Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 3)

Get More SmarterEnjoy your day in the sun, Indiana. 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…

► Attorneys for Republican Senate candidates Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier are in a Denver courtroom today arguing that their clients should be placed on the June 28th Primary ballot even though they failed to meet the criteria for submitting valid petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. Both Blaha and Frazier want more time to figure out how to bend the rules like Jon Keyser did last week (Keyser, you’ll recall, also failed to make the ballot until he got his attorneys involved).

Meanwhile, Keyser was a guest on KOA radio Monday afternoon, where he proceeded to bash the “bureaucrats” at the Secretary of State’s office.

 

► Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is in full-out panic mode as voters head to the polls in Indiana today. From the Washington Post:

Cruz came to Indiana to try to resuscitate his flagging campaign at a pivotal moment in the Republican presidential race. But with just one day of campaigning left until Tuesday’s vote — and after a series of desperation measures — the freshman senator from Texas is on the verge of a defeat that would ravage his campaign and raise new questions about whether his mission to stop the mogul has become futile.

An NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll released Sunday showed Trump leading Cruz by 15 points in Indiana. Other recent public polls have shown Trump leading by narrower margins.

Supporters hoped that Indiana, which has similarities to other Midwestern states Cruz has won, would be able to heal the deep wounds left by Cruz’s blowout losses in six straight states. But it has been very difficult for Cruz to gain traction in the face of relentless attacks from Trump and hiccups in his own effort.

It may not be fair to say that Cruz is cracking…he’s cracked. This morning he went on a diatribe about GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, calling him a “narcissist” and a “philanderer,” among other names.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Loan Sharks: An Incredible Political Loser

loanshark2With the Colorado House set to take up Senate Bill 16-185 tomorrow, this year’s bill to allow subprime personal lenders to jack up interest rates on larger loan amounts, the Center for Responsible Lending is out with a poll today of Coloradans’ opinions of the subprime lending industry–and whether they agree these lenders should be able to rake in even more interest on the least qualified borrowers.

No surprise: Coloradans say not just no, but oh hell no:

Raising the cost of these consumer loans is so unpopular with voters that 77% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote against a state legislator who voted to increase interest rates. The strongest opposition – 93% – came from voters with household incomes of $30,000 to $50,000 the voters most likely to be affected by a proposal now before the Colorado legislature.

A bill currently before the Colorado legislature would increase the interest rates that lenders could charge on all consumer loans larger than $1,000. Senate Bill 185 would increase the interest rates on most loans by over 2 percentage points. This would result in a 10% increase in the cost of these loans. The bill, pushed by OneMain, a large lender, would cause these rates to rise higher each year. Current borrowers have an average household income of $46,000.

With reference to a prior iteration of the proposal, 89% of those surveyed said they opposed raising interest rates from 28% to 36% on a $3,000 loan. The opposition was similarly strong among Republicans and Democrats and independents. Seventy-five percent of voters “strongly opposed” increasing the rates. Senate Bill 185 woud raise the rates on such loans from 28% to over 30%, and would cause rates to rise automatically over time.

Here’s the details of CRL’s survey. These numbers reveal an industry that, although they are doing a robust business in Colorado, remains deeply unpopular with the public, and garners absolutely no sympathy from their arguments that higher interest is necessary to “remain profitable.” There’s little doubt that the industry is well aware of their dubious reputation with the public, which explains why subprime lender lobbyists have run last-minute bills two years in a row in hope of limiting public awareness of what was happening.

With support somewhere in the Paris Hilton/root canal/Republican Congress abyss, no politician with a sense of self-preservation should be caught anywhere near these loan sharks. We’ll see tomorrow if that lesson is getting through in the Democratic-controlled House, where similar legislation rushed through last year on a 62-2 vote–and left a lot of Democrats making awkward excuses to angry constituents.

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 2)

Get More SmarterHoly Crap! It’s May? Really? May? 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 June 28th Primary ballot was supposed to have been finalized by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on Friday, but…lawyers. Republican candidates Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier joined together to ask a judge to issue an order preventing finalizing the ballot until (at least) Thursday. Both Blaha and Frazier failed to make the Primary ballot through the petition process, but they want more time to figure out how to bend the rules like Jon Keyser did last week (Keyser, you’ll recall, also failed to make the ballot until he got his attorneys to shake their fists at a Denver district court judge).

Confused? Here’s more from the Colorado Springs Independent. You can also check out this Colorado Pols Q&A on the State of the GOP Senate Race.

