RMGO Busy Getting Favored Candidates Nominated

woodsrmgo

A last-minute plea from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners executive director Dudley Brown today touts endorsements for Senate District 19 Republican Senate candidate Laura Woods, as the clock winds down to next Tuesday's GOP primary elections:

For the past several weeks, you've received many e-mails from me urging you to vote for conservative Republican Laura Woods in the June 24th Primary Election for Senate District 19.

However, I don't just want you to take my word for it, but also consider the other conservative champions who are supporting Laura, including:

Top-rated conservative State Representative Justin Everett,
Weld County Sheriff and gun rights lawsuit leader John Cooke,
Former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, 
State Senator Ted Harvey, and
Former State Senator Dave Schultheis.

Now, these individuals know exactly what it takes to fight for your Constitutional rights.

Take it from these proven conservative leaders, and vote for Republican Laura Woods in the June 24th Primary Election.

With a tag team of Bill Armstrong and Dave Schultheis in her corner, how can anybody stand in Laura Waters Woods' way? And since this is an RMGO email, there is of course a healthy portion of recycled scumbagging for Woods' opponent, two-time loser Lang Sias:

You may have even heard Laura on morning talk radio shows like Peter Boyles, as a key spokesperson for the recall effort.

If you did hear her, then you know just how passionate and committed she is about protecting our rights. 

Unfortunately, Lang Sias, a handpicked liberal, establishment Republican, has chosen to run a primary against Laura. 

If you’ve read our emails before, you know by now that Lang Sias has already attempted to run for office TWICE in the last two election cycles and LOST – even to Evie Hudak!

Tony Sanchez.

Tony Sanchez.

RMGO is working every bit as hard to ensure their endorsed Republican candidate in Senate District 22, Tony Sanchez, beats Republican attorney Mario Nicolais. What we've heard is that in both of these races, and others where RMGO has made a primary endorsement, a robust field campaign with no shortage of volunteers is busily underway–making it quite likely that Colorado's "no compromise" gun rights organization is going to have a very good night on Tuesday.

Electability in November, of course, is another matter, but until next Wednesday morning, you won't find any Democrats raining on RMGO's parade.

Bible and Constitution would guide Woods in State Senate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Laura Woods.

Laura Woods.

A candidate's religious or godless beliefs are too often ignored by the dwindling press, so we should be grateful to the radio hosts on KLZ AM-560 for giving candidates the chance to talk openly about how religion guides their lives and decisions.

I mean, it's a public service to know that State Senate candidate Laura Woods, who's running for the seat currently occupied by Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, will look narrowly to the Constitution and the Bible to guide her if she's elected. And that God directs Woods in a "real sense."

Conservative talk radio is apparently seen by candidates as a safe and comfortable place to talk openly about God, and it's a public service for us to hear the religious discussions that bless the airwaves there.

I previously reported on gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo's belief, as stated on talk radio, that God has a plan for him. Woods offered her thoughts on the topic on two recent shows.

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War Between RMGO, GOP Establishment Goes On In SD-19

UPDATE #2: Apropos, Eli Stokols goes in-depth on the SD-19 primary for 5280.com today:

"I just couldn't do it," Sias says. "For me to [run for state senate], I'll be beholden to the Constitution and to the people of the district, not an outside power broker. At the end of the day, I'd rather lose than be in that guy's pocket."

That guy, of course, is Dudley Brown, RMGO's executive director, who is notorious in Colorado Republican circles for his scorched-earth tactics against GOP candidates who don't fill out his survey, which asks candidates to declare their absolute support for gun rights and their commitment to fighting against or to repeal gun control efforts.

The survey itself comes with an intimidating cover sheet informing the candidate, "we expect legislators to live up to their word" and threatening the familiar brand of retribution should they fail to fill it out: "Failure to respond will mean we have to tell citizens that you do not care enough about their gun rights to fill out the survey, and can't be counted on to defend those rights."

Sias’ decision may be the one that determines whether he is ultimately successful in his upcoming primary against the RMGO-backed Laura Woods… [Pols emphasis]

—–

UPDATE: This graphic that appears on the Colorado Campaign for Life website appears to be the Facebook post in question that was "shared" by Laura Waters Woods:

siasabortion

—–

Lang Sias, Tea Party endorsed no longer.

Lang Sias, “Tea Party endorsed” no longer.

A press release late Tuesday from Republican SD-19 primary candidate Lang Sias sums up the acrimonious state of one of the GOP's most important state legislative races this year, as establishment kingmakers square off against the powerful Rocky Mountain Gun Owners:

The Sias for Colorado Senate Campaign calls on Laura Woods to immediately retract her statement comparing Lang Sias to one of America's most notorious mass murderers. In a stunning and completely unfair post on social media, Laura Woods featured Lang Sias next to a picture of Kermit Gosnell. Kermit Gosnell viciously murdered children born alive and was found guilty of first degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Former Senate President John Andrews decries Woods' act, stating: "Laura Woods has to stop making things up. She claimed me as a supporter when I'm not. I'm neutral. Much worse, she linked Lang Sias with a mass murderer for failing to complete a survey. I know Lang to be pro-life. This is unworthy of a would-be senator, the smear of the year."

