DU Study: State Lax In Enforcing Setback Rules For Drilling

setbackstudy

A new study from the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic asserts that "Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration is approving oil and gas drilling near homes, schools and businesses without following its own regulations." From their joint press release with the Sierra Club yesterday:

The study recommends the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission (COGCC) reject incomplete drilling permit applications, increase and standardize notification of residents near drilling and fracking, improve online information access and base setback requirements on science and necessary precautions to protect public health and environment.  
 
“The COGCC has a job to do, which is to implement strong regulations and enforce those regulations to protect public health, safety and the environment. When it comes to drilling and fracking near communities, citizens and local government are the ones living with the impacts and their voices need to be ones that are given the most weight in the process,” said Catherine Collentine of the Sierra Club.
 
Colorado regulations, in effect since August, 2013, require pads with multiple oil and gas wells located within 1,000 feet from homes, schools and businesses be placed “as far as possible” from those buildings. The governor and COGCC promised increased enforcement of the regulation last fall, but the analysis found no evidence of additional rigor in permit reviews. [Pols emphasis]
 
Student attorneys at DU Environmental Law Clinic conducted a legal review of 1300 permits issued since August, 2013 and discovered 181 were granted, despite incomplete documentation. Those 181 permits accounted for an immense amount of development: 951 wells, 1221 tanks and 932 separators. Most of the 181 permits for oil and gas wells are located in Weld County – others originated in Adams, Garfield, Larimer and La Plata Counties…
 
“We hope that our analysis will help inform the COGCC as it works to meet its goal of protecting the health and safety of all Coloradoans,” said Lauren Bushong, student attorney with DU’s Environmental Law Clinic. “If followed, our recommendations should allow for greater, and more meaningful, public participation in the permitting process.” 

Read the details of DU's study here. The commission tasked with coming up with legislative proposals to improve local control of oil and gas drilling, which resulted form last year's compromise between proponents of ballot initiatives for that purpose and Gov. John Hickenlooper, is set to deliver their report next month. Should the local control commission not produce a satisfactory result in the legislature, it's likely there will be major combat at the ballot box in 2016 over initiatives to enhance local control and/or further regulate drilling at the state level.

You'll recall that one of the ballot measures last year was to increase setbacks for drilling from existing development.

The principal argument made by supporters of the oil and gas industry in Colorado is that the state "already has" strict regulations on drilling. Obviously, the central claim of this study–that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) under Gov. Hickenlooper is not properly enforcing drilling regulations as they exist today–does not inspire confidence in their willingness to enforce stronger protections. But this is information that the legislature and (if necessary) the voting public needs to know.

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So, Uh, Mitt Romney is NOT Running for President Again

Mitt Romney.

There’s no more need to try to re-invent Romney. Again.

According to The Washington Post, two-time Republican Presidental candidate Mitt Romney will NOT run for President for a third time:

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said in a statement he read to supporters on a conference call Friday morning.

Romney insisted that he would have had enough support from potential donors to be “more than competitive” and that the positive reaction he heard from Republican activists was “surprising and heartening.” He noted that he led the GOP field in recent public polls…

…Romney’s decision to forgo a third run came after a lengthy meeting of Romney’s inner circle in Boston last Friday, during which they evaluated feedback from former campaign donors and activists in key early voting states. The assessment was realistic — “we were not Pollyanaish,” one adviser said — and included reports from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where Romney would have lost some key precinct leaders although still had considerable support.

Many participants left that session convinced that it was all but certain he would run again. In the end, however, Romney balked. One person close to the family said he made up his mind last weekend, but wanted to give himself the week to think it over before making his decision final.

“It’s a very personal decision,” said a senior adviser, who like others interviewed requested anonymity to speak candidly. “All the political metrics were positive. Ultimately, running for president, you just have to feel right about it in your heart. They just didn’t feel it was right. He’s a happy person. He’s not a needy, desperate guy.”

