Jeffco School District Hires New Communications Head…After Committee Deemed Her “Unqualified”

Dan McMinimee

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee hired a new Chief Communications Officer despite warnings from a hiring committee that she was unqualified.

Local blogger and author Paula Reed has the scuttlebutt on yet another ridiculous decision made by Jefferson County Schools Superintedent Dan McMinimee. As she writes in a post titled, "Our New Chief Propaganda Officer":

Lynn Setzer, JeffCo’s Chief Communications Officer, left JeffCo last November.  As has been the process, an interview team of staff members assembled to bring forward a list of qualified candidates to replace her.  JeffCo’s superintendent ignored all of their recommendations and went for a candidate whom the interview committee had deemed unqualified.  She did not go to public school, sends her kids to private school, and has no experience in communications for any public school system.  In fact, two of the five board members questioned hiring her.  They, too, were ignored, and she was hired for more money than her experienced predecessor. [Pols emphasis]

Kind of like this superintendent, hired despite his lack of experience and despite the legitimate questions of two of the five board members and paid more than his far more experienced, far more educated predecessor.

What made our new Chief Communications Officer, Lisa Pinto, so attractive to this superintendent and board majority?  She is a graduate of the distinctly political Leadership Program of the Rockies, a tea-party-run organization with an explicit political agenda and to which two of the board majority are tied.  In short, they now get to use taxpayer money to publicize their agenda.

Yowzers. Jefferson County Schools hired a new Chief Communications Officer that the interview committee had deemed unqualified…and not only that, but they hired someone who hails from the "Leadership Program of the Rockies," an organization founded by a longtime vouchers advocate: former Congressman Bob Schaffer.

Sometimes it can be difficult to gauge if a new hiring decision is purely political, but in this case? Not so much. As Reed points out, Lisa Pinto's problems with English and grammar were front-and-center in the latest issue of "Chalk Talk," the parent newsletter created by the Jeffco Schools' communications office. This is an actual paragraph reportedly written by someone with the title of "Chief Communications Officer":

“Students, teachers, parents, administrators, President John Ford of the Jefferson County Educators’ Association and community members have all expressed concern that students are being over assessed and that the number of assessments and time required by state standardized tests has become excessive. On Thursday, Jan. 15,  your school board voted 3 (for) -1(against)-1 (abstained) (with Mr. Witt, Newkirk and Ms. Williams voting in favor) to request waivers from the State Board of Education from the Performance Based PARCC assessments.”

It's not too difficult to see why a hiring committee might have suggested that Pinto was "unqualified."

Sen. Gardner in Full “Con Man Cory” Mode as Koch Brothers Plan to Spend Billions in 2016 Election

Koch Brothers and Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner loves him some Koch brothers.

You remember the Koch Brothers, right? The ultra-conservative coal baron founders of Americans for Prosperity have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent elections in support of Republican candidates who promise to stand up in support of endless tax breaks for the ridiculously wealthy (among other things).

Republican Senator Cory "Con Man" Gardner has much love for the Koch Brothers and their money. Gardner was a key figure in a major national story last summer about a super-duper-secret conference held by David and Charles Koch at their secret underground lair the elite St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in California. As the Huffington Post reported in August:

Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.

Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of "third party" money — an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd…[Pols emphasis]

Yesterday the Washington Post reported about the latest news from Kochville, a story that includes absurd amounts of money and another appearance by — you guessed it — Cory Gardner:

A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries.

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors during an annual winter meeting here hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign. The figure comes close to the $1 billion that each of the two parties’ presidential nominees are expected to spend in 2016, and cements the network’s role as one of the country’s most potent political forces…

…Saturday’s opening dinner — held on the resort’s wide lawn under strings of twinkling lights — celebrated a crop of new U.S. senators whose victories helped put the Senate back in GOP control. Their bids were lifted by the Freedom Partners network, which had pledged to spend close to $300 million in the run-up to the November elections.

Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, David Perdue of Georgia and Cory Gardner of Colorado were on hand to thank donors, according to people familiar with the event. [Pols emphasis]

Blah, blah, blah. What's the big deal? A freshman Senator going out of his way to thank his biggest donors? Well, it's not quite that simple.

