Is Scott Tipton Really Looking at Senate in 2016?

Rep. Scott Tipton (R)

Rep. Scott Tipton (R)

It's been about a week since an advisor to Republican Rep. Scott Tipton floated his name for U.S. Senate in 2016, and things have been quiet ever since. This seems to have been an effort to just throw Tipton's name out in the mix, rather than a true trial balloon, but is there more to last week's story in The Hill newspaper:

“Congressman Tipton was honored to have been elected to serve a third term and is focused on fighting for the issues that matter most to Colorado's 3rd Congressional District,” a political adviser to Tipton told The Hill. “But Congressman Tipton isn't ruling out any options down the road that would enable him to have the greatest impact possible for the people of the State of Colorado.”

Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams said Thursday that Tipton would be a strong candidate.

“He beat a respected Democrat in a Democratic county with a big chunk of Hispanic voters,” Wadhams said. “If he wanted to run for Senate, he would be a very credible candidate.”

It's not at all uncommon for elected officials to float their names for future office, whether they really have any intention of running or not. It increases Tipton's political influence to be mentioned as a potential candidate for Senate, and it is also a nice little ego boost. But the lack of any serious follow-up news in the 10 days since The Hill story does make us wonder if there is anything more to this besides name-floating.

Tipton would be an interesting candidate in 2016 should he decide to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, though we doubt he'd be able to clear the Republican field first. Tipton represents a huge geographical area in the sprawling CD-3, but he has largely toiled outside of the Denver Metro media market and would have a lot of work to do just to raise his name ID. On the other hand, Tipton does have some personal wealth that he could tap into for a Senate run, and Republicans wouldn't have to worry about losing his seat in a General Election as CD-3 looks to be solidly in the red column (and there would be plenty of Republicans looking at CD-3 who would offer Tipton encouragement to move along).

Senate GOP Kills College Tuition Cap Bill

Student life.

Student life.

Via AP and the Fort Collins Coloradoan, a priority from Gov. John Hickenlooper's State of the State address dies at the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee:

The Senate Education Committee considered a Democratic bill to extend the current 6 percent hike cap indefinitely. The proposal was part of the Democrats' broader agenda this year to rein in costs for the middle class.

For some students at Colorado State University on Thursday, the proposal sounded like a sound idea.

"Making sure (tuition hikes aren't) ludicrous, like a 20 percent jump? I'm for that," junior health and exercise science major Philip Ephraim said.

The 2011-12 school year saw a 20 percent jump for in-state students over the previous year. Tuition had increased by 9 percent annually for the years before and after that year, according to CSU. The Legislature passed the tuition cap last year, but it was not permanent…

Laura Waters Woods.

Laura Waters Woods.

Of course, the 6% tuition cap bill that died yesterday was only "permanent" for as long as the General Assembly wanted it to be. Any such statute can be changed at any time. But in Hickenlooper's State of the State address, he called for tuition at Colorado state schools to increase by no more than 6%, in an effort to control the growth in the cost of higher education. Which, if you haven't heard, has been a big problem in recent years (see above).

But by fewer than 700 votes in suburban Arvada, Republicans are in charge of the Colorado Senate. Sen. Laura Waters Woods and her hard-right colleagues on the Senate Education Committee are expected to be a major roadblock on education issues for the next two years, and yesterday's action lived up to the predictions.

On Thursday, Education Committee members agreed that Colorado has done a poor job of funding higher education, but the GOP-controlled board voted 5-4 on party lines to reject the measure.

Republicans on the committee pointed out that even the 6 percent cap could mean tuition would double in a couple of decades. They called the cap an arbitrary limit on the institutions and an example of "micromanaging" the schools…

It's called gridlock, folks, and it's what's on tap in the Colorado Senate through 2016. The only thing we can tell you, and the student body of Colorado State University, is everybody had better get used to it.

And elections matter. We'll say that again too.

Civil Union-Marriage Reconciliation Torpedoed

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Pat Steadman's bill to reconcile the old civil union regulations with the new marriage law was sunk yesterday by Republicans on the Senate State Affairs Committee. There didn't seem to be a good reason for their action, other than not wanting to allow any enabling legislation of a status of which they disapprove.

As things stand, a couple who entered a civil union in Colorado and later married, would need to dissolve the civil union and the marriage separately should the relationship go sour. I suspect that this inequity in the law will be rectified by one of those "darned activist judges" the first time such a couple runs into this problem and sues the state over it. How much will this cost the state to defend?  

Also, currently, if a couple with a legal marriage from another state moves to Colorado, their relationship is recognized as a civil union; even if they have a legal marriage from another state. Sen. Steadman's bill would also have rectified this lack of full comity, which is extended to mixed-sex marriages. This will most likely go to court as well, costing the state more legal fees. And the  Republicans say Democrats are fiscally irresponsible.

On radio, Buck says Obama wants to create a “majority vote” of people “receiving benefits from government”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

Even if you're a just a talk-radio host, don't just say "Yap," as KHOW 630-AM's Mandy Connell did yesterday, when your special guest, in this case, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), insults the President.

"He's a wonderful orator," Buck told Connell during her morning show yesterday. "And he makes everybody happy. The reality is, that he has no intention of flattening the tax code. He has every intention of making sure that he is creating a majority vote, a 51 percent vote, of people who are receiving benefits from the government that they wouldn't otherwise receive."

As I noted, Connell's reply to this was the utterance of "Yap." My own thought was more along the lines of WTF. This is what Buck got from Obama's State of Union Address?

Where's Buck's proof that Obama has a political agenda to create a "51 percent vote" of Americans "receiving benefits from government that they wouldn't otherwise receive."

Is he reading Obama's mind? If Buck has evidence for this wild and insulting accusation, we'd all like to see it. But if he doesn't, it's more grossness from our new Representative from Colorado.

Buck isn't a lonely District Attorney anymore–or a candidate making yet another gaffe that reporters don't have time to dig into. Now he's a Congressman who should be held accountable–even by radio hosts–for his insults and baseless mud slinging.

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Big Step in Moffat County Toward Greater Sage Grouse Protection

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A recent column in the Glenwood Spring Post Independent is correctly titled: “Clock ticking on greater Sage Grouse decision,” and it discusses how even though Congress attempted to defund efforts to protect the species, the federal government is compelled and still on track to make a decision on listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act by this September. Indeed, the clock is ticking.

But despite this, there is also hopeful news lately on the grouse, at least some signs of progress toward gains in meaningful and on-the-ground protections for this unique and important species. 

First, tangible measures to protect the grouse are being put in place on private lands through conservation agreements. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust recently completed a conservation easement on one of the largest working ranches in Northwest Colorado. Multiple partners contributed to the protection of 16,000 acres of key sage grouse habitat on the Cross Mountain Ranch in Moffat County, close to Dinosaur National Monument, as reported in the Steamboat Pilot:

In the easement document, reasons for conserving the land include a desire to preserve Moffat County’s infamous wide-open spaces. More importantly, it preserves thousands of acres of dense Greater sage grouse habitat.

Tim Griffiths, national coordinator for the Natural Resources Conservation Services’ Sage Grouse Initiative, said this particular parcel should be able to help conserve about 5,000 Greater sage grouse birds.

He also said the biggest threat to the Greater sage grouse species is fragmentation and conserving this piece of land creates a quarter-million acre checkerboard of public and private conserved land woven together.

