Vicki Marble’s Pack Heat Everywhere Act

LogoBGFlag

One of the emerging stories as the 2015 Colorado legislative session gets under way is what appears to be a more robust attempt by Republicans and gun-rights activists to repeal the 2013 gun safety bills passed in response to the Aurora shooting and other high-profile gun violence incidents the previous year. In 2014, Republicans introduced a similar slate of legislation repealing basically all of the gun bills passed in 2013, but Democrats weren't budging–and the gun activists' ability to draw huge crowds to the Capitol in opposition to these bills in 2013 failed to materialize in last year's session.

It's possible that gun activists, emboldened beyond all reason by last year's recall elections, were counting on a Republican sweep at the polls in 2014. But with Democrats remaining in control of the Colorado House, both recalled Senate seats retaken by Democrats, and Gov. John Hickenlooper re-elected, it's highly unlikely that we'll see any of 2013's gun safety bills repealed. Whether that hard reality motivates or once again suppresses the gun lobby's activist turnout is yet to be seen, but if their excuse in 2014 was that they were waiting for their electoral triumph…they'll need to keep waiting.

In the meantime, Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, one of the Colorado Senate's least reality-tethered members, isn't waiting to repeal 2013's gun safety bills to charge ahead with her own Rocky Mountain Gun Owners pet priority: doing away with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons. Check out the summary of Marble's Senate Bill 15-032:

The bill allows a person who legally possesses a handgun under state and federal law to carry a concealed handgun in Colorado. A person who carries a concealed handgun under the authority created in the bill has the same carrying rights and is subject to the same limitations that apply to a person who holds a permit to carry a concealed handgun under current law, including the prohibition on the carrying of a concealed handgun on the grounds of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school.

Of course, RMGO is hard at work on the guns on school grounds angle too–just not in this bill. We don't expect Marble's "Guns for Everyone" bill to fare any better than the repeal bills, of course, but the contrast couldn't be clearer between the agendas of the two parties on guns. One is within the mainstream of public opinion on the issue, and one is not. The best way to demonstrate just how far out of the mainstream Sen. Marble's bill is? The National Rifle Association's own polling shows that 74% of NRA members–not just the public, NRA members–believe concealed carriers should complete some kind of gun safety training first.

So who are the reasonable actors here? It's self-evident, folks.

Rep. Chaps Ain’t “Moderating” One Bit

chaps119

Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt was sworn in as a Colorado state legislator last Wednesday, an event he celebrated with his Facebook followers at the Pray in Jesus' Name Project. Rep. Klingesnschmitt didn't waste time getting the next couple editions of his Youtube video call-in show posted despite his swearing in last week, and this week's show is already online. For those just joining us, Colorado Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is a disgraced former Navy chaplain who regularly accuses President Barack Obama and a long cast of players in American politics of being "possessed" with "demonic spirits." On his weekly video program, "Chaps" warns that Obamacare causes cancer, and says only people who are "going to heaven" deserve equal rights from government. Last year, Chaps was finally persuaded to apologize, an apparently very rare occurrence, after suggesting that Rep. Jared Polis wanted to "join ISIS in beheading Christians."

In the latest episode of Pray in Jesus' Name, Klingenschmitt discusses the repeal of a city ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas that extended discrimination protections to LGBT residents. The narrow vote to repeal of Ordinance 119 after it was passed by the Fayetteville City Council last August was a pretty big story in mid-December. But the law "Chaps" talks about on his show bears little resemblance to what was actually passed–he describes Ordinance 119 as a law to "put Christians in jail, or at least bankrupt their businesses." On a one-to-ten scale of "Chaps" crazy, we'd rate this a solid 7+.

Despite his nationally infamous work product, which was notorious long before he ran for the Colorado legislature, "Chaps" was elected to represent the citizens of El Paso County's House District 15 by nearly 70% of the vote. Here's a sidenote of trivia: HD-15 is the same ultra-safe Republican House seat briefly occupied by anti-tax crusader (and now convicted tax cheat) Douglas Bruce, who was appointed to HD-15 after it was vacated by now-Senate President Bill Cadman. Bruce's abrasive personality wasn't compatible with service as a lawmaker (to put it mildly), and he was swiftly ousted in a primary by Mark Waller in 2008. Waller left the seat one term early to unsuccessfully run for Attorney General, opening the way for Klingenschmitt.

