Mike Pence Says Stop Worrying About COVID (So Worry)

Masks are for wussies.

The Hill’s Brett Samuels reports that Vice President Mike Pence is done with all this Debbie Downer talk about a second wave of that silly old news people call the COVID-19 global pandemic:

Vice President Pence on Tuesday blamed the media for stoking concerns of a “second wave” of coronavirus in the United States, insisting in an op-ed that the Trump administration’s response has been successful even as infections are climbing in several states.

The vice president, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that panic over a rebound in coronavirus cases is “overblown” while touting the administration’s handling of the pandemic.

“Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy,” Pence wrote.

As readers know, every time the Trump administration has declared that this pandemic is overblown or past tense, they’ve been totally right! Although in this case, talk of a “second wave” may itself be a little off base since:

Experts have disputed that the country is facing a second wave, instead expressing concern that the country never fully got past the first wave of infections. [Pols emphasis] There have been more than 2.1 million cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data, and more than 116,000 people in the country have died from the virus.

CNN reports that in the process of declaring COVID a done deal, Pence is getting the most basic of facts backwards:

During a White House roundtable Monday, Vice President Mike Pence claimed that Oklahoma – where President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign rally Saturday – has seen a decline in the number of coronavirus cases.

“In a very real sense they’ve flattened the curve,” Pence said of Oklahoma. “The number of cases in Oklahoma has declined precipitously.”

Facts First: Oklahoma’s number of newly reported positive cases has been increasing since late May, not steeply declining. A record 225 new cases were reported in Oklahoma on Saturday… [Pols emphasis]

Although COVID-19 cases are in decline in almost two dozen states including Colorado, cases are growing rapidly in some of our neighboring states as well as California–which as Sen. Jim Smallwood can tell you is “droplet-bonded” with the rest of the West. Meanwhile, the latest prediction from the often-cited Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has revised the estimate upward to 200,000 Americans dead by October 1–a number approaching the worst-case range of predictions from late March.

By this point, a majority of Americans understand that when the Trump administration tells you not to panic, it’s time to…well, not panic, because that’s never the right response.

But it means the news is bad.

Militia Shooting In New Mexico Spikes Tensions

UPDATE: Reuters reports that the alleged shooter is a former Albuquerque City Council candidate:

Albuquerque police have arrested a former city council candidate and charged him on Tuesday with shooting and critically injuring a protester in a group that was calling for the removal of a statue of a Spanish conquistador, local press reported.

Stephen Ray Baca, 31, was booked into a city jail on a charge of aggravated battery in the shooting, which occurred on Monday, Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told the Albuquerque Journal.

Here’s more information about the shooter we’re working to confirm:

—–

The Albuquerque Journal reports on a shooting yesterday apparently perpetrated by a member of a local right-wing militia group during a protest confrontation in that city over the removal  of a statue of Juan de Onate, known as the conquistador of New Mexico:

One man was shot in Old Town as a protest over the “La Jornada” sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum erupted into violence Monday evening.

The shooting occurred during a clash following a peaceful protest to remove the controversial sculpture, a monument that features conquistador Juan de Oñate. The FBI is assisting in the investigation, according to an APD spokesman. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, meanwhile, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting…

“Although we are still learning more about the situation, I am horrified and disgusted beyond words by the reports of violence at a protest Monday night in Albuquerque,” Lujan Grisham said late Monday in a statement. “The heavily armed individuals who flaunted themselves at the protest, calling themselves a ‘civil guard,’ were there for one reason: To menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force. To menace the people of New Mexico with weaponry — with an implicit threat of violence — is on its face unacceptable; that violence did indeed occur is unspeakable.” [Pols emphasis]

For those unfamiliar with the Spanish colonial history of New Mexico, a brief primer on the brutal conquistador Juan de Onate:

Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande that trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he’s also reviled for his brutality.

To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors that was precipitated by the killing of Oñate’s nephew. In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the statue – an incident that weighed in the decision to stash away the statue.

In short, Native Americans in New Mexico have a similar revulsion to the legacy of Juan de Onate as African Americans have for statues of Confederate leaders in the South. The long struggle in our neighboring state to the south to come to terms with its own brutal colonial history under Spanish rule is in every way a common cause with the Black Lives Matter movement.

