GOP Gun Law Repeal Push Becomes Circular Firing Squad

Huh?

Huh?

Yesterday’s marathon hearing in the House State Affairs Committee resulted, as expected, in the killing of all of GOP’s bills to repeal the 2013 gun safety laws passed by the Colorado General Assembly, as well as legislation to loosen concealed weapons permit standards and allow guns on school campuses. As has become the norm, the gun lobby’s threats to pack yesterday’s hearing did not materialize, and in fact supporters of the bills Republicans were trying to repeal again outnumbered opponents in testimony. The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader reports:

It was another marathon committee meeting that lasted 12 hours and was filled with emotional testimony from the family of those who lost loved ones to gun violence like the Aurora movie theatre shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and the Columbine High School shooting.

On the other side countless gun owners concerned with losing their right to bear arms testified in favor of the Republican bills to overturn universal background checks, a ban on high capacity magazines, two bills that would eliminate the requirement for a concealed carry permit, a bill that would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to bring gun on public schools campuses throughout the state and a bill that would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to not get background checks before buying any gun.

thurlowtraitor

In the days before yesterday’s hearing, lingering tensions between the hard-right Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the “corporate conservative” Independence Institute exploded into a highly public and acrimonious fight over the magazine limit bill. In hindsight, it does appear that Jon Caldara’s attack on RMGO is misguided: contrary to his insistence, there was never any appetite on the left or right for increasing the magazine limit to 30 rounds. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Humphrey, made it clear that he wasn’t interested in that, while Sen. Chris Holbert went a step farther and asserted such an amendment would be unconstitutional. But that hasn’t stopped Caldara from harshly calling out RMGO for their supposed intransigence, or RMGO from harshing right back (see photo top right).

In addition to red-on-red infighting between RMGO and the Independence Institute, Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow is taking fire from RMGO today after voting last night to kill the background check repeal and “guns in schools” bills. Thurlow was already on RMGO’s naughty list after voting to kill a bill to make it easier to obtain machine guns and other military weapons, and voting to preserve background checks on private gun sales surely won’t help relations between them–even though Thurlow voted in a way that the public will overwhelmingly favor. These votes would seem to indicate that Thurlow doesn’t care what the gun lobby thinks, especially after either Sen. Tim Neville or Rep. Pat Neville hamfistedly let slip that the Neville clan is driving the whisper campaign against him.

Perhaps most amusing about this whole situation is that Caldara’s intention here was almost certainly to divide Democrats, but in the end, it’s Republicans who are at each other’s throats today–and the policy goal everyone on the right started the session hopeful to achieve, repeal of the magazine limit, is dead with nothing whatsoever to show for it. Instead of using yesterday’s vote as a pretext to attack vulnerable Democrats, today the right in Colorado is pointing fingers only at each other.

Bottom line: all those Republicans who have warned over the years that Dudley Brown and RMGO is a loose cannon, more ripe for self-immolation than glory? This must be what they mean, folks.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 14)

Forgot to do your taxes? You’ve got a good 36 hours left. 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 Obama Administration says it has a plan to fund construction of the troubled VA Hospital in Aurora. Congressman Mike Coffman, the Republican Chair of the Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight, continues to bluster without taking time to suggest an actual solution.

► The State House is finished debating several more attempts to overturn gun safety laws passed in 2013. There was much debate, talking, and blustering, but in the end, nothing changed…though divisions within the Republican Party are growing, as the Colorado Springs-Gazette editorial board writes:

Forget Michael Bloomberg, Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislative Democrats for now. The bigger threat to gun rights in Colorado is Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, headed by political operative Dudley Brown.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Tuesday Open Thread

“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte

GOP Chairman Withdraws From Jeffco Schools Event

Colorado GOP chairman Steve House.

Colorado GOP chairman Steve House.

