“Kill Committee” Actions May Lead to Death of GOP Control in House

UPDATE: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols begins to tally the damage:

On Monday morning, as supporters of civil unions rallied on the Capitol’s west steps, Dan Ritchie and Greg Stevinson, two reliable, deep-pocketed GOP donors, stood with them.

Sources have told FOX 31 that Stevinson, along with Charlie Gallagher, another big GOP donor, are so upset with McNulty’s handling of the civil unions bill they may not donate to his GOP Majority fund this fall [Pols emphasis] – this as the Democrats’ main money man, Tim Gill, who made a point of showing up for Monday’s hearing in person, is likely to write even larger checks to help Democrats win back a House majority.


Last night House Speaker Frank McNulty used a “kill committee” to end the hopes of civil unions legislation in the 2012 Colorado legislative session. We continue to be baffled by McNulty’s political rationale behind this move; while McNulty’s maneuvering to prevent the bill from reaching the House floor may galvanize a portion of the GOP base, he also handed Democrats a ginormous stick with which to pummel Republican candidates in the fall.

We were reminded of a telling statement from Public Policy Polling in April when they released new survey results showing that a whopping 62% of Colorado voters support civil unions (compared to 32% opposition). As PPP noted in their April memo:

We already see Colorado shading bluer and bluer at the Presidential level and this is one of the issues where Republicans seem to be stuck behind while the electorate is moving forward.

There was no way that McNulty and friends were going to come out of the Special Session looking good after last week’s end-run around the House floor to prevent a vote on civil unions, but there was a way to reduce the damage. McNulty should have let the bill go to the floor and let any Republican ‘YES’ vote become available for the public record.

What happened instead is that McNulty turned a single issue — civil unions — into a broader narrative of Republicans refusing to even give legislation a fair up or down vote. While that 62% of Colorado voters who support civil unions will no doubt be reminded again and again of McNulty’s tactics as we approach November, the GOP is also going to lose a lot of votes from people who may have been indifferent to the issue but really don’t like seeing the Democratic process being tossed in the trash. A loss of votes in November from opposition to civil unions was probably inevitable. Losing voters because McNulty’s maneuvering was altogether avoidable.

It was this kind of behavior that ultimately led to Republicans losing control of the legislature in 2004, and it’s a good bet that history will repeat itself come November.


Civil Unions Assigned To “Kill Committee”

UPDATE 8:10PM:The special session civil unions legislation, HB12S-1006, dies in the House State Affairs Committee on a party-line 5-4 vote.


UPDATE #5: LGBT philanthropist and major Democratic funder Tim Gill is personally attending today’s hearing on civil unions legislation, reports Nic Garcia of Out Front Colorado.


UPDATE #4: With all eyes fixed on the Colorado House today, the Los Angeles Times reports:

Colorado legislation permitting civil unions for same-sex couples was assigned Monday to a conservative “kill” committee, supporters of the measure said, virtually ensuring that the bill will never reach the House floor for a vote.

The action by Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty occurred on the first day of a special legislative session called by Colorado’s governor to address the bill.

“The Republicans chose to send it to a committee where it won’t get a fair hearing and will likely be killed,” Brad Clark, executive director of Denver-based One Colorado, a statewide gay and lesbian advocacy group, told The Times…

“Why does it go to one committee one week and another the next?”  Clark asked Monday. “If the bill does fail, all of our focus will be on November and holding the House leadership responsible. These kinds of political shenanigans have consequences.”


UPDATE #3: From GOP Speaker Frank McNulty’s latest statement:

While Republicans focused our efforts on putting Coloradans back to work, Gov. Hickenlooper and his Democratic allies in the legislature brought these efforts to a grinding halt by pushing a last-minute, divisive attack on our traditional views on marriage for short term political gain.

Make no mistake about it. Gov. Hickenlooper has called this Legislature into an expensive special session for the sole purpose of dividing Coloradans.  Instead of using his authority and his bully pulpit to unify Coloradans behind a pro-growth agenda of economic recovery and job creation, he is using his authority to tear Colorado apart. Again. That’s where his priority is…

They can’t defend their record of failed policies, so they have chosen instead to push and promote same sex marriage. And that’s unfortunate.  Because the hardworking families of this state don’t have the time, the inclination or the patience to pay for these election year political stunts.


UPDATE #2: Republican Rep. Dave Balmer, while reiterating that he would be a “no” vote on civil unions, nevertheless condemns Speaker Frank McNulty’s actions to kill civil unions legislation in the House in an email to supporters today:

I do not support abrogating the House Rules to pass or defeat any bill. The House Rules have their underpinnings in our State Constitution. I have served under three Speakers, and I’ve never seen the rules changed to advantage or disadvantage any specific bill. I never saw Speaker Romanoff bend the rules, so we must follow the Rules now. Bills should proceed to their normal committees of reference.

The House Rules don’t just belong to us (the 65 current Representatives). They belong to all Representatives who served before us and all those who will serve after us. More importantly, the House Rules belong to the People of Colorado.