To the armed militia groups showing up with disturbing regularity at protest actions around the country now, from “Reopen America” rallies to the George Floyd protests, it’s the same fight too. The “weapons effect” principle that the simple existence of weapons in any setting makes their use more likely was just waiting to be validated–and Albuquerque happened to be the place it happened first. In Colorado, local armed militia types have been deterred by the ban on open carrying weapons in the city of Denver, but the arrest of one with pipe bombs and another whose trunkload of assault weapons was seized by Denver police make it clear how perilous the situation has become.

Following this long-dreaded but predictable act of violence, things can go one of two ways: toward escalation, or de-escalation. We can only hope the fearful ramifications of this incident result in the latter.

Gardner, Republicans Campaign in Democratic Primary

The June 30 Election is two weeks away, and Republicans are spending a lot of time and effort…in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is spending big money on this new television ad in a very obvious attempt to weaken former Gov. John Hickenlooper in his race for the Democratic Senate nomination against former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

At the same time, Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner is up with an laughably-bad new ad of his own that is critical of Hickenlooper but ripe for mockery:

Republicans are interfering in a Democratic Primary for very obvious reasons: They would much rather run a General Election race against Romanoff than the two-term former Governor. Last month, two separate polls showed Hickenlooper beating Gardner by 18 points in a potential fall matchup. Romanoff doesn’t have the resources to do much on television, so Gardner and the NRSC are doing it for him in hopes up driving up negative reactions to Hickenlooper.

Gardner’s campaign would probably have been better off just letting the NRSC ad run by itself and not getting involved with their idiotic “Frasier” impression, but you know what they say about desperate times…

Tuesday Open Thread

“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.”

–Gilbert K. Chesterton

Republicans Will Need More Than ‘Yay, America’ in 2020

Via Gallup (6/15/20)

Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign was all about how America was totally the best country ever (or would be, if he were elected). The infamous “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) slogan has since morphed into the logically-inconsistent “Keep America Great” or “Transitioning to Greatness” tagline(s) as Trump’s re-election campaign steams forward.

Is America already “great” or are we still “transitioning to greatness”? New polling numbers from Gallup show that actual Americans don’t really believe that either message is accurate. In fact, Americans are less enthusiastic about ‘Merica! than they have ever been, which is not good news for Trump and other flag-draped Republicans.

As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

Just over 4 in 10 Americans (42%) said they were “extremely proud” to be an American, the lowest number to say so since Gallup began asking the question in 2001. The total of people saying they were “extremely” or “very” proud to be an American — 63% — was also the lowest ever measured by Gallup. [Pols emphasis]

The pride numbers have been falling since 2013 — although the drop accelerated considerably following 2016. At that point, more than 8 in 10 people said they were “extremely or “very” proud to be an American, with 52% falling in the “extremely proud” category. Those numbers have plummeted in the four years since.

These numbers are down significantly among Republican respondents, with 67% saying they are “extremely” proud of America (compared to 76% in 2019). What gives?

The effects of Donald Trump as president could also be playing a role in the declining numbers among Republicans. His handling of the government’s response to the pandemic has been uneven at best, and his calls for the police to “dominate” the streets during protests against police brutality and systemic racism were roundly criticized by even many within his own party.

The idea of an America in decline, or at least one in which fewer people are willing to say they are extremely proud to be a citizen of the United States, suggests that Trump’s promise of an American rebirth if he was elected president isn’t working.

President Donald Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

President Trump is still going to hold his ‘Yay, America!’ political rallies — including one this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma — and that message will no doubt continue to resonate with his rabid base of supporters. But for moderate voters who will decide the outcome of the 2020 election, it’s hard to argue that this approach can bear electoral fruit in November (though it’s still probably better than “The President Isn’t That Bad“).

