Colorado Lawmakers Stand With President Obama As New Gun Safety Measures Announced

gironmorsefieldsCNN reports from the White House today:

President Barack Obama grew emotional Tuesday as he made a passionate call for a national “sense of urgency” to limit gun violence.

He was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Obama circled back to that shooting in the final moments of his speech.

“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” Obama said, pausing to wipe away tears.

He added: “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day,” referring to his hometown where he began his political career.

The White House is introducing a new requirement that would expand background checks for buyers. The measure mandates that individuals “in the business of selling firearms” register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.

Among those in attendance today was Rep. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, whose son’s violent death a decade ago helped propel her into public office and make her a leading advocate for gun safety legislation. As the Denver Post reports:

In 2013, Democrats passed a law that required Coloradans to undergo a background check when they sold and transferred a firearm, whether the gun was a purchase from a store or a swap between close friends. Colorado closed the gun-show loophole by requiring checks for purchases at gun shows after Columbine.

“The nation has to catch up with Colorado,” Fields said. [Pols emphasis]

And it wasn’t just Rep. Fields representing Colorado at the White House today. Two Democratic state senators who lost seats in the 2013 recall elections initiated by the gun lobby in retaliation for the passing of that year’s gun safety bills, former Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron, were also on hand for Obama’s announcement.

Because Colorado already has in place most of what Obama announced today, there’s nothing new for local gun rights supporters to complain about–which won’t stop them, of course. But it should also be noted that the specific policy Obama is strengthening, so far as he can without legislative support, is overwhelmingly supported by voters even as they express disdain for the concept of “gun control.” Background checks to screen out persons who are already prohibited from owning guns is a no-brainer in the eyes of an overwhelming percentage of respondents to every poll that asks the question.

Going on three years later, there is still debate among Colorado Democrats as to whether the 2013 gun safety bills were worth the political damage. Both seats lost in the recalls were retaken by Democrats in 2014, and another state senate seat that was narrowly lost to the GOP as an indirect result of the 2013 gun debate is ripe to be picked back up this year. The personal sacrifices of Sens. Morse, Giron, and Evie Hudak notwithstanding, the predictions of political catastrophe for Democrats after taking on the gun issue have not come true in Colorado.

And today, the President of the United States powerfully backed them up. Is it the end of the debate? Of course not. Starting next week, Colorado Republicans are going to take their perennial shot at repealing everything that was passed in 2013, invoking the names Morse, Giron, and Hudak the whole way. But the longsuffering public servants in the photo you see above should be proud. The laws they gave everything to pass are still on the books. Colorado’s success in passing common-sense gun safety laws stands as a hard-won model that may yet be emulated in other states.

It was not for nothing.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Jan. 4)

Get More SmarterThe Brockweiler hits a snag, but the Denver Broncos are still the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. 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…

► Colorado business leaders are pushing again for an overhaul of the so-called Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR, that has handcuffed Colorado’s budget for decades. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

An organization backed by prominent Colorado leaders is moving toward ballot initiatives in 2016 to roll back the state’s TABOR spending caps and make it harder to amend the constitution.

A possible third ballot question from Building a Better Colorado may allow the state’s 1.3 million unaffiliated voters to play a larger role in selecting candidates at the political primary level…

…The move to eliminate the inflation-plus-population revenue limit in the  Taxpayer’s Bill of Rightslikely would include a provision to direct surplus money that would have gone to taxpayer refunds to certain priority areas, rather than give state lawmakers free rein to spend it.

Reeves Brown, the director of the Building a Better Colorado group, says polling conducted in December showed strong support from voters for removing the troublesome “revenue caps” created by TABOR.

 

► A group of heavily-armed terrorists (let’s call it like it is, shall we?) continue to occupy a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. If you missed the Saturday takeover, Rolling Stone has a Q&A to help you catch up with the news. Militia members are upset because two Oregon ranchers were convicted of federal arson charges for allegedly setting fire to a huge swath of land in order to cover up illegal poaching activities. The Oregonian has a good deeper dive of the issues behind this terrorist occupation.

Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher and armed lunatic Cliven Bundy, is among a group of about 150 armed white dudes holed up in the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. Twitter users quickly responded to the terrorist takeover over the weekend, labeling the group #YallQaeda.

Republican Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are both speaking out against the militants. “Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds. But we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others,” said Cruz.

 

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Top Ten Stories of 2015 #8: Off the Rails in the Colorado Legislature

colorado-state-capitolIn 2015, Republicans retook control of the Colorado Senate for the first time since 2004. This impressive-sounding feat is tempered by the reality that their control of the chamber was won by a single seat, in a race decided by well under 1,000 votes. In 2010, the GOP wrested control of the Colorado House from Democrats by a similar narrow margin in a single swing Jefferson County House race–in fact a district that largely overlaps the Senate district that proved decisive in 2014. In the 2012 elections, Democrats punished majority House Republicans with two years of aggregated misdeeds from their time in power, expanding the Democratic Senate majority and retaking the House by a wide margin.

For a host of reasons, 2016 is setting up to look a lot like 2012.

Obviously, it’s a presidential election year, which has in recent elections given Democrats an edge–even in 2004 when Colorado voters put Democrats in power in the state legislature while re-electing George W. Bush. But in addition, perhaps even more than going into 2012, the GOP has given Democrats an arsenal of devastating attacks with which to turn out their voters. Just like after 2010, and if anything to a far worse extent, the GOP has squandered its chance to shape policy with a split legislature, and used their one-seat majority in the Colorado Senate for hopeless ideological crusades that play directly into Democratic hands.

When we say that it was worse this year than in previous years, we objectively mean what we say. We’re not sure if Republicans are relying on dwindling local press coverage, counting on pleasing their base voters enough to not have to rely on any sane ones, or–and this may be the most likely scenario–they’ve simply lost control of their message, on just about every issue relevant to the electorate except the always-popular slogan of “lower taxes.” But it is worse this year, and no amount of false equivalence from lazy/overworked (sometimes not mutually exclusive) local reporters can conceal it.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

A few events from the 2015 legislative session help bring this into focus. At the same time as an outbreak of measles in California was making headlines, a disease preventable by vaccination but rising again as the “anti-vaxxer” movement claims minds in defiance of all scientific consensus, Republicans in the Colorado Senate were pushing a bill that would make it even easier for unvaccinated kids in Colorado to attend public schools. Led by the same highly vulnerable Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada who gave them the majority in 2014, and Sen. Tim Neville, a hard-right frontrunning 2016 U.S. Senate candidate, the Senate GOP pushed repeals of discrimination protections and killed the state’s unfinished pay equity study commission.

One of the worst self-made public relations disasters for Colorado Republicans this year was the killing of a bill to fund a program to provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to low-income women in Colorado. Private seed funding for this program was running out, and every expert in the field recommended the state pick up the tab to continue reaping the enormous cost savings from the massive reduction in unintended pregnancy the program was responsible for. The GOP’s refusal to fund this program ripped the scab off of an ugly fact that gets suppressed in election years: they don’t like birth control. Sen. Kevin Lundberg, another hard-right icon, eagerly pronounced his belief that IUDs “kill babies,” setting Republicans back several decades on this issue–or at least back to Bob Beauprez’s gubernatorial campaign.

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

In the Colorado House, all eyes this year were on a man Republicans either love to hate or find a great subject to change: Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt. After Klingenschmitt’s election in 2014 succeeding outgoing Rep. Mark Waller in beet-red House District 15, Democrats eagerly anticipated his arrival–and he didn’t disappoint. From the moment of his swearing in, reportedly with a Bluetooth headset still in his ear, Klingenschmitt’s continuation of his batshit demon-exorcising Youtube “ministry” as a sworn Colorado Republican lawmaker became a slow-motion disaster that no disclaimer can save them from.

