Taking Away Parental Leave: Where Is The Outrage?

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

We’re surprised at how little coverage there’s been of a bill that could become a major flashpoint, House Bill 16-1002–the bill reauthorizing the state’s parental leave law for academic responsibilities that was on the books for years before it sunset last year. We took note yesterday of the crowd of “family values” male Republican legislators who lined up to testify against the bill in the House, and this is the same bill Rep. Kevin Priola impaled himself on by voting no in committee after being excused to take his child to a doctor’s appointment.

But as exciting as the debate over this bill has been, there has been little discussion in the mainstream press. In addition to the Chalkbeat Colorado story we linked to yesterday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby wrote this week:

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?” [Pols emphasis]

We see this bill as a major opportunity for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans in advance of this year’s elections. The key point is that parental leave for school activities was the law of the land for five years, and it didn’t hurt anyone. Parents in Colorado who had access to parental leave between 2009 and September of 2015 have now had it taken away.

Last year, the refusal by Senate Republicans to fund the long-acting contraception program credited with a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy in Colorado made national headlines repeatedly. Clear evidence of cost savings from a relatively small investment that Republicans refused to fund out of politically unsightly ideological prejudice has done damage that may not be fully felt until this November.

If it gets on the media’s radar, parental leave could turn into a similarly harmful episode for statehouse Republicans. With no evidence of any harm to employers from Colorado’s parental leave law, and the obvious benefit to families with school-age children being taken away by the GOP’s refusal to reauthorize the law, every vote against House Bill 1002 is a big liability in an election year. The mailers and TV spots will not be kind.

And so far, that’s every Republican House member save one.

Poll: Who Will Win Colorado’s Democratic Caucuses?

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

FOX 31:

[F]ormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton barely defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders [in Iowa], suggesting Sanders will be competitive for the foreseeable future…

For Colorado Republicans and Democrats, the results most likely mean a greater spotlight will be put on the state by the national parties.

“I think it’s going to put a huge spotlight on Colorado,” said State Rep. Joe Salazar, a Democrat who has yet to endorse a candidate.

Salazar said it’s clear the “Clinton coronation” isn’t occurring and that he hopes neither candidate “takes Colorado for granted.”

We certainly aren’t taking you for granted, and here’s your chance to give us an unscientific pre-New Hampshire snapshot of where Coloradans are in advance of the March 1st Colorado Democratic presidential precinct caucuses. Vote after the jump: as always, remember that we want to know who you really think will win, not your personal preference.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 5)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowBy this time next week, Peyton Manning may be retired from football; here’s hoping he has another Super Bowl ring as a going away present. 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…

► Yes, this is a politics blog, but let’s be honest with our Colorado readers: It’s Super Bowl weekend, and everybody’s talking about the Denver Broncos. As of today, the Broncos are a 5.5 point underdog against the Carolina Panthers. If you ask us — go ahead, ask us — we say Denver wins by seven points.

Meanwhile, Congress is taking part in the annual tradition of making silly regional-based bets to show that they, too, like to watch football. As The Denver Post reports, the friendly wagers include lots of red meat and locally-brewed beer. There’s also this:

Colorado’s two U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner — who can’t seem to do anything without the other — joined forces and put some “pride on the line” against their North Carolina counterparts, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Under the terms of the deal, the freshman senator from the losing state must deliver a speech on the Senate floor that “must give specific shout outs to the Super Bowl champion’s head coach, quarterback, fan base and detail the greatness of the Super Bowl champion’s home state.”

For added fun, the freshman lawmaker from the winning state will get to preside over the Senate chamber during the homage.

Oh, as for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)? He’s trying to use this Super Bowl thing to raise money for his re-election campaign, because, of course.

 

► State Senate President Bill Cadman said his prayers to the Koch Brothers on Thursday. During a rally at the State Capitol with Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a political organization founded by the coal-mining billionaires, Cadman was quite frank about the connection between AFP and the State Senate:

“I can tell you this,” Senate President Bill Cadman told an Americans for Prosperity rally at the Capitol, “I don’t think I would be the president of the Senate if it wasn’t for the efforts you and yours did over the previous elections. And we look forward to continuing our partnership with you.”

