“This is a statewide solution bill,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City. “Yes it contains things both sides may cringe at. … But we must start looking at some of these things.”…

Most supporters urged the Senate Finance Committee to allow the measure to reach the Senate floor, where it has the votes to pass, and emphasized the need to take action. [Pols emphasis]

But the bulk of opponents criticized the tax hike and suggested lawmakers cut spending elsewhere to prioritize money for transportation, suggesting everything from reductions in spending on libraries to selling an airplane used by the governor.

As Frank notes, there were enough votes in the Senate as a whole to get this transportation legislation out of the Upper Chamber and onto the Governor’s desk…but three partisan Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee refused to allow the bill to advance (despite support from Senate President Kevin Grantham). Senators Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County), Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and Jack Tate (R-Centennial) did the bidding of the Koch-funded group Americans for Potholes Prosperity, making the same tired old argument that we can just find enough money in the couch cushions of various state offices if we look hard enough.

For partisan Republicans like Neville, Hill, and Tate, it’s easier to just say “NO” to everything than it is to try to actually come up with solutions.

Wingnut Pressure Groups: Why Colorado Can’t Have Nice Things

We mentioned this developing story in today’s Get More Smarter roundup, but the crisis over Republican intransigence on a deal to increase revenue for transportation spending in Colorado is getting worse by the minute–recapping the Denver Post’s report today on an “alternative” to the bipartisan deal between the Senate and House leadership from the #2 Republican in the Senate:

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads.

“I am going to do a supplemental transportation bill that may reduce the tax increase, may provide for some help if this transportation bill doesn’t pass,” he said Monday in a briefing with reporters in Grantham’s office.

At the same time, conservative activists led by the Independence Institute are pushing an “alternative measure” called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” which directs the state to find money in the existing budget to pay for roads improvements:

On Friday, Jon Caldara, head of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, filed his own ballot measure with the Colorado Legislative Council that calls for $2.5 billion in bonding without the tax increase and without the transit funding. There’s enough money in the existing budget to pay for road improvements, he said, and the legislature needs to stop messing around.

And at the top of the Republican food chain, national conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is leading opposition under the Gold Dome to the bipartisan roads compromise:

Watching Americans for Prosperity tear into Senate GOP leadership is particularly interesting, since there has been famously little daylight between that group and Senate Republicans ever since former Senate President Bill Cadman credited AFP with the Republican majority after the 2014 elections. The spokesman for Senate Republicans, Sean Paige, is himself a former AFP staffer–and taking fire from his former shop must be an unusual experience.

Both AFP and the Independence Institute are demonstrating a dogmatic unwillingness to compromise on this important issue, placing them well outside even the Republican mainstream–the proof of that being their opposition to a plan negotiated by a Republican Senate President. Both AFP and the Independence Institute have celebrated the “fiscal responsibility” that the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires the state to observe, but still claim there is hundreds of millions of dollars of waste in the budget that can be “reprioritized” to fund road repairs. Obviously, only one of those can be true.

At some point, you just have to understand that these groups are not interested in a constructive outcome. Their proposals can afford to be unworkable because they are not intended to be serious. These “alternatives” only exist to thwart debate on the real deal. It’s fine for outside pressure groups to draw an ideological hard line like this, but that shouldn’t be the final answer from responsible elected government officials. Governing, after all, is all about compromise.

Unfortunately, these groups wield enormous power. And too often, they write the script that Republican lawmakers read.

“Coal Rolling” Assholes Safe Thanks To Senate GOP

“Rolling coal.”

As the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic reports–for the second year in a row, legislation to clamp down on the practice of “coal rolling” has died in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate after passing the Colorado House and a GOP cosponsor in the Senate:

Rolling coal has made news across the country for years. It involves modifying a diesel truck engine using performance computer chips to send clouds of black soot from its exhaust pipe or pipes, preferably into the breathing space of pedestrians, bicyclists, Prius drivers, members of the state’s outdoor cafe society — which is to say, the kind of people who would most take offense.

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, led opposition to “nuisance exhaust” House Bill 1102.

Sonnenberg, a farmer, argued that the bill could be used to target agricultural workers who drive diesel pickup trucks but who aren’t intentionally polluting or seeking to offend or intimidate anyone. He said he feared the bill could turn into “the tip of the spear” that would bring California-style stricter vehicle emissions rules to the state…

The problem is, that’s a bunch of hooey. House Bill 17-1102 dealt specifically with the knowing release of smoke from light vehicles for the purpose of harassing and annoying others on the road or on the sidewalk. It’s not a measure intended to penalize any unintentional emissions, for example from an older vehicle in need of repair. The purpose of a “nuisance exhibition” of smoke is to harass others, period. And there is absolutely no reason in the world why it should be a protected activity.

It’s one of those situations where the objections just don’t make sense. Outside of the people who do it, we don’t know of anyone who thinks “coal rolling” should be legal. It’s already illegal to tamper with a vehicle’s emission equipment, and the modifications to facilitate “coal rolling” are not necessary to achieve any reasonable goal.

Until next year, though, congratulations to the “coal rollers,” and the GOP lawmakers making the world safe for your soot! Enjoy being a detestable public nuisance while you can.

Will The Legislature Finally Put a Stop to “Rolling Coal?”

“Rolling coal.”

The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports on the debate in the General Assembly over House Bill 17-1102, a second attempt by Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal to outlaw the modifications made to diesel vehicles allowing that to spew vast quantities of smoke with a flip of a switch–a practice known in the vernacular as “rolling coal.”

Given that being targeted with noxious fumes isn’t all Coloradans’ idea of fun, state lawmakers are taking a second shot at passing a bill that would make “coal rolling” – the act of using vehicle exhaust as a form of harassment – a traffic infraction with a $100 fine.

This is about public safety and public health, said Rep. Joann Ginal, a Fort Collins Democrat who showed three videos of people intentionally “rolling coal” at others during a hearing in the House Transportation and Energy Committee earlier this month.

The proposal isn’t about going after diesel trucks, Ginal told the committee. It’s more about those who modify their vehicles, usually either with a tailpipe or smokestack, in order to blast smoke at another driver, bicyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian or other human target.

Ginal said the request for the bill came from her local police department, and would give law enforcers a tool they can use when they see “coal rolling.”

Last year, legislation cracking down on “rolling coal” died in the Colorado Senate after passing the Democratic-controlled House. But this year, as the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, there’s a GOP co-sponsor in the Senate:

It’s the second year Ginal, D-Fort Collins, has run the bill. It stalled in the Senate transportation committee last session. This year, it has a Republican co-sponsor in Sen. Don Coram of Montrose.

If the bill becomes law, it would give police the ability to fine drivers who intentionally spew exhaust in a way that obstructs another person’s view, creates a safety hazard or in a manner that’s harassing to other cars or pedestrians. Violators would be fined $100.

Last year, Republicans took considerable fire for their decision to kill this bill, in effect siding with people who commit an act tantamount to vandalism–not to mention the negative public health effects of intentionally spewing black diesel smoke into the environment. It’s worth noting again that this is not legislation to further punish people with smoky vehicles due to age or poor maintenance. “Rolling coal” is made possible by a deliberate modification to the vehicle for the express purpose of…well, being an asshole.

So we’ll be watching closely to see if the GOP-controlled Senate lets the bill through this year.