Weekend Open Thread

"The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions."

–Susan Sontag

Kent Lambert Ain’t Funding No Immigrant Driver Licenses

UPDATE: Majority House Democrats react with anger to Joint Budget Committee Republicans' budgetary shenanigans: "That might be what they do in Congress, in Washington. That’s not how we do it in Colorado."

Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee are trying out a tactic that’s new to Colorado – if you don’t like a law, defy the will of the legislature and just deny funding for the law. 
  
This morning, the three JBC Republicans voted for a second time this week to deny $166,000 for a program to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented Colorado residents. 
  
The driver’s license program was authorized by a state law enacted in 2013. The JBC Republicans’ action had the effect of reducing the number of DMV offices offering this type of license to one, statewide. The Denver Post calculated that the change would increase the waiting time for these licenses to 16 years. 

Later this morning, the Republican JBC members – Sens. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale — voted against a different public safety licensure program, the Department of Public Safety’s request for an additional $369,000 to administer background checks for the state’s concealed carry firearms licensing program…
  
“Amazingly, with this one motion, Republicans on the JBC are hurting law-abiding gun owners and jeopardizing community safety at the same time,” said Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. “By boosting the waiting times, you’re making law-abiding citizens wait longer for their concealed carry permits. It’s hard to understand what they were trying to achieve here, because it's really just a lose-lose for everyone.” 
  
“The Joint Budget Committee’s job is to fund programs authorized by Colorado law,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the JBC vice chairwoman, who voted to preserve the driver’s license program and to assist law-abiding gun owners by cutting the waiting time for concealed carry licenses. “If we don’t like a law, we try to change it through the legislative process. I do not support using the budget process to change existing laws by not funding them appropriately. That might be what they do in Congress, in Washington. That’s not how we do it in Colorado.” 

—–

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and immigration activist Chris Simcox.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and anti-immigration activist Chris Simcox.

As the Durango Herald's Peter Marcus reports:

Republicans on Friday defunded a large portion of a state program intended to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The three Republican members of the state’s budget committee rejected a spending authorization to fund the new program, causing a tie vote that killed the motion.

The move highlighted Republicans flexing their new muscle after taking control of the Senate this year, which created a split Legislature. The GOP opposed providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants…

Ulibarri sponsored the measure in 2013 when Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature. The bill was framed as a public safety measure, with sponsors pointing out that drivers are more likely to flee the scene of an accident without a license or insurance.

It's important to understand the purpose of the immigrant driver license program, which was not to provide "sanctuary" to undocumented immigrants. Immigrants drive to get to work and elsewhere, but with no ability to obtain a valid license, they can't get auto insurance–and that makes them rolling liabilities to everyone else on Colorado roads. Given the fact that immigrants are here, the intent of this law is harm reduction.

According to proponents, defunding the immigrant driver license program (as opposed to repealing it with legislation) could result in the worst possible outcome: the program remains on the books, but becomes prohibitively difficult to operate. Practically speaking, it means that four out of the five DMV offices currently able to process these licenses will be forced to discontinue the service:

For Durango-area applicants, the news is crushing. Undocumented immigrants already were forced to drive the four hours to Grand Junction to apply for a license. Now they will likely have to drive considerably more.

It's possible that we'll see more of this tactic on other issues, but on anything related to immigration that arrives before the JBC, it should be noted that the new chairman of the JBC, GOP Sen. Kent Lambert, is one of the state's most strident anti-immigrant lawmakers. As a member of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, Lambert has taken field trips to the Arizona and Texas borders to "survey the situation." In Arizona, Lambert met with anti-immigration extremists like former Sen. Russell Pearce, and accused child molester/Minutemen founder Chris Simcox (photo with Lambert above right).

Because of the effects defunding a program that is not legislatively repealed would have, this is considered bad form. There have been occasions, including at least one instance so far this year, of the Joint Budget Commission unanimously agreeing to drop funding for a line item that has demonstrably failed in one way or another. In this case, using the JBC to grandstand on an issue one party lost legislatively, and cannot repeal legislatively, is an improper use of the JBC's considerable power.

Add it to a growing tally of misdeeds this session.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman: Steve House for GOP Chair

Last Call for Ryan Call?