It’s worth mentioning here that Cadman’s other job is working as a political consultant for Republican campaigns in Colorado and elsewhere. But surely Cadman doesn’t get any extra money from AFP for this work.

 

► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders went back-and-forth in a debate in New Hampshire last night. If you missed it, here’s a few takeaways courtesy of Politico.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Friday Open Thread

“As partisans of our own way of life, we cannot help thinking in a partisan manner.”

–Gordon W. Allport

Yet Another Republican Primary Fight in Colorado

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

As the Greeley Tribune reports today:

Mead Republican Colleen Whitlow announced her intent Wednesday to run for the GOP nomination for House District 63.

Whitlow is a town trustee in Mead, and she announced her candidacy in an email to The Tribune. She said she serves on a number of volunteer boards and committees through that position. She has lived in the district since 1999 and is a Colorado native.

Whitlow will face incumbent Lori Saine, R-Dacono, who was first elected to the Colorado House in 2013. Saine filed her paperwork last summer to run again in 2016.

Rep. Saine is a known ally of Dudley Brown and his Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) group. Despite that alliance (or because of it), Saine often faces GOP opposition in a House District (which includes Greeley and Evans) that is a relatively safe seat for Republicans.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the State House, though HD-63 is unlikely to shift hands in 2016. This relatively late Primary challenge by Whitlow is nevertheless a drain on volunteers, fundraising, and resources for the GOP, which would much prefer to focus on trying to pick up a few seats in the State House while maintaining control of their one-seat majority in the State Senate.

Enough Is Enough: Durango Demands Superfund

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine.

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine.

As the Durango Herald’s Jonathan Romeo reports, patience in the city of Durango with continued dickering by officials in upstream San Juan County and Silverton over requesting Environmental Protection Agency National Priorities List designation for the cleanup of disused mines near Silverton has reached its limit:

Nearly six months after the Gold King mine blowout, and with Silverton still in limbo over Superfund, a sense that downstream communities should take a larger role in negotiations regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous cleanup program is growing.

At the San Juan Citizens Alliance’s quarterly meeting Wednesday, several Durango and La Plata County residents urged local officials to take the reigns in pursuing a Superfund designation in time to make the EPA’s March listing.

“San Juan County’s concerns are speculative,” said La Plata County resident Frank Lockwood. “Our concerns are not speculative. Ours are real. We’ve defined them economically, and I think our government officials should move forward.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Last month, the wheels appeared greased for all of the local governments affected by the August minewater spill above Silverton into a tributary of the Animas River to put aside dreams of resumed mining and finally allow the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the full resources to bear to clean up the massive problem. It was an EPA work crew that accidentally triggered the release of millions of gallons of contaminated mine waste water, but their mishap was little more than ripping the scab off a much bigger and older problem–a problem that has threatened the health, safety, and prosperity of tens of thousands of people downstream along the Animas River for many years. Resistance from mining and commercial interests in San Juan County (population 692) is the principal reason that Superfund status wasn’t granted to this area, and the reason why only this ill-prepared investigative crew was working the problem.

[Hermosa resident Clint] Kearns questioned whether Silverton and San Juan County’s list of demands were a “poison pill” to put off Superfund status, a program the community has strongly opposed for more than 20 years, citing concerns over a perceived stigma the designation would bring to a town dependent on a delicate tourism economy…

In Silverton’s defense, John Whitney, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said the community to the north’s concerns are not unreasonable, and despite the delay, he believes an agreement can be reached by next week.

The concern is that the delay by Silverton and San Juan County in joining downstream cities in requesting Superfund designation may already have blown the chance to be considered in the first of the EPA’s two annual rounds of evaluations. Sen. Michael Bennet’s involvement in bringing the parties together to get a deal is nonetheless commendable–and stands in stark contrast to the area’s Congressman Scott Tipton, whose disingenuous vilification of the EPA after the spill makes him part of the problem not the solution.

And that solution is: the citizens who rely on the Animas River need the Superfund. They need the EPA.

Hancock Backs Carrigan in Race for Denver District Attorney

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock poses with Michael Carrigan.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock poses with Denver DA candidate Michael Carrigan.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Wednesday endorsed Michael Carrigan for Denver District Attorney. Carrigan is one of three Democrats running for the seat being vacated by the term-limited Mitch Morrissey.