Lang Sias is committed to the pro-life position, including no partial birth abortion or late stage abortion, no taxpayer funding of abortion, and religious freedom for employers related to abortion…

Laura Woods.

Laura Woods.

​Any time a GOP primary invokes the name of the reviled abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, you know somebody means business. There is likely no primary campaign going on in Colorado today featuring nastier rhetoric than in the GOP SD-19 race–the seat formerly held by Evie Hudak, now held by a very capable Democrat Rachel Zenzinger. The district's close past election results, combined with a perceived opportunity created by Hudak's resignation last year to avoid a possible recall, makes this race an absolute must-win for Republicans hoping to recapture the Colorado Senate this year.

RMGO, the powerful "no compromise" pro-gun group which played heavily in the recall petition drive against Hudak, is battling hard for their endorsed candidate Laura Waters Woods, who won the Assembly vote to appear as the top-line candidate. Here's the latest missive from RMGO political director Joe Neville:

"Republican" Senate District 19 candidate Lang Sias has a long list of sins that show why he can't be trusted.

As recently as 2006, Lang Sias was registered as a Democrat who switched his registration only TWO YEARS before he ran for Congress as a Republican.

Furthermore, Lang Sias even financially supported anti-gun Democrat Mark Udall!

Now, when we were gathering signatures for the Hudak Recall, we knew it would be an extremely tough job to pull off, as we needed over 18,000 signatures in 60 days!

…It would be a HUGE slap in the face to the nearly 1,000 individual Recall Hudak volunteers, as well as the nearly 25,000 people who signed the recall petition, if Lang Sias won the June 24th Republican Primary Election in Senate District 19. [Pols emphasis]

Bottom line: whatever momentum Republicans may feel exists in this district after last year's turmoil, Lang Sias is still the guy who lost in 2012 to Evie Hudak. Sen. Zenzinger has done an excellent job establishing herself in a short time, and there is no reason to think she would underperform Hudak in the general election–in fact, she puts Democrats in about their best possible position to hold the seat. Add to that the likelihood that the present anti-establishment sentiment among the Republican grassroots today operates in Woods' favor, and it's easy to see why backers of Sias are very worried that he's about to lose his third election.

Mario Nicolais Gets Two Ads For The Price of One

An interesting twist on the usual primary wrangling–check out the mailer below, sent by a GOP message group in support of Democratic HD-24 primary candidate Kristian Teegardin to Democratic primary voters:

teegardinmario

This mailing raises eyebrows for a couple of reasons. There's the obvious question about a Republican aligned and operated group getting involved in a Democratic primary. In this case, we think that can be adequately explained by Teegardin's Democratic opponent, Jessie Danielson, who worked for the progressive America Votes organization and is a natural enemy of the Scott Gessler vote suppression "integrity" set. One such friend and political ally of Gessler is the registered agent of the group in question, GOP attorney Mario Nicolais.

As one of the principal election law attorneys for local Republicans, Nicolais' name appears as the registered agent for lots of Republican-aligned political groups–for example, the organization that attacked Republican county clerks over election reform legislation using photos of voters with African-American faces Photoshopped out. In this case, though, there's an added bonus: Nicolais is a Republican candidate for the Colorado Senate in SD-22. SD-22 and HD-24, the House district Teegardin is running in, overlap for much of the town of Edgewater west of Sheridan Boulevard! It's not a huge overlap, but it's the first instance we've ever seen of a mailer sent to voters in one district with the name of another candidate for the same voters as the registered agent.

Building name ID among Democrats wouldn't help Nicolais in his heated primary against Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-endorsed Tony Sanchez, of course, in fact we could easily see meddling in a Democratic primary being used against Nicolais with SD-22 primary voters. We'd say that any one of the pieces of this story by itself isn't terribly remarkable, but the combination of these storylines makes, at the very least, for some interesting trivia.

For HD-24 Democrats and SD-22 Republicans especially.

Still No News On Local Control Special Session Deal

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports on what's known, as of today, about the state of negotiations over local control legislation to forestall oil and gas local regulation measures being readied for this November's statewide ballot. The latest news is…no news:

Draft legislation shopped around this weekend that seeks to clarify powers held by state, county and city authorities in Colorado to regulate oil-and-gas drilling has not won full support by the main negotiating parties, and so a special legislative session tentatively scheduled to begin today in Denver has been postponed.

Officials have said for some time that they hoped to make a deal in June. Governor John Hickenlooper weeks ago asked lawmakers to clear their schedules for the beginning of this week. That Friday’s proposal failed to gain the support it needed to launch the session today seems like a significant setback. Although the governor can call a special session any time, sources have said they want to ink a deal before election-year momentum builds and campaign politics steal progress already made and narrow wiggle room in which to find future compromise.

The draft bill sparked frenzied speculation over the weekend that parties had drawn close to a deal after weeks of stops and starts and that the plan for a special session beginning today was on track.

