Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 27)

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The dress is definitely bluish-brown. 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…

► Today is the deadline for Congress to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so what should we expect of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner? If you guessed, "punt the issue for three more weeks," you win the door prize. But as Politico reports, Republicans are merely delaying an answer on a budget problem that is about to get much, much worse:

First the good news: Congress appears to have found a way to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security for the next three weeks.

Now the bad: March is beginning to look awfully grim for the new Republican Congress that had lofty expectations for legislating in 2015.

GOP leaders appear set to win approval of their short-term solution to the DHS impasse on Friday, hours before the money runs dry. But that will leave the House and Senate just three weeks to bridge their fundamental differences on funding the department for the long term and blocking President Barack Obama’s changes to the enforcement of immigration policy.

On top of that, Congress must update a complicated Medicare reimbursement formula for doctors. And it needs to pass a budget.

This is where we remind you, again, that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS and they still can't figure out how to govern.

Mr. Spock is dead.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (Feb. 26)

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We've installed fresh batteries in the Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese), which is predicting as much as 10 feet of snow today. Or maybe less. 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…

► With one day left to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Colorado's Congressional delegation remains divided on how to move forward — no surprise, perhaps, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner can't even work things out inside their Republican majority. And what about freshman Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)? Here's Mark Matthews of the Denver Post:

Less clear was the stance of newly elected U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The Colorado Republican did not agree to an interview. Instead, his office released a statement that spoke less to a legislative solution and more to the actions of Democrats. "Senate Democrats are playing politics with our national security. It's wrong, and they should stop," he said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

Once again, we remind you that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS. Blaming Democrats for this one is like saying it's John Hickenlooper's fault that the Denver Broncos didn't win the Super Bowl. There's no way out of this mess for Republicans now.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post explains how Republicans got into this DHS funding mess in the first place.

► The Colorado legislature took a Snow Day on Monday because of poor road conditions, but not again today; there's plenty of legislatin' going on under the Golden Dome of the State Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Feb. 25)

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BIll O'Reilly would have signed the Declaration of Independence, but he overslept. 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…

► Late yesterday, the Governor's Oil & Gas Taskforce released its "recommendations" for dealing with fracking…and they were about as anti-climactic as skeptics had expected. After months of meetings, the task force submitted a handful of small proposals to Gov. John Hickenlooper, though the most robust proposals for promoting more local control failed to move forward. Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith said the taskforce produced "some gravy, but forgot the meat and potatoes"; Noble Energy Vice President (and task-force member) Dan Kelly told the Denver Post that he thinks the group's recommendations "will address the issue." Congressman Jared Polis (D-Boulderish) was blunt in his assessment that "the oil and gas industry proved they weren't interested in a compromise or solving problems." So, that went well.

► Despite holding majority control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans continue to fight amongst themselves over whether to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before Friday's deadline. As Politico reports, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Tanning Bed) are pretty well hosed:

McConnell has been quiet for weeks about his next steps. But his new proposal on Tuesday — to extend DHS funding through September while advancing a separate plan to block a portion of Obama’s immigration proposal — signaled that he’s nervous a shutdown could damage his party politically. Twenty-four GOP senators are up for reelection next year.

Boehner is in an even tighter jam: Any sense that he is caving to the White House could further erode confidence in his leadership among the far right, which is furious at Obama’s immigration push. Boehner has not directly addressed whether he’d put a stand-alone funding bill on the floor, and several Republican leadership sources say they favor several short-term measures to try to keep the heat on the White House.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Cliven Bundy-Loving AFP Spox Lands Colorado Senate GOP Job

AFP-Bundy

Sean Paige.

Sean Paige.

The local arm of national conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity has made a lot of noise in the last couple of years, which is to be expected for a well-funded and staffed group set up by the Koch Brothers to organize the "conservative grassroots." In the last year, though AFP Colorado has run into frequent trouble with our local media–from fact checks of their anti-Obamacare ads that didn't even try to be truthful, widespread condemnation of the group's misuse of photos from the aftermath of the Aurora shooting in a political ad against Mark Udall, and also a bizarre incident last year involving the Nevada standoff between the federal government and rancher Cliven Bundy.