“We just removed the threat of fragmentation in the one place in Colorado that has more birds than anywhere else in the state,” Griffiths said.

This tangible progress is being made through the partnerships of nonprofit organizations like the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, which secured the Moffat County agreement, with state agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the federal government programs, like the Sage Grouse Initiative.

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Obama’s programs to halt deportations are “so repugnant,” Buck would shut down security agency to stop them

(Ken Buck is not what you'd call a "compassionate conservative" – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

Would the Republican-controlled Congress shut down the Department of Homeland Security to halt Obama’s program delaying deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens?

Colorado’s own Rep. Ken Buck would do it.

KLZ radio host Randy Corporon gets a moment of respect for putting the question directly to Buck during an interview Jan.15 on his “Wake-Up” show. (Beginning at 1:50:30 here)

Corporon: Republicans in the past anyway have shown a willingness to cave in the face of public pressure and media assaults. When the President says, ‘Hey look, Congress is messing with the security of the United States,’ are you guys in Congress ready to make the case that we’ve put the bills on his desk…and are you going to have a message that keeps you guys standing together and actually lets this thing play out.

Buck: I can tell you this: Ken Buck will. I will make the case, and I will make sure that we are not funding those portions of his executive action that are so repugnant.

So repugnant? Keeping parents together with their American kids? Keeping our communities whole?

Obama has used his executive authority to temporarily halt deportations of young undocumented immigrants who came here illegally as children. He's also launched a program delaying the deportation of immigrants whose children are American citizens.

Buck told "Righty" Corporon the Republican-controlled House is ready to shut down the government to stop this repugnancy (not a word, but I used it anyway to highlight Buck's own grossness.)

“If [Obama] vetoes the appropriations bill, he is shutting down that segment of government. And that will be on the President,” Buck told Corporon. “He did his best to put that on Republicans last time when we wanted to de-fund parts of Obamacare. With a Republican Senate, this will clearly be on the President’s watch, that he will be shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. “

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The Traditional Colorado State “Screwing” of Colorado Teachers and Public Sector Workers.

Former Colorado Union (AFSCME) Officials Weigh In, and Comment on the Legacy of Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman.

I provide below, for the record, a few examples of the historical state deception of Colorado teachers and other Colorado public sector employees. It's important that Colorado teachers, and Colorado state and local government workers, be fully informed relating to their employment situations. For the most part, Colorado's public sector unions have not fully informed their members.

Examples of the historical deception of Colorado public sector workers:

The reduction of Colorado state employee compensation by means of a promised "performance pay" scheme that was subsequently not funded by the Colorado Legislature.

The past repurposing of resources allocated for state employee compensation, to pay the salaries of hundreds of new Executive Branch political appointees.

The retention of gubernatorial political appointees in high-salaried administrative positions across both Democratic and Republican administrations (including, many former Colorado state legislators whose ultimate Colorado PERA retirement benefits will be based on their new six-figure salaries rather than on their $30,000 legislative salaries.)

The annual Legislative transfer of billions of dollars of Colorado state and local government resources to corporations (in the form of "tax expenditures") while actuarially required contributions to the Colorado PERA pension system are ignored. (Google: "Colorado Tax Expenditure Report.")

The 2010 Colorado (union supported) elimination of state employee and teacher contractual rights to pension inflation protection in retirement (a benefit that these employees had already paid for with their contributions and labor.)

The immoral 2009 use of teacher and public employee PERA pension contributions to pay for political and legal campaigns to break the PERA pension contracts of these same teachers and public employees.

The Colorado Legislature's past transfer of $700 million to pay off legacy pension debts of Colorado local governments (debts that are not Colorado state contractual obligations) while the Legislature failed to pay actuarially required contributions for their own Colorado state contractual obligations in the PERA pension system.

The Colorado PERA Board's past unanimous endorsement of Governor Bill Owens' "service credit fire sale," designed to reduce the labor costs of Colorado PERA-affiliated employers by ridding government of "expensive" older employees. (This scheme increased the debt of the Colorado PERA pension system by billions of dollars.)

These few examples characterize the employment environment of Colorado teachers, and Colorado state and local government workers. Only fully-informed workers are able to make rational decisions regarding their ongoing participation in this Colorado public sector employment environment.

The Colorado SB10-001 Deception:

The most recent deception of Colorado teachers and Colorado state and local government workers occurred in 2010. In that year, a group of proponents of breaking Colorado PERA pension contracts successfully divided active Colorado PERA members from retired members in order to take their contracted inflation protection in retirement. (This taking was supported by Colorado's public sector unions.) The support of Colorado's public sector unions contributed to the elimination of the contractual rights of their own union members to inflation protection in retirement. In 2010, Colorado's public sector unions supported the bill (SB10-001) that allows Colorado governments to inflate away legal governmental pension debts. Colorado's unions are unique in the history of the Labor Movement in that they have facilitated the destruction of their own members' contractual rights.

The primary interest of Colorado politicians is reelection. Pleasing voters is simply more important than speaking the truth about TABOR to Colorado voters, or honoring state contracts. Colorado politicians have no desire to tell voters that they must actually pay for governmental services. Breaking Colorado PERA contractual obligations, and directing the resources that support these contractual obligations to pay for public services allows politicians to avoid speaking the truth to voters. Ignoring state financial and contractual obligations to pensions frees up money to fund programs that help legislators get reelected. Political connections in the courts have smoothed the path to the desired Colorado PERA pension contract breach.

See the article: "The Colorado Supreme Court: Politicians in Black Robes" at ColoradoPols.com.

http://coloradopols.com/diary/64487/the-colorado-supreme-court-politicians-in-black-robes-as-it-turns-out

Colorado legislators have not paid the full annual Colorado PERA pension bill, as calculated by Colorado PERA's actuaries, since 2002. They are not paying this "ARC" pension bill even today. Colorado PERA's Executive Director Greg Smith is alone in the nation in claiming that a public pension system does not have to pay the pension bill calculated by its own actuaries.

Initially, in 2009, Colorado public sector unions and other proponents of SB10-001 sought a one-time reduction of this contractual inflation protection (ABI, "COLA") for PERA retirement benefits, based on a claim of financial need, i.e., "actuarial necessity." Colorado's unions did not realize that their support for SB10-001 would ultimately wipe out the entire contractual right of teachers and state workers to inflation protection in retirement. Teachers be sure to thank your CEA officials!

Although they had already admitted to the existence of the contractual PERA COLA obligation in 2009, the proponents of SB10-001 later realized that establishing "actuarial necessity" would be difficult, so they switched their legal strategy to a simple denial of the existence of the PERA COLA contract. Although their testimony as to the contractual inflation protection obligation was on the record (written and recorded at a Colorado Joint Budget Committee hearing) this admission meant nothing to the Colorado Supreme Court. The Court threw out the worker's contract right without examining evidence in the case.

I find it ironic that in 2010, Greg Smith, Executive Director of the Colorado PERA pension system argued that the PERA COLA (inflation protection) contract must be broken when the funded ratio of the PERA pension stood at 69 percent, yet now that the funded ratio of the Colorado PERA pension system is in the low 60s, Greg Smith has recently stated that the pension system does not need additional contributions. It looks like he just makes this up as he goes along.