A mini-uprising from Jefferson County parents appears to have scuttled another attempt by the conservative Jeffco school board majority to inject partisan politics into the work of Colorado’s biggest public school district. Here’s the text of a letter we were forwarded from a Jeffco parent to the board, questioning an upcoming appearance by new Colorado GOP chairman Steve House at an upcoming board retreat:

Dear John, Julie and Ken,

I just received the email from Helen Neal with the link to the agenda for the Board Retreat next Thursday. I am disheartened and disappointed that Steve House remains on your Retreat Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education. On the agenda, Mr. House is listed as the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. I see nothing that would even remotely connect him to education in his professional role. I even looked over his profile on LinkedIn…nowhere in his “experience” does his list anything even remotely connected to education. Nor does education appear in the 50 skills he has listed.

Could you please explain to me (and the myriad other taxpayers who are concerned at this line-up of “innovation experts”) what Steve House has to do with education innovation? Why are you wasting taxpayer time and money on this farce? Consider the district staff who must attend your meetings. Why are you wasting their time? From what I can tell, I have more education expertise than Mr. House. What I don’t have, however, is a “certificate” from the Leadership Program of the Rockies. It seems that’s all it takes to make it in Jeffco these days. From our communications director to a guest panel on education innovation – educational expertise is no longer required to guide our school district, just participating in a right-wing organization one of whose main goals is to destroy public education.

We live in an amazing county, state and country – surely there are ACTUAL experts on education innovation that could provide useful information to the Board of Ed and the district. Mr. House has no credentials to be participating in the panel, and the three of you, in supporting his participation, are an embarrassment to public education. For people who rely so heavily on data, I can see none to support his role on the panel.

I strongly urge you to remove him from the panel on education innovation – his participation makes a mockery of the Board of Ed of Jeffco.

We’re not privy to whatever discussion that took place between the receipt of this letter by the conservative Jeffco board and now, but the board’s agenda for the upcoming retreat in question has changed as of today:

Subject: Retreat: Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education (EL-11)
Type: Discussion

estimated time: 7:30 p.m. (estimated duration: 2 hours)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Tony Lewis, executive director, Donnell-Kay Foundation
Scott Fast, parent, Columbine High School, retired executive director, Accenture Foundation
Steve House, chairman, Colorado Republican Party withdrew [Pols emphasis]

So much for that! The only thing that remains is for an intrepid reporter to ask two questions: why House withdrew, and for what reasons the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party was picked for this “retreat” to begin with.

You know, beyond the obvious reasons that have nothing to do with education.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 13)

On this day in 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born; do the math yourselves. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► It’s gunpalooza at the state legislature, likely for the final time in 2015. The State House will hear arguments over a plethora of bills that seek to roll back gun safety measures from 2013. Meanwhile, a new front has opened on the gun safety battle — Dudley Brown and his Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) are openly fighting with Independence Institute leader Jon Caldara. You can follow the discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #coleg.

Hillary Clinton is running for President. For reals. If the rest of her campaign is anything like her well-done kickoff video announcement, she will win in 2016.

► Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is announcing his bid for President today. Can Rubio win the GOP nomination for President? Can he beat Hillary? Those are quandaries for another time, because Rubio will be dogged by one single question: Can he even beat former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in his home state?

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Son of Gunmageddon: Dudley Brown’s Last Stand

Today’s main event at the Colorado Capitol kicks off at 1:30PM in the freshly-renovated Room 271, where the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs “kill committee” will debate a total of six Republican bills pertaining to guns:

gunmageddon2

Guns.

Guns.

AP via 9NEWS reports:

Republicans get their last chance of the year Monday to change Colorado’s firearm laws. Lawmakers will consider several proposals, including two bills to eliminate gun-control measures passed by Democrats in 2013…

The Democrat-led House committee hearing the bills Monday is expected to reject them. Other proposals expected to go down include bills to allow concealed handguns at public schools, and to let people to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

Today’s hearing is expected to drag on for many hours. Senate Bill 15-175, the bill that would repeal the 2013 law limiting gun magazines to 15 rounds, is expected to draw the most testimony, and being up first should be a good indicator of how long a night is really in store. We’ve been consistently surprised by the small turnout from the gun lobby and their supporters for hearings to repeal the 2013 gun safety laws–in marked contrast to the huge crowds of gun rights supporters who flooded the Capitol during the original debate. Supporters of the 2013 laws, on the other hand, have consistently mounted a strong defense, even outnumbering witnesses testifying against, and plan to do so again today. From Everytown for Gun Safety’s release:

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Hillary To Launch Presidential Campaign, Early Polls Clueless

MONDAY UPDATE: It’s official:

—–

Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton.

