Seriously? Jeffco School District Spurns Democratic Governor

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Aguilar, here come the lame excuses:

Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, said the jettisoned ceremony was particularly relevant to Jefferson County students because it would have involved the enactment of House Bill 1323, a hotly debated test reduction measure.

“The look on kids’ faces when they get to meet the governor and he has a bill in front of him that is about to become law — that experience for students is incredible,” said Kerr, who teaches at the online Jeffco Virtual Academy…

Jefferson County Schools has been through a tumultuous year, with a flood of negative headlines generated over a controversial curriculum proposal and superintendent selection process. District spokeswoman Lisa Pinto said a visit from the governor, accompanied by a potentially large media contingent, “would be difficult for our schools to accommodate,” especially on short notice.

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Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Even more unforced bad press for the Jefferson County Board of Education’s conservative majority, as the Colorado Independent’s Kyle Harris reports:

Jefferson County public schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee told Governor John Hickenlooper’s office and Colorado lawmakers that they’re a security risk and unwelcome to conduct bill signings in the district’s schools, says the governor’s Chief Strategy Officer Alan Salazar.

Superintendent McMinimee found his district embroiled in controversy last fall when the newly elected conservative school board proposed updating AP US History curriculum to deemphasize chapters of “conflict” — such as Native American genocide, slavery, the civil rights movement –and to downplay the way protest and civil disobedience have brought tremendous social change…

Now, with the district refusing to host the governor and lawmakers, observers are wondering if the political history of the present seems equally suspect to the board.

Top staffer for Gov. John Hickenlooper Alan Salazar vented his frustration via Facebook:

Still trying to get my head around learning last week that the Superintendent of Jeffco Schools informed legislators and our office that the Governor of Colorado could not do a bill signing at any district schools because his presence at such an event presented a “security risk” to students. Really? Seems to me that any school would welcome a governor and legislators for a real life example of our democracy in action. Apparently not in Jeffco.

Gov. Hickenlooper’s chilly reception in Jefferson County differs notably from his experience just last week at a northeast Denver elementary school:

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2016 Won’t Be Like 2014 (Or 2010)

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Famed political analyst Stuart Rothenberg has a smart writeup at Roll Call today on the state of play in Colorado ahead of the 2016 U.S. Senate race–with some perspective that’s quite valuable if you’re using past performance as a predictor of future results:

Republican strategists have not given up hope of recruiting a top-tier challenger, such as Rep. Mike Coffman, who might be able to mount the sort of come-from-behind effort then-Rep. Cory Gardner did to upset Democratic Sen. Mark Udall last cycle.

But even knowledgeable Republicans wouldn’t tell you the Colorado Senate race is close to a tossup now. And in their most candid moments they might even tell you the race may never get any closer than where it is now — leaning in Bennet’s favor…

Colorado voters who wanted to send a message of dissatisfaction about the president could only do so by voting against Bennet, and subsequently Udall. That is a different dynamic from the one that occurs in presidential election years, such as 2016.

Next fall, voters won’t automatically see the Senate race as a way to make a statement about the presidential race, and the GOP won’t have a strong voter turnout advantage, the way the party did in 2010 and 2014.

The last U.S. Senate race in a presidential election year in Colorado was 2008–the year when Mark Udall blew out Republican Bob Schaffer, in a race where Schaffer was hobbled by ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and generalized dissatisfaction with the Republican brand after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. In 2010 and 2014, election years where Democrats in Colorado fought uphill battles, presidential-year turnout ebbed, and conservative voters in this state surged to the polls. Even at the height of the 2010 GOP wave, Bennet managed to come out ahead of the decidedly out-of-the-mainstream GOP nominee Ken Buck. In 2014, Cory Gardner’s audacious con job airtight message discipline powered him past Udall’s uninspiring single-issue negative campaign.