UPDATE: The Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic:

Swamped by reporters after making the assignment, McNulty said that Gov. John Hickenlooper called the special session to advance “gay marriage” in Colorado but that Republicans were focused on job creation. He said Hickenlooper was spending tax money to run the special session on an election-year campaign issue meant to trip up Republican candidacies…

Talking to reporters after McNulty finished, [Minority Leader Mark] Ferrandino lamented the action taken by the Speaker.

“The majority, including 46 percent of Republican delegates to the party convention this year have supported this bill. This is not a controversial issue here. He sent it to the kill committee. It should have followed the same process as it followed during the regular session.”



It was announced moments ago that GOP Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty has assigned the legislation to authorize civil unions in Colorado, now numbered as House Bill 12S-1006–a principal focus of the special session of the Colorado General Assembly getting underway this morning–to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

For those of you who don’t know, the State Affairs Committee is the traditional “kill committee” in both chambers of the Assembly, composed of the most loyal representatives to the Speaker or Senate President–meaning it’s where a bill is sent when leadership wants to ensure it is killed.

That is now the fully expected fate of the civil unions bill at 3:30 this afternoon.

House GOP Create Jobs Out of Thin Air…When They Get Done Wasting Time

We wrote last week that House Republicans got off to a rough start in the first days of the Colorado legislative session by demanding a vote on a Constitutional Convention that was never going to happen; the move was entirely political — intended to get folks like Rep. Sal Pace and Joe Miklosi on the record on federal health care reform — and so blatantly obvious that it was widely criticized around the state.

Yesterday the Editorial Page Editor at the Denver Newspaper, Curtis Hubbard, took House Republicans and Speaker Frank McNulty to task for ignoring their own pledge to focus on jobs instead of endless political games. Hubbard goes on to write that one of McNulty’s featured pieces of legislation is an attempt to fix a problem that quite literally does not exist.

McNulty has been pushing a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Laura Bradford that would theoretically add jobs by eliminating local regulations that he says prohibit Colorado communities to use timber produced in the state. But as Hubbard notes, no such regulations appear to exist. Neither the Colorado Municipal League nor the West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau seem to have any idea what in the hell McNulty is talking about.

McNulty says the legislation would let a Colorado sawmill add 80 jobs — a number that is oddly specific given the fact that the bill in question wouldn’t actually do anything.

This begs the question: If a tree is cut down in a forest, and Frank McNulty isn’t around to hear it…can you still draft unnecessary legislation from the paper it produces?

The Colorado Pols Politico of the Year for 2011

We like to spread out our end-of-year retrospectives so that 2012 gets a little reflection time. It is with that in mind that we present the awards for Colorado’s Top Politico (and Worst Politico for 2011, as well a look at who had a good and bad year in the last full year of human existence.

Read on, er, readers…

COLORADO’S TOP POLITICO, 2011: Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs)

For possessing the political and policy chomps to do what made sense while most of his Republican colleagues cowered indecisively in fear of the Tea Party, Rep. Massey is our Colorado Politician of the Year for 2011.

The Poncha Springs Republican took on a stronger leadership role in 2011 and almost singlehandedly helped salvage whatever is left of the GOP “brand” in the state legislature. As Chair of the House Education Committee, Massey received bipartisan kudos for his efforts to protect $67 million for public education while other Republican figureheads blathered on uselessly about how much they cared about our schools. Massey correctly understands the difference between what you believe and what you can reasonably accomplish,  but that doesn’t mean he shies away from voicing his opinion; he told the Pueblo Chieftain that funding education should be a priority over preserving the Senior Homestead Extension, a refreshingly blunt position compared to colleagues who complain about everything but make decisions about nothing.  

Massey’s moderate conservatism likely hasn’t endeared him to right-wing Republicans, but much like former Republican Rep. Don Marostica, Massey legitimately seems interested in legislating as opposed to just tossing grenades from January through May. If Republicans had more elected officials like Massey, they’d be much better positioned to win future statewide races than they are today.

Honorable Mention: House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). When Rep. Sal Pace stepped down as the Democrats’ leader in November in order to focus on his Congressional run, Ferrandino was unanimously elected as the new House Minority Leader. If Democrats can re-take the House in 2012 – a distinct possibility given favorable reapportionment numbers – Ferrandino will likely become Colorado’s first openly gay Speaker of the House.

COLORADO’S WORST POLITICO, 2011: Secretary of State Scott Gessler

It’s quite possible that this “award” could end up being permanently named for Gessler, who isn’t likely to be much less of a disaster in 2012 than he was in 2011. Gessler has been WTF-awful since he was first elected in November 2010, using what has historically been a benign position to cause all sorts of unnecessary problems all across the state. Just how has Gessler erred? Let us count the ways:

  • Unilaterally (and illegally) attempting to change a variety of campaign finance rules. Nonpartisan officials wasted little time rejected Gessler’s efforts, and the Colorado legislature will have to clean up his mess in January.

  • Telling Congress and anyone else who would listen that Colorado has a huge problem with illegal immigrants casting ballots, despite literally no evidence to support his claims. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, a Republican, notable asked what the hell Gessler was talking about. Gessler later claimed that his charges were not intended to be factual, despite, you know, telling Congress all about it.