It sounds like Romney more or less concluded that he just didn't really want to do the thing for 2016, so why was he spending so much time recently keeping his name in the mix? Apparently he just really believes that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush should not be the GOP nominee in 2016, so Romney's ultimate goal was to poop in Bush's punch bowl for awhile. As our friends at "The Fix" explained:

"I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee," [said Romney].

That second sentence is key to not only understanding Romney's thinking about his own candidacy (or lack thereof) but also how he feels about the race more generally. His motivation to re-consider his past denials of interest in a third race seemed designed to slow the momentum being built by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The two men have a testy relationship and Romney has made clear privately and in kinder terms publicly that he didn't think Jeb was the right choice for the party.

Romney's consideration of the race over the intervening three weeks was entirely tied up with Bush and his own plans. It was huge news — in the political world — when, on Thursday, Dave Kochel, a longtime Romney adviser, signed on with Bush to be his campaign manager. The entire conversation over the past 21 days was whether, with Jeb and Mitt in the race, there would be room for any of the "new" faces in the party like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker or Florida Gov. Marco Rubio (or even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie).

Take that, Jeb! Who's next?

Gardner Backs Ryan Call in Contentious GOP Chair Fight

Republican Ryan Call

Ryan Call

Colorado Republican Party Chair Ryan Call is facing a tough re-election fight against former Adams County GOP Chair (and candidate for governor) Steve House. We've gone through some of the reasons that Call might be ousted despite a fairly successful 2014 election season, with perhaps the main point of contention over Call's annual salary as Chairman.

House has already picked up the endorsement of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and yesterday, Call pulled out his big gun: Sen. Cory Gardner has his back. Here's Sen. Gardner in an email to GOP Party activists, hitting on what Call supporters no doubt believe are key messages:

Ryan has traveled extensively across our great state to meet with Republicans and he developed a plan to rebuild our Party. After listening to more of you, he created the 365 Plan. 

The 365 Plan was simple: Register and engage voters; support and train volunteers, candidates and elected officials; coalition building; raise the funds to win; build a sustaining ground program and work for Republican victories 365 days a year. In other words, we need a full time State Party – one that can operate year round – if we want to take on the Democrats, unions and liberal special interests.  This starts will a full time State Chairman.

Because of Ryan’s leadership, the Colorado GOP fundamentally changed to become a political operation that runs like a business.  Field offices opened a full year prior to the election and continued to grow to 13 field offices, more than we’ve ever had in an off year election.  Each office was filled with volunteers, paid walkers and staffers who made over 795,450 calls and knocked on over 1 MILLION doors!  This was the largest field program our state has ever seen!

Our Party needs a principled conservative with the experience, vision and fortitude to lead in 2016. I have no doubt that Ryan will dedicate 100 percent of his time, energy and talent to continue to build the Colorado Republican Party so we can gain on our 2014 successes. That is why I’m endorsing Ryan Call for Chairman of the Colorado Republican Committee and I hope you will join me. 

This endorsement from Gardner was not unexpected, but it is the first real test of Gardner's ability to operate as the de facto leader of Colorado Republicans. Is the endorsement of "Con Man Cory" enough to seal up another term for Call?
 

Con Man Cory Votes Against Wind Production Tax Credit, Hopes You Don’t Remember Those TV Ads

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner poses in front of some sort of weird spinny thing.

UPDATE: Guess who just voted NO on a Senate amendment to establish a renewable electricity standard? Maybe Gardner was just misquoted when he often said he supports an "all of the above" approach on energy production. Or perhaps he was crossing his fingers every time he said it.

—–

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner earned the nickname "Con Man Cory" during his 2014 campaign for his willingness to say anything that might help him get elected. And when we say "anything," we mean that literally — he lied and hemmed and hawed about his own record and took credit for things he didn't do, even when the facts told a different story.