News this morning that the proposal has so far failed to launch the session will please grassroots groups that have led the movement in the state over the past five years to push back against boom-time natural-gas drilling activity. The groups received the six-page proposal this weekend with frustration and anger.

Rep. Jared Polis, so far the leading backer of any serious effort to pass a local control ballot measure, is reportedly willing to pull his support for the initiatives, if the draft legislation unveiled Friday sees no weakening during legislative debate. Grassroots supporters of greater local control, who aren't happy with the draft legislation, need the support of Polis and/or other well-heeled players to have any realistic shot at winning a statewide ballot fight against what would doubtless be fierce industry opposition. But the reason a special session of the legislature did not convene today is the closely divided body, particularly the Colorado Senate where pro-industry Democrats throw a one-seat majority into doubt, may not be in a position to pass anything.

The question is, would that really be so bad?

It's critical to remember as these negotiations drag on that there is a great deal of public support, as evidenced by the local "fracking" bans and moratoria that have passed in several Front Range residential cities, for strengthening local control over oil and gas drilling. Arguments that a statewide local control ballot measure could hurt Democrats politically are poorly founded and of dubious origin. If the industry and its political allies get cocky, for which the early shrill attacks on Polis betray at least a desire, there's no reason to further try to appease them.

A legislative compromise is the industry's chance to prevent both tighter regulation and humiliation in a statewide vote–and the risk of consequences at the ballot box in November hinges on the industry's willingness to show good faith today. The compromise that Polis says he would accept even as many grassroots activists complain about its weakness is, under the assumption the local control measures can pass in November, as good a deal as the industry is going to get.

If they don't understand that, we say let them learn the hard way.

“Lose By Winning”–The Colorado GOP’s Long-Term Dilemma

The Republican base (increasingly to scale).

The Republican base (increasingly to scale).

A great analytical piece from Politico's Todd Purdum this weekend makes points that observers of Colorado politics should keep in mind, and have been borne out by Colorado's recent political history as we'll explain:

It’s the predominant paradox of contemporary American politics: If Republicans prevail in this year’s midterm congressional elections, it will be because of their party’s sharp-edged stances on topics like abortion and Benghazi, Obamacare and immigration, gay marriage and the minimum wage — issues that energize the GOP’s core base of support.

But if Republicans lose the race for the White House in 2016, it will be because of their party’s polarizing, out-of-step stances on those very same issues, which alienate much of the broader electorate the GOP needs to win a national contest in a country whose demographics and political realities are shifting under its feet…

“The Republican Party has essentially now two wings: a congressional wing and the national wing,” the veteran GOP pollster Bill McInturff said at a recent Pew Research Center forum on so-called millennial voters, those from 18 to 29 years of age. The congressional wing is thriving, especially in the South, in districts that are 75 percent, or even 80 percent, white, and where every incumbent’s worst fear is a challenge from the right.

…On questions like climate change and gay marriage, pollster McInturff said, younger voters no longer believe there is anything to argue about. He summed up their views as: “‘We wouldn’t fight about that. That’s just presumed to be true.’” [Pols emphasis]

Thomas Mann, the veteran political scientist and Congress-watcher at the Brookings Institution, said that, at the moment, the Republicans are “simply not a presidential party.”

In Colorado, the 2010 "GOP wave" election is generally reckoned to have been a "modest" defeat for the Republican Party. Democrats easily won a gubernatorial race in which the Republican frontrunner self-destructed, and won a narrow victory in a top-tier U.S. Senate race against a candidate whose backward views on social issues rendered him unpalatable to independent and women voters. The state didn't completely escape the effects of historic Republican victories across the nation in 2010, with the GOP picking up two congressional seats, winning the statewide races for Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State, and the Colorado House flipping to the GOP by a single extremely narrow win in the northwest Denver suburbs. But the overall result was well short of what Republicans had expected the summer before.

In 2012, Democrats in Colorado ran the table on Election Night, sweeping GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty from power in the state House and delivering the state to Barack Obama by a comfortable margin. Going into the 2014 midterms, we see the same pressure on Colorado Democrats to turn out their base voters and swing independents that was evident in the midterm elections of 2010. The question is, can Colorado Democrats minimize the impact of this midterm "wave" as they did in the last midterm election?

The answer is very logically yes, and as the story above explains, it's because the overarching demographics driving this whole midterm/presidential year dichotomy inexorably favor Democrats. One of the biggest reasons the Republican Party has lurched so far to the right since the election of Barack Obama is that, as this changing American electorate begins to decide elections, the biggest constituency Republicans have left to appeal to is the out-of-the-mainstream fringe right wing. Republicans were fully willing to embrace the "Tea Party" to win in 2010. There was a powerful short-term advantage in appealing to this segment of the electorate, in that they are extremely reliable and passionate voters. There is a tremendous enthusiasm gap between such voters, who vote in greater numbers in every kind of election, and the much larger body of voters who turn out once every four years. We're certainly not the only ones who have said this, but we've been saying it for years: 2010 wasn't about who voted, it was about who didn't vote.

