Weekend Open Thread

“I came through the train on Baltimore last night. I’m glad the train didn’t stop.”

   – Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Are Colorado PERA Negotiations Being Influenced by Federal Politics?

(clockwise from top): U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

(clockwise from top):
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported late yesterday on a troubling political strategy from Republicans that intertwines state and federal politics:

Intense negotiations are underway at the state Capitol to try to revive a Denver Public Schools pension bill that critics claim was killed by Republicans because of former DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet’s Senate re-election bid.

House Bill 1251 is important for DPS because it would allow the district to quit paying around $23 million more a year into the state pension fund than other school districts…

Three people with knowledge of the bill told The Denver Post that they talked about it with Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who said national Republicans didn’t want to see a bill passed that potentially could help Bennet. Hill briefly ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014. [Pols emphasis]

Hill responded Thursday that his chief concern is that PERA is a “real ticking time bomb,” but he acknowledged people told him they had concerns about “some bad deals that were cut” when Bennet oversaw Denver schools.

Bennet’s financial dealings at DPS were an issue in his 2010 Senate primary. “Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt,” read a headline in The New York Times. Republicans have said they plan to revisit the issue on the campaign trail next year.

For his part, State Senate “PresidentBill Cadman says that he has “never” talked to the Republican Party or “anyone in Washington” about HB-1251, although it’s difficult to say how much people are really listening to Cadman anyway.

We won’t get into the policy discussion of the relative merits of HB-1251 and PERA reforms here (Colorado Pols is a political blog, after all), but the idea that Colorado legislation might be torpedoed because of how it might harm the re-election chances of a U.S. Senator is more than a little troubling. It also speaks, again, to the leadership structure surrounding Colorado Republicans. If this story proves true, it seriously calls into question how much Senate Republicans are even making their own decisions locally.

Vice Chair of Colorado Republican Party: “We stand at the top of a very slippery slope”

Friday Update: Right Wing Watch picked up this story here.

——

On Facebook Saturday, Derrick Wilburn, who’s Vice Chair of the Colorado Republican Party, linked to a New York Times opinion article suggesting that pedophilia may have “neurological origins” and may not be “a choice.” The piece suggests ways to treat people with pedophilia to stop them from molesting children.

Wilburn posted the following comment about the article on the American Conservatives of Color Facebook page:

Wilburn: And here we go. I have discussed many times in the past how we stand at the top of a very slippery slope. The LBGT community itself readily admits that “marriage is just the beginning.” The “I was born this way” label is one they apply to any and every form of sexual behavior – multiple partners, cross-dressing, beastialty, you name it. Including pedophilia. “I’ can’t help it, I was born this way. I’ve just always been sexually attracted to children.” This reasoning is the doorway to acceptance. Why should we have laws & punishments in place for people who have/had no control of the way they’re wired? It’s not fair. It’s discriminatory. Yadda.

It’s coming, folks. Just as sure as the sun rises in the east, it is coming.

I called Wilburn to confirm that he was comparing gays to people with pedophilia:

Wilburn: “I wasn’t saying the two are comparable,” he said. “What I’m saying is, as a society, we are moving in the direction of, ‘how I believe I was born makes my behavior normative and therefore acceptable.’ We have to be very careful. At what point do we, as a society draw a line, or is there no line? I try to post stuff more as a topic of conversation than as my personal viewpoints, though of course I do have my views. If you read it like that, it’s really just more, this is something we need to talk about. “People are already saying, ‘Look, I was born with a genetic disposition to sexual attraction toward other men,’ if I’m a male. ‘That’s just how I was born.’ Okay, I’m not going to make that a point of dispute or argument. But then what do we do when someone ways, ‘I was borwith a propensity toward being attracted to children. I was born with a propensity toward being attracted to German Shepherds’.’

To me, by trotting out the slippery-slope argument, Wilburn is actually comparing pedophilia (described as a mental illness in the article posted) to a healthy form of sexual behavoir. The two are not on the same slope! They’re on different mountains.

Here are a few of the comments on Wilburn’s Facebook post:

Jim Maerk Pandora’s box was opened with society’s approval of Homosexuals as a special class of people and now, the Demons are coming!

Emily Cantrell It seems like you are saying homosexuality and pedophilia are the same. Two things: 1)Those are not the same. And 2)Being hateful to gay people is going to lose us the election in 2016 so quit it!

Nick Bosco Did anyone actually read the article? Nowhere in it was there any suggestion, or even allusion, that child molesters should not be punished “because they can’t help it”.