Sen. Gardner hasn't even been in office for a full month yet, and he's already turned his back on some of his more blustery campaign promises. Remember that September TV ad from Gardner in which he claimed to have "cowrote the law to launch our state's green energy industry?" Kristen Wyatt of The Associated Press quickly dissected the ad and came to the obvious conclusion that Gardner was just expelling his own wind. Here's the first paragraph from that AP story:

GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, framed by sunflowers and wind turbines, tells voters in a campaign ad this week that he co-wrote a law to launch Colorado's green-energy economy. He leaves out that the law was repealed five years later, deemed useless for not enabling a single project. [Pols emphasis]

Now, this wasn't the only time during the campaign that Gardner praised the wind energy industry, which provides thousands of jobs on Colorado. And yesterday, Gardner had his first opportunity to put some substance behind those campaign promises. Instead, he voted against an amendment to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit. Yes, you read that correctly. The same guy who campaigned around the state talking about the importance of supporting Colorado's burgeoning Wind Energy industry just voted NO on an amendment to extend a critical production tax credit.

Judging from Gardner's own words, he seems to be aware that he is doing the exact opposite of what he said he would do if elected to the Senate. This is from Gardner's official statement following the vote on Heitkamp Amdt. No. 133:

“I am a true believer in the ability of wind energy to be a key part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. I have been a major proponent of the Wind Production Tax Credit in the past, and I continue to support incentives for wind energy. It plays a vital role in powering our homes and helping to grow our economy in Colorado.

This amendment, however, is the wrong way to go about it and highlights the continued need for an overhaul our entire tax code. Unfortunately, the amendment advocates the reauthorization of this tax credit without any means to pay for the extension, which I cannot support. Further, the amendment offers no vision of how to eventually ramp down this tax credit, which was always intended to be temporary. [Pols emphasis]

“I am still a major supporter of wind energy, and I look forward to working with Senator Heitkamp on the issue going forward."

Got that, Colorado wind energy producers? "Con Man Cory" is totally in your corner on the Wind Production Tax Credit — hell, he just said it twice — up until the point in which he is asked to cast a vote. Because of modernizing the tax code, or something. Only in Con Many Cory's brain does it make sense to say that voting against the tax credit doesn't mean he opposes the tax credit.

[Side note: Gardner also explains his vote against the Wind Production Tax Credit when he says, "the amendment offers no vision of how to eventually ramp down this tax credit, which was always intended to be temporary." You know what also was intended to be temporary? The billions of dollars in tax credits that the oil and gas industry enjoys every year, even though they are making tens of billions in profits every quarter. That vote will be coming soon, too.)

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Meanwhile, Colorado's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, has been traveling the state promoting the importance of the Wind Production Tax Credit and actually casting a vote in support. Here's Bennet talking to Bridgett Weaver of the Greeley Tribune about the Wind Production Tax Credit:

It’s critically important to give certainty to this vital industry in Colorado. And nationally, the wind industry accounts for more than 75,000 jobs in the country and roughly 5,000 in Colorado, and by some estimates around 2,600 in Weld County alone. So that’s what’s so critical about it. It’s not just about the windmills themselves. It’s about the entire manufacturing industry and the subcontractors who are part of that. Many of whom are right here in Colorado that need the certainty that an extension or some other signal will give them in order to move forward.

Vestas is a great example. They were laying people off in 2013 and 2012, and in 2014, I think they announced that they would be hiring 800 employees in Colorado, with 300 of them in Windsor.

This is why Sen. Bennet comes off as a statesman and Sen. Gardner looks like a used car salesman. Bennet talks the talk and backs it up with his vote in the Senate. Pretty simple, no?