CNN via FOX 31 reports:

Hillary Clinton is planning to launch her presidential candidacy on Sunday through a video message on social media, a person close to her campaign-in-waiting says, followed immediately by traveling to early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire to start making her case to voters.

The trip to Iowa, where a third-place finish in 2008 ultimately led to the collapse of her presidential aspirations, illustrates what aides say is a commitment to not take anything for granted in her second bid for the White House, even though she dominates the likely Democratic field in 2016.

Clinton has already filmed her campaign video, a person close to the campaign said, which outlines the central themes of her second bid for the White House. The message is intended to send a signal to Democrats that she intends to aggressively fight for the party’s presidential nomination.

Here in Colorado, a new poll from Quinnipiac University throws darts at the proverbial wall and comes up with a relatively closely matchup between Hillary Clinton and potential Republican 2016 opponents–the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus:

Quinnipiac University found that the former secretary of state is losing ground against leading Republicans in Colorado, as well as in Iowa and Virginia, though the election isn’t for another year and seven months.

The only candidates to officially have announced a run for president are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Leading the Republican pack in Colorado is Paul, who gets 44 percent to Clinton’s 41.

“These numbers are a boost for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as he formally launches his campaign,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Other Republicans effectively tie Clinton in Colorado…

As observers have noted today, Quinnipiac’s polling in Colorado last year was erratic but overall heavily tilted toward Republicans for most of the election cycle. But beyond that, it’s simply too early to know how Clinton will match up against whichever Republican emerges with the nomination. As of this writing there’s no major opposition candidate for liberal Democrats to rally around as a Clinton alternative, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren continuing to insist she will not run and feelers by Vice President Joe Biden failing to gain much traction. If that continues to be the case, Clinton will have plenty of time to shore up the base and build momentum while Republicans are busy slugging it out amongst themselves.

Would Hillary carry Colorado in 2016? Take your own wild guess after the jump.

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Monday Open Thread

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.”

–Robert Quillen

In Colorado Springs, They Love Their Slumlords

SUNDAY UPDATE: Shocking video of Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins and Doug Bruce walking out of court Friday, a brief exchange that appears to end with Bruce violently ripping the camera from the hands of the questioner:

He’s not a nice man, folks. Original post follows, updates undoubtedly forthcoming.

Because that’s assault, right?

—–

UPDATE: The Colorado Springs Independent sheds significant light on the apparently extensive business relationship between Doug Bruce and Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins:

Evidence suggests the two are more than just political allies. According to a lawsuit filed in 4th Judicial District Court, Bruce and Collins have been working on land transactions together across the country, including in North Dakota, South Carolina, Illinois and Oklahoma, besides Collins’ 2013 acquisition of two apartment buildings in Kansas City for which tenants say Bruce has been in charge…

[T]enant Heather Dugger was scrambling to gather up her family’s belongings and get out on Monday. She said she, her husband and three young children, ages 11, 7 and 3, lived without water for about a month before the notice was posted.

“The water got shut off about a month ago,” Dugger says. “Somehow, the water was still on [at the other building] so we were going next door and filling buckets of water.”

She says she paid rent to a property manager who worked for Bruce. “He’s the one who hired the property manager,” she says, adding that Bruce was supposed to be paying for trash removal and water service and that she paid rent of $450 a month by money order made out to Douglas Bruce. She quit paying rent about three months ago, she says, because the property manager “quit coming by.”

Dugger then cut the interview short, because she was trying to load a U-Haul trailer. “There’s a lot of cuss words [for Bruce],” she says. “All the rent we paid and the water got shut off, and it’s just crazy, knowing they’re taking money away from people.” [Pols emphasis]

—–

collins

Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the continuing trouble City Councilwoman Helen Collins is running into with her real estate investments. This week, Collins survived a recall attempt related to a case currently before the city’s ethics commission, alleging she helped conservative activist and convicted tax cheat Douglas “Mister TABOR” Bruce avoid paying a court judgment in excess of $7,500 owed to the city of Colorado Springs. Bruce has owned a number of residential rental properties, and has frequently run afoul of the law for failure to properly maintain them.