Jeffrey Hickey And this is why liberals have as much power as they do; you conservatives prove them right every time you open your ignorant, bigoted mouths. Equating Homosexuality to Pedophilia and Bestiality is just pure and utter ignorance

Trish Mann Herbert Wow, comparing Pedophilia to homosexuality is ridiculous. One is between two consenting adults the other is preying on children who have no choice. You are relying on fear to perpetuate your idealolgy

Carla Salomone Rowland Then there should be no punishment for murderers because they can’t help them selves…they were born with a disorder..right?

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 1)

May Day! May Day! 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…

► So, Thursday was a weird day. There was an Ultrasound Bus outside the State Capitol, lots of terribly insensitive things were said in a Senate Committee hearing over the surprise abortion bill (SB-285), and in a move nobody saw coming, Senator Tim Neville’s last-minute legislation failed to even make it out of committee. Check out the Durango Herald for a good summary of yesterday’s events.

 ► Oversight on the VA Hospital construction in Aurora was virtually nonexistent, according to a new report. Let us remind you, again, that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is the CHAIR OF THE OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Six Baltimore police officers are being charged in the death of Freddie Gray, which prosecutors have ruled a homicide. Gray’s death was the prime spark that kicked off riots and violence in Baltimore.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

BREAKING: Senate Abortion Bill Dies in Committee

Wow.

After all the talk about Senate Bill 285, the GOP’s surprise attempt to place new restrictions on abortion (and the Super-Friendly Ultrasound Bus), the bill failed to even make it out of committee. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

A Republican lawmaker broke party ranks and joined Democrats to reject a major abortion bill in Senate committee Thursday…

…Freshman Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, said she is concerned about the mandates on women and physicians in the bill.

“I’d like to see more work done on this, more discussion, more thought put into this,” she said. “My people have spoken to me and they don’t feel this bill is in their best interest.”

The vote came as a surprise because it is one of the only conservative bills to get voted down in the Republican-led Senate since the party took power in January. Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he was disappointed an abortion bill would fail before getting to the floor.

We’ll have more on this in the coming days, including the horribly insensitive statements and testimony from a handful of Republican Senators. This is an absolutely stunning end to a really bad idea from Senate Republicans. It is also tremendously damaging to Senate “President” Bill Cadman, who was already reeling from the obvious Republican repudiation of his leadership and now has to explain how taking such a big risk could fail so spectacularly.

We wrote yesterday that this surprise legislation “would not end well.” It couldn’t have ended any worse for Senate Republicans.

All Aboard the Super-Friendly Ultrasound Bus!

Tim Neville Bus

The Neville Nutters — State Sen. Tim Neville and his son, Rep. Partick Neville — really don’t understand why anybody would be upset with their last-minute legislation to regulate abortions. Via John Frank of the Denver Post:

Sen. Tim Neville, the bill’s sponsor, called it a common-sense bill to provide women more information about their decision and rejected the idea that it would spark rancor.

“I don’t think it has to be a divisive issue,” the Littleton Republican said. “I can’t pick what’s going to be divisive or not.”

His son, Rep. Patrick Neville, who is the House sponsor, said he began working on the bills months ago. “I think women have a right to view an ultrasound, and it’s also a safety issue, too,” the Castle Rock Republican said.

That’s right, folks. And what could be safer than getting an ultrasound on a weird bus parked across the street from the State Capitol? The flyer you see here was distributed to State Senators this morning by Tim Neville himself (who cleverly rhymed “bus” with “fuss”). We are not making this up.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 30)

The first round of the NFL Draft is tonight; are you excited for the Denver Broncos to draft an offensive lineman? 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…

► There are just five days to go in the 2015 Colorado legislative session, and the end couldn’t come quicker for Senate puppet President Bill Cadman. Maybe Sen. Tim Neville will let him leave early now that he’s done the bidding of the far right and allowed a late bill exemption for a big abortion bill. John Frank of the Denver Post has more on the biggest matsah ball under the golden dome:

The measure gets its first hearing Thursday and probably will land on the Senate floor for a vote and heated debate in the final days before Wednesday’s adjournment.

It will bookend a session that began with a partisan tone in the Senate, where Republicans used their newfound majority to push a conservative agenda that generated controversy.

“It’s an unfortunate way to define a whole session,” said Senate Democratic leader Morgan Carroll of Aurora.

 

► While Colorado Republicans make a last-ditch effort to pass legislation restricting abortions, they also made sure to kill a bill that would have continued a very successful program aimed at preventing teen pregnancies. But wait, there’s more irony! As Think Progress notes:

Colorado Republicans have officially voted to eliminate funding for an award-winning family planning program that has contributed to a staggering 40 percent drop in the state’s teen birth rate over the past five years.

