Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 12)

Get More SmarterOn this day in 1912, the Girl Scouts were founded; that’s what it says on our free wall calendar, anyway. 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…

Republicans are surprised that there has been so much backlash over the “Dear Iran” letter. That anyone would be surprised at the reaction tells you a lot about Senate Republicans. Via Politico:

Though none of the 47 Republican signers has expressed regret for co-signing it, the missive, authored by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, is creating unexpected fallout in Congress. And it threatens to linger politically and legislatively.

Utah legislators want to bring back the firing squad for executing prisoners. That is a real sentence.

 Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Even More Senate GOP “Anti-Vaxxer” Nuttery

Today, the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate gave final passage to House Bill 15-1075, bipartisan legislation meant to regulate naturopathic health care providers–some people call them “doctors,” but we don’t–who treat children under two years of age. From the bill’s summary text:

Current law prohibits a registered naturopathic doctor (ND) from treating a child who is under 2 years of age. The bill permits an ND to treat a child who is under 2 years of age if the ND:

• Provides the child’s parent with the current recommended immunization schedule for children;

• Demonstrates, prior to treating a child under 2 years of age and in each year in which the ND treats a child under 2 years of age, completion of 3 hours per year of education or training in pediatrics;

• Requires the child’s parent to sign an informed consent acknowledging that the ND is registered under the “Naturopathic Doctor Act” and is not a licensed physician, recommending that the child maintain a relationship with a licensed pediatric health care provider, and requesting permission to collaborate with the child’s pediatric health care provider;

• On the first visit, refers a child who does not have a relationship with a pediatric health care provider to a licensed physician who treats pediatric patients for a wellness evaluation; and

• Complies with director rules pertaining to the training, referral, and communication requirements.

The legislation did pass today, but not before hard-right Sen. Tim Neville took the unusual step of offering what’s known as a “third reading amendment.” The third reading of a bill is its final step before approval or rejection by a legislative chamber, so Neville had to obtain special permission to introduce Amendment L.008. What was so important in this amendment that Neville found this unusual procedure necessary, you ask?

That’s right, folks–Neville’s amendment sought to strike a provision requiring naturopathic “doctors” to recommend that parents follow the CDC recommendations for childhood immunizations. Not to force children to be immunized, mind you, since you can’t do that in Colorado, just to recommend immunization.

Neville’s last-minute amendment was not successful. GOP Sens. Larry Crowder, Ellen Roberts, and Beth Martinez Humenik joined with Democrats to kill L.008 and pass the bill. But that also means most of the Senate GOP leadership, linchpin 2016 target Sen. Laura Waters Woods, along with multiple other 2016 targets have lodged yet another “anti-vaxxer” vote in the permanent record.

After the disastrous press Senate Republicans endured following passage of the so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” which would make it even easier for unvaccinated children to attend Colorado public schools, we’re genuinely surprised that Senate President Bill Cadman would allow a vote on this amendment at all–let alone vote for it himself along with most of his caucus.

Perhaps they really can’t help themselves.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 11)

Get More SmarterHere’s a sentence nobody ever wants to have said about them: It’s not technically treason. 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 Sen. Cory Gardner talked to the Denver Post (sort of) about his decision to sign his name to the now-infamous “Dear Iran” letter. Gardner’s weird, rambling response to a letter that spawned the hashtag #47Traitors did nothing to explain why he thought this was a good idea. Mike Littwin wonders who was more humiliated about this letter — Republicans or President Obama – while dissecting this political disaster for the GOP.

► Speaking of the “Dear Iran” letter, the Denver Post editorial board used a whole five sentences to opine on the issue yesterday. This is the same newspaper, of course, that endorsed Gardner for Senate in 2014.

► The anti-vaxxers in the Colorado legislature have re-emerged on an amendment offered to an otherwise uninteresting naturopathic bill:

 Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner Ducks Questions About Iran Letter

Cory Gardner Iran Letter

Sen. Cory Gardner meant no harm in signing the “Dear Iran” letter. He just wanted a pen pal (yeah, that’s the ticket!)

