Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Jan. 20)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowToday is the last day until January 21st. Think about that. 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…

► El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton has officially joined the ever-growing field of Republican candidates for U.S. Senate. By our count, Littleton is the 10th candidate to announce a campaign for the GOP nomination; in January alone, a Republican has announced for U.S. Senate on average once every five days.

 

► State Sen. Morgan Carroll said on Tuesday that she will not resign her seat in the State Senate in order to focus full-time on her Congressional campaign in CD-6. From the Denver Post:

“This is the job the voters elected me to do,” Carroll said Tuesday. “And I think it’s my duty to finish it.”

Carroll gave up her role as State Minority Leader when she first announced her Congressional campaign last summer, but had never indicated that she might step aside from the State Senate altogether. Carroll is term-limited in 2016 regardless.

 

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Questions about the hospital provider fee? Read this

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Reporters have struggled to find a short-hand description for the “hospital provider fee,” because  it’s impossible to describe briefly. And lengthy descriptions of it often require multiple readings. And that’s without trying to understand the intracacies of why it’s such a big deal.

So the Colorado Independent did us all a favor by dedicating a full article to: “What you need to know about Colorado’s biggest political battle. It’s called the hospital provider fee, and it’s complicated. Let’s break it down.”

You should take a few minutes to read the entire piece, by the Independent’s Corey Hutchins, but here are a few paragraphs:

The hospital provider fee is a state program requiring hospitals to pay money each year depending on how many patients stayed in hospital beds overnight and how much outpatient services they provided. That money is then used, among other things, to help Coloradans who can’t afford insurance plans get care, and to help the state pay for people who are on Medicaid, which is a government healthcare program for low-income Coloradans and their families.

Each hospital pays a different amount — some pay a lot, some pay nothing — and the fee hauled in nearly $700 million last year. This money is then matched almost dollar for dollar by the federal government to expand Medicaid, provide health coverage for Coloradans who are using emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment, and reimburse hospitals for care. The more money the fee brings in the more money the feds give Colorado to make sure people who can’t afford healthcare get it. Since 2009, the program has helped more than 300,000 people get insurance coverage….

Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, who sits on the state’s budget committee, explains it like this: Picture a bucket with water pouring in. The incoming water is state revenues, and when the bucket fills to the top (or hits its TABOR limits) water starts pouring over the edge— and that overflowing water (money) goes back to taxpayers in the form of rebates. Now, picture rocks in the bottom of the bucket. One of those big rocks is money from the hospital provider fee. It’s money that takes up space in the bucket, and those who want to take a big rock out can do so by reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise…

The context of AFP’s [Americans for Prosperity, which opposes the measure] involvement is that it’s a big-time, strategic pressure group with loads of resources and activists that will keep certain lawmakers holding the line on this issue, especially at a time when they need backing to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, the business lobby in Colorado is speaking in a near-monolithic voice for reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise, as have editorial boards at some of the state’s regional newspapers.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Jan. 14)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowThe next time somebody tells you they “won” the Powerball lottery by not playing and saving their money, you have our permission to punch them in the jaw. 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…

► Governor John Hickenlooper delivers his “State of the State” speech today after a day of speechifying and back slapping at the opening day of the Colorado legislature. In the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans are using the ‘B’ word. From John Frank of the Denver Post:

The state’s top Republican lawmaker gaveled the Colorado Senate into session Wednesday, touting the bipartisan accomplishments from a year ago even as election year politics are poised to create a fractious 2016 term.

Senate President Bill Cadman highlighted legislation approved in the 2015 session to reduce student testing; make repeated drunk driving arrests  a felony charge; audit the state’s  health care exchange; and improve  security measures at schools.

Of course, none of those things really happened because of Republicans, who consistently voted “NO” at a far greater clip than Democrats. But, whatever. Here’s more from the Post:

In her opening day remarks, the new Senate Democratic leader Lucia Guzmán acknowledged the two parties “severe differences in how we think about getting to a stronger state” warned against “extremism” that dominates the broader political arena…

…Guzmán also outlined a Democratic legislative agenda to reduce college debt, push an equal pay for women measure, improve workforce training as the state transitions to renewable energy sources and address Colorado’s “alarmingly high suicide rate.”