After Klingenschmitt stated that an horrific attack on a pregnant Longmont woman last March was the “curse of God” for abortion, he was stripped of one committee assignment–a pathetic slap on the wrist that was itself quietly rescinded a couple of weeks later. Klingenschmitt said that gay scoutmasters should prefer to be “drowned in the sea” rather than face God’s wrath. We could write a book on all the ways Klingenschmitt has embarrassed his party in such a short time in office. But today, Klingenschmitt is hoping to trade up, running for Senate President Bill Cadman’s SD-12 seat. For all his antics, locals tell us not to underestimate “Dr. Chaps'” considerable base of support.

Senate President Cadman, for his part, hasn’t commented about Klingenschmitt at all. That fact stands out.

As the year came to a close, Woods, Klingenschmitt, and other Republicans in the legislature became part of much larger and even more damaging events–as we’ll discuss in a later post. But that shouldn’t overshadow what came before the domestic terror attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. In ways we we struggle to enumerate, Colorado Republicans have set themselves up for disaster at the polls next November.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Dec. 30)

Logo-NewYearHatUm, you may need to re-think that big outdoor New Year’s Eve party you have been planning; temperatures in the Denver area may dip well below zero tomorrow evening. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Iowa caucuses are just five weeks away, which means it’s time for the massive field of Republican Presidential candidates to get serious about beating on each other. From the Washington Post:

The tactical shift on the part of the candidates and their allies reflects a long-standing assumption as to how this crowded nomination battle is likely to play out.

Many believe the race will come down to a one-on-one contest between an “outsider” who channels the angry Republican base and a candidate more in line with the wishes of the party hierarchy. The establishment pick has almost always prevailed in the past, though it is far from certain that will be the case in 2016.

The insurgent faction of the party appears likely to rally around either front-runner Donald Trump or the ascendant Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). The leading possibilities on the establishment side include three sitting or former governors and a Florida senator — all of whom are running far behind Trump. But before any of them can get a shot at taking him on, they must deal with one another.

Part-time Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is taking the brunt of the early attacks, with critics focusing on his lax attendance record in Washington D.C. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are also getting schlonged by the Jeb! Bush-friendly “Right to Rise” PAC.

 

How do you make Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) disappear? Easy — just ask him a question about Donald Trump. Though he is at no risk of attracting a Republican Primary opponent of his own — and even though he has publicly endorsed Marco Rubio for President — Coffman continues to go (far, far) out of his way to avoid saying anything about His Hairness. Perhaps Coffman is just part of Trump’s “Silent Majority.”

 

► Remember, friends: If you want to participate in party caucuses coming to Colorado in March, you must declare your party affiliation by January 4th, 2016 (we’ll keep this reminder near the top of the list for the next few days). For a complete list of election-year deadlines, check out this handy guide from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Dec. 29)

Get More SmarterYou can’t stop the Brockweiler. 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…

► A federal judge kicked the can down the road on Monday in a hearing about marijuana businesses and access to banking. As Kirk Mitchell reports for the Denver Post:

A federal judge said Monday he sympathizes with pot businesses faced with contradictory regulations, but he expressed misgivings about forcing federal officials to approve a marijuana credit union.

U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson made it clear at a court hearing that he was not inclined to issue an injunction forcing the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City to grant a master account to Fourth Corner Credit Union…

He said if he were a member of Congress, he would vote in favor of allowing pot banking, but he is a federal judge and must uphold existing laws. [Pols emphasis] As long as pot is considered a Schedule I drug, which puts it in a category that is considered a greater risk than cocaine, it is illegal to manufacture and trade marijuana in the U.S., he said.

Jackson repeatedly urged attorneys for the Federal Reserve and Fourth Corner to negotiate a resolution under the stipulation that any agreement they reach follows federal law.

This is probably what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created three branches of government — it makes for a nice circle when everybody points to somebody else.

 

► We’re finishing off the year with our annual Top 10 list of the biggest political stories in Colorado. Coming in at #10: The GOP Discovers the Animas River.

