Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 6)

Get More SmarterToday is the last day of the 2015 session of the Colorado General Assembly, which means your favorite lawmakers are about to catch up on some sleep. 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 Colorado legislative session ends today, but we’re no closer to a solution to the “Gordian knot” that is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader reports:

Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, introduced Senate Bill 1 on the first day of session to address how TABOR refunds are given. It died Tuesday in the House.

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, introduced House Bill 1389 last week to avoid giving TABOR refunds by moving state revenue out of the general fund. It too died Tuesday in the Senate…

The issue will likely be taken up next session with greater urgency.

In other words, the status quo prevails–and the state’s looming future needs are left unmet.

► Rep. Patrick Neville, one half of the father-son legislative duo we’ve affectionately branded the “Neville Nutters,” at least has a sense of humor. He sent us this photo today to prove it!

nevillenutter

Well played, young Rep. Neville. Well played.

Elizabeth Warren is still not running for President.

► But Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are, at least for vanity purposes.

► Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is still answering questions about emails, even though the polls say voters don’t really care.

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Sen. Morgan Carroll Ponders CD-6 Run

Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Potentially game-changing news in the 2016 race to defend/pick up Rep. Mike Coffman’s swing CD-6 seat, as the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports this afternoon:

State Sen. Morgan Carroll is meeting next week with national Democrats to talk about the possibility of her running for Congress in the U.S. House seat now held by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said two fellow party members.

On the agenda for her Washington visit is a powwow with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which acts the hub of the party’s House fundraising and strategy. A DCCC aide confirmed the meeting.

Carroll also is expected to spend time with officials from Emily’s List, a campaign group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights…

A run by term-limited and popular Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll could be a major boost for Democrats, seeking the winning combination to pick up what remains on paper one of the nation’s most competitive congressional seats. The 2011 redistricting process refashioned Coffman’s district from Tom Tancredo’s old conservative stronghold into a winnable prospect for Democrats, but Coffman’s shameless reinvention resilience in two subsequent election cycles has proven a major frustration.

As a presidential year, 2016 could prove a much a more opportune election cycle for Democrats to pick up this seat. Unknown and underfunded Democratic candidate Joe Miklosi came unexpectedly close to taking out Coffman in 2012, a showing that may better predict how Carroll would fare in 2016 than Andrew Romanoff’s drubbing last year in an election that was highly favorable to the GOP. Carroll’s deep ties to the district as a longtime representative of Aurora in the state legislature gives her an advantage that the two previous Democratic candidates lacked.

Perhaps the biggest question if Carroll does get in this race is how it might affect Coffman’s plans for 2016–increasingly viewed as a likely candidate to challenge Sen. Michael Bennet, we’re not completely sure whether Carroll’s entry into the CD-6 race would push Coffman to run for Senate…or motivate fellow Republicans to keep him in CD-6 to defend the seat. If she does get in this race, we’re pretty confident that Morgan Carroll will be the greatest challenge Coffman has ever faced. And without Coffman to defend CD-6, she is quite likely to take this seat away from the GOP for as long as she wants it.

Stay tuned, a lot is riding on this decision–for both parties.

Last-Minute Swindle: Personal Loan Interest Rate Hike Races Through General Assembly Ahead of Sine Die

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

Just when you thought it was safe to exhale as the end of the 2015 session of the Colorado legislature approaches today, fresh controversy is brewing at the Capitol over House Bill 15-1390: a bill that sped through the House yesterday before passing the Senate today to allow lenders to dramatically increase interest rates charged for specific types of personal loans. Passed with almost no notice or debate, the Bell Policy Center is urgently sounding the alarm–from their release yesterday before the bill passed the Senate this morning:

A late bill that is clearly bad for consumers easily passed the House and is on the Senate floor. This bill, Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions (HB15-1390), would raise the cost of credit for moderate- and low-income Coloradans on certain consumer credit transactions. The frenzied pace of the final days of the legislative session paved the way for this bill to sail through, and consumers stand to lose. [Pols emphasis]

The bill passed the House (62-2) last week and the Senate Finance Committee (4-1) this morning, despite strong testimony in both chambers from our Rich Jones. Jones said that raising the caps on certain supervised loans and consumer credit sales would lead to more high-cost and unaffordable credit products. We are not opposed to the loans, just to increasing the current rates.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which regulates these loans, testified in the House about how HB15-1390 would affect these loans. While neutral on the bill, the office said that it would increase the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent. In response to a question, the Attorney General’s Office also said there is nothing to indicate that this credit product is not available to consumers or that consumers are having a hard time accessing this product. [Pols emphasis]

