Sen. Vicki Marble: Craig, Colorado Has Been “Destroyed”

As recorded today from the well of the Colorado Senate, here's the always-entertaining Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, stating her reasons for supporting Senate Bill 15-044–a measure to roll back the state's renewable energy standard. SB15-044 passed the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate on a party-line vote today but is expected to swiftly die in the Democratic-controlled House.

Sen. Marble of "ChickenGate" infamy demonstrates once again why it's better if she doesn't, you know, talk.

MARBLE: It wasn't a free market system, um, that said that we were ready for it, and people weren't clamoring for it. It was the government that made a moral decision that wind was cleaner than coal, and destroyed Craig Colorado, and decided to build a whole new community rallying around the fake maypole called a wind turbine.

I would say vote no on Amendment 1…

Now first of all, as Mitt Romney discovered when he visited back in 2012, the coalmining city of Craig in northwest Colorado has not been "destroyed." Coal mines in Colorado continue to produce coal for local electricity production and for export. Colorado coal is cleaner than what's found in many other parts of the world, making it a good choice for incrementally reducing pollution even as Colorado is switching over to natural gas production along the Front Range. This means that there will remain demand for Colorado coal into the foreseeable future.

Marble can say what she likes about the "moral decision" the government has made "that wind is cleaner than coal"–you might find that decision more scientific than moral–but it's a simple fact that Craig hasn't been "destroyed," nor anywhere else in Colorado, by the state's renewable energy standard. This statement is so far over the top it's just laughable–much like FOX News' "no go zone" nonsense, it's only plausible if you've never actually been there.

As for that weird bit about dancing around "the fake maypole called a wind turbine?" There's another example of why so many at the Capitol think Sen. Marble is a few bricks short of a proverbial load.

Once Again, “Gunmageddon” Fizzles At Colorado Capitol

Empty seats in Colorado House gun bill hearing yesterday.

Empty seats in Colorado House gun bill hearing yesterday.

Yesterday's debate over the repeal of 2013 gun safety legislation, as well as a few new bills to deregulate concealed carry permits and make it easier to transfer machine guns (yes, that's right), featured a number of interesting twists–on the way to an outcome that was more or less a foregone conclusion before the day began. As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

The family of victims of gun violence provided the most dramatic testimony Monday afternoon as lawmakers in separate House and Senate committees debated seven Republican gun bills that loosened gun restrictions, expanded gun rights or overturned gun-control legislation Democrats passed two years ago.

"My sister had a right to life," said Jane Dougherty of Littleton, whose sibling was killed at Sandy Hook. "My sister had a right to grow old. … Nobody ever died from a background check."

Many of the arguments for or against the bills are the same ones lawmakers have heard before, but this time around there wasn't the vitriol that marked the 2013 hearings. Instead of hundreds of Coloradans descending on the Capitol, forcing staffers to set up overflow rooms, there were seats available in the committee rooms. [Pols emphasis]

A total of seven gun-related bills were debated, five in the House and two in the Senate. Everyone literate in the process in the building yesterday knew the Senate bills would make it out of committee, and the House bills would die. It's likely that the Senate bills will pass on the strength of that chamber's single-seat Republican majority, after which they will be sent to die in the same House State Affairs "kill committee" that killed five bills yesterday. All of this is just a sideshow, of course, since even if gun rights supporters were to somehow get any of these bills through the House and to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk, he'll veto them and that's the end of it.

Despite this, both the National Rifle Association and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners heavily promoted yesterday's hearings to their members, urging them to turn out and testify in the large numbers seen when the 2013 laws were up for debate. Last year, the GOP introduced a similar slate of repeal bills, but lost face after the vast crowd of gun rights supporters from 2013 failed to turn out again. The excuse offered at that time by the gun lobby was that the efforts of their members were being directed to the upcoming elections.

So what's the excuse now, you ask?

Dudley Brown, head of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the state's most strident gun rights group, says the reason Monday appeared fairly tame is many members felt they did their work in last year's election.

Except…they didn't.

After all the promises of vengeance against Democrats after the 2013 gun bill brouhaha, and the subsequent recall elections, it's obvious today that the gun issue did not result in the sweeping success for Republicans that Dudley Brown predicted. During a powerful Republican wave election that had everything to do with national political storylines and little to do with Colorado, Republicans took one chamber of the state legislature by a single seat–just like they did in the last Republican wave year. But they did not take full control of the legislature, and they did not elect a governor who will do their bidding. And for good measure, both Democratic seats lost in the 2013 recalls were retaken by wide margins–one of them by the former state director of the much-reviled Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

So what is this "work" that Dudley Brown has done? We know that Brown has raised tremendous sums of money agitating gun owners. But apart from winning a few more Republican primaries last year, RMGO has done basically nothing to create a political climate that could actually bring about repeal of the 2013 gun safety laws. And if that is not their "work," what is? Where is all that money going?