In 2016, there is no Cory Gardner Colorado Republicans can turn to for a fresh start, and Bennet will not face the same kind of “Teflon” opponent Udall did. As Rothenberg correctly notes, presumed 2016 U.S. Senate frontrunner Mike Coffman has his own long record of immoderation, like in 2012 when he told attendees at a GOP fundraiser that President Barack Obama “is just not an American.” While Coffman has managed to keep his job since that major on-camera gaffe three years ago, Rothenberg is absolutely right that “Democrats undoubtedly would use that sound bite to introduce him to voters statewide.” Bennet may not be the left’s biggest hero today after spurning them on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, but Coffman has enough fringe ugliness in his background for Bennet to show a clear distinction with the broad center of Colorado voters.

Rothenberg concludes, and from our view there’s nothing with which to disagree:

Democrats have plenty of reasons to keep Colorado on their radar screens, and Republicans have plenty of reasons to look for a strong challenger who can take advantage of the state’s fundamental competitiveness.

But right now, it is much easier for Democrats to defend the seat than it is for Republicans to win it back from Bennet.

These hard facts are a big reason why we’re waiting to see if Coffman makes the jump to the 2016 U.S. Senate race at all, especially with a strong Democratic challenge for his CD-6 seat threatening from Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll. Whatever momentum Colorado Republicans may feel after 2014 is, looking ahead today, fraught with uncertainty–with a very different electorate than the last two U.S. Senate races here, and no “ace in the hole” lying in wait to change the game.

Naturally, we’ll let you know if we see one.

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 18)

MoreSmarter-RainJust in case you needed any more of a reason to stay away from motorcycle gangs. 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…

► Republican State Treasurer Walker “Wasn’t Me” Stapleton continues to show the political agility of a blind skiier. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Stapleton has turned a minor controversy into a major avalanche:

Days after the legislative session closed, Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is trying to distance himself from a controversial effort to issue billions of dollars of pension bonds to bolster the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association fund.

The two-term treasurer told a conservative talk radio host that he didn’t support the move, despite the fact that records show he signed up twice to testify in support of legislation that would give him authority to issue the bonds…

…Stapleton’s shift is an attempt to quell friendly fire from conservatives taking aim at him for supporting a debt venture they consider too risky. The attack threatens to undermine the 41-year-old treasurer’s conservative fiscal reputation, one that has boosted his political prospects for higher office.

We noted Stapleton’s ridiculous claims last week, which adds more evidence to our analysis from last fall that Stapleton would be an absolute disaster for Republicans if he seeks higher office.

 

Agriculture and business groups from around the state are pushing Republicans to do something on immigration reform. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is promising more grandstanding, if that helps (hint: it doesn’t).


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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ICYMI: Romney vs. Holyfield, The Complete Bout

Worlds collided Friday evening in Salt Lake City, as 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney lasted for two rounds against former heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield in a charity boxing match:

It wasn’t what you’d call a real fight, but this would have been a big deal in 2012, wouldn’t it?

“He said, ‘You know what? You float like a bee and sting like a butterfly,'” Romney said after the fight.

That sounds a lot like 2012, too.

Weekend Open Thread

“The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte

Coffman’s Progress-Free Immigration Theatrics Continue

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), left, with anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), left, with anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reported yesterday on a…push, agitation, grandstand, kabuki dance, whatever you want to call it from Rep. Mike Coffman for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to allow “DREAMer” undocumented students to enlist in the military:

A provision that could pave the way for young immigrants to serve in the U.S. military has sharply divided two Republican members from Colorado’s delegation — and the upcoming vote Thursday afternoon is expected to come down to the wire.

On one side is U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who supports an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — a military policy bill — that would encourage the Pentagon to accept into service young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Specifically, the provision targets immigrants who were shielded in 2012 from deportation by the Obama administration as part of a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals…

Opposing the effort is Lamborn of Colorado Springs. He’s part of a conservative effort to strip that language from the bill and signed a letter earlier this month that demanded its removal.

