Neville Nutters: Repeal FASTER Late Fees, Because Freedom

Bridge repair is important.

Bridge repair is important.

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

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

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

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

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

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

Despite this, Bartels reports:

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

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

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

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

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

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

But IUDs work before pregnancy occurs!

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

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

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

(more…)

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

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

stophillarystewie

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MetroStateLogoWeb-304

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch (Pay Equity Edition)

His-Hers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because, you know, they kind of do.

Kent Lambert Ain’t Funding No Immigrant Driver Licenses

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

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

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

—–

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

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

As the Durango Herald's Peter Marcus reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add it to a growing tally of misdeeds this session.

Senate GOP Kills College Tuition Cap Bill

Student life.

Student life.

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Waters Woods.

Laura Waters Woods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a good start

The 2015 legislative session in Colorado got off to a slow start–but yesterday, the new right wing majority in the Colorado Senate showed everyone their true colors.

In just one day, conservatives in the Colorado Senate did a shocking amount of damage. The state's Pay Equity Commission, which was working to outline best practices to make sure women and men receive equal pay for equal work, was effectively killed in a senate committee. Conservatives also killed a study looking into election modernization systems, another step in their long campaign to make it harder to vote. Another common-sense bill to make sure Colorado's civil unions law works was killed by anti-LGBT Senate Republicans.

Neglecting basic responsibilities and pandering to the far right is not what Senate President Bill Cadman promised he would do. Sign our petition now demanding the Colorado Senate majority stop killing legislation vital to Colorado's economy, voting rights, and basic fairness.

It could get worse. Dozens of great bills are set to be debated in the Colorado Senate in the next few months: relief for credit card holders, student borrowers, families who need child care, and many more. These bills deserve a fair hearing, not to be killed in committees stacked with conservatives before ever reaching the floor of the Senate.

Sign our petition now: tell Bill Cadman and the Colorado Senate Republicans to give every bill a fair hearing.

Three years ago, we watched as another slim Republican majority in the Colorado House broke the rules to kill the 2012 civil unions bill. It took another election, but they lost their majority and civil unions became the law of the land.

If that's what Bill Cadman wants for the Senate, so be it–but here is their chance to do the right thing. Tell Cadman now: give every bill a fair hearing in the Senate.

Thanks for standing up. If we work together instead of against each other, we can make the voters of Colorado proud. That's all I want this legislative session.

Sincerely,

Amy Runyon-Harms

Nobody Does Nothing Quite Like Senate Republicans

The Captain does not approve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOP Talks Immigration, but Only in Spanish-Language Translation of English Rebuttal…Wait, What?

Sen. Joni Ernst

Yes, Senator Ernst, there were apparently two versions of your speech last night.

The Republican Party supports working with President Obama on immigration reform…but only in Spanish?

Republicans chose freshman Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to deliver the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union speech last night, which is about where this entire story stops making sense.

Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo was tapped to deliver the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, which was supposed to be a translation of the Ernst speech…except that Curbelo added a section about immigration reform that Ernst does not actually support. It should be noted here that Sen. Ernst is an advocate of making English the "official language" in the United States; in other words, the GOP Spanish-language rebuttal was intended to be a translation of a speech given by someone who doesn't really think we should be speaking Spanish anyway.

Of course, that's not what actually happened.

To help explain what went down after the President's speech last night, we'll begin with a preview yesterday as reported by Mother Jones magazine:

The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech.

Curbelo's office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks. [Pols emphasis]

By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment.

Congressman Carlos Curbelo

The role of Sen. Joni Ernst was played by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, or something.

Okay, that's a bit strange — but it seems straightforward enough, right? Perhaps, though the plan went awry at some point. As Politico reports:

Republicans sent mixed signals on immigration in their two official rebuttals to President Obama Tuesday night: Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s rebuttal made no mention of the topic, but the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, delivered by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said Republicans wanted to work with Obama to fix the immigration system. [Pols emphasis]

“We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy,” said Curbelo in Spanish. “In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these. Now we ask him to cooperate with us to get it done.”

Earlier on Tuesday, House Republicans had described Curbelo’s response as “the Spanish-Language translated address of Sen. Joni Ernst response.” That language was later removed from the release, according to Mother Jones.