In a legislative session that was supposed to be about the middle class, this bill moves Colorado in the wrong direction. We wish this bill had come up earlier in the session to allow more time for conversations with legislators…

But the extremely limited debate this bill received appears to have been a feature, not a bug. The legislation has its origin with lobbyists for OneMain Financial, a branch of Citigroup that specializes in the kinds of personal loans that would be affected. The bill was rushed through the House with almost no opposition, but the vote today in the Senate was not unanimous after Democratic Senators realized there was a problem. There seems to be an effort now that the bill is causing controversy to make excuses for its plain effect–allowing lenders to hike interest rates on personal loans. Unfortunately, it’s a one-page bill, and there’s no sugar-coating what it does.

Much like the shenanigans we’ve seen in previous years to undo hard-won reforms of the payday lending industry, what we’re seeing here is another ugly brute-force attempt by lobbyists and allied politicians to ram through an undesirable piece of legislation during the final crush. Longtime readers will recall that the payday loan reform battle was fraught with lobbyist-engineered treachery, with several attempts before success in 2010 scuttled by Democrats making “surprise” votes to kill the bills. Sen. Cheri Jahn, the Senate sponsor of House Bill 15-1390, has a long history of this kind of thing, and has little trust among consumer advocates as a result.

Bottom line: lender lobbyists are some of the most audacious under the Dome, but this bill could well be a step too far–for them, and for legislators in both parties who signed on to this ill-advised ploy. There is simply no reason to ram through legislation like this except to gouge consumers and enrich lenders. And the only reason to ram it through at the last minute is to keep it quiet.

In short, it’s one of those situations that makes voters, you know, cynical. Hopefully, Gov. John Hickenlooper will correct what appears to be a major bipartisan mistake.

Martyred: Lesley Dahlkemper Will Not Run Again

Jefferson County Board of Education member Lesley Dahlkemper.

Jefferson County Board of Education member Lesley Dahlkemper.

Important news from Nic Garcia at Chalkbeat Colorado late SundayLesley Dahlkemper, one of the two members of the Jefferson County Board of Education’s embattled minority of non-conservative ideologues, will not run for re-election this year:

Lesley Dalhkemper, who makes up half of the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education minority bloc, announced Sunday she won’t seek re-election in November…

“This fall, our daughter Grace will enter middle school. Middle school is a critical transition. [My husband] and I want to be fully present for her,” she said.

Dahlkemper also cited her work at the Colorado Education Initiative, an education nonprofit that works with schools and districts, as another reason why she won’t seek re-election.

Since the 2013 reconfiguration of the Jefferson County school board, Dahlkemper and her colleague Jill Fellman have become heroes to the teachers and parents who vocally oppose the board’s new conservative majority. Both women have been greeted with applause upon arriving at school board meetings.

It’s not been reported whether fellow minority board member Jill Fellman will run again for her seat, but Dahlkemper’s public policy experience made her the natural lead in the battles with the conservative board majority that have raged since their election in 2013. Dahlkemper’s stated reasons of wanting to help her child through middle school and work for the Colorado Education Initiative are above reproach, but we have to think that the stress of the new board majority running roughshod over other stakeholders in endless 3-2 votes–not to mention the numerous high-profile instances of major embarrassments committed by the board’s majority but attributed to the board as a whole–factored into her decision to not run again.

What does this mean for this year’s school board elections in Jefferson County, already shaping up to eclipse 2013 as the most contentious ever? That remains to be seen, but as the public’s understanding of the sorry state of affairs under the conservative board majority grows, there’s a scenario in which Dahlkemper’s decision to not run again becomes a rallying cry: to put a stop to these right-wing ideological flights of fancy in one of Colorado’s largest and best public school districts.

Because just like Lesley Dahlkemper deserved better, so do the kids.

Distilling the arguments against a wildly successful teen-pregnancy prevention program

(These are not misquotes – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

IUDs.

IUDs.

Much has been written about the Republicans’ tragic torpedoing of legislation that would have provided funds for a Colorado program that reduced teen pregnancy by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent–or thereabouts.

But it’s worth enumerating, in short-form fashion as the legislative session ends, the various arguments Republicans used to attack the program, which involved the distribution of long-acting contraception, like intrauterine devices (IUDs), to teenagers.

Birth Control = Abortion: First, there was Colorado Republican Senate Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg saying that the arguments for the bill amounted to “poor science,” citing his inaccurate belief that IUDs work by “stopping a small child from implanting.”

The Government Shouldn’t Fund Birth Control at all. Then there was the generalized no-government argument, embodied by GOP Sen. Owen Hill, who described the the measure as a bill “we gotta kill,” explaining: “You know, there’s always a new way to start a new government program. Five million dollars for some new long-term birth control. I think that’s a personal decision people need to make. Certainly the government shouldn’t be funding that.”

The Government Already Funds Contraception. “Nobody wants less unintended pregnancy more than I do,” Sen. Larry Crowder told Nora Kaplan-Bricker, who wrote a fantastic article on the topic for the National Journal, “but am I willing to go in and ask taxpayers to fund this? I think there’s adequate funding out there.” In fact, as Kaplan-Bricker pointed out, it’s difficult if not impossible for many teens to get free IUDs and other long-acting contraception under Obamacare, and the staffing for Colorado’s successful program is not funded.

Birth Control = Promiscuity and Bad Sex.  “I hear the stories of young girls who are engaged, very prematurely, in sexual activity, and I see firsthand the devastation that happens to them,” Rep. Kathleen Conti said during a hearing on the pregnancy-prevention program, as reported by Kaplan-Bricker. “I’m not accrediting this directly to this [birth-congrol] program, but I’m saying, while we may be preventing an unwanted pregnancy, at the same time, what are the emotional consequences that could be coming up on the other side?” Conti, a Republican asked at one hearing: “Are we communicating anything in that message [of providing contraception] that says ‘you don’t have to worry, you’re covered’? Does that allow a lot of young ladies to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places, as the old song goes?”

Takeaway: The legislative fight over the teen-pregnancy prevention program spotlights the fact that most Republicans in Colorado still don’t know how to talk about birth control in a way that makes sense to normal people.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 5)

Cinco-LogoIt’s Cinco de Mayo, which translates in Denver to “Election 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…

► It’s Election Day in Denver. If you still have a mail ballot at home, you’re going to need to truck that sucker to a drop-off location before 7:00 p.m. Visit the website of the Denver Clerk and Recorder for drop-off information.

 ► Republican-led efforts to pass a fetal homicide Personhood bill in the legislature came to a predictable end yesterday when a House Committee axed SB-268 on a party-line vote.

 ► The U.S. Supreme Court seems a little hazy about what to do with legal marijuana, so they are asking the advice of the U.S. Solicitor General. As it turns out, we still have a Solicitor General.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Intra-GOP Confusion Kills 2016 Presidential Primary

Metaphorically speaking.

Metaphorically speaking.

The Denver Post’s John Frank reports on the death in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate of Senate Bill 15-257, a bill to restore Colorado’s presidential primary election and hold it in the pivotal month of March of an election year. Republican intraparty miscommunication reportedly played a large role in the death of this bipartisan bill:

Sen. Jesse Ulibarri, one of the Democratic sponsors, said he had “no clue” what happened. “This is one of those where I walked away scratching my head,” the Westminster lawmaker said.

Under the bill, Colorado would have held a presidential primary in March that ran parallel with the state’s complicated caucus system. In doing so, it would have allowed unaffiliated voters to play a larger role in selecting the party’s nominees for president and attracted more national political attention. Colorado is considered one of the seven true swing states for the 2016 election.

In addition to both major parties, the bill drew support from prominent Democrats and Republicans, including Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. But when it came before the Senate Appropriations Committee, four Republicans voted to kill the bill with three Democrats supporting it…

According to Frank, Senate Republicans claim they were under the impression that new Colorado GOP chairman Steve House did not support restoring a presidential primary election, but that’s not correct: House had put out a statement endorsing the legislation before it was introduced. But as we’ve seen on a number of occasions this session, there may be some excuse-making for the party’s right flank at work here:

[A] more powerful undercurrent came in opposition from conservatives in the party, who believed a primary election would lead to more mainstream Republican candidates with the involvement of unaffiliated voters. [Pols emphasis]

Got that? The real problem here seems to be that the far right wing of the Colorado GOP would lose power over the nominating process with a primary election open to unaffiliated voters, instead of a closed party member-only caucus like we have today. A March primary in which unaffiliated voters could declare affiliation and vote would allow many more people to take part–and for the out-of-the-mainstream ideologues who nominated Rick Santorum in the last Colorado GOP presidential caucuses in 2012, that’s a bad thing.

