Not So Fast There, “Party of No”

State Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Koch Brothers) loves the word "NO."

State Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Koch Brothers) loves the word “NO.”

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, the debate over reclassifying the state’s hospital provider fee in a way that doesn’t subject it to the arbitrary limits imposed by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), thus avoiding still more painful budget sacrifices, took an interesting twist yesterday. You’ll recall that the session began last month with the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate hardening its position against reclassifying the hospital provider fee as an “enterprise” under TABOR, resting their predisposed stonewalling on an opinion from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Legal Services.

Well, as Hutchins reports, that opinion isn’t the final word by a long shot:

As Coloradans wait for an opinion from Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman over what’s become the biggest political debate in Colorado, two former executive branch lawyers are weighing in with their own conclusion.

At issue is whether it would be constitutional to reclassify a billion dollar hospital program so money generated from it will not push general fund revenue over mandated limits under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and many Democrats in the legislature want a program called the hospital provider fee redesignated so there’s more money in the budget to fund roads, education and other programs.

In a legal review released today by former attorneys for past governors Bill Ritter, a Democrat, and Bill Owens, a Republican, they say the Hickenlooper plan would be “legally sound and fiscally responsible.”

The opinion from OLLS that Cadman made a flamboyant display of at the beginning of the session was not binding. No one is impugning the motives of the General Assembly’s nonpartisan legal staff, but the fact is that they are sometimes demonstrated wrong in terms of how these questions actually play out in litigation. As the Denver Business Journal reports, this bipartisan legal opinion disagreeing with OLLS’s conclusion carries no less weight in the real world:

Trey Rogers and Jon Anderson — who served as legal counsels for former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and former Republican Gov. Bill Owens, respectively — wrote that the OLLS was incorrect in its conclusions about the ability to categorize the money as an enterprise fund. The provider-fee fund would offer the service of helping hospitals defray the cost of providing care to patients and should not be considered as general revenue that can be used, like other pots in the general fund, for any service the state offers, Anderson said.

“Our courts have said that statutes enacted by the General Assembly enjoy a strong presumption of constitutionality and will not be overturned unless the statute is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt,” Rogers added. “It is hard to imagine a court would find a provider fee enterprise to be unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In addition, former Attorney General John Suthers, now the Republican mayor of Colorado Springs, agrees that reclassifying the hospital fee revenue is legally workable:

“The way hospital provider fees are accounted in the state budget has created a serious problem,” Suthers said in a statement. “If this situation is not addressed soon, important state programs will be cut that negatively impact Colorado Springs and every other local community in Colorado. Transportation funding, in particular, will continue to suffer. Based on my experience, I believe that some form of a hospital provider enterprise could be designed to be constitutional under state law.” [Pols emphasis]

By sanctifying a nonbinding OLLS opinion that just happens to match with their political goals, Senate Republicans are trying to use the hospital provider fee situation as leverage to force cuts elsewhere–consistent with the party line this year that “entitlements,” in particular the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, are choking out various other priorities like roads and K-12 education. But as our friend Jason Salzman has explored in able writeups this week, that’s a false argument–Medicaid is not busting the budget.

The threat here is the arbitrary limit imposed by TABOR. Period.

The short version of all of this is that Senate Republicans are playing political games, in pursuit of their unwavering goal of cutting “the size of government”–reducing government, as right-wing anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist so famously said, to a size where you can “drown it in a bathtub.” A realistic assessment of need is not what is driving their agenda, but an ideological conviction that government is “too large.” Just as we’ve seen in Kansas under Gov. Sam Brownback’s ideological slashing of public revenues, the end stage of this agenda has no regard whatsoever for the damage done to critical functions of government we all rely on.

If cooler heads are to prevail, thus preventing millions in cuts that don’t have to happen, it’s Cadman, or at least someone in his one-seat conservative majority who must relent. If he doesn’t, it’s going to hurt things that people actually do care about. That’s not something we’d recommend in an election year, but it would be better for everyone–including Senate Republicans–to not inflict the pain to begin with.