  • Making wildly-irresponsible claims of voter fraud that he still has yet to back up. On the few times he has been directly challenged on his assertions, Gessler just shrugs and says things like “I don’t know, it might be fraud. http://www.coloradopols.com/sh…

  • Gessler sued the City of Denver in a blatant attempt to reduce voter turnout because he didn’t like so many mail ballots being delivered. Pueblo County eventually joined the lawsuit on behalf of Denver (Pueblo County’s Attorney said that Gessler’s interpretation of the law was just “plain wrong”) and numerous other counties ignored Gessler’s declarations in favor of actually trying to encourage Democracy.

  • Infamously agreeing to take part in a fundraiser for the Larimer County Republican Party to help them pay off debts incurred for campaign finance violations that are the purview of the Secretary of State’s office. Gessler’s help included agreeing to sit in a dunk tank, a plan that organizers eventually abandoned after a slew of negative press. What made this ethical lapse even more disgusting was that Gessler had earlier decided to ignore what could (and should) have been hundreds  of thousands of dollars in fines incurred by the Larimer GOP in 2010.

  • Lobbying the Colorado legislature to give him authority to purge the Colorado voter rolls as he sees fit. Legislators told him to get bent.

  • Publicly stating that he is in office to further the conservative viewpoint, which came as news to voters who thought they had elected him to oversee elections and business filings in Colorado.

  • Whining that his new job as Secretary of State didn’t pay enough ($68,500?) and asking if he could moonlight for his old law firm. Even fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers couldn’t figure out a way that Gessler could possibly justify a clearly conflicting second job.

    Dishonorable Mention: Speaker of the House Frank McNulty. Whether it was helping to completely bungle reapportionment for Republicans or doing little to fulfill Tea Party promises, McNulty proved incapable of leading the GOP caucus in the State House. His problems with The Homestead Exemption and public school funding are a prime example of how he’s stuck between reality and rabid conservatism with no game plan for finding a way out in 2012. McNulty will have a hard time keeping his one-seat majority in the House, and even if he does, he can probably expect a challenge for the Speaker’s role.


  • Democratic election law attorneys. Democrats ran embarrassing circles around Republicans at every step of the reapportionment and redistricting process. The GOP legal strategy of relying on an argument of “minimal disruption” was incredibly foolish, sure, but the Democrats did an excellent job of keeping Republicans stuck in their logic corner. Both reapportionment and redistricting created advantages for Democrats overall, which will be incredibly important over the next 10 years.
  • Republican Congressman Cory Gardner. The freshman congressman had his bumps in 2011 (such as his ill-explained support of the Ryan Plan), but the year couldn’t have ended much better for Gardner. While redistricting made re-election tougher for fellow Republicans Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton, adjustments to the boundaries of CD-4 did nothing to prevent Gardner from what should be a relatively easy re-election in 2012.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper. While Democrats have been less than thrilled with Hickenlooper’s first year as CEO of Colorado, he finished 2011 as the most popular governor in the country and was getting national press as a potential Presidential candidate in 2016. His term as governor won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, but the former Denver Mayor had a pretty stress-free 2011.

  • Republican Congressman Mike Coffman. His congressional district lines moved so much that they are now as unrecognizable as a botched plastic surgery patient. Coffman went from representing a safe Republican seat in 2010 to what will be one of the most competitive races in the country in 2012. That would be enough to make 2011 a bad year for any politician, but Coffman had numerous other problems that will only be exacerbated by his new district makeup. He may have said more controversial (and unnecessarily-so) statements in 2011 than any other Colorado politico, from calling Social Security “A Ponzi Scheme” and famously criticizing the Peace Corps to his weird efforts to repeal parts of the Voting Rights Act and his ideas for essentially destroying Medicare. Coffman alienated so many different constituencies in 2011 that perhaps he’s almost (almost) better off with an entirely new set of voters.

    And lest we forget, the icing on the cake for Coffman’s 2011: He agreed to become Colorado Chair of the Presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, making the announcement right as Perry’s campaign was cratering.

  • Incumbent legislators. The Holidays were a mixed bag for a dozen incumbent legislators who were drawn into districts with fellow incumbents of the same party, leaving them with the choice of a difficult primary or walking away from their seat altogether. Many legislators chose the latter, but there will be a couple of heated battles in 2012 as a result of reapportionment.
  • Rich Coolidge, Spokesman for Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Coolidge held on to his job in the SOS office after also serving under Democrat Bernie Buescher. We used to think well of Coolidge, who was helpful and humorous during the 2010 election season, but in 2011 he tossed all credibility out the window. He flat out refuses to respond to critics, no doubt at the wishes of his boss; while this may help him keep his current job, it won’t do much to help his future employment opportunities.
  • Partisan Divide (Surprise!) on TABOR Lawsuit

    From The Durango Herald:

    Senior legislators declined to get involved Monday in a lawsuit that claims the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights violated the U.S. Constitution.

    Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, wanted the Legislature’s Executive Committee to oppose the lawsuit, but his idea deadlocked on a 3-3 tie, with Democrats opposing him.

    Five Democratic lawmakers are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, Kerr v. Hickenlooper, which claims that TABOR violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that every state have a “republican form of government.” TABOR requires all tax increases to pass a popular vote, and the plaintiffs say that makes Colorado more like a direct democracy, rather than a republic, as the framers of the Constitution had envisioned.