 

► In a move that was not a total surprise, the Colorado Supreme Court today confirmed that local attempts to “ban” fracking are not fair to the poor oil and gas industry. From Cathy Proctor of the Denver Business Journal:

 The Colorado Supreme Court today upheld decades of state law that places authority over hydraulic fracturing in the hands of state officials, ruling against two cities that tried to block fracking.

The court ruled in a pair of cases that garnered national attention involving voter-approved bans on fracking in Fort Collins and Longmont.

 

► D’Oh! Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) is reeling from a weekend story in the Denver Post that clearly shows his allegiance to the oil and gas industry over his actual constituents:

A draft bill released this month by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton is taking heat from activists in the Thompson Divide region because of concerns his proposal to settle a fight over oil and gas drilling was written largely by an energy company that is also Tipton’s largest campaign contributor.

Under the proposal, oil and gas companies with leases in the Thompson Divide could trade their holdings in the wildlife haven for similar plots elsewhere in Colorado — a goal of environmentalists and local leaders who want to keep it free from drilling…

In an interview, Tipton confirmed its origin, and documents obtained by The Denver Post show that Tipton’s draft legislation duplicates — word for word — entire sections of the proposal offered by SG Interests. [Pols emphasis]

Really, Rep. Tipton? You couldn’t even be bothered to move a couple of nouns and verbs around on the bill before you turned it in? Hey, everybody, I’m not even trying anymore!

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Cities on Fracking

UPDATE #2: Rep. Jared Polis sounds like he’s ready to fight:

I am extremely disappointed with the bad decision today to overturn the will of the voters in Longmont and Fort Collins. It’s a blow to democracy and local control,” said Polis.  

“While at least the courts found today that local government land use authority and regulations can coexist with state regulations, the communities being hurt by unregulated fracking are looking to enact stronger measures to protect homeowners, and this case doesn’t help.

Now that the law has been interpreted, it’s up to the state legislature or the people of Colorado to act to protect our neighborhoods and homes. I look forward to continuing to help advocates in these efforts to protect our communities.”

—–

UPDATE: Rep. Mike Foote (D) remains hopeful despite the setback of today’s ruling:

“I’m disappointed that the people of Longmont and Fort Collins will be unable to implement measures that they deemed appropriate to address oil and gas development within their borders,” said Rep. Foote, D-Lafayette, whose district includes part of Longmont. “But a careful reading of the rulings shows that these are actually very narrow opinions. Local governments’ land use authority was reaffirmed, including for oil and gas development.”

Rep. Foote also noted that the court, in the Longmont ruling, did not dispute what it described as “the propriety of local land use ordinances that relate to oil and gas development.”

“Cities and counties may need to modify their approach somewhat,” Rep. Foote said, “but it’s clear that the Court has reaffirmed that local governments do have a seat at the table when it comes to oil and gas development.”

—–

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

KDVR FOX 31 reporting, a big ruling today that sets the stage for the next battle over oil and gas development along Colorado’s rapidly urbanizing Front Range:

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that individual cities cannot slow or ban fracking near residents because it’s a matter of state law.

In 2012, Longmont voters voted to ban fracking and in 2013, Fort Collins voters approved a five-year moratorium. The oil and gas industry sued both cities in 2013, and won rulings against Fort Collins and Longmont in summer 2014…

In its Monday ruling, the court said local cities’ attempts to stop fracking is “invalid and unenforceable.”

Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith responds to today’s ruling in a statement:

We’re still evaluating the specifics of these decisions, and the Fort Collins decision appears to be particularly narrow. But, at first glance, they are disappointing.

We believe that good policy-making happens from the ground up and that local communities are best-suited to make decisions about what happens with oil and gas drilling within their borders. Local governments should have the ability to call a timeout on drilling in order to better understand its impacts and ensure safety and public health, just as they are allowed to do with other industries.

We will continue to stand with the communities that are being dramatically impacted by oil and gas drilling. Their concerns have not gone away with today’s rulings.

These decisions also show that the oil and gas industry’s threats of litigation are a hammer that the industry has no qualms about wielding against local governments if they decide to engage in land use planning. In order to combat this hammer, local governments must be empowered with better tools to protect their citizens from heavy industrial drilling.

There’s no question this is a setback for the local communities who sought better control over land use within their boundaries, but the fact is it was not an unexpected ruling. Colorado’s split-estate management of surface and subsurface development rights, a holdover from a era when Colorado was a mineral extraction hinterland and not a burgeoning urban population center, is simply not written to balance the needs and rights of today’s urban populations vs. mineral rights owners.