But Trump isn’t the only Republican hoping to wrap himself in the American flag this fall. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has also been counting on a ‘Yay, America!’ sentiment to carry him to re-election in November. Earlier this year, Gardner suggested that Sen. Bernie Sanders, then one of the frontrunners for the Democratic Presidential nomination, didn’t actually like America. When Gardner spoke at President Trump’s Colorado Springs rally in February, he went heavy on the ‘Merica! rhetoric:

I believe in America. I believe in the power of this great nation. And I believe in all of you. And I just have one message for all of you and to our friends and allies around the globe. When it comes to America, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

This is a theme that Gardner has been pushing for quite awhile now. His re-election campaign rolled out a sappy “I believe in America” video last summer, featuring Gardner wielding his peak “say a lot of words but don’t actually say anything” powers. He also went heavy on this approach when he was addressing the Senate last September about his push to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado:

The only reason to oppose this move is if you don’t care about the people of the western United States, or you don’t think somehow the people of the western United States are smart enough to figure out how to run public lands, or to manage public lands.

If you don’t agree with the decision to move the BLM to Grand Junction, then you must hate America! This was silly in September 2019, and the latest polling numbers from Gallup indicate that it will be an even tougher sell in September 2020.

As relationship experts will tell you, true love is about embracing another’s flaws and faults as much as it is about seeking positive traits. You can still love America and push for it to grow and change…but that’s a narrative that makes much less sense for Republican incumbents.

LGBT Ruling Shocks Gorsuch Haters, Proves Kavanaugh Fears

Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Politico helps us sort through another historic victory for LGBT Americans at the U.S. Supreme Court today:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the key federal law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace protects gay, lesbian or transgender employees from being disciplined, fired or turned down for a job based on their sexual orientation.

Two of the court’s Republican appointees, Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts, joined the court’s Democratic appointees to deliver the surprising, 6-3 victory to LGBT advocates. [Pols emphasis]

Writing for the court’s majority, Gorsuch accepted arguments that the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition on sex discrimination in employment also effectively banned bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, even though few if any members of Congress thought they were doing that at the time.

“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees,” Gorsuch wrote.

It’s a decision being hailed as the most important victory for LGBT rights since the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that invalidated state bans on same-sex marriage like Colorado’s Amendment 43 passed in 2006–and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s role not just in voting to uphold discrimination protections for LGBT Americans but writing the majority opinion for the decision is scrambling a fair number of political circuits this Monday morning. Not least in Gorsuch’s native state of Colorado, where despite fierce resistance to Gorsuch’s confirmation from the state’s progressive majority and a record of judicial decisions that certainly justified their concerns, today his opinion is being celebrated by many of Gorsuch’s former opponents.

Not so for the other Supreme Court Justice confirmed during the administration of President Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, who sided with the court’s two longtime arch-conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas to argue the losing opinion that employers should be allowed to fire LGBT employees. Where Gorsuch has Coloradans feeling unexpectedly proud, responsibility in Colorado for Kavanaugh’s throwback opposition on this historic question rests with just one politician, the only Coloradan to vote in favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation–Sen. Cory Gardner. Gardner hasn’t said anything yet about today’s decision, and we don’t expect him to lest he offend either one side or the other of the coalition he needs to have a chance at re-election.

All told however, in an era of political cynicism here is a moment to oblige even the most cynical to recalibrate.

Get More Smarter on Monday (June 15)

Happy Global Wind Day. Please celebrate responsibly. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

The Washington Post reports on a monumental Supreme Court ruling today:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal anti-discrimination laws protect gay and transgender employees, a major gay rights ruling written by one of the court’s most conservative justices.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court’s liberals in the 6 to 3 ruling. They said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” includes LGBTQ employees.

“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Gorsuch and Roberts were joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

 

The Colorado legislature will wrap up the 2020 session today, and it looks like a police reform bill will be the main takeaway of the session restart. From The Denver Post:

Colorado passed one of the most comprehensive police reform packages in the country Saturday, setting limits on police use of force and mandating data collection to make sure cops who are fired from one agency don’t get rehired by another.

Gov. Jared Polis has said he will sign the historic bill into law once it reaches his desk.

“This is, in my estimation, the largest single advancement of individual civil rights and liberties for Coloradans in a generation,” said Denver civil rights attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai.