Ironically, the vote to deny funding from the program came just one day after it received a prestigious award from the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), which periodically honors particularly effective reproductive health initiatives at its annual conference.

► The Aurora Sentinel sums up Day 3 of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Thursday Open Thread

“I know what I look like – a weird, sad clown puppet. I’m fine with that.”

– Rainn Wilson

Tim Neville is the Real Senate President

Things could be worse for Senate President Bill Cadman; at least he's not a hand puppet.

Things could be worse for Senate President Bill Cadman; at least he’s not a hand puppet under Tim Neville.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Senator Tim Neville may be good at manipulating fellow Republicans, but he still can’t make this logic work:

Sen. Tim Neville, the bill’s sponsor, called it a common-sense bill to provide women more information about their decision and rejected the idea that it would spark rancor.

“I don’t think it has to be a divisive issue,” the Littleton Republican said. “I can’t pick what’s going to be divisive or not.”

No, no, you can’t. You just make Bill Cadman do it.

—–

The State Capitol is abuzz over the surprise move from Senate Republicans to introduce a last-minute bill to regulate abortions out of existence — and what this unexpected move tells us about who is really running the show for the GOP. 

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in the text of Senate Bill 285; requiring women to undergo an ultrasound and a 24-hour waiting period before a procedure is an approach that we have seen from anti-choice groups around the country for many years. Similar legislation was nearly passed in Virginia in 2012 until then-Gov. Bob McDonnell realized that it was obscene to suggest that women could be “forcibly penetrated” via ultrasound (for more background, check out this 2012 story in Slate magazine).

The big surprise, of course, is that SB-285 would be introduced in the State Senate just one week before the 2015 Colorado legislative session is scheduled to come to an end…and right on the heels of the GOP’s “Personhood” debacle. Even if Republicans controlled both chambers of the Colorado legislature, it would take a minimum of three working days to get a bill through the Senate and the House (we know this little fact because that’s what Republicans tried to do with their infamous “Midnight Gerrymander” back in 2003). As it stands now, there will barely be enough time for a House committee to spike the bill — should the GOP even manage to get it out of the Senate quickly — so how did this strange maneuver even surface?

First off, SB-285 could not have been introduced this late in the legislative session without the approval of Senate “President” Bill Cadman. Legislators can’t just toss out a new bill whenever they choose; if this were the case, the legislative session quite literally would never end. If you want to introduce a new bill later in the session, you must secure a “late bill exemption” from House or Senate leadership. That Cadman would grant late bill status for anything is a contradiction of his own words from the opening day of the session (Jan. 7, 2015), when he said in a floor speech “stop asking for ‘late bills'; I’m not kidding.”

Sen. Tim Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County)

Now, Cadman is no dummy (figuratively speaking, anyway). He knows good and well that SB-285 has zero chance of making it into law. He knows that this move will be used as negative advertising fodder against Republicans in 2016. And he’s also smart enough to understand how badly this undermines his title of “Senate President.” Obstensibly, Cadman is the leader of his caucus and responsible for making sure that things like this do not happen. From what we’ve heard today, there is a growing consensus that Cadman got rolled by the right-wing of his own party — and by Senator Tim Neville specifically.

Neville has emerged as the most prominent Republican of the 2015 legislative session, leading the charge on the controversial anti-vaxxer “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” among other lost causes. The Neville Nutters have been positioning themselves as something of a political “dynasty” in recent years, including Tim’s sons, Rep. Patrick Neville, and Joe Neville, a top lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (whose Executive Director, Dudley Brown, thinks he owns the Senate); as well as sister-in-law Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board. It’s probably not a coincidence that all of the sponsors of SB-285 are also known backers of RMGO.

So what does Cadman get out of all this? By doing the bidding of the Neville Nutters, does he avoid a challenge from his own caucus in the fall so that he can remain “Senate President” in title only? Was Cadman subtly promised more business for his political consulting firm, Advantage Marketing? Or is there another political deal in the works, whereby the term-limited Cadman is backed by prominent anti-choice groups in a potential Congressional Primary against Rep. Doug Lamborn?

Of course, it is entirely possible that Cadman just “gave up” on trying to hold the line against the right-wing fringe of his party. He hasn’t been very good at keeping the trains running on time anyway, so perhaps this weakness in leadership should be expected.

Senate Bill 285 is not going to become law in 2015, but the political ramifications of this bizarre last-minute legislation will likely reverberate throughout 2016 and beyond. Consider the floodgates open.

One Down, One to Go In Public Lands Debate

Republicans in the Colorado legislature have been trying to figure out how to seize control of national public lands in Colorado, but they’re not having much success. 

One such effort, SB-232, failed to make it through the State Senate last night when Republicans couldn’t keep their votes intact; sponsored by Sen. Randy Baumgardner, SB-232 would have created a “Federal Land Management Commission” that would try to figure out how the state would manage federal lands. Sportsmen were not big fans of this bill, as the Denver Post’s Scott Willoughby pointed out last week:

With the clock winding down on the 2015 Colorado General Assembly calendar, the prophesy foretold by wary sportsmen alarmed by an increasingly radicalized contingent of elected officials in the West has entered the rudimentary stages of reality. To the fear and dismay of many who value the wide-open spaces intrinsic to Colorado — not to mention their tax dollars — the widely unpopular yet enduring attempt by this faction of officials to wrest control of federally managed public lands will move one step closer…

Let's start the bidding for these mountains at $100.

Let’s start the bidding for these mountains at $100.

The fight over federal lands isn’t over entirely — not yet, anyway. There’s still the matter of SB-39, sponsored by part-time militia-dude Sen. Kent Lambert and Senate President Bill Cadman. This bill, which will likely be defeated in the State House before the 2015 legislative session ends next week, seeks to give Colorado “concurrent jurisdiction” over certain federal lands. As part of an effort to draw attention to these bizarre efforts to “claim” national public lands, Conservation Colorado staged a clever “mock auction” of public lands this morning. From a press release (full text after the jump):

The auction served as a warning of the potential for public lands to be sold after the state assumes control and discovers it does not have the financial resources to properly manage current national public lands.  

“We don’t need to study or spend one moment more thinking about squandering our birthright, our shared inheritance of public lands.  We have a responsibility to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations and not lose access to lands that support outdoor recreation, hunting, and fishing,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado.

Full disclosure: We bid $437 for Dinosaur National Monument.

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Senate Republicans Drop Surprise WTF Bill on Abortion

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R), in a photo taken sometime before he went completely bonkers.

We wrote yesterday that Senate President Bill Cadman had completely hosed his fellow Republicans by pushing through a fetal homicide Personhood bill that will come back to haunt the GOP in 2016.

Guess who just doubled-down on teh stupid?

As John Frank of the Denver Post tweeted last night, Senate Republicans are rolling out a new abortion bill that seems about as pointless as an eraser:

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville and his son, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Senate Bill 285, sponsored by The Neville Nutters, is an “informed consent/right to know” bill that would essentially get rid of abortion in Colorado by creating a laundry list of barriers and red tape for anyone considering an abortion. The legislation has a lot of similarities to a failed bill back in 2008 (SB08-095), which was sponsored by former Sen. Dave Schultheis and then-Rep. Kevin Lundberg; that Schultheis and Lundberg were involved should tell you everything you need to know about that bill.

This is a “late bill,” because it is being introduced well after the midpoint of the legislative session; in fact, we might need a new term for this, because the legislature is supposed to wrap things up one week from today. Sen. Cadman is not listed as an official sponsor, but because he is the Senate President, SB-285 could not have been introduced this late in the session without Cadman’s approval.

To recap, Senate Republicans just spent weeks prattering on about how SB-268 (the fetal homicide/Personhood bill) was about “justice” and not about abortion or Personhood or anything else. Cadman completely lost control of SB-268, to the point where Senators Ellen Roberts and Kevin Lundberg finally just admitted that this was an abortion bill. The legislation passed out of the Senate and will almost certainly come to a screeching halt in the State House, so the only thing that Cadman succeeded in doing was getting his caucus on-record about Personhood and making the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life fairly happy.

To follow up on that disaster, Cadman allowed a new abortion bill to be introduced that has no chance whatsoever of making it through the legislature; even if Cadman somehow picked up enough votes to move SB-285, there is no time left in the session to do it.

Is Cadman trying to sabotage Republicans, or has he just given up on trying to control the fringe elements of his caucus? Given what happened last week, it’s possible that Cadman just threw up his hands and said, “do whatever you want” to the extremists running around the Senate chamber. This will not end well.

Wednesday Open Thread

“What Wall Street and credit card companies are doing is really not much different from what gangsters and loan sharks do who make predatory loans. While the bankers wear three-piece suits and don’t break the knee caps of those who can’t pay back, they still are destroying people’s lives.”     

     –Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Bernie Sanders will Run for President

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is a registered Independent, will seek the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016.

Sanders likely doesn’t really think he can defeat the young whippersnapper Hillary Clinton (Sanders is about 6 years older than Hillary), but by entering the race, the hope is that he will serve as something of a policy magnet to bring Clinton closer to “left-center” rather than “center-center.” As NPR in Vermont reports, “His opposition to a proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (T.P.P.) shows how he plans to frame this key issue of his campaign.”