See, "Con Man Cory" talks often about improving the economy so that it works for everyone…and then he does the exact opposite. In an interview with National Public Radio's Renee Montagne last week, we saw a classic example of "Con Man Cory" in action.

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Neville Nutters: Repeal FASTER Late Fees, Because Freedom

Bridge repair is important.

Bridge repair is important.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports on this year's attempt to repeal part of the road and bridge construction funding stream created in 2009 via increased vehicle registration fees known as FASTER, a perennial target of the "Tea Party" faction of General Assembly Republicans:

“It is one of the most egregious fees,” said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton. “A fee is supposed to be a charge to cover the cost of handling something. There really is no cost to the government here.”

He and his son, rookie Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, are sponsoring Senate Bill 18 to repeal the vehicle registration late fee, which starts at $25 a month and is capped at $100. It’s the first bill from the father-son legislative team…

Because FASTER was passed by the General Assembly instead of a statewide vote, and has the net effect of increasing revenue available to fund Colorado transportation projects, conservative Republicans seethe annually about the program as a violation of the spirit (and, as opponents have unsuccessfully argued in court, the letter) of the 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). The problem, of course, is that TABOR has hobbled the ability of the state to properly fund transportation projects for decades, and the only way for the state to keep up with the growing burden of maintenance and new infrastructure is to resort to alternate sources like registration late fees. In recognition of the unreasonable restriction imposed by TABOR on the legislature's ability to tax and spend, the Colorado Supreme Court has made an important distinction between fees and taxes in other cases.

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

In previous years, despite the clamor on the right to repeal FASTER, Republicans in the legislature have been ultimately checked by their leadership. The last time Republicans had control of one chamber of the Colorado legislature in 2011, then House Speaker Frank McNulty's chief of staff was the former lobbyist for the Colorado Contractor's Association. The relentless drive to "shrink government" that serves as an article of faith for so many Republicans simply breaks down in the face of the reality that the state need these funds–and smart Republicans understand that to do nothing to address pressing needs like bridge repair would ultimately be disastrous for their own credibility.

Despite this, Bartels reports:

The bill likely will pass the Republican-controlled Senate, but its fate is unknown when it hits the Democratic-controlled House. Democrats have only a three-seat majority, and Rep. Neville is optimistic he can pull off a vote or two to help protect “the little guy.”

Missing from this bill is any plan to replace the millions of dollars it would cost the state, money that is being used right now to pay for something voters value above just about anything else–safe roads and bridges to drive on. On a matter of such basic importance, and with no alternative suggested, we have to wonder if there really isn't a single Republican in the Colorado Senate who will do the responsible thing here.

If not, it's something the voters should take careful note of.

Key fact in debate about pregnancy-prevention program: IUDs prevent pregnancy

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan advanced a story Monday that Boulder Rep. KC Becker is working on a bill to provide $5 million for a state teen-pregnancy prevention program that, in a privately-funded multi-year pilot phase, reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent–and saved Colorado tens of millions of dollars to boot!

The Coloradoan quoted Sen. Kevin Lundberg, who's the Assistant Republican Majority Leader, as objecting to such funding because the program relies on the distribution of free or no-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-lasting pregnancy -prevention implants, and Lundberg (along with twice failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez) believe IUDs cause abortions.

But IUDs work before pregnancy occurs!

“Any statement that IUDs aren't contraception simply isn't medically or scientifically accurate," said Dr. Jennifer Hyer, a Denver Ob-Gyn, in a statement distributed by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. "As a licensed, practicing Colorado OB-Gyn I recommend IUDs for my patients all the time. They are among the most effective forms of contraception, especially for at-risk women, because they automatically prevent pregnancy. That’s why Colorado's program was so successful, and access to long-acting contraceptives needs to continue if we want to keep reducing the teen birth and abortion rate.”

The Coloradoan rightly pointed out that the "definition of pregnancy used by the [Colorado Department of Health and Environment] and other scientists has pregnancy beginning at the implantation of the fertilized egg."