Rep. Klingenschmitt has yet to reveal himself in committee hearings and floor speeches as the same guy who makes–no small feat–some of looniest statements available on Youtube, but that's only because he hasn't had the chance yet. At every such opportunity as the legislative session gets going, we expect Democrats to be on hand with recording devices. Our personal prediction is that this is a man pathologically unable to contain himself, and he is going to take the offensive lunacy within the Republican caucus to embarrassing new lows.

The next report will be from the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. Stay tuned!

Weekend Open Thread

"For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first."

–Suzanne Collins, from The Hunger Games

Right-Wing School Board Presidents Caught Talking Shop

A photo taken yesterday by Scott Kwasny, the communications director of the Jefferson County Education Association, captures–apparently by random chance–a lunch meeting between Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt and the conservative presidents of several other school boards across the state at Lakewood's Jose O'Shea's Mexican restaurant:

wittboes

Ken Witt.

Ken Witt.

Witt is the guy hiding his face. We take Kwasny at his word on this, but you can also see Witt's blocky haircut poking out around his binder.

Kwasny identifies the other men in this picture as Kevin Larsen of Douglas County, Bob Kerrigan of the Thompson school district, Mark Clark of Adams 12 Five Star Schools, and Roger Good of Steamboat Springs–all conservative presidents of their respective school boards. According to Kwasny's Facebook post, the subject of discussion was teacher contracts.

To be clear, there's nothing illegal going on here, even though such a meeting raises obvious questions. These men all serve on different school boards, so they would not be subject to Colorado's open meetings law. The biggest problem with this photo is the optics–Ken Witt and the Jefferson County school board's conservative majority regularly insist that they are not coordinating ideological "Dougco-style" reforms to roll out in Jefferson County. He says so even after hiring the district's new superintendent out of Douglas County–but it's a matter of, you know, pretense.

Well folks, so much for that pretense.

Presidential Ponderation: Who Will be the GOP Nominee?

It's time again for Colorado Pols to ask you, our informed readers, about what you think is going to happen in 2016 race for President.

Our friends at "The Fix" have updated their Top 10 list of GOP candidates, highlighting a pretty slick move by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush this week. We want to know what Colorado Pols readers believe is going to happen in 2016 (we're also playing around with some different polling formats, so let us know your opinion in the comments section).

Remember, this is not a poll to ask your personal preference. Think about it in terms of placing a bet — if you had to bet everything you own on your answer being correct, which name would you choose? As we've done in years past, we'll compile the results of these polls over the next 18 months or so to see how perception changed (or did not). Make your choice after the jump…

(more…)

Gumming Abortion To Death, Part III: Game Over

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Huffington Post's Laura Bassett:

Emboldened by a new Senate majority, Republicans in Congress introduced five abortion restrictions in the first three days of the new legislative session that would severely limit women's access to the procedure.

Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Monday reintroduced a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which the GOP-controlled House already passed once in 2013. And Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced four bills on Wednesday that would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning funds, require all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, ban abortions performed on the basis of gender, and allow hospitals, doctors and nurses to refuse to provide or participate in abortion care for women, even in cases of emergency…

While the 20-week abortion ban never received a vote in the Senate after passing the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised anti-abortion activists that he will bring the bill to the floor. It would ban abortions two to four weeks earlier than the fetus would be viable outside the womb, violating the precedent set by the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. (In that case, the court ruled that women have a constitutional right to legal abortion up until the fetus would be viable outside the womb.)

Last August, now-Sen. Cory Gardner recommitted to voting for the 20-week abortion ban, as he did in June of 2013 the last time he was given the opportunity as a member of the House. We haven't seen a position from Gardner on these new abortion restriction bills introduced by Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, but none of them seem out of line with his "support for life"–even after abandoning the Colorado statewide Personhood abortion ban measures he had previously supported. And before any of you accuse Vitter of hypocrisy, keep in mind that he always used protection with the D.C. Madam's prostitutes.