Fact Check: Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is not responsible for Colorado budget woes

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Bill Cadman.

Sen. Bill Cadman.

A key component of Obamacare is to reduce the number of uninsured  by allowing more people to qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income people. In Colorado, some 300,000 people enrolled in Medicaid as part of Obamcare–and the federal government picked up the tab.

But that fact didn’t stop Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) from joining conservative Jon Caldara Monday in blaming Colorado’s Medicaid expansion under Obamacare for Colorado’s budget woes.

Caldara (at 2 min 30 seconds): In the last few years…Medicaid enrollment has gone up 350 percent. Do I have that right?

Cadman: Absolutely.

Caldara: And because of that, it’s squeezing out other things. [Emphasis added]

Cadman: Yes, Yes… we do have one program that has grown 350 percent in that same amount of time, and if you look back just one year ago, the growth was only 280 percent. So think of the growth in just the last year. And at the peak, about a year and a half ago, we were adding about 14,000 people per month to this program. And you can call this an offshoot of Obamacare, because that’s really what it is.

Why Cadman gave the eager “yes, yes” to Caldara is a mystery because Obamacare isn’t “squeezing out other things.”

While it’s true that Colorado’s Medicaid costs are increasing, though by less than in previous years, the reason, as I expalin here, is mostly due to the costs of caring for the growing numbers of elderly and disabled people.

Cadman’s baseless scapegoating of Obamacare is echoed in the official Twitter feed of the Colorado State Republicans.

(more…)

Are CO Republicans Really Proposing to Cut Health Care to Old, Disabled, and Other Poor People?

(Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) told 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman last month that Medicaid spending is siphoning money from “every other program,” including schools and roads.

As he told 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman:

Cadman: “[Democrats] have ignored the needs and demands of about five million people to specifically support one program, and it cannibalizes every other program. They’ve ignored the Constitution and put K-12 money into this program. I mean, they’ve ignored the roads, and put money into this program.

Cadman and other Republicans have made similar statements in multiple interviews.

The missing follow-up question in all these interviews is, does he propose to cut Medicaid? It sounds a lot like he is, but he doesn’t say so directly.

Cadman: “What I am suggesting is, when you have something that is supposed to be the safety net, you should protect it for those who need it the most,” Cadman told Rittiman, when asked if he wanted to eliminate Medicaid. “And if you grow it beyond that, and you are creating a program that is, one, cannibalizing the other programs and, two, has no funding source, you are creating a conflict.”

So, clearly, reporters should ask Cadman, whose spokesman did not provide a comment to me, if he thinks Medicaid, has grown beyond the “safety net” it’s “supposed to be.”

If he thinks so, he could, for example, advocate changing the formula for qualifying for the Medicaid. Currently, to be eligible for Colorado’s Medicaid program, families of four must make less than about $32,000 a year and individuals less than $16,000. Over a million people are enrolled state-wide. Keep in mind that about 75 percent of people who receive Medicaid are working already.

But before anyone starts throwing poor people off Medicaid, as Cadman seems to be proposing, or charging them more, he should be clear that the driving force behind the growing state costs of Medicaid aren’t coming from adding new people to the program.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10)

Get More SmarterSlowly but surely, the Presidential race is moving toward states where people actually live. 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 New Hampshire Primaries concluded last night, but not before making a significant impact on the Presidential race. As expected, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were victorious in their respective Primaries, but it was the rest of the ballot that really made New Hampshire interesting. Here’s how Politico and the Washington Post viewed the fallout from New Hampshire. If you missed any of the coverage, we’ll catch you up with a couple of bullet points:

♦ Hillary Clinton lost by 22 points to Bernie Sanders, and the Clinton campaign is now bracing for a long, protracted Primary fight.