And we could say the same thing about John Morse's recall. Or the Jefferson County school board.

The markedly different electorates who decide midterm and off-year vs. presidential elections can result in head-snapping results from one election to the next. Just as one example, the Jefferson County voters who turned out to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012 would never have voted in the radical conservative school board majority now causing street protests the following year. If this seems like an obvious point to you, that's great, but most voters simply don't understand these differences–and as a result, fringe minority electorates are assumed to be representative.

In 2010, Colorado Democrats used exactly what appeals to these ardent conservative voters against Republicans with the broader presidential-year electorate–and by effectively driving home the message of GOP extremism, incompetence, and moral turpitude, they turned out just enough of the 2008 electorate to break the "GOP wave." Colorado Democrats have the same challenge in 2014, but they also have the same opportunity: a rich body of material to use against Republican candidates at every level, from Cory Gardner to Victor Head.

And each year, as the changing electorate chips away at the GOP's narrowing coalition, it gets easier.

Lang Sias Wishes He Was “Tea Party Endorsed” Again

Trying hard to stay ahead of his Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-endorsed opponent, GOP SD-19 candidate Lang Sias is busily knocking doors of Republican households in the district, burnishing his "Tea Party" credentials. Here's a campaign flyer being distributed by his campaign:

siasflyer

IMG_20140516_091156_400

There is much other evidence of spending on this primary, like fluff billboards going up in various parts of SD-19 (right). Clearly there's much nervousness in the Sias campaign, and in turn among Republican strategists hoping to take the Colorado Senate this November.

It's important to note that Sias' relationship with the kind of hard-right voters who often decide Republican primaries in Colorado has been rocky to say the least: back in 2012, Sias was lampooned on national news for recycling photos from his 2010 campaign–with his previous tagline "Tea Party endorsed" Photoshopped out of the picture (photo top). This year, RMGO has Sias squarely in their (hopefully) proverbial sights, bitterly denouncing his lack of commitment to the gun rights cause:

Lang Sias, a handpicked liberal establishment Republican, has chosen to run a primary against Laura.

If you've heard his name before, it may be because Sias has already attempted and failed to run for office twice in the last two election cycles.

In fact, every time he's ran for office, he's refused to fill out RMGO's candidate survey, which is almost always a sure tell sign that if elected, he would vote anti-gun.

But wait, it gets worse.

Not only did Sias refuse to answer RMGO's survey in the past, he also refused multiple times to sign the petition to recall Hudak — HE FLAT OUT REFUSED TO SIGN IT! [Pols emphasis]

On the other side, pseudo-grassroots GOP elements like Bob Beauprez's 2013 recall operative Laura Carno have endorsed Sias. Frankly, there's no overstating the power of RMGO in the one environment they have consistently proven effective time and time again: a Republican primary. Before Sias gets his mulligan shot at SD-19 in 2014 against Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, he has to get past Laura "Waters" Woods–and RMGO's Dudley Brown has a long record of frustrating the GOP establishment's best-laid plans.

Sen. Michael Johnston Stirs Controversy At Harvard

UPDATE: Sen. Michael Johnston responds magnanimously via Facebook:

I was honored to be invited as the convocation speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I am even more excited to keep that commitment. In this moment, perhaps more than ever before, American education needs to foster open dialogue between people who share values but differ on strategies, and my speech will focus on our efforts to find that common ground. I have always found I learn the most from those who disagree with me, and because learning is more about listening than talking, I have also asked Harvard to setup an additional space and time for open dialogue so that I can hear from and learn from students on all sides of the issues. That spirited back and forth was what I loved about Harvard, and is one more reason that I am eager to return.

—–

Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Bloomberg's Dan Hart reports via the Denver Post:

Students, faculty and alumni of Harvard's Graduate School of Education are protesting the school's choice of a Colorado lawmaker as commencement speaker because of his stance on education reform that relies on so-called test-based accountability.

State Sen. Michael Johnston, a Democrat representing northeast Denver, was chosen last month by Dean James Ryan to speak. The school is being asked to rescind Johnston's invitation and to create a more transparent and inclusive process for choosing future commencement speakers…

The Washington Post explains what has students and alumni at the Harvard Graduate School of Education so upset with Sen. Michael Johnston:

Johnston, a former Teach For America corps member in Mississippi and a high school principal in Colorado, received a masters degree in education at the graduate school and was a co-founder of the reform organization New Leaders for New Schools.  He became an informal education adviser to then-Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 election campaign.

As a state senator in Colorado, Johnston has pushed legislation to promote corporate school reform and was behind a 2010 law mandating that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation come from student standardized test scores (through a method known as the value-added method] that has been sharply criticized by assessment experts…

From the statement signed by students and alumni opposing Sen. Johnston:

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New Online Tool Tracks Colorado’s Many Oil Spills

spillmap

As the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports, food for thought as the debate over "fracking" near Colorado's populated areas goes on:

The energy and environment research Center for Western Priorities this week released a map of oil-industry spills that have occurred in Colorado over the past 13 years. It’s a colorful map but it’s not very pretty.