In mid-April of last year as the standoff in the Nevada desert between Bureau of Land Management officials and Bundy raged, AFP Colorado joined its Nevada counterpart in a vigorous defense of Bundy's "right" to graze his cattle on federal land without a grazing lease. A few days later, Bundy launched into a nationally televised rant about "the Negro" that precipitated a dramatic loss of support. Not long after, AFP Colorado deleted the Tweet you see above supporting Bundy along with several others, and for good measure several complete months of their Twitter history–including their defense of using the aforementioned Aurora shooting photos in their ads.

The spokesman for AFP Colorado at that time was longtime Colorado Springs conservative activist and sometime radio host Sean Paige. AFP Colorado and Paige's Twitter accounts were often posting the same items simultaneously in those days, but that ended after the Cliven Bundy mass deletion incident–and sometime after that, Paige himself and AFP Colorado parted ways.

Fast forward to today, as the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

That's right, folks! The very same Sean Paige is now the press secretary for Bill Cadman's Colorado Senate Republican majority. At first blush, you might consider this to be a big mistake on the part of the Senate GOP–whose media operation is already hard-pressed to run cover for the antics of members like Vicki Marble, Kent Lambert, Laura Waters Woods, and Kevin Lundberg while they push "Anti-Vaxxer Bills of Rights" and other such publicly repellent agenda items. Is Paige really the right man for this job?

And that's when it hits you–of course he is.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Feb. 24)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss regulating "unmanned aerial vehicles," more commonly known as "drones." Don't tell Vice Chair Kevin Lundberg, but staff at the Capitol expect to be regaled by testimony from tiny little pilots.

No Homeland Security funding for you! Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to figure out what to do after the Senate voted for a fourth time to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because Republicans are still mad that President Obama tried to do something about immigration. Congress has until Feb. 27 to approve appropriations to continue funding DHS. From the Durango Herald:

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has warned that an agency shutdown would result in 75-80 percent of staff members being forced to work without pay, as their jobs are deemed vital to national security. An additional 30,000 would be furloughed.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Patricia Arquette Oscar Speech Timely for Colorado

Patricia Arquette Oscar

This is the face we imagine Patricia Arquette would make after listening to Colorado Republicans dismiss pay equity concerns.

In case you missed it last night, actress Patricia Arquette gave a rousing acceptance speech that put equality issues front and center. As The Daily Beast explains:

"It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!" the actress proclaimed.

It was the Oscars moment that caused Meryl Streep to jump out of her seat, jab her finger in the air, and scream, “YES!” over and over again.

The 87th annual Academy Awards had reached a critical lull in the proceedings. But the snooze-worthy broadcast was momentarily salvaged by journeywoman actress Patricia Arquette, who delivered a rousing speech upon accepting the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Boyhood.

First Arquette thanked her fellow nominees, the cast and crew of the 12-year project Boyhood, and her friends and family, “who all work so hard to make this world a better place.”

Then she brought the house down.

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” shouted a fiery Arquette. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

The entire place—Streep and seatmate Jennifer Lopez included—rose to their feet for the night’s biggest standing ovation.

Last month, Senate Republicans effectively killed off the Colorado Pay Equity Commission when they used a Party-line vote to prevent renewing the Commission. Senate Republicans' skill for poor timing brought more attention to the issue; the vote against the Commission came one day after new numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women on average will earn about 77.9% of what men earn. State Rep. Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat RIdge) has since announced her own legislation (HB-1133) to continue the work of the Pay Equity Commission.