♦ Tuesday was a terrible night for the Republican “establishment.” Trump easily won New Hampshire by nearly 20 points, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich pulling a surprise second-place finish. Ted Cruz finished in third place, followed by Jeb! Bush and Marco “Roboto” Rubio in a distant fifth place. Conservative commentators, including National Review, had been saying that Rubio needed to make sure he finished ahead of Jeb!, which didn’t happen.

♦ Rubio’s fifth place finish also means he left New Hampshire without a single delegate pledged to his campaign. If Rubio can’t recover in time to perform well in South Carolina on Feb. 20th, it could be the end of the line for the Florida Senator’s Presidential hopes.

♦ Here’s a fun fact: In modern history, Republicans have not elected a nominee as President who didn’t win either Iowa or New Hampshire. If history holds, the GOP is looking at Cruz, Trump, or bust.

♦ With a sixth place finish, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has reached the end of his Presidential rope; Christie announced today that he would “suspend” his campaign.

 

 

► Republican Ben Carson said on Tuesday that he “would consider” an offer to be Donald Trump’s running mate if His Hairness wins the GOP nomination. Of course, Trump didn’t actually suggest that he might tap Carson for that role.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

George Brauchler’s Ugly Consolation Prize

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, the failure of Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler to win the death penalty phase of the trial of the Aurora theater mass murderer last year–a loss that contributed to Brauchler’s momentous decision to not run for the U.S. Senate this year–has provoked a controversial response from his Republican allies in the Colorado General Assembly.

And by controversial, we mean, well, bloodthirsty:

Currently it takes a unanimous vote of all 12 jurors, but Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud wants to get that number down a little lower. Like, maybe nine. Or 10. Or maybe 11 jurors. But not all 12. That just makes executing someone in Colorado too hard, he says. He doesn’t like the idea that one lone holdout could spoil a death sentence.

“If the policy is that the death penalty is appropriate for the worst of crimes, then a jury should not be composed of people who disagree with that basic point,” Lundberg told The Colorado Independent about his bill. Critics of the measure say it might not pass constitutional muster, and the bar shouldn’t be lowered for easing executions.

The senator will make the case for his legislation at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Senate calendar.

The Denver Post’s Jordan Steffen has more from the bill’s primary sponsor, GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Loveland:

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he is sponsoring the bill because he “wants to save lives” and have a penalty “that will cause the bad guy to think twice before they pull the trigger.”

…But critics peg the legislation — which could still be amended — as an effort to make it easier to obtain a death sentence.

“We require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all criminal charges to a unanimous jury,” said Colorado public defender Doug Wilson. “So (under the proposed bill) someone charged with shoplifting would get a unanimous jury, and yet when we decide we want to execute one of our citizens, we would leave it to a jury of less than 12.” [Pols emphasis]

At a time when capital punishment in the United States is under more scrutiny than at any point since it was relegalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and with so much controversy over the methods of execution in America and the possibility of wrongful executions, the idea of making it easier to execute people in any way seems radically counterintuitive. It’s even worse to think through the implications of executing someone over the objections of a sitting juror, which is apparently only possible in three states today. No matter how robbed Brauchler may feel over the three jurors who objected to imposing the death penalty in the Aurora shooting case, that is not something we think a majority of voters in Colorado would find morally conscionable.

In fact, this could get voters thinking about the death penalty in ways proponents won’t like at all.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Feb. 9)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowGood luck trying to get a sandwich on your lunch hour in Denver today; the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos will be parading through town around noon. 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 New Hampshire Primaries are today, and if polling results are to be believed, we aren’t in for much of a surprise at the top of the ballots. Bernie Sanders is expected to easily defeat Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, while Donald Trump appears to have things locked up in the Republican Primary. The real drama of the evening will be the race for second place in the GOP field, as Politico explains:

But New Hampshire isn’t called the “graveyard of pollsters” for nothing. The margins by which both Sanders and Trump might win — and the order of the next four Republican candidates, all of whom run close in the polls — could still tighten or widen considerably. And there could easily be eleventh-hour swings that the polls, the last of which concluded early Monday, didn’t pick up.