The fact is, yesterday was their chance: to re-energize the gun owning grassroots after the election, and show that the momentum coming out of the 2013 recalls has not been lost. The failure to even fill these hearings–let alone "overflow" areas to accommodate a larger crowd, and nothing remotely like the massive protests in 2013 in and outside the capitol–tells the story of a battle won two years ago, and a war lost today.

Tomorrow at the Capitol: Gunmageddon Groundhog Day!

cadmangroundhogday

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels previews tomorrow's main event at the Colorado state capitol–debate on five House and two Senate bills to repeal or otherwise weaken gun safety laws in Colorado, including the repeal legislation passed in 2013 to require background checks on most transfers of guns and restrict gun magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

It's appropriate that Monday is Groundhog Day because the legislature is going to hear a slew of gun bills that will bring back memories of 2013.

It's too early to know whether drivers will circle the Capitol, horns honking, or whether a plane will fly overhead with a message for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, all of which happened two years ago. But among the seven bills to be presented by Republicans, three will try to overturn some of the most debated measures of that session, which involve ammunition magazines and background checks.

In 2013, the debate over gun safety bills consumed a large part of that year's legislative session. The fight over bills introduced in the wake of the Aurora and Newtown, Connecticut mass shootings the prior year was by far the most contentious seen at the capitol in many years on any subject, with families and survivors affected by gun violence pitted in emotional testimony against irate and heavily misinformed (see below) supporters of gun rights. Over several days throughout the session, gun rights supporters staged noisy and disruptive rallies, flew a banner over the capitol that read "Hick–don't take our guns," and circled the capitol in caravans of vehicles blaring their horns.

One of the most important things to understand about the fury from gun rights supporters in 2013, which may or may not be repeated in the capitol in the coming days, is that it has always been heavily based on deliberately incendiary misinformation about what the laws in question actually do. This is most easily demonstrated in the case of the universal background check law, House Bill 13-1229. During last year's debate over a bill to repeal this law, Victor Head, the principal organizer of the successful recall campaign against Sen. Angela Giron, testified that telling voters this law would prevent transfers between immediate family members–his examples was one's "brother"–was highly persuasive in getting them to sign the recall petition. Likewise, Bartels quotes the sponsor of this year's universal background check repeal bill, Rep. Janak "Dr. Nick" Joshi, claiming that transferring a gun "within a family" is not permitted without a background check:

"If someone wants to transfer a gun within a family, [Pols emphasis] or transfer heirloom guns or antique guns, [Pols emphasis] why do they need to pay for a background check when it's a Second Amendment right?" said Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs.

It appears that the sponsor of legislation to repeal universal background checks is not aware that transfers of guns between immediate family, as well as transfers of antique guns as defined by federal law, are allowed without a background check. Two years after its passage, Rep. Joshi is simply not telling the truth about what this law does. When Victor Head admitted that he used this same outright lie to get recall petition signatures, the controversy that ensued in the local press resulted in clarification from Gov. John Hickenlooper's office that yes, transfers between family members are perfectly legal under HB13-1229.

So why is Joshi still saying the opposite? And why doesn't this news story check his facts?

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DU Study: State Lax In Enforcing Setback Rules For Drilling

setbackstudy

A new study from the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic asserts that "Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration is approving oil and gas drilling near homes, schools and businesses without following its own regulations." From their joint press release with the Sierra Club yesterday:

The study recommends the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission (COGCC) reject incomplete drilling permit applications, increase and standardize notification of residents near drilling and fracking, improve online information access and base setback requirements on science and necessary precautions to protect public health and environment.  
 
“The COGCC has a job to do, which is to implement strong regulations and enforce those regulations to protect public health, safety and the environment. When it comes to drilling and fracking near communities, citizens and local government are the ones living with the impacts and their voices need to be ones that are given the most weight in the process,” said Catherine Collentine of the Sierra Club.
 