These local communities who fought back for a better deal knew they were up against long odds under current law. As much as anything, these moves were intended to provoke a statewide discussion on how to better protect neighborhoods, businesses, and schools from a heavy industry with a unique right to run roughshod over local land use authority. The response from the industry, Republican politicians, and yes, many Democrats including pro-energy Gov. John Hickenlooper, has ranged from denial to outright contempt for the concerns of opponents of “fracking” in residential areas. Rather than working toward a solution that acknowledges the problem, supporters of the industry in both parties have brushed off concerns–often offensively–and hid behind the legal status quo.

After today’s ruling, the battle shifts back to the ballot box. We’ll have to wait until August to see what energy ballot measures we’ll be voting on this November, but bigger setbacks between energy development and surface populations and a constitutional statement clarifying local control rights are major possibilities. Energy industry surrogates prefer to steer this debate into extremes like a total ban on “fracking” statewide, from which they can make more effective counterarguments, but more realistic measures may well prove much more popular. If funders like Tom Steyer and Jared Polis decide that 2016 is the year to throw down, today’s ruling against Front Range cities could become the battle cry that changes everything.

Because it’s evident now that something has to change.

Who is Scott Tipton working for? Not you

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This weekend, a devastating report in the Denver Post confirmed something many in western Colorado already knew: Rep. Scott Tipton is the tool of an oil and gas company that has given his campaign tens of thousands of dollars. Tipton takes his orders from the energy industry–not the citizens he represents in Congress.

Tell Scott Tipton to return SG Interests’ money–and stop letting them write his bills.

The Denver Post reported this weekend that Rep. Scott Tipton introduced legislation regarding a controversial energy development issue in western Colorado which “was written largely by an energy company that is also Tipton’s largest campaign contributor.” [1] The bill leaves out any plan for long-term conservation in the Thompson Divide area. The Post reports that Rep. Tipton admits to taking language for the legislation “word-for-word” from lawyers for the energy company that owns mineral rights in the Thompson Divide.

And it’s the same energy company, SG Interests, that has given almost $40,000 to Rep. Tipton’s campaign. Ordinary citizens in Tipton’s district can’t compete with the industry’s lavish support for Tipton, and the results are obvious. Western Colorado’s representative in Congress answers to the highest bidder.

Send a message to Tipton now: tell him to return SG Interests’ money, and stop letting the oil and gas industry write “his” legislation. We’ll make sure Tipton gets the message.

Thanks for standing up for western Colorado when it matters most.

Powerful Christian-right group aligned with 33 Colorado Republicans against Planned Parenthood

(Must read – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

prolifevsprochoiceThirty-three Republican members of the Colorado legislature joined last year with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a national anti-choice and anti-LGBT organization, in demanding the Colorado health department investigate Planned Parenthood, according to a letter released by ADF via Colorado State Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s office.

Considered to be one of the most powerful Christian right organizations in America, ADF is well-known at the Colorado legislature for pushing legislation and testifying in favor of the social-conservative agenda.

But it’s rare to see ADF form a direct alliance with so many legislators, as it did in advocating for a Planned Parenthood investigation.

“I’m not surprised to see ADF branching out into working alongside state legislators,” said Robert Boston, author of Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do, via an email. “While I’m not aware of efforts on this scale in other states, I do know that ADF has of late been sending unsolicited ‘advice’ to state and local lawmakers concerning issues like the ability of government clerks to refuse service to same-sex couples. The influx of Tea Party-style Republicans in state governments since 2014 has given the group a host of natural allies in the state capitols, and it’s not surprising to see this relationship growing.”

While its work directly with legislators isn’t widely seen, ADF has a longstanding and multi-pronged history of attacking Planned Parenthood, including efforts to defund the health-care organization and to organize grassroots opposition among people and businesses. The organization’s anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ stances are widely documented.

In a 2015 handbook designed to help religious entities discriminate without facing legal repercussions, ADF equates bestiality and incest with being LGBTQ, participating in adultery, and using pornography.

“We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female,” states the handbook. “These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God. (Gen 1:26-27.) Rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.”

The handbook continues: “We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. (1 Cor 6:18; 7:2-5; Heb 13:4.) We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography) is sinful and offensive to God. (Matt 15:18-20; 1 Cor 6:9-10.)”

ADF, which did not return a call for comment, campaigned in support of a 2003 Texas lawsuit, arguing that it’s “clearly” true that “same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem.” ADF has backed efforts to criminalize homosexuality abroad, according to a report by Media Matters for America.