And apparently, more important than our state being a factor in the 2016 primaries at all.

Tuesday Open Thread

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

–Orson Welles

Jeffco PTA Calls for Censure of Board Member Julie Williams

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Republican Julie Williams, Member of the Jefferson County School Board.

A few weeks ago, controversial Jefferson County School Board member Julie Williams upped her own ante on inappropriate behavior when she used social media accounts to promote efforts to oppose what she called “perverse indoctrination.” As we wrote on April 19:

The problem here is obvious to anyone who knows anything about Julie Williams, a close family member of the “Neville Nutters” clan of far-right Republican political figures. The reason Williams posted a fringe anti-LGBT hate group’s information about a walkout to counter the Day of Silence protests against bullying is simple: that’s where she gets her information from as a member of the far-right fringe. Although some of the worst examples have reportedly been purged along with this latest post, Williams’ Facebook page has lots of examples of the kind of fringy “wisdom” that we have every reason to assume informs her votes on the school board.

As for not having read the link she posted, that would have to be so literally true–the very first sentence contains the words “perverse indoctrination”–that it’s difficult to believe. It’s a much more likely scenario to us that one of the aforementioned press flacks had to explain to Ms. Williams how “perverse indoctrination” is not an acceptable way for a board member to refer to a district-sanctioned event against bullying LGBT students.

This did not go over well, obviously. In a letter sent today to the Jefferson County School Board, Michelle Patterson, President of the Jefferson County Council PTA, asks the school board to take the step of a formal censure of Williams:

If this were the first time we had seen this sort of careless thought and behavior from Ms. Williams, this community might be more forgiving, but it is not. In light of this, Jeffco PTA’s Board of Directors requests the topic of a formal censure of Julie Williams be added to the May 7 meeting agenda. [Pols emphasis] With a vote to censure Ms. Williams, this school board can send Jefferson County a strong message. The message must be that you stand with EVERY student, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation and against intolerance of any kind.

You can read the full letter here (PDF: PTA-JulieWilliams-Censure) or check the full text after the jump.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 4)

The Colorado Legislature closes up shop on Wednesday; May the 4th be with us all. 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…

► With just three days to go in the 2015 legislative session,  it’s safe to say that there are a lot of bills that are going to be left hanging. Capping off what has been a pretty embarrassing session for Senate President Bill Cadman is this odd detail: Senate Bill 1, Cadman’s first piece of legislation and his big plan to start fixing Colorado’s budget, was not on the schedule this morning to receive its first hearing, but may finally be discussed in the Senate Finance Committee later today.

 ► Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press breaks down what we are likely to see in the final three days of the 2015 session. For another rundown, check out Peter Marcus at the Durango Herald.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Unchallenged on the radio, Cadman claims to have focused on “things that matter to both sides”

(Is that what Tim Neville told him to say? — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

KOA 850-AM Morning News anchor Steffan Tubbs wouldn’t be expected to know all the ins and outs of the state legislative session, which ends Wednesday.

But if you’ve been following Colorado’s Republicans at all over the past three months, you know they’ve used their new-found Senate leadership position to prioritize legislation (anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-working class) that’s divisive, at best.

Yet, Senate President Bill Cadman told Tubbs this morning:

“In a split legislature, you have to stay focused on the things that matter to both sides, and frankly to the 5.3 million people  who we represent,” Cadman told KOA at 2:45 below.

But that’s not what Cadman did.

Recall Cadman’s Republicans opened the legislative session by stripping money from the budget for a program to provide drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants–a program widely thought to make driving safer in the state.

Next, Republicans–upset over the use of birth control–deleted funds for an award-winning state-run program that reduced teen pregnancy by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent.

They went on to block legislation to forcing corporations to pay taxes on profits currently hidden in overseas tax havens–and spending this money on schools. Similar legislation received bipartisan support in other states, yet it was torpedoed by the GOP here.

Onward Cadman went, finishing things off by taking advantage of a horrible Longmont murder to introduce fetal personhood legislation, modeled boiler-plate-style, after a bill promoted by a national anti-choice group.

Democrats had partisan legislation of their own, for sure, but for Tubbs to let Cadman say he “focused on things that matter to both sides” defies, for the most part, how Republicans actually used the power handed to them by voters in November, when control of the state senate went to the GOP.

Monday Open Thread

“I think that if you live long enough, you realize that so much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control. That’s what I try to remember.”

– Hillary Clinton

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)