If you're wondering why anyone would be opposed to pay equity for women, well, you're not alone. But by 11:00 this morning, conservative activist Jessica Peck had already published an Op-Ed in the online version of the Denver Post in which she said…this:

Time and again, studies and data and antecdotes show that we do have gender equality in the United States. That is, when women act like men, we make as much or more money than men. Here's what we have to do: leave our babies in the hands of others and immediately return to work post-birth; leave our elderly parents in the hands of others to age — and die — so we can work; and aggressively negotiate salary and wage increases…

…Now, let's negotiate wages like the boys and we've got the rest covered. I run my own business. It's tough at times, but never have I ever had a male client suggest I should demand a lower wage just because I'm a girl. [Pols emphasis]

Uhh, come again? Does Peck want to be paid a lower wage because she is a woman?

Arquette's speech should only bring more attention to Rep. Danielson's legislation, and it's going to make a House vote on HB-1133 pretty interesting. Democrats can pass this bill out of the House on their own, but how could any Republican in an even halfway competitive district go on the record with a 'NO' vote now?

Freshman Democrat Learns Triangulation Stings A Little

Sen. Kerry Donovan (D).

Sen. Kerry Donovan (D).

As the Aspen Times' Scott Condon reports, newly elected Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail is taking heat from her Democratic constituents–otherwise known as her base–over her co-sponsorship of the GOP's bill to repeal the 15-round gun magazine limit passed in 2013:

Donovan, a Vail Democrat, came under fire at a town hall meeting at the Aspen Square Condominiums for signing on as a co-sponsor on a Senate bill to repeal a law that banned possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines. The controversial 2013 law limits magazines to 15 rounds or less…

“This is a very controversial, passionate issue,” Donovan said. “Yes, my signing on has caused friction.”

She acknowledged that her position has “pissed off” part of her diverse district — primarily residents in the liberal strongholds of Aspen, Vail and Crested Butte. But nearly all residents in the rest of the district — which includes Delta County, San Luis Valley, Leadville and Buena Vista — supports the repeal of law, she said.

And then, as Condon reports, Donovan let a little realpolitik slip:

Donovan also seemed to downplay her support of its repeal by noting the bill will likely face a quick death in the House if it advances, as expected, from the Senate. Democrats hold a slim edge in the state House. Republicans control the state Senate by one vote.

“I don’t believe it makes it out of the House,” Donovan said of the bill. [Pols emphasis]

That didn’t placate the Aspen crowd…

So no, it was not wise for Sen. Donovan to use the likely death of a bill she is co-sponsoring at the hands of fellow Democrats to deflect criticism for her co-sponsorship of said bill. The average voter, and especially more literate voters who show up to town hall meetings, actually really hate excuses like that. It should be noted in her defense that Donovan made a promise to vote to repeal the 15-round limit during her campaign, though there were plenty of other issues in her race last year against Republican Don Suppes for voters to chew on besides guns. It's anybody's guess how many votes Donovan may have picked up by opposing the magazine limit–but we're inclined to believe single-issue gun voters in SD-5 voted Republican no matter what she said. And obviously, not enough did.

In the long run, we don't think this will hurt Sen. Donovan politically, mostly because we don't think gun magazines will be an issue by 2018 when she is back up for election. Guns didn't factor in 2014 enough for Colorado Republicans to perform over mean even in a national wave year–not enough to take both chambers of the legislature, or take down our incumbent governor. That's why the magazine limit isn't going to be repealed.

So maybe it's good to learn the limits of triangulation now? Because you can't win without your base.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Feb. 23)

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Snowy enough for 'ya? The Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese) predicted snowfall totals somewhere between 2 inches to 17 feet, so we were right on target. 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 Colorado Legislature is out today due to inclement weather and poor road conditions. In Washington D.C., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will push for another budget vote in an attempt to avoid a partial government shutdown that could have broad impacts across the country. As Politico reports:

The Kentucky Republican could cave to Democrats’ demands and abandon the GOP’s attempt to tie the Department of Homeland Security’s funding to an attack on President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. But pushing through a short-term continuing resolution for DHS would bring howls from the right, postpone the immigration showdown for only a couple of weeks or months, and most likely fail in the House. McConnell would gain nothing even if he could pass such a CR, which is far from a sure thing.