Imagine what life is like as one of the 4,500 employees of the Colorado Judicial Branch. These employees are enrolled in the Colorado PERA pension system. They watched in 2012 as the Colorado Court of Appeals found Colorado public pension case law (Bills and McPhail) "dispositive" as to the contractual right of Colorado PERA members to their statutory "inflation protection" in retirement (which the PERA members have paid for with labor and contributions.) Then, in 2014, they were forced to watch the politicians installed at the top of their organization (Supreme Court Justices) ignore all evidence in the case Justus v. State, ignore federal case law (US Trust), and embrace a Denver District Court decision that conveniently failed to even mention Colorado's on-point public pension case law (Bills and McPhail.) The reality is that these 4,500 employees work for an organization that is ultimately arbitrary, political, and not guided by the Rule of Law. The Judicial Branch employees get a paycheck, but in their heart of hearts, realize that their organization is unprincipled, ignores the US Constitution when convenient, and so serves no higher purpose.

Recently, an article relating to the support of Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman for the taking of the PERA COLA benefit in 2010 was posted on the blog ColoradoPols.com and on Facebook. This article elicited some commentary from a few former Colorado public sector union officials that documents the historical deception of Colorado teachers and other public sector workers.

Comments of Former AFSCME Colorado Official Guy Santo:

"Guy Santo . . . Facebook's still new to me; but some things aren't so novel…like the duplicitous incompetence of a professional politician; e.g, Mr. (Colorado State Senator Pat) Steadman and his role in the Great Colorado Pension Heist of 2010, a.k.a. Senate Bill 1 (SB-001).

As background: I met Mr. Steadman before he was a lobbyist or legislator (his only jobs besides lawyer), when he was staff attorney with our national umbrella labor organization, American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in which capacity he single- handedly botched a lawsuit against reclassifying all state jobs in the early 90's. The lawsuit concerned an obviously flawed 'Class Description' project based on management buzz words. New class descriptions squeezed existing job descriptions into fewer general ones and replaced the old merit-based pay structure with performance pay (which was never funded); and the whole thing was just another way to cut workers' pay. I speak from my experience as a state employee and an officer of the state employees' local that relied on our national AFSCME office for legal support (since that's why we paid dues); and although my perception of events may seem biased; what is not open to interpretation is the importance of deadlines and submitting appeals timely … and I remember Mr. Steadman as the person who failed to file our appeal on time.

Fast forward 17 years, and he's representing the people from Senate District 31 (but definitely not workers, particularly public servants) and he's the mouthpiece for PERA staff and management in railroading through SB10-001's onerous measures to once more balance the state budget on the backs of state employees and raid their pensions. In 2010, Mr. Steadman chaired the (Colorado House) Finance Committee responsible for PERA oversight . . . and despite numerous pleas to him to show PERA members the financial records purportedly necessitating the draconian actions of SB10-001, Mr. Steadman would only give me his word that the financial situation was dire, as he personally looked at the books (which would be much too complicated for people like me to comprehend). NOT very reassuring, coming from a lawyer-lobbyist turned career politician who apparently couldn't read a calendar.

'nuff said. – Guy Santo

(My comment: Remember that the proponents of SB10-001 argued that the financial position of Colorado PERA was so dire [at a 69 percent funded ratio in 2010] that PERA pension contractual obligations had to be broken, yet now that the PERA funded ratio is in the low 60s, PERA officials argue that no additional contributions to the pension system are necessary.)

Comments of Former AFSCME Colorado Official Jeremiah Attridge:

"As the former President of AFSCME Local 3534 I would like to confirm the statements that Mr. Santo has made regarding a class action grievance filed on behalf of employees of the Colorado Department of Labor regarding the proposed 'class description' changes proposed by the Romer administration, and that the lawyer provided by AFSCME Council 76, Patrick Steadman, failed to file the suit in a timely fashion. As I recall, Mr. Steadman had been handed the final copy of the grievance written by Mr. Santo and Mr. William Lafferty a week before it was due, and for reasons unknown, Mr. Steadman waited until the last day the grievance was to be filed and then stated: 'When I got there, the courthouse was already closed.' As the complaint was not filed in a timely fashion in accordance with the rules of procedure, the state employees lost their rights to be heard, and the case was dismissed without any chance of appeal. The irony of this situation was that the basis of the employees' grievance was that management of the CDLE had failed to follow the correct procedures when implementing this reclassification of public employees, and as a result of this procedural flaw, their actions were arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the rule of law. The case was a 'no-brainer.' It would have been an easy win, and would have increased the union's standing among state employees. Due to the case dismissal, the opposite took place and AFSCME membership plummeted.

Aside from the possible need of (Colorado State) Senator Steadman to revise and edit his resume, there is still a residual effect on the way state government functions and how PERA benefits are paid to certain individuals, that is a direct result of the Romer administration's 'Class Description,' program that Mr. Santo had tried to challenge. The reasons why the Romer Administration chose this course of action was due to the fact that the Governor had sought to expand the number of political appointees he could place in upper management positions. State Representative Tony Grampsas and State Senator Dave Owens who ran the JBC at the time informed the Governor that he could have his additional 125 appointees in the Senior Executive Service, only if the hiring of these upper level managers was 'revenue neutral.' In other words, if Romer wanted an additional 125 hacks on the payroll, then existing payroll had to be cut to pay for this increase in salary. This is why the 'Class Description' changes had to be made. Rank and file employee pay and the possibility of being promoted had to be severely cut. The reason why these changes to employee compensation still have an effect on the pension fund itself is due to this dirty, little secret, that nobody in the fourth estate, the State Legislature, the Governor's office, or even Jon Caldara and the guys over at the Independence Institute really like to talk about: You see, not all political appointees leave when their political patron leaves office. Some of them really like their high paying jobs, and quite a few of them stay in those positions for years, and thanks to some sort of unwritten rule of the Sherman Street Country Club, while political fealty may have been a prerequisite to becoming employed, once you get the job, it's yours for life. Almost all these jobs pay well over 100 grand a year, and if you can add in all those years as a State Legislator (you know like Joe Donlon, or Doug Dean, or Tom Plant, or Vicky Armstrong) to your total state service time, with the top three years deciding your pension level, well, gosh, I guess there really is a 'pot-o-gold' at the end of the PERA rainbow for some very special people, who, like the upper level managers of Pinnacol Assurance who all were allowed to grandfather in PERA pensions when Workers Comp was privatized (just like the guys in the other privatized agencies) well, you deserve to pull in 60 to 90 grand a year, without question. If you are an employee of PERA and you have never worked for the State in any capacity, you too can pull in a pension not only for your salary, but also for the bonuses you paid to yourselves while declaring a fiscal emergency at the same time. When State Treasurer Walker Stapleton tried to pull the lid off the cesspool two years ago, the PERA Board took him to court, and members of the Judiciary (who receive PERA pensions at a higher rate than other state employees) agreed with them that the State Treasurer had no business inquiring where and to whom state funds were being paid. It was a matter of 'privacy' the court said. That was a close one, after all, now with the passage of Amendment S, Governor Hickenlooper will be able to expand the SES from 125 to 270 positions and that means a lot more deserving people will be able to bleed the fund dry. Who knows, what with term limits and all, maybe the Governor can find a position for a Democratic State Senator in need of a job and having a really nice, well-edited resume."