UPDATE: Gardner talks to Mark Matthews of the Denver Post, and doubles-down on the nonsense:

Gardner said the point was making clear that Congress was adamantly against the possibility of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, and that anything else was a distraction too. [Pols emphasis]

“If you listen to the reaction of the administration, they are in hyperdrive trying to downplay what’s really at stake,” Gardner said. “That’s why the president is trying so hard to distract people from the real issue.”…

…Asked about its long-term effects, Gardner said [the letter] does nothing to hinder his campaign goal of trying work the ideological middle of the Senate.

The Iran issue “is a prime example of where we can and should work together,” he said.

Shrug. Blame President Obama. Talk about working together. Repeat.

Gardner’s entire explanation is horseshit. He says the point was to make clear to Iran that “Congress” is adamantly against a nuclear-armed Iran…except that the letter wasn’t even signed by every Republican in the Senate.

No dice, Senator. You owe Coloradans more of an answer than this.

—–

The asinine “Dear Iran” letter signed by 47 Republican Senators is becoming a bigger story by the day as Republicans who declined to sign are questioning the letter’s logic. It’s tough to defend when Iran responds by calling it a “Propaganda Ploy.”

From TPM:

Conspicuously absent among signatories to the letter is Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who says he’s working to build a veto-proof majority for his legislation restricting President Barack Obama’s negotiating options with Iran and ensuring congressional approval before any deal is struck. He hinted that the Cotton letter wouldn’t help advance the cause.

“I knew it was going to be only Republicans on [the letter]. I just don’t view that as where I need to be today,” Corker told Politico

The gambit is earning attention well outside traditional foreign policy circles. As of Tuesday morning, the hashtag #47Traitors was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States. [Pols emphasis]

NY Daily News Traitors

Front page of today’s NY Daily News.

As Politico reports, the seven Republican Senators who declined to sign the letter have been open about their concern with the strategy. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is one of the 47 Senators who did sign the letter, but he’s not talking (naturally). Via Eli Stokols at FOX 31:

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner didn’t back down Tuesday as controversy continued to swirl around the letter he and most of his Senate GOP colleagues signed in an effort to undermine a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran to limit that country’s nuclear program.

He also declined to answer more questions about it…[Pols emphasis]

…Asked for additional comment Tuesday, Gardner’s office stood by its statement from Monday, even amidst new debate in Washington about whether the move, whatever its impact on a potential deal with Iran, is a violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from communicating with foreign governments to conduct their own foreign policy.

Gardner’s statement on Monday was a ham-handed attempt to downplay the letter as a clarification for Iranian leaders on our system of government. That Gardner has refused to elaborate today is no real surprise, but he also deserves the criticism he is receiving. He’s a U.S. Senator now — Gardner can’t just shrug off this kind of thing like he did when he was in the House of Representatives.

This isn’t just silly partisan politics at play — this is dangerous. If you are going to sign your name to a letter that openly undermines the diplomatic process of the United States government…you damn well better explain yourself.

The Latest In Gun Nut Fashion?

Half-empty Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on mag limit repeal yesterday.

Half-empty Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on mag limit repeal yesterday.

As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports, gun rights activists once again failed to pack the Capitol with supporters of their bill to repeal the magazine capacity limit, despite intense rallying of their base in days prior:

Republicans controlling a Senate committee on Monday passed a measure that would repeal the state’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines…

Debate was expected to last into the evening, but testimony finished early, [Pols emphasis] allowing lawmakers to take a vote, which passed on a 3-2 party-line tally.

Republicans are likely to push the measure through the Senate, where they control the chamber and have the support of four Democrats. But the bill is unlikely to make it through the House, where Democrats sit in the majority and are considering sending the measure to an unfavorable committee.

The gun lobby may not have been able to fill yesterday’s hearing, but what they lacked in numbers they appeared to make up for with…well, interesting fashion choices:

gunnutfashion

That’s Sen. Randy Baumgardner standing with a “gun guy” who came to testify in favor of Senate Bill 175 yesterday. Now, we don’t want to betray ignorance of something we’re supposed to know about–but can anyone tell us what the hell this guy is wearing and why? They didn’t have guns in Game of Thrones. Braveheart didn’t wear anything like this–at least we don’t think, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen it. We see what looks like an NRA patch on the front of his…smock, robe, whatever this is, but beyond that we really don’t have a clue.

But as with any fringe subculture with their own uniforms, we’re curious.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 10)

Get More SmarterDear Iran: Did u get our letter? Write back soon!