 

► Remember, friends: If you want to participate in party caucuses coming to Colorado in March, you must declare your party affiliation by January 4th, 2016 (we’ll keep this reminder near the top of the list for the next week). For a complete list of election-year deadlines, check out this handy guide from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (Dec. 28)

Get More SmarterThe Brockweiler rides again tonight as the Broncos host the Bengals. 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…

► As Kristen Wyatt reports for the Associated Press, the marijuana banking discussion heats up today:

A marijuana banking case set for arguments Monday is testing the federal government’s stated goal of addressing the cash-only nature of the quasi-legal pot industry.

But should pot sellers be able to use the nation’s banking system as long as marijuana is an illegal drug? It’s a question before a federal judge trying to weigh a Colorado-chartered bank’s attempt to force the U.S. Federal Reserve to let those pot shops access the nation’s banking system.

The case involves Fourth Corner Credit Union, which Colorado set up last year to serve the marijuana industry.

Federal banking regulators have issued guidelines for how banks can accept money from pot sales, but banks frequently say those guidelines are unwieldy. That leaves many pot shops stuck trying to pay bills and taxes in cash.

Regardless of your opinion on marijuana, it is in nobody’s best interest to force pot shops to deal exclusively in cash.

 

► Remember, friends: If you want to participate in party caucuses coming to Colorado in March, you must declare your party affiliation by January 4th, 2016 (we’ll keep this reminder near the top of the list for the next two weeks). For a complete list of election-year deadlines, check out this handy guide from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Dec. 23)

Get More SmarterStill not finished with your Christmas shopping? You can start panicking now. 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…

Colorado Pols is 11 years old today. Our sincere thanks to the millions (yes millions) of readers who have helped make Colorado Pols the #1 destination on the Internet tubes for Colorado political news, information, insight and discussion.

 

► Dammit! Stop telling people about Colorado! As the Denver Post reports, no (real) state has added more residents than Colorado according to the latest U.S. Census figures:

Colorado’s population reached 5,456,574 as of July 1, up from 5,355,588 the same day a year earlier, according to updated estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday.

The 1.89 percent increase was more than double the 0.79 percent increase in the overall U.S. population and second only to North Dakota, which added 16,887 people for a 2.28 percent gain.

Colorado ranked seventh among all states for the total number of people added, sandwiched between North Carolina and Arizona.

With an aging population and young adults delaying marriage and child birth, natural gains — births minus deaths — aren’t driving the increase.

Net migration —more people moving to the state than leaving — accounts for about two-thirds of the population gain, said [state demographer Elizabeth Garner].

 

► If you want to participate in party caucuses coming to Colorado in March, you must declare your party affiliation by January 4th, 2016 (we’ll keep this reminder near the top of the list for the next two weeks).

 

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Yes, Republicans Are Standing Behind JoAnn Windholz

GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz (center).

GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz (center).

The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland updates the ongoing controversy over freshman GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz’s remarks in the wake of the Planned Parenthood domestic terror attack in Colorado Springs. Readers will recall Windholz very pointedly asserted that Planned Parenthood is the “real culprit” behind the shootings, a statement she later removed from social media but has to this date not apologized for or even publicly commented on.

Windholz’s comments spread nationally with the story of the Planned Parenthood attack, and the backlash has been fairly intense. Windholz won her HD-30 seat by the narrowest of margins in 2014, an election much more favorable to Republicans than 2016 is expected to be. While some Democrats have pushed for a speedy recall of Windholz, more strategic-minded Democrats believe it would be better to face this weakened opponent in the general election.

The unknown variable in this is how Windholz’s fellow Republicans would decide to proceed–by forcing her resignation, or doubling down in support of their incumbent in order to hold a seat they have to hold to retain any hope of flipping the House next year. And that’s where Goodland picks up the story:

Rep. JoAnn Windholz still has her party’s support in the 2016 race after she blamed Planned Parenthood for inciting the Nov. 27 rampage at a Colorado Springs clinic, referring to the health organization as the “real culprit” in the murder of three.

Adams County GOP leaders Warren Main and Gary Mikes lauded her record as a lawmaker. She is very religious and has “high morals,” Main told The Colorado Independent.

