An "incident" in the Senate Education Committee last week involving Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak and Republican freshman Sen. Owen Hill turned into a major, albeit short-lived kerfluffle Friday after being clipped and circulated nationally by conservative media sites and social media personalities. Sen. Hudak, as you know, has been under intense fire from conservatives after a gaffe in testimony about a gun bill that later died. It appears that Friday's "Twitter bomb" of this audio clip was meant to further trash Sen. Hudak's character–an odd level of attention given to a term-limited lawmaker, but far be it from us to tell GOP operatives how to spend their time.
At issue was the debate in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday of the new School Finance Act proposal from Sen. Michael Johnston. It's a major piece of legislation, and Republicans are not favorably predisposed due to its linkage with a significant revenue measure that would appear on the statewide ballot. To make a long story short, Sen. Hudak is chair of the Education Committee. Due to scheduling, it was necessary to release committee members to their other committee obligations by 1:30PM. This put the Education Committee in the position of having a lot to cover, and not a lot of time to cover it. Sen. Hudak tried to get the committee through a long series of amendments, and probably was a bit short with Republicans who, true to form, wanted to "slow down" and debate the amendments in greater detail.
Near the very end of this hours-long proceeding, Sen. Hudak told Sen. Hill to "flip a coin" to decide how to vote on a Republican-introduced amendment to the bill. What she really wanted Sen. Hill to do, of course, was vote–and the outcome was not in question. But she was a bit rude about it, and from the audio it's clear that Sen. Hill wasn't real pleased.
The incident is what it is–probably not Sen. Hudak's most statesmanlike moment, but hardly a front-page story. Until, that is, out-of-state conservative pundits and their massive social media entourages–which have been lurking in Colorado social media channels since the gun debate–got ahold of an out-of-context recording of the incident made by a local right-wing blog.
Folks, where do we even begin debunking this nonsense? This was not a bill to "levy $1 bill in new taxes." If this school finance bill passes, as anyone literate in Colorado politics knows, any tax increase would have to go to the voters, per TABOR. And it wasn't the bill itself that Sen. Hudak sarcastically told Sen. Hill to "flip a coin" on, it was one of some twenty amendments to the bill, many intended by Republicans to stall the process.
By Friday afternoon, conservative social media and right wing news sites like Glenn Beck's The Blaze were headlining Sen. Hudak's exchange with Sen. Hill. By Saturday, a vapid blog post at the Denver Post was uncritically publicizing the "story." This would probably be headed for further misbegotten coverage today, were it not for Sen. Hill's commendable decision to put a stop to it in an email to supporters Saturday night:
The day after this happened, Senator Hudak graciously apologized. In fact, I brought a coin to committee and flipped it before my final vote. [Pols emphasis] Everyone in the room had a good laugh.
I want to thank Senator Hudak and the bill sponsors for their work and while we may disagree strongly on this tax increase, they agreed to slow down this bill to give us more time to debate it.
Now, what do you suppose the chances are that The Blaze, and all the other right-wing "news sites"–or for that matter, the Denver Post–are going to update their stories with either the context or Sen. Hill's gracious closure on the incident? Fat chance: in the low-information conservative agitation bubble, this is already headed for apocryphal legend status. Which was, most likely, the whole point from the beginning.