Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 26)

Get More SmarterTomorrow is Administrative Professionals’ Day; don’t say we didn’t warn you. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Politicos around the state are still buzzing about Republican Jon Keyser’s failure to submit enough valid petition signatures to make it onto the June 28th Primary ballot for U.S. Senate. Keyser’s campaign is challenging a Secretary of State (SOS) ruling that he came up 86 valid signatures short in Congressional District 3 (GOP Senate candidates must collect a minimum of 1,500 valid signatures from registered Republicans in each of Colorado’s 7 congressional districts). Keyser also barely collected enough scribbles to meet the requirement in CD-1, CD-5, and CD-6.

While Keyser’s campaign is busy trying to work out a challenge to the SOS ruling, two other Republican Senate candidates are gnawing their fingernails to the bone waiting for good news; Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier should hear from the SOS any day now regarding their petitions, but after Keyser’s stumble and Jack Graham’s piss-poor 56.6% “validity rate”, both candidates have every reason to worry about the future of their own campaigns.

 

► Voters are going to the polls today in the “Acela Primary” or “Amtrak Primary” or whatever you want to call it. Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is expected to grow his lead after ballots are counted in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.

On the Democratic side of the equation, Hillary Clinton appears to be riding a wave of momentum after her decisive victory in New York last Tuesday; polls suggest that Clinton could defeat Bernie Sanders in all five states voting today. Should Clinton sweep today’s Primaries, Sanders’ math problem is going to get much more complicated.

Meanwhile, as the Washington Post reports, down-ballot Democratic women are looking to ride some Clinton coattails in several important Primary fights today.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Majorities Matter: Anti-Vaxxers Win As GOP Senate Locks Down

Measles.

Measles.

AP reports via the Greeley Tribune on the death yesterday of House Bill 16-1164, which would have given the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment control of the state’s system of documenting self-claimed exemptions from childhood immunization guidelines:

The state House backed off the proposed database Monday, when it was scheduled for a vote. The legislative maneuver means the database proposal is dead for the year.

Democratic sponsors had enough support to steer the database through the House. But the proposal faced certain death in the GOP Senate, where some Republicans complain the state Health Department has already overreached by contacting parents about their children’s immunizations. [Pols emphasis]

“The public health of Colorado was not enough to convince opponents of the bill,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, a Denver Democrat who proposed the database. “The politics around the ‘I word,’ or immunizations, just got to be too intense.”

Colorado law on childhood vaccinations is among the most lenient of any state in America. Parents are allowed to claim an “exemption” from school immunization requirements for any personal reason they choose, beyond more common exemptions granted elsewhere for religious or other specific objections. This bill wouldn’t have changed that, simply centralizing the gathering of the information so as to better understand why the state has one of the lowest rates of vaccinations in the nation.

The failure of the vaccine database bill makes Colorado one of only three states with no central tracking of childhood immunizations, Pabon said. [Pols emphasis]

In short, this was a battle between public health experts defending science, and politicians protecting those who reject or at least question the science behind vaccines in public health policy.

“It has to do with what authority the state has over parents” who object to vaccines, said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “A lot of parents don’t disagree necessarily with all vaccinations. But they do disagree with the volume and schedule of vaccinations.”

In 2015, legislation that would have made it even easier for parents to “exempt” their children from vaccines and attend public school failed against the backdrop of outbreaks of measles and other diseases preventable by vaccination. The issue hasn’t been in the headlines to the same degree in 2016, but the passion on both sides of this issue is never more than one headline away.

With that said, the political consequences of being on the wrong side of this fundamental public health issue appear very serious to us. Polls show the overwhelming majority of the public supports vaccination of school-age children, with almost 80% saying vaccination should be mandatory for healthy kids.

Worth keeping in mind when Republicans celebrate how they “protected” our “right” to not vaccinate our kids.

Woods Clears Up Trump Support Question (Damn Right She Will)

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods (R-RMGO) takes aim.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods (R-RMGO) takes aim.

In an email update yesterday from Sen. Laura Waters Woods of Arvada, headed into Colorado’s most hotly contested state senate race this election season, we have the clearest attempt yet to sort out conflicting statements about her support for GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, Colorado’s disastrous GOP caucuses, and the resulting push to return the state to a presidential primary election.

Fasten your seat belt:

I have been widely criticized for voting against a presidential primary bill that was being proposed last year by former GOP chair, Ryan Call. The reason I voted against that bill then was because the grass roots activists didn’t like it, and neither did the State GOP Chair, Steve House. We voted against the bill in May of 2015, which was some six weeks before Donald Trump announced he was running for President.

My vote had NOTHING to do with Donald Trump or any other presidential candidate.

rmgolaura2Because, gosh darn it,

Down through the fall and winter months, I have consistently said that I will support whichever Republican gets the nomination. I have liked Trump and Cruz, and at times I have disliked them both. It is not true to say that I am a “Trump hater” or that I’m on the “NeverTrump” train. I am NOT. [Pols emphasis]

We get no more detail in this message about exactly what it is she “liked” about Donald Trump or his rival Ted Cruz, or what she may have disliked–a fairly important thing to be specific about. She also doesn’t disclose how she might vote on a bill to restore the presidential primary. But the one thing Sen. Waters Woods does want you to know is this:

I do believe that our nation won’t survive either Hillary or Bernie, and it is my hope that we will unite behind the candidate that survives the Republican National Convention. Whether it is Trump or Cruz, I will support him. [Pols emphasis]

rmgolaura3We can’t help but get a little uncomfortable about the choice of words here: does Sen. Waters Woods really believe our nation won’t physically “survive” if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders are elected President? Would this be worse than if Trump wins, an event at least some well-adjusted people believe would be pretty bad on a national survival level? Should we assume she doesn’t mean anything, you know, apocalyptic, or do we take her words at face value?