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 Sen. Cory Gardner is among 47 Republican Senators who signed a letter to Iran in a bizarre attempt to undercut the Obama Administration in talks over a nuclear agreement. This was really, really, really not a good idea.

► Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) says that Republicans in Congress do NOT want to repeal Obamacare. Tipton’s remarks came during a speaking engagement with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association on Monday.

► Wait just a minute…Rep. Scott Tipton really said that Congressional Republicans do NOT want to repeal Obamacare? House Republicans have cast some 60 votes to repeal Obamacare since 2011, with the most recent vote coming last month.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Sen. Larry Crowder: “I Want The Ladies To Stay Pretty”

Cringeworthy video this morning from the well of the Colorado Senate, here’s Sen. Larry Crowder discussing his reasons for voting yes on House Bill 15-1144, banning the use of tiny plastic “microbeads” in personal care products that are accumulating in waterways:

CROWDER: Thank you Mister Chair, I wrestled with this bill harder than any bill I’ve had to date. The very idea of our facial cream, if the ladies had to give that, that, the beads up, would that affect the beauty of the ladies in which we deal with on a daily basis? I say, my fellow Americans, I was assured that it does, it would not, so therefore I will be a yes vote on this. I do believe the industry came forward in droves and indicated that they would like to quit making this, but the beauty of the ladies in which we deal with is a real factor to me, and I struggled with this, but I am gonna be a yes vote. And I hope this is the right vote, because I want the ladies to stay pretty. [Pols emphasis] Thank you.

So, um, this is one of those jokes that was maybe a little bit funny the first run-through, even forgivable from a crusty Stetson-toting sagebrushy guy like Larry Crowder. As you can hear in the video, he got a small courtesy laugh out of “the beauty of the ladies in which we deal with” when he first trotted that punchline out.

By the end, you’re just like, this is kind of creepy.

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 9)

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If you forgot to set your clock one hour ahead for Daylight Saving Time…you’ve probably been having a really weird 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…

► Republicans in the State Senate are making their last-gasp effort during this legislative session to change gun control laws passed in 2013.

Civil rights groups are rallying today in protest over so-called “Right to Discriminate” legislation making its appearance in the State House.

► As we begin the second half of the 2015 Colorado legislative session, the Colorado Springs Gazette looks ahead to Under the Golden Dome, Part II.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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“Gunmageddon’s” Last Gasp Moves Today

Lots of guns.

Lots of guns.

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

On Monday, new GOP Senate President Bill Cadman makes good on his promise to give Democrats a chance to “correct their mistakes” on gun policy.

A Republican bill to repeal the 15-round limit on ammunition magazines gets its first hearing Monday afternoon in the senate judiciary committee.

SB 175 is likely to pass through the senate under GOP control, but it’s likely to die a quick death in the Democratically-controlled house.

The equivalent legislation on the House side has already died, in a hearing that drew surprisingly little interest from gun owners–continuing a pattern we’ve seen of the gun lobby being consistently unable to match the level of opposition to gun safety legislation seen in 2013 when they were originally passed by the General Assembly.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners tried to rally their members to the Capitol for this legislation two weeks ago, but were thwarted by heavy snow. It’s unknown how many of their supporters were able to get time off again to testify today, but most expect the debate over Senate Bill 175 to be the acid test of the gun lobby’s drawing–and staying–power.

Right before it dies in the Democratic House of course, an inevitable fact that will probably not be great for turnout–that, and the fact that fevered predictions the magazine limit would “ban gun ownership” or “ban all magazines” never came true. Reality-based debates over this law aren’t nearly as emotional, so most of the testimony today probably won’t be.

We’ll update with coverage as it comes in.

Crowder Smacked By Retirees For Anti-PERA Vote

Sen. Larry Crowder.

Sen. Larry Crowder.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Ryan Severance reports, Sen. Larry Crowder is under fire from constituents after voting with fellow Republicans to make undesired changes to the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA):

State Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, said Saturday that he voted for Senate Bill 80 because he is concerned about the future of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association and being able to maintain it and believes this piece of legislation would help strengthen and save it.