Curbelo has bucked many in the Republican Party to support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Ernst opposes that.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican majority in Congress! And we didn't even mention Sen. Ted "Eh, Lemme Start Over" Cruz.

GOP Takes Aim At Colorado Civil Rights Law

discrimination_image_1

An MLK Day guest column by Colorado Sens. Morgan Carroll and Lucia Guzman in the Aurora Sentinel blasts state Senate Republicans for introducing a bill last week to repeal a significant piece of job discrimination law passed in 2013:

On the day before MLK’s 86th birthday, Republican state senators introduced a bill (SB 15-069) to eliminate the “Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013,” which was passed to ensure that all workers are protected from discrimination and harassment on the job. At the time, Colorado was one of only eight states that did not have laws to punish businesses with fewer than 15 employees who discriminated against their workers based on race, sex, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. The bill that passed in 2013 expanded civil right protections for all Coloradans, not just those who worked in big businesses…

The Republican bill introduced last week would erode Dr. King’s legacy and take Colorado back to an unfortunate chapter in our history where it was legal to discriminate. Discrimination unfairly costs people jobs, which is damaging to our economy. Women continue to trail behind their male counterparts in pay for the same work. In Colorado, Latinos and blacks live in poverty at rates much greater than whites, and more single women live in poverty than men. The 2013 bill put teeth in our existing anti-discrimination laws, while the 2015 bill would neuter the advances we made. Why in the world would we want to move backward toward a pre-Civil Rights Act world in 2015?

State Rep. Joe Salazar, a co-prime sponsor of the 2013 bill, noted the hypocrisy of attempts to mask malevolent action through messaging.

“On Friday (Jan. 16), when the House of Representatives honored Martin Luther King, Republicans stood and quoted him magnanimously on the virtues of civil rights, while at the same time introducing a bill to get rid of the Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013. It’s very apparent that they cannot comprehend the words, actions and deeds espoused by this great civil rights leader. We should feel sorry for them that they don’t understand, after all these years, what civil rights really mean.”

In 2013, Republicans in the Colorado legislature bitterly fought the passage of House Bill 13-1136, facetiously renaming it the "Trial Lawyers Employment Act" and the "Sue Your Boss" bill. But over time, it became clear in the debate and news reports that Republicans were primarily basing their case on the dubious assumption that "most discrimination claims aren't valid anyway"–actual words one business owner used as a surrogate by Republicans damagingly let slip. Rep. Perry Buck proudly told of a case in her own life of job discrimination, where she chose to quit rather than sue because "I choose to work where I want to work"–seemingly oblivious to those for whom that choice would have, you know, consequences.

Even after the fit Republicans pitched over passage of the bill in 2013, we're still surprised to see this repeal attempt. It's a fact that Colorado was one of a minority of states that hadn't closed this loophole allowing some businesses to discriminate against their employees. There's just no way to message their intent here in a way that looks good to the public–unless you're targeting a fairly narrow segment of the public who really thinks it should be okay for businesses to discriminate against their workers. Of all the fruitless "rollback" repeal battles Republicans are set to take on in the current legislative session, this is one that seems sure to result in more bad press than it's worth.

Jeffco Residents Demand School Board Majority’s Resignation

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Gabrielle Porter of the Canyon Courier reports:

A petition signed by 6,554 Jeffco residents calling for school board President Ken Witt and board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams to resign caused a stir at the board’s meeting on Thursday evening.

Jeffco parent and petition organizer Molly Snyder told board members she is not affiliated with the teachers union, the Jefferson County Education Association. 

When Snyder presented the box of petitions during the meeting’s public comment segment, she alleged that the board’s conservative majority had broken public trust, wasted district money, violated the state’s open-meetings law, and misrepresented district schools and students in public discussions.

After last year's explosive battle over the conservative Jefferson County school board majority's politically stilted "review" of the district's AP history curriculum, there's been a bit of a lull in the action as the students, parents, and teachers involved regrouped. We've heard that, among other things, the photo taken by the Jefferson County Education Association's spokesman of board president Ken Witt with a group of fellow right wing school board presidents we posted last week has helped fire up the opposition again–a reminder that what is happening in Jefferson County is part of a larger agenda playing out in school districts across the state.