Well, as Gazette reporter Billie Stanton Anleu writes today, Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins is a slumlord in her own right:

One of two Kansas City, Mo., apartment buildings owned by Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins was boarded up and closed Wednesday, a city inspector there confirmed.

Repeated violations, including no water in the building for more than four months, more than $7,000 in unpaid city water bills, multiple fines and the inability to provide a local property manager, led to the closure, said Kansas City inspector Marja Nolan…

In Kansas City, residents in one of two seven-unit buildings, which Collins bought in November 2012, had gone more than four months without water, Nolan said.

Violations dating to Oct 14, 2014, cite an unprotected exterior surface; litter, trash, refuse and rubbish; unapproved storage; failure to register; lack of water; peeling, cracked, blistered paint; rank weeds or unattended growth; and limbs and brush ordered to be removed, the city’s records show.

Doug Bruce.

Doug Bruce.

The report on Collins’ apartment building in Kansas city reads like an urban decay horror story: area residents described how the building was taken over by squatters and subject to drugs raids prior to being boarded up by city officials this week.

But considering who Collins had “managing” her properties in Kansas City, it’s possible that none of this is a surprise:

[Neighborhood leader Tom] Ribera said Collins never returned his calls, but “Douglas Bruce, her acting manager, [Pols emphasis] said he was trying to get a property manager over there. … It’s beyond maintenance; they need a contractor.”

Mystery solved! If you were wondering where Helen Collins got her awesome property management skills from, you can stop wondering. She learned how to be a slumlord from Doug Bruce! Who, in addition to being the Colorado Republican Party’s patron saint of tax policy as the author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), is one of our state’s more notorious slumlords.

Perhaps the worst part of this touching story of civic pride and urban renewal is the fact that the voters of Councilwoman Collins’ district didn’t care about any of this–or were at least kept in the dark about Collins’ landlady follies in the “Paris of the Plains” long enough to keep it from factoring in the now-failed recall attempt against her. It might seem unthinkable that a slumlord would be allowed to serve on a city council at all, even if the worst of the blighted properties in her possession are located in another city. But in conservative Colorado Springs, it’s apparently no hindrance to one’s political career.

And next time they vote to turn off the streetlights, it’ll make more sense.

Get More Smarter on Friday (April 10)

So it’s not technically a “Good Friday.” We’ll take it anyway. 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…

► Democrat Hillary Clinton will officially launch her campaign on Sunday, April 12, with an online video! Polling numbers are all over the place, which makes sense given that it is April 2015.

► Colorado business groups are backing a proposed ballot reform measure that would make it harder to reform the ballot — which is not a bad idea. As the Denver Business Journal explains:

Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 — introduced late Wednesday by Sens. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Pat Steadman, D-Denver — would require a majority of voters in a statewide general election to approve any proposed constitutional amendment before it is then resubmitted on a statewide ballot the next year.

It also would require that state officials conduct public hearings about any proposed amendments in each of the state’s seven congressional districts before the second round of voting on the question.

► The State House gave final approval to “The Long Bill,” despite a litany of silly objections from House Republicans. The discussion now heads back to the Senate to work out differences over the $26 billion budget proposal.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

James “SpongeDob” Dobson: Gay Marriage Could Start Civil War

James Dobson.

James Dobson.

We haven’t heard much in the last few years from the founder of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, since his retirement from that leading evangelical Christian group in 2009. Since then, Dobson has continued on with a new “ministry” with a similar focus, Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, which if you didn’t know is headquartered just across I-25 from Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.

Formerly an icon on the “culture wars,” famous for his tirade against the children’s television program SpongeBob Squarepants, Dobson has a somewhat lower profile in American politics today–reportedly by design–but when he does speak, he can still make controversial headlines without breaking a sweat. As Right Wing Watch reports:

James Dobson, the founder of the Religious Right behemoth Focus on the Family, warned in a recent conference call with fellow anti-gay activists that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality could lead to a full-blown civil war.

