Let’s Get Cracking, Fracking

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Oil and gas drilling near a high school in Greeley, Colorado, in 2015.

It looks like it’s time to get all fracked up for 2016. From the Denver Post:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has “failed” to protect homeowners and communities from the impacts of drilling, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis said late Tuesday, leaving the door open to throwing his support behind another citizen-initiated ballot measure this fall.

“I think that setbacks and giving communities a legitimate say on what kind of industrial activity is appropriate in backyards and schoolyards are reasonable solutions that ought to be considered,” Polis said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that all stakeholders can coalesce around a thoughtful plan.”

The leader of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, who has leveled his own criticism of the  new COGCC rules approved Monday, on Wednesday called Polis’ characterization “unfair.”

“To say that communities are not protected is not a fair statement,” COGA CEO Dan Haley said. “Local governments have a strong voice in this process, and the task force recommendations were about giving them an even greater role in oil and gas development.”

If communities really were being protected, we probably wouldn’t be arguing about this, now would we?

All of the COGCC meetings in the world aren’t going to change the fundamental issue here: NOBODY wants to live near an active oil or gas drilling operation. The oil and gas industry can continue to claim that it will bring 10 gajillion jobs to Colorado if only we would let them do what they want, but that’s never going to trump the health and safety concerns of Colorado residents.

The industry promises that it will fight any potential ballot measures in 2016 that might weaken its potential profits, but we continue to have a hard time believing that most Colorado voters would actually oppose efforts to move drilling sites further from residential areas, parks, and schools. Yes, we know that the oil and gas industry will spend millions trying to defeat any potential regulations, but in a Presidential election year, all of those TV ads can easily get lost in the shuffle.

GOP Rep. Demonstrates Need For Parental Leave, Then Votes No

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

Rep. Kevin Priola (R).

A press release from the Colorado House Democratic majority highlights a bill moving through that chamber to expand parental leave rights for Colorado workers–and contains an amusing twist:

A bill by Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, to allow parents to take unpaid leave to attend their children’s essential academic activities passed the Education Committee on a party line vote this morning. HB16-1002, Rep. Buckner’s first bill of her legislative career, reenacts the 2009 “Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act,” which sunset in 2015.

“The bill takes the simple, common-sense step to ensure that working parents can take unpaid time off work to attend their children’s academic activities,” said Rep. Buckner. “I know the kids of Aurora and Colorado deserve every opportunity to succeed. I’m excited to get this important bill for working families past the first step in the process and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to make it law. Frankly, I’m disappointed that House Republicans joined in lockstep to oppose this simple, common-sense bill to help working families. In my first bill it was really sad to see my fellow legislators put politics before kids and parents.”

The kicker?

The hearing on the bill began on Monday, Jan. 25, but was laid over when Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, asked for a delay because, ironically, he needed to take his child to a doctor’s appointment. [Pols emphasis] Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, Chair of the House Education Committee permitted the delay, reminding the room that many parents in Colorado do not have the luxury to rearrange work for their children’s needs, which is why this bill is so badly needed.

The hearing resumed today with the expectation that it would be a quick vote on a single amendment and then the bill. But the conversation was drawn out, first over an amendment proposed by GOP Rep. Joann Windholz, R-Commerce City, to remove a section to have schools notify parents of their right to ask for leave. Educators presented testimony on Monday that parental involvement is crucial, and that parents deserve to know their rights as it relates to staying involved with school activities. The amendment failed on a party line vote.

Republicans continued to belabor the point, insisting that this bill would affect businesses, despite the fact that the bill was law for over five years with no negative consequences.

This legislation is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, but its fate in the GOP-controlled Senate is uncertain at best. This is an issue where Republicans should tread more carefully, given the competing interests of business and “family values” that plainly conflict in this bill. But as Rep. Kevin Priola’s unintentional validation of the need for it demonstrates–even more by his subsequent no vote on the bill–the political danger in opposing parental leave is not apparent to them.

The latter happens all the time, but they don’t always undercut themselves so ironically.

JoAnn Windholz: No Apologies. Dems: Good.

GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz (center).

GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz (center).

Yesterday, supporters of Planned Parenthood delivered a petition signed by over 60,000 people across the nation calling for GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz to resign over her comments blaming the organization for the attack on its clinic in Colorado Springs last November. As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports:

The group organizing a recall against state Rep. JoAnn Windholz told The Colorado Independent today they plan to drop their effort.