We digress.

The long battle over Gardner's slippery record on abortion in 2014, an issue that Gardner freely embraced the extreme right of until he became a candidate for statewide office, was lost by Democrats–it's a story we've recounted since the election several times. Gardner's ability to "gum to death" his major and ongoing contradictions on abortion, eventually turning his opponents' relentless focus on the issue into a positive for his campaign, was a remarkable feat of political subterfuge–one of the greatest we have seen in our decade of covering Colorado politics.

Gardner's triumph over his own record on the issue of abortion is perhaps best demonstrated by the Denver Post's endorsement, in which they declared flat-out, in denial of all evidence to the contrary, that "Gardner's election would pose no threat to abortion rights." Not all newspaper endorsements matter, and arguably their importance has been in decline for years. But in this case, the "liberal" Denver Post's wholesale dismissal of this central plank in the case against Gardner's election had an outsize effect: perhaps even decisive after being celebrated in pro-Gardner ads from that moment until Election Day.

It's important to know all of this in order to understand why so many Democrats haven't "gotten over" the Post's endorsement of Cory Gardner. It wasn't just that the so-called "liberal" Denver newspaper endorsed the Republican candidate. It was the fact that their stated rationale for doing so was based on something Gardner's opponents knew was not true. And now, Gardner's going to prove it wasn't true. With votes.

With his own actions, Gardner is about to further erode the trust of voters in the information they get from the media to make electoral choices. In the long run, that's a very bad thing for the Post–but it hurts the rest of us, too. It's what makes people cynical about politics.

Maybe you shouldn't "get over" that.

Steve House Challenging Ryan Call for State GOP Chair

SteveHouse-FB

Check out the last comment from Steve House.

State Republican Chair Ryan Call looks to have serious opposition in his bid for re-election from former Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve House.

We told you this fight was coming back in December; despite a pretty successful 2014, Republican Party activists are not sold on Call and are not happy that he continues to take home a hefty salary for a position that was never intended to be a full-time job. As we wrote last month:

Republican activists remain irritated at the hefty salary awarded to their Party Chairman, a practice that began in 2007 when Dick Wadhams was elected Chair and pushed through changes to the Party bylaws that turned a largely-volunteer position into a full-time job. The State Republican Party was a mess when Wadhams took over, which made it much easier for Wadhams to advocate for a "temporary" change that would allow him to earn more money in a sort-of dual role as Chairman and Executive Director. But the "temporary" change initiated by Wadhams wasn't altered when Call succeeded Wadhams as Chair in 2011; in fact, the Republican Party (via the Colorado Republican Committee) now pays monthly salaries for Call as Chairman and Shana Kohn as Executive Director. Democrats also now employ a full-time Chairman and Executive Director, though the salaries are considerably higher for the GOP.

This looks like it's headed for a full-on battle, with House already claiming he has the support of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (see image at right from Facebook). House is independently wealthy and doesn't need to take the same salary that Call has enjoyed for years, and that may end up being the major sticking point rather than Republican success at the ballot box.

Let The Obamacare Games Begin!

Clock out.

Clock out.

Huffington Post's Mike McAuliff reports:

In yet another attempt to roll back President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, House Republicans advanced a bill Thursday that they said protects the 40-hour workweek, but that Congress' own budget analyst says damages it.

The "Save American Workers Act" targets the requirement under Obamacare that larger employers provide health insurance to employees who work at least 30 hours per week, or pay fines. The bill would raise the threshold to 40 hours…

The theory being that employers who have cut employees' hours to fewer than 30 per week to "beat" the Obamacare mandate that employees cover full time workers. The problem is, there no real evidence that has happened, despite it being one of the most frequent claims leveled by Affordable Care Act detractors:

[O]fficial data maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that there has actually been no shift toward greater part-time work. [Pols emphasis] In fact, the data shows part-time employment spiked with the recession, and has been decreasing since passage of Obamacare in 2010.

