Taking Away Parental Leave: Where Is The Outrage?

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

We’re surprised at how little coverage there’s been of a bill that could become a major flashpoint, House Bill 16-1002–the bill reauthorizing the state’s parental leave law for academic responsibilities that was on the books for years before it sunset last year. We took note yesterday of the crowd of “family values” male Republican legislators who lined up to testify against the bill in the House, and this is the same bill Rep. Kevin Priola impaled himself on by voting no in committee after being excused to take his child to a doctor’s appointment.

But as exciting as the debate over this bill has been, there has been little discussion in the mainstream press. In addition to the Chalkbeat Colorado story we linked to yesterday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby wrote this week:

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?” [Pols emphasis]

We see this bill as a major opportunity for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans in advance of this year’s elections. The key point is that parental leave for school activities was the law of the land for five years, and it didn’t hurt anyone. Parents in Colorado who had access to parental leave between 2009 and September of 2015 have now had it taken away.

Last year, the refusal by Senate Republicans to fund the long-acting contraception program credited with a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy in Colorado made national headlines repeatedly. Clear evidence of cost savings from a relatively small investment that Republicans refused to fund out of politically unsightly ideological prejudice has done damage that may not be fully felt until this November.

If it gets on the media’s radar, parental leave could turn into a similarly harmful episode for statehouse Republicans. With no evidence of any harm to employers from Colorado’s parental leave law, and the obvious benefit to families with school-age children being taken away by the GOP’s refusal to reauthorize the law, every vote against House Bill 1002 is a big liability in an election year. The mailers and TV spots will not be kind.

And so far, that’s every Republican House member save one.

Statesman celebrates 118th birthday with launch of new business model

The Colorado Statesman celebrated its 118th birthday last night, with a party at the Governor’s Mansion carriage house and the launch of a new website and business model.

In a short speech at the event, Statesman Publisher Jared Wright praised his staff and noted that the newspaper now has more capitol reporters than any other publication in the state.

That’s part of reason, Wright hopes, that people will buy subscriptions to the publication, which run $13.25 per month ($159 per year) for print and digital together and $179 for a digital-access-only subscription. A 14-day trial is free.  This higher digital-only price incentivizes people to take the print-and-digital package, Wright says, because the print edition generates other ad revenue for the newspaper. Nonsubscribers now can only access AP and opinion pieces on the Statesman website, plus teasers about original content.

“We’re getting a lot of people who are paying $30 more not to receive the print paper,” said Wright. This is because they’re buying the digital-only subscription. So, if you buy a subscription, and you should, do the Statesman a favor and buy the print and digital package.

Is there any model for success using this approach?

“There are a number of publications that are models, most of them are in DC, but the one in the West is the Arizona Capitol Times,” Wright told me, who calls the Statesman “more of a trade journal than a traditional newspaper.”

Asked if there’s a date by which the publication must succeed or shut down, Wright said, “Things are looking good financially now, and will see how it goes.”

A 20-minute program at last night’s reception, moderated by 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman, featured speeches by former Republican Gov. Bill Owens and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, both of whom gushed about importance of the Statesman our era of diminished journalism generally and the death of the Rocky Mountain News in particular.

“The great thing about the Statesman is it’s nonpartisan,” said Hickenlooper in a video presented at the event. “It’s pro-partisan, is phrase that somebody used [to describe it]. They want to encourage debate…. Overall, I wouldn’t trade a strong media in the capitol for anything. I think it’s essential…. Long live the Statesman.”

Larry Mizel, who apparently owns a controlling interest in the newspaper, was also at last night’s birthday event, chatting with GOP State Senate President Bill Cadman for a good bit. Mizel is a well-known moderate Republican, and his involvement, along with his hiring of Wright, a former GOP lawmaker, as editor, raised concerns among progressives about the newspaper’s commitment to being fair and accurate. But so far, I don’t see any ideological tilt in the Statesman’s coverage. Its reporting staff, at least the ones I know, are highly regarded by both Democrats and Republicans.