So, if Gardner isn't following through on his promises to voters — who is he helping? Why, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), of course, the same group that was founded by the billionaire coal baron Koch Brothers that spent millions on Gardner's Senate campaign. Back in November, Gardner seemed to be telling AFP (publicly) that he would continue to support the Wind Production Tax Credit despite heavy lobbying from AFP to have it killed. Hmmm….sorry, Colorado voters, but at the end of the day, Con Man Cory is going to represent the interests of AFP and the Koch Brothers. This isn't an opinion — it just happened. Gardner did exactly the opposite of what he promised Colorado voters, and he's going to do it over and over and over again.

Here's what Eli Stokols of FOX 31 News wrote after Gardner voted against an amendment on Climate Change:

After campaigning successfully last year as a "different kind of Republican," Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is under fire from conservationists for voting Wednesday against an amendment stating that humans contribute to climate change, something 69 percent of his constituents believe to be a fact.

Fifteen Senate Republicans, including 2016 presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul, joined Democrats in backing the amendment, but not Gardner…

This is Cory Gardner in a nutshell, folks. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Koch).

As budding Senate BFFs, Gardner cites Cruz, Moran, Paul, and Thune

(The company Cory keeps – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Most people groan when media figures toss soft-ball questions at public officials, but not all softballs are created equal.

As you'd expect, during a Jan. 27 interview, KNUS talk-radio host Krista Kafer thew a bunch of eye-roll-inducing questions at Colorado's new Republican Senator, Cory Gardner, like has he been surprised by anything?

But one of Kafer's softballs was illuminating. She asked, "Who ya hanging out with?"

As his emerging Senate BFFs, Gardner mentioned some of the most radical right wingers in the chamber.

Gardner spotlighted his budding relationship with Tea-Party leader Ted Cruz of Texas, saying he "sat next to Sen. Cruz over the past several policy meetings that we've had, talking about issues like what we're going to do on health care…." (Cruz, of course, led the charge for a government shutdown to stop Obamacare.)

Gardner also mentioned working with Sen. Rand Paul of Texas, "on a number of bills, whether it's auditing the Federal Reserve." (You wonder if the two discussed Paul's Personhood bill, the Life at Conception Act, which Gardner endorsed while in the House.)

Also cited by Gardner, in answer to Kafer's question, were anti-environmentalists John Thune (R-SD) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

You know a Senator by the company he keeps. And in Gardner's case, his company of obstructionist right wingers reflects what we've heard from him in Washington as well. The name of a moderate Republican or Democrat did not come out of Gardner's mouth.

Good on ya, Krista Kafer, for at least one of your softballs.

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21 White Republicans (And Janak Joshi) Sponsor Affirmative Action Repeal Legislation

Up on the calendar of the always-entertaining Senate Education Committee this afternoon is Senate Bill 15-117, "Concerning prohibiting discrimination in public financing of systems of higher education." 

The bill prohibits the general assembly and the Colorado commission on higher education (commission) from appropriating or distributing state moneys to or for the benefit of students or state or private institutions of higher education based solely on the race, color, national origin, or sex of a student.

The bill requires the commission to prohibit such discrimination in higher education funding in implementing part 3 of article 18 of title 23, Colorado Revised Statutes.

This is a bill with origins in American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) stock language to prohibit funding for affirmative action policies in higher education. The national proponent of this kind of legislation, conservative activist Ward Connerly, was also behind a Colorado ballot initiative in 2008 to broadly outlaw any kind of gender or race-based affirmative action. That initiative was defeated, handing Connerly a major defeat in what has been a successful drive to eliminate affirmative action in some other states.

There are a few ways to approach this legislation, which may well pass the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate on its way to certain death in the Democratic-controlled House. We could cite the studies and large body of opinion that affirmative action remains necessary, insofar as discrimination remains a problem in America. But there's something more basic about Senate Bill 117 that struck us as we read the list of sponsors:

sb117sponsors

With the sole exception of Rep. Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs, they're all white people.

To which you might respond, "Well, that's pretty much all Republicans have got!"

And you would be right–about both the cause and the effect of their problem.

A Few Words on Fixing Obamacare’s Glitches

This one was not Obamas fault.