ADF has gained attention more recently for providing legal defense for anti-LGBTQ business owners who refuse to serve same-sex patrons.

“ADF and its allies are attempting to reverse something like 50 years of social progress,” wrote Boston, who serves as communications director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national progressive organization. “They are essentially at war with modernity. Some might argue that this is alarmist, and it won’t happen. But the fact is, reproductive rights have been under constant assault since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, and opponents of legal abortion have made a lot of progress.”

In the September 25 letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), GOP lawmakers requested the “standards or criteria that are required to initiate an investigation” of Planned Parenthood, and it asked how a heavily edited video that falsely purported to show illegal dealings in fetal tissue donation would not be investigated.

The video and others like it, part of an undercover series by the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), has been discredited and their creators indicted, but the videos have spawned local and national Republican-led hearings and investigations of Planned Parenthood. No evidence has shown Planned Parenthood to have broken any laws.

The ADF letter, which has not been previously reported on, came after CDPHE, in an August 31 letter, rejected a demand by many of the same state legislators to “initiate an investigation” of Planned Parenthood.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 29)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowHow do the Broncos replace 6’7″ QB Brock Osweiler? No problem — just draft another humongous quarterback in Paxton Lynch. 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…

► In. Out. Off. On. The Republican race for the U.S. Senate nomination in Colorado has been crazier than Ted Cruz in gym class. Darryl Glenn and Jack Graham were officially on the Primary ballot as of yesterday, and today, Jon Keyser managed to convince a judge to let him on the ballot as wellRobert Blaha and Ryan Frazier are not on the Primary ballot — not right now, anyway — but Frazier has already hired former Secretary of State Scott Gessler to assist him in the legal department.

Confused? Then check out this Colorado Pols Q&A on the State of the GOP Senate Race.

 

► Remember that so-called “alliance” announced last Sunday by Ted Cruz and John Kasich as part of a coordinated effort to stop Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination for President? Yeah? Well, that’s over now. This “alliance” didn’t just fail spectacularly; as the Washington Post reports, it actually backfired:

The agreement, and the way it was announced, has fed perfectly into Trump’s argument that party bosses are trying to rig the system to steal the nomination from him. Many supporters of Cruz and Kasich do not like the other, and  the deal rubs them the wrong way.

 

► We wish we could say, “At Least He’s Not Your District Attorney,” because, well, he might be. Democrat Bruce Brown is the District Attorney in the 5th Judicial District (Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake, and Summit counties) and is running for re-election in 2016. Apparently Brown took 6.5 weeks of paid vacation in 2015 alone. In a follow up with reporters, Brown made sure to go heavy on the stupid:

“I don’t answer to anybody within the office,” he said. “The reason why I take time off is because I’m a public servant, and I’m not a public slave.”…

…Employees in Brown’s district can accrue up to 22 vacation days each year if they’ve been on the job at least 10 years. But Brown said the taxpayers didn’t elect him to be present. They elected him, he said, to oversee an efficient and responsive office, which includes monitoring and mentoring 13 deputy district attorneys.

“Brown said the taxpayers didn’t elect him to be present.” All this vacation time must have turned Brown’s political brain into meatloaf.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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“Rolling Coal”–Seriously Republicans, WTF?

Rolling coal--ladies, please don't encourage this.

“Rolling coal.”

Nick Coltrain at the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports on the death Tuesday of Rep. Joann Ginal’s House Bill 16-1319, legislation that would have outlawed the practice of intentionally modifying your diesel vehicle to spew black soot on unsuspecting pedestrians, Prius owners, and other such wussies:

Ginal, D-Fort Collins, said she wrote the bill to target the activity, not the modifications. She had input from Fort Collins law enforcement and city officials on the bill. The bill would have created a $35 fine for those who rig light diesel trucks to blast thick, black exhaust and use it to obscure roadways or harass pedestrians, referred to as rolling coal. It would have also tacked two points on the offender’s license. Too many points in a one- or two-year period will lead to license suspension.

The bill passed out of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote earlier this month. It failed on a party-line vote in the Senate transportation committee, with the three Republicans voting against it. A phone message to the chair of the committee, Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Prius-RepellentLet’s have no confusion about about the plain language of HB16-1319:

The bill prohibits “coal rolling”, or “rolling coal”, which is the act of intentionally blowing black smoke through one or more exhaust pipes attached to a diesel vehicle after modifying, disabling, bypassing, or removing the vehicle’s pollution controls, for the purpose of harassing another driver, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian or obstructing or obscuring the view of another driver, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian. A person who violates the prohibition commits a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, punishable by 10 to 90 days in jail or a $150 to $300 fine, or both, and is subject to 3 points assessed against the person’s driver’s license.