From a press release:

Mayor Michael Hancock today announced that he is endorsing the only candidate in the Denver District Attorneys’ race who has experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney and private sector attorney – Michael Carrigan.

“Michael Carrigan is hands down Denver’s best choice for our next District Attorney,” said Mayor Hancock. “He is a skilled lawyer, active community member and strong leader with the legal experience needed to ensure justice for Denver’s residents. I am confident Michael will bring a balanced perspective to the DA’s office to help make Denver a safer, better place.”

The press release does not mention an interesting factual tidbit about Hancock’s endorsement: This is the first time that a sitting Mayor of Denver has endorsed a candidate for Denver District Attorney in at least 20 years. Some of this has to do with weird timing for both the Mayoral and DA races; Denver’s Mayor is chosen in a municipal election, but District Attorney is technically a “state race,” which puts it on the ballot in a General Election year.

As is normally the case here, Democrats will all but decide who becomes Denver’s next DA in the June Primary. There is an Independent candidate seeking the office, but running against a Democrat in Denver is kind of like being a Raiders fan on Sundays.

Get More Smarter On Thursday (Feb. 4)

Get More SmarterNote to selves: Do NOT ask Rick Santorum to speak on your behalf. 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 Parental Leave Act took another step forward in the Colorado legislature on Wednesday. As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The Colorado House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would bring back the state’s parental leave act, which expired in September.

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?”

Elsewhere, here’s what opposition to parental leave legislation looks like in the House, in one photo.

 

► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will go face-to-face in four more debates, as announced on Wednesday. From the Associated Press:

The additional debates will held in Flint, Michigan on March 6, and two other cities in April and May, with details to be determined later. Clinton has sought a debate in Flint to bring attention to the city’s water contamination crisis and Sanders said he wanted it to be scheduled before the Michigan primary on March 8.

Clinton and Sanders are meeting Thursday in a debate at the University of New Hampshire just days before Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary…

…Two other Democratic debates are already on the calendar: Feb. 11 in Milwaukee and March 9 in Miami.

The four new debates are expected to be held live at 2:00 in the morning (that was a joke).

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Caption This Photo: Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

Todd Engdahl at Chalkbeat Colorado reports on passage in the Colorado House today of House Bill 16-1002, reinstating Colorado’s parental leave statute for school activities after they lapsed in 2015 due to legislative inaction:

The Colorado House gave final 35-30 approval Thursday to a contentious bill intended to give parents the legal right to time off from work for parent-teacher conferences and a limited number of other school meetings…the 50-minute debate over the bill on Wednesday was as much political theater as it was a policy discussion, with a strong undercurrent of Democratic-Republican differences about economic opportunity and business regulation, not about education…

“By passing this bill we will create a foundation for all parents to be able to be involved in their children’s education,” argued Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, the House prime sponsor of House Bill 16-1002. “It’s common knowledge that parent involvement creates academic success.”

Republicans who came to the microphone said they’re for parental involvement but countered that the bill isn’t necessary. “Companies can do this already,” said Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth.

Passing a law on the issue would “interrupt the positive interactions between employees and employer” necessary for a harmonious workplace, argued Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument.

After the passage of this legislation in the Democratic-controlled House, it awaits a dubious fate in the Republican-controlled state Senate–where a similar bill reauthorizing the parental leave law before it sunset died last year. But no words can capture the scene as “family values” Republican legislators lining up to take away parental leave rights families have had for years quite like this photo posted to Twitter by Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster:

theboyz

In front lined up to testify from left to right are Reps. Jim Wilson, Justin Everett (identifiable by his shiny coiffed hair), Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, and Reps. Paul Lundeen, Tim Dore, and Don Coram.

Now immortalized as the “No Family Values For You Bros?” We bet you’ve got a better caption.

DeGette To House GOP: End Planned Parenthood Witch Hunts

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports:

Five members of Congress, including Denver Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, are calling on their Republican colleagues to end the investigations into Planned Parenthood.