Last Call for Ryan Call?

A big endorsement for the insurgent campaign of former Adams County Republican Party chairman Steve House for chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, via a letter to the Colorado Statesman–Attorney General Cynthia Coffman would like current GOP chairman Ryan Call to hold this icepick for her. In his back.

I write today to encourage your support of Steve House for Chairman of the State Republican Party.

Steve formerly chaired the Adams County Republican Party and was a candidate for governor in 2014. As I worked alongside Steve, I saw a uniquely talented leader whose passion for conservatism and our party is infectious. His speeches are inspired and motivating. His ideas are forward thinking and common sense. I was so impressed that I asked Steve to speak on my behalf on the campaign trail. After my election as Attorney General, I brought Steve in to serve on my transition team. These experiences convinced me that Steve House should be our next party chair. Let me share a few of the reasons why.

Steve’s successful business background will be a great benefit in running an effective and prosperous state party organization. Not only does he understand the need for improved party infrastructure and logistical support, Steve has relationships with businesses across the state that will aid counties in fundraising and build support for local candidates. He also is willing to forgo a salary so what now is paid to the chair can be used directly for the benefit of that party. That is real commitment to the cause. [Pols emphasis]

Even more important to me is Steve House’s gift for bringing together people who have diverse beliefs, identifying their common interests while respecting their differences, and moving them forward to achieve a shared goal. I believe our party still is fractured among different groups, all of whom call themselves conservatives and Republicans. I struggle with the fact that grassroots supporters feel alienated from the party organization and can’t find a way back into the family that once welcomed them. I want a leader who respects all of our voices and creates an environment that leads to victory. Our current chair has promoted a model of top-down success; [Pols emphasis] Steve embraces the base that forms our party’s foundation and is the bedrock upon which a robust party flourishes.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

The relationship between the Coffmans and Republican kingmakers in Colorado hasn't always been perfect, but we nonetheless take this endorsement as a sign that Ryan Call is in serious trouble heading into the mid-March GOP leadership elections. Steve House's stated willingness to forgo the generous salary Call had enjoyed could be a major selling point with central committee members, who have groused for years about Call and predecessor Dick Wadhams getting paid for what "should be" a volunteer job.

Above all, Steve House promises to make the crazies play nice with the bluebloods. How exactly he plans to do that is less clear, but it's clear that Ryan Call has failed like Wadhams before him in this regard. And whatever it may mean for the party's long-term viability with the broader electorate, pacifying/unifying the GOP's fractious right-wing base in Colorado may be the winning message for the next GOP chairman.

Before it's over, the message could be further condensed to "ABC"–"Anybody But Call."

Is Scott Tipton Really Looking at Senate in 2016?

Rep. Scott Tipton (R)

Rep. Scott Tipton (R)

It's been about a week since an advisor to Republican Rep. Scott Tipton floated his name for U.S. Senate in 2016, and things have been quiet ever since. This seems to have been an effort to just throw Tipton's name out in the mix, rather than a true trial balloon, but is there more to last week's story in The Hill newspaper:

“Congressman Tipton was honored to have been elected to serve a third term and is focused on fighting for the issues that matter most to Colorado's 3rd Congressional District,” a political adviser to Tipton told The Hill. “But Congressman Tipton isn't ruling out any options down the road that would enable him to have the greatest impact possible for the people of the State of Colorado.”

Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams said Thursday that Tipton would be a strong candidate.

“He beat a respected Democrat in a Democratic county with a big chunk of Hispanic voters,” Wadhams said. “If he wanted to run for Senate, he would be a very credible candidate.”

It's not at all uncommon for elected officials to float their names for future office, whether they really have any intention of running or not. It increases Tipton's political influence to be mentioned as a potential candidate for Senate, and it is also a nice little ego boost. But the lack of any serious follow-up news in the 10 days since The Hill story does make us wonder if there is anything more to this besides name-floating.

Tipton would be an interesting candidate in 2016 should he decide to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, though we doubt he'd be able to clear the Republican field first. Tipton represents a huge geographical area in the sprawling CD-3, but he has largely toiled outside of the Denver Metro media market and would have a lot of work to do just to raise his name ID. On the other hand, Tipton does have some personal wealth that he could tap into for a Senate run, and Republicans wouldn't have to worry about losing his seat in a General Election as CD-3 looks to be solidly in the red column (and there would be plenty of Republicans looking at CD-3 who would offer Tipton encouragement to move along).