This one was not Obama’s fault.

The discovery of a legitimate problem with the Connect for Health Colorado health insurance marketplace by 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman, a glitch that has apparently resulted in some 3,600 policyholders not having their health insurance renewed for this year, has become the latest issue with the Affordable Care Act's implementation in Colorado to send Republicans into a frenzy and Democrats scrambling for talking points:

As many as 3,600 health insurance plans that should have automatically renewed this year were canceled because of a design flaw with Connect for Health Colorado, the official state exchange designed to implement the Affordable Care Act.

9NEWS was first to expose the issue last week and now the exchange says it will pro-actively find customers affected and help them re-instate coverage retroactively…

An official Connect for Health training video, uploaded to YouTube on September 9 of last year, informed the audience that customers could inadvertently cancel renewal of their plans by shopping for a potential alternative for 2015.

"If you put a different plan in their cart on October 16, that is going to turn off any auto-renewal of the plan that was indicated in their renewal notice," instructed Kyla Hoskins, Manager of Policy and External Affairs for Connect for Health, in the training video.

There have been legitimate complaints ever since the rollout of the Connect for Health Colorado exchange website that the process for obtaining health insurance is–assuming the website is functioning properly, which it usually is now–not intuitive or friendly, either for customers or those helping them. That the exchange has nonetheless successfully enrolled so many people in Colorado is testament to the overwhelming demand for affordable healthcare. The issue identified with the exchange website in this story, which was apparently considered a "feature" and not a "bug" prior to being identified as a major problem, is a perfect example of the customer service failures the exchange has grappled with–and been, to some extent, properly criticized for. We'll add that Connect for Health's initial response to inquiries from 9NEWS about the problem, essentially dismissing it as user error, will not go down in history as a model of crisis communications.

With that said, news reporting today about the "window shopping glitch" in Colorado's insurance exchange website contains assurances by all involved that every one of these policyholders will have their coverage reinstated retroactively. This roughly 5% of renewing policyholders got treated to another fine example of technological and bureaucratic faceplanting, but at the end of the day, they'll be made whole. The fact is, Brandon Rittiman's reporting was critical to a successful outcome: not least for the 3,600 policyholders who appear to have needed a media spotlight on the problem in order for it to be acknowledged as a problem.

One of the biggest internal dilemmas that Democrats face today is a reflexive defensiveness brought on by years of irrational arguments with the far right. The need to defend major reforms like the Affordable Care Act from an onslaught of hyperbolic bullshit has left some Democrats unable to confront legitimate issues that need fixing. There are signs that this is changing: legislation in the Colorado legislature to tighten oversight of Connect for Health Colorado is passing with bipartisan support. Republicans want to go much, much farther than oversight, of course, and will hype this story out of all earthly proportion to support their contention that the insurance exchange and the rest of Obamacare should simply be repealed.

But that's not what the public wants. Even as they give Obamacare low marks in polling, the same polls show the public wants health care reform to work. For Democrats, the way to prevail is to share the concern of Republicans when glitches happen–but stand firm when they try to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Thursday Open Thread

"Laziness has become the chief characteristic of journalism, displacing incompetence."

–Kingsley Amis

Your Papers Are Not In Order, “Dr. Chaps”

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

John Tomasic at the Colorado Independent got tangled up this week with the confused nonprofit and for-profit business operations of freshman Colorado Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt–whose other job running a far-out Youtube "video ministry" called Pray in Jesus' Name has resulted in nationwide notoriety. Tomasic took a look at publicly searchable records at the Colorado Secretary of State's office, which appear to show Klingenschmitt's nonprofit charity status as "suspended."

Controversial state Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s nonprofit “Pray in Jesus [sic] Name” has failed to file the proper paperwork with the state, a lapse that led the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on October 15th of last year to suspend its registration as a charitable organization. Since then, Klingenschmitt’s group has not been legally eligible to solicit or accept donations, which hasn’t stopped it from sending out fundraiser emails and posting videos asking for donations at a regular clip.