More comments on Colorado Senator Pat Steadman's work for AFSCME Colorado (from Facebook:

"I believe, actually I know, that there were quite a few of us who thought he wasn't representing us correctly, particularly during a grievance and lawsuit filed regarding the changing of job classification and pay rates back around in about 1993 or so. Back then, Romer was proposing the creation of the Senior Executive Service that would allow him to expand the number of political appointees up to about 125 positions. (Hickenlooper's Amendment S increases it to about 350.) Well, as I recall, Steadman failed to file the initial court challenge in a timely fashion. I remember the grievants' disgust at the time and their quoting of Steadman's statement that: 'when I got there, the court was closed, and it was too late.' A lot of people dropped out of AFSCME because of this. Somehow Steadman's explanations didn't ring true and it was suspected, but never proven . . . told by AFSCME 76 to drop the matter. In the lovely world of AFL-CIO internal politics a lot of back room deals got cut. (They still are; it's a favorite past time of union staff reps to ____ each other over and cut political deals. I think the straw that broke the camel's back with Steadman, though, was that he failed to represent people in AFSCME Local 935 (Correctional Officers in Canyon City) in disciplinary hearings. Local 935 was the biggest local and they wanted Steadman gone due to the fact that he wasn't doing his job and was working on his Amendment 2 instead. After Steadman, there was a lawyer named Carol Iten who actually did the job, but then quit to go to work for Salazar when he became AG. She was replaced by Mark Schwanne who . . . CFPE for failing to file the necessary paperwork on behalf of grievants in the UI Tax Division about their job classifications. Schwanee went on to become the Executive Director of AFSCME 76 and was the guy who signed off on endorsing the PERA ____ over, and then selling off the AFSCME state employee locals to the SEIU (without a vote of the membership) to Colorado WINS, that thereupon hired him for a while, and then he  . . . after Scott Wasserman, his friend at WINS, got a job in the Lt. Governor's Office. As a result, AFSCME in Colorado is a pathetic organization . . . representing a few employees in Pueblo, DU, and a dying local in the City of Denver. Their one employee who is an 'Assistant Director' is Cheryl Hutchinson. She started out as a Business Agent at the same time as Steadman and she might have the exact details . . .

One of my . . . contacts is a guy named Bill Lafferty. He was also involved in the job classification PPQ grievance: Let me clarify the background to that. Back then, (Governor) Romer wanted the Senior Executive Service, but (State Senators) Tony Grampsas and Dave Owen, on the JBC, wanted it to be 'revenue neutral.' In order to achieve those raises for upper management the Personnel Director, Andre Pettigrew along with Jeff Schutt and Ken Ailikian came up with the reclassification of all state employees: It eliminated many of the different job classes and put them into classes that were defined with broader, generalized titles. As a result, there were fewer steps and grades of employees which meant that there was a de facto elimination of career ladders and promotions on the lower levels of government and a general lowering of wages, resulting in a surplus of funds to pay for the Senior Executive Service. That was the court case Steadman dropped the ball on. The problem with the Corrections Local 935 had to do with disciplinary hearings: In all of the (state) departments, CDOT and Corrections always have the most disciplinary hearings. (They used to be called R-8-3's back then, now they are R-6-10's.) They are a pain in the ass to do, and there was a Business Agent named ____ (now deceased) who was supposed to do the R-8-3's but Reyes Martinez, the Local 935 President wanted 'the lawyer' to do them, and I guess (current State Senator Pat) Steadman didn't show up or something.

(My comment: It looks to me like insane, shady crap has been happening in the Colorado public sector unions historically and SB10-001 provides an example of these shady deals reaching the level of state government administration, the Colorado Legislative Branch, and Colorado courts. Perhaps if Colorado had stronger labor unions they would not have been tempted to support the breach of the contracts of their former members. This was kind of cannabalistic.)

Response:

"Well, that's the sad thing about it all: You see, unions were supposed to exist for the betterment of the rank and file, and in Colorado things got turned around and completely out of whack, particularly in the public employee unions where it got to the point that the rank and file existed for the benefit of the union staff reps who, actually, never were members of the rank and file; Wendell Pryor, the former Director of CAPE who endorsed (former Colorado Governor) Bill Owens' preventing public employees from having their union dues deducted from their paychecks and then was appointed to be Director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division over in DORA; Miller Hudson, who sold CAPE to the SEIU without a vote of their rank and file; Schwanne; Wasserman and Steadman, all had variations on the same theme.

While (current Colorado State Representative) Crisanta Duran who sat on the JBC last year had her law school tuition paid by grocery workers in UCFW Local 7, while she also pulled in 35 grand a year compliments of her dad, Ernie, the Local President. The list goes on and on from Joe Donlon to Ellen Golombek at the CDLE  . . ."

In a recent article AFSCME (International) writes:

"The very Wall Street-backed politicians who raided and underfunded the pension systems in the first place are now 'using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America's states and cities . . ."

http://www.afscme.org/blog/lawmakers-loot-public-pension-funds-then-blame-retirees-for-underfunding

Here is my posted response to the AFSCME article:

"AFSCME, if you really believe this, why did you allow your affiliate, AFSCME Colorado, to support the breach of Colorado PERA pension contracts in 2010, after the Colorado Legislature had underfunded the pension for a decade?  The Colorado Legislature has failed to pay its pension bills for a decade, essentially borrowing from the pension fund, now they seek to shift their debt onto the backs of retired public sector workers. It's sick, but your own people supported this in 2010."

I received this response from a former AFSCME Colorado official:

"Actually . . . that isn't what happened: The rank and file members of Colorado State Employees AFSCME Local 821 had their local dissolved by a unilateral decision of AFSCME International and the Executive Board of Colorado AFSCME Council 76, prior to the sellout, as they were to be 'incorporated' into the Colorado WINS 'partnership' created with Ritter: without their consent or even being given the right to vote on the matter. The AFSCME 'representatives' who endorsed the PERA plan (i.e. Vivian Stovall and company) weren't even state employees: they were members of Denver City employees AFSCME Local 158, who aren't even covered by PERA.  The Colorado State AFSCME retirees (Phyliss Zamaripa, Kathy Bacino, and Guy Santo) opposed the PERA plan put forth by Ritter, Schaffer, and Penry at the public hearing where proponents were allowed to testify first, and at length while opponents had their testimony relegated to the end of the hearing, and had their testimony time truncated. So please don't give the impression that the rank and file members of Colorado State AFSCME Local 821 had anything to do with this sellout, because we didn't. Give the credit to where it is due: Give it to Colorado WINS, and the SEIU."

(My response: "Thanks for this new information. I have noted that Colorado AFSCME supported the PERA pension contract breach since Colorado PERA has made this claim in its propaganda.")

Yet another reply from a former AFSCME Colorado official:

"The entire AFSCME endorsement of screwing public employees out of their pension (Colorado PERA pension) COLA's in Colorado is unfortunately quite true, however, it should be remembered that AFSCME no longer represents Colorado State Employees, and it hasn't for about 7 years now. It was decided 7 years ago in a backroom deal in Washington that the three state employee unions would become Colorado WINS. The rank and file members of AFSCME Locals in Colorado were not given the right to vote on this, nor were the members of CAPE or the CFPE. The people who espouse 'democratic labor trade unionism' in America, wouldn't allow it to take place in Colorado. Ritter and company granted an exclusive franchise to Colorado WINS (which is a subsidiary of SEIU) and Colorado State employees do not have the right to belong to any other union, as both Change To Win and the AFL-CIO have prevented other unions (such as the CWA, which has had a consistent record of fighting for public employees' pensions) from organizing. Thanks to their betrayal of Colorado State employees, Colorado AFSCME Council 76 is now a bankrupt shell of an organization that represents some county employees in Pueblo, city employees in Aurora, the remnants of Denver City employees Local 535 and 158 and the maintenance staff at DU. They have one 'assistant Executive Director' and two clerical workers for a staff. All they are is a paper tiger, shell organization that is used as a conduit to 'move money' in state elections."