Colorado regulations, in effect since August, 2013, require pads with multiple oil and gas wells located within 1,000 feet from homes, schools and businesses be placed “as far as possible” from those buildings. The governor and COGCC promised increased enforcement of the regulation last fall, but the analysis found no evidence of additional rigor in permit reviews. [Pols emphasis]
 
Student attorneys at DU Environmental Law Clinic conducted a legal review of 1300 permits issued since August, 2013 and discovered 181 were granted, despite incomplete documentation. Those 181 permits accounted for an immense amount of development: 951 wells, 1221 tanks and 932 separators. Most of the 181 permits for oil and gas wells are located in Weld County – others originated in Adams, Garfield, Larimer and La Plata Counties…
 
“We hope that our analysis will help inform the COGCC as it works to meet its goal of protecting the health and safety of all Coloradoans,” said Lauren Bushong, student attorney with DU’s Environmental Law Clinic. “If followed, our recommendations should allow for greater, and more meaningful, public participation in the permitting process.” 

Read the details of DU's study here. The commission tasked with coming up with legislative proposals to improve local control of oil and gas drilling, which resulted form last year's compromise between proponents of ballot initiatives for that purpose and Gov. John Hickenlooper, is set to deliver their report next month. Should the local control commission not produce a satisfactory result in the legislature, it's likely there will be major combat at the ballot box in 2016 over initiatives to enhance local control and/or further regulate drilling at the state level.

You'll recall that one of the ballot measures last year was to increase setbacks for drilling from existing development.

The principal argument made by supporters of the oil and gas industry in Colorado is that the state "already has" strict regulations on drilling. Obviously, the central claim of this study–that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) under Gov. Hickenlooper is not properly enforcing drilling regulations as they exist today–does not inspire confidence in their willingness to enforce stronger protections. But this is information that the legislature and (if necessary) the voting public needs to know.

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21 White Republicans (And Janak Joshi) Sponsor Affirmative Action Repeal Legislation

Up on the calendar of the always-entertaining Senate Education Committee this afternoon is Senate Bill 15-117, "Concerning prohibiting discrimination in public financing of systems of higher education." 

The bill prohibits the general assembly and the Colorado commission on higher education (commission) from appropriating or distributing state moneys to or for the benefit of students or state or private institutions of higher education based solely on the race, color, national origin, or sex of a student.

The bill requires the commission to prohibit such discrimination in higher education funding in implementing part 3 of article 18 of title 23, Colorado Revised Statutes.

This is a bill with origins in American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) stock language to prohibit funding for affirmative action policies in higher education. The national proponent of this kind of legislation, conservative activist Ward Connerly, was also behind a Colorado ballot initiative in 2008 to broadly outlaw any kind of gender or race-based affirmative action. That initiative was defeated, handing Connerly a major defeat in what has been a successful drive to eliminate affirmative action in some other states.

There are a few ways to approach this legislation, which may well pass the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate on its way to certain death in the Democratic-controlled House. We could cite the studies and large body of opinion that affirmative action remains necessary, insofar as discrimination remains a problem in America. But there's something more basic about Senate Bill 117 that struck us as we read the list of sponsors:

sb117sponsors

With the sole exception of Rep. Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs, they're all white people.

To which you might respond, "Well, that's pretty much all Republicans have got!"

And you would be right–about both the cause and the effect of their problem.

Lundberg Strikes Again: Pedophile Day Care, Anyone?

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Denver Post's Christopher Osher reports on the latest bill up for debate from hard-right Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg–and it's a doozy:

"We are licensing child care out of existence in far too many corners of the state," said Lundberg, who also is chairman of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, which will consider the legislation. "My alternative says there is an elegant solution to this bureaucratic problem, and it recognizes that smaller facilities are much better served when we stay out of the way and stop driving people out of business."

But child welfare advocates say Colorado's licensing program isn't driving providers out of business. They say costs for providers are minimal — between $63.50 to $154.50 for an initial application and criminal background checks per home. They also fear Lundberg's move could run afoul of recent federal legislation and jeopardize federal aid the state receives for child care vouchers that go to low-income parents who are working or enrolled in job training or school.
 
They believe the state's licensing program saves lives by setting uniform safety standards and requiring criminal background checks for providers and those living in their homes. [Pols emphasis] They also point out that licensed providers must take 16.5 hours of training before opening and must take an additional 15 hours annually to keep licenses current. Child care operators say the cost of all the courses is less than $150.

Given the low cost of compliance with the licensing requirements as they exist today, it's tough to argue that this is a major contributor to the high cost of child care in Colorado. On the other hand, the peace of mind of leaving one's children with a care provider who has passed a criminal background check in order to receive a child care license has a very high value indeed.