The request comes in the wake of a grand jury indictment in Texas against David Daleiden and Sandra S. Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress, the producers of heavily-edited and widely-discredited videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials engaging in the illegal sale of fetal tissue.

Daleiden and Merritt were indicted last week by a grand jury in Houston, which had been asked by the Texas Lieutenant Governor to investigate the Center for Medical Progress videos. The grand jury found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but did indict Daleiden and Merritt for presenting fake driver’s licenses, a felony in Texas, and attempting to purchase human organs, a misdemeanor…

More from Rep. Diana DeGette’s statement:

Today, Pro-Choice Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) led over 120 of their Democratic colleagues and called for an end to ongoing, politically-motivated House and Senate investigations into Planned Parenthood, in light of the many independent state investigations across the country that have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

The Pro-Choice Caucus co-chairs joined their colleagues in both chambers on a letter to Republicans calling for an end to partisan investigations of Planned Parenthood in the House and Senate, following the Texas grand jury’s decision last week to exonerate Planned Parenthood and indict the creators of the highly fabricated, deceptive undercover videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood and undermine women’s access to health care on federal charges.

In their letter to Republicans, they wrote: “Our country faces serious challenges when it comes to issues like supporting working families, creating good jobs, and boosting wages. The families and communities we represent rightly want us focused on efforts like these—not political attempts to undermine women’s access to health care and investigate their personal health care decisions. We urge you to listen to them.”

Will House Republicans listen? In all likelihood not. But following the indictment of the prime conspirators in the undercover video campaign against Planned Parenthood by a Houston grand jury, this latest assault on the organization has come full circle. In the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing by the organization after numerous investigations by Congress and local officials, there’s nothing left to this story but pandering to anti-abortion activists who need no urging.

Combine that with the domestic terror attack here in Colorado on a Planned Parenthood clinic, carried out by a man determined to stop the fictitious sale of “baby parts,” and DeGette has more than just cause to ask for these witch hunts to stop.

She has an obligation.

PolitiFact Colorado Debuts With Devastating Coffman Refudiation

mostlytrueWe’ve been anticipating the first story from the new collaboration between Denver’s ABC affiliate 7NEWS and the Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking resource PolitiFact operated by the Tampa Bay Times. Last night, Politifact Colorado debuted with its first fact check of 2016, and it’s a doozy: powerfully validating a key attack on Rep. Mike Coffman from women’s advocacy group EMILY’s List:

Emily’s List is stoking the abortion debate in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race with a fundraising email saying Republican incumbent Mike Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

Emily’s List — a political organization that supports the election of Democratic women who support abortion rights — has endorsed Coffman’s opponent, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, an Aurora Democrat. Its mailer focused on reproductive rights, abortion and Roe v. Wade…

We wanted to check the accuracy of Emily’s List’s characterization of Coffman’s role in the legislation.

Coffman did co-sponsor the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act, which attempted to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape” — and not rape in broader terms…

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

7NEWS’ Alan Gathright, a veteran political reporter going back to the storied days of the Rocky Mountain News, correctly notes that Republicans did amend the bill under intense fire from, well, everyone with a conscience–but being amended by voice vote, there’s no record of Coffman’s agreement or lack thereof with the change.

And the bottom line: he was a co-sponsor of the original “forcible rape” language.

Emily’s List said that Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

The record shows Coffman did co-sponsor the bill to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape.” [Pols emphasis]

It’s important to recognize just how hard Coffman has pushed back on criticism of his record on abortion. In April of 2014, Coffman’s campaign successfully prevailed on Denver Post political news editor Chuck Plunkett to remove a story about Coffman’s abortion record that had already been published, claiming that the story “shouldn’t have run.” The story acknowledged Coffman’s shifting stand on abortion, but uncomfortably provided fresh coverage of what had been Coffman’s longstanding position–that is, no abortions, and no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Much like now-Sen. Cory Gardner’s audacious deceptions on the issue in 2014, the response to any examination in the media of Coffman’s abortion record is feigned exasperation in public and aggressive bullying in private.

Well folks, it’s possible that in the new PolitiFact Colorado, we have an outlet that won’t be bullied. We’ll need to see more fact-checks like this one to be sure, but that would be a welcome–and sorely needed–development in Colorado politics.