Coffman’s staff took to social media yesterday to make it as publicly visible as possible that he supports letting DREAMer students die for their our country:

But as was a foregone conclusion before Coffman said a single word, the amendment failed at the hands of Coffman’s Republican colleagues. Roll Call:

A 221-202 vote on an amendment, offered by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., stripped a provision in the underlying bill encouraging the Pentagon to study options for enlisting undocumented immigrants into the military in exchange for a pathway to legal status.

All 182 Democrats voted “no,” joined by 20 Republicans.

Passage of the Brooks amendment will prompt a sigh of relief from GOP leaders…

“The House should not take action to legitimize the president’s unconstitutional overreach on immigration,” proclaimed Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects from deportation the certain undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for military enlistment in some future scenario.

Here ends yet another situation where Coffman was able to burnish his pro-immigrant credentials without risk of any outcome that might uncomfortably alter the status quo. Coffman repeatedly makes reference to “DREAMers” in his call to let them enlist in the military, sidestepping the fact that he opposes the actual DREAM Act. In fact, Coffman once called the DREAM Act “a nightmare for the American people.”

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Americans United For Life Takes Credit For Colorado GOP’s Failed Abortion Rights Crackdown, Longmont Attack Exploitation

Senate President Bill Cadman.

Senate President Bill Cadman.

As controversy raged over the recent horrific attack on a pregnant Longmont woman toward the end of this year’s legislative session, we noted in late April that a bill proposed by Colorado Senate Republicans “in response” to that attack, Senate Bill 15-268, incorporated model language from the national anti-abortion advocacy group Americans United For Life. Even though Senate President Bill Cadman insisted that the legislation was not intended to restrict abortion rights, AUL proudly took credit for the bill with its members, as part of an explicit strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade “through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life.”

In particular, language in Senate Bill 268 defining a “human being” as “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth” echoed the Personhood abortion ban constitutional amendments that Colorado voters have overwhelmingly rejected three times in recent elections. An amendment to strip the Personhood language was rejected by the GOP Senate majority, and despite Cadman’s protests to the contrary, it was clear by the time this legislation was finally killed in the Democratic-controlled House that the “ulterior motive” of chipping away at abortion rights was very much the goal–as AUL was more than happy to confirm in their member communications.

Now that the session is over, it should be noted that Americans United for Life played a role in more than just the so-called “fetal homicide” debate. In a memo distributed just before the end of Colorado’s legislative session this year, AUL includes our state in a long list of states where their organization has contributed “legislative consulting” and model bill language:

AUL and AUL Action have responded to 329 legislative consulting requests in 31 states and the District of Columbia: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, [Pols emphasis] District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

So far this legislative session, AUL has distributed 620 policy guides/model language in 33 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, [Pols emphasis] Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

In terms of specific bills AUL takes credit for in Colorado this year, it’s a lot more than just the “fetal homicide” proposal:

• Colorado is considering HB 1162 which is based on AUL model language and prohibits sex-selective abortions.

• Colorado is also considering HB 1128 which is based on AUL model language and provides licensing and safety requirements for abortion clinics. The measure includes an admitting privileges requirement.

• Colorado is considering SB 268 which is based on AUL model language and provides legal protection for unborn victims of criminal violence.

All of these bills, along with others like the bill to make abortion a felony earlier in the session, were ultimately killed in the Democratic House. The only one of these bills that ever had any hope at all was the “fetal homicide” bill, and then only because the tragic attack on Michelle Wilkins was still fresh in everyone’s minds. But to Cadman and Americans United for Life, the attack on Wilkins was an opportunity to push a big piece of a much broader anti-abortion agenda–and maybe even get it passed through a legislature partly controlled by Democrats. It didn’t matter that the alleged perpetrator in the Longmont attack faces over 100 years in prison if convicted, making the need for a new crime beyond Colorado’s existing unlawful termination of a pregnancy statute unnecessary.