 

► While State Senators pretended to play nice on Wednesday, there was little room for Kumbaya in the State House. As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel:

Historically, opening day speeches at the start of any legislative session are filled with a lot of talk about being bipartisan and reaching across the political divide that separates Democrats and Republicans in the 100-member Colorado Legislature.

But instead of continuing that tradition, and offering up a bunch of nebulous ideas that one side or the other says will help move Colorado forward, House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst was very specific ­— and very pointed — about what she wanted to see get passed this year, while also lashing out at extremists’ ideas…

…Hullinghorst called for 10 separate items, saying “let’s pass this bill” each time.

Not surprisingly, Hullinghorst drew applause from her side of the House chamber — sometimes even a standing ovation — while Republicans sat quietly in their seats.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Jan. 13)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowLet’s get this legislative party started! 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 back in session today for a day of speechifying and rhetorical table-setting. Governor John Hickenlooper spoke with reporters on Tuesday in advance of today’s opening day, and as Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, Hick publicly endorsed Peyton Manning for quarterback of the Denver Broncos…and also talked about budget stuff:

“I’m pretty optimistic that once they have all the facts, they will write an opinion that confirms what we’ve been working on,” the governor said. “But we’re going to be having to look at the budget and say, ‘Well, we might have the hospital provider fee and we might not.’ At least in the first month or so, we’re going have to assume that we don’t have it … and we’ve got to be discussing what our priorities are.”

The issue is that the provider fee, which is expected to reach more than $750 million this year, has come up against TABOR’s strict revenue limits, forcing a mandatory refund to taxpayers even though taxpayers don’t pay that fee.

Taking that money out from under TABOR and turning the provider fee program into a government-owned business, or enterprise, which the 1992 constitutional allows, would free up more money for other services, the governor said.

Not doing it would mean cuts to such things as higher education, human services, K-12 spending and transportation, the governor said, adding that it could end up costing individual taxpayers more than they would get in a refund.

Elsewhere, a group of Colorado mayors spoke out on Tuesday about the need to “de-Bruce” from TABOR.

 

► President Obama delivered his seventh — and final — “State of the Union” speech on Tuesday evening. Obama deviated from the traditional SOTU speechifying standard of listing a bunch of policy priorities to instead talk about America’s strength and growth in recent years, and to warn Americans about listening too closely to “election year cynicism.” Obama also talked about Congress being a workplace that is wholly unlike anywhere else in the country; he could have been talking about Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora).

Colorado’s Congressional delegation responded to Obama’s speech pretty much exactly how you would have guessed they might. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the Republican response to the SOTU, and her speech was widely panned by the right-wing.

 

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Obama Answers Local Pro-Gun Crime Victim With Respect

President Barack Obama, left, speaks during a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama, left, speaks during a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.

Last night, President Barack Obama held a televised town hall meeting at Virginia’s George Mason University to discuss his recent action to tighten up background checks on gun sales and better track disqualifying mental illness among prospective gun buyers. In the audience at yesterday’s town hall was a Colorado woman who was sexually assaulted at UNC in 2006. Kimberly Corban’s testimony in 2013 before the Colorado legislature against gun safety legislation resulted in controversy after remarks from Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak in response to another woman’s testimony on the same bill were perceived by some as insensitive.

Corban’s questioning of President Obama at yesterday’s town hall seems to have been highly anticipated by gun rights supporters, who immediately attacked the President after the exchange in a similar manner to the attacks on Sen. Hudak in 2013.

The problem is, nothing that could even be considered even remotely insensitive to Ms. Corban occurred yesterday. As the Washington Post reports:

Corban’s story did not exactly have a happy ending — or, at least, the ending is ever-evolving. Though her assailant is now serving 24 years to life in prison, she struggled with depression, PTSD and stress-related seizures. And, speaking about her experience, she came to realize how important it was for women to have access to guns to protect themselves.