“God loves a cheerful giver,” Klingenschmitt says at the end of the most recent episode of his YouTube program, “Pray in Jesus Name News.” Text runs across the bottom of the screen intermittently asking viewers to make donations…

We have no idea how much Klingenschmitt has raised via his Pray in Jesus' Name nonprofit–based on the number of Youtube views his shows receive when not being highlighted by liberals, our guess is not that much. In any event, Tomasic's report on the suspension of Klingenschmitt's nonprofit status provoked an irate response from "Dr. Chaps" personally in the comments of the story.

chapsceaseanddesist

Yikes! We've never seen "Chaps" mad like that before. Obviously, this prompted a second report from the Independent's Tomasic with more details–details that don't actually help Chaps. Perhaps he should have left bad enough alone?

Klingenschmitt forwarded to The Independent a certificate of good standing “dated today,” he wrote in an email, signed by Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (Pictured here and available for download as a pdf.) Klingenschmitt explained that he filed papers to bring his registration up to date on Saturday, January 24th, 2014, three days ago. But the Secretary’s certificate shows some of the documents were electronically received by the office Tuesday at 2:46 p.m., nearly three hours after the original Colorado Independent story posted.

So, it's quite possible that Klingenschmitt scrambled after this report in the Independent to get his nonprofit status renewed with the Secretary of State–and then informed the Independent with high dudgeon that their report was "false." While that makes his all-caps "cease and desist" demand look kind of silly, it at least gives him a response when asked about this in the future. Except for one remaining problem: Klingenschmitt appears to have continued soliciting nonprofit donations during the period his charity was suspended, which would be a violation of the law:

In an email sent Tuesday, Klingenschmitt explained that the fundraiser emails he has sent out since October 15 and that were cited by The Colorado Independent “come from a totally different for-profit corporation, GJK, Inc., not from the non-profit as you falsely claim.”

Except no, they didn't:

[T]he fundraising emails cited by The Independent do not include reference to GJK, Inc. They do, however, come from an email address with the “prayinjesusname.org” Internet domain. They also include at the top a prominent “Pray in Jesus Name Project” banner (“Sending Petitions to God & Government to Defend Religious Freedom.”) An email sent on December 30 (see image below) asks specifically for donations for the “Pray in Jesus Name Ministries”.

If you clicked on the link in emails from that time period, this is the message you saw on the donation page:

YES! I support your non-profit defense of religious liberty and freedom of Christian expression, broadcasting the gospel on TV-radio-internet, and service to the poor and orphans. To help you protect our right to pray publicly “in Jesus’ name,” and mobilize tens of thousands of people to petition God and government, I’m making my tax-deductible donation to “PRAY IN JESUS NAME MINISTRIES.”

And with that, we do believe "Dr. Chaps" is nailed. Either he was soliciting donations via a suspended nonprofit, or he was grossly misrepresenting "donations" to a for-profit business. And neither of those seems like a model of "what Jesus would do."

2015 Denver Municipal Elections: List of Candidates

Mayor of Denver Michael Hancock

You can go ahead and mark down Michael Hancock for another term as Mayor of Denver.

The 2015 Denver Municipal Elections are fast approaching, and the way things are shaping up, we could see one of the more crowded ballots in years — which should make it very difficult for any one candidate to get 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. This is also the first Denver election to take place under the re-drawn city boundaries, so there are more unknowns than normal.

Candidates for Municipal Office (Mayor, Auditor, Clerk & Recorder, City Council) can begin circulating petitions to formally place their names on the ballot as soon as Tuesday, Feb. 3; signed petitions are required to be submitted to the Denver Clerk and Recorder by March 11. The General Election will be held on May 5, with a runoff (as necessary) election scheduled for June 2.