Senate GOP Kills College Tuition Cap Bill

Student life.

Student life.

Via AP and the Fort Collins Coloradoan, a priority from Gov. John Hickenlooper's State of the State address dies at the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee:

The Senate Education Committee considered a Democratic bill to extend the current 6 percent hike cap indefinitely. The proposal was part of the Democrats' broader agenda this year to rein in costs for the middle class.

For some students at Colorado State University on Thursday, the proposal sounded like a sound idea.

"Making sure (tuition hikes aren't) ludicrous, like a 20 percent jump? I'm for that," junior health and exercise science major Philip Ephraim said.

The 2011-12 school year saw a 20 percent jump for in-state students over the previous year. Tuition had increased by 9 percent annually for the years before and after that year, according to CSU. The Legislature passed the tuition cap last year, but it was not permanent…

Laura Waters Woods.

Laura Waters Woods.

Of course, the 6% tuition cap bill that died yesterday was only "permanent" for as long as the General Assembly wanted it to be. Any such statute can be changed at any time. But in Hickenlooper's State of the State address, he called for tuition at Colorado state schools to increase by no more than 6%, in an effort to control the growth in the cost of higher education. Which, if you haven't heard, has been a big problem in recent years (see above).

But by fewer than 700 votes in suburban Arvada, Republicans are in charge of the Colorado Senate. Sen. Laura Waters Woods and her hard-right colleagues on the Senate Education Committee are expected to be a major roadblock on education issues for the next two years, and yesterday's action lived up to the predictions.

On Thursday, Education Committee members agreed that Colorado has done a poor job of funding higher education, but the GOP-controlled board voted 5-4 on party lines to reject the measure.

Republicans on the committee pointed out that even the 6 percent cap could mean tuition would double in a couple of decades. They called the cap an arbitrary limit on the institutions and an example of "micromanaging" the schools…

It's called gridlock, folks, and it's what's on tap in the Colorado Senate through 2016. The only thing we can tell you, and the student body of Colorado State University, is everybody had better get used to it.

And elections matter. We'll say that again too.

Friday Open Thread

"Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society."

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Civil Union-Marriage Reconciliation Torpedoed

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Pat Steadman's bill to reconcile the old civil union regulations with the new marriage law was sunk yesterday by Republicans on the Senate State Affairs Committee. There didn't seem to be a good reason for their action, other than not wanting to allow any enabling legislation of a status of which they disapprove.

As things stand, a couple who entered a civil union in Colorado and later married, would need to dissolve the civil union and the marriage separately should the relationship go sour. I suspect that this inequity in the law will be rectified by one of those "darned activist judges" the first time such a couple runs into this problem and sues the state over it. How much will this cost the state to defend?  

Also, currently, if a couple with a legal marriage from another state moves to Colorado, their relationship is recognized as a civil union; even if they have a legal marriage from another state. Sen. Steadman's bill would also have rectified this lack of full comity, which is extended to mixed-sex marriages. This will most likely go to court as well, costing the state more legal fees. And the  Republicans say Democrats are fiscally irresponsible.

Sorry, Rep. Klingenschmitt, You’re Out of Order

Via the AP's Kristen Wyatt, Colorado's most-discussed freshman state legislator Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt ran smack into the merciless buzzsaw that is Robert's Rules of Order this morning:

Here's video of Rep. Klingenschmitt's abortive (pun intended) moment of silence for "57 million American citizens lost since Roe v. Wade":

​All things being equal, this could have been worse for the rookie GOP lawmaker, but he wisely chose not to press any objection. You see, the general announcements period in the morning is not for these kinds of political grandstand-y statements. It's for, well, general announcements. It's okay to take time on the House floor to make a more political statement of this kind, in what's known as a "moment of personal privilege"–but you have to have the permission of the Speaker of the House to do that, and Rep. Klingenschmitt did not.

It's a little humiliating, but certainly nothing to have a hunger strike over. Also not evidence of Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst's demon possession, unless it's true, as we've heard, that demons are sticklers for parliamentary procedure. In which case…

Just kidding, "Dr. Chaps."