And there you have it, folks. Obviously there are higher-level Republicans who might have other ideas we haven’t heard yet, but support from Windholz’s local Adams County Republicans is without a doubt crucial to her thinking going into 2016.

To paraphrase the Sound of Music, how do Republicans solve a problem like JoAnn Windholz? Should they have pushed her to quickly resign, which would have outraged the pro-life Republican base but given them someone else to hold this seat? Are they right to calculate on Windholz being able to “live this down” Cory Gardner-style as these comments from Adams County Republicans suggest? Or is it all just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, ahead of a 2016 election in a lost-cause district that Republicans should just write off?

The one thing we’re pretty sure of is that none of this is good for them.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Dec. 15)

MoreSmarterLogo-SnowmanAccording to multiple media reports, there is a lot of snow in the Denver Metro area. 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 final Republican Presidential debate of 2015 will take place tonight in Las Vegas, Nevada, and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump expects to be the center of attention as the rest of the field tries to prove its relevance. Politico previews the debate and points to combative promo spots being aired by CNN as a hint that things might get a little rough.

The big debate kicks off at 6:30 pm tonight; there will also be a “kids’ table” debate at 4:00 pm featuring the four Republican candidates with the worst chance of becoming the GOP nominee.

 

► The State Board of Education announced its list of finalists for Colorado’s next education commissioner. A former Republican lawmaker from Arizona, Richard Crandall, is the sole finalist for the state’s top public education official. As Eric Gorski reports for the Denver Post:

The state Board of Education, which has been bitterly divided over a number of contentious issues in the past year, voted 6-0 Monday to name Richard Crandall, 48, sole finalist for the position.

Considered to be a moderate Republican, Crandall played a key role in ushering in major changes to education policy in Arizona, including backing the state’s adoption of the Common Core state standards and crafting a teacher evaluation law.

This is the second time in the last 18 months that a “national search” for a top education post in Colorado ended up with just a single finalist; in May 2014, Dan McMinimee was inexplicably declared the sole finalist to become the next Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools. 

 

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Ill-Conceived Redistricting “Fix” Collapsing Under Own Weight

James Mejia (in the Democratic doghouse).

James Mejia (in the Democratic doghouse).

If there was ever a time in which the sudden push for a “fix” for Colorado’s arguably unbroken system of redrawing congressional districts we’ve seen in recent weeks made sense, that time is rapidly passing as questions about the timing and true purpose of a “bipartisan” ballot initiative grow. As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reported Friday:

“It’s backroom politics at its worst,” said state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster. [Pols emphasis]

Initiative 55, as the measure is known, seeks to take the politics out of an inherently political process — the drawing of Colorado’s Congressional and legislative districts. The Congressional maps have been drafted by the General Assembly, with most of those efforts ending up in court for final resolution. State legislative districts are drawn by an independent commission that’s appointed by lawmakers and other state officials. Those results often end up in court, too.

The original language of Initiative 55 — submitted last month by former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch and former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction — triggered concerns that the measure would disempower voters of color, which the Voting Rights Act attempted to strengthen…

Ulibarri told The Colorado Independent that the language of 55 isn’t the same as other redistricting efforts that have been passed in other states, and that the fine print of the measure intends to break up communities of color and fracture their political voices. He has raised his concerns with the ballot measure sponsors McNulty and Buescher, and asked for a chance to be at the table for discussions about the language. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Ulibarri is being told to submit concerns to Mejia.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch also covered this story Friday.

Former Denver Public Schools board member James Mejia is emerging as a major loser in this faltering effort, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is the “Democrat” primarily responsible for branding the proposal as “bipartisan.” It’s unknown how much Mejia has been paid by organizers of the ballot measure, but it’s hard to imagine the check was worth the loss of face Mejia is experiencing as fellow Democrats line up against him.

A key meeting Thursday organized by Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and other legislators seems to have sealed the fate of this proposal, at least in terms of it attracting any significant Democratic support in its present form. As of this writing, just about every stakeholder to the left of the Republican Party has seen the facts of how it could harm minority voters.