“We can go along and say there’s no problem, we can put our head in the sand and say there’s no problem or we can take a stand for PERA,” Crowder said. “In my opinion, what we are attempting to do is save PERA, not destroy it, but doing nothing I think destroys it.”

SB80 is a measure that passed the Senate last month with all 18 Republican senators voting for it and all 17 Democrats opposing.

SB80 would let PERA members choose a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) plan, instead of the traditional defined benefit pension plan. Currently, only a small group of state employees such as state legislators can enroll in the defined contribution plans. Crowder said only state employees hired after May 2, 2009, would be affected by the bill.

Colorado’s PERA trust fund has already been reformed at the expense of public employees. 2010’s Senate Bill 1 reduced the amount contributed by the state to the PERA fund and increased the contribution of employees. As a result, PERA is on a long term course to be fully funded within 40 years. Republicans led by Treasurer Walker Stapleton have consistently “concern trolled” PERA’s solvency, even as the fund has outperformed its benchmarks in recent years. Stapleton’s remarks in August of 2013 were a good example:

PERA’s strong return on investment last year, nearly 13 percent, made up for the anticipated shortfall in revenue and actually reduced the unfunded liability by $800 million.

Those predictions assume an average 8 percent return on investments.

Stapleton said that number is unattainable in the new reality of the stock market.

We hope Stapleton is picking investments at his other job as a financial manager better than he speculates about PERA’s returns, because the stock market has surged upward since he said this–and PERA has returned an average of 9.4% over the last 30 years.

So what does Crowder mean by this “destroying PERA” stuff? Back to the Chieftain:

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Oh Lordy, Kumbaya

As the Denver Post's Joey Bunch reports, Republicans and Democrats at the state capitol are swaying to the same sappy tune when it comes to developing Colorado's workforce to meet the needs of the future:

Dozens of Colorado legislators from both parties stood together Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to tell the middle class that help is on the way…

The package would give employers financial incentives to take on interns and apprentices and would develop programs that coordinate high schools and colleges with companies willing to help train and eventually employ workers, bill sponsors said…

The industries targeted by the legislators pay well: engineering, research and development, manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources and other skilled trades.

In a separate blog post, Bunch details the workforce development bills introduced so far and on the way. Just about every legislative session features a similar moment of bipartisan camaraderie over a package of mutually inoffensive economic development legislation, but with so many nasty fights swirling on a host of hot-button partisan touchstone issues this year, both parties felt the need to make an extra show of it yesterday. And why not? Especially in a non-election year, voters love to see this and reporters love to write about it.

Yes, folks, that's Democratic Rep. Mike Foote (D) with his arm around Sen. Laura Woods (R). If you're thinking that this doesn't happen very often, you're right.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because the gun magazine limit repeal and Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt's "right to discriminate" bills are up for debate Monday! At which time Kumbaya will be over.

Get More Smarter on Friday (March 6)

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Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday. Make a smooth transition by setting your clock one-half hour ahead today, and moving the final half-hour on Saturday night. 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 group of 10 sheriffs from 3 different states are suing Colorado for legailzing marijuana. Replied Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulderish), "This lawsuit is a silly attempt to circumvent the will of Colorado voters and is a waste of time." Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith is the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit; top law enforcement officials in Greeley and Weld County decided to stay out of the lawsuit, presumably because they were too busy doing their jobs instead.

► Colorado legislators said Thursday that they are focusing on bills to help the middle class in Colorado. As Joey Bunch reports for the Denver Post:

Lawmakers have introduced four bills so far to help people prepare for and get better-paying jobs, with six more to be introduced soon.

The package would give employers financial incentives to take on interns and apprentices and would develop programs that coordinate high schools and colleges with companies willing to help train and eventually employ workers, bill sponsors said.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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GOP Plays Dirty To Kill Concealed Weapon Background Checks

Concealed handgun.

Concealed handgun.

As the Denver Post's John Frank reports, House Democrats ended a major standoff with Republicans over the issue of funding for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to close a backlog of background checks for concealed weapons permits yesterday, essentially by capitulating to the GOP's curious refusal to increase this funding and thereby accommodate the surging demand for CCW permits in the state:

A Washington-style budget standoff at the state Capitol ended Wednesday as the House conceded to the Senate's position on a $2 million spending bill for the public safety department.