(My response: "That seems rather disingenuous on the part of Colorado PERA to attempt to rationalize the PERA COLA-taking by citing the support of AFSCME Colorado, if AFSCME Colorado does not actually represent any employees in PERA." "Have you ever heard any sort of an explanation from Colorado WINS for breaking PERA contracts? I have always assumed it was to minimize future contributions that might be needed from active Colorado WINS members. To the extent that money can be taken from PERA retirees, the needed pension support from current workers is diminished, not a very good reason to trash the Colorado Constitution.")

Former AFSCME official:

"Yes, doesn't it? But then again, let us not forget the first piece of legislation that Colorado WINS supported was the bill written by Democratic Senator Dan Gibbs to do away with state employees having the right to strike or engage in labor stoppages. The 'S' in AFSCME is supposed to stand for 'State' but the International of AFSCME basically gave up on Colorado when Wellington Webb failed to deliver his campaign promise to give Denver City employees collective bargaining. The grand plan was 'First we'll get collective bargaining for Denver, then we'll repeal 8-73-104 (C) of the Colorado Labor Peace Act, and get all public employees' collective bargaining rights.' After they realized that wasn't going to happen, Gerry McEntee, Paul Booth, and Larry Scanlon decided to cut their losses, and 'traded' the Colorado State Employee locals to the SEIU which had acquired CAPE (that had gone into virtual bankruptcy when Bill Owens prohibited employees having their dues deducted from their paychecks.) All in all, it was a rather tawdry affair, and for AFSCME Council 76 to come out in favor of screwing public employees out of their pensions by having members of Local 158 of who were hacks from the Denver Democratic Party and Ritter supporters is just reflective of the fact that AFSCME has always placed the interests of the union and the Democratic Party above that of rank and file employees they profess to represent."

(My response: "As I recall, Miller Hudson, formerly of CAPE also supported SB10-001. This is ironic since Bill Owens eviscerated CAPE financially. Bill Owens is very culpable in the decline of PERA's funded ratio [selling PERA service credit cheap to encourage the departure of the more 'expensive' older employees, i.e., shifting labor costs from Colorado governments to PERA.] Why would Miller Hudson go along with pushing the PERA debt burden onto Colorado PERA retirees when the problem was caused by Bill Owens, and Bill Owens actions harmed CAPE?  It doesn't make sense.")

Former AFSCME official:

"You'd have to ask Miller about that one. Now as far as Colorado WINS goes, well, you have to understand the way union organizers think: Why should they be concerned about the pensions of state employees who were not members of their union? What WINS wants is current state employees, and most of them who have been hired since 2005 don't have the same pension plan as older state employees, and that is not what they are concerned about: By concentrating on health care costs, and doing away with the inequitable 'pay for performance' plan proposed by Penn Pfifner and signed into law by Romer, Colorado WINS needs to play nice with the legislature and the executive branch so that they can market themselves with a 'victory,' to the majority of state employees who don't belong to their organization, or care about somebody else's pension. So why play the heavy and alienate the incumbent politicians in somebody else's fight? If you win, well, good. They'll get up there and say they were with you all the way……"

Quotations of Miller Hudson, formerly of CAPE:

"They will pay their taxes and rely on politicians to keep the promises made to them when they were hired. After 30 or more years, they will rely on their Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) pensions rather than social security to provide a modest but dignified retirement."

"In fact, they (Colorado PERA retirees) will shoulder more than 90 percent of the costs of fixing PERA. This isn’t because they haven’t been doing their part. They have."

"If state employees have learned little else, it should be that when economic times get tough both Democratic and Republican administrations will move swiftly to balance state budgets on their backs."

"Miller Hudson is a former state representative from Denver who served five years as executive director of the Colorado Association of Public Employees."

http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/991576-so-called-perasites-are-tired-having-budget-balanced-their-backs

Miller Hudson states that Colorado PERA faces no financial "crisis," yet Miller Hudson "helped negotiate" the COLA-taking bill:

"Taxpayers have been told they will be held responsible for an imminent fiscal catastrophe projected in the tens of billions of dollars. These scare tactics fail to put the true situation in perspective. PERA benefits are much like the mortgage on your house. They will be paid out over the next 30 to 50 years. If Colorado misses a payment — or, more accurately, fails to collect as much as revenue as it should for a year or two — these shortfalls can be remedied in succeeding years. A home mortgage doesn't become due and payable just because a homeowner loses his or her job. Payments can be made out of savings."

"For Colorado's public employers, total contributions into PERA represent about 3 percent of their annual budgets. If this were to be doubled, it would be less than half the current 'sequester' cuts being absorbed in the federal budget. PERA is not a fiscal calamity."

"Unfortunately, when the plan went into surplus during the dot.com boom at the turn of the century, the Legislature reduced the state's contributions, increased the match for refunds paid before normal retirement eligibility and held a fire sale on the purchase of unearned years of service credit at a fraction more than 15 cents on the dollar."

"Miller Hudson served as executive director of the Colorado Association of Public Employees for six years (2003-10) and helped negotiate the 2007 and 2010 PERA reform bills."

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_23167652/there-is-no-need-panicky-fixes-pera

Miller Hudson:

"It is important to understand why tax credits and exemptions are referred to as tax expenditures. Without loopholes, taxpayers (both individual and corporate) would otherwise pay higher taxes dumping additional moneys into the general fund. Business and special interest lobbyists have understood this relationship for decades. Find a plausible rationalization and then you can begin campaigning for special treatment."

http://thetaborfoundation.org/hudson-the-math-isnt-so-simple/

Alan Greenblatt in Governing in 2006:

"In Colorado, at least some of (Governor) Bill Owens' pension problem was self-inflicted, the result of his pressuring PERA to sell discounted 'service credits' to public employees, allowing them to buy more time on the job." "Owens hoped that state employees would retire early, helping his efforts to streamline government." "Because pensions are, by their nature, a long-term problem, it's difficult to get public officials – classic short-term thinkers – to pay them serious attention even when the bills are coming due."

http://www.governing.com/topics/economic-dev/Plight-Benefits.html

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Gov. Brownback backs down and calls for tax increases – Are the Republicans in Congress Listening?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Wow, after years of reckless tax cuts covered over by the now completely discredited notion, known as the Laffer Curve, that reducing taxes will automatically generate increased economic activity and correspondingly the government bank account will overflow with new revenue, Gov. Brownback has reversed course and yesterday called for Kansas to increase taxes, including a 79 cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax, raising the tax on other tobacco products from 10% to 25%. The tax on beer, wine and liquor would jump from 8% to 12%. The intent is to close, in part, the looming $710 million deficit over the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30th, and the next fiscal year. However, even these tax increases are only expected to raise $394 million. To make-up the difference, he intends to slow down the pending income tax cuts but remains committed to his goal of eliminating the income tax. In his state-of-the-state address Thursday, he attempted to posture his tax increases as taxes on consumption (which is now apparently OK) as opposed to taxing productivity; but the bottom line remains the same.His experiment has failed, completely. The Laffer Curve doesn't work.