    McNulty is quoted in the story talking about protecting taxpayers, but he and other Colorado Republicans may find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion these days. Recent national polls have shown that the public is not opposed to tax increases and does not believe that budget problems can be solved only with cuts. Being a champion of TABOR doesn’t hold the same appeal today that it did 10 years ago.

    Colorado AFL-CIO Releases Legislative Scorecard

    The Colorado AFL-CIO today released its “2011 Working Families Scorecard,” the first time that the labor organization has released its legislative scorecard to the general public.

    It should come as no surprise that Democrats generally rated better than Republicans on legislation tracked by the AFL-CIO (17 Senate Democrats and 20 House Democrats received 100% scores). At the low end, Republican Rep. Don Beezley picked up the worst score, at 27%; Rep. Wes McKinley and Rep. Sue Schafer hold the ignominious tie for the lowest score among Democrats with 79%.

    There were a few interesting scores that raised our collective eyebrows:

  • Republican Sen. Greg Brophy: 50% score

  • Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg: 39% score
  • Brophy and Lundberg are the leaders of the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party among Colorado legislators, and their scores weren’t all that bad for bills backed by labor interests — especially considering that their lifetime scores are 26% and 19%, respectively.

  • Speaker of the House Frank McNulty and House Majority Leader Amy Stephens: 47% score.
  • We wonder if McNulty and Stephens intentionally tried to stay below 50%, but these are numbers that could prove harmful to the re-election prospects of each should they face a primary challenge.

  • Democratic Rep. John Soper: 88%
  • An electrician by trade, Soper is one of the few former union members in the legislature and has a 98% lifetime score — which makes his opposition on 3 pieces of tracked legislation in 2011 all the more curious.

  • Democratic Rep. Ed Casso: 80%
  • Casso has always tried to trumpet himself as “labor’s best friend,” with a lifetime score of 95% and high-profile public battles with former Governor Bill Ritter on his resume. Casso’s working-class image took a hit over his Payday Lender support, and this 80% score–which is one point away from being the worst score for a Democrat–comes at a bad time for someone looking at a potential run for higher office if redistricting is kind to his Adams County roots. Casso has never struck anyone as being the brightest bulb in the lamp, but this is particularly awkward for him ahead of 2012.

    You can view the full scorecard here, or read the press release after the jump.

    Today the Colorado AFL-CIO shared the results of the 2011 Working Families Scorecard. While the organization has ranked legislators for years, this is the first time they have released it to the general public to educate them on where their state legislators stand on issues of importance to Colorado’s working families.

    The Colorado AFL-CIO successfully defended the interests of working families with the help of strong support from Democratic legislators. 54 floor and committee votes on bills and amendments related to 35 pieces of legislation we tracked. 17 of 20 Senate Democrats and 20 of 32 House Democrats chose to support a working families agenda 100 percent of the time when they had an opportunity to record a vote on a bill that was tracked. Additionally, the AFL-CIO worked as part of strong, bi-partisan coalitions to achieve success on a number of issues. This increased voting scores of GOP legislators in 2011 and built stronger ties across party lines. Of the 35 pieces of legislation we advocated for or against, the final outcome of the legislation matched the Colorado AFL-CIO position 72% of the time.

    “This year saw unprecedented attacks across the nation on the rights of workers,” said Mike Cerbo, executive director of the AFL-CIO. “Colorado was not immune to these attacks, but as a result of strong leadership in the Colorado State Senate every single one of these direct attacks was thwarted. Colorado common sense prevailed.”

    Mike Cerbo specifically credited Senators Shaffer, Morse, Heath, Bacon, and Boyd for refusing to allow partisan attacks on working families to succeed in Colorado.

    “The session was very dichotomous in that bills that brought people together passed and others that pulled people apart failed,” said Phil Hayes, political director of the Colorado AFL-CIO.  “We challenged legislators and the Governor to work with us collaboratively to find solutions to get people back to work and make sure those who are unemployed have the resources they need until they find a job. That was in part why we saw a wholesale increase in scores.”

    Highlights from 2011 include HB 1115 (Public Entity Construction Retainage) which will help both contractors and trades professionals in a very tough economy.  Also, HB 1288 (Unemployment Insurance Solvency Reform) will stabilize our UI Trust Fund and provide insurance premium relief to employers without a reduction of benefits for those without work.

    In January 2011, The Colorado AFL-CIO unveiled its pro-active legislative agenda called “Reinvest in Colorado.” “Reinvest in Colorado” also called for supporting budget policies that protect critical services for the public and respect the valuable public servants that provide them. While the budget could have been much worse, the economic and constitutional constraints impacting our state budget still required massive cuts to public schools and critical services. Public employees still face tremendous challenges in the form of wage freezes, increases in their pension contributions and higher healthcare costs.

    The Colorado AFL-CIO is the largest advocacy organization for working families in Colorado. Our federation represents 181 local union affiliates and over 310,000 active, retired and family members of Colorado’s union households.