The unanimous vote removed the final hurdle for a measure that includes money for testing evidence in drunken-driving and rape cases but jettisoned a provision allowing the agency to hire more staffers to reduce the wait time for concealed-carry background checks.

The Democratic-controlled House insisted on the $370,000 for background checks, but the Republican-led Senate objected and refused to negotiate on the bill, creating what one lawmaker described as a "high-stakes game of chicken" that drew comparisons to congressional gridlock.

If the House didn't pass the supplemental spending bill, it would have died — a reality House Democrats said was too steep to accept.

Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, speaking to reporters afterward, acknowledged this as a tactical defeat, but defended the decision to fold in the face of determined GOP opposition to the CBI funding request. The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus:

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, said it simply was too important to let the bill die, noting money for the state’s toxicology lab, law-enforcement training and testing for rape kits.

“I call it being the adults in the room,” [Pols emphasis] Hullinghorst said after the vote Wednesday, which passed unanimously. “There was very little alternative.”

As we discussed last month regarding this same controversy, Republican opposition to funding the CBI's request for additional funds to close the concealed-carry background check backlog is not easy to explain at first blush. After all, Republicans are supposed to be the defenders of Coloradans' right to own and carry weapons for self-defense. Why would they not want the CBI to close the backlog of background checks, and get these applicants their permits faster? Wouldn't that be the pro-Second Amendment thing to do?

The answer to this curious question lies in the law–CRS 18-12-206. Which reads:

(1) Within ninety days after the date of receipt of the items specified in section 18-12-205, a sheriff shall:

(a) Approve the permit application and issue the permit; or

(b) Deny the permit application based solely on the ground that the applicant fails to qualify under the criteria listed in section 18-12-203 (1) or that the applicant would be a danger as described in section 18-12-203 (2). If the sheriff denies the permit application, he or she shall notify the applicant in writing, stating the grounds for denial and informing the applicant of the right to seek a second review of the application by the sheriff, to submit additional information for the record, and to seek judicial review pursuant to section 18-12-207.

And here's where it all starts to make an ugly kind of sense:

(2) If the sheriff does not receive the results of the fingerprint checks conducted by the bureau and by the federal bureau of investigation within ninety days after receiving a permit application, the sheriff shall determine whether to grant or deny the permit application without considering the fingerprint check information. [Pols emphasis]

The Republican-controlled Colorado Senate has already passed legislation that would eliminate the background check requirement entirely for carrying concealed weapons. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the legislators they control are all on record in opposition to any additional background checks for CCW permits. That legislation is set to die in the Democratic-controlled House State Affairs committee sometime this month.

But as you can see, Republicans have a backup plan for killing CCW background checks, in the form of starving the CBI of the funds it needs to conduct them in a timely manner. It's not necessary to repeal the law requiring CCW checks, if they can simply push the backlog for their approval beyond the ninety days specified in the law–after which the sheriff approving the CCW permit simply doesn't have to use the information.

This is just another example of Colorado Republicans using the budget process to wield legislative power that they don't otherwise have with only narrow control of a single chamber of the legislature. Much like defunding the driver license program for undocumented immigrants, it results in a situation no one in authority should ever want: a program that remains legal but is in practice not functional. In both cases, this achieves Republican policy goals, but subversively and without regard to the hardship it causes in the meantime.

In this case, the GOP may be going too far. If Democrats can demonstrate to voters that the GOP's true objective here is to get rid of background checks for CCW permits, we think that can be turned into a significant political liability. Because it's not the way the process is supposed to work, and the public won't support the real objective here if it's fully explained to them.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 5)

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Did you give up $4 million in salary this week? 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 Metro Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition to so-called "Right to Discriminate" legislation being pushed by Colorado Republicans. This will put a dent in the GOP argument that businesses should be allowed to discriminate for financial reasons.

► As the Colorado legislature nears halftime, 9News reporter Brandon Rittiman takes a look at what to expect in the coming months. Colorado Senate Democrats talked up their mid-session accomplishments yesterday. “We said we would fight for middle class families, and that is what we have done," said Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll. "While we have had several partisan defeats, we are not deterred."

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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How Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg Keeps The Government Out of Your Business (But Not His)

Wiz-quiz.

Wiz-quiz.