These facts help explain why Democrats and pro-choice groups were so enraged by the exploitation of the attack on Wilkins by Cadman and the GOP Senate majority: they knew where this legislation was coming from, and they knew what AUL’s agenda really is. It’s widely suspected that the blowback at Cadman over the “fetal homicide” bill provoked him to allow a much crazier abortion restriction bill, Senate Bill 15-285, to drop right before the end of the session. Cadman, after all, is famously easy to piss off, and his responses are not always the most level-headed. Politically, these anti-abortion bills are highly toxic in the long term–but that didn’t even slow Cadman and the Colorado GOP down a bit.

Now that the dust has settled, hopefully the media can stop making excuses for what happened. Because it’s all out in the open now.

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 15)

“When the wolf is trying to get in, you gotta stand in the doorway.” RIP B.B. King. 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…

► Work on the debacle of a project at the VA Hospital site in Aurora may stall after Congress failed to come to agreement on a plan to fund construction yesterday. Once again, we remind you, that Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Maybe he’ll actually do something about this…some day.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan finished a two-day visit to Colorado on Thursday.

► State Senator Ellen Roberts has been floating her name for U.S. Senate or CD-3. She’s also trying to draw on pro-choice credentials that she no longer possesses.


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Ellen Roberts’ “Pro-Choice” Credentials Pulled

As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado is calling out Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), after Roberts abandoned reproductive choice advocates and voted for multiple pieces of legislation they consider antithetical to the words “pro-choice.”

Attacks against Republican state Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango intensified this week after The Durango Herald reported that Roberts is considering a run for U.S. Senate. If she were to survive a tough primary, Roberts would take on incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet. She has not formally announced a campaign…

[Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado] has walked back support for Roberts, disagreeing that she remains pro-choice. It points to recent votes, including her support for a measure that would have created a fetal homicide law in Colorado. The bill failed after Democrats opposed the measure, suggesting that it was tantamount to so-called “personhood,” or defining a fetus as a person.

“You cannot support fetal personhood measures and be pro-choice,” said Cathy Alderman, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “Despite what the proponents claimed, when you define ‘person’ prior to birth, you have created fetal personhood. Just saying it’s not personhood doesn’t change that.”

Sen. Roberts, who has campaigned on her allegedly pro-choice views but also faces the daunting prospect of a fierce GOP primary in any pursuit of higher office, protests vigorously:

“I do think it’s important to be vigilant and caring about the advancement of women in society in general,” Roberts said. “But if we want to talk about erosion, I would say it’s eroding credibility to try to insist that everybody is going to think in one monolithic way.”

Unfortunately for Sen. Roberts, this year’s fetal homicide debate, which ended with the death of Republican legislation establishing rights for fetuses “from conception,” drew a bright line on this issue–and Ellen Roberts was on the wrong side.

There were efforts this year to…remove a definition of “person” from the fetal homicide bill, but Roberts voted against an amendment that would have stripped the “person” language…

“We no longer believe her to be moderate, and we no longer consider her an ally on women’s health issues,” [Pols emphasis] Alderman continued. “Frankly, we are disappointed by it, but she may feel that is what she needs to do if she is going to go for a statewide race.”

Bottom line: Ellen Roberts had this coming. Back in 2012, Roberts sponsored a Colorado Senate resolution in support of the failed Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any company to deny workers contraceptive coverage. This year, in addition to supporting the fetal homicide “Personhood” bill, Roberts cast a key vote against the state’s successful long-term reversible contraception program. Today, the Herald reports separately that this program played a “major role” in reducing the rate of teen pregnancy in Roberts’ own district.

And that, dear reader, is how one loses the right to call one’s self “pro-choice.”

Pressure Builds For Veto of Interest Rate Hike Bill

loanshark2The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports on growing controversy over House Bill 15-1390, legislation passed at the very end of this year’s legislative session with almost no debate to allow subprime lenders to dramatically increase interest rates on certain personal loan products:

Gov. John Hickenlooper has three official requests on his desk to veto House Bill 1390, legislation that adjusts the cap on subprime loans allowing 36 percent on a $3,000 loan.