Last night’s crowded reception attracted a bipartisan crowd including Cadman, Rep. Justin Everett, Rep. Alec Garnett, Rep. Crisanta Duran, Sen. Rollie Heath, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, Rep. Dan Pabon, Rep. Angela Williams, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, former Sen. Ken Salazar, and flacks Owen Loftus and Andrew Zucker.

Update: I added additional attendees of the event.

Poll: Who Will Win Colorado’s Democratic Caucuses?

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

FOX 31:

[F]ormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton barely defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders [in Iowa], suggesting Sanders will be competitive for the foreseeable future…

For Colorado Republicans and Democrats, the results most likely mean a greater spotlight will be put on the state by the national parties.

“I think it’s going to put a huge spotlight on Colorado,” said State Rep. Joe Salazar, a Democrat who has yet to endorse a candidate.

Salazar said it’s clear the “Clinton coronation” isn’t occurring and that he hopes neither candidate “takes Colorado for granted.”

We certainly aren’t taking you for granted, and here’s your chance to give us an unscientific pre-New Hampshire snapshot of where Coloradans are in advance of the March 1st Colorado Democratic presidential precinct caucuses. Vote after the jump: as always, remember that we want to know who you really think will win, not your personal preference.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 5)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowBy this time next week, Peyton Manning may be retired from football; here’s hoping he has another Super Bowl ring as a going away present. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Yes, this is a politics blog, but let’s be honest with our Colorado readers: It’s Super Bowl weekend, and everybody’s talking about the Denver Broncos. As of today, the Broncos are a 5.5 point underdog against the Carolina Panthers. If you ask us — go ahead, ask us — we say Denver wins by seven points.

Meanwhile, Congress is taking part in the annual tradition of making silly regional-based bets to show that they, too, like to watch football. As The Denver Post reports, the friendly wagers include lots of red meat and locally-brewed beer. There’s also this:

Colorado’s two U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner — who can’t seem to do anything without the other — joined forces and put some “pride on the line” against their North Carolina counterparts, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Under the terms of the deal, the freshman senator from the losing state must deliver a speech on the Senate floor that “must give specific shout outs to the Super Bowl champion’s head coach, quarterback, fan base and detail the greatness of the Super Bowl champion’s home state.”

For added fun, the freshman lawmaker from the winning state will get to preside over the Senate chamber during the homage.

Oh, as for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)? He’s trying to use this Super Bowl thing to raise money for his re-election campaign, because, of course.

 

► State Senate President Bill Cadman said his prayers to the Koch Brothers on Thursday. During a rally at the State Capitol with Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a political organization founded by the coal-mining billionaires, Cadman was quite frank about the connection between AFP and the State Senate:

“I can tell you this,” Senate President Bill Cadman told an Americans for Prosperity rally at the Capitol, “I don’t think I would be the president of the Senate if it wasn’t for the efforts you and yours did over the previous elections. And we look forward to continuing our partnership with you.”

It’s worth mentioning here that Cadman’s other job is working as a political consultant for Republican campaigns in Colorado and elsewhere. But surely Cadman doesn’t get any extra money from AFP for this work.

 

► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders went back-and-forth in a debate in New Hampshire last night. If you missed it, here’s a few takeaways courtesy of Politico.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Friday Open Thread

“As partisans of our own way of life, we cannot help thinking in a partisan manner.”

–Gordon W. Allport

Yet Another Republican Primary Fight in Colorado

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

As the Greeley Tribune reports today:

Mead Republican Colleen Whitlow announced her intent Wednesday to run for the GOP nomination for House District 63.

Whitlow is a town trustee in Mead, and she announced her candidacy in an email to The Tribune. She said she serves on a number of volunteer boards and committees through that position. She has lived in the district since 1999 and is a Colorado native.

Whitlow will face incumbent Lori Saine, R-Dacono, who was first elected to the Colorado House in 2013. Saine filed her paperwork last summer to run again in 2016.