Once you accept that a $150 license and a modest bit of education is not meaningfully driving up the cost of child care, there really is no good reason for this proposal at all. To be honest, the reason to push this bill completely escapes us, because its stated justification is so easily disproven it calls the true motives for the bill into question. Is the point really to make it easier for criminals to run child care centers?

As silly as that sounds, Sen. Lundberg's response to the question honestly makes you wonder:

"Parents are the ones that need to know that they're the actual stopgap that protects children when they drop them off anywhere," Lundberg said. "They better make sure just who they are leaving their children with." [Pols emphasis]

And how are parents supposed to do that? Maybe with–wait for it–a background check? Like the one you have to pass to get a child care license? Even when you disagree with a legislative proposal, it's usually possible to see how the rationale behind said proposal could make some kind of sense to a reasonable person–maybe not you, but some number of people depending on their point of view.

But not this time. This is just an irredeemably bad idea–and for a Republican caucus that grandstanded mandatory sentences for sex offenders, and constantly represents itself as "tough on crime" at the expense of Democrats, the introduction of such a counterproductive bill makes no sense.

Neville Nutters: Repeal FASTER Late Fees, Because Freedom

Bridge repair is important.

Bridge repair is important.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports on this year's attempt to repeal part of the road and bridge construction funding stream created in 2009 via increased vehicle registration fees known as FASTER, a perennial target of the "Tea Party" faction of General Assembly Republicans:

“It is one of the most egregious fees,” said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton. “A fee is supposed to be a charge to cover the cost of handling something. There really is no cost to the government here.”

He and his son, rookie Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, are sponsoring Senate Bill 18 to repeal the vehicle registration late fee, which starts at $25 a month and is capped at $100. It’s the first bill from the father-son legislative team…

Because FASTER was passed by the General Assembly instead of a statewide vote, and has the net effect of increasing revenue available to fund Colorado transportation projects, conservative Republicans seethe annually about the program as a violation of the spirit (and, as opponents have unsuccessfully argued in court, the letter) of the 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). The problem, of course, is that TABOR has hobbled the ability of the state to properly fund transportation projects for decades, and the only way for the state to keep up with the growing burden of maintenance and new infrastructure is to resort to alternate sources like registration late fees. In recognition of the unreasonable restriction imposed by TABOR on the legislature's ability to tax and spend, the Colorado Supreme Court has made an important distinction between fees and taxes in other cases.

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

In previous years, despite the clamor on the right to repeal FASTER, Republicans in the legislature have been ultimately checked by their leadership. The last time Republicans had control of one chamber of the Colorado legislature in 2011, then House Speaker Frank McNulty's chief of staff was the former lobbyist for the Colorado Contractor's Association. The relentless drive to "shrink government" that serves as an article of faith for so many Republicans simply breaks down in the face of the reality that the state need these funds–and smart Republicans understand that to do nothing to address pressing needs like bridge repair would ultimately be disastrous for their own credibility.

Despite this, Bartels reports:

The bill likely will pass the Republican-controlled Senate, but its fate is unknown when it hits the Democratic-controlled House. Democrats have only a three-seat majority, and Rep. Neville is optimistic he can pull off a vote or two to help protect “the little guy.”

Missing from this bill is any plan to replace the millions of dollars it would cost the state, money that is being used right now to pay for something voters value above just about anything else–safe roads and bridges to drive on. On a matter of such basic importance, and with no alternative suggested, we have to wonder if there really isn't a single Republican in the Colorado Senate who will do the responsible thing here.

If not, it's something the voters should take careful note of.

Key fact in debate about pregnancy-prevention program: IUDs prevent pregnancy

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan advanced a story Monday that Boulder Rep. KC Becker is working on a bill to provide $5 million for a state teen-pregnancy prevention program that, in a privately-funded multi-year pilot phase, reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent–and saved Colorado tens of millions of dollars to boot!

The Coloradoan quoted Sen. Kevin Lundberg, who's the Assistant Republican Majority Leader, as objecting to such funding because the program relies on the distribution of free or no-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-lasting pregnancy -prevention implants, and Lundberg (along with twice failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez) believe IUDs cause abortions.

But IUDs work before pregnancy occurs!

“Any statement that IUDs aren't contraception simply isn't medically or scientifically accurate," said Dr. Jennifer Hyer, a Denver Ob-Gyn, in a statement distributed by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. "As a licensed, practicing Colorado OB-Gyn I recommend IUDs for my patients all the time. They are among the most effective forms of contraception, especially for at-risk women, because they automatically prevent pregnancy. That’s why Colorado's program was so successful, and access to long-acting contraceptives needs to continue if we want to keep reducing the teen birth and abortion rate.”