With that said, it will take more than a petition to dislodge Witt and fellow conservative board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams:

Newkirk said he would not step down until student achievement goals were met, and challenged Snyder to ask the petition signers to help meet those goals by volunteering in local schools. 

“When every child and every parent in Jefferson County has their first choice, whether it be in a school, charter school, option school, online school or otherwise — no more waiting lists — when there’s no achievement gap between our minority students and non-minority students, and, finally, when Jeffco becomes the nation’s leader in academic achievement, then I’ll step down, because my work here will be done,” Newkirk said. 

During his speech, nearly half the restive audience — largely made up of people in blue JCEA shirts — stood and turned their backs on the board podium.

What happens next? We don't know exactly–but everything we hear suggests that the conflict between the Jeffco school board's right-wing majority and the politically moderate community they serve is rapidly coming to a head. Stay tuned.

Reporters are still letting Gardner play them on immigration

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner took his slippery interview tactics to the national stage of PBS' Newshour yesterday, responding to questions with predictions of the future, not answers to the questions, leaving us thinking we got answers from our new Senator. When we really didn't.

In a re-wind of what we heard from Gardner during his election campaign, the Newshour's Al Hunt asked Gardner about immigration. Hunt acted as if he'd gotten an answer from Gardner, since he didn't follow up, but in reality, he'd gotten little or nothing from him.

Hunt: There are some House Republicans who are proposing now, with the Homeland Security authorization, that they would deny funding for Obama's executive action in November. And some would go and deny funding. And some would go even and deny funding for the DREAMer's action in 2012. Is that helpful? Is that constructive?

Hunt: …You supported the DREAMers' action, didn't you?

Gardner: That will ultimately be part of the solution, but we have to start with a secure border. We have to start with a guest-worker program. Those are things the American people support. They want it to be proven that we can actually handle some of these bigger issues, like border security now.

Hunt: Do you think it's possible to get some kind of accord that includes some kind of legal status or citizenship for almost all of the 11 million undocumenteds who are here.

Gardner: I think at some point that will be one of the solutions that is reached. But right now, I think Republicans should put forward a bill that starts with border security, addresses a guest worker program, because without a workable guest-worker program you do not have border security. Let's put those pieces in place, make sure they work, and then move forward to additional solutions that must be part of the overall fix to immigration.

From reading this, you might think Gardner supports the DREAM Act, as well as offering legal status to undocumented immigrants. But he doesn't.  During the election campaign, he voted against halting the deportation of Dreamers. But throughout his career, he's been against the Dream Act, which would give young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship through college or military service. Gardner even opposed offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented young people, brought into our country illegally by their parents.

Gardner smiles and says he's in favor of immigration reform, that he wants a "solution," but his record is nearly void of evidence that he's done anything about it, and he even opposed the bipartisan Senate immigration bill. Most recently, he opposed Obama's action to halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens.

Gardner fooled Hunt into thinking he got answers. And he fooled Breitbart into thinking he's too moderate on immigration. What a mess.

Reporters can cut through Gardner's obfuscation by pressing the senator about what he'll do, specifically, to advance immigration reform. Will he vote for the DREAM Act? Will he vote for a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants? What does he favor? What will he do?

Senate Dems Smack Down “Radical Republican Rollback”

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

So far this legislative session, which we admit is only a few days old, the prevalent discussion at the Capitol has been mostly about bipartisanship. The beginning of the legislative session is always a time for platitudes about "working across the aisle," perhaps a bit more so right now given the narrowly split control of the legislature for the next two years.

It never lasts, of course. A press release from Colorado Senate Democrats yesterday afternoon is a shot across the bow of the new one-seat Republican Senate majority, calling them out on their "radical repeal-a-thon agenda" in not-screwing-around terms. Game on:

While Senate Democrats have been hopeful of working together to move Colorado forward, there has been a pattern of bills introduced by Republicans legislators which aggressively move the state backward. 