The margins matter: A blowout win for Sanders could give him momentum heading into next week’s Nevada caucuses, while a closer finish might be seen as a disappointment for the Vermont senator, who still trails Clinton nationally and in most other states…

…Among Republicans, not only do the other competitors want to close strong and challenge Trump — the order in which they finish could mean the difference between quitting and hanging on, even if they are only separated by small margins.

The final CNN/WMUR tracking poll, concluded Monday morning, shows Sanders with a 26-point lead over Clinton. On the GOP side, Trump is at 31%, followed by Marco Rubio at 17% (followed by Marco Rubio at 17%), Sen. Ted Cruz at 14%, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in double-digits at 10%.

 

► Marco Rubio continues to face heavy scrutiny over his disastrous debate performance on Saturday. After being widely panned over the weekend for his robotic rhetoric, Rubio was again stuck on instant replay during a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Monday. You can watch the short video clip below for the complete Marco Roboto experience. From the New York Times:

Speaking to a crowd in Nashua, he was lamenting the decline in American family values.

Then he lamented the decline in American values again.

This is what he said verbatim, as his wife and four children looked on:

“We are taking our message to families that are struggling to raise their children in the 21st century because, as you saw, Jeanette and I are raising our four children in the 21st century, and we know how hard it’s become to instill our values in our kids instead of the values they try to ram down our throats.

“In the 21st century, it’s becoming harder than ever to instill in your children the values they teach in our homes and in our church instead of the values that they try to ram down our throats in the movies, in music, in popular culture.”

Mr. Rubio appeared to notice his own echo: As he repeated the word “throats,” he caught himself, but proceeded to the end of his sentence nonetheless.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Taking Away Parental Leave: Where Is The Outrage?

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

We’re surprised at how little coverage there’s been of a bill that could become a major flashpoint, House Bill 16-1002–the bill reauthorizing the state’s parental leave law for academic responsibilities that was on the books for years before it sunset last year. We took note yesterday of the crowd of “family values” male Republican legislators who lined up to testify against the bill in the House, and this is the same bill Rep. Kevin Priola impaled himself on by voting no in committee after being excused to take his child to a doctor’s appointment.

But as exciting as the debate over this bill has been, there has been little discussion in the mainstream press. In addition to the Chalkbeat Colorado story we linked to yesterday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby wrote this week:

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?” [Pols emphasis]

We see this bill as a major opportunity for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans in advance of this year’s elections. The key point is that parental leave for school activities was the law of the land for five years, and it didn’t hurt anyone. Parents in Colorado who had access to parental leave between 2009 and September of 2015 have now had it taken away.

Last year, the refusal by Senate Republicans to fund the long-acting contraception program credited with a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy in Colorado made national headlines repeatedly. Clear evidence of cost savings from a relatively small investment that Republicans refused to fund out of politically unsightly ideological prejudice has done damage that may not be fully felt until this November.

If it gets on the media’s radar, parental leave could turn into a similarly harmful episode for statehouse Republicans. With no evidence of any harm to employers from Colorado’s parental leave law, and the obvious benefit to families with school-age children being taken away by the GOP’s refusal to reauthorize the law, every vote against House Bill 1002 is a big liability in an election year. The mailers and TV spots will not be kind.

And so far, that’s every Republican House member save one.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 5)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowBy this time next week, Peyton Manning may be retired from football; here’s hoping he has another Super Bowl ring as a going away present. 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…

► Yes, this is a politics blog, but let’s be honest with our Colorado readers: It’s Super Bowl weekend, and everybody’s talking about the Denver Broncos. As of today, the Broncos are a 5.5 point underdog against the Carolina Panthers. If you ask us — go ahead, ask us — we say Denver wins by seven points.