Then, Thursday night on national television, she got to confront the man she thought wanted to take her guns away: President Obama.

“As a survivor of rape, and now a mother to two small children — you know, it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing, and being able to carry that wherever my — me and my family are — it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point,” she told Obama during “Guns in America,” CNN’s town hall, after the president announced executive orders on gun control Tuesday.

“I have been unspeakably victimized once already, and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids. So why can’t your administration see that these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun, or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?”

Turning to the CNN transcript of the event, here is Obama’s response to her question:

OBAMA: Well, Kimberly, first of all, obviously — you know, your story is horrific. The strength you’ve shown in telling your story and, you know, being here tonight is remarkable, and so — really proud of you for that.

I just want to repeat that there’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm. [Pols emphasis] And — now, you may be referring to issues like concealed carry, but those tend to be state-by-state decisions, and we’re not making any proposals with respect to what states are doing. They can make their own decisions there.

So there really is no — nothing we’re proposing that prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.

Obama then notes that there are arguments on both sides of the debate over whether owning a gun makes a person safer from crime. Statistically there are incidents where individuals successfully defend themselves with a gun, but many others where people are actually victimized with their own guns turned against them.

But the bottom line? Obama is not trying to take her guns away:

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Stay Classy, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

FRIDAY UPDATE #2: Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado slams Sonnenberg in a statement:

“The right wing’s all-consuming hatred for President Obama is well known, but Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has taken disrespect for the President too far this time,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “During President Obama’s term in office, our nation has been rocked by horrific mass shootings including the Aurora theater massacre. President Obama has personally met the survivors and victim’s families of Aurora, Newtown, Roseburg, San Bernardino, and other senseless acts of gun violence. I too have met with some of them. The stories of their pain and suffering will bring any decent person to tears.”

“President Obama’s tears for the victims of gun violence in America, including right here in Colorado, are very real, and I’m proud to support a president unafraid of compassion,” said Runyon-Harms. “Thanks to Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, the right wing’s boundless contempt for the President is now an insult to the victims he wept for.”

“Sen. Sonnenberg is a disgrace to the Colorado Senate, and to the victims and survivors of mass shootings that have occurred in our state,” said Runyon-Harms. “We want President Obama and all victims of gun violence to know that Jerry Sonnenberg does not speak for Colorado.”

—–

FRIDAY UPDATE: Daily Kos, responding to our comments below:

It would be encouraging if “any and all decent” constituents of this pathetic excuse for a senator looked him in the eye the next time he shows up on their turf and asked him if he really meant to make a fucking joke out of lubricating an assault rifle with tears induced by pondering the slaughter of 6- and 7-year-olds.

As for those who believe the president manufactured tears to manipulate his audience, perhaps a few of them could be rehabilitated if they read what Joshua Dubois wrote in The President’s Devotional two years ago about Obama’s visit to Sandy Hook just two days after the slayings there left that community raw.

—–

A Tweet earlier this evening from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican representing a broad area of the Eastern Plains of Colorado, mocks President Barack Obama’s press conference this week in which he announced executive actions to modestly tighten background checks on gun sales:

obamatears

That President Obama had an emotional moment over the victims of gun violence in America during his presser has made a great deal of news. But a sitting Republican lawmaker responding so crassly to the President’s sympathy for gun violence victims, which we are inclined to believe is genuinely expressed, quite possibly sounds a new bottom in an already acrimonious debate.

We apologize on behalf of any and all decent people he represents.

The High Price of Bill Cadman’s Senate Majority

Senate President Bill Cadman.

Senate President Bill Cadman.

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports–the hard-right faction in narrow control of the Colorado Senate, working closely with well-funded conservative action group Americans For Prosperity, are on the verge of scuttling a critical bipartisan agreement on a fiscal matter that’s been the subject of a year of negotiations:

The political arm of the Koch brothers’ conservative network is asking Colorado lawmakers to sign a pledge to protect TABOR, an effort designed to block Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top legislative priority.