But beyond that, as the controversy grows over this proposal, its whole logical basis comes into question. Yes, the redistricting and reapportionment process in Colorado happened last time under Democratic control. But the current Republican majority making up Colorado’s congressional delegation and split control of the legislature between the two parties very straightforwardly demonstrates the lack of a problem with the status quo. The fact is, we have very competitive districts in Colorado. Our current process for drawing legislative maps gets testy at times, but the results would seem to speak for themselves. If you accept that, this whole business is a solution in search of a problem.

And when you ask the next logical question, why is it happening at all? James Mejia has no good answers.

Former State Rep. Wonders Aloud About Obama’s “Third Term”

Reviewing recent traffic in the realm of conservative social media, sometimes affectionately known as the “fever swamp” by those tasked with monitoring them, we took note of this Facebook post by former Republican Colorado Rep. Robert Ramirez of Westminster:

ramirezobamaterm3

Well, folks? “Are we foolish to believe” that President Barack Obama has a plan to become Presidente vitalicio, “or foolish enough to fall for it?” A man who recently represented one of Colorado’s most competitive state house districts is asking.

And we’re sorry to say, not rhetorically.

Colorado Redistricting Effort Already a Complete Mess

Oh, was that not what you ordered?

Oh, was that not what you ordered?

A few weeks ago we discussed a new redistricting/reapportionment proposal that was making its way toward the 2016 ballot.

The so-called “Initiative 55” redistricting proposal popped up almost out of nowhere in late November, and language for a new constitutional amendment was rushed out for review. It was clear from the jump that there were severe problems with the wording of this proposal, particularly in regards to diminishing minority voter strength. As we wrote on Nov. 24th:

When you skip the details and rush past the fine print, you risk enacting a policy that ends up doing the opposite of whatever was intended.

As it turns out, the “review and comment” process was the end of the line. There were a lot of problems with the wording of the proposed amendment; the “Initiative 55” group was supposed to respond to those concerns last Friday, but that deadline passed without comment. Supporters of this redistricting proposal will now almost certainly have to start the process all over again in January.  An extra month might help them figure out how not to create a constitutional nightmare for the 2016 ballot, but this entire effort has been such a clumsy disaster that it may not have any supporters left on board after the Holidays.

As Joey Bunch wrote for the Denver Post late yesterday:

The issue is whether it’s better to continue to allow the legislature to draw the maps — which often wind up in court — or create a bipartisan, independent commission.

Since it was announced last month, the discussions have been slowed by long-held distrust between the parties and questions about ulterior motives and overemphasizing or diminishing minority voting strength. [Pols emphasis]

Some Democrats think Republicans are trying to inconspicuously bust up minority voting power, which has traditionally favored Democratic candidates by making “communities of interest” less important than geographical boundaries and partisan balance.

Today, dozens of civil rights and community organizations dropped a pretty harsh press release condemning the entire process as a partisan attempt to minimize minority voting in Colorado. The full release is available after the jump — and the quotes are pretty strong — but here’s the gist of it:

A group recently announced they are attempting to restructure the way Colorado draws legislative and congressional maps. It is not known who is providing their financial backing. Without any public outreach, language was filed to put a measure on the ballot next November that would ban enhancement of minorities in voting districts and minimize communities of interest, resulting in outrage from civil rights and community organizations.

Dozens of people, representing NAACP, minority caucuses, the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, Common Cause, ACLU, Mi Familia Vota, Los Servicios de la Raza, businesses, local officials and education met Thursday at Escuela Tlatelolco in Denver to denounce the private discussions that are aimed at creating a ballot question to change how Colorado draws legislative and congressional boundaries.

State Rep. Angela Williams, chair of the Colorado Black Caucus, is quoted in the release as saying: “These so-called bipartisan efforts to create an independent commission to draw legislative and congressional boundaries are laughable. Our voices were not at the table from the beginning.”