As you can see, we’re not talking about a new law to bust down poor people with old smoking vehicles. The citizens who would face penalties under this bill have intentionally modified their diesel vehicles to emit vast quantities of sooty diesel smoke from their exhausts at will. There are diesels on the road that emit more than their share of smoke already, but this is a modification that produces far more than any engine problem. If you’ve ever seen someone “rolling coal,” you know that the pall of smoke they generate can dangerously obscure an entire major boulevard–not to mention choke out anyone unfortunate enough to be walking outdoors nearby.

Safe to say, it’s a very bad practice that should most definitely not be legal–any more than it’s legal to defeat your emission controls in a regular car. And since it’s something done with the express purpose of harassing others and creating a nuisance…yeah. It’s ridiculous. Throw the book at ’em.

But no, Sen Randy Baumgardner and his Republicans colleagues on the Senate Transportation Committee chose instead to protect your God-given right to “roll coal.” So remember to keep your Prius’ windows rolled up tight and don’t make eye contact.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 27)

Get More SmarterIf you still have an old Gart Bros. gift certificate, you might want to hurry up and try to redeem that sucker. 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 looks like we are going to have a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump matchup in the race for President. Trump went 5-for-5 last night in the “Acela Primary,” or whatever the hell you want to call it. By winning in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, Trump has likely created a scenario where next Tuesday’s Indiana Primary is the last real chance for anti-Trump forces to stop His Hairness from winning the GOP nomination.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had an awful night, finishing in third place in every state but Pennsylvania. Cruz says his campaign will make a “major announcement” this afternoon; there is some speculation that Cruz may announce a potential running mate for the GOP nomination that he is no longer mathematically able to win anyway.

 

► On the Democratic side of the Presidential equation, Clinton all but sealed the nomination with big wins in delegate-rich states on Tuesday. As NBC News reports:

With five Northeast states voting Tuesday, Clinton easily won the two biggest prizes of the night: Pennsylvania and Maryland. She also took home Delaware and Connecticut in tighter races. By 12:15 a.m. ET, NBC News put Clinton at 2,117 delegates and Sanders at 1,330. The nomination requires 2,383 delegates.

The added delegates create a virtually unbridgeable gap for Sanders, who had already moved on to West Virginia, which holds its primary May 10…

…Meanwhile, Sanders addressed more than 6,400 people and made it clear he has no interest in dropping out. Notably, he spoke about his campaign as a movement with more important goals than winning.

 

► Lawyers for Republican Jon Keyser were in a Denver courtroom on Tuesday making the case that their client deserves to appear on the Primary ballot even though his campaign failed to collect enough valid petition signatures before the April 4th deadline. There was no official ruling on Tuesday, though a judge said that a decision would come within 72 hours. Two more Republican Senate candidates — Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier — are still waiting to hear from the Secretary of State’s office in regards to the validity of their own petitions.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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So You Want a Presidential Primary, Do You?

Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos."

Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos.”

The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports on debate over House Bill 16-1454, legislation that would restore the state’s presidential primary elections–a timely push after both Republicans and Democrats found their own things to hate about the caucus process in 2016:

While the legislation has bipartisan sponsorship, it passed the Democratic-controlled committee on a party-line vote.

Sponsors of the legislation introduced the measure after chaotic March 1 caucuses, where many voters expressed frustration. Reports of long lines and confusion swept the state…

Most everyone agrees that the long lines, low participation rates, and general confusion in the party-operated caucus process stymie the voting public’s access to the presidential nomination process. With that agreed upon, restoring a presidential primary comes down to a much stickier question–who would be able to participate? Presently voters must declare their party affiliation well in advance of the caucus.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

Under the proposed new system, there would be at least some opportunity for crossover voting shenanigans–but proponents say it beats the alternative.

The legislation would stop short of creating a full, open primary, but it would allow unaffiliated voters to temporarily choose a party preference in order to participate.

Thirty days after the election, the preference would default back to unaffiliated. There would, however, be a public record of what preference that voter chose for the election.