The bill was introduced near the end of the session and sailed through. Groups that oppose it say they didn’t have time to make their case and want a veto in order to give the proposal more debate next year…

“In a legislative session that was supposed to be about the middle class, this bill moves Colorado in the wrong direction,” states the joint veto request from The Bell Policy Center, ProgressNow Colorado, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy and the Colorado Progressive Coalition.

“We wish this bill had come up earlier in the session to allow more time for conversations with legislators and a greater opportunity for the views of average Coloradans to be heard. Your veto of HB15-1390 will help protect low- to moderate-income Coloradans from detrimental credit products. The Legislature can address this issue again next session in a manner that ensures all viewpoints are heard and more measured deliberations take place.”

More from the Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela:

“We are not opposed to the loans, just to increasing the current rates so significantly,” the letter reads.

Danny Katz of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group said the bill benefits those that don’t need help — financial institutions.

“This bill simply takes money from Colorado family pockets and sends it to Wall Street and out-of-state investors,” Katz said. “That’s not how Colorado should do business or treat its families.”

Read more coverage of House Bill 15-1390 in the Durango Herald and Colorado Public Radio. To the dismay of lobbyists and complicit lawmakers, the word is definitely getting out.

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

As we’ve discussed in this space, the whole purpose of introducing this legislation at the last possible moment in this year’s legislative session was to limit the public’s knowledge of what was happening. Now that the press is covering it, it looks very bad–and Democratic legislators who sponsored this late bill are being forced to defend their actions. That’s not going real well, as Vela continues:

“These people have nowhere to go to get a loan,” said Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, who helped sponsor the legislation in the Senate…

“They’re trying to associate it to payday lending and it’s not,” Jahn said. “These financial institutions are willing to give loans to people with bad credit, who are trying to rebuild credit. So the interest rate is higher, but not as high as payday lending.

“These groups that come out opposing this, always say, ‘You’re taking advantage of poor people.’ No, not really. They have nowhere else to go.”

Got that? Consumers have “nowhere else to go,” so let’s jack up their interest rates! Makes perfect sense if you’re the one lending the money. Those consumers aren’t likely to be so happy about it, however.

Democratic supporters like Sen. Cheri Jahn and the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Jovan Melton argue that the number and total dollar amounts for this type of loan have shrunk in Colorado since 2005. That’s a disingenuous argument, though, since in 2005 subprime credit was incredibly easy to obtain–so much so that subprime debt nearly sank the entire U.S. economy just a couple of years later. Back in reality, as the New York Times reported in detail last fall, subprime personal loans–and the companies booking them–are doing just fine in today’s recovering economy.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 14)

Today’s forecast calls for possible sightings of the sun. 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…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) joined fellow Republicans in voting to approve a 20-week abortion ban. Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.

► The Senate passed a measure yesterday to move forward on votes for President Obama’s trade deal. From the Huffington Post:

“The announcement [Wednesday] will drive home the importance of the message that the pro-trade Democrats sent yesterday,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who helped craft the compromise after he helped filibuster the trade bill that he supports. “That enforcement, enforcement of the trade laws is a prerequisite to a modern trade policy, a trade policy that sets aside once and for all the NAFTA playbook. Suffice it to say that was the message conveyed yesterday by pro-trade Democrats.”

► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) offered joint support for medical marijuana legislation. As Mark Matthews of the Denver Post reports:

The proposed Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act would lift federal prohibitions across the country on using marijuana strains that are medically beneficial to prevent certain seizures.

Gardner, a Republican, and Bennet, a Democrat, announced the bill with Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Johnny Isakson of Georgia at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.

Because of federal prohibitions, some families who are seeking the help are forced to relocate to such states as Colorado, where they can obtain the medicine, the lawmakers argue.

What, no cool acronym for this bill? The THMAA?


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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