Rep. Saine is a known ally of Dudley Brown and his Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) group. Despite that alliance (or because of it), Saine often faces GOP opposition in a House District (which includes Greeley and Evans) that is a relatively safe seat for Republicans.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the State House, though HD-63 is unlikely to shift hands in 2016. This relatively late Primary challenge by Whitlow is nevertheless a drain on volunteers, fundraising, and resources for the GOP, which would much prefer to focus on trying to pick up a few seats in the State House while maintaining control of their one-seat majority in the State Senate.

Enough Is Enough: Durango Demands Superfund

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine.

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine.

As the Durango Herald’s Jonathan Romeo reports, patience in the city of Durango with continued dickering by officials in upstream San Juan County and Silverton over requesting Environmental Protection Agency National Priorities List designation for the cleanup of disused mines near Silverton has reached its limit:

Nearly six months after the Gold King mine blowout, and with Silverton still in limbo over Superfund, a sense that downstream communities should take a larger role in negotiations regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous cleanup program is growing.

At the San Juan Citizens Alliance’s quarterly meeting Wednesday, several Durango and La Plata County residents urged local officials to take the reigns in pursuing a Superfund designation in time to make the EPA’s March listing.

“San Juan County’s concerns are speculative,” said La Plata County resident Frank Lockwood. “Our concerns are not speculative. Ours are real. We’ve defined them economically, and I think our government officials should move forward.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Last month, the wheels appeared greased for all of the local governments affected by the August minewater spill above Silverton into a tributary of the Animas River to put aside dreams of resumed mining and finally allow the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the full resources to bear to clean up the massive problem. It was an EPA work crew that accidentally triggered the release of millions of gallons of contaminated mine waste water, but their mishap was little more than ripping the scab off a much bigger and older problem–a problem that has threatened the health, safety, and prosperity of tens of thousands of people downstream along the Animas River for many years. Resistance from mining and commercial interests in San Juan County (population 692) is the principal reason that Superfund status wasn’t granted to this area, and the reason why only this ill-prepared investigative crew was working the problem.

[Hermosa resident Clint] Kearns questioned whether Silverton and San Juan County’s list of demands were a “poison pill” to put off Superfund status, a program the community has strongly opposed for more than 20 years, citing concerns over a perceived stigma the designation would bring to a town dependent on a delicate tourism economy…

In Silverton’s defense, John Whitney, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said the community to the north’s concerns are not unreasonable, and despite the delay, he believes an agreement can be reached by next week.

The concern is that the delay by Silverton and San Juan County in joining downstream cities in requesting Superfund designation may already have blown the chance to be considered in the first of the EPA’s two annual rounds of evaluations. Sen. Michael Bennet’s involvement in bringing the parties together to get a deal is nonetheless commendable–and stands in stark contrast to the area’s Congressman Scott Tipton, whose disingenuous vilification of the EPA after the spill makes him part of the problem not the solution.

And that solution is: the citizens who rely on the Animas River need the Superfund. They need the EPA.

Hancock Backs Carrigan in Race for Denver District Attorney

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock poses with Michael Carrigan.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock poses with Denver DA candidate Michael Carrigan.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Wednesday endorsed Michael Carrigan for Denver District Attorney. Carrigan is one of three Democrats running for the seat being vacated by the term-limited Mitch Morrissey.

From a press release:

Mayor Michael Hancock today announced that he is endorsing the only candidate in the Denver District Attorneys’ race who has experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney and private sector attorney – Michael Carrigan.

“Michael Carrigan is hands down Denver’s best choice for our next District Attorney,” said Mayor Hancock. “He is a skilled lawyer, active community member and strong leader with the legal experience needed to ensure justice for Denver’s residents. I am confident Michael will bring a balanced perspective to the DA’s office to help make Denver a safer, better place.”

The press release does not mention an interesting factual tidbit about Hancock’s endorsement: This is the first time that a sitting Mayor of Denver has endorsed a candidate for Denver District Attorney in at least 20 years. Some of this has to do with weird timing for both the Mayoral and DA races; Denver’s Mayor is chosen in a municipal election, but District Attorney is technically a “state race,” which puts it on the ballot in a General Election year.