President Reagan tried it in 1981 with a 25% across the board reduction in federal corporate and personal income taxes and the federal deficit exploded. 

Just over a decade ago, George W. Bush was inaugurated President and inherited an $800 billion annual surplus. He decided to drastically cut taxes making the same assumption that Reagan had and the one Brownback made four years ago that huge tax cuts would drastically stimulate economic activity and generate even more tax revenues than the government collected before the tax cuts. What happened? The annual deficit exploded and the promise of increased tax revenues turned out to be a mirage.

Besides Brownback's failed experiment what else has been going on in states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures? Lets look at the Republican nirvana called Wisconsin. Gov. Walker and the Republican dominated state house and senate cut taxes again making the same assumptions as Reagan, W, and Brownback and what happened. Wisconsin is now staring a $2 billion deficit in the face. One Republican leader in the Wisconsin House said he just couldn't understand why state revenues did not increase as expected. Its hard to believe someone who has been paying attention, for even a nano second over the past thirty-four years, could say that. The Laffer Curve is a hoax and a failure.

(more…)

Does Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman Actually Seek “Justice FOR ALL”?

Today's Denver Post reports that Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman, a sponsor of the bill that took Colorado PERA pensioners' contractual rights (SB10-001) has stated that he seeks "Justice FOR ALL."

But, does State Senator Pat Steadman actually desire "Justice FOR ALL"? Apparently, Senator Steadman is not interested in seeking justice for the elderly Colorado PERA pensioners whose constitutional rights he considers irrelevant, and whose property rights he has ignored.

If Senator Steadman is truly interested in "Justice FOR ALL," would he not have pointed out on the floor of the Colorado Senate, at every opportunity, legislative testimony from Colorado PERA's lawyers regarding the constitutional rights of PERA pensioners? That is, part of the evidence supporting the contractual rights of Colorado PERA pensioners that was recently and conveniently ignored by the Colorado Supreme Court?

December 16, 2009

Colorado PERA officials in written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee: “The General Assembly cannot decrease the COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”
http://www.kentlambert.com/Files/PERA_JBC_Hearing_Responses-12-16-2009_Final.pdf

Colorado State Senator Steadman rightly fights for the constitutional rights of a group (of which he is a member) . . . a group that has been politically weak and accordingly targeted in the past. But, is Senator Steadman truly interested in "Justice FOR ALL"? When Senator Steadman states that he seeks "Justice FOR ALL," does he simply mean that he seeks justice for members of groups of citizens to which he belongs? Would Senator Steadman have supported the targeting of the constitutional rights of elderly Colorado pensioners if he were a member of that particular group? Does Senator Steadman believe that only the constitutional rights of certain politically weak US citizens should be defended? The rights of others discarded, if this abandonment conforms with prevailing public sentiment toward the politically weak group? The rights of others discarded if this taking of rights frees up money that politicians would like to use elsewhere? Apparently, the constitutional rights of some citizens are disposable.

In granting a judicial blessing to the SB10-001 Colorado PERA COLA taking, and in ignoring long-standing case precedent, the Colorado Judicial Branch has provided a political favor to the Colorado Legislative Branch.

"The general liberty of the people can never be endangered from the judiciary, so long as it remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the executive.”

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 78

The Legislative and Judicial taking of the constitutional rights of Colorado PERA retirees continues and excuses a long history of mismanagement of the Colorado PERA pension system. If our State Senator Pat Steadman truly desired "Justice FOR ALL" he would have refused to have been part of this scheme in 2009. Sadly, Senator Pat Steadman's support for SB10-001 is now part of his legacy.

From the Denver Post:

"The Pledge of Allegiance follows the prayer, and Steadman loudly accentuated the final two words.”

“'With liberty and justice FOR ALL,' said Steadman."

“'And not just for some,' Newell loudly added."

http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2015/01/16/morning-prayer-riles-senate-democrats/116412/

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BREAKING: Libby Szabo Selected as Jefferson County Commissioner, Creating Vacancy in HD-27

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Szabo will take the seat of Republican Faye Griffin, a serial job jumper who resigned from the board after being elected county clerk in November.

Another GOP vacancy committee, for House District 27, will meet and appoint someone to take over Szabo’s seat. And the House GOP caucus will meet to elected someone to Szabo’s leadership post; she is the assistant minority leader.

Szabo said she did not know when she would be sworn in as a commissioner.

The liberal blog ColoradoPols has called into question the vacancy committee process, including the fact that it refused to release the names of other contenders for the post. Szabo, who has pushed for transparency, said she was not involved in how that committee operated.

—–

Libby Szabo

Libby Szabo

Republican State Rep. Libby Szabo, the Assistant Minority Leader in the GOP caucus who was just re-elected in November, has been selected by a Jefferson County Republican Party vacancy committee to become the new County Commissioner in District 1. A formal announcement is expected to come as early as this afternoon.

If you were wondering, Szabo never bothered to say anything publicly about seeking a new job one month after being re-elected to the State Legislature; nor did Szabo say anything on Dec. 15th, when she was named the top Republican on the influential House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. Szabo was one of 9 applicants to submit their names for the vacancy created by the early departure of Commissioner Faye Griffin, a serial office jumper who was elected Jeffco Clerk and Recorder (again) last November.

The 75-year-old Griffin has become notorious for failing to finish her elected term in office in order to prolong her time on the taxpayer's dole. Even the editorial board of the Denver Post ("Enough is Enough, Faye Griffin") was incensed at Griffin's apparent contempt for actually finishing her job in the office she was elected to serve. As the Denver Post wrote in October:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits. Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn't run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

"In two years, there's no county office that is open," Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998. [Pols emphasis]

Political blog JeffcoPols pointed out Griffin's move and speculated that it could be part of a larger shuffle of Republican politicians in Jefferson County intended to avoid open-seat elections. Even if it is wrong about the specific moves, the blog makes a valid point about how Griffin's action would cede power to the GOP vacancy committee in Jefferson County.

Faye Griffin

Who needs elections when you have a Faye Griffin?

Szabo's appointment will trigger yet another Republican vacancy decision — yet again leaving the voters out of the process. By state statute, Jeffco Republicans have 10 days to pick a replacement for House District 27 once Szabo officially resigns her legislative seat, and if history is any indication, they'll keep the process a secret for as long as they can get away with it. Take a look at what Ramsey Scott wrote in the Canyon Courier on Tuesday:

Natalie Menten, who works for the Jeffco GOP, said the party wasn’t releasing the names of the nine applicants. The seven-member vacancy committee was working to narrow the list to a few finalists. [Pols emphasis]

Menten said the party had received more than 50 comments from the public on the process, mostly recommending someone for the vacancy. 

The Republican vacancy committee refused to release the names of applicants to one of the most powerful elected positions in Jefferson County. Why is that okay? You are required to put your name on the ballot if you want to run for office in every other scenario involving elected officials, but once a vacancy committee convenes, it all becomes a big secret?

This nonsense has been going on for years in Jefferson County, with elected officials leaving office early as a way around term limits and to allow a Republican Party vacancy committee to choose the successor. We have no quarrel with the process of filling a vacant seat in general, but something needs to change when it is being so blatantly abused as it is in Jefferson County. A committee of just 7 members selected Szabo to an office that normally requires winning the votes of the entire county; there are more than 256,000 people in Jeffco who voted in November but will now have no input into who will serve as one of three County Commissioners — or who will decide their representative in one of a handful of House Districts in Jeffco.