The definition of pregnancy is so central to the debate around this teen-pregnancy-prevention bill that the Coloradoan should have been even more explicit, saying that the mainstream scientific community, meaning the scientific establishment of nerdy medical people, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have defined pregnancy as beginning at implantation, not before.

(more…)

Tuesday Open Thread

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Former GOP Sen. Ted Harvey–”Scam PAC” Artist?

We've had a couple of occasions to note the activity of a federally registered political action committee (PAC) chaired by former GOP Colorado Sen. Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch. The Stop Hillary PAC has been raising cash off the possibility of a presidential run by Hillary Clinton in 2016 for a couple of years now, often employing such (to put it charitably) lowbrow imagery as this to pry open conservative wallets:

stophillarystewie

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

Very classy stuff. Just last week, Sen. Harvey wrote to Stop Hillary PAC members, urging them to donate before Clinton's presumed forthcoming presidential campaign announcement:

Testing has shown that when I write to potential new supporters, their response nearly doubles if we can promise that their contribution will be matched — doubled or even TRIPLED.

But to recruit those new members we must fully fund our Matching Grant Challenge. 

If I could again offer to match all new contributions with a $100,000 special Matching Grant, we will more than double our recruitment efforts.

AND the day Hillary announces, you and I could double down our efforts with $200,000 and another 10,000 supporters. 

That is why I sincerely hope you will support our Matching Grant Challenge so we can offer a compelling reason for new members to join us BEFORE Hillary announces.

Got it? If you donate to Ted Harvey's Stop Hillary PAC, you donation could be matched–doubled or even TRIPLED–by others matching your donation. Or maybe you're the one matching somebody else's donation? That's not really clear from Harvey's email, but it's absolutely clear that the one thing you need to do, conservative donor, is give generously to the Stop Hillary PAC. Right now, before you have a chance to think!

Unfortunately for Sen. Harvey, there may be a very large fall in store for this by-all-accounts successful anti-Hillary fundraising operation. As Politico's Kenneth Vogel reports, the Stop Hillary PAC chaired by Ted Harvey was started by a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer named Dan Backer. And there appear to be some troubling questions brewing about Dan Backer and his PACs:

In 2014, Backer’s PACs — a roster including Draft Newt (created to coax the former House speaker into the Virginia Senate race), the Tea Party Leadership Fund (which urged Sarah Palin to run for Senate), Stop Hillary (to oppose the former secretary of state’s expected presidential campaign) [Pols emphasis] and Stop Pelosi (which the Federal Election Commission called out for using the House Democratic leader’s name) — spent more than 87 percent of the $8 million they raised on operating expenses, including $419,000 to Backer’s own law firm, DB Capitol Strategies. By contrast, the amount the PACs spent on donations and ads was about $955,000 — or less than 12 percent of their total fundraising haul. [Pols emphasis]

Something tells us that if Ted Harvey admitted in the above fundraising email that almost 88% of the Stop Hillary PAC's money has gone to "operating expenses" instead of, you know, stopping Hillary, he would raise a lot less money. This is the sort of "overhead" that attracts the attention of the Attorney General in the case of most charities. As in charity fraud.

But apparently for out of work Republican lawmakers, it's how you beat the high cost of living.

Have We Mentioned That Kent Lambert Doesn’t Like Immigrants?

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope to “patrol” the Mexican border.

The Colorado Statesman's Marianne Goodland reports on a bill sponsored by Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs that's more than meets the eye:

The new chair of the Joint Budget Committee has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with a bill that would radically change the mission and admission standards for Metropolitan State University of Denver. And it’s not a change that they sought.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 15-072, which would change Metro’s admissions standards from “modified open” to “moderately selective.”

The state has five standards for granting admissions to its public colleges and universities. Metro currently falls under “modified open,” which means any applicant age 20 or older can be admitted with a high school diploma or GED. Those under 20 must meet additional criteria. Metro is the only higher education institution in the state with modified open standards…

As of press time, Metro officials and Lambert had not yet met about the bill.

MetroStateLogoWeb-304

Kind of strange, don't you think? Why would Sen. Lambert introduce a bill making such a major change to the admissions criteria for one of the state's largest public colleges without even meeting with them?

That's simple enough–Metro State does not support the bill.