Meanwhile, Congress is taking part in the annual tradition of making silly regional-based bets to show that they, too, like to watch football. As The Denver Post reports, the friendly wagers include lots of red meat and locally-brewed beer. There’s also this:

Colorado’s two U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner — who can’t seem to do anything without the other — joined forces and put some “pride on the line” against their North Carolina counterparts, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Under the terms of the deal, the freshman senator from the losing state must deliver a speech on the Senate floor that “must give specific shout outs to the Super Bowl champion’s head coach, quarterback, fan base and detail the greatness of the Super Bowl champion’s home state.”

For added fun, the freshman lawmaker from the winning state will get to preside over the Senate chamber during the homage.

Oh, as for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)? He’s trying to use this Super Bowl thing to raise money for his re-election campaign, because, of course.

 

► State Senate President Bill Cadman said his prayers to the Koch Brothers on Thursday. During a rally at the State Capitol with Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a political organization founded by the coal-mining billionaires, Cadman was quite frank about the connection between AFP and the State Senate:

“I can tell you this,” Senate President Bill Cadman told an Americans for Prosperity rally at the Capitol, “I don’t think I would be the president of the Senate if it wasn’t for the efforts you and yours did over the previous elections. And we look forward to continuing our partnership with you.”

It’s worth mentioning here that Cadman’s other job is working as a political consultant for Republican campaigns in Colorado and elsewhere. But surely Cadman doesn’t get any extra money from AFP for this work.

 

► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders went back-and-forth in a debate in New Hampshire last night. If you missed it, here’s a few takeaways courtesy of Politico.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Get More Smarter On Thursday (Feb. 4)

Get More SmarterNote to selves: Do NOT ask Rick Santorum to speak on your behalf. 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 Parental Leave Act took another step forward in the Colorado legislature on Wednesday. As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The Colorado House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would bring back the state’s parental leave act, which expired in September.

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?”

Elsewhere, here’s what opposition to parental leave legislation looks like in the House, in one photo.

 

► Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will go face-to-face in four more debates, as announced on Wednesday. From the Associated Press:

The additional debates will held in Flint, Michigan on March 6, and two other cities in April and May, with details to be determined later. Clinton has sought a debate in Flint to bring attention to the city’s water contamination crisis and Sanders said he wanted it to be scheduled before the Michigan primary on March 8.

Clinton and Sanders are meeting Thursday in a debate at the University of New Hampshire just days before Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary…

…Two other Democratic debates are already on the calendar: Feb. 11 in Milwaukee and March 9 in Miami.

The four new debates are expected to be held live at 2:00 in the morning (that was a joke).

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Feb. 3)

MoreSmarterLogo-SnowmanAccording to a source with the Ted Cruz campaign, all of the other GOP Presidential candidates are dropping out and supporting him. That’s not true? Oh. 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…

► Donald Trump conceded an Iowa caucus victory to Ted Cruz on Monday, but now His Hairness is alleging fraud and calling for a new election in Iowa. Before you dismiss this story, consider Trump’s “proof” — that the Cruz campaign told caucusgoers that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race (he isn’t…yet). From Politico:

The tweet referred to a report from CNN’s Chris Moody during the caucuses that Ben Carson would take a detour from New Hampshire following Iowa, heading to Florida instead — which some took to mean that Carson was suspending his campaign.

The Cruz campaign then alerted its leaders to the tweet from the CNN reporter but, as Cruz explained in an apology on Tuesday, neglected to send the follow-up tweet in which Moody clarified that the Carson campaign had told him that the retired neurosurgeon was not dropping out of the race but rather just picking up fresh clothes. On Monday night, Carson accused the Cruz campaign of “dirty tricks” but accepted its apology.

Nobody wants to go back to Iowa, obviously, but this is a smart maneuver by Trump to throw some cold water on Cruz before next week’s New Hampshire Primary. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post explains why it’s so important to pay attention to “dirty tricks” from the Cruz campaign.