Or, as some conservatives outside the Senate want, McConnell could employ the “nuclear option” to abolish the filibuster on legislation, allowing Republicans to pass the $39.7 billion DHS bill with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than 60. But that would mean destroying the Senate traditions he’s vowed so loudly over the years to protect — and Obama would still veto the bill.

► State Governors are also in Washington D.C. today to blame their problems on President Obama. The Associated Press reports on the annual winter gathering of the National Governor's Association (NGA), where a showdown over the $40 billion Department of Homeland Security budget should be the main topic of discussion. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is the Chair of the NGA, and will try to steer conversations at the White House in a positve direction. Says Hickenlooper, "When we go to the president our goal is to try to be more constructive."

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Legislative Snow Day Postpones “Gunmageddon II”

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As many of our readers already know, the Democratic-controlled Colorado House and GOP-controlled Colorado Senate both agreed to stay home today, owing to the inclement weather over the weekend that dropped anywhere from 5 inches to two feet of snow across the state. As it happened with this storm, Denver itself saw comparatively less snowfall than many western suburbs, not to mention the mountains–so anyone you see whining about the legislature being wussies…well, they're probably in Denver.

Closure of the legislature does mean the postponement of a few important scheduled hearings scheduled for today, and public rallies prior to those hearings. The House State Affairs Committee was set to kill two bills including one from Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt to expand "conscientious" rights to discriminate, prior to which a coalition of groups led by LGBT advocacy organzation One Colorado was set to rally in the West Foyer. But without question the big loser from today's closure is the gun lobby, which was planning a major show of support for their Senate bill to repeal the 15-round magazine limit passed in 2013. Dudley Brown implored his members to show up today to testify rain or shine:

If you can brave the weather safely, I hope you’ll plan on attending the hearing, because we need your support…

Even though Democrats in House leadership have vowed to kill any pro-gun bill this year, they know that RMGO members like you have them backed in to a corner. 

They remember very the historic political consequences of backing Bloomberg-inspired gun control laws in Colorado. 

Thanks to the activism of RMGO members and supporters like you — holding gun grabbers accountable — we have an opportunity to repeal these gun control schemes. 

But in order to succeed, we need to keep up the pressure.

So, if you can make it, please mark your calendar for Monday at 1:30pm.

As we've discussed and news reports have commented on this year, the gun lobby has had surprising trouble replicating the crowd of angry supporters they were able to draw to the Capitol in 2013. The most obvious reason for this is that the actual effects of the gun safety bills passed two years ago have not lived up to the hyperbolic predictions. Even the most ardent dues-paying Rocky Mountain Gun Owners member can see today that gun ownership in Colorado has not been "effectively banned," and that they can still buy magazines for their firearms–despite Jon Caldara's promise that "if this law passes, almost all guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again." Now that these wild predictions have been debunked by reality, it's understandably harder to keep the outrage at fever pitch.

Today was another chance for the gun lobby to show their strength, and they got snowed out. It's not Dudley Brown's fault, but will all of his members who made arrangements to testify today be able to reschedule? It's surely not going to help.

Just remember, it was a bipartisan decision.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 20)

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The Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese) predicts anywhere from 2 inches to 17 feet of snow this weekend. 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 Denver Post editorial board thinks that Colorado Republican legislators are playing "a dangerous game that must stop" by using the budget process in an attempt to derail legislation they don't like but don't have the votes to defeat outright:

Republicans should keep in mind that history has a way of turning the tables, particularly when it comes to political power.

The tactics they are using to thwart policies they disagree with could well come back to haunt them.

Jefferson County students are not convinced that the conservative school board is really retreating on their attempts at rewriting history curriculums.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Republicans Already Plotting Laura Woods Replacement?