THURSDAY UPDATE: A reader pointed out this 2012 Denver Post story about Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg that you might find relevant to discussion of his $628,000+ in federal cash subsidy payments:

Poor Coloradans who apply for monthly cash assistance would first have to pass a drug test before receiving benefits under a bill that cleared a House committee Thursday.

House Bill 1046, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, [Pols emphasis] requires anyone applying for benefits under the federally funded Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, or TANF, to first pay the $45 cost of taking a drug test.

Those who pass the drug test would be reimbursed by the state and could get TANF benefits. Those who fail, though, would be denied reimbursement and any benefits and could not reapply for TANF again for a year.

Those who fail a second time wouldn't be eligible to reapply for three years.

"If you can spend money on drugs, why do you need the government's check?" Sonnenberg asked members of the House Health and Environment Committee. [Pols emphasis]

Indeed, Senator! You first. Original post follows.

—–

UPDATE #2: None of former Sen. Greg Brophy's $113,000 in federal crop subsidy payments came from melons, which is good because he shoots those. 

—–

UPDATE: Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown, a top 2016 Democratic target and another co-sponsor of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance exchange and subsidies, pulled down over $180,000 in direct cash subsidy payments from the federal government between 1995 and 2012–almost $130,000 of which was subsidy payments for wool and "sheep meat."

Got that? No health insurance subsidy for you, but sheep meat subsidies for J. Paul Brown. That's going to make for one hell of a direct mail piece.

—–

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling is one of the louder voices in the Colorado Senate GOP delegation, both literally and figuratively. Sonnenberg can be reliably counted upon to introduce some of the more combative pieces of legsialation in any given session, and he hasn't disappointed this year as sponsor of bills to roll back Colorado's renewable energy standards and to speculatively "compensate" mineral rights owners if local governments prohibit fracking operations on the surface. On the latter effort, the Craig Daily Press quoted Sonnenberg in typical form:

Sonnenberg said if counties or local government entities cannot afford to pay for what they take, they shouldn’t make regulations limiting mineral rights.

“If you can’t buy it, don’t ban it,” Sonnenberg said.

Got that? The last thing you need is the government up in your business, folks. Let the free market reign!

And then we got to thinking about it: what does Jerry Sonnenberg do for a living?

Jerry Sonnenberg is a Colorado native who has been farming and ranching in northeastern Colorado his entire life. He continues to live and work on the same farm that both his father and he were raised on growing wheat, corn, sunflowers, millet and cattle.

Jerry Sonnenberg is a farmer. Certainly an honorable profession and an important part of Colorado's economy. But in modern American agriculture, as America's growing resource-disconnected urban population is increasingly oblivious to, there's a catch.

The catch is government subsidies.

You see, the agricultural commodities market as we know it today is very far from what you'd call "free." The U.S. Department of Agriculture closely monitors the supply and demand of farm products, and pays billions of dollars each year in direct subsidy payments to farmers to protect their incomes from price volatility. We could write a very long post on how this all works, but the overall goal is to keep food prices in the United States low while keeping farmers gainfully employed. There is a great deal of debate about the efficacy and true beneficiaries of farm subsidies, but the political power wielded by farm states has protected the status quo for the last two decades.

The amount paid to farmers by the USDA in direct subsidies is a public record. The Environmental Working Group maintains a searchable index of receipients of direct farm subsidies since 1995. So we clicked here, and entered the name Jerry Sonnenberg:

sonnenbergsubsidies

That's right! Jerry Sonnenberg received almost SIX HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS in direct cash subsidy payments from the USDA between 1995 and 2012. Clicking through to the breakdown of his subsidy payments shows that over $300,000 was paid to Sonnenberg in wheat crop subsidies alone, with smaller amounts for land conservation and periodic crop disaster declarations.

Again, our purpose here is not to disparage the practice of subsidizing farmers to stabilize the agricultural products market. But when you think about things like Sonnenberg's co-sponsorship of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance marketplace, which could deprive thousands of Coloradans of their subsidies to buy health insurance…well, how is that not as utterly hypocritical as it looks?

We have no doubt that Sonnenberg has a blowhard answer ready, but it is what it is. And the questions this kind of hypocrisy provokes are, in our view, pretty fundamental to debates he is having right now at the state capitol.

Bonus round: search for the names Greg Brophy and Mark Hillman! Or try some others.