We've been following this story closely for a very long time; remember, dear readers, that you heard it here first.

Reporters are still letting Gardner play them on immigration

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner took his slippery interview tactics to the national stage of PBS' Newshour yesterday, responding to questions with predictions of the future, not answers to the questions, leaving us thinking we got answers from our new Senator. When we really didn't.

In a re-wind of what we heard from Gardner during his election campaign, the Newshour's Al Hunt asked Gardner about immigration. Hunt acted as if he'd gotten an answer from Gardner, since he didn't follow up, but in reality, he'd gotten little or nothing from him.

Hunt: There are some House Republicans who are proposing now, with the Homeland Security authorization, that they would deny funding for Obama's executive action in November. And some would go and deny funding. And some would go even and deny funding for the DREAMer's action in 2012. Is that helpful? Is that constructive?

Hunt: …You supported the DREAMers' action, didn't you?

Gardner: That will ultimately be part of the solution, but we have to start with a secure border. We have to start with a guest-worker program. Those are things the American people support. They want it to be proven that we can actually handle some of these bigger issues, like border security now.

Hunt: Do you think it's possible to get some kind of accord that includes some kind of legal status or citizenship for almost all of the 11 million undocumenteds who are here.

Gardner: I think at some point that will be one of the solutions that is reached. But right now, I think Republicans should put forward a bill that starts with border security, addresses a guest worker program, because without a workable guest-worker program you do not have border security. Let's put those pieces in place, make sure they work, and then move forward to additional solutions that must be part of the overall fix to immigration.

From reading this, you might think Gardner supports the DREAM Act, as well as offering legal status to undocumented immigrants. But he doesn't.  During the election campaign, he voted against halting the deportation of Dreamers. But throughout his career, he's been against the Dream Act, which would give young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship through college or military service. Gardner even opposed offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented young people, brought into our country illegally by their parents.

Gardner smiles and says he's in favor of immigration reform, that he wants a "solution," but his record is nearly void of evidence that he's done anything about it, and he even opposed the bipartisan Senate immigration bill. Most recently, he opposed Obama's action to halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens.

Gardner fooled Hunt into thinking he got answers. And he fooled Breitbart into thinking he's too moderate on immigration. What a mess.

Reporters can cut through Gardner's obfuscation by pressing the senator about what he'll do, specifically, to advance immigration reform. Will he vote for the DREAM Act? Will he vote for a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants? What does he favor? What will he do?

Something For Everyone In Hick’s 2015 State of the State

hicksos

As the Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports:

Governor John Hickenlooper used his fifth State of the State speech today to paint his legislature, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, with a Colorado-ness that reaches beyond party priorities. He touted the new first-ever statewide water plan, quoting Thomas Hornsby Ferril, whose poetry is engraved in the Capitol and that emphasizes common interest: “Here is a land where life is written in water.”

“Representatives of urban areas recognized that locally sourced dairy and food is vital to all of Colorado; while the agricultural areas realized that they could not simply allow urban areas to dry up,” Hickenlooper said of the water plan, noting it involved “the largest civic engagement process in state history.”

Lawmakers and leaders should come together, Hickenlooper suggested, to apply similarly high standards of public input and cooperation to tackle tough questions surrounding topics like oil and gas development and government funding under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR)…

The Denver Post's John Frank on Gov. John Hickenlooper's measured comments on the controversial so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR):

Hickenlooper capped his speech by addressing the state's budget situation — which he labeled a "financial thicket" in his inaugural address Tuesday. It's a reference to the possibility of refunds under the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, despite underfunded state programs.

"There is a legitimate debate of whether government should be a bit bigger or a bit smaller," the governor said, according to prepared remarks. "But that misses the point. Regardless of size, government must work."
 
But he stopped short of asking for an overhaul of TABOR and avoided taking a direct stance on how to address the issue.

"Some people want to get rid of TABOR, some want to get rid of Amendment 23, others want to get rid of Gallagher. There is no shortage of thorns in this fiscal thicket," he said. "And while we will continue to strategically prune, our state budget can only endure so much cutting. "

The Denver Business Journal:

Referencing the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper emphasized the number of environmental protections he has added through collaboration with the industry during his first term, then said he looks forward to seeing the recommendations that a task force examining the role of local government in regulating the industry will deliver later this session. But he did not give any parameters as to what kind of increased regulations he may be willing to back in the Legislature.

On the issue of local control of oil and gas drilling, an issue that caused intense infighting among Democrats last year, Hickenlooper didn't offer much in the way of specifics–but the language that he used to describe those proposals, and the competing interests of surface and subsurface property owners, is unlikely to make conservationists very happy. From the speech:

As part of a compromise to keep economically-devastating initiatives off the ballot, [Pols emphasis] we have worked with the Keystone Center and brought long-polarized interests to the same table…

I look forward to the recommendations of this task force, and pledge to work with you and other stakeholders in developing our energy resources, protecting property rights and our natural environment and public health.

The insistence that increasing local control over oil and gas drilling, in particular the setback and "environmental bill of rights" initiatives put forward during last year's debate, would be "economically devastating" broadcasts our Democratic governor's bias on the issue. There is a legitimate conflict between the rights of surface landowners and mineral rights holders needing resolution, but Hickenlooper still appears firmly on the side of mineral rights owners against local communities based on his comments today.

We wonder how politically tenable that position will be for Hickenlooper throughout his second term, as more research on the effects of "fracking" near residential neighborhoods comes out, and the plummeting price of energy caused by OPEC's price war on the frackers eats away at the already-overblown estimates of the economic impact of the industry in Colorado. Might the same changing economics that led Hickenlooper to endorse President Barack Obama's threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline soften Hick's hard line against communities worried about fracking in their boundaries?

That's one of the biggest of many questions awaiting Hickenlooper in his "legacy term."

Michael Bennet Gets First 2016 Challenger: Darryl Glenn

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet apparently has his first official (potential) challenger to his 2016 re-election campaign, and you probably didn't see this coming any more than we did. As the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post both reported today, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Who is Darryl Glenn, you ask? Well, you see…um…er…we'll tell you?

Actually, we had never heard of Darryl Glenn before today, and we're not alone. From what we understand, this announcement was as much of a surprise to many Republican politicos as it was to everyone else. We know that Glenn is an attorney in private practice and a super-duper conservative Christian who was just elected to his second term as an El Paso County Commissioner after serving two terms on the Colorado Springs City Council. Here's part of his bio from El Paso County:

Darryl Glenn graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master’s in Business Administration from Western New England College and a Juris Doctor from New England School of Law.

Glenn retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after 21 years of active duty and reserve service. He led a $19 million Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program implementing performance standards that saved $400,000. He served as Program Manager for a $5 billion office responsible for implementing a base realignment and closure plan. And, he supervised 35 communication system programs valued at $1 billion developing support plans that saved $20 million while providing a 40 percent increase in warfighting capability.

Say what you will about Glenn, but anybody who helped implement performance standards for the Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program must be…well, whatever. We don't know what that means, either.

What we do know is that the 2014 election of Republican Cory Gardner to the U.S. Senate has created a perception of a new sense of opportunity for many Republicans looking to take a shot at higher office — and Glenn is just the beginning. Glenn acknowledged his early entry into the race in announcing his campaign, saying in a press release that he is jumping in the race now because he wants to use all the time he can to put together a statewide infrastructure that can help him secure the Republican nomination for the seat.

It's too early to judge whether Glenn can be a competitive candidate, but by entering the race now, he is going to force other potential Republican candidates to make their intentions known sooner rather than later. Remember that Gardner didn't enter the 2014 race until late February, and you can see how things are changing already. 2016 is not going to be like 2014, in more ways than one.

On radio, Buck says the “middle” is not where he’ll be in Congress

(Don't act so surprised – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

You can't win if you're Rep. Ken Buck and you go on Tea-Party radio, just after you've voted to retain Tea-Party anathema John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S. House.

You've already been called out for treason on Facebook, and you have to say that's wrong. On the other hand, you have to show that you understand why liberty listeners hate Boehner so much.

Under tough questioning by guest-host Nancy Rumfelt on KFKA last week, here's how Buck threaded the needle.

Buck (at 12:40): “I want to face people.  And especially the people that thought they were being cute in putting ugly things on my Facebook.  You know, if you want to say something nasty to me, say it to my face.  Don’t put something on Facebook.  What happened yesterday was just a disgrace.  You know, go to Trey Gaudy’s town hall meeting and call him traitor. Say that he committed treason. It’s just ridiculous.  And yes, we voted for John Boehner.  We thought it was the best path forward, but it is not an act of treason.  And it’s just silly to use those terms.”

But don't even think Buck will slide toward the middle:

Buck (at 6:50 below): "Speaker and the leadership team know that they cannot count on me when they move to the middle, that I will be voting against leadership's efforts in certain areas, especially is true when it comes to the fiscal issues, the appropriations bills and the regulatory issues. And I include Obamacare in that. But absolutely. The people in the 4th Congressional District can count on Ken Buck to be with the conservative votes when it comes to the bills that are coming up in the future."

Listen to Ken Buck on KFKA's Amy Oliver Show, Jan. 7, 2015, guest hosted by Nancy Rumfelt.

(more…)

Talk-radio host blames grieving family for being booted from church funeral service

One line of thinking, on talk radio, in response to the funeral of a lesbian woman being booted from New Hope Ministries in Lakewood is: blame the grieving friends and family!

Check out this excerpt from KNUS' Kelley and Company, with hosts Steve Kelley and Krista Kafer yesterday:

KRISTA KAFER:  Well, at first blush, it sound like those that wanted to put the picture [of the lesbian married couple kissing] up really are the ones that are at fault here.  You know, churches have rules.  I mean, – we have had a conversation for the last week about, you know, the Muslim church is saying you have to cover your hair if you want to come in.  Organizations, places have rules about how you – you know, you go into certain schools, for example, you can’t wear t-shirts that have emblems on them or messages on them.  Different organizations have different rules about what you can publicly display.  They did not want a picture of her proposing to her wife.  They didn’t think that was appropriate because it is antithetical to the scriptures.    This is a Christian church.  That would be antithetical.  Why would you necessarily want to have that up?  I can understand that they’ve got these rules, and they ask that people abide by them.

STEVE KELLEY:  [reading from, or referring to a report of the incident]  […]  [Gary] Rulando, who is the pastor, says it’s a shame that Collier’s friends are using her death to push an agenda.  But her friends are angry.  They believe more than 100 people – including Collier’s family—will show up to this rally.  Uh, arg, I – you know, somebody died, here, and you — [sigh of exasperation]

KAFER:  I think the blame, obviously, is with the friends for pushing an agenda.  They could have had a very dignified funeral at this church.  The church has specific rules in accordance with their scriptures, and you have to remember that the church  exists because of those scriptures.

KELLEY:  We’ve got to call this church!  We have to understand what are some of the nuances to this.  Was she a member of the church?  About this video, or was she – was the family a member of this church?  And why – and I don’t want to be critical of a family, especially after the loss of their relative – but why would you not make that known? I don’t know, logistically, if you’re going to say – if you’re going to look at a video and she’s proposing to another woman, and so forth.  And then the church, I think, has a responsibility as well, to have vetted this to some extent duri— right before the service is to begin, to have this –

KAFER:  Maybe that’s when they got the video.  Maybe  they hadn’t had a chance to vet it beforehand.  And again, I think the fault lies with the friends.  And there is a bit of a trend, here, where people want to force Christian institutions – be it the church, be it Christian owners of a business like Hobby Lobby, be it Jack the Baker – where you want to force other people  to condone, celebrate, you know, go along with – more that go along with – actually celebrate and be part of decisions that they disagree with.

KELLEY:  Something that is antithetical to their belief system, or whatever.  And everybody is entitled – at least, this was a free country.  I don’t know over the last six years, anymore.  Chad, can we make an attempt to reach out to this pastor Rulando at this church?  Okay? And, this would be the New Hope Ministries in Lakewood.  Let’s get a call out there and talk about — and respectfully, if you would ask about the Vanessa Collier funeral and this related rally, here.  Since he was willing to talk to 9news, I can only imagine that he would be willing to talk to us here at 710 KNUS.

KAFER:  Don’t you see a trend?   I mean, they would like to force this church to air that video.  Right?  Or to have aired that video during the funeral.  I see individuals and organizations out there that want to push an agenda, and want to force businesses to, you know – ‘celebrate’ is not the right word, but to condone, to actively push or promote,–

KELLEY:  To accept, basically, in essence.  “Accept.”

KAFER:  Yeah and it—well, and it’s more than – it’s actually ‘promote’.  It’s not – I mean, this church was willing to say, “You know what?  I understand she was not living a Biblical lifestyle, but we want to honor her life.  We want to make sure that we have a beautiful funeral for her, and they made that choice.  But please, please keep this side of her life — .  We can’t promote it.  It’s antithetical to our scriptures.  We can’t have this piece in the video.  We want to send the whole video, but – or air the majority of the video – but we can’t have this picture because it promotes something that is antithetical for our very existence.  The reason that church exists is because of those scriptures.

KELLEY:  This is – it’s similar but much different than Jack Phillips at the Masterpiece Cake Shop.

KAFER: Well, similar in the sense that he has many people who have same sex attractions, many homosexual customers that come in and buy cookies and cakes.  But he says, “You know what?  I don’t want to actively promote same sex marriage because that is not the Biblical definition of marriage.  And I feel it that it would be antithetical to my mainstream Christian values.”

KELLEY: In the context of weddings.  So, here we are – weddings and funerals, two of the highest esteemed ceremonies in humanity, arguably.  I mean, you have various brisses and so forth.  But, in essence, culturally, weddings and funerals.  So, here we are with Jack Phillips saying, “I’m not going to participate.  I’m not going to use my God-given talent because it’s my – it violates my internal faith system.” And he has been roundly criticized, and threatened basically to be run out of business through regulation.  And he has had to—uh, he is not acquiescing, by the way.  It would be helpful, in the context of this too, but now we have a funeral—

KAFER: Well, I —

KELLEY: –where a church is saying, “No! You’re going to have to edit this video.  We cannot.”  How does this promote sexual—I mean, sexual promiscui—or homosexuality? — playing a video at this woman’s funeral?

KAFER: I think they had rules and the family and friends weren’t willing to actually accept those rules.  You have to remember that tolerance means that we are able to coexist peacefully with those with whom we disagree.  Um, tolerance does not mean that we get to coerce people into promoting things that they disagree with.