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One of the closest Republican victories in the 2014 elections in Colorado was the extremely narrow win by Sen. Laura Waters Woods over appointed Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger in SD-19. By fewer that 700 votes, Woods ousted the former Arvada councilwoman appointed to replace Sen. Evie Hudak, who resigned rather than face a recall campaign principally organized by Woods.

Even after Hudak's resignation, Woods did not have a clear path to the GOP SD-19 nomination. Concerned about Woods' long-term viability for holding this critical swing seat, establishment Republicans fought hard to defeat Woods and put Lang Sias in this seat. Sias lost out to Woods in the SD-19 primary after Rocky Mountain Gun Owners rallied its supporters behind Woods' campaign.

Sias finally won an appointment to the Colorado House in overlapping HD-27 this year, but from what we've heard, Republicans are still very concerned that Woods will be unable to hold the SD-19 seat against a strong Democratic challenge. Even though Woods won in last year's election, she doesn't get a full Senate term before running again: in order to realign this seat with its usual election interval, Woods will be back up for election next year.

Assuming she makes it that far. Sources tell us that Woods is being watched very closely by Republican minders this year in the Senate, and is on a short list of potential GOP establishment primary targets in 2016. Because this seat is considered pivotal to control of the Senate by both parties, there is no margin for error: and Woods by most accounts hasn't impressed upper-echelon Republicans who will map their playing field next year.

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During last year's primary, one of the major attacks on Woods from fellow Republicans pertained to her "retirement" in the 1990s, claiming disability for carpal tunnel syndrome. Now, we certainly aren't going to speculate on whether or not Sen. Woods was legtimately disabled by carpal tunnel syndrome, but she does note on her website that her disability was positive insofar as she was able to raise her children at home. As you can see in the mailer above, fellow Republicans used her description of her condition to raise questions about Woods "contributing to the growing epidemic of disability fraud."

If that sounds thin to you, bear in mind that you're not the target audience–Republican primary voters in SD-19 are. And don't get us wrong, depending on how Sen. Woods acquits herself in the next few months, Democrats may prefer she be the general election candidate. Either way, if Republican brass does decide to pull the proverbial trigger on Woods, this disability business will just be the opening salvo.

Stay tuned–control of the Colorado Senate may well hinge on what happens here.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Feb. 19)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Republicans continue to take their cue from Washington D.C. in using the state budget process to muddle legislation that they don't have the votes to actually defeat. As John Frank of the Denver Post explains, funding for necessary public safety issues is now being held hostage by Senate Republicans:

The party-line Senate vote against a bill that won unanimous approval in the House puts in jeopardy more than $2 million for the Colorado Department of Public Safety and escalates a political tension at the General Assembly that is drawing comparisons to a gridlocked Washington.

► Legislation to allow Coloradans to carry a concealed weapon without a permit gained approval in the State Senate yesterday. Senator Vicki "Lost" Marble, the sponsor of SB-032, needs some better talking points, which is clear after reading this story by Kristen Wyatt of the Associated Press:

The requirements, passed in 2003, also bar concealed-carry permits to anyone who “chronically and habitually uses alcoholic beverages to the extent that the applicant’s normal facilities are impaired.”

“I think it’s insulting to the people of Colorado,” said Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins and sponsor of the bill.

In related news, Marble is a lock to receive the endorsement of the fictitious group "Alcoholics with Guns."

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Senate GOP Plays Budget Games…With Concealed Weapons?

Concealed handgun.

Concealed handgun.

The Denver Post's John Frank reports on an escalating budget battle in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate revealing some very interesting ulterior motives:

In what critics call a "high-stakes game of chicken," Republican lawmakers Wednesday rejected a spending bill that included money to reduce wait times for background checks for concealed-handgun permits — a move that also threatens funds for child abuse cases and testing evidence collected in rape and drunken-driving investigations.