The map is built on information compiled by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and it’s dotted with 4,900 Colorado spill sites, which the group says amount to tens of millions of gallons of oil, drilling fluid and other toxic waste. The main sites of the spills come in the four corners of a square that runs between Grand Junction, Durango, Trinidad and Greeley. The vast majority of the spills come in the northern front range, in an area extending southwest from Greeley between Fort Collins, Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont and Lafayette. Those are the five cities that have drawn lawsuits from the industry and the state for voting over the last two years in support of municipal bans and moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing — the extraction technique where drillers blast millions of gallons of mixed sand, water and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to crack open fissures and release oil and gas.

At its related “Colorado Toxic Release Tracker,” the Center for Western Priorities reports that, since the beginning of the year, drillers reported 156 spills in the state. They reported 44 spills in March. So far, 6 percent of spills this year were reported to have contaminated water. Eighty-four spills occurred within 1,000 feet of surface water. Forty-two spills have occurred less than 50 feet from groundwater.

Looking casually at this sobering interactive map, it becomes really obvious why two of the northern Front Range's "L-Towns"–Lafayette and Longmont, along with Boulder, Broomfield and Fort Collins–have banned or passed moratoria on fracking within their boundaries. Fracking causes more problems than just surface spills, and spills aren't always directly related to the fracking process, but this map vividly illustrates the dirty, accident-prone industrial process going on every day in Colorado–in many cases just across the street or field from neighborhoods.

If you look at this report and still can't understand why local communities are tired of state regulators' outright contempt for their concerns, which has led to the "crisis" of ballot measures to give local communities real power to regulate oil and gas drilling, we respectfully submit that you are the one with the problem. Fracking isn't just an environmentally worrisome process of drilling, it's the fact that it brings drilling to places it hasn't been before–with all of drilling's attendant nastiness like surface spills and air pollution.

And as you can see, the industry's track record where they drill now isn't very good.

Malkin to Fundraise for Pueblo GOP

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Michelle Malkin, Fox news pundit and angry Tweeter,  will headline a Pueblo Republican fundraising event – the Lincoln Dinner- on June 7.

 From Facebook: 

 

The Pueblo County Republican Party will be hosting our 

Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, June 7, 2014. 

Michelle Malkin will be our keynote speaker.

The dinner will be at Pueblo Community College - 

Fortino Ballroom at 6pm. 

The cost for the dinner is $50 per person.

Before the dinner, there will be a reception (5 – 5:45 pm) with 

Michelle Malkin and our slate of republican candidates. 

Malkin has been pushing Benghazi hysteria, and criticizing Pelosi, Grayson, Reid, the Common Core, and most liberal commentators.  She is a supporter of Colorado's medical marijuana laws, and has visited Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo West.  Malkin is based in Colorado Springs.

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No legislators were harmed in the making of this video

 

This week, the Colorado legislature wrapped up the 2014 session. Some really good things happened this year: help with childcare for working families, better education funding, disaster relief, environmental protections, and supporting high paying jobs in our state. In addition, some bad things got defeated, like crazy abortion bans and repeals of Colorado’s great renewable energy standards. And although there were some partisan fights, over 96% of the bills passed this year in Colorado had the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

We hope you enjoy it. If you do, take a minute right now to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

2014 should be remembered as a year when Colorado lawmakers got things done and left our state better than they found it. We hope that makes you happy too.

Rep. Don Coram and his War on Rural Coloradans

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"Members, this is a war on rural Colorado. This product on the Uravan mineral belt is their only option for jobs.  With this bill, that option is lost." Rep. Don Coram on SB 14-192

What Colorado State Representative Don Coram calls a “War on Rural Colorado” others might call the “holding environmental scofflaws accountable” or “making polluters clean up their mess before we trust them to not make another”  act. 

And surprisingly enough (if apparent conflict-of-interest is surprising among good-old-boy politicians) Rep. Don Coram fought legislation that could force himself to comply with cleaning up a toxic mess for which he himself is responsible.

As passed the Senate Bill 192 requires radioactive contamination to groundwater wells be cleaned up to levels that meet the standards of the Water Quality Control Commission for the well's historic use. But as originally proposed the bill would have placed stricter controls over all the 32 uranium mines that are still operational in Colorado, and on any new operations that apply for licenses.

As the Durango Herald noted in an editorial blasting Rep. Coram:

State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, was on the wrong side of history Monday on several fronts. In opposing Senate Bill 192, he took on the role of a lobbyist, argued against a popular and prudent environmental protection and, at the same time, played off of the unrealistic hopes of economically challenged towns. It was not his finest hour.

SB 192 is a bill meant to address the kind of environmental disaster experienced by Cañon City when the Cotter uranium mill poisoned a neighborhood’s groundwater. It sets minimum standards for groundwater cleanup before a company can be absolved of further responsibility. It also mandates that uranium and thorium mines be licensed by the state health department if they use a process that involves injecting water into rock formations.