After Janet Porter, the creator of a new “documentary” about how the gay rights movement will outlaw Christianity, discussed her “restraining order” campaign to convince Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to rule on marriage cases, Dobson said that his fellow activists “need to be realistic about what we’re up against here.”

He said that the gay rights issue has reached an unprecedented “level of intensity” and put the country on the brink of conflict: “Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.” [Pols emphasis]

Dobson also claimed that marriage equality will lead to the collapse of the nation: “The country can be no stronger than its families. I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.”

Here’s the audio, with the Bob Beauprez-style civil war forecast starting at about 1:35:

And here’s where Dobson asserts that if the Supreme Court upholds marriage equality, the United States will “collapse in the next decade or two.”

Shocking stuff to hear in 2015, but keep it in perspective: a decade ago, this kind of far-out rhetoric was actually pretty common on the religious right. The last few years have witnessed a rapid shift in public opinion across America toward overwhelming public support for marriage equality, and the once-powerful religious right, led by men like Dobson, has been basically powerless to stop the falling dominoes.

But today, in what may be the last few months before the Supreme Court settles this question forever, it makes sense that the rhetoric from the far right–and naturally, we hope that it remains just rhetoric–is going bury the proverbial needle. Given his long history, it’s embarrassing but not a surprise that Colorado’s own James Dobson is staking out the fringe of this discussion.

Libby Szabo Makes Jeffco Taxpayers Buy Her a New Car So She Can Reach the Pedals

Libby Szabo Gets a New Car

Jeffco Commissioner Libby Szabo (not actual size).

When Republican Libby Szabo announced in January that she would resign from the State House in order to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, she was roundly criticized; the editorial board of the Denver Post said Szabo was “thumbing her nose at voters” by resigning her seat just two months after winning re-election to a third term in the House.

If Szabo’s job-hopping was “thumbing her nose” at voters, then she has since moved along to the middle finger. Szabo is now driving around in a brand-new, $40,000 car that was purchased specifically for her transportation needs as a county commissioner. Jefferson County Commissioners are technically allowed to request the use of a county-owned vehicle, but the other two Commissioners (Don Rosier and Casey Tighe) choose to drive their own personal cars rather than accept the kind of ridiculous perk that used to be common in scandal-ridden Jefferson County (former County Treasurer Mark Paschall, who was indicted over corruption allegations, once demanded that the county buy him a Cadillac Escalade).

It may be an oxymoron to call any Ford Taurus “top-of-the-line,” but county officials nevertheless sprung for the most expensive model because of an odd request from Szabo: She needed a car with “special pedals” because she is too short to drive a regular model.

No, seriously. We couldn’t possibly invent a story this absurd.

Jefferson County bought a new Ford Taurus SHO for Commissioner Libby Szabo.

Jefferson County bought a new Ford Taurus SHO for Commissioner Libby Szabo and billed taxpayers the $40,000.

Szabo is indeed a fairly short individual, but for years she drove her own vehicle back and forth from Arvada to the State Capitol in Denver. Maybe Szabo’s personal vehicle needed replacing, but you’d think she could find enough money in her $86,000 salary to buy her own car. Szabo no doubt understands the poor optics behind this request, because Jeffco purchased the Szabo-mobile two weeks before the County Commissioners voted to approve the expenditure (the invoice from Larry H. Miller Ford Lakewood is dated March 16; the expenditure was not formally approved by the Commissioners until March 26).

If you’re still inclined to shrug this off, we’ll leave you with the opening lines of this Denver Post story from reporter Joe Vaccarelli, which was first published just a few days before the county purchased Szabo’s new vehicle.

Libby Szabo always tries to lead by example.

Whether wanting to get a message across to her four kids, coaching youth soccer for 10 years or working across the aisle on a bill in the state legislature, she feels that actions speak louder than words.

“I think the best way to instill something in your children is to actually do it and let them see you do it,” Szabo said.

Indeed.