 

 

► There has been much moaning and complaining over the years about a relative dearth of political news coverage in Colorado, so it’s good to see that Denver’s ABC7 is already digging in with its own political fact-checker, Alan Gathright. From The Denver Channel:

Emily’s List is stoking the abortion debate in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race with a fundraising email saying Republican incumbent Mike Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”…

…Emily’s List said that Coffman “co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.”

The record shows Coffman did co-sponsor the bill to redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt “forcible rape.”

Yet he later voted to remove the “forcible” modifier from the bill.

Given the totality of his actions on the legislation, we’re rating this claim Mostly True.

Whatever your feelings on this particular issue, it’s a great development for Colorado politics when local news organizations start asking just a few more questions.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Get More Smarter on Groundhog Day (Feb. 2)

MoreSmarterLogo-SnowmanSee? We told you that you were going to get a snow day. 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 big news is in from Gobbler’s Knob: The Groundhog emerged and did not “see” his shadow, which is supposed to mean that we are headed for an early spring. Punxsutawney Phil did not elaborate on when the snow will stop falling in Colorado.

 

► If you need to get caught up on everything that happened in Iowa last night, Colorado Pols has you covered. Here’s the recap.

Ted Cruz managed to hold on for a victory in Iowa, with Donald Trump and Marco Rubio rounding out the top three. Combined, Cruz and Trump captured more than 52% of the vote in Iowa; even before the results were announced, the surge of Cruz and Trump had Congressional Republicans freaking the freak out. From The Hill:

The real reason for all the anxiety among Republicans about Trump and Cruz is the fear that either man could drag down the party in Congress.

With Trump or Cruz at the top of the GOP slate in November, the Democrats like their chances of taking back the House and Senate…

…By the GOP convention, the question will not be about endorsements. It will be about how many Congressional Republicans openly reject Trump or Cruz, if either man is the nominee.

The field of candidates did finally start to shrink after last night. Mike Huckabee has left the race on the Republican side, and Democrat Martin O’Malley is also throwing in the towel. Ben Carson is going home to do laundry.

 

► You may be enjoying your snow day, but the Colorado legislature is still working — they just scheduled a late 10:30 am start this morning.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Dems Roll Priola Over “Family Values” Hypocrisy

priolakidsGOP Rep. Kevin Priola, looking to trade up to the Senate this year in a competitive race to succeed outgoing Democratic Sen. Mary Hodge, did himself no favors last week after requesting a delay in voting on a parental leave bill to take his own child to a doctor’s appointment–and then voting no on the bill.

Priola’s gaffe opened up a line of attack from Democrats and allies that he and Republicans hoping to hold the Senate in 2016 do not need. In a press release from liberal group ProgressNow Colorado today:

“As the parent of a Jeffco public school student, being there for my son’s educational needs is personally important,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “As a fellow family man, Rep. Priola should be able to appreciate the difficulty we face being there for our kids. But not only did Kevin Priola vote against parental leave for school activities, he did so after hypocritically asking to be excused for a child’s doctor’s appointment.”

“It’s just another example of the right wing’s hostility toward the ‘family values’ they claim to champion,” said Franklin. “When families are in conflict with corporate special interests, the ‘party of family values’ leaves the families of Colorado out in the cold. By delaying his vote against parental leave with the excuse of needing to take care of his own children, Rep. Priola exposes hypocrisy much greater than his own.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Fund sent this statement to us over the weekend with a knock on Priola from Democratic opponent Jenise May:

Representative Kevin Priola who is running for Senate District 25 believes that parents should be able to take unpaid time off from their job for their children, but only if it is for him to spend time with his children. Last week it was reported that a vote on unpaid time off in the House Education Committee was delayed as Rep. Priola had to take his child to the doctor. After taking time off to deal with his family issues, Priola made his position very clear. He and his family are worthy of earning unpaid leave to deal with family issues. However, hardworking Colorado families are not so worthy in Priola’s eyes. On Wednesday, he voted ‘No’ on House Bill 16-1002 in Committee.