Instead they will focus on keeping Windholz’s name and remarks blaming Planned Parenthood for the shooting at its Colorado Springs clinic in front of her district’s voters between now and Election Day, said organizer Steve Cohn…

About a dozen members of the recall group came to the state Capitol today, asking that Windholz resign. They brought with them more than 63,000 signatures from an online petition that also asked Windholz to step down. According to Chris Burley of Denver, senior campaign manager for Care2, an online petition service, about 2,000 of those signatures came from Coloradans.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch got a response from Windholz:

“I never once blamed the victims and as a supporter of life I am deeply saddened by the loss of any life,” Windholz said in a statement. “I will continue to support life and the values of my constituents.” [Pols emphasis]

Three days after a five-hour standoff left three dead and nine wounded, Windholz, a Republican from Commerce City, posted on her Facebook page comments critical of Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, saying: “The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves.” The post has been removed.

In the aftermath of Windholz’s statements about the Planned Parenthood terror attack in Colorado Springs, Democrats were obviously excited about the opportunity this created in one of the most narrowly-won GOP House victories of 2014. Windholz has always been unapologetically pro-life, but blaming Planned Parenthood for the violence committed against the organization makes that much harder for swing voters to ignore. Where it might have been overlooked previously, now strident anti-abortion politics is a central part of Windholz’s brand–in a politically competitive district ill-suited for it.

With that in mind, the last thing Democrats should want is for Windholz to be forced to resign, allowing her to be replaced by a less-damaged candidate. With Windholz standing by her words, and local Republicans standing behind her, the best place for Windholz from a Democrat’s point of view is right where she is.

As Napoleon said, never interrupt your opponent when they are making a mistake.

Hey, Look, Jim Gilmore is Still Here!

Yes, Jim Gilmore, you made it to the final four!

Yes, Jim Gilmore, you made it to the final four!

On Thursday FOX News will host the final Republican Presidential debate before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, and the big news — of course — is that frontrunner Donald Trump plans to skip the event in Des Moines.

But that’s not the only news that caught our attention. Per FOX News, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore somehow qualified for the “Junior Varsity” or “Kids’ Table” debate that will take place before tomorrow night’s main event:

To qualify for the prime-time debate, a candidate had to place in the top six in an average of recent national polls, or in the top five in an average of recent Iowa or New Hampshire polls. ‎The evening debate features other candidates who received a minimum 1 percent in at least one recent national poll.

We haven’t seen or heard much of anything about Gilmore since he magically appeared at the very first Republican Presidential debate undercard back in August. We find this a tad hard to believe, but apparently there is at least one national poll in which Gilmore captures at least 1% of the vote.

Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Carly Fiorina are scheduled to join Gilmore at the Junior Varsity table tomorrow evening. It’s probably not much of a confidence boost to find out that you have to debate against a guy that nobody even knew was still a candidate. It’s entirely possible that Gilmore himself didn’t know he was still running for President.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Jan. 27)

Get More SmarterA bunch of armed terrorists take over a federal building in Oregon, and they blame law enforcement when one of them is killed. Sure, that makes sense. 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 Iowa caucuses are just days away, and Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump seems confident enough that he is skipping Thursday’s GOP debate on FOX News.

On Tuesday, Trump picked up the endorsements of Jerry Falwell, Jr., the President of Liberty University and the son of the deceased evangelical leader with the same name, and Arizona whacked sheriff Joe Arpaio. There may be no stopping Trump now.

 

► Republican Tim Leonard was selected over the weekend to replace Rep. Jon Keyser, who is resigning from the legislature in order to focus his time on preparing to get trounced in the June Republican Primary for U.S. Senate. Here’s a shock: The Republican vacancy committee process sounds like it was pretty shady.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Mike Coffman’s Weak Q4 Doesn’t Inspire Confidence

Numbers are in for the all-important CD-6 race in the 4th quarter of 2015:

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

We can start with the obvious, incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman did outraise his Democratic opponent Morgan Carroll, and has a hefty war chest in the bank. With that said, $313,000 is significantly short of objective expectations for Coffman in this race, which directly helps Carroll’s perception of viability–even though Carroll’s number isn’t really spectacular either. Carroll doesn’t need to outraise Coffman to compete in this race — not with so much third party support coming her way — and $277,000 is plenty with which to move forward.

So the question then turns back to Coffman. In Q4 of 2013, the last cycle-equivalent period, Coffman raised almost $70,000 more than he did in Q4 2015.

The numbers look worse for Coffman when you look at recent history. In Q2 2015, Coffman turned in his worst fundraising quarter in four years. In other words, Coffman has significantly underperformed in 2 out of the last 3 fundraising cycles.

There’s some excepting that can be generously made for the increasing role of outside money in congressional races, but at a certain level you just can’t spin the bottom line.

These numbers tell the story of Coffman’s continuing vulnerability.

Perlmutter Draws GOP Opponent With Some…Interesting Views

Bruce Baker in an extremely dark image provided by his campaign website.

Bruce Baker in an extremely dark image available at his campaign website.