    Wham! Hickenlooper Sacks Gaming Commission Over Casino Tax Cut

    UPDATE: Reports FOX 31’s Eli Stokols, who do you suppose might take issue with this decision on behalf of the casino industry? Why, GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty, naturally!

    Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, among others in his caucus, were dismayed by the governor’s decision.

    “Gov. Hickenlooper certainly didn’t consult us before making this sweeping and arbitrary use of power,” McNulty said to FOX 31 Denver.

    “Whomever is on the commission, they need to realize that families, small businesses and entire communities rely on the jobs and revenue that the gaming industry creates. If the governor’s new appointees do an about-face on these employers, families and communities will suffer.”

    So, who “suffers” if the casinos pay the same taxes they paid before this arbitrary decision to cut them? We know who won’t be “suffering” more, and that’s our community colleges–most voters care more a bit more about the health of colleges than casinos.

    If this does turn into a political battle between Hickenlooper and the GOP, the GOP will lose. And Hickenlooper knows it. As for McNulty’s whiny “he didn’t consult us” statement–why would Hickenlooper seek McNulty’s opinion here? Coloradans elected Hickenlooper as their governor–not Tom Tancredo, and certainly not Frank McNulty–and these are the types of decisions a governor makes. Hickenlooper is under no obligation, not even as a courtesy, to put in a call to anybody at the state legislature before making a decision like this.


    We spoke a few weeks ago about a vote by the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission to cut taxes paid by the casino industry–a decision made on the pretense of “tough economic times,” but which stoked outrage from many over the preferential treatment for the industry only two years after Colorado voters approved much higher bet limits to increase revenue. Beneficiaries of these gaming funds like the Colorado Community College System cried betrayal: stakeholders didn’t join with casinos to pass Amendment 50 in 2008 only to have the industry turn around and ask for a tax cut. The appearances here were straight-up awful.

    As the Denver Business Journal reports today, this vote to cut casino taxes was a bridge too far for a commission that serves at the pleasure of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who creditably understood the terrible political folly taking place where commission members did not.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper replaced all five members of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission with new appointees on Wednesday.

    The commission decides on regulations for casinos in Colorado, which are allowed to operate in three mountain towns.

    The shakeup comes about seven weeks after its previous members decided to lower taxes paid by casinos. Hickenlooper disagreed with that decision.

    In his statement today, Gov. Hickenlooper makes it unusually clear that this ill-advised vote to cut casino taxes in the middle of a fiscal crisis is the reason why the commission was ousted:

    Each of the appointees will be new to the Commission. One current member reached the end of a second four-year term and was not eligible for reappointment; one member reached the end of a four-year term and did not reapply for a second term; and three members were asked by the governor to step down…

    “We don’t believe the Colorado gaming industry should be judged reasonably unprofitable or unhealthy at a time when some casinos are making major multi-million dollar investments in one of the worst economic periods in our nation’s history,” Hickenlooper said. “Gaming should be subject to the same risks and rewards of operating and expanding as other industries that don’t have the same ability to change their tax rate based on market conditions. Colorado casinos pay among the lowest tax rates in America, and to lower them even further in these times of unmet needs in local communities makes it appear they are diverting their fair and rightful obligation onto their neighbors in the rest of the state.”

    Any way you look at this: fairness, corporate honesty, or just plain realism in approaching our state’s complicated fiscal problems, the decision by the LGCC to cut casino taxes in the middle of a budget shortfall was a horrible move for everyone involved. We didn’t believe anything could be done about this bad decision except complain and count the losses to education and other priorities; but then John Hickenlooper reminded everyone who is governor of this state.

    We know a lot of people who will be very happy to see that.

    BREAKING: Midnight Payday Payback, Anyone?

    WEDNESDAY UPDATE #6: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

    After a tense final 24 hours to the legislative session, House Republicans blinked first in a high-stakes game of chicken over a payday lending amendment to an essential rule review bill.

    The decision by the House GOP, following a long day of negotiations, will allow the state to avoid an expensive special legislative session that would have been called by Gov. John Hickenlooper had the rule review bill not been passed…

    After meetings with Hickenlooper, McNulty and the House GOP caucus took up the bill around 6:15 p.m. and, after a short speech, adopted a motion by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, to recede from its earlier position and adopt the Senate bill without the payday lending amendment.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper is pretty much universally getting the credit for ending this, and his blistering of Republican hides in the most explicit terms we’ve seen since he took office is a big reason why this battle turned so spectacularly against Speaker Frank McNulty.

    Who is, bipartisan lip service aside, the unconditional loser.


    WEDNESDAY UPDATE #5: Blink. McNulty loses. The “Midnight Payday Payback” is dead, 65-0.


    WEDNESDAY UPDATE #4: Senate votes to adhere to their version of Senate Bill 78. “Payday payback” amendment stripped from the bill, which now goes back to the House. One Republican, Sen. Ellen Roberts, broke with her caucus and voted to adhere to the original version.

    Now the decision to convene a $21,000-a-day special session to decide the fate of the “payday payback,” or not, rests with Speaker Frank McNulty and his House GOP caucus.


    WEDNESDAY UPDATE #3: New statement from the Senate Majority Press Office–full text after the jump. Says Majority Leader John Morse:

    By taking this bill hostage, McNulty has shown that he cares more about predatory lenders than the well-being of Colorado teachers, oil and gas producers, hunters, the poor or the elderly. Frank McNulty is standing up for predatory payday lender organizations while making Colorado citizens feel like they’ve been slapped with a wet leather glove.


    WEDNESDAY UPDATE #2: Amended “payday payback” Senate Bill 78 passes House on a party-line 33-32 vote. Last night, Tim Hoover of the Denver paper reported that Democratic Reps. Ed Casso and Sue Schafer, sponsors of the earlier failed House Bill 1290 “payday payback,” were originally on board with this amendment, but sensibly backed away as the controversy grew. The lone Democratic vote yesterday in favor of the amendment from Rep. Rhonda Fields was reportedly made in error–and wasn’t repeated today.


    WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Numerous sources now reporting that a special session to deal with the House GOP’s last-minute “payday payback” amendment to the rules review bill is a real possibility–the Senate has no plans to adopt this amendment, and will reportedly adhere to their original version. If the House doesn’t back down from their brinksmanship on behalf of payday lenders, hundreds of critical rules in this bill on a daunting range of issues will expire.


    UPDATE #3: Press release from House Democrats explaining the situation, as well as the consequences if the rules review bill isn’t passed, after the jump. Says Minority Leader Sal Pace, “Shame on the Republicans for hijacking this straight-forward and very necessary bill for their special interest cronies. This is the wrong way to end the session.”


    UPDATE #2: Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office steps in, according to the Denver paper via Twitter, calling the payday loan amendment to the rules bill an “irresponsible” “poison pill.” The consequences of not passing this normally routine rule reauthorization are actually quite serious–literally hundreds of rules are reauthorized in SB-78. Gov. Hickenlooper is saying unequivocally that he won’t subsidize this high-pressure, last minute tactic to hold all of these rules hostage.


    UPDATE: We’re hearing, and evidenced by a procedural vote a short while ago, that House Democrats are not playing ball with this “backdoor attempt” to subvert payday loan rules–that includes Democrats who co-sponsored HB-1290, the failed original “payday payback” bill.


    Speaker Frank McNulty, the House Republicans, and maybe a few Democrats are up to mischief on behalf of payday lenders–right now–as the Colorado Independent reports:

    The payday lending industry isn’t giving up on this legislative session in Colorado. Lawmakers who have failed at several attempts to roll back regulations passed last session limiting high payday interest rates and fees are now reportedly planning to attach to a bureaucratic rule-making bill an amendment that would thin the payday regulations. The legislative session ends at midnight tomorrow.

    The bill, Senate Bill 78, is this year’s version of an annual bill that extends all the rules and regulations passed by the legislature. It’s a fairly formal exercise but the bill also includes a list of rules and regulations the legislature chooses not to extend. Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, is leading the charge for the payday industry, introducing the amendment that would add the payday regulation laws passed last year to the list.

    It’s a bold- some would say brazen- strategic move, given that payday industry arguments have been voted down time and again and in light of the fact that there is so little time to debate the issue. Indeed, the point seems to be to avoid debate…

    Whatever debate there will be is presently underway, we’ll update when we receive more information. And in our continued quest to give payday lending spammers the middle finger, we promise to highlight front and center every legislator who supports this effort and their connection to the industry.

    Payday lenders have failed twice in the last two years, and we’ll be sure to keep a spotlight on all last-minute efforts to ram their agenda through again. As a reminder, here’s another look at how your Representatives voted on the last effort.

    In the meantime, who says $50,000 can’t buy you love?

    House Dems. Slam GOP’s Last-Minute Special Interest Giveaway

    (Denver) – This evening House Republicans jammed an amendment onto SB11-078, the General Assembly’s annual rule-review bill, to undo fair rules regulating the payday lending industry.  The move was a shameless special interest giveaway in the last hours of the 2011 legislative session, and one that could ultimately undermine core and critical functions of government and public safety.

    The rule review bill requires executive branch agencies to submit new or amended rules to the Office of Legislative Legal Services.  The statute directs staff to review the rules to determine whether they are within the agency’s rulemaking authority.  The staff performs rule review under the direction of a legislative committee, the Committee on Legal Services.

    If the rule review bill is not passed, rules promulgated during the previous year would expire on May 15th of this year.  This in turn would threaten the most basic functions of Colorado government; everything from controlling Colorado’s greenhouse gases to annual hunting seasons would be in peril.

    If the bill passed with the payday lending handout, the Senate could adhere to their original position, which would then send the bill back to the House.  At that point Republican leadership would have to decide between doing the right thing by stripping the amendment, or killing the bill.

    House Democratic Leader Sal Pace (D-Pueblo) made the following statement about the amendment:

    “Shame on the Republicans for hijacking this straight-forward and very necessary bill for their special interest cronies.  This is the wrong way to end the session.”


    Speaker McNulty threatens well-being of Coloradans to help predatory lending industry

    “McNulty has shown that he cares more about predatory lenders than the well-being of Colorado teachers, oil and gas producers, hunters, the poor or the elderly.”

    DENVER-Today, Senate Majority Leader John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) released the following statement on the last-minute hijacking of the Rule Review Bill (Senate Bill 78) by House Republicans:

    “By taking this bill hostage, McNulty has shown that he cares more about predatory lenders than the well-being of Colorado teachers, oil and gas producers, hunters, the poor or the elderly. Frank McNulty is standing up for predatory payday lender organizations while making Colorado citizens feel like they’ve been slapped with a wet leather glove.”

    In a last-minute procedural maneuver, Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty is holding up a bill that is needed to govern nearly every function of government and affect every Coloradan. McNulty and House Republicans attached an amendment to Senate Bill 78, the “Rule Review” bill that will dramatically increase the amount that people will pay when taking out a short-term “payday” loan. This last-minute action is an attempt to overturn great work done by state agencies to implement rules for state and federal laws passed in recent years.

    Among the rules affected:

    This bill will cost Colorado approximately $800 million from the loss of a full hunting season. Those losses will come from the fees paid for licenses and permits as well as the lost revenue for restaurants, hotels, and other retailers who rely on hunters for a significant part of their business.

    The implementation of HB09-1293, which changed the formula for hospital provider fees and made other significant changes to the Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP), Medicaid, and the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The hospital provider fees alone amount to $795 million in increased revenue for the state that come from federal matching funds and the changes to Medicaid alone resulted in 30,000 new Coloradoans receiving coverage. Undoing these rules will take away health care from some of our neediest people on the Medicaid, CICP, and CHIP rolls.

    This will also throw schools and teachers into chaos as their licenses and accreditations lapse and they have to wait for the Colorado Department of Education to rebuild the rules regarding how to renew those licenses and accreditations.

    Finally, this will cost the state an estimated $85 million to recreate the greenhouse gas emissions standards that are part of the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for air quality control.

    This last minute maneuver by House Republicans comes on the final day of the 2011 legislative session. It could lead to a special session which would cost the state an additional tens of thousands of dollars per day.

    McNulty Flakes on Budget Compromise–What’s Up With The House?

    UPDATE: FOX 31 updates the story:

    According to McNulty, Shaffer abruptly left the dinner meeting Thursday night after McNulty told him that next year’s budget must include the “Delgrosso amendment”, a proposal from House Finance Committee Chair Brian Delgrosso, that was left out of an agreement drawn up by Senate lawmakers earlier that afternoon…

    But, McNulty, who wasn’t involved in drafting the compromise, refused to back the compromise until it included Delgrosso’s amendment, which would give local governments and school districts the option of increasing the PERA contributions of its employees from 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent.

    Delgrosso’s amendment doesn’t have a fiscal impact on next year’s state budget [Pols emphasis], but, McNulty argues, will enable local school districts to increase revenue and thereby keep more teachers in the classroom.

    In other words, House Speaker Frank McNulty is demanding that the budget include an amendment that doesn’t impact the budget. Way to legislate like a grownup, Frank.


    As FOX 31’s Eli Stokols reports:

    Senate President Brandon Shaffer stormed out of a dinner with House Speaker Frank McNulty and Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp after McNulty reportedly torpedoed a proposed [compromise] on next year’s budget, according to multiple sources at the Capitol.

    While the media focused on the noisy rallies and a long, emotional hearing over civil unions, Democratic and Republican senators huddled together quietly in Kopp’s office, drawing up an agreement for balancing next year’s budget on scratch paper and napkins…

    But, sources close to the situation say McNulty, who wasn’t involved in drafting the compromise, is not getting on board.

    Lawmakers had been hoping to reach an agreement this week so as to be able to introduce the budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12 some time next week.

    Something weird is going on here, folks–House Speaker Frank McNulty isn’t supposed to be the unreasonable party in these negotiations. The fact that Senate President Brandon Shaffer was able to hammer out a budget compromise with his minority counterpart, arch-conservative Sen. Mike Kopp, is a very significant development. The Joint Budget Committee’s partisan paralysis is forcing others to come together and try to make a deal. And the clock is ticking down rapidly on this legislative session–the budget is already very late.

    So what the hell is McNulty doing?

    We noted earlier this week news that a significant number of Republican elected officials, including McNulty, recently quit the hard-right Republican Study Committee of Colorado policy group run by former Sen. Dave Schultheis. Along with the election of Ryan Call (instead of “Tea Party” favorite Sen. Ted Harvey) to the post of state Republican Party chairman, we were ready to interpret these moves as a sign that the GOP in this state was becoming aware of its internal failures, and might really try to put forward a newly pragmatic and moderate image.

    We wrote that the day before Amy Stephens backstabbed the health care exchange bill in a flurry of nonsense about “Obamacare,” the day before Republicans in a House committee killed a civil union bill that would have passed in the full House with bipartisan support, and just as McNulty was evidently deciding to position himself to the right of Mike Kopp on the budget.

    They’re determined to prove us wrong, aren’t they?

    Republicans Threatening McNulty with Primary

    As The Colorado Statesman reports, Douglas County Republicans are calling House Speaker Frank McNulty a RINO and threatening him with a primary. McNulty’s crime? Supporting more moderate Rick Murray for Douglas County GOP Chair over right-wing conservative Mark Baisley, who would be elected to a second term.