This hypocritical behavior did not end on Wednesday. After all of this, Priola then attacked teachers saying that they should “hold parent-teacher conferences on weekends” supposedly to allow for parents to be able to attend, regardless of their work schedule. Not only does this weekend parent teacher conference policy hurt the already overworked and under-paid teachers across the state, but it also would not be necessary if the bill that Priola voted ‘No’ on became law.

Former Representative Jenise May, who is running for Senate District 25 against Priola, said on Friday “It is sad that hardworking Colorado families are not able to take advantage of the same unpaid time off that Representative Priola uses at the Capitol. I knew he would be against any paid leave, but he should understand that many parents are unable to even take one shift off a year to help their children succeed academically.”

This unforced error by Rep. Priola carries more than the usual messaging danger for Republicans, since the parental leave issue plays very well with swing suburban constituencies like the voters of SD-25. Control of the Colorado Senate in the 2016 elections boils down to just a few races, and with Democrats keen to retake the Senate in a presidential year, the margin for error is perilously small.

And folks, this was definitely an error. Priola would have been far better off to simply let the vote proceed, since it would have passed committee with or without his vote. By vividly expressing the hypocrisy of “family values” Republicans opposing actual “family values” proposals, Priola is now the poster child for something voters really don’t like about them.

And that is not good for any politician’s upward mobility.

Dems Get Tons of Pay Equity Press–Will Republicans Get Smart?

Photo by Colorado House Democrats.

Photo by Colorado House Democrats.

Yesterday, Democrats in the Colorado legislature held a press conference to announce legislation aimed at closing the persistent gap in earnings between men and women in the workplace–a problem that is actually worse in Colorado than many other states, even after Republicans in the Colorado Senate killed the state’s pay equity commission working on solutions for the problem. 9NEWS’ Allison Sylte:

Democrats in Colorado’s legislature introduced a package of bills Thursday aimed at ensuring women are paid equally when they’re doing the same jobs as men…

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado estimates that women in the state make less than 80-cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work.

“We know in recent years the pay gap has closed a bit,” Louise Myrland with the Women’s Foundation of Colorado said. “But at the rate the gap is closing, women won’t achieve equal pay with men until 2057.”

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch:

As press conferences go, this one was rock solid: A group of House Democrats were joined by women’s groups and small children Thursday to drive home the point that the equal pay issue isn’t going away as long as wages for women lag. The children wore red T-shirts that gave their ages in the 2057, the year advocates say pay for women, at the current rate of gains, will catch up to what men earn…

The Equal Pay in State Contracts Act would require state contractors to comply with equal-pay laws. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Janet Buckner of Aurora.

The Pay Transparency Protection Act bill, sponsored by Danielson and Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, would protect workers who share wage information. Reps. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and Faith Winter of Westminster are sponsoring the Fair Pay from the Start Act, which would block employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.

7NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

“It’s unacceptable that, in 2016, Colorado women of color and our families still have not only less to make ends meet today, but also less for a secure retirement tomorrow,” said 9to5 Colorado State Director Neha Mahajan, in a statement provided to Denver7…

Two of the new bills regarding equal pay don’t actually refer increasing salaries for women. One of the bills, “Extending Pay Transparency Protection To All Employees” protects workers from retribution if they share salary information with each other.

The other new bill, “Fair Pay From The Start” would prevent potential employers from asking your previous salary history. It would require prospective employers to only ask what your salary requirements would be.

You can also read coverage in the Grand Junction Sentinel, Denver’s Fox and CBS affiliates, and the Colorado Independent. Yesterday’s presser at the Colorado capitol was coordinated with the launch of similar legislation promoting pay equity in 20 states–a coordinated initiative organized by the national State Innovation Exchange.