Despite Pres. Bill Cadman saying, “We all want to be a part of building a better future for Colorado,” only nine days into the 70th Legislative Session, the Senate Republicans have introduced extreme bills that put ordinary Coloradans at risk.

In the Senate alone, examples of the “Radical Republican Roll-Back” include bills that would allow:

• pedophiles or other criminals to run small daycares,
• the repeal of the renewable energy standard,
• felons to get guns by repealing criminal background checks,
• developers to build without regard to homeowners’ rights,
• discrimination against workers,
• more unvaccinated children in our schools,
• sale of Colorado’s public lands and open space,
• unconstitutional vouchers to drain public funds for K-12, and
• special interests to spend more on elections with less transparency. 

“I don’t think this radical repeal-a-thon agenda reflects common-sense Colorado,” said Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.  “While the Republicans speak of working together, they introduced bills that smack of extreme ideological positions and special interests.”

More after the jump. It's better this way, folks. Admit it.

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“Major Confusion” Coffman Does it Again on Immigration

Mike Coffman takes all sides

Go ahead and roll the dice — “Major Confusion” Coffman has every side covered.

Fox 31’s Eli Stokols has the rundown on today’s Congressional immigration battles, and Republican Rep. Mike “Major Confusion” Coffman is picking up kudos after a handful of conflicting votes and mismatched public statements:

[Coffman] voted against the amendment that seeks to end the Deferred Action program and the final bill, which included the amendment.

“The President’s executive actions are clearly unconstitutional and I strongly oppose his unilateral decisions on immigration but my party needs to stop just saying what we are against and start saying what we are for when it comes to fixing our broken immigration system,” said Coffman in a statement.“Under the DACA amendment that passed, young people who were taken to this country as children, who grew up here, went to school here, and often know of no other country but the United States, would not be allowed to renew their status and would face deportation. We should have had an opportunity to pass a version of the DACA program into law.  Moving forward, immigration reform should be about securing our borders, growing our economy and keeping families together and we need to do it all the constitutional way – through Congress.”

Immigration policy is confusing enough without Coffman's help, so stay with us here – this is about to get silly.

Congressman Coffman is a former U.S. Marine. If you’ve spent any time around Colorado politics, you are almost certainly aware of this; Coffman never misses an opportunity to mention his military career and call upon related clichés such as “boots on the ground.” We do not have a negative word to say about Rep. Coffman’s service record. To borrow a phrase from Democrat Andrew Romanoff, Coffman’s General Election opponent in 2014, Rep. Coffman’s military career should be applauded and respected.

His rank as a citizen lawmaker perhaps should be adjusted, however, to include the title “Major Confusion,” because that seems to be Coffman’s strategy when it comes to dealing with the issue of immigration.

While nothing ever actually happens on immigration reform, “Major Confusion” always makes sure to take credit for specific immigration votes while at the same time making sure to so obfuscate his position that it seems like he’s always on your side on the issue (Coffman even issued a statement in Spanish today about how he totally supports DREAMers). This is a pretty clever political tactic, actually, even if it is completely meaningless.

Take a look at this blog entry from Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry, who is consistently one of the most understandable and understanding journalists in Colorado, and you’ll see what we mean about the strategy of “Major Confusion.”

Coffman, a Republican, voted against a broad bill what seeks to undo the ability of illegal immigrants brought here as children to find a permanent home in the United States.

Good for you, Congressman. It was an impressive and important move. The vote was nothing but a flagrant political slap to President Barack Obama as retribution for seeking administrative ways to solve immigration problems. But it passed, 236-191 because other Republicans don’t have the temerity and good sense Coffman showed.

If you’re going to slap Coffman on the back here, it’s important to draw the distinction between being a “vote maker” and a “law maker.” Congress is in the business of making laws – or as House Speaker John Boehner routinely crows, not making laws. “Major Confusion” Coffman did indeed cast several votes today on immigration reform, but the votes were contradictory and his actions did absolutely nothing to contribute to “making laws” on immigration. Coffman split his votes on various controversial amendments, which is the real-world equivalent of flipping a coin and calling both “heads” and “tails.”

A press release issued by Colorado immigrant rights and Latino advocacy groups had a different perspective on what took place on Capitol Hil today:

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