Metro spokesperson Cathy Lucas said that Metro was not looking to change to their admissions standards. Initial data from the university shows that about 1,200 students would be affected by the admissions change. That would include 432 students of color…

Metro State serves a key role in Colorado's range of public higher education offerings as what's known as a "college of opportunity"–a chance for returning adult and otherwise "nontraditional students" to obtain a full four-year college degree without the same high admission standards prevalent at most four-year schools. As a consequence, Metro State has a lower graduation rate than many other four-year schools, but that is considered acceptable in pursuit of the school's mission of making a full college education available to everyone.

So why would Lambert want to change Metro State's "college of opportunity" model? As we discussed last week, Lambert is one of the Colorado legislature's most strident anti-immigrant lawmakers. Lambert has taken "fact finding trips" to the Arizona border to meet with anti-immigration extremists like border militiaman Chris Simcox, and ex-Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce of SB-1070 infamy. Metro State was a major advocate of the ASSET legislation passed in 2013 allowing undocumented students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college with affordable tuition, and the largest share of ASSET students are students of Metro State. As you can imagine, this did not make Lambert a very happy anti-immigrant lawmaker.

And basically, Kent Lambert is now looking to screw with Metro State. It's important to know this backstory, lest anyone think Lambert's bill is some kind of altruistic pursuit of better educational standards. Be assured, its not.

State representative calls ColoradoPols “not relevant,” yet talks on and on about it on radio show

(We're flattered! Also notable, Rep. Everett showed up somewhere. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Justin Everett (R).

Rep. Justin Everett (R).

During an obscure appearance Jan. 16 on KLZ 560-AM's nooner show, Freedom 560, State Rep. Justin Everett and host Ken Clark lit into the progressive blog, ColoradoPols, for its recent blog post listing fictitious names for Republican-sponsored bills in the state legislature.

Everett and Clark spent a good chunk of the show bashing the most-excellent Pols post, which, for example, offered names like “The ‘Right to Discriminate’ Act,” SB 15-069 (Sen. Laura Woods) and “The ‘Felons in Child Care’ Act,” SB 15-070 (Sen. Kevin Lundberg).

They read the make-believe names of the bills. They laughed. They got mad at "the left." They patted themselves on the back.

Everett addressed Pols directly on air: "[Pols is] very good at spinning things to make them into something they are completely not. All these things, especially the guns bills here on ColoradoPols, it should be 'Restoring Freedom Act.' That would be a better definition. 'Restoring Personal Liberties.' But apparently you guys are pretty far off the reservation, but we've known that, and that's why you're not relevant. 

So, they choose to dedicate a segment of the show to Pols, and they say the blog isn't relevant? How does that work?

Maybe they lump themselves in the non-relevant category, too, allowing them, as irrelevant entities, to focus on another irrelevant entity without worrying about their own relevancy?

I doubt it. Those two are awfully head strong to see themselves as lacking relevancy. So maybe they secretly think Pols is relevant? I called and emailed Everett to find out, but he didn't get back to me, leaving me feeling no more or less relevant than usual.

David Sabados challenging Rick Palacio for Chair of State Democratic party

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dave Sabados, Rick Palacio.

Dave Sabados, Rick Palacio.

This should be news here on Colorado Pols…

From the Colorado Statesman:

Campaign consultant David Sabados announced late this week that he is challenging Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio, who is seeking a third term as head of the state party at the Democrats’ reorganization meeting next month.

I had not heard about any issues with Chairman Palacio, but apparently part of this challenge was spurred by Palacio's decision to give himself a $25,000 raise.  More from The Statesman:

Palacio won reelection to a second term as state chairman without opposition after Democrats scored big wins in 2012, including carrying the state for President Barack Obama for the second time and taking back control of the state House by a wide margin.

But it was a revelation at a December meeting of the Democratic state executive committee meeting that sealed it for Sabados, he said.

(more…)

Old, New Names Floated To Replace Libby Szabo

Lang Sias and the vanishing Tea Party endorsement.

Lang Sias and the vanishing Tea Party endorsement.