Among the biggest changes, Colorado’s Senate Bill 217 bans the use of chokeholds and carotid control holds, limits when police are allowed to shoot at a fleeing person and requires officers to intervene in cases of excessive force or face criminal charges. The bill requires all officers to use body-worn cameras and departments to release the footage within 45 days, and it allows for officers to be held personally liable for civil rights violations.

Colorado lawmakers have a few more items on their agenda for Monday before the adjourn for the year. Colorado Public Radio and The Denver Post take a look at other important decisions made over the weekend.
 
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has withdrawn its approval of an anti-malaria drug touted by President Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.

 

► Dear Leader Trump is trying to convince everyone that he is NOT the wobbly old man that he appeared to be while visiting West Point over the weekend. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN, Trump has turned his health into a story — wobbling at the podium and shuffling meekly down a ramp afterward — because of his own past actions.

Trump claimed on Twitter that he was just being careful in descending a ramp because it was slick from rain that didn’t exist:

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

At Least He’s Not Your Legislator, Double Duty Edition

State Sen. Steve Huffman (R-OH).

AP reported via KDVR FOX 31 late last week and the local similarities oblige us to mention:

The American Civil Liberties Union called for state Sen. Steve Huffman to step down from office Thursday following his comments that were made during a hearing for a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis.

Huffman caused controversy after he questioned Angela Dawson, executive director of the Ohio Commission of Minority Health, on Tuesday over why the COVID-19 rates for black Ohioans were higher than other populations.

“Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves?” Huffman asked during Senate testimony. “Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?”

GOP Sen. Steve Huffman of Ohio managed to offend with one statement as much as two of Colorado’s favorite “freak right” Senate ideologues–Sen. Rob Woodward’s recent regrettable employment of the words “colored people” along with a incredibly ill-timed knee-on-neck analogy, and Sen. Vicki Marble’s infamous monologue about “problems in the black race” with eating too much chicken.

Outdoing our local embarrassments takes effort, and we want to acknowledge the effort.

Monday Open Thread

“Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.”

–Charles Babbage

Making The CORE Act Stick To Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner, Rep. Scott Tipton.

Scott Miller at the Vail Daily reports on a renewed effort by Colorado Democrats in support of legislation to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado–legislation presently getting the brush-off from Sen. Cory Gardner as he tries to focus attention on the Great American Outdoors Act that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has allowed in his infinite election-year generosity to receive a vote:

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, a large public lands bill now languishing in the U.S. Senate, was the focus of a Friday campaign event held by John Hickenlooper, the former two-term Democratic governor running this fall for the Senate…

The panel for the call included Hickenlooper and a trio of Democrats representing Colorado and New Mexico in Washington D.C.: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. Neguse’s district includes a portion of Eagle County and other mountain counties, along with Boulder and Fort Collins.

…The bill has broad local support from county commissioners, outdoor businesses, conservationists, and ranchers, including the counties of Eagle, Summit, San Juan, Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison, and Pitkin and the towns of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Ridgway, Crested Butte, Ophir, Telluride and Basalt. The bill will preserve approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, including nearly 100,000 acres in the White River National Forest and wild areas across the Continental Divide in Summit and Eagle counties.

Although the bill to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund got much of the attention last week, and not undeservedly being legislation overwhelmingly supported including by Sen. Cory Gardner’s Democratic counterpart Michael Bennet, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE Act) with its specific protections for public lands in Colorado is getting the shaft from Republicans from President Donald Trump on down despite very broad local support.

Although Gardner is counting on the relatively controversy-free Great American Outdoors Act to triangulate off the abysmal Republican brand on environmental protection running in a state that places a high value on conservation, the CORE Act is a potent counterargument that Gardner’s support for low-hanging environmental protections is a veneer over the same old servility to the fossil fuel industry and other for-profit interests.

In the Grand Junction Sentinel Friday, Colorado Democrats pressed the attack:

Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson Eli Rosen said in a statement Thursday that Gardner is trying to “greenwash his abysmal environmental record just in time for the election. Gardner has worked in lockstep with President Trump against new Colorado wilderness, to roll back protections for clean air and water, and to undermine efforts to combat climate change. While local leaders in Colorado have worked for more than a decade to pass the CORE Act, Gardner continues to be a puppet for his party leaders and refuses to deliver.” [Pols emphasis]

Prompting another noncommittal sidestep from Gardner:

“I’m not holding it up. I’m not objecting to it,” Gardner said. [Pols emphasis] “We’ve given some suggestions that we think can make it better, but it’s Senator Bennet’s bill in terms of that.”