And then there’s this from Supt. Rev. Patrick Demmer of the NAACP and Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance: “There is no trust in this effort – it’s fatally flawed. We’re tired of people going behind closed doors and deciding these issues – and giving no voice to communities of color. They haven’t even had a conversation with the people it will impact.”

What has 2 thumbs and the political acumen of a walnut?

What has 2 thumbs and the political acumen of a walnut?

D’oh! This thing is sinking faster than Ben Carson at a foreign policy debate. The “Initiative 55” group has been touted as a “bipartisan” effort — but only because Republicans found two former Democratic lawmakers to stick their names on a press release, and because Denver Democrat James Mejia is leading the effort through his consulting firm.

Mejia is a former Denver School Board member who in 2011 was thought to be a leading contender for Denver Mayor. But then the campaign began, and Mejia was so bad that he didn’t even make it to the runoff. For his sake, we hope Mejia got a big check for agreeing to direct this turd, because he’s probably already burned through any political capital he might have had. You can tell from the Post story that Mejia is realizing the problems (albeit too late):

“We’re working off language that I assume will please Democrats with regard to whether this would dilute minority votes — which absolutely was never the intent of this initiative,” Mejia said. “… We want to make no mistake as to what we’re trying to do here. Our intent, first and foremost is to be more transparent and inclusive.”

Yeah, that worked out well.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (Dec. 10)

Get More SmarterTwo weeks from today, you had better be done with your Christmas shopping. 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…

We can stop wondering about the motive of Robert Dear, the man accused of killing three people during a terrorist attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Dear leapt to his feet during an arraignment hearing yesterday to declare that he is guilty of the accused crimes, saying “I’m a warrior for the babies,” in reference to debunked claims that Planned Parenthood is in the business of “selling baby parts.” To those who screamed that the media and others were “politicizing” the Planned Parenthood shooting, you can be quiet now, too; the accused shooter “politicized” this story from the beginning.

 

► Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is taking some much-deserved criticism over his wordy “non-response response” to comments from Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump that the United States should temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country. We took note yesterday that Coffman swung and missed — twice — in responding to Trump’s comments with statements that don’t actually address Trump’s comments. The Aurora Sentinel seems to have noticed as well:

Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman remains firmly on Santa’s list of good boys after making sure he said nothing that could be remotely construed as cross about the fascist Donald Trump. Whereas a cadre of his fellow Republicans on the congressional delegation had plenty of nasty things to say about the poll-leading presidential candidate, Coffman observed Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment in speaking no direct ill of the Donald nor his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the country…

…[The Sentinel] admires the congressman’s willingness to be so tremendously wishy-washy and non-combative when everyone and their mother has free rein to smack talk America’s pre-eminent smack-talker. It just goes to show that while there may be no atheists in foxholes, there’s plenty of room to remain relatively agnostic when it comes to public officials opining on unconstitutional, un-American policies.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) signed his name to another letter critical of President Obama’s foreign policy plan for dealing with ISIS. It’s not clear what Gardner and his fellow Republican Senators don’t like (other than Obama himself), because Obama is already doing everything the GOP suggests in their letter.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Dec. 9)

Get More SmarterOn the plus side, it’s not so windy today. 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…

► Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump says he stands by his comments that the United States should temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the country. In the 36-48 hours since Trump announced his newest foreign policy idea, politicians on both sides of the aisle have strongly condemned The Donald; Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) called Trump “a buffoon,” and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) said that Trump was “a fraud.”

Annnddd…then there’s Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), who whiffed not once, but twice in attempting to respond to Trump’s comments by trying not to respond to Trump’s comments.  As Colorado Pols wrote earlier today:

In the last week, Coffman has also refused to condemn the remarks of State Rep. JoAnn Windholz, whose Commerce City district is within the boundaries of CD-6, even though his hometown paper called for Windholz to resign over her disgusting comments in the wake of the Planned Parenthood terrorist attack. Coffman had plenty of cover here, too, to speak out about Windholz’s statements, and he just skipped right along in silence.

Does Mike Coffman believe that Donald Trump is right in saying that the United States should temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the country? Does Mike Coffman believe that the Planned Parenthood attacks were the fault of Planned Parenthood (which is Windholz’s belief)? We don’t know, because he won’t say.