As is normally the case here, Democrats will all but decide who becomes Denver’s next DA in the June Primary. There is an Independent candidate seeking the office, but running against a Democrat in Denver is kind of like being a Raiders fan on Sundays.

Get More Smarter On Thursday (Feb. 4)

Get More SmarterNote to selves: Do NOT ask Rick Santorum to speak on your behalf. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Parental Leave Act took another step forward in the Colorado legislature on Wednesday. As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The Colorado House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would bring back the state’s parental leave act, which expired in September.

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?”

Elsewhere, here’s what opposition to parental leave legislation looks like in the House, in one photo.

 

► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will go face-to-face in four more debates, as announced on Wednesday. From the Associated Press:

The additional debates will held in Flint, Michigan on March 6, and two other cities in April and May, with details to be determined later. Clinton has sought a debate in Flint to bring attention to the city’s water contamination crisis and Sanders said he wanted it to be scheduled before the Michigan primary on March 8.

Clinton and Sanders are meeting Thursday in a debate at the University of New Hampshire just days before Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary…

…Two other Democratic debates are already on the calendar: Feb. 11 in Milwaukee and March 9 in Miami.

The four new debates are expected to be held live at 2:00 in the morning (that was a joke).

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Caption This Photo: Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

Todd Engdahl at Chalkbeat Colorado reports on passage in the Colorado House today of House Bill 16-1002, reinstating Colorado’s parental leave statute for school activities after they lapsed in 2015 due to legislative inaction:

The Colorado House gave final 35-30 approval Thursday to a contentious bill intended to give parents the legal right to time off from work for parent-teacher conferences and a limited number of other school meetings…the 50-minute debate over the bill on Wednesday was as much political theater as it was a policy discussion, with a strong undercurrent of Democratic-Republican differences about economic opportunity and business regulation, not about education…

“By passing this bill we will create a foundation for all parents to be able to be involved in their children’s education,” argued Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, the House prime sponsor of House Bill 16-1002. “It’s common knowledge that parent involvement creates academic success.”

Republicans who came to the microphone said they’re for parental involvement but countered that the bill isn’t necessary. “Companies can do this already,” said Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth.

Passing a law on the issue would “interrupt the positive interactions between employees and employer” necessary for a harmonious workplace, argued Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument.

After the passage of this legislation in the Democratic-controlled House, it awaits a dubious fate in the Republican-controlled state Senate–where a similar bill reauthorizing the parental leave law before it sunset died last year. But no words can capture the scene as “family values” Republican legislators lining up to take away parental leave rights families have had for years quite like this photo posted to Twitter by Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster:

theboyz

In front lined up to testify from left to right are Reps. Jim Wilson, Justin Everett (identifiable by his shiny coiffed hair), Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, and Reps. Paul Lundeen, Tim Dore, and Don Coram.

Now immortalized as the “No Family Values For You Bros?” We bet you’ve got a better caption.

What about employers who are mean and greedy?

On the conservative talk radio Tuesday, GOP Chair Steve House amplified Republican lawmakers’ objections to the parental-leave legislation, which advanced in the state House yesterday.

Steve House said the bill, which allows parents to attend a limited number of school functions, is unneeded because employers already treat their employees nicely.

House: The point you just brought up,  one of the biggest problems we have as a Party is, we let the Democrats get away with the wrong premise — the premise in that case being that the average employer is not going to take care of their employees, or be flexible — like you just described– so therefore the government has to do it.   That’s crazy.  I’ve worked for a number of employers in my life.  I’ve watched employers deal with the fact that an employee needed  time to go to a school, or you know, to a meeting in the middle of the day. It doesn’t require government intervention unless your premise is all employers are too mean-spirited to do it, and that’s ridiculous!

KLZ 560-AM’s Steve Curtis didn’t ask Steve House, “What’s the big deal, if employers are so nice anyway. Why not have the law in place for the ones that are mean and greedy?’

We know there’s a few of them out there.