The Americans for Prosperity petition intensifies the political battle on a major budget issue before the 2016 legislative session and helps explain why Republicans are shifting their tone on the discussion about the hospital provider fee.

As the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover continues, the sudden intransigence from Senate Republicans on reclassifying the hospital provider fee in a way that exempts it from the revenue caps imposed by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, thus preventing millions of dollars in harmful budget cuts to a range of important programs and services, is infuriating traditional Republican allies in the business community:

Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Metro Denver Chamber…delivered an especially strong message on the hospital provider fee: Re-enacting it does not, she said, play games with the state’s money but does allow room in the budget to invest more in higher-education. It also would allow general taxpayer fund dollars to continue to go to roads after that monetary transfer happened just in this budget year for the first time since before the Great Recession.

“We can not afford to be the only state in the union who doesn’t use general-fund dollars to maintain our roads and bridges,” Brough said. “We’re a laughingstock, and we will lose our competitive position because of it.” [Pols emphasis]

Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst echoes the anger from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce in a statement late yesterday:

“We have a challenging session ahead of us to address Colorado’s critical priorities like roads and schools, and that is my focus. I and Coloradans across the state are acutely aware of the terrible budget cuts we are having to contemplate if we don’t find a solution. As we begin the 2016 session I will continue to work with members from both chambers and parties to solve these problems.

“Lots of lawyers will have lots of different opinions, but most importantly the legislature is the lawmaking body in this state, so that we can address problems just like these.

“We are focused on finding solutions for the people of Colorado, not on finding excuses for why we are failing them.”

What we’re talking about here is a change in the technical status of the entity administering the 2009 fee charged to hospitals to create Medicaid revenue which is then matched by the federal government. Right now, these revenues risk exceeding the TABOR-imposed revenue growth caps, which would force the state to make cuts even while sending out token refund checks. The business and community interests groups in support of this fix are not trying to unmake TABOR–this is about moving a purpose-specific funding mechanism out from under TABOR’s arbitrary limits so funding remains available for everything else.

And it might not happen now. Cadman is now reportedly hiding behind a nonbinding opinion memo against the proposal, the same kind of legislative advisory opinion that has been proven right and wrong in recent years–the courts decide these things, not memos. Despite that, it’s entirely possible that Cadman will succeed on the strength of that opinion in locking down the Senate Republican majority, denying a broad bipartisan coalition the single Senate Republican vote needed to pass this fix.

A single vote, folks. You can’t separate the frustration over the intransigence of the GOP Senate majority from the extremely narrow control Cadman wields over his chamber. One Senate seat, won in 2014 by well under 1,000 votes, gives Cadman the power to thwart the consensus of the entire rest of the state. Republicans and Democrats alike are outraged, but in the end there’s nothing they can do if Cadman and his hard-right majority refuse to engage in good faith.

When we say elections matter, and every vote in every election matters, this looming disaster shows why.

NARAL report: national anti-choice groups targeting Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

prolifevsprochoiceNARAL Pro-Choice Colorado issued a report yesterday exposing the legislative influence in Colorado of two national anti-choice organizations, Americans United for Life (AUL) and Alliance Defending Freedom(ADF), as well as the state-wide network of “crisis pregnancy centers.”

During the last legislative session, five bills and one resolution were modeled on AUL draft legislation, and AUL staff testified at numerous committee hearings, according to the report, titled “Against Our Will: How National Anti-Choice Groups are Targeting the Pro-Choice Majority in Colorado.

None of these bills had much chance of becoming law, as pro-choice Democrats control the governor’s office and state house.

But two of the proposed laws generated serious media attention: a measure requiring women to have an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abotion and a “fetal personhood” bill giving legal rights to a fetus, potentially threatening abortion rights, and allowing prosecutors to bring murder charges if a fetus is destroyed during criminal acts.

These two bills  were co-sponsored by key Republicans in the state, including the leading GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, State Sen. Tim Neville, and Westminster State Sen., Laura Woods, whose race next year will likely determine control of the state senate.

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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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