The Coloradoan rightly pointed out that the "definition of pregnancy used by the [Colorado Department of Health and Environment] and other scientists has pregnancy beginning at the implantation of the fertilized egg."

The definition of pregnancy is so central to the debate around this teen-pregnancy-prevention bill that the Coloradoan should have been even more explicit, saying that the mainstream scientific community, meaning the scientific establishment of nerdy medical people, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have defined pregnancy as beginning at implantation, not before.

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Former GOP Sen. Ted Harvey–”Scam PAC” Artist?

We've had a couple of occasions to note the activity of a federally registered political action committee (PAC) chaired by former GOP Colorado Sen. Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch. The Stop Hillary PAC has been raising cash off the possibility of a presidential run by Hillary Clinton in 2016 for a couple of years now, often employing such (to put it charitably) lowbrow imagery as this to pry open conservative wallets:

stophillarystewie

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

Very classy stuff. Just last week, Sen. Harvey wrote to Stop Hillary PAC members, urging them to donate before Clinton's presumed forthcoming presidential campaign announcement:

Testing has shown that when I write to potential new supporters, their response nearly doubles if we can promise that their contribution will be matched — doubled or even TRIPLED.

But to recruit those new members we must fully fund our Matching Grant Challenge. 

If I could again offer to match all new contributions with a $100,000 special Matching Grant, we will more than double our recruitment efforts.

AND the day Hillary announces, you and I could double down our efforts with $200,000 and another 10,000 supporters. 

That is why I sincerely hope you will support our Matching Grant Challenge so we can offer a compelling reason for new members to join us BEFORE Hillary announces.

Got it? If you donate to Ted Harvey's Stop Hillary PAC, you donation could be matched–doubled or even TRIPLED–by others matching your donation. Or maybe you're the one matching somebody else's donation? That's not really clear from Harvey's email, but it's absolutely clear that the one thing you need to do, conservative donor, is give generously to the Stop Hillary PAC. Right now, before you have a chance to think!

Unfortunately for Sen. Harvey, there may be a very large fall in store for this by-all-accounts successful anti-Hillary fundraising operation. As Politico's Kenneth Vogel reports, the Stop Hillary PAC chaired by Ted Harvey was started by a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer named Dan Backer. And there appear to be some troubling questions brewing about Dan Backer and his PACs:

In 2014, Backer’s PACs — a roster including Draft Newt (created to coax the former House speaker into the Virginia Senate race), the Tea Party Leadership Fund (which urged Sarah Palin to run for Senate), Stop Hillary (to oppose the former secretary of state’s expected presidential campaign) [Pols emphasis] and Stop Pelosi (which the Federal Election Commission called out for using the House Democratic leader’s name) — spent more than 87 percent of the $8 million they raised on operating expenses, including $419,000 to Backer’s own law firm, DB Capitol Strategies. By contrast, the amount the PACs spent on donations and ads was about $955,000 — or less than 12 percent of their total fundraising haul. [Pols emphasis]

Something tells us that if Ted Harvey admitted in the above fundraising email that almost 88% of the Stop Hillary PAC's money has gone to "operating expenses" instead of, you know, stopping Hillary, he would raise a lot less money. This is the sort of "overhead" that attracts the attention of the Attorney General in the case of most charities. As in charity fraud.

But apparently for out of work Republican lawmakers, it's how you beat the high cost of living.

Have We Mentioned That Kent Lambert Doesn’t Like Immigrants?

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope to “patrol” the Mexican border.

The Colorado Statesman's Marianne Goodland reports on a bill sponsored by Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs that's more than meets the eye:

The new chair of the Joint Budget Committee has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with a bill that would radically change the mission and admission standards for Metropolitan State University of Denver. And it’s not a change that they sought.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 15-072, which would change Metro’s admissions standards from “modified open” to “moderately selective.”

The state has five standards for granting admissions to its public colleges and universities. Metro currently falls under “modified open,” which means any applicant age 20 or older can be admitted with a high school diploma or GED. Those under 20 must meet additional criteria. Metro is the only higher education institution in the state with modified open standards…

As of press time, Metro officials and Lambert had not yet met about the bill.

MetroStateLogoWeb-304

Kind of strange, don't you think? Why would Sen. Lambert introduce a bill making such a major change to the admissions criteria for one of the state's largest public colleges without even meeting with them?