One thing that makes it more difficult to “protect” the partisan primary from malicious “Operation Chaos” style meddling by the other party is Colorado’s progressive voter registration law passed in 2013–which allows eligible voters to register and vote on Election Day. If you want same-day registration, some other provision must be made for primary elections unless you want to throw the doors wide open and have a fully “open” primary. The “temporary affiliation” proposal is an admittedly awkward workaround, but would at least try to uphold these competing ideals of access vs. party participation.

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump.

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump.

We recognize that one’s preference for or against an open primary in this presidential election year may well be biased by circumstances that might help or hurt a favored candidate. But insofar as political parties continue to exist, the logical argument still resolves in favor of parties retaining control over their nominating process–including preferring primary voters be bonafide party members.

And as the Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports, if you don’t like this idea, there are much worse ideas in the wings:

A group called Let Colorado Vote is proposing a ballot initiative to allow unaffiliated voters to vote in every race and receive ballots from major parties.

“I think the proposed system is infinitely better than the system that has gone through my office during the ballot-title setting that would involve sending everyone multiple ballots,” said Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

There’s no question that mailing both primary ballots to every voter would be a much more sinister blow to the power of political parties in Colorado, and an open invitation to crossover voting games beyond Rush Limbaugh’s wildest dreams. Even if you rankle at the idea of weakening party membership requirements to vote in a presidential primary, the compromise represented in HB16-1454 may well be your best shot at retaining some measure of control in today’s fluid political landscape.

Because whether you’re a fan of the status quo or not, it’s going to change. Whatever the solution is, the train wreck of this year’s caucuses for both parties is not to be repeated.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 26)

Get More SmarterTomorrow is Administrative Professionals’ Day; don’t say we didn’t warn you. 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…

► Politicos around the state are still buzzing about Republican Jon Keyser’s failure to submit enough valid petition signatures to make it onto the June 28th Primary ballot for U.S. Senate. Keyser’s campaign is challenging a Secretary of State (SOS) ruling that he came up 86 valid signatures short in Congressional District 3 (GOP Senate candidates must collect a minimum of 1,500 valid signatures from registered Republicans in each of Colorado’s 7 congressional districts). Keyser also barely collected enough scribbles to meet the requirement in CD-1, CD-5, and CD-6.

While Keyser’s campaign is busy trying to work out a challenge to the SOS ruling, two other Republican Senate candidates are gnawing their fingernails to the bone waiting for good news; Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier should hear from the SOS any day now regarding their petitions, but after Keyser’s stumble and Jack Graham’s piss-poor 56.6% “validity rate”, both candidates have every reason to worry about the future of their own campaigns.

 

► Voters are going to the polls today in the “Acela Primary” or “Amtrak Primary” or whatever you want to call it. Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is expected to grow his lead after ballots are counted in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.

On the Democratic side of the equation, Hillary Clinton appears to be riding a wave of momentum after her decisive victory in New York last Tuesday; polls suggest that Clinton could defeat Bernie Sanders in all five states voting today. Should Clinton sweep today’s Primaries, Sanders’ math problem is going to get much more complicated.

Meanwhile, as the Washington Post reports, down-ballot Democratic women are looking to ride some Clinton coattails in several important Primary fights today.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Majorities Matter: Anti-Vaxxers Win As GOP Senate Locks Down

Measles.

Measles.

AP reports via the Greeley Tribune on the death yesterday of House Bill 16-1164, which would have given the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment control of the state’s system of documenting self-claimed exemptions from childhood immunization guidelines:

The state House backed off the proposed database Monday, when it was scheduled for a vote. The legislative maneuver means the database proposal is dead for the year.

Democratic sponsors had enough support to steer the database through the House. But the proposal faced certain death in the GOP Senate, where some Republicans complain the state Health Department has already overreached by contacting parents about their children’s immunizations. [Pols emphasis]

“The public health of Colorado was not enough to convince opponents of the bill,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, a Denver Democrat who proposed the database. “The politics around the ‘I word,’ or immunizations, just got to be too intense.”

Colorado law on childhood vaccinations is among the most lenient of any state in America. Parents are allowed to claim an “exemption” from school immunization requirements for any personal reason they choose, beyond more common exemptions granted elsewhere for religious or other specific objections. This bill wouldn’t have changed that, simply centralizing the gathering of the information so as to better understand why the state has one of the lowest rates of vaccinations in the nation.

The failure of the vaccine database bill makes Colorado one of only three states with no central tracking of childhood immunizations, Pabon said. [Pols emphasis]

In short, this was a battle between public health experts defending science, and politicians protecting those who reject or at least question the science behind vaccines in public health policy.