Remediation for ‘Collateral damage’ might as well be another name of the Department of Energy’s ‘Legacy Management’ program.  The ‘legacy’ is the mess of toxic waste that will remain deadly for thousands of years.  Colorado’s toxic legacy has already cost the American taxpayer billions—and led to the removal of an entire town, a trail of cancer casualties, and the ruin of lives from the busts that inevitably, almost inexorably, follow booms in company towns built to be solely reliant on single, highly volatile extractive industry.  

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ProgressNow Colorado’s Winners and Losers of the 2014 Legislative Session

WINNERS

 

LOSERS

1. Colorado students

This year, Colorado finally began the road back from years of devastating budget cuts to our public schools and colleges. Thanks to an improving economy and sound budgetary decision making, the state was able to restore $100 million in funding for our colleges and universities and begin to restore millions of dollars in badly-needed funds to K-12. We have a long way to go to restore all of the cuts to education since the Great Recession, but 2014 was a great start.

 

1. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners

In 2013, the extremist pro-gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners helped organize recall elections against Colorado Senators who supported last year’s common-sense gun safety reforms. This year, it was widely expected that RMGO would flood the Capitol with angry mobs and misinformation in an attempt to repeal these new laws. Unfortunately for RMGO, those crowds of gun rights activists failed to reappear at the Capitol as they had in 2013. The reason is simple: the sky didn’t fall, and Colorado’s new gun safety laws are working.

 

2. Colorado’s economy and working families

From support for advanced industries to helping ensure the working families most in need can get child care assistance, this was a great legislative session for Colorado’s economy. Following up on legislation from 2013, support for advanced technology job creators was increased. Legislation brought by Sen. John Kefalas and Reps. Brittany Pettersen and Tony Exum to expand child care grants will provide invaluable help to families trying to balance their careers with caring for young children. 

 

2. Anti-choice extremists

This year, far-right legislators introduced yet another piece of legislation that would ban all abortions in Colorado, even in cases of rape or incest. Colorado is a pro-choice state, and voters have repeatedly rejected abortion bans in statewide ballot measures in recent years. This year’s abortion ban bill failed, but not before numerous conservative legislators, including House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, had signed on as cosponsors. Attempting to ban abortion in Colorado has already done grave political damage to conservatives, but they still haven’t learned their lesson. Colorado women won’t go back.

 

3. Victims of floods and fires

Following devastating floods and fires in 2013, Democrats and Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly came together to pass comprehensive legislation to help our state recover from last year’s catastrophic events and improve our ability to cope with future natural disasters. Leaders like Rep. Dave Young, co-chair of the Flood Disaster Study Committee, worked overtime to ensure the lessons learned in 2013 were reflected in policy this year. Tax credits to offset damage to property owners, streamlined relief funding for affected residents, and flexibility for local government to fund road and bridge repairs are just a few of the sensible reforms that passed this year with bipartisan support.

 

 

3. House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso

Republican Colorado House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso deserves some credit for helping pass many bipartisan bills this year, but he stumbled badly by signing on to the disastrous abortion ban legislation mentioned above. DelGrosso also faced major embarrassments within his caucus, such as the chronically sleepy and tardy Rep. Justin Everett, and Rep. Jared Wright leaving a loaded gun unattended in a Capitol hearing room. Some leaders make the best of a bad situation, but DelGrosso was unable–or unwilling–to help himself and his party's brand this year.

4. Governor John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration worked both in public and behind the scenes to defend and expand on the historic progress made by the General Assembly in the last two years. Hickenlooper has shown real leadership on issues ranging from education to reproductive choice to equality for every Colorado family. And Hickenlooper ends the 2014 legislative session with an unbeatable record of solid economic growth in his first term.

 

4. Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman

At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman exploded in a fit of rage on the Senate floor, claiming that bills were being mishandled, and even threatening recalls against Senate leadership. But as it turned out, Cadman was completely wrong, and the gun safety repeal bill he complained about received a fair hearing. But the incident underscored Cadman’s reputation as an erratic hothead, prone to emotional outbursts and unsuited to leadership.

 

5. Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino

Mark Ferrandino, ending his term as Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives this year, has made history in too many ways to count. As the first openly gay Speaker of the House in Colorado’s history, Ferrandino presided in 2013 over the long-sought passage of civil unions legislation. This year, Ferrandino has been invaluable in defending the gains made in 2013, and pushing forward with this year’s progressive agenda of economic growth, disaster recovery, and funding education. Republicans and Democrats alike have praised Ferrandino’s steady and fair leadership this year.

 

5. Legislators seeking higher office

For a host of reasons, conservative incumbent legislators seeking higher office failed to achieve their objectives. Sen. Greg Brophy’s bid for governor fizzled, Rep. Amy Stephens, Sen. Owen Hill, and Sen. Randy Baumgardner failed to gain any traction in their brief campaigns for the U.S. Senate, and Rep. Mark Waller’s run for Attorney General fell apart after faring poorly at the Republican state assembly. In some cases these were simply unqualified candidates, but legislative experience isn’t the plus for Republicans seeking higher office that it once was–mostly because the extreme GOP grassroots can’t stomach the compromises necessary to effectively govern.