That's simple enough–Metro State does not support the bill.

Metro spokesperson Cathy Lucas said that Metro was not looking to change to their admissions standards. Initial data from the university shows that about 1,200 students would be affected by the admissions change. That would include 432 students of color…

Metro State serves a key role in Colorado's range of public higher education offerings as what's known as a "college of opportunity"–a chance for returning adult and otherwise "nontraditional students" to obtain a full four-year college degree without the same high admission standards prevalent at most four-year schools. As a consequence, Metro State has a lower graduation rate than many other four-year schools, but that is considered acceptable in pursuit of the school's mission of making a full college education available to everyone.

So why would Lambert want to change Metro State's "college of opportunity" model? As we discussed last week, Lambert is one of the Colorado legislature's most strident anti-immigrant lawmakers. Lambert has taken "fact finding trips" to the Arizona border to meet with anti-immigration extremists like border militiaman Chris Simcox, and ex-Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce of SB-1070 infamy. Metro State was a major advocate of the ASSET legislation passed in 2013 allowing undocumented students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college with affordable tuition, and the largest share of ASSET students are students of Metro State. As you can imagine, this did not make Lambert a very happy anti-immigrant lawmaker.

And basically, Kent Lambert is now looking to screw with Metro State. It's important to know this backstory, lest anyone think Lambert's bill is some kind of altruistic pursuit of better educational standards. Be assured, its not.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch (Pay Equity Edition)

His-Hers

This week, the new Republican majority in the Colorado Senate flexed its plus-one-seat muscle in a number of ways, one of which was the effective killing of the Colorado Pay Equity Commission in the GOP-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology. The pay equity commission's work to develop best practices for the state and private industry was not finished, and state experts had recommended the commission's mandate be renewed to continue to address the problem. FOX 31's Eli Stokols reported this week:

Democrats, while ostensibly angry about the 5-4 party-line vote by the GOP-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee, are already returning to their oft-used narrative that the GOP is hostile to women by scrapping a body charged with rooting out gender discrimination in the workplace.

“Hard working women across Colorado deserve better than they got from the Republican Colorado Senate majority today,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, director of Progress Now. “We call on the General Assembly to immediately take up a new bill to continue the vital work of Pay Equity Commission to its conclusion. There is too much at stake for this short-sightedness.”

Republicans on the committee alternately argued that pay equity is not a problem, or a problem best solved "by the private sector"–consistent with the arguments made by the minority of witnesses testifying against continuing the commission's work. The 5-4 vote to "sunset" the pay equity commission was party line.

Perhaps not so well timed, the Denver Post's Aldo Svaldi reported late yesterday:

Women working full-time in Colorado earned a median weekly wage in 2013 that was 77.9 percent of what men received, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Colorado women reported a median weekly full-time wage of $762 versus a median weekly wage of $978 for men.

Back in 1997, when the bureau began tracking the wage gap by state, women made 74.6 cents on the dollar versus what men in Colorado made. The gap narrowed during the dot-com boom days to around 84 cents on the dollar in 2002 but has trended lower since then.

As you can see, no problem whatsoever! Good thing five Republicans state senators agreed it was time to kill the commission studying pay equity in Colorado. For all the complaints about Democratic overuse of the "oft-used" "War on Women" narrative, we still wonder a little whether Democrats might invoke the "War on Women" less if Republicans didn't validate it every chance they get.

Because, you know, they kind of do.

Kent Lambert Ain’t Funding No Immigrant Driver Licenses

UPDATE: Majority House Democrats react with anger to Joint Budget Committee Republicans' budgetary shenanigans: "That might be what they do in Congress, in Washington. That’s not how we do it in Colorado."

Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee are trying out a tactic that’s new to Colorado – if you don’t like a law, defy the will of the legislature and just deny funding for the law. 
  
This morning, the three JBC Republicans voted for a second time this week to deny $166,000 for a program to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented Colorado residents. 
  
The driver’s license program was authorized by a state law enacted in 2013. The JBC Republicans’ action had the effect of reducing the number of DMV offices offering this type of license to one, statewide. The Denver Post calculated that the change would increase the waiting time for these licenses to 16 years. 

Later this morning, the Republican JBC members – Sens. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale — voted against a different public safety licensure program, the Department of Public Safety’s request for an additional $369,000 to administer background checks for the state’s concealed carry firearms licensing program…
  
“Amazingly, with this one motion, Republicans on the JBC are hurting law-abiding gun owners and jeopardizing community safety at the same time,” said Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. “By boosting the waiting times, you’re making law-abiding citizens wait longer for their concealed carry permits. It’s hard to understand what they were trying to achieve here, because it's really just a lose-lose for everyone.” 
  