The heavy press coverage of yesterday’s announcement definitely raises the stakes for Republicans in the legislature to give these bills a fair hearing. In the likely event that the bills die, it will fit seamlessly into the narrative on this issue Democrats have been gainfully pushing since the death of the pay equity commission last year. Pay equity joins parental leave, last year’s battle over a highly successful IUD contraception program, and perennial frontal attacks on abortion rights to create a compelling message for women voters–a story that transcends the names down the ballot, and clarifies for voters the bright line that divides the parties.

The best case scenario would be some kind of compromise by Republicans that passes at least some of this legislation. There’s no material downside, and politically it would be a smart way to harm-reduce on issues that hurt them with swing voters in just about every election.

Fat chance, we know. But for the record.

Thanks, Vicki Marble! Immortalizing The “Hateful Eight”

We took note last weekend of an unintentionally hilarious op-ed from staunch conservative GOP Sen. Vicki “Finger Lickin'” Marble in the Colorado Statesman. Marble was responding to a story in the Denver Post on the one-seat Colorado Senate GOP majority, in and particular eight dissident Senators who voted against Senate President Bill Cadman a significant portion of the time. Among other things, this results in a Senate majority that no one can count on to get anything done.

Marble’s op-ed may not be as memorable for its content, a boilerplate defense of the hard-right Senate bloc decried in the Post story–as for its title, wherein she jokingly refers to the eight Senators in question as the “Hateful Eight” after the Quentin Tarantino movie recently filmed near Telluride. We could spend a considerable amount of time explaining why this moniker is politically very, very unhelpful, but we assume readers can figure this out on their own.

But for those who can’t, here’s a visual aid from a reader with Photoshop skills:

hateful8

Safe to say this was inevitable–perhaps only a surprise that it took almost a week to appear! Thanks ever so much for this anonymous graphical donation, which we intend to use in every subsequent mention of the “Hateful Eight” that we can. Given the tendency of these eight Senators to make some of the more…memorable statements and votes from Republicans under the Gold Dome, we suspect it will get a lot of mileage.

Until 2017, when at least of a few of them will no longer be, if you will, in the picture.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Jan. 29)

Get More SmarterRemember, friends: That Super Bowl party you were invited to attend is next Sunday. 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 before the Iowa caucuses was held last night in Des Moines, and the big winner was — of course — the guy who wasn’t there. Here’s a Winners and Losers analysis from our pals at “The Fix”, including the biggest losers:

Ted Cruz: Cruz did the thing I hate the most in debates — complain about the rules — when he tried to game a bit more talking time and got shut down by moderator Chris Wallace. The Texas Senator’s joking threat that if he kept taking incoming from the other candidates he might leave the stage (Donald Trump reference!) fell flat. He was on the wrong end of a scolding by Paul over his conservative righteousness.  And, time and time again, Cruz found himself insisting that on a panoply of issues — military spending, immigration etc. — everyone was either wrong about his position or didn’t understand it well enough. That’s too much defense for Cruz to play — especially in a debate without Trump.

Ben Carson: Whoa boy.  Carson swung from barely being asked any questions to providing answers that often bordered on incoherence. His response to a question about how to deal with Russia simply made no sense — further adding to the narrative that he is far, far out of his depth on foreign policy. At one point, he seemed stunned to even get a question, which isn’t the best look for a guy running to be the leader of a 300-million person country.  Carson looked out of his league tonight.

To be fair, Carson has been out of his league since at least July. Cruz, meanwhile, is getting universally panned for his performance last night, which might give Trump the room he needs to leave Iowa with a big win. From Politico:

More than 4-in-10 GOP insiders – given the choice of the seven GOP candidates on the stage, plus Trump – rated Cruz as the loser of Thursday night’s debate, citing his defensive posture on his past immigration stances and opposition to ethanol subsidies.

 

► Both of the top Democratic candidates for President — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanderswill speak at the Colorado Democrats’ annual fundraising gala on Feb. 13. The big winner here is obvious: The Colorado Democratic Party.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…