The party-line Senate vote against a bill that won unanimous approval in the House puts in jeopardy more than $2 million for the Colorado Department of Public Safety and escalates a political tension at the General Assembly that is drawing comparisons to a gridlocked Washington.

"It amounts to government shutdown of one department on things that are very critical to public safety," said Senate Democratic leader Morgan Carroll of Aurora, referring to the Senate vote that may kill the bill.

Tensions have been escalated over normally routine appropriations bills this year after Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee led by Sen. Kent Lambert used the committee's power to cut off funding for a program to license undocumented drivers. As we discussed a few weeks ago, using the JBC to curtail funding for a program that isn't repealed legislatively results in major problems, and is considered an abuse of of the JBC's power. In the case of the driver license program, it means month-long delays for appointments will now stretch into next year, and only a single driver license office in Denver will be able to handle these applications–resulting in a more or less nonfunctional program that nonetheless remains on the books.

Of course, Republicans are fine with the driver license program for undocumented immigrants not working.

And that's the point to keep in mind as the Post's John Frank continues:

The public safety spending dispute focuses on an amendment that House Democrats added to the bill giving Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration the authority to spend $370,000 to hire eight technicians to reduce the wait time for concealed-carry background checks.

The provision is tucked into a larger spending bill that includes $300,000 for the state's toxicology lab, $100,000 for child abuse investigations and $20,000 for law enforcement training on cold-case homicides and missing-persons cases, lawmakers said.

Republican lawmakers oppose the required background checks [Pols emphasis] and don't believe the estimates from Hickenlooper's administration about a backlog.

This morning, Senate Republicans gave final passage to a bill that would eliminate background checks and gun safety training required to obtain a concealed weapons permit in Colorado. A total of five states have eliminated permit requirements for concealed weapons, and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-controlled Colorado Senate wants Colorado to be the sixth. The bill has basically zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled House, however, let alone being signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper. With legislation to repeal the gun safety bills passed in 2013 already headed for defeat, the idea that a bill to dramatically weaken gun laws could pass is simply not realistic.

So what's the next best option? Starve the Colorado Bureau of Investigations of funds to do the job! It's true that this will inconvenience the very same gun owners Republicans say they're looking out for, but who do you think they're going to blame? Certainly not Republicans.

The bigger problem is that by rejecting this spending bill, Republicans are playing games with the entire state Department of Public Safety. Much like the way budget games are played in Washington D.C. these days, large priorities are being held hostage to satisfy niche interests: in his case, the most extreme wing of the gun lobby. Ultimately, a concealed weapons permitting process that bogs down due to insufficient resources plays into the gun lobby's argument that permits should be eliminated–making it a worthwhile long-term goal to counterintuitively stand against properly funding CCW permits today.

It seems like this whole strategy depends on the press not reporting the details of what's happening here, which unfortunatety for Senate Republicans, John Frank has done admirably in this front-page story. We believe it's very unlikely that the voting public will look kindly on Republicans risking funding for things like child abuse investigations in order to strike a blow, however circuitous, against concealed weapons permits.

Which means that as long as the lights stay on and Democrats stand firm, this isn't going to end well for the Senate GOP.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Feb. 18)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republicans in the State Senate gave initial approval to Sen. Vicki "Lost" Marble's bill (SB15-032) to eliminate the permitting process for anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon. Said Sen. Lucia Guzman (D-Denver), "The permitting process allows us to know that Coloradans carrying loaded firearms have shot a gun before, are trained, aren’t domestic violence offenders, don’t have a criminal record, or aren’t drunk drivers." Colorado is currently one of 46 states that require a permit for concealed carry.  

► Former Sen. Mark Udall will see work on one of his pet issues finally come to fruition this week. President Obama plans to designate Brown's Canyon as a National Monument.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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“Condo Construction Crisis?” Don’t Believe The Hype

Construction defect.

Historic construction defect.