Congress Ditches Vote on Abortion Bill After Internal Revolt

A very interesting and notable development in Congress, as CNN reports:

Mark it down as a rare win for House GOP moderates. After scrambling into the evening on Wednesday, House Republican leaders decided to scrap a vote on a controversial anti-abortion measure scheduled to coincide with an annual gathering of anti-abortion advocates on Thursday because they couldn't round up enough support…

…The "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," is a bill banning so called "late-term abortions" — those involving procedures for women who are beyond 20 weeks into their pregnancy. Several House GOP women protested language in the bill that requires those women who seek an exception to the ban because they were raped have to back up their claim with a police report. A similar measure has passed the House in 2013, but this time some female members — including some who voted for it last time — are pushing for that requirement to be stripped out.

Discussion about the issue at a closed door meeting on Wednesday morning got so tense that congressional aides were kicked out of the meeting when the debate turned emotional, according to several GOP sources.

The internal feud placed leaders in an awkward spot, because they targeted the vote for Thursday, the same day as the March for Life in Washington and the 42nd anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which negated state laws that prevented a woman from having an abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy.

Moderate Republican women are being credited with leading the initial backlash against this legislation, which may or may not be good for them politically. It's true that Republicans need to attract more support from women if they hope to win the White House in 2016, but the people who are really paying attention to this are the more active political folks — the kind of Republicans who vote in Primary Elections and won't be happy to know that they couldn't even bring this bill to a vote despite holding a Congressional majority.

Cory Gardner and Climate Change: What Did You Expect?

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

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…

During a competitive U.S. Senate race last year, Gardner ran a TV ad shot in a wind farm touting himself as a next generation conservative who supports clean energy and an all of the above energy plan; however, during debates, he was reluctant to state a clear position on the role of humans in causing climate change.

"During this fall's campaign, Senator Gardner declared himself to be a different kind of Republican," Maysmith said. "Instead, his vote today shows that he is not yet ready to stand up to those in Washington DC who deny that people play a role in climate change.  He ducked this issue during the campaign and now on the floor of the U.S. Senate." [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Cory Gardner's campaigns have long been heavily funded by the oil and gas industry, and Gardner has consistently returned the favor as a reliable vote for the industry's bottom-line interests. What we're talking about here was a token concession to the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to global climate change–nothing that would have changed any policy, as an amendment to a bill President Barack Obama has already promised to veto to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

The vote took place amidst a flurry of amendments to the Republican bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline and were part of an effort by Senate Democrats to bait Republicans into a number of politically risky votes on the subject of climate change.

Meaning that there was absolutely no reason to vote against it, and if Gardner had voted for it, he could have avoided the negative press that comes with voting against something 69% of his constituents believe. It would have been a significant validator of his campaign slogan, "A New Kind of Republican."

So why didn't he? That's simple–he's not up for election for six years, and there's no need for any of that kind of pretense for at least four or five of those years. On abortion, on immigration, and now climate change, the Cory Gardner you always knew was there is shining pearly-white bright.

On radio, Buck says Obama wants to create a “majority vote” of people “receiving benefits from government”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

Even if you're a just a talk-radio host, don't just say "Yap," as KHOW 630-AM's Mandy Connell did yesterday, when your special guest, in this case, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), insults the President.

"He's a wonderful orator," Buck told Connell during her morning show yesterday. "And he makes everybody happy. The reality is, that he has no intention of flattening the tax code. He has every intention of making sure that he is creating a majority vote, a 51 percent vote, of people who are receiving benefits from the government that they wouldn't otherwise receive."

As I noted, Connell's reply to this was the utterance of "Yap." My own thought was more along the lines of WTF. This is what Buck got from Obama's State of Union Address?

Where's Buck's proof that Obama has a political agenda to create a "51 percent vote" of Americans "receiving benefits from government that they wouldn't otherwise receive."

Is he reading Obama's mind? If Buck has evidence for this wild and insulting accusation, we'd all like to see it. But if he doesn't, it's more grossness from our new Representative from Colorado.

Buck isn't a lonely District Attorney anymore–or a candidate making yet another gaffe that reporters don't have time to dig into. Now he's a Congressman who should be held accountable–even by radio hosts–for his insults and baseless mud slinging.