“The Joint Budget Committee’s job is to fund programs authorized by Colorado law,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the JBC vice chairwoman, who voted to preserve the driver’s license program and to assist law-abiding gun owners by cutting the waiting time for concealed carry licenses. “If we don’t like a law, we try to change it through the legislative process. I do not support using the budget process to change existing laws by not funding them appropriately. That might be what they do in Congress, in Washington. That’s not how we do it in Colorado.” 

—–

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and immigration activist Chris Simcox.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and anti-immigration activist Chris Simcox.

As the Durango Herald's Peter Marcus reports:

Republicans on Friday defunded a large portion of a state program intended to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The three Republican members of the state’s budget committee rejected a spending authorization to fund the new program, causing a tie vote that killed the motion.

The move highlighted Republicans flexing their new muscle after taking control of the Senate this year, which created a split Legislature. The GOP opposed providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants…

Ulibarri sponsored the measure in 2013 when Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature. The bill was framed as a public safety measure, with sponsors pointing out that drivers are more likely to flee the scene of an accident without a license or insurance.

It's important to understand the purpose of the immigrant driver license program, which was not to provide "sanctuary" to undocumented immigrants. Immigrants drive to get to work and elsewhere, but with no ability to obtain a valid license, they can't get auto insurance–and that makes them rolling liabilities to everyone else on Colorado roads. Given the fact that immigrants are here, the intent of this law is harm reduction.

According to proponents, defunding the immigrant driver license program (as opposed to repealing it with legislation) could result in the worst possible outcome: the program remains on the books, but becomes prohibitively difficult to operate. Practically speaking, it means that four out of the five DMV offices currently able to process these licenses will be forced to discontinue the service:

For Durango-area applicants, the news is crushing. Undocumented immigrants already were forced to drive the four hours to Grand Junction to apply for a license. Now they will likely have to drive considerably more.

It's possible that we'll see more of this tactic on other issues, but on anything related to immigration that arrives before the JBC, it should be noted that the new chairman of the JBC, GOP Sen. Kent Lambert, is one of the state's most strident anti-immigrant lawmakers. As a member of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, Lambert has taken field trips to the Arizona and Texas borders to "survey the situation." In Arizona, Lambert met with anti-immigration extremists like former Sen. Russell Pearce, and accused child molester/Minutemen founder Chris Simcox (photo with Lambert above right).

Because of the effects defunding a program that is not legislatively repealed would have, this is considered bad form. There have been occasions, including at least one instance so far this year, of the Joint Budget Commission unanimously agreeing to drop funding for a line item that has demonstrably failed in one way or another. In this case, using the JBC to grandstand on an issue one party lost legislatively, and cannot repeal legislatively, is an improper use of the JBC's considerable power.

Add it to a growing tally of misdeeds this session.

Senate GOP Kills College Tuition Cap Bill

Student life.

Student life.

Via AP and the Fort Collins Coloradoan, a priority from Gov. John Hickenlooper's State of the State address dies at the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee:

The Senate Education Committee considered a Democratic bill to extend the current 6 percent hike cap indefinitely. The proposal was part of the Democrats' broader agenda this year to rein in costs for the middle class.

For some students at Colorado State University on Thursday, the proposal sounded like a sound idea.

"Making sure (tuition hikes aren't) ludicrous, like a 20 percent jump? I'm for that," junior health and exercise science major Philip Ephraim said.

The 2011-12 school year saw a 20 percent jump for in-state students over the previous year. Tuition had increased by 9 percent annually for the years before and after that year, according to CSU. The Legislature passed the tuition cap last year, but it was not permanent…

Laura Waters Woods.

Laura Waters Woods.

Of course, the 6% tuition cap bill that died yesterday was only "permanent" for as long as the General Assembly wanted it to be. Any such statute can be changed at any time. But in Hickenlooper's State of the State address, he called for tuition at Colorado state schools to increase by no more than 6%, in an effort to control the growth in the cost of higher education. Which, if you haven't heard, has been a big problem in recent years (see above).

But by fewer than 700 votes in suburban Arvada, Republicans are in charge of the Colorado Senate. Sen. Laura Waters Woods and her hard-right colleagues on the Senate Education Committee are expected to be a major roadblock on education issues for the next two years, and yesterday's action lived up to the predictions.