And it speaks volumes.

► Love him or hate him, you’ve got to give this to Donald Trump: The man understands the principle of leverage. While (most) Republican elected officials were being openly critical of Trump’s Muslim comments, Trump once again dangled the “I-word” on Tuesday:

Republicans don’t have any good options for dealing with Trump right now. If Trump ends up becoming the GOP nominee for President, his litany of offensive comments will be the albatross that hangs from every Republican neck in 2016. If Trump decides to leave the GOP and run for President as an Independent, he will suck enough votes away from Republicans to make it impossible to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the General Election.

Thus, many Republicans have resorted to crossing their fingers and repeating the mantra, “Trump will not be the Republican nominee.” But his Hairness isn’t going anywhere: “I. Will. Never. Leave. This. Race.”

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Get More Smarter on Friday (Dec. 4)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Christmas Day is three weeks away; sorry to freak you out. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missedsomething important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senate Republicans have finally advanced legislation to President Obama’s desk — where it will be swiftly vetoed — that would gut Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood for a year, and cripple Medicaid. From the Associated Press:

Openly welcoming a preordained veto, Republicans on Thursday drove to Senate passage some legislation aimed at crippling two of their favorite targets: President Barack Obama’s health care law and Planned Parenthood.

With a House rubber stamp expected in days, the bill would be the first to reach Obama’s desk demolishing his 2010 health care overhaul, one of his proudest domestic achievements, and halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Congress has voted dozens of times to repeal or weaken the health law and several times against Planned Parenthood’s funding, but until now Democrats thwarted Republicans from shipping the legislation to the White House.

Thursday’s vote was a near party-line 52-47. Colorado’s U.S. senators, Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet, voted “yes” and “no,” respectively…

…Republicans said an Obama veto — which the White House has promised — will underscore that a GOP triumph in next year’s presidential and congressional elections would mean repeal of a statute they blame for surging medical costs and insurers abandoning some markets. They lack the two-thirds House and Senate majorities needed to override vetoes, ensuring that the bill’s chief purpose will be for campaign talking points.

In short, Congressional Republicans spent a good deal of time on legislation that will never be enacted that was only pushed through to create “campaign talking points.” Republicans felt compelled to do something that would appeal to their base — rather than doing something to deal with rising gun violence — but as we noted yesterday in a separate story, Democrats are prepared to bring the political sledgehammer down on their GOP counterparts.

 

► Meanwhile, Republicans are absolutely refusing to do anything in response to a week filled with mass shootings and domestic terrorism throughout the country. From Politico:

One day after the deadliest U.S. mass shooting in nearly three years, the Senate voted down a pair of gun-control measures that were designed by Democrats to put Republicans on record on the charged issue…

…”The entire country will know where every member of the Senate stands on tightening background checks, on keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists and on strengthening and improving mental health in this country,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday at a news conference detailing the strategy. “There are a good number — not all — but there are a good number of our Republican colleagues dreading these two votes. Dreading them.”

Schumer’s belief that Republicans are privately nervous about doing nothing on gun control has not been reflected in many public statements coming from GOP elected officials. Again, from Politico::

“I don’t think we have a gun problem in this country,” said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee. “I think we have a problem with radical Islamic terrorism.”…

…On the whole, though, Republicans say legislating in the wake of a tragedy would be a knee-jerk reaction.

“Do I feel pressure to take up gun control because of what happened out there? No,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a Republican who represents a conservative district in South Carolina. “Do we let TV dictate what we do? Folks back home are not calling me and demanding gun control. Because I think folks — especially folks in South Carolina — recognize it’s not a gun control issue. I don’t know what it is today, if it’s mental health, terrorism.”

Polls show that most Americans believe attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics should be considered acts of domestic terrorism. While Congress is refusing to do anything regarding gun violence, Gov. John Hickenlooper says that Colorado’s legislature could see several bills dealing with the issue when it reconvenes in January.

 

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