In addition, Democrats were quick to note that the official nonpartisan analyst for the House, the Congressional Budget Office, warned as recently as Wednesday that the measure was likely to create even more part-time workers. That's because vastly more Americans work 40-hour weeks than 30-hour weeks, and employers would have a greater incentive to reduce their hours if the threshold was 40 per week.

The problem with this is simple: there are many more full-time than part-time employees, and a worker is still considered full-time if they work more than 32 hours in Colorado and most other states. Moving the cutoff for required health care coverage to 40 hours per week could easily result in what Republicans say they're trying to prevent, hours reductions with an ulterior motive–and to many more workers, effectively killing off the employer mandate for millions of full-time employees to "protect" a much smaller number of people. As Colorado's Rep. Jared Polis explained today:

"If this very dangerous provision were to become law, many, many Americans would find themselves cut from 40 to 39 hours, 39 and a half hours," said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) during floor debate. "Go home at 4:30 on Friday. Sorry, no health care."

"This is simply a bad idea, a disincentive for companies to even provide healthcare to their employees. Not only that, this is a deficit buster," Polis added. "How are we going to pay for this $53 billion that this costs?"

This is how it goes down: hurting people while pretending you're doing them a favor.

Sorry, Colorado GOP, But You Do Not Have a Mandate

The Neville Nutters: Sen. Tim Neville (left) and his son, Rep. Pat Neville

The Neville Nutters: Sen. Tim Neville (left) and his son, Rep. Pat Neville, just like to say no to stuff.

Colorado Republicans hold a one-vote majority in the State Senate. Democrats maintain a majority in the State House, as well as the Governor's office.

Readers of Colorado Pols probably know this already, but it's worth repeating because Republican legislators seem to think that voters gave them a mandate to go full-on crazy pants this year (relax, Dr. Chaps, we're not talking about that kind of "man date"). It's not just the anti-abortion "Personhood-ish" bills that might have you scratching your head; take a look at some of the other pieces of legislation that Republicans are introducing in Colorado. We'll forgive you for thinking this was 2001 — when Republicans basically owned the State Capitol — instead of 2015:

- SB15-045: Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg rolls out with a school vouchers bill (er, "Tax Credits for Private Schools").

- SB15-032: Majority Caucus Chair Vicki Marble does the bidding the of the RMGO with legislation that would allow Coloradans to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

- SB15-044: Lundberg and Senate President Bill Cadman are among the Republicans sponsors of a bill to cut back renewable energy mandates in Colorado.

- SB15-018: The Neville Nutters (Sen. Tim Neville and his son, Rep. Pat Neville) want to repeal the Late Vehicle Registration Fee. There's no actual plan here for how to pay for road and bridge construction and maintenance. This is a very simple "No" bill that seeks only to repeal something.

- HB15-1009: Remember that restriction on high-capacity ammunition? Yeah, let's repeal that!

- HB15-1037: Rep. Kevin Priola and The Neville Nutters sponsor what we'll call "The RIght to Discriminate Act", which allows you to freely exclude people so long as you claim that it is based on your religious beliefs.

All of this is just the beginning — the tip of the ever-melting iceberg — from Republican legislators who apparently believe that Colorado voters told them in 2014 that they had a mandate to "Just Say No" to pretty much everything. We haven't seen a collection of legislation that is this far-right since…well, we can't even remember the last time (and Colorado Pols has been around for 10 years).

Look, we get that we are living in a time in America where partisanship has never been more, uh, partisan, but this is pretty freakin' far from anything even resembling the general interests of Colorado voters. You could argue that Republicans are just "being Republicans" and trying to stick to some sort of manufactured set of ideals that they think got them elected, but this is the kind of thing that you usually see only when one side either has a clear majority or is so far in the minority that it doesn't matter if they draw up their legislation with crayons. This is a very risky strategy when you only control one chamber of the legislature — and even then by only one seat.

Perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise, however. This is on the front page of Rep. Pat Neville's campaign website, where he declares that the HD-45 Representative should be a "CONSERVATIVE STALWART" (he put it in all caps, too):

PatNeville-Website

From PatrickForColorado.com, the campaign site of Rep. Pat Neville.

Abortion Ban Bill Introduced In Colorado Legislature (Again)

For God and country.

For God and country.

The Colorado Springs Gazette's Ryan Maye Handy:

A slew of proposed bills from both the House and Senate target some of Colorado's hot-button issues, including one House bill that seeks to make performing abortions a felony…

Longtime Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, along with Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, and newly elected Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, put their names on House Bill 1041, the anti-abortion bill.

…The abortion bill is an echo of past attempts to get personhood laws on the books in Colorado. The most recent attempt, a law that would have classified killing unborn child[ren] as murder, was rejected by voters in the November 2014 election.

A total of ten Colorado Republican legislators in the House and Senate have signed on as cosponsors of House Bill 14-1041. Democrats have assigned the bill to the House Judiciary Committee to die, avoiding the negative optics that sometimes come with sending a bill to the usual "kill committee" of State Affairs. It's not like the bill's fate is any less certain.

What this lost-cause piece of legislation will do, of course, is provide Democrats with exactly what they need to validate their contention that Republicans are the true "social issue warriors"–the label Republican Cory Gardner pinned successfully on Mark Udall as a foil to Udall's nonstop attacks on Gardner over abortion. The media and chattering class turned against "Mark Uterus," but when Gardner votes for a 20-week abortion ban in the Republican controlled U.S. Senate this year, what will they say then?

Because when local Republicans told voters last year that Colorado womens' "right to an abortion is not in jeopardy," they were flat-out lying. This latest abortion ban bill just continues a trend:

During the 2014 state legislative session, lawmakers introduced 335 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion. By the end of the year, 15 states had enacted 26 new abortion restrictions. Including these new provisions, states have adopted 231 new abortion restrictions since the 2010 midterm elections swept abortion opponents into power in state capitals across the country.

The risk inherent here is that voters, honest reporters, etc. will begin to understand that the "war on women" simply goes on hiatus at election time. This bizarre cycle of abortion being written off by the pundits as a nonissue in October, only to roar back to life the following January, can't go on forever.

Can it?

Thursday Open Thread

"Americans have been conditioned to respect newness, whatever it costs them."

–John Updike

Local Political Icon Starts New “Crisis Comms” Group

Michael Huttner.

Michael Huttner.

The Hill reports on the latest venture for local liberal operative Michael Huttner of Boulder, whose exploits in Colorado politics over the last decade are the stuff of political stuntman legend:

Melanie Sloan, the founding executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), is teaming up with Michael Huttner, the founder of a state-based progressive communications network called ProgressNow. It has more than 3.4 million members in 23 states.

In an announcement, Sloan and Huttner said their firm will specialize in “crisis and disruption strategies.”

“After more than 20 years in public service, the last 12 years running CREW, I am excited to open a new firm specializing in crisis and disruption strategies,” Sloan said. “I also am thrilled to be partnering with Michael Huttner, a creative and tireless advocate.”

From Triumph Strategy's press release:

Michael Huttner is an accomplished political strategist and communications expert, most recently involved in the successful re-election of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Huttner is also the founder of ProgressNow, a network of state-based communications organizations with more than 3.4 million members in 23 states. 

The new firm specializes in proactive, creative communications strategies, including crisis management and narrative development for private, nonprofit and public sector institutions, trade associations and unions, candidates for public office and those facing complex public policy challenges…

“Michael is an aggressive advocate with demonstrated expertise in public policy, rapid-response communications, and digital media,” said Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO).

As the founder of ProgressNow, Huttner's aggressiveness going after local conservatives made him a feared component of the "Colorado Model"–the issue advocate and political comms alliance that helped flip the state solidly blue between 2004 and 2010. More recently, Huttner has worked with nationally focused committees like the House Majority PAC, as well as outside groups working to support John Hickenlooper in Colorado last year.

Safe to say, the combination of Huttner and Melanie Sloan of CREW fame is not one we'd want to oppose.