Republicans in Congressional District 7 (Jefferson County) now know the name of the candidate who will not be defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter in November.

Perlmutter has consistently churned out double-digit victories every two years no matter whom the GOP sets in his path, so you don’t need to know much about Westminster city council member Bruce Baker to conclude that he has virtually no chance at defeating Perlmutter. But just in case, as Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman, you’ll be interested to know that Baker sounds like a pretty terrible candidate anyway:

We need to end immigration — all immigration, not just illegal immigration,” Baker told The Colorado Statesman Tuesday. “We built this country for ourselves and our posterity, not the world’s posterity. I’m more concerned about the well-being and success of Americans than I am about some smart, willing, friendly immigrant coming from somewhere else.”

Uh, okay. Stop immigration altogether? Even Donald Trump won’t touch that one.

He said that Republicans needed to step up and draw the line on immigration the same way the party opposed slavery and went on to compare the two issues.

“Immigration is an institution of slavery,” Baker said. “It’s built on the exploitation of people. Immigration is the exploitation not only of the immigrants coming in but of the natives being displaced from their jobs. That needs to end.”

Immigration is like slavery as apples are to…yeah, you lost us completely there with the slavery comparison.

Baker is also proposing establishing a high tariff on all imports as a way to address what he called concerns about global warming and shrinking resources…

…The tariff, he said, should start at 10 percent and then be raised “on a consistent basis,” resulting in “self-sufficiency.”

So, a 10 percent minimum tariff on all imports? Let us know how that works out.

 

 

Gun Bills Head For Usual Fate, With One Improbable Maybe

Guns.

Guns.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly led by Sen. Tim Neville are pushing most of the usual slate of pro-gun bills in 2016, starting with another attempt to repeal the 15-round magazine limit passed in 2013:

Lawmakers in Colorado, including one state Senator who’s running for higher office, have introduced at least three measures to expand gun rights so far at the start of this year’s legislative session.

One of the bills, unsurprisingly, is aimed at rolling back a 2013 package of legislation that limited to 15 the amount of bullets a gun magazine could hold in Colorado. One of the sponsors in the Senate is Tim Neville of Jefferson County who is running in the crowded GOP primary field for U.S. Senate this year. The bill is pretty simple: It repeals the 2013 law, and “declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”

Another bill, also sponsored in part by Neville, would extend to the workplace the state’s ‘Make My Day’ law, which allows Coloradans to use deadly force against intruders in their own homes under certain circumstances. This new law would allow the same ability to “owners, managers, and employees of businesses.”

A third measure would scrap the permitting requirements for carrying a concealed weapon in Colorado.

The last of these bills mentioned, Senate Bill 16-017 eliminating additional permit requirements to carry concealed weapons, is up for a hearing tomorrow in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Interestingly, we have not seen a bill yet to repeal the requirement for background checks to be conducted for most gun purchases, something gun rights supporters has clamored loudly for but has always been the most popular of the 2013 reform measures. Today, polling in Colorado and nationally shows consistent and enduring support for expanding background checks, making Colorado a leader on the issue–so maybe this is a fight we won’t be having in Colorado in 2016.

The one proposal on which we might yet see some fireworks in the legislature this year would be a much-threatened but as-yet unintroduced bill to relax the magazine limit law from the current 15 maximum rounds to 30 rounds–a change that would allow the 30-round high-capacity mags considered “standard” on AR-15 assault rifles to be sold in Colorado once again. This idea was championed last year by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute as an incremental measure, but was summarily rejected by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their powerful bloc of legislators–who say any magazine limit “compromise” short of full repeal would be unacceptable.

The latest word as we understand it is that Democrats have no interest in either helping Caldara look good or defusing internal conflict between Republicans–which sharply reduces the possibility of the Democratic defections Caldara would need. That combined with the RMGO’s lockdown of its member legislators against raising the mag limit seems to indicate that no such end run is in the offing.

If that changes you’ll know, because nothing turns up the volume at the Capitol like a good squabble over guns.

BREAKING: Controversy Rocks GOP HD-25 Vacancy

In the wake of Tim Leonard’s victory in the GOP Colorado House District 25 vacancy committee selection this past weekend, dissidents led by ubiquitous conservative watchdog Marilyn Marks are challenging the process by which the members of the vacancy committee were organized. A Facebook post from Florence Urbish Sebern, a Republican activist in Denver, appears to allege that the vacancy committee was altered just before the vote:

sebern

This message was evidently in response to former Sen. Ted Harvey’s defense of the process:

harveyhd25

Obviously, Harvey’s admission that the committee list that was filed with the Colorado Secretary of State “was not correct” raises big and very appropriate red flags–even is he claims it is “all good.” We have to note that Republican vacancy committee hearings are routinely fraught with controversy, but this could be something more than the usual tit-for-tat. What we’ve heard suggests that they can’t stop Rep. Tim Leonard from taking office, but a lawsuit could cause much intraparty friction in the coming weeks and months.