“It has to do with what authority the state has over parents” who object to vaccines, said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “A lot of parents don’t disagree necessarily with all vaccinations. But they do disagree with the volume and schedule of vaccinations.”

In 2015, legislation that would have made it even easier for parents to “exempt” their children from vaccines and attend public school failed against the backdrop of outbreaks of measles and other diseases preventable by vaccination. The issue hasn’t been in the headlines to the same degree in 2016, but the passion on both sides of this issue is never more than one headline away.

With that said, the political consequences of being on the wrong side of this fundamental public health issue appear very serious to us. Polls show the overwhelming majority of the public supports vaccination of school-age children, with almost 80% saying vaccination should be mandatory for healthy kids.

Worth keeping in mind when Republicans celebrate how they “protected” our “right” to not vaccinate our kids.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 25)

Get More SmarterEnjoy the weather today; the sun is going on hiatus for the rest of the week. 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…

► Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich say that they have formed some sort of alliance in hopes of preventing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump from capturing the GOP nomination for President. As our friends at “The Fix” explain, this isn’t likely to turn out well:

When most of the country — including me — was watching the season 6 premiere of “Game of Thrones,” the campaigns of Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced a major strategic alliance. Kasich would stop campaigning in — and trying to win — Indiana’s primary on May 3. Cruz would do the same in Oregon on May 17 and New Mexico on June 7

…This is a massive gamble born entirely of desperation. What likely became clear to the Cruz campaign and, to a lesser extent, the Kasich campaign, is that they weren’t going to beat Trump in Indiana’s winner-take-most primary and, by losing, would put the real estate billionaire on a reasonable path to the GOP nomination.

And so, they acted. Which they deserve credit for — since most of the time politicians in unwinnable/untenable situations continue to cling to the idea that everyone else is wrong and they are right, right up until they lose.

But, action doesn’t always produce the desired results.  And, I think that’s what is going to happen here.

As “The Fix” notes, there are a number of strategic problems with this so-called alliance, not the least of which is the general lack of overlap between Kasich voters and Cruz voters (i.e., if you like Kasich, you probably don’t like Cruz, and vice-versa). The other big problem here is that this “alliance” feeds directly into Trump’s narrative that the entire process for selecting a Republican nominee is rigged against him.

 

► The race for President takes another big step on Tuesday with the “Acela Primary” as voters go to the polls in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island to cast ballots in both the Democratic and Republican Primaries.

There is also a big Democratic Primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, where Katie McGinty hopes to use endorsements from President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to defeat former Congressman Joe Sestak. The winner of the Democratic Primary will face Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in a General Election that is expected to be one of the most expensive of the 2016 cycle.

 

► Campaign finance reports are a good indicator of the state of a political campaign, and the details of these reports can be particularly revealing. In the case of Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser, his Q1 fundraising report tells the story of a campaign that is barely functioning from a financial perspective.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Shark Attack: Who’s Taking Loan Shark Money in Colorado?

sharkattack

As another late bill, Senate Bill 16-185, to allow subprime personal lenders to charge higher interest rates on bigger loans makes its way through the Colorado Senate–debate of the whole chamber on the bill was scheduled for yesterday but punted to Monday–Colorado Ethics Watch released a detailed report on the influence of the subprime personal lending industry over both parties in the Colorado General Assembly. It’s a must-read: if you have the stomach for it, that is.

Because if you’re a liberal Democrat, you’ve got some friends on the list.

While the initial increase that would be permitted if SB 16-185 passes is smaller than the increase House Bill 15-1390 would have authorized, lenders would be able to continually increase loan sizes subject to 36% APR because the cap number would be indexed to inflation. As a result, the effective interest rate for loans greater than $1,000 would continue to increase as inflation increases, trapping greater numbers of Coloradans in the cycle of debt.

Spurred by these incidents, Colorado Ethics Watch investigated lobbying spending and campaign contributions by the major proponents of House Bill 15-1390, Springleaf Finance and Independent Bankers of Colorado, along with other organizations known to be involved in subprime lending from their participation in lobbying on the 2010 payday lending reforms. These lenders and their associated PACs spent more than $730,000 on lobbying from fiscal year 2012 through 2015…

The big sum spent on lobbying is what funded the efforts of Democratic-friendly lobbyists like former Deputy House Communications Director Megan Dubray–who were key to successfully rushing the 2015 bill through the Democratic-controlled House without the scrutiny it deserved. Studies by the Center for Responsible Lending and others have identified a deliberate strategy of courting Democratic support for predatory lending bills, under the pretense of providing “access to credit” for persons who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get a loan.