 

6. State employees

Through the Great Recession, Colorado’s state employees worked without a raise for years. Colorado public employees make less than their counterparts in the private sector, and as the state’s largest employer, state employee income has a direct impact on our economy. In the 2014-2015 budget, state workers are seeing base-building pay increases for the second year. Every day we rely on our road workers, corrections officers, firefighters, and other state employees, and it’s great to finally see them being recognized for their hard work.

 

6. The “clown car caucus”

From banning abortion to going after the non-problem of buying marijuana with public assistance, there was a group of conservative legislators that one could always count on to sponsor the most embarrassing legislation this year. Many of these legislators, such as Rep. Lori Saine and Sen. Vicki Marble, won their seats with help from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which seems to not care if candidates are completely unqualified as long as they vote RMGO’s way on guns. Republicans hoping to put on a fresh face after years of electoral defeats in Colorado weren’t helped by the “clown car caucus” this year.

 

7. Women

With one of the nation’s highest rates of female representation, the Colorado General Assembly remains a model for the entire nation. This year, in addition to vital support for single moms and working families through child care assistance, progressives in the legislature beat back yet another attempt by the far right to ban all abortions in Colorado. Senate President Morgan Carroll become the second woman to serve in that leadership role. Conservatives keep trying every year, but thanks to our strong women and progressive leadership, the “war on women” stops cold when it arrives at the Colorado General Assembly.

 

 

7. Wage thieves

After years of trying, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and Rep. Jonathan Singer’s bill to strengthen protections for Colorado workers from wage theft by employers finally passed the Colorado General Assembly. Many victims of wage theft don’t have the resources to fight a long, expensive court battle to win back their wages. Ulibarri and Singer’s bill will allow the Department of Labor to determine cases of wage theft directly, and help ripped-off employees get paid faster.

8. Transparency and good government

One of the bills already signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper this year is legislation to make it easier for citizens and watchdogs to obtain government records through the Colorado Open Records Act. Rep. Joseph Salazar and Sen. John Kefalas teamed up to pass this important bill to prevent abuses of the system by public officials with something to hide.

 

8. Secretary of State Scott Gessler

This year’s legislative session was a disaster for Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Gessler made headlines after irresponsible budgetary decisions left his office millions of dollars in the red, compounding a record of bad judgment that already included the Independent Ethics Commission’s ruling that Gessler had “breached the public trust for private gain.” Gessler’s attempts to undermine and vilify Colorado’s election modernization laws fell flat, and his failed quest to uncover “illegal voters” has seriously harmed Gessler’s reputation under the Dome.

 

9. Colorado’s air and water

Gov. Hickenlooper’s work this year to pass important new air quality protections for oil and gas drilling is a prime example of bringing industry and conservationists together to make a positive step for everyone. New, dramatically steeper fines for oil and gas drilling violations passed by the legislature this year add teeth to the laws already on the books. And protections for water quality around uranium mining and processing sites will protect the public and the environment from harm as that industry responds to market demand. The job of protecting the public health and environment may not be over yet this year, but progress has undeniably been made.

 

9. Representative Jared Wright

Rep. Jared Wright’s brief legislative career has been marred by controversy, ever since details of his resignation from the Fruita Police Department led to attempts by fellow Republicans to get him out of the race. In the legislature, Rep. Wright further angered his fellow Republicans after leaving a loaded handgun in a Capitol hearing room–leading to calls for all legislators to check their firearms at the entrance to the Capitol like all other citizens must do. Since being pressured into not running for reelection, however, Rep. Wright has turned over a new leaf–frequently siding with progressives on issues related to public health and energy production. That has only made Wright more of a loser among his fellow Republicans, but Wright’s constituents may finally have a reason to appreciate his service.

 

10. Bipartisanship

Most of what we hear in the news today is about political controversies, and this year had its share. But it’s also worth remembering that around 95% of bills passed this year in the Colorado General Assembly had bipartisan support. On issues like disaster relief, job creation, and government transparency, more often than not there was no daylight between Republicans and Democrats. The issues that divide us sometimes define us, but other times we know how to come together as Coloradans to do what’s right–and that’s important to remember when emotions run high.

 

10. Palisade peaches

The Palisade peach lost out this year in a bid to become the state’s official fruit. Elementary school student Nick Babiak made a strong effort this year lobbying in favor of a bill to designate Palisade peaches as the state fruit, but was thwarted by opposition from the Rocky Ford Growers Association. Progressives stand with Nick Babiak and with the finest peaches grown anywhere, and hope 2015 will be the year that Palisade peaches finally receive their due.

Sen. Hodge Criticized For Native American “Reparations” Remarks

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

A report from Indian Country Today on the unexpected death yesterday of a bill to offer qualifying Native Americans in-state tuition is raising eyebrows–not simply because the bill died, but due to the comments of a Democratic state senator principally responsible for killing it:

A bill in Colorado that would have provided prospective Native American college students with in-state tuition died Tuesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hours after the bill was defeated by a 3-4 vote, State Senator Mary Hodge – the only Democrat to vote against it – told ICTMN that the potential cost of the bill was too great and that there was an issue of “reparations.”