We'll be following the Denver elections every step of the way. Early indications are that two over-arching themes should be at play this spring: 1) Conflicting views about development and affordable housing, and 2) Labor union support (pro-union vs. anti-union sentiments).

Click after the jump for a brief look at the declared candidates for office and how each respective race is shaking out as January draws to a close:

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Lundberg Strikes Again: Pedophile Day Care, Anyone?

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Denver Post's Christopher Osher reports on the latest bill up for debate from hard-right Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg–and it's a doozy:

"We are licensing child care out of existence in far too many corners of the state," said Lundberg, who also is chairman of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, which will consider the legislation. "My alternative says there is an elegant solution to this bureaucratic problem, and it recognizes that smaller facilities are much better served when we stay out of the way and stop driving people out of business."

But child welfare advocates say Colorado's licensing program isn't driving providers out of business. They say costs for providers are minimal — between $63.50 to $154.50 for an initial application and criminal background checks per home. They also fear Lundberg's move could run afoul of recent federal legislation and jeopardize federal aid the state receives for child care vouchers that go to low-income parents who are working or enrolled in job training or school.
 
They believe the state's licensing program saves lives by setting uniform safety standards and requiring criminal background checks for providers and those living in their homes. [Pols emphasis] They also point out that licensed providers must take 16.5 hours of training before opening and must take an additional 15 hours annually to keep licenses current. Child care operators say the cost of all the courses is less than $150.

Given the low cost of compliance with the licensing requirements as they exist today, it's tough to argue that this is a major contributor to the high cost of child care in Colorado. On the other hand, the peace of mind of leaving one's children with a care provider who has passed a criminal background check in order to receive a child care license has a very high value indeed.

Once you accept that a $150 license and a modest bit of education is not meaningfully driving up the cost of child care, there really is no good reason for this proposal at all. To be honest, the reason to push this bill completely escapes us, because its stated justification is so easily disproven it calls the true motives for the bill into question. Is the point really to make it easier for criminals to run child care centers?

As silly as that sounds, Sen. Lundberg's response to the question honestly makes you wonder:

"Parents are the ones that need to know that they're the actual stopgap that protects children when they drop them off anywhere," Lundberg said. "They better make sure just who they are leaving their children with." [Pols emphasis]

And how are parents supposed to do that? Maybe with–wait for it–a background check? Like the one you have to pass to get a child care license? Even when you disagree with a legislative proposal, it's usually possible to see how the rationale behind said proposal could make some kind of sense to a reasonable person–maybe not you, but some number of people depending on their point of view.

But not this time. This is just an irredeemably bad idea–and for a Republican caucus that grandstanded mandatory sentences for sex offenders, and constantly represents itself as "tough on crime" at the expense of Democrats, the introduction of such a counterproductive bill makes no sense.

Colo. Unemployment Dropped More Than Any Other State in 2014

UPDATE: Colorado Democrats celebrate via social media:

demsunemployment

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Good news for Colorado, as the Denver Business Journal reports:

Colorado added 4,700 payroll jobs in December and finished 2014 with an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent, the state's lowest since October 2007, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Tuesday.

The state's private-sector employers added 5,500 positions to their payrolls in December, while government jobs declined by 800 from November levels, the monthly CDLE report indicated…

…A separate survey of Colorado households, which does include those job categories, is used to estimate unemployment rates and the size of the labor force.

That survey showed Colorado's unemployment rate having dropped for nine consecutive months. December's 4.0 percent rate was down a tenth of a percentage point from November and down 2.2 percent from December 2013.

Improving Colorado's economy was the major theme of Gov. John Hickenlooper's re-election campaign in 2014, and the numbers certainly validate that strategy. Sure, there are plenty of different reasons why unemployment is falling so quickly in Colorado, but no matter how you look at it, this is a big talking point for Democrats. Colorado's unemployment rates dropped faster than any other state in the country in 2014, at a time when Democrats controlled the legislature and the Governor's office.