(more…)

Thursday Open Thread

"Destiny is a good thing to accept when it's going your way. When it isn't, don't call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck."

–Joseph Heller

Nobody Does Nothing Quite Like Senate Republicans

The Captain does not approve

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the State Senate, and they are off to a fast start in promoting their policy agenda. We dare say: nobody does nothing quite like Senate Republicans.

While destroying limiting government is a pretty common refrain to hear from right-wing Republicans such as Senate President Bill Cadman, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg, and Majority Caucus Chair/culinary expert Vicki Marble, we'd venture a guess that even they've been a little surprised at just how easy it can be to make government do nothing. Hell, they're making nothing happen without even doing anything!

Consider what Senate Republicans didn't accomplish today: they allowed two important bipartisan commissions to expire on their own by not voting to renew them. Republicans didn't have to create any new legislation or come up with any ideas of their own — all they had to do was not let the commissions expire.

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Senate Republicans ended the Pay Equity Commission by doing nothing to allow it to continue. The Commission was created to study the existing pay gap between men, women, and minorities, and to come up with solutions for closing the gap. According to information provided by Senate Democrats, "Colorado women are still only paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is wider for women of color. African American women earn only 67.5 cents and Latinas just 52.5 cents for every dollar earned by the highest earners."

Promoting Fair and Modern Elections: Say goodbye to the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission (COVAME) , which will cease operations on July 1, 2015. Today Republicans on the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee allowed the clock to run out on re-authorization of the committee. Nevermind the constant refrain from Republicans about how concerned they are when it comes to voter fraud — the magical Private Industry Fairy will save them. A press release from the Senate Democrats explains more about COVAME:

The General Assembly established the COVAME in 2013, as part of the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (HB 13-1303).  This measure sought to make elections simpler and more accessible for all eligible voters, and some of its provisions called for changes in how elections are physically conducted.  Notably, it called for mail ballots to go out to all voters in general elections, Voter Service and Polling Centers to replace traditional precinct polling places, and for allowing voter registration up until Election Day.

The final COVAME report is not due until mid-February of 2015, and it will provide analysis from the 2014 election and offer recommendations for 2016. 

We've said before that Colorado Republicans appear to have misinterpreted a one-seat majority as giving them a mandate to do whatever they choose. This would appear to be yet another example of that fallacy; we're pretty confident that Colorado voters weren't looking for the GOP to sit on their hands once they took office.

Ken Buck, Heal Thyself

A Tweet sent out by freshman Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado during last night's State of the Union address is provoking lots of secondary debate today:

Rep. Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

Buck is referring to a poll released this week by Al Jazeera on the state of race relations in America six years into the first African-American presidency of the United States. The problem is, Buck is not reporting the poll accurately. As TPM reported Monday:

The Al Jazeera-Monmouth University poll found that 43 percent of Americans think race relations are worse under Obama, 40 percent said there had been no change and 15 percent said they were better.

Along party lines, 62 percent of Republicans said that race relations had gotten worse under Obama, while only 4 percent said better. Among Democrats, the numbers were more evenly split: 45 percent said no change, 28 percent said better and 25 percent said worse.

Based on these poll numbers, it's accurate to suggest that most Republicans think race relations have become worse since Barack Obama became President. But in truth, it's not even a majority of Americans in this poll who think so–barely a plurality. And if you combine the 40% who say there has been no change with the 15% who say race relations have gotten better since Obama was elected President, why, it appears a majority of Americans think the opposite of what Buck thinks they think!

To be honest, we have trouble considering Buck much of an authority on race relations at all, after he let slip that he thinks all brown kids are "Hispanic."

That said, we certainly aren't arguing that race relations in America are no longer a problem now that we have a black President. It's very difficult to get an accurate poll of the prevalence of racism in America today, since most people who harbor racist sentiments are able to suppress them long enough to not embarrass themselves publicly. But the over-the-top "resistance" over the last six years to what has turned out to be a fairly moderate administration by any objective policy measure is difficult to explain–without factoring some kind of prejudicial reaction to President Obama personally.

You know, like losing your appetite at the mere sight of him.

And with that, we suspect Rep. Buck is ready to change the subject.