On Thursday, Education Committee members agreed that Colorado has done a poor job of funding higher education, but the GOP-controlled board voted 5-4 on party lines to reject the measure.

Republicans on the committee pointed out that even the 6 percent cap could mean tuition would double in a couple of decades. They called the cap an arbitrary limit on the institutions and an example of "micromanaging" the schools…

It's called gridlock, folks, and it's what's on tap in the Colorado Senate through 2016. The only thing we can tell you, and the student body of Colorado State University, is everybody had better get used to it.

And elections matter. We'll say that again too.

Not a good start

The 2015 legislative session in Colorado got off to a slow start–but yesterday, the new right wing majority in the Colorado Senate showed everyone their true colors.

In just one day, conservatives in the Colorado Senate did a shocking amount of damage. The state's Pay Equity Commission, which was working to outline best practices to make sure women and men receive equal pay for equal work, was effectively killed in a senate committee. Conservatives also killed a study looking into election modernization systems, another step in their long campaign to make it harder to vote. Another common-sense bill to make sure Colorado's civil unions law works was killed by anti-LGBT Senate Republicans.

Neglecting basic responsibilities and pandering to the far right is not what Senate President Bill Cadman promised he would do. Sign our petition now demanding the Colorado Senate majority stop killing legislation vital to Colorado's economy, voting rights, and basic fairness.

It could get worse. Dozens of great bills are set to be debated in the Colorado Senate in the next few months: relief for credit card holders, student borrowers, families who need child care, and many more. These bills deserve a fair hearing, not to be killed in committees stacked with conservatives before ever reaching the floor of the Senate.

Sign our petition now: tell Bill Cadman and the Colorado Senate Republicans to give every bill a fair hearing.

Three years ago, we watched as another slim Republican majority in the Colorado House broke the rules to kill the 2012 civil unions bill. It took another election, but they lost their majority and civil unions became the law of the land.

If that's what Bill Cadman wants for the Senate, so be it–but here is their chance to do the right thing. Tell Cadman now: give every bill a fair hearing in the Senate.

Thanks for standing up. If we work together instead of against each other, we can make the voters of Colorado proud. That's all I want this legislative session.

Sincerely,

Amy Runyon-Harms

Nobody Does Nothing Quite Like Senate Republicans

The Captain does not approve

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the State Senate, and they are off to a fast start in promoting their policy agenda. We dare say: nobody does nothing quite like Senate Republicans.

While destroying limiting government is a pretty common refrain to hear from right-wing Republicans such as Senate President Bill Cadman, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg, and Majority Caucus Chair/culinary expert Vicki Marble, we'd venture a guess that even they've been a little surprised at just how easy it can be to make government do nothing. Hell, they're making nothing happen without even doing anything!

Consider what Senate Republicans didn't accomplish today: they allowed two important bipartisan commissions to expire on their own by not voting to renew them. Republicans didn't have to create any new legislation or come up with any ideas of their own — all they had to do was not let the commissions expire.

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Senate Republicans ended the Pay Equity Commission by doing nothing to allow it to continue. The Commission was created to study the existing pay gap between men, women, and minorities, and to come up with solutions for closing the gap. According to information provided by Senate Democrats, "Colorado women are still only paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is wider for women of color. African American women earn only 67.5 cents and Latinas just 52.5 cents for every dollar earned by the highest earners."

Promoting Fair and Modern Elections: Say goodbye to the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission (COVAME) , which will cease operations on July 1, 2015. Today Republicans on the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee allowed the clock to run out on re-authorization of the committee. Nevermind the constant refrain from Republicans about how concerned they are when it comes to voter fraud — the magical Private Industry Fairy will save them. A press release from the Senate Democrats explains more about COVAME:

The General Assembly established the COVAME in 2013, as part of the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (HB 13-1303).  This measure sought to make elections simpler and more accessible for all eligible voters, and some of its provisions called for changes in how elections are physically conducted.  Notably, it called for mail ballots to go out to all voters in general elections, Voter Service and Polling Centers to replace traditional precinct polling places, and for allowing voter registration up until Election Day.

The final COVAME report is not due until mid-February of 2015, and it will provide analysis from the 2014 election and offer recommendations for 2016. 

We've said before that Colorado Republicans appear to have misinterpreted a one-seat majority as giving them a mandate to do whatever they choose. This would appear to be yet another example of that fallacy; we're pretty confident that Colorado voters weren't looking for the GOP to sit on their hands once they took office.