Because Republicans are already and pretty much irrevocably considered the party of “drill baby drill” and climate change denial, Gardner starts from a major disadvantage in terms of winning over any swingable voters for whom the environment is a high-scoring issue. Much like Gardner’s call for “over-the-counter birth control” to distract from his career-long support for banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest, the strategy is intended to conceal, or at least redirect the conversation from, the much bigger liability.

As is so often the case, the proof is in what you don’t do.

Weekend Open Thread

“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

–Thomas Jefferson

Landmark Police Accountability Bill Passes House 52-13

Rest in power, George Floyd.

That’s the word from the Colorado House today as the extended 2020 legislative session winds down–Senate Bill 217, landmark legislation to ban chokeholds and end qualified immunity for police officers who brutalize the public, has passed by a lopsided–but not unanimous–52-13 vote. Among the “yes” votes, we note with some surprise, is GOP Minority Leader Patrick Neville, though a majority of his caucus in the end could not be persuaded to replicate the near-total support for the bill shown by the Senate. And as Michael Karlik of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, second-reading debate yesterday in the House turned quite nasty before the end:

Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, told [Rep. Rod] Bockenfeld that Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader emailed the county’s legislative delegation to thank them for amending SB217 in consultation with law enforcement.

“That’s because you blackmailed him,” Bockenfeld said, according to Tipper.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, glared silently at Bockenfeld when it was her turn to speak. “There’s no blackmail that happened in the lobby. This is a good bill,” she said. “And shame on you for implying that in the well.”

Rep. Larry Liston, another Republican “no” vote, went directly for the third rail:

“I’m not justifying anything that that officer or the other three did at all. I want to be very clear about that. But [Pols emphasis] George Floyd was no angel either. In and out of prison.” Liston added, “irrespective of that, he didn’t deserve any of that.”

So why mention it at all? Liston doesn’t have to tell you. You already know.

But in the end, despite the determination of a majority of the GOP House minority to sound a discordant note into the history books, the story of Senate Bill 217, and the historic reforms this bill makes to the power of police to use force with impunity against the public, will be a story of landmark success that transcends partisan politics. Rep. Rod Bockenfeld claims that police were “blackmailed” into supporting the legislation, but the reality is that cops and even a large number of Republicans understood this time, along with the Democratic proponents who drove this bill from impetus to passage in less than two weeks, that a major change had to come.

Colorado rose to meet a massive challenge that was done waiting.

It’s a rare enough event that it feels weird. But it’s why everyone with a heart gets into this business.

Get More Smarter on Friday (June 12)

President Trump will be 74 years old on Sunday. If you lived in Florida, you could celebrate on a Trumptilla (the downside, of course, would be that you lived in Florida). 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

Colorado lawmakers may or may not be nearing the end of a strange, two-part legislative session. The Denver Post has more on the progress of what has become the most-watched bill of the year:

A House committee amended Colorado’s police accountability and reform bill to give law enforcement more time to implement some changes and added a ban on carotid control holds before voting to support the bill at midnight Wednesday.

The approval came on a party-line vote, with all four Republicans on the House Finance Committee voting against Senate Bill 217, despite near-unanimous support in the Senate. [Pols emphasis] It followed hours of testimony by people who’ve had family members killed by police in Colorado.

One of law enforcement officials’ biggest objections about the bill has been that agencies need more time for training on the changes, so lawmakers set a September deadline for new use-of-force regulations to take effect. The new policies include a requirement to incrementally use force if other methods don’t work.

Other parts of the bill — including a ban on the use of chokeholds and limits on when police are allowed to shoot at a person who is running away from them — would take effect immediately if the bill is signed into law.

The four Republicans who voted against the bill: Reps. Rod Bockenfeld, Richard Champion, Janice Rich, and Shane Sandridge. Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg was the lone ‘NO’ vote in the State Senate.