    McNulty’s endorsement of Murray drew some sidelong glances from the more conservative Republicans at the meeting.

    “It was not good that Frank McNulty supported Rick Murray tonight,” said conservative organizer Crista Huff. “People were already suspecting he was in the RINO (Republican-in-name-only) camp because of his support for the FASTER taxes, and now he just firmly planted himself in the RINO camp. It’s not good.”

    Appearing less than solidly conservative could have consequences in Douglas County, Huff suggested.

    “Some of the people who make these things happen are talking about him having a primary next time,” she said.

    Tension in the New State House Majority?

    We’re getting reports from credible sources at the state capitol of a budding conflict between incoming Speaker of the House Frank McNulty and his new Majority Leader, Rep. Amy Stephens. What we’re hearing is that McNulty is displeased with Stephens’ handling of the close House races decided in the weeks after the election. Stephens was reported as ‘rolling her eyes’ in the Denver paper in response to questions about these races, and overly dismissive at a time when Republicans would have scored more points with patience and magnaminity.

    More generally, McNulty is reportedly upset with what he sees as a lack of savvy and political aptitude on the part of Stephens, and is concerned that she could at some point embarrass the caucus as a whole. Rather than making a public spat of it, look for this problem to resolve itself via a lot less press time for Rep. Stephens than her “leadership” position would normally call for. That said, we can still see Stephens steaming over this for a long time to come–she has been considered a “rising star” in the GOP for a few years now, and may not take well to being muzzled.

    Dems: Colorado House Remains In Play

    Colorado Democrats are pushing back with renewed vigor this afternoon on the idea that the GOP majority in the state House is settled, citing new numbers in the HD-29 race between Democratic incumbent Rep. Debbie Benefield and GOP challenger Robert Ramirez–numbers that could result in some serious heartburn for oh-so-presumptive Speaker Frank McNulty.

    According to the Democratic House Majority Project, the most recent totals in the HD-29 race show “at least” 687 ballots of various descriptions left to be counted–including some 464 provisional ballots, and 223 “curable” ballots with minor problems that canvassers are attempting to resolve by today’s deadline.

    GOP challenger Ramirez presently leads by only 208 votes–so 687 additional ballots could quite possibly blow this race wide open, and control of the Colorado House with it. Says Democratic Party chair Pat Waak, “Elections reflect the will of the people. With so many uncounted ballots in the Benefield race, it’s important to let the counting finish.” Full release follows.

    As we’ve discussed, McNulty has not been very bashful about controversial possible changes to House committees and rules, basically jabbing a stick in the eye of Democrats on the strength of his razor-thin 33-32 majority merely because he could — and not because it served any sort of strategic purpose. Can you imagine the egg on McNulty’s face if control of the House is yanked out from under him? And from a purely practical standpoint, would Republicans feel a need to elect a different leader if they are not in the majority?

    We think McNulty’s needless provocations were politically dumb anyway (silly gamesmanship stories are not the news headlines that Republicans should be seeking after such a close election), but they become so much more harmful if he’s no longer holding the Speaker’s gavel. How could McNulty possibly expect Democrats, if still in the majority, to negotiate in good faith with him after what he’s done already?

    Stay tuned.


    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Critical Turning Point in “Too Close to Call” State House Race

    New data shows state house majority remains undecided

    As thousands of uncounted ballots continue to be sorted and verified for counting by county clerks around Colorado, new analysis confirms that State House District 29 race between Democratic Representative Debbie Benefield and Republican Robert Ramirez remains “too close to call.”  Analysis of new data shows there are at least 687 uncounted ballots in the district, and only 208 votes separating the candidates, the outcome of the election will remain in doubt until Tuesday of next week.

    “The voters will have the final word in this election,” said Pat Waak, Colorado Democratic Party Chair. “As mail-in ballots continue to be verified while hardworking election officials make sure uncounted votes are processed correctly, the data shows that District 29 remains too close to call.”

    With at least 687 uncounted ballots in the district, and Rep. Benefield currently down by 208 votes in the preliminary tally, there are too many uncounted ballots for Republicans to shut the door on the democratic process.

    “Democrats are committed to honoring the vote,” added Waak. “Elections reflect the will of the people. With so many uncounted ballots in the Benefield race, it’s important to let the counting finish.”

    With HD-29 undecided, control of the Colorado State House also remains undecided as well-with 32 Democrats and 32 Republicans currently awaiting the outcome of the HD-29 race to determine majority control over the chamber.

    Editor’s notes:

    · In the last few days, specific data from Jefferson County shows that there are 464 provisional ballots in the process of being verified that have yet to be counted.

    · According to Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) data, currently the statewide average of provisionals being verified in the 2010 election is 88%.

    · In addition, 223 “curable” mail-in ballots are outstanding in the district-where Jefferson County election officials asked voters to fix minor signature or identification problems before they could be officially counted.

    · So far, 24,778 votes have been counted in the race-with at least 687 uncounted ballots.

    · State statute mandate the last day for counting provisional and outstanding mail-in ballots is Tuesday, November 16th.

    ·  A statutory recount is triggered if the official tally of votes cast in a race are within 0.05% (one-half of one percent).