With newly appointed Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo's resignation from the Colorado House taking effect at the end of the month, Republicans in House District 27–and, of course, Republican kingmakers in their respective high places–are hard at work sorting through the prospective candidates to replace her. The word is there is a pretty good mix of candidates in the running for this seat, but we'll focus today on a by-no-means comprehensive list of four contenders we've been advised to watch:

1. Lang Sias. That's right, folks, "the Republican Democrats fear," or at least that how his story went before he lost three consecutive bids for elective office, is in the hunt for this appointment to the Colorado House. What we've heard, though, is that Sias is doubly tainted by his loss to Laura Waters Woods last year in SD-19–both by having lost in that primary and by being branded a moderate "squish" by his hard-right opponent in the process. By all accounts this is a very conservative vacancy committee, which at this point puts Sias at a real disadvantage.

2. Christine Jensen, a mortgage broker who ran for Arvada city council in 2007. We know less about her, except that she is popular among Arvada Republicans, and is a strident religious conservative in the similar mold of Szabo. Based on our limited information, this is a candidate who could prove favorable to both this vacancy committee…and, looking ahead, Democrats (if you know what we mean).

Larry Queen. Wazzap!

Larry Queen. Wazzap!

3. Larry Queen, the failed SD-20 GOP candidate last year running against Sen. Cheri Jahn. Pulling in Queen's favor is the close race he ran against Jahn, losing by fewer than 500 votes in the final tally. But under the surface of that close win, there was chatter about an inept campaign that could have, and should have say his detractors, been able to close the gap in a heavily targeted GOP pickup attempt.

4. John Bodnar, the more-or-less placeholder Republican candidate for the HD-27 seat in 2008 against Democrat Sara Gagliardi. Bodnar was one of a number of low-profile losing GOP candidates in 2008, who didn't raise much money, didn't have any public profile, and went down to defeat quietly, but he has been active in Republican Party politics in the district.

Like we said, this is not a comprehensive list, and other names could yet emerge before the HD-27 vacancy committee makes its decision next weekend. We'll update as and if we learn about new developments. Since playing musical chairs with appointments suits Jefferson County Republicans much better than letting those pesky voters decide on their representation, our coverage is as close to this process as even most citizens of HD-27 will get.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch (Pay Equity Edition)

His-Hers

This week, the new Republican majority in the Colorado Senate flexed its plus-one-seat muscle in a number of ways, one of which was the effective killing of the Colorado Pay Equity Commission in the GOP-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology. The pay equity commission's work to develop best practices for the state and private industry was not finished, and state experts had recommended the commission's mandate be renewed to continue to address the problem. FOX 31's Eli Stokols reported this week:

Democrats, while ostensibly angry about the 5-4 party-line vote by the GOP-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee, are already returning to their oft-used narrative that the GOP is hostile to women by scrapping a body charged with rooting out gender discrimination in the workplace.

“Hard working women across Colorado deserve better than they got from the Republican Colorado Senate majority today,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, director of Progress Now. “We call on the General Assembly to immediately take up a new bill to continue the vital work of Pay Equity Commission to its conclusion. There is too much at stake for this short-sightedness.”

Republicans on the committee alternately argued that pay equity is not a problem, or a problem best solved "by the private sector"–consistent with the arguments made by the minority of witnesses testifying against continuing the commission's work. The 5-4 vote to "sunset" the pay equity commission was party line.

Perhaps not so well timed, the Denver Post's Aldo Svaldi reported late yesterday:

Women working full-time in Colorado earned a median weekly wage in 2013 that was 77.9 percent of what men received, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Colorado women reported a median weekly full-time wage of $762 versus a median weekly wage of $978 for men.

Back in 1997, when the bureau began tracking the wage gap by state, women made 74.6 cents on the dollar versus what men in Colorado made. The gap narrowed during the dot-com boom days to around 84 cents on the dollar in 2002 but has trended lower since then.

As you can see, no problem whatsoever! Good thing five Republicans state senators agreed it was time to kill the commission studying pay equity in Colorado. For all the complaints about Democratic overuse of the "oft-used" "War on Women" narrative, we still wonder a little whether Democrats might invoke the "War on Women" less if Republicans didn't validate it every chance they get.

Because, you know, they kind of do.

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."