All of which calls into question the decision of Jon Keyser to resign this seat. In addition to resulting in a coup for the growing power base of Keyser’s U.S. Senate primary opponent Tim Neville, Keyser’s vacancy could be reopening wounds within the Colorado GOP that among other things won’t help his aspirations for higher office.

Stay tuned, we’ll update as the story develops.

At Least He’s Not Your State Senator

In another edition of our long-running feature, “At Least He’s Not Your Legislator,” we visit our idiot neighbors to the East. As the Associated Press reports:

A dress code imposed by a Kansas Senate committee chairman that prohibits women testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts is drawing bipartisan ridicule from female legislators.

Sen. Mitch Holmes’ 11-point code of conduct does not include any restrictions on men, who he said needed no instruction on how to look professional.

Yup.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Jan. 26)

Get More SmarterOnly seven more days until we can stop pretending to care about Iowa’s opinion. 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…

► Transportation funding is quickly rising to the top of the to-do list in the state legislature. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

Gov. John Hickenlooper and lawmakers are mostly united this session in a mission to find more money for road building and maintenance, but what is less universal is the solution.

Democrats and Republicans are moving in opposite directions and struggling to reach consensus on how to find more money — an impasse that is complicated by a state budget crunch.

Half of Colorado’s $1.28 billion transportation budget is spent on maintaining existing roads, according to state officials, which leaves little room for expansion projects demanded by a booming population. Colorado Department of Transportation officials estimate that revenues fall short of demand by about $1 billion a year.

The magnitude of the situation is even  renewing interest in options once deemed off-limits, such as an increase in motor vehicle fees or a sales or gas tax hike. Another proposal is a $3.5 billion debt package for road bonds.

Frank is being pretty generous in the opening paragraphs here. Republicans in the legislature aren’t actually proposing a solution of their own — they’re just balking at everything suggested by Democrats while they stammer on with the traditional nothing burger talking point about “cutting spending.”

 

► Republicans appear to be making peace with the idea of Donald Trump as their Presidential nominee in 2016. From the Washington Post:

One week before the first votes of the 2016 campaign are cast, Donald Trump has solidified his standing nationally, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Republicans see Trump as strongest candidate on major issues and by far the most electable in the large field of GOP hopefuls…

…Amid this political climate, Trump has maintained his place atop the Republican field for six months. He currently receives the support of 37 percent of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, almost identical to the 38 percent support he enjoyed a month ago.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas runs second in the national survey with 21 percent, surpassing his previous high of 15 percent in December. Third place belongs to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 11 percent, virtually unchanged from 12 percent a month ago.

Forget “Making American Great”; Donald Trump’s new campaign slogan should be “Eh, Fine, Whatever.”

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Tuesday Open Thread

“It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture.”

–Benjamin E. Mays

Chaps, Alan Keyes Don’t Trust Trump To REALLY Ban Muslims


Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, Donald Trump.

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, Donald Trump.

Here’s a clip from Colorado GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s most recent Pray in Jesus’ Name “Youtube ministry” broadcast, a fascinating exchange in an interview with conservative firebrand and former U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes–on the subject of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s call to halt all immigration of Muslims into the United States:

CHAPS: Donald Trump has been saying, because of the terrorism problem, and we saw the recent shooting in San Bernardino, that Muslims should be excluded from immigrating or from even being given refugee status to America, until Congress can figure out what’s going on, if I’m paraphrasing him correctly. What does he mean by that or what do you think?

KEYES: I think that what he means by that is because you have in the Middle East a hotbed of terrorism, countries that are basically the centers and [unintelligible] for the development of people who carry out terrorism, that therefore we shouldn’t be importing the problem into the United States. And as a general formulation I agree with that. We shouldn’t be importing the people into the United States who are coming to this country to kill us and we never should have imported them.

But the problem, and if you have half an hour to spare you can watch the entire bug-eyed spectacle, is that Donald Trump won’t really ban those Muslims like he says! Keyes is definitely not a Trump fan, but it’s not because Trump says he wants to ban Muslims. As anyone who’s attended the Western Conservative Summit can tell you, lots of conservatives want to do that.

The takeaway: Trump is just telling you he wants to ban Muslims to earn your vote, America! Well not your vote, exactly, but the votes of the not-insubstantial number of Americans who want to ban Muslims, a segment which crosses over heavily with Republican primary voters. In the GOP presidential race today, the magic formula appears to be appealing to the same lowest-common-denominator interests Trump motivates while still having a way to morally differentiate one’s self from Trump.

Really, folks, who better on this Earth to sort it out for us than Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt?