Leaving local TV news for Politico, Stokols looks forward to never being told “that’s too inside baseball”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Eli Stokols.

Eli Stokols.

Eli Stokols, who came to Denver as a general assignment reporter in 2005, is leaving KDVR-TV Fox 31 Tuesday as one of the state’s top political reporters. He also became a Fox 31 anchor, launched his own public-policy TV show, and wrote nonstop on multiple platforms.

I had coffee with Stokols, and we talked about his ten-year run in Denver and his future job at Politico in Washington DC. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Why Politico?

Stokols: I’ve been looking for an opportunity to report on politics from a national platform. I don’t think that’s any secret. And, frankly, part of that is because in Colorado you get a taste of doing that, because every campaign here is nationalized. There is no shortage of great political stories to cover here, which helped me to broaden my work. You come to a point in your professional career when you need a different challenge. On some level, because I’d been here for so long and was considered one of the veterans, a lot of people come to you with information, and it gets easier. And you can find yourself not working as hard because stuff comes to you. Or you find yourself not as excited when the campaign cycle comes around because you’ve done a ton of them.

And what are you going to do there?

I’m going to cover 2016, mostly write about it. I imagine I’ll cover a lot of the presidential candidates early on.

On the trail?

Yeah. I’ll be traveling a lot. That’s going to be exciting. I’ve been joking with people. It’s about time someone gives up statehouse reporting and goes and covers the presidential race, because what America really needs is more reporters covering the presidential race. You understand going into it that it’s going be hard to come up with stories and angles, but it’s exciting. It’s probably a cliche, but if you’re a political reporter, and that’s what you’re interested in, the opportunity to cover a presidential race and be on the trail is a bucket list thing.

Speaking of the state legislature, will Fox 31 replace you?

The upshot is, this was never a position we had because management said we had to cover politics. I don’t know what they will do. [See CJR’s Corey Hutchins’ take on this here.] It’s disappointing. You get this opportunity, and then you leave. And you look at what you built. And I know [9News political reporter Adam Schrager] felt the same way when he left. You want it to continue. And so it’s bittersweet.

(more…)

Dr. Chaps calls attack on pregnant woman a “curse of God upon America”

(A new low for Dr. Chaps – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE 3/27: Denver media offered near saturation coverage Thursday of the Klingenschmitt controversy, including multiple interviews with Klingenschmitt, who refused to apologize. On KOA radio’s morning news today, the state representative from Colorado Springs said:

“If you were offended because I quoted the Bible in church, I ask you to forgive me. But I will not apologize for quoting the Bible in church.”

Klingenschmitt was interviewed in the Capitol basement by Fox 31’s Eli Stokols, who reported that the Republican lawmaker was “adamant that what he says as a preacher on his Sunday morning program should be viewed separately from his work as an elected official.”

“I’ve said many times that I wear two hats; and on Sundays, I’m an ordained minister and I preach the gospel and I quote the bible,” [Klingenschmitt] said.

Klingenschmitt directed his own outrage at Hullinghorst and Democrats at the Capitol who have blocked personhood measures that, he argues, would afford adequate justice to Wilkins for the death of her unborn baby.

POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reports on bipartisan outrage over Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt’s latest ugly remarks–but no calls from fellow Republicans to resign.

Several leading Colorado Republicans lashed out Thursday against state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, saying his act-of-God comments about an attack on a pregnant woman whose baby was cut from her stomach were “disgusting” and “reprehensible.”

The lawmaker, who also is a minister, quoted the Bible in his “Pray In Jesus Name” program Wednesday and tried to link the crime to abortion…

“Gordon does not speak for his caucus,” said [Rep. Polly] Lawrence, the House assistant minority leader.

Steve House, the new chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, said Klingenschmitt under the First Amendment has the right to say what he wants but “he does not represent the Colorado Republican Party.”

Original post follows.

—–

You had the feeling it was just a matter of time until Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt said something, in his position as a lawmaker, that was so grotesque that it should be widely reported and thoroughly condemned. That time arrived today.

The progressive organization Right Wing Watch reported that Klingenschmitt said in an online video that the horrific attack on a pregnant woman March 18 in Longmont is a “curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb.”

It’s a statement along the lines of Pat Robertson blaming abortion and gays for 9/11, and it has the effect of casting Republicans–not just Klingenschmitt–as being completely heartless and cold-hearted mean–unless they thoroughly denounce it. But will they?

Right Wing Watch reported this morning:

On his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today, Klingenschmitt discussed the story and tied it to a passage from Hosea in which God curses the people of Samaria for their rebellion by declaring that “their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.”

“I wonder if there is prophetic significance to America today in that scripture,” he said. “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open”

Gardner promise: Obamacare replacement will be “ready to go”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The Hill’s Sarah Ferris reported today that Obama is mocking Republicans for claiming to have an alternative to Obamacare, when they obviously don’t.

Five years after the passage of his signature healthcare law, President Obama took a jab at the Republican Party for still lacking its own plan to replace it.

“We have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case,” Obama said at a White House event marking the healthcare law’s progress. “Death panels. Doom. A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.”

Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner is one of the Republicans whom Obama is mocking. Asked if Republicans would have a plan ready if the Supreme Court rules against the health care law in King v. Burwell, Gaardner said on Fox News Wednesday (at 2:30):

“I think the Republicans not only will have a plan but something the President will accept, because it’s something we have to do,” said Gardner, citing the efforts of GOP Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, and Nebraska’s Benjamin Sass.

“Republican’s will have a plan in place if the ruling is for the plaintiffs. Our plan will be ready to go,” Gardner said.

The replacement will be ready to go? If that’s true, why has it taken so long? And why wait for the Supreme Court’s decision? Gardner has been voting for the repeal Obamacare for years.

He even advocated for the government shutdown, in an effort to defund the health care program.

So Reporters should hold Gardner to his latest Obamacare-replacement promise, even if the justices uphold the health-care law. It will be ready do go, Gardner promised, so I’d think reporters would be looking forward to seeing it, one way or the other.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 25)

We’re not going streaking! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The state Senate has approved a school vouchers bill that would also give tax credits to home-schoolers. FOX 31 News gives a brief rundown, with everything you need to understand about this bill wrapped up in one sentence:

As public schools continue to lose funding, many Republicans are now looking to subsidize parents who choose to send their kids to a private school or home-schooling.

That makes…no sense whatsoever. Even if Sen. Kevin Lundberg muscles this nonsense through the Senate, the grown-ups in the State House will almost certainly reject the idea.

► Reporters at the Colorado Springs Gazette could be fired for speaking out against a 4-part series in the Gazette that is little more than a long, extended, editorialized rant against voter-approved legal marijuana. The Colorado Springs Independent has been doing a good job following the controversy from various angles:

According to national media reporter Jim Romenesko, employees at the Colorado Springs Gazette are being told to sit down and shut up when it comes to its recent marijuana series, “Clearing the Haze,” which, as we reported, is plagued with ethical problems.

Learn more about this growing controversy (pun intended) from longtime Pols reader Zappatero.

► Congressional Republicans are nearing final votes on a budget plan that has no hope of becoming law, but they’re doing it anyway because otherwise they’d have to, you know, govern or something. National media outlets are calling this a “make-or-break” week for Republicans; the smart money is not on the “make” side.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Reefer Madness at Colorado Springs Gazette

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

reefermadness

Colorado Springs is the conservative capital of our dear state. The Gazette, having been revitalized by tons of conservative cash, has been the public spokeswrap and parttime watchdog of the long list of conservatives who made their base here and took their, ummm, special kind of conservatism to Denver and DC. And, as long as I’ve been here, the Gazette has had a SuperConservative Wacko Bird in the Op-Ed Editor position. 

Most notable was Sean Paige, a much smarter conservative than Doug Lamborn, and a much more dangerous conservative than Jon Caldara. He’s slightly less self-promoting than P.T. Barnum, but don’t ask him about that. 

The current Op-Ed Editor at the Gazette is Wayne Laugesen, a former editor of “Guns and Ammo”.

Yes, you read that right.

He does his job and, as with Paige, you can usually write the “I’m agin’ it!” editorial from the headline before reading. It’s doubtful Anschutz has to order his guys to do stuff as Dean Singleton has surely done with the Post. 

But now it looks as if Laugesen has done a really stupid thing as the Gazette goes all “Reefer Madness” on the citizens of Colorado and their perfectly logical desire that marijuana be legalized.

Well, this is embarrassing. It looks like the Gazette accidentally published a bloated anti-marijuana opinion column as news.

To its credit, “Clearing the Haze” does have a vaguely menacing presentation — and, ooh, parallax — but if the organization had any sense of journalistic ethics, the four-day series would never have hit the page.

Let’s start with the way news is supposed to work. The Society of Professional Journalists says reporters should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.” …

It’s probably not fair to hold the Gazette to such a standard, because it publicly espouses no such intention, but let’s just do it anyway. Let’s clear the haze.

The four-day series was written by three people: Wayne Laugesen, Pula Davis and Christie Tatum.

None of these people work for the news division of a newspaper. Laugesen and Davis are members of the Gazette’s editorial board, which has written so many diatribes against cannabis, all compositions led by Laugesen, ownership is practically screaming in the woods.

The CS Indy asked some good questions. And got no answers.

(more…)

Adams County GOP Chair Says Whites Are Tricking “the Black People”

(Um, yikes? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

adamsgop

KLZ 560-AM’s morning show’s Randy Corporon gets a BigMedia gold nugget for having a liberal guest on the show regularly, messing with the familiar reverberations in conservative echo chamber of talk radio.

On Thursday’s segment of “Have a Liberal for Lunch,” the liberal, Dane Torbenson, told “righty” host Corporon that institutional racism is still a problem in America.

The echo chamber quivered with rarely heard sound waves, stimulating Adams County Republican Chair, Anil Mathai to phone in and say elite whites are using African-Americans as pawns in a war against whites.

“This is a reverse racial discussion being driven by elite whites, especially by those who have never lived in the city, those who have no clue about what black people have to go through,” Mathai told KLZ Wake Up Show listeners. “And the black people [are] also being tricked into this racial discussion, because bitterness is a destructive thing. It’s a good thing to have this discussion, but the reality is, this is racially motivated from the reverse side.”

Who are the whites that are tricking “the black people?” The whites in the Ferguson police department? Which is rotten with systemic racism, according to federal investigators? I’d like to see a list of whites who are tricking “the black people” into thinking there’s racism out there. Will I be on the list for linking to a federal-government report documenting racism?

If blacks were allowed on the list of people tricking the black people, it looks like President Obama would be on it, if you listen to Mathai.

The Adams County Republican leader said we have “a black president and a black attorney general and such, and we’re more diversified than ever before in American history, who’s pushing a racial agenda, a reverse racial agenda.”

“That’s not being discussed,” he said.

If he doesn’t think that’s being discussed, then he needs to listen to more talk radio, which is full of it. It’s the other side, the fact-based side that’s usually missing from talk-radio land. And for its being there for a change, we have Corporon and his liberal guest Torbenson to thank.

(more…)

State Rep. Everett wants Gardner to appear on radio show where host won’t “let him slide” or “use message points”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Jefferson County Republican State Rep. Justin Everett wants U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to appear on a tea-party radio show that Gardner has been dodging.

KLZ 560-AM’s Randy Corporon has been airing his displeasure with Gardner for rejecting his pleas to appear on his “Wake Up with Randy Corporon” morning show.

“He and I have always gotten along well, had good conversations in the past,” Corporon told his listeners Wednesday, explaining that he’d personally asked Gardner to come on his show. “And I said, ‘Are you going to come on and explain some of the decisions that have been made.’ And [Gardner] started to talk like he would, and then he said, ‘You know what, you guys beat the crap out of me all the time.'”

“I think it would be excellent for both of you to be on the air and hash some things out,” Everett told KLZ’s Corporon Wednesday. “I think it would be very good for your listeners and the state of Colorado. So people can actually hear Cory on the radio talking to someone who’s not going to let him slide or use message points or whatever. And actually get to the meat of the matter and find out what’s going on, because I know there is a lot of definite grassroots activists on our side who aren’t too happy with Cory. You know, on Saturday [during the Republican State convention], I thought he got a pretty tepid response when he spoke.”

Corporon told Everett: “Well I wasn’t there Friday night, but I’m told at the big celebratory dinner before the [state chair] election that he got a similarly tepid response… In fact, I think the sound defeat of Ryan Call by Steve House was a repudiation of Cory Gardner as well because Cory expended a lot of resources trying to get Ryan Call re-elected.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 23)

Get More Smarter

Today is the nicest day of the work week weatherwise, so play hooky if you can! For the rest of us, it’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Ted Cruz is running for President.

► Colorado had the third-highest voter turnout in America in 2014, which means we are doing something right–unless you don’t want everybody to vote.

► Republicans in Congress have a nightmare of a week ahead. From the FOX News report we cited over the weekend:

Next week could very well break the U.S. House of Representatives.

Or, if things go well, the House Republican majority could score two of its biggest legislative victories in quite a while, demonstrating it can govern.

The stakes are high as the GOP plans to debate and approve a budget. It’s a two-step in which Republicans slash spending but maneuver parliamentarily to bolster defense programs, satisfying both fiscal conservatives and budget hawks.

Or, the effort could blow up in the Republicans’ face.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Impartial Montana Judge Rebuts Colorado Judiciary’s Pension Contract Breach Cover Up.

(Interestingly, the Montana Court Wrongly Believes that the Colorado PERA Statutory “Annual Benefit Increase” is Tied to the “Cost of Living,” When, in Fact, it is Identical to the Montana Pension Benefit.)

This recent Montana District court decision draws a bright line under our historic and brazen Colorado pension theft, a theft that makes Bernie Madoff look like a pickpocket.

From Helenair.com: “Retirees’ cost-of-living increases preserved.”

“A state district court judge on Wednesday struck down a legislative attempt to cut the annual cost-of-living adjustments for retired state and local government employees.”

“District Judge James Reynolds issued a permanent injunction blocking the attempt by the 2013 (Montana) Legislature to reduce what is known as the Guaranteed Annual Benefit Adjustment, or GABA, from 3 percent to 1 percent for retirees under the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS).”

“After the Legislature adjourned, the Association of Montana Retired Public Employees and four retirees filed the lawsuit challenging the cut in GABA.”

(Colorado public sector unions joined in the campaign to break Colorado PERA pensioner contracts. Retirees generally don’t pay union dues.)

Helenair.com:

“’By reducing the GABA, the state has significantly decreased the benefit payments that retired public employees receive,’ Reynolds wrote Wednesday. ‘Decreasing benefits for those who have already given their entire working life to the state, benefits to which they are contractually entitled, is not reasonable or necessary when other broader remedies were available.’”

“In his decision, Reynolds listed some other options available other than cutting the GABA that the Legislature could have used, citing the arguments of the retirees’ group.”

“These included: extending the pension debt amortization period beyond 30 years, adopting the bill as proposed without the GABA reduction, increasing the employer’s contributions, making a one-time payment to PERS from the state general fund reserves, diverting money from other accounts such as the coal severance tax trust fund, the tobacco settlement trust fund or the Big Sky Economic Development trust fund into PERS, or raising revenue through tax increases.”

(All of these options, including a prospective reduction of the rate at which PERA benefits accrue, that is, a reduction in the Colorado PERA pension “multiplier” going forward, were available to the Colorado politicians who broke the Colorado PERA ABI contract in 2010.)

Helenair.com:

“‘The court thus concludes that reducing the GABA was not reasonable and necessary to achieve the legitimate purpose of maintaining actuarial soundness in PERS,’ Reynolds wrote. ‘The substantial impairment caused by Section 5 of House Bill 454, therefore, is in violation of the contract clause of both the Montana and U.S. Constitutions.’”

“Reynolds said that he was persuaded that reducing GABA ‘constitutes a substantial impairment of retired public employees’ contract rights.’”

“’From a strictly financial point of view, the reduction in the GABA would have a substantial effect on the total value of payments a retiree could receive over his or her retirement – thousands of dollars in some cases,’ Reynolds wrote.”

“He said the publications distributed by the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement Administration made available to PERS members support the interpretation that the GABA is part of the members’ contract. Handbooks from PERS and workshops put on by its board did the same, he said.”

“’These publications show that public employees were told before and after they retired that they could count on the GABA,’ Reynolds said.”

(Colorado PERA publications demonstrating the contractual nature of the Colorado PERA ABI benefit are archived at the website: saveperacola.com.)

http://helenair.com/news/local/retirees-cost-of-living-increases-preserved/article_89db3266-00a0-5893-bb81-1f313351b836.html

Published comments on the Helenair.com article:

“In terms of the state pension, the only reason it was ever in trouble is that the legislature and Administrations, both Democratic and Republican ignored their obligation to fund it adequately, both by raising state contributions and employee contributions. By assuming that the stock market would always be super healthy, they assured the program would ultimately be in crisis.”

“I point out Bullock for his hypocrisy of being the one who introduced the amendment to cut GABA. On that day in April, 2013. He then vetoed it saying it was unconstitutional, as you say. So why did he drag everyone through it?”

“Note to reporter. You start the article saying Reynolds struck down legislature’s attempt to cut cost of living adjustments, Reynolds specifically said they are not COLA’s but are a specific 3% amount guaranteed by the law.”

(This ruse was quite useful in securing the Colorado Supreme Court’s political decision in the Colorado PERA public pension case, Justus v. State.)

THE MONTANA DISTRICT COURT DECISION.

Link to the Montana COLA (GABA) Decision:

http://mpera.mt.gov/docs/GABAdecision2015.pdf

Excerpts From the Montana Court Decision:

“The GABA is not, strictly speaking, a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) because it is not dependent on the actual cost of living at the time. Rather, the GABA is applied regardless of whether it is higher or lower than the change in the cost of living.”

(This is a pertinent observation on the part of the Montana Judiciary that unaccountably escaped the Colorado Judiciary.)

“Leading up to the 2013 legislative session, the funding ratio of the (Montana) PERS was 67 percent, meaning the fund was only able to meet 67 percent of its current liabilities.”

(The Colorado PERA pension system had a 69 percent funded ratio at the time of the PERA ABI contract breach in 2010.)

“AMRPE claims that HB 454 violates the contract clause of both the Montana and United States Constitutions because retired public employees have a contractual right to the GABA and, by unilaterally reducing the GABA, the legislature has impaired that right.”

“Beneficial amendments automatically become part of an employee’s contract because acceptance of the modification is presumed, but acceptance cannot be presumed when a modification is detrimental to the employee.”

 (Another important observation by this Montana District Court judge.)

“Montana’s Constitution has no such provision that directly addresses the contractual nature of public retirement benefits.” (Well, just like the Colorado Constitution.)

“The (Colorado) Court compared the COLA statute to other laws it had previously determined created contractual rights, using words such as ‘entitled,’ ‘future,’ and ‘payable for the life of the retiree,’ and noted that the COLA statute did not contain any such language. (Justus) Moreover, the Court noted that ‘[b]y its very nature a statutory cost of living adjustment is a periodic exercise of legislative discretion that takes account of changing economic conditions in the state and/or nation.'” (Justus)

(The Montana court is unaware that the Colorado statutory language creating the Colorado PERA base benefit contract is identical to the statutory language creating the Colorado PERA ABI benefit contract. Both contractual obligations “SHALL” be paid under Colorado statutes. How is it that ordinary public pensioners possess knowledge that court officials miss?)

The Montana Court is Under the Impression that Colorado’s Statutory Annual Benefit Increase [ABI] is a COLA, When in Fact, It is Identical in Form to the Montana Pension GABA, a Fixed Statutory, Periodic Increase.

Montana Court: “While these cases from other states are helpful to the Court’s analysis, none address an identical situation to that in the present case. The (Montana) GABA is not a COLA that is tied to economic factors outside the control of the legislature. It is a fixed percentage that compounds annually, regardless of market performance. In that sense, the GABA is unlike the COLAs in New Mexico, Maine, or Colorado which were not contractually protected because, in part, they were subject to the whims of the economy.”

(The Montana court failed to consider the political nature of the Colorado court’s treatment of the ABI benefit in the case, Justus v. State and thus misinterpreted the legal status of the Colorado PERA ABI benefit.)

“Once that enhancement was made, it became part of the contract.”

(This is the historical [pre-contract breach campaign] position taken by Colorado PERA officials.)

“The legislature did not reserve the right to reduce that enhancement in the future, nor did it declare that the GABA was not part of the contract. The legislature knew that public employees had a contractual right to retirement benefits and chose to guarantee an additional benefit beyond those in existence at the time.”

(Evidence Ignored by the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado PERA’s Former General Counsel and Current Executive Director:

August 17, 2005, Rocky Mountain News:

“His [Colorado PERA General Counsel Greg Smith’s] briefing paper said ‘there has never been a finding in Colorado that the state has reserved its power to make changes’ in PERA’s benefit structure.”

“Smith said in his opinion that ‘other [non-Colorado] courts have set a high burden to meet the necessity threshold.'”

“The PERA board, however, relying on a legal opinion by General Counsel Greg Smith, thinks benefits cannot be cut for any active PERA member. That means not just current retirees and workers who are eligible to retire but the brand-new employee who has put less than a year of contributions into the plan.”

“Smith argued, however, that there is no precedent for declaring an actuarial emergency unless a pension fund has a serious cash liquidity problem.”

http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2005/aug/17/span-classdeeplinksredpart-four-the-pera-puzzle/

Again, Greg Smith:

“Shrink the COLAs: ‘The attorney general’s opinion seems clear that fully vested employees — those retired or with enough years of service to retire — cannot see any benefits reduced, including cost-of-living adjustments,’ Smith said.”

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_11105271)

Back to the Montana Court Decision:

“Given the structure and language of the relevant statutes, and the promises made to public employees, the Court concludes that the GABA is part of the contract between public employees and the state.”

“The Court is persuaded that, by reducing in the GABA from three percent to 1 percent, HB 454 constitutes a substantial impairment of retired public employees’ contract rights. From a strictly financial point of view, the reduction in the GABA would have a substantial effect on the total value of payments a retiree could receive over his or her retirement-thousands of dollars in some cases.”

“As described above, PERB distributed literature and held seminars and workshops that repeatedly assured employees that the GABA was guaranteed, not subject to the whims of the market, and something on which they could rely.”

Colorado PERA’s lawyers, 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

If Colorado PERA’s lawyers believe that the PERA ABI benefit is a contractual obligation, why should the relatively unsophisticated PERA pensioners not also hold this belief?)

Montana Court:

“Retired public employees reasonably expected that the GABA would not decrease, despite the fact that the GABA statute had been amended in the past, because the GABA had never been reduced, except for new hires.”

“In 2007, the Montana Legislature reduced the GABA to 1.5 percent for employees hired after January 1,2007. This further strengthens AMRPE’s reasonable expectation that the GABA, as applied to them, would not decrease.”

(As we have observed, similar legislation was adopted in Colorado in 2005.)

“Public employees have a legitimate expectation that the GABA is part of their contracts with the State, and a reduction in GABA substantially frustrates that expectation.

“The burden is on the State to prove that the impairment was reasonable and necessary.”

(Colorado PERA’s lawyers agreed with this point, until they shifted their legal strategy for the PERA pension contract breach from “actuarial necessity” to a simple denial of contractual obligations. The Colorado Judiciary circumvented this problem of having the defendants prove reasonableness and necessity by accepting the defendant’s suggestion that the court simply deny the existence of the PERA ABI contract, a contract which PERA’s lawyers and the sponsor of SB10-001 had previously acknowledged.)

Note that the Montana court cites the federal case, US Trust, a case the Colorado Supreme Court artfully ignored:

Montana District Court:

“Though courts generally defer to the legislature’s judgment, in this case ‘complete deference to a legislative assessment of reasonableness is not appropriate because the State’s self-interest is at stake…. If a State could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all.” (US Trust)

“Nevertheless, the cases both parties cite make clear the when the State is a party to the contract that is substantially impaired, complete deference to the legislature is inappropriate. And the State is clearly a party to the employment contracts of public employees. The Court, therefore, will not grant complete deference to the legislature and will instead apply a heightened level of scrutiny.”

“Even if alternatives might be ‘politically more difficult,’ the State is limited in its ability ‘to abridge its contractual obligations without first pursuing other alternatives.'”

“Decreasing benefits for those who have already given their entire working life to the State, benefits to which they are contractually entitled, is not reasonable or necessary, when other broader remedies were available.”

“The substantial impairment of contract rights caused by Section 5 of HB 454, therefore, is in violation of the contract clause of both the Montana and United States Constitutions. AMRPE is entitled to summary judgment and a permanent injunction.”

“The State is permanently enjoined from enforcing the amendments to § 19-3-1605, MCA, contained in section 5 of HB 454, reducing the GABA for retired public employees.”

From the Montana PERA website:

March 4, 2015

“Judge Reynolds today granted PERS retirees’ request for a permanent injunction to prevent the Board from implementing the decrease in GABA under Section 5 of House Bill 454 (2013).”

“The Judge ruled that the PERS retirees have a contract right to the GABA increases and that the State’s reduction of the GABA to address the actuarial soundness of PERS was not ‘reasonable and necessary’ and thus violated the contract clauses of the Montana and the US Constitutions.”

http://mpera.mt.gov/perslawsuitamrpe.shtml

For reference, I provide links to a few previous ColoradoPols.com articles addressing the attempted governmental theft of the Montana retiree’s GABA pension benefit:

http://coloradopols.com/diary/41512/montana-governor-likely-to-sign-a-pension-reform-bill-he-believes-is-unconstitutional#sthash.1Y5eOS6k.dpbs

http://coloradopols.com/diary/46521/montana-retiree-cola-theft-lawsuit-progressing-colorado-pera-retiree-cola-theft-lawsuit-cert-petition-pending#sthash.1bmBRUM8.dpbs

http://coloradopols.com/diary/44462/montana-public-sector-unions-to-sue-over-pension-cola-theft-colorados-unions-supported-the-taking-of-the-contracted-colorado-pera-cola-benefit-from-pensioners#sthash.Hmot55ms.dpbs

Readers should note that protections afforded to public pensioners by the US Constitution vary dramatically depending on which side of a state line a pensioner happens to be standing. To wit:

http://coloradopols.com/diary/64487/the-colorado-supreme-court-politicians-in-black-robes-as-it-turns-out#sthash.XwxTOij1.dpbs

Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook.

Don’t Discriminate Against the Elderly; Everyone Else is Fair Game

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters Woods

Freshman Senator Laura Waters Woods (R-Arvada) is up for re-election in 2016, and that means Senate District 19 will be one of the most heavily-contested legislative races of the cycle. Republicans may wish they could get rid of her (and they might try), because she has been nothing short of her own negative advertisement during her first few months in the Senate. 

“We don’t want to discriminate against the elderly, so that is why they were excluded in this bill.”

— Sen. Laura Woods, speaking today on the Senate Floor in support of SB15-069

Senator Waters Woods was again on the Senate floor today speaking in favor of her “Right to Discriminate” legislation (SB15-069) that seeks to repeal anti-discrimination laws put on the books just a few years ago. Under existing law, employees have rights against discrimination based on disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry; Republican-aligned business interests have opposed these laws because they fear “frivolous lawsuits,” and Woods has been just the person to carry this leaking pail of water around the Capitol in 2015.

Woods wants to get rid of almost all of the anti-discrimination protections created in the “Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013,” but she has rendered her own arguments moot by insisting on one solitary exception. Woods believes that Colorado should only have anti-discrimination laws that protect the elderly, an absurd stance to take on an already ridiculous policy idea. As Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) said in a press release, “It doesn’t make sense. A 77 year old white man, like me, is protected under the bill still, but a 60 year old African American is not. Why?”

It’s not like this bill was a late addition to the calendar that caught some people off guard; Woods introduced this bill in January, and has been taking heavy blows in the media ever since. Did Senate Republicans not realize that Woods would be so vocal in her support of an exception for the elderly? Have they not been paying attention to the words that are coming out of her mouth? [Video after the jump]

The “Right to Discriminate” bill has one stop left on the Senate floor before it heads to the House for its official demise, which makes this whole thing that much weirder from a political and strategic perspective. Republicans don’t have the votes to get this bill to the Governor, so why not just kill it in a Senate committee before Woods can use it for self-harm? This is a bad bill, made worse by stupid arguments, all of which will undoubtedly come back to haunt Republicans in one of their most at-risk State Senate seats.

Watch the video after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 20)

Get More SmarterYour bracket isn’t busted; it’s just resting…for next year. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Everyone wants to know how construction costs for a new VA Hospital building in Aurora got so out of hand. Electa Draper of the Denver Post takes a look at the discussion.

► Republicans in Congress, federal budgets, and the “Magic Asterisk.” Paul Krugman of the New York Times explains why Republicans budgets are complete nonsense:

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 19)

Get More SmarterWe don’t care what anybody says: Today is NOT the first day of the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Anyone got an extra $1.73 billion that they aren’t using? We may need it to finish the new VA Hospital in Denver that is actually in Aurora. Also, Rep. Mike Coffman is complaining again that other people aren’t doing stuff.

► Surprise! No, wait…what’s the opposite of surprise? Colorado doesn’t have much room in next year’s budget to fund things. It’s almost like we need a new source of revenue or something.

 ► We may not have much money in the state coffers, but at least we’re offering tax refunds! Thanks, TABOR: Destroying Colorado one ratchet effect at a time.

 ► But wait, The U.S. Senate will save the fiscal day! Oh, nevermind.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Step Right Up and WIN! This Boom will never Bust, Baby!

 (Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This Time Is Going to Be Different, Really…

 

“All that I am asking for is $10 gold dollars, and I can win it back with one good hand.  …I got no chance of losing, this time….”      The Loser, R. Hunter/J. Garcia

Colorado is about to lose thousands of jobs, again, as the latest boom and its promise of vast riches crashes into the reality of a volatile commodity market.  Again.

Like in the last bust in 2008 that hit the western Colorado gas fields, it was just months prior that the boosters, peddlers, hucksters and snakes, oil-salespeople were all saying this time would be different, this time we would ride the mineral riches to everlasting everything. 

Until we’re not.  Until the prices, in the most volatile of animal spirited commodities—fossil fuels, drop. Again.  And then Colorado is left holding the bag.  Again.

Last month there was an article about how poorly reclamation is happening, if at all, in Colorado’s oil and gas patch, a dry time in a dry land.

Sure the PR teams at shops popping up like mushrooms in the mountains after a monsoon, weave webs of spin to convince you, Colorado, otherwise. 

This time will be different.  Just like the last time would be different.  And the time before that. 

I love you, Colorado, I would never hurt you.

Again.

Of course Colorado is no stranger to the vagaries of volatility, in the boom and bust that is—in fact—the historical mark of the Mountain West.  

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Senate Budget: Legislating With Crayons

gardnerryancash

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, and House Budget “genius” Rep. Paul Ryan. They want your money…but they aren’t sure what to do with it.

Senate Republicans announced their federal budget plan this afternoon, and it…well, it’s not so good. As the New York Times reports:

Over all, the Senate version hews closely to the budgetary intent of the House proposal, relying on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, turning Medicaid and food stamps into block grants, and cutting domestic programs to end federal red ink without tax increases.

The Senate budget also relies on a significant gimmick by counting on a repeal of the health law but also assuming that $2 trillion from the law’s tax increases will continue to flow into the Treasury. [Pols emphasis]

The budget does little to placate concerns of Republican defense hawks that spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act are significantly undermining Defense Department operations. Rather than adding money over the caps, the Senate plan creates what is known as a “deficit neutral reserve fund,” which would allow negotiators later this year to reach an accord that overrides the 2011 budget law.

Did you catch that paragraph about the “significant gimmick?” Senate Republicans want to repeal Obamacare and pocket the $2 trillion in savings.

So, Republican Senators don’t have a plan to replace Obamacare with anything, but they’re going to keep the money from gutting health care so they can spend it on…other stuff? What?

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times breaks down the Senate plan in pretty straightforward language:

The first Senate Republican budget since 2006 is long on ambition but short on details. It foresees saving $4.3 trillion from mandatory programs like Medicare, food stamps and Medicaid, but unlike the House budget, it does not make specific policy prescriptions, such as converting Medicare into a voucherlike program that allows older people to buy subsidized insurance on the private health care market.

The budget offers up $430 billion in savings from Medicare without saying how. [Pols emphasis] It does require a change to Medicaid to cede much of its administration and control to state governments, saving $400 billion over 10 years. But by maintaining coverage requirements for the low-income elderly and for people with disabilities, the Senate’s Medicaid savings are less than half of the House’s proposed $913 billion cut.

Budget committees from the Senate and House should begin discussing their curious budget proposals next week in hopes of finding some sort of fiscal agreement that doesn’t just completely ignore reality…or totally screw over the Middle Class.

GOP State Senator’s “like” of Facebook page doesn’t signify an endorsement of Thurlow recall effort

(Classy – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A Facebook page has emerged calling for the recall of Rep. Dan Thurlow, who’s voted against his caucus numerous times during the current legislative session, angering talk-radio hosts and their allies.

Among the 111 people who’ve liked the “Recall Dan Thurlow” page Colorado State Sen. Owen Hill. Thurlow and Hill are both Republicans.

I called Hill to find out if his “like” of the page meant he endorsed a recall of Thurlow, and he told me it doesn’t signify an endorsement of the effort.

“I like a lot of pages on Facebook to hear what’s going on,” Hill told me. “Facebook is a phenomenal way to keep track of information.”

“I’m concerned personally about many of his votes,” Hill added.