On the topic of police accountability, Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor is promising to take a closer look at tactics employed by the Denver Police Department (DPD). The Denver School Board voted to phase DPD out of its schools altogether.

 

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the State Republican Party Chairman (or vice versa), is being investigated for ordering a Republican official in El Paso County to falsify vote totals from the caucus process.

 

Governor Jared Polis is keeping a close eye on nearby spikes in reported cases of COVID-19. From Colorado Public Radio:

Colorado is closely watching some nearby states, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Utah and hospitalizations in Arizona continues to jump. Those spikes are alarming, Gov. Jared Polis said during a press briefing Thursday.

“A rising cause for concern,” he said. “We’ve seen no evidence yet of that leading to increased transmission on our side of the border, but we watch that and we worry.”

Colorado has confirmed 28,647 cases of COVID-19, according to the state’s latest numbers. Officials have also reported 1,583 deaths related to the disease to date. But the state has seen a downward trend in hospitalizations for 11 of the last 14 days.

In Arizona, a surge of hospitalizations means the state is nearing capacity on ICU beds. The state has confirmed 31,264 cases of the disease and 1,127 deaths. Arizona’s stay-at-home order ended after May 15. Colorado’s went through April 26.

Officials in San Antonio and Houston believe a second wave of COVID-19 is hitting already. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced a one week “pause” in reopening the state after a surge of new cases — including two deaths on Thursday.

 

You should be receiving a Primary ballot in the mail this week. For more information on the Primary Election and to track your ballot, go to GoVoteColorado.com.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

Endnotes: The Ridiculous Hullaballoo Over Senate Bill 163

Measles.

In today’s The Spot newsletter, Denver Post political reporter Alex Burness offers some useful context as the battle over Senate Bill 163, legislation to improve Colorado’s bottom-in-the-nation childhood immunization rates, comes to a successful conclusion for proponents:

[I]t has taken a Democrat-controlled General Assembly two years to muster support to pass a bill that allows parents to… still not vaccinate their kids.

This year’s bill preserves the right to nonmedical exemptions. You just have to take an online education course first. The opponents aren’t happy about that, but the bottom line is that no parent is going to be forced to watch a needle be plunged into their kid, even after this bill passes.

Other states have stricter policies; some allow no exemptions except for medical reasons. Colorado lawmakers have concluded that this is not a legislative option here, which is a credit to A) the governor’s stated “pro-choice” stance on vaccines and B) the fervent activism of the vaccine bill’s opponents.

Burness argues that the passage of SB-163, even though opponents have vowed to mount a repeal ballot initiative campaign to prevent the law from taking effect, betrays a hard limit on the ability of today’s lawmakers to take effective action even on an issue with overwhelming majority support–due to the fierce opposition of a small but vocal minority. Vaccines are not the only issue for which this appears to be the case. Even though the public strongly supports common-sense gun safety laws that our state is a model for today, passage of those bills resulted in a backlash from the passionate minority of gun rights activists that led to the successful recall of two Democratic Senators in 2013 and the resignation of a third.

One of the biggest problems with both this year’s modest vaccine bill as well as 2013’s gun safety bills is that the opposition was (and is) completely untethered from the facts about the legislation. Just as Republican lawmakers told the public in 2013 that the gun bills would “effectively ban gun ownership,” many of the protesters who turned out against Senate Bill 163 believe the bill does away with non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements. Although a majority of the public would support doing just that according to polls, SB-163 does not eliminate exemptions available for any or no reason.

There were a lot of variables involved in the drafting of this legislation, not least of which is a governor reticent to impose “medical mandates” on families. Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB-163 precisely because it does not coerce anyone to get any vaccine. The gulf between perception and reality with this bill among its opponents is not the fault of Gov. Polis, however, and the Republican lawmakers who have eagerly embraced the “anti-vaxxer” movement in opposition to this bill are the ones making no attempt to give opponents factual information.

With that, we’ll ask our readers: is there any way to prevent the tail from wagging the dog? Will the fringe always wield disproportionate influence simply because of their ability to yell louder and longer? And will passing a modest reform now make further reforms that would still enjoy broad public support harder to pass later?

These are all questions worth answering as the dust settles on this particularly crazy fight.

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