Quite a bit of coverage last week of the introduction of legislation restricting the rights of homeowners to sue over faulty construction. As the Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover reported:

A bipartisan pair of senators introduced a long-awaited construction-defects reform bill in the Colorado Legislature Tuesday, starting the clock on an 85-day effort to try to win over opponents who have killed similar efforts in each of the past two sessions.

Supporters of Senate Bill 177, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, and Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, unveiled a wide-ranging coalition of backers that includes municipal leaders, builders, economic developers and affordable-housing advocates…

But that coalition did not include any of the groups that opposed Ulibarri's 2014 bill, supporters acknowledged, leaving legislative sponsors needing to find a way to convince homeowners and trial lawyers that they should accept having a tougher path to file a lawsuit in exchange for a solution that many say will do little to spur the building of new condos. [Pols emphasis]

The push to "reform" Colorado's multifamily residential construction defects law has been widely forecast to become one of the most contentious issues the General Assembly will debate this year. Proponents argue that the current state of Colorado law creates a legal disincentive for developers to undertake these kinds of construction projects. The Denver Post's John Aguilar:

Reform advocates contend that the condo market has dried up in Colorado because construction-defects law has increased the liability — along with insurance premiums — for builders to the point where owner-occupied multifamily projects are not viable.

According to the market research firm Metrostudy, condos accounted for more than 20 percent of all housing starts (more than 4,000 units) in late 2005 but only 3 percent through most of 2014.

Beauvallon, a Denver construction defect horror story.

Beauvallon, a Denver construction defect horror story.

In short, lobbyists for developers say that Colorado law exposes builders to unacceptable liability for construction defects, and that's why there aren't enough condos available in Denver's red-hot housing market.

But is that really what's going on? A group representing homeowners in Colorado says the situation is much more complicated than risk of lawsuits over defects–and has data to back it up. The DBJ reported in January:

Economic conditions following the recession have contributed to a market in which buying a home is more difficult and expensive than it used to be, the study says.

Higher fees, required credit scores and home prices, as well as wage stagnation, unemployment and lower marriage rates have all kept potential buyers out of the market, said Pat Pacey, principal at Pacey Economics, during a conference call Tuesday.

Higher student-debt loads have also contributed to the younger generation holding off on buying a home, she said…

The findings are in direct opposition to the narrative put forward by developers, brokers and politicians in recent months, who say that the state's construction defects law is to blame for the lack of condo development, which many say has put a chokehold on the lower end of the home buying market across the metro area. [Pols emphasis]

But perhaps the best argument against weakening the rights of homeowners to "spur" condo construction is this: Colorado's slump in multifamily construction is not unique to Colorado.

The Colorado builders complain that “condos accounted for more than 20 percent of all housing starts (more than 4,000 units) in late 2005 but only 3 percent through most of 2014.” And, “in 2014, 5 percent of all new housing stock in Colorado was condominiums.”  Yeah, well, take a number.  Nationally, in November 2014, multi-family starts were down 11% from the same time last year. Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census, its August 2014 report showed a “steep 31.7 percent decline in multifamily production.” 

Bottom line: the hurdles faced by the next generation of Colorado homebuyers are more complicated than proponents of this legislation suggest. To buy their argument is to ignore the crushing burden of student debt faced by young people today, stagnation and even decline of real incomes for today's workers, and the tighter lending requirements buyers face today as opposed to before the recession of 2008. Not to mention that this is just the latest attempt by developers to shield themselves from liability, part of a years-long strategy–and at this point, the possibility that political objectives are factoring into business decisions should be considered.

Once you understand that the roots of the problem are much more complex than liability of builders for construction defects, the whole campaign to weaken homeowner's rights to sue over those defects falls apart. The fact is, buying a home is one of the biggest, if not the biggest investment most working families will ever make. To force homeowners into arbitration and hobble HOAs trying to get justice for their members deprives Coloradans of basic and entirely reasonable protections for their most valuable asset.

Honestly, it's hard to imagine a greater disincentive to buying a condo than this bill.