“I don’t know how long we can make reparations [to Native Americans] or how far we’d have to go back,” she said. “I guess my point is we can’t fix what we did.” [Pols emphasis]

House Bill 1124, sponsored by State Representative Joseph Salazar, was to provide a Native American of a federally recognized tribe with resident status when applying to a state-supported institution if the student’s tribe had “historical ties” to what is now Colorado territory. “Often due to circumstances beyond their control, many American Indian tribes and members of American Indian tribes have been forced to relocate across state lines, far from their historical home places,” the bill reads.

“Those people are already gone,” Sen. Hodge said. [Pols emphasis] “At what point do we say ‘we’re sorry’ and move on? And I don’t know if we’re there yet.”

There are questions about the cost of implementing this legislation, though sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar says that the $5 million cost of the bill wouldn't have come from the state budget. But Sen. Mary Hodge's complaints about "reparations" and how "those people are already gone" in reference to Native Americans displaced from what is now Colorado by white settlement go offensively beyond the scope of an appropriations debate–changing the discussion into one about bigoted ignorance of history by an elected public official. In this case, a Democrat.

(more…)

Local Control “Grand Bargain” In The Works?

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover and Cathy Proctor report:

The oil and gas wars that many predicted at the Colorado Capitol still may be coming as the 2014 legislative session wanes, as industry representatives and elected officials are discussing a bill that would give local governments more control over drilling regulations.

A draft bill that was revised late Tuesday and was given to the Denver Business Journal would grant local governments regulatory authority — provided the rules don’t conflict with state statutes — over noise and over setback distance between a well site and schools, hospitals and homes. It also would give cities and counties the authority to conduct inspections and monitoring and to charge a “reasonable” fee to cover its costs.

House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, said early Tuesday that she doubted such a bill would materialize this session because there is only a week left until the May 7 adjournment of the General Assembly. But several sources close to the negotiations said that discussions about the bill picked up throughout the day as a number of oil and gas companies began to see it as a favorable alternative to facing a proposed ballot measure in November that could allow local governments to push setbacks for well sites as far as 1,500 or 2,500 feet from homes and schools and permit local fracking bans…

A last-minute bill to increase the power of local communities to regulate drilling reflects a very simple reality, one that we've acknowledged in this space discussing the possibility of a much more stringent statewide ballot initiative:

Capitol sources say that some oil and gas companies, fearing the potential of losing to [Rep. Jared] Polis’ well-funded ballot effort, [Pols emphasis] are pushing to pass the proposed bill because they consider it to be much less extreme. But there a rifts over what details would be acceptable not just to that industry but to other industries that could be affected.

Negotiating a deal that would be good enough to please both local control initiative proponents and the oil and gas industry is a tall order, but some of the same people involved in the 2010 "Clean Air Clean Jobs" compromise to convert coal-fired power plants along the Front Range to natural gas are working to align these disparate interests enough to strike a deal. This late-session negotiation comes as other bills favored by conservationists, like a mere study of the health effects of oil and gas drilling which passed the House last week, die with help from Democrats in the one-vote Democratic majority Senate. 

Apropos, a couple of weeks ago, Eli Stokols reported for Politico Magazine about the larger issues surrounding this debate. Without expressing an opinion on its conclusions, as negotiations progress, it's clear Stokols wrote a prescient story:

Ted Trimpa, a Denver power lawyer and strategist once dubbed “the Democrats’ Karl Rove,” was instrumental in helping Polis and the three other millionaires build Colorado’s progressive infrastructure and consolidate power over the last decade. Now he finds himself trying to hold it all together.

He worries that the ballot initiative would splinter a progressive coalition in Colorado that’s been so successful that it’s now seen as a blueprint for Democrats and Republicans in other states—its many successes attributable to an unusual and lasting harmony, an ability to avoid sticky policy fights that distract from the shared goal: winning.

Resolving Colorado’s fracking fight quickly may yet provide other states with a blueprint of how to deal with local control issues around oil and gas, a national example of how compromise and consensus can be achieved even in our polarized times. But if Polis’s measures move toward the November ballot, the country may find out that Colorado isn’t such a model after all, that coalition politics aren’t as easy as this state has made them seem.

“We’re a state known for the two sides working together,” Trimpa tells me, “but if this initiative makes the ballot, the age of that will be gone for a very long time.”

It is what it is, folks, and few of us are privy to the action going on behind the scenes. Politically, there's an undeniable need for Democrats to present a unified front in this tight election year. On the other hand, coalitions only work when sufficient common ground exists to move forward. This has always been the great challenge of holding together the center-left Democratic coalition that has held control of this state for going on a decade, and this isn't the first time the ability to hold that coalition together has been put to a high-stakes test.

We'll update as soon as we learn more–and that won't be long with session's end just days away.