And be assured, Colorado’s strict campaign finance limits have not cut off the direct flow of campaign cash to lawmakers–just spread it out a little:

In addition to lobbying, subprime and payday lenders gave $126,925.01 in contributions to various candidates and committees between 2012 and 2015. For example, industry participants and associated groups such as political action committees gave $32,526.32 in contributions to legislators in the 2016 Colorado General Assembly. Even though political contribution amounts were not large due to Colorado’s strict campaign contribution limits, they were widely distributed among members of the 2016 legislature. More than two-thirds of the 2016 legislature, including 37 Democrats and 31 Republicans, [Pols emphasis] received contributions from industry participants or their associated PACs…

Here are the top 12 recipients of predatory lender cash in the Colorado General Assembly, listed with their vote on House Bill 15-1390:

loansharkdonations

The underlying point here is that Republicans can be fully expected to receive support from predatory lenders, and to reciprocate freely with votes that support the industry’s legislative agenda. But in Colorado’s divided legislature, support of at least some Democrats is necessary to pass anything. Consequently of the top six recipients of predatory lending cash on this list, four are Democrats. The top recipient just so happens to have been a Democratic “no” vote on last year’s bill.

It’s important to recognize that nothing we’re describing here is out of the ordinary for an industry seeking favorable treatment in the legislature. Lobbyists with good relationships with lawmakers work their connections. People and companies make perfectly legal donations. Lawmakers vote on stuff. There’s no conspiracy.

The problem is that, while legally operating, these lenders are objectively bad actors. Their products do not help people, they hurt them by strapping them with unaffordable and often inescapable debtby design. The extreme and in many cases hidden costs of borrowing money from predatory lenders is a moral as well as an economic problem, and the decision to regulate interest rates and keep loan terms fair is a moral judgment also made with the demonstrable best economic interests of consumers in mind.

So yes, there’s a lot at stake. And legislators–especially self-professed progressive Democratic legislators–who side with these loan sharks over their constituents should pay their own price.

Hot Mic, Asshole! Tensions Spike As Session Nears End

UPDATE: Via 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

A “no comment” for the weekend to chill out is probably a good idea.

—–

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso.

As the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, debate today in the Colorado House over House Bill 16-1388, the “ban the box” bill to disallow questions about a job applicant’s criminal history on the initial application, took a turn for the ugly:

House Bill 1388, sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, would ban employers from asking people to check a box on job-application forms if they have a criminal record.

It would not ban those same companies from checking applicants’ criminal histories independently or from asking during in-person interviews about such histories…

Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, however, said that the boxes on these application forms are no different than boxes that asked people about their age and disability status and were used to weed out older and disabled candidates before the federal government put a stop to that several decades ago. Those who oppose the bill “are on the wrong side of history,” he said.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, shot back that people don’t have a choice on how old they are or whether they suffer from a disability — unlike felons who have criminal histories because of their chosen actions.

From there, things got a little more, uh, personal:

MELTON: Thank you, Madam Chair, and wow, Representative DelGrosso. You gave me so much material. Where do I start…

I don’t know if you read the bill, but turn to page 3 line 6, and it talks about how this does not apply if federal, state or local law prohibits employment of a person with a specific criminal conviction. Read the bill!

…If you don’t understand the bill, take five minutes and read it.

COURT: I think Representative Buckner was next, Representative DelGrosso, and then you’re next after Representative Buckner.

DELGROSSO: But that asshole called me out, I just… [unintelligible]

COURT: Oh, Shh Shh Shh Shh Shh.

(Pause)

COURT: Shh Shh Shh Shh Shh. Representative Melton, you did make an error in what you just said, it was inappropriate to insult people by suggesting they haven’t read the bill. And I do want to point that out.

We’re pretty sure House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso did not realize there was a microphone in close enough proximity to pick up his calling another representative an “asshole” on the floor of the Colorado House. We’d call that a fairly substantial breach of etiquette, though it’s true also that Rep. Jovan Melton really isn’t supposed to suggest that his colleagues haven’t read a bill in a floor debate.

Every year as the legislative session nears its end, but especially in frustrating split-control years when just about everybody’s bills are unceremoniously killed, things get kind of tense. Oftentimes, the annual “Hummer” sketch comedy routines break the tension–except when they get cancelled because things are, you know, too tense.

Assuming they’re not cancelled, this will make for a fine “Hummer.”