Sen. Waters Woods cleared up the burning question of whether she would support Donald Trump, but now we’d say there are some more questions for her to answer.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 25)

Get More SmarterEnjoy the weather today; the sun is going on hiatus for the rest of the week. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich say that they have formed some sort of alliance in hopes of preventing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump from capturing the GOP nomination for President. As our friends at “The Fix” explain, this isn’t likely to turn out well:

When most of the country — including me — was watching the season 6 premiere of “Game of Thrones,” the campaigns of Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced a major strategic alliance. Kasich would stop campaigning in — and trying to win — Indiana’s primary on May 3. Cruz would do the same in Oregon on May 17 and New Mexico on June 7

…This is a massive gamble born entirely of desperation. What likely became clear to the Cruz campaign and, to a lesser extent, the Kasich campaign, is that they weren’t going to beat Trump in Indiana’s winner-take-most primary and, by losing, would put the real estate billionaire on a reasonable path to the GOP nomination.

And so, they acted. Which they deserve credit for — since most of the time politicians in unwinnable/untenable situations continue to cling to the idea that everyone else is wrong and they are right, right up until they lose.

But, action doesn’t always produce the desired results.  And, I think that’s what is going to happen here.

As “The Fix” notes, there are a number of strategic problems with this so-called alliance, not the least of which is the general lack of overlap between Kasich voters and Cruz voters (i.e., if you like Kasich, you probably don’t like Cruz, and vice-versa). The other big problem here is that this “alliance” feeds directly into Trump’s narrative that the entire process for selecting a Republican nominee is rigged against him.

 

► The race for President takes another big step on Tuesday with the “Acela Primary” as voters go to the polls in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island to cast ballots in both the Democratic and Republican Primaries.

There is also a big Democratic Primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, where Katie McGinty hopes to use endorsements from President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to defeat former Congressman Joe Sestak. The winner of the Democratic Primary will face Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in a General Election that is expected to be one of the most expensive of the 2016 cycle.

 

► Campaign finance reports are a good indicator of the state of a political campaign, and the details of these reports can be particularly revealing. In the case of Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser, his Q1 fundraising report tells the story of a campaign that is barely functioning from a financial perspective.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Shark Attack: Who’s Taking Loan Shark Money in Colorado?

sharkattack

As another late bill, Senate Bill 16-185, to allow subprime personal lenders to charge higher interest rates on bigger loans makes its way through the Colorado Senate–debate of the whole chamber on the bill was scheduled for yesterday but punted to Monday–Colorado Ethics Watch released a detailed report on the influence of the subprime personal lending industry over both parties in the Colorado General Assembly. It’s a must-read: if you have the stomach for it, that is.

Because if you’re a liberal Democrat, you’ve got some friends on the list.

While the initial increase that would be permitted if SB 16-185 passes is smaller than the increase House Bill 15-1390 would have authorized, lenders would be able to continually increase loan sizes subject to 36% APR because the cap number would be indexed to inflation. As a result, the effective interest rate for loans greater than $1,000 would continue to increase as inflation increases, trapping greater numbers of Coloradans in the cycle of debt.

Spurred by these incidents, Colorado Ethics Watch investigated lobbying spending and campaign contributions by the major proponents of House Bill 15-1390, Springleaf Finance and Independent Bankers of Colorado, along with other organizations known to be involved in subprime lending from their participation in lobbying on the 2010 payday lending reforms. These lenders and their associated PACs spent more than $730,000 on lobbying from fiscal year 2012 through 2015…

The big sum spent on lobbying is what funded the efforts of Democratic-friendly lobbyists like former Deputy House Communications Director Megan Dubray–who were key to successfully rushing the 2015 bill through the Democratic-controlled House without the scrutiny it deserved. Studies by the Center for Responsible Lending and others have identified a deliberate strategy of courting Democratic support for predatory lending bills, under the pretense of providing “access to credit” for persons who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get a loan.

And be assured, Colorado’s strict campaign finance limits have not cut off the direct flow of campaign cash to lawmakers–just spread it out a little:

In addition to lobbying, subprime and payday lenders gave $126,925.01 in contributions to various candidates and committees between 2012 and 2015. For example, industry participants and associated groups such as political action committees gave $32,526.32 in contributions to legislators in the 2016 Colorado General Assembly. Even though political contribution amounts were not large due to Colorado’s strict campaign contribution limits, they were widely distributed among members of the 2016 legislature. More than two-thirds of the 2016 legislature, including 37 Democrats and 31 Republicans, [Pols emphasis] received contributions from industry participants or their associated PACs…

Here are the top 12 recipients of predatory lender cash in the Colorado General Assembly, listed with their vote on House Bill 15-1390:

loansharkdonations

The underlying point here is that Republicans can be fully expected to receive support from predatory lenders, and to reciprocate freely with votes that support the industry’s legislative agenda. But in Colorado’s divided legislature, support of at least some Democrats is necessary to pass anything. Consequently of the top six recipients of predatory lending cash on this list, four are Democrats. The top recipient just so happens to have been a Democratic “no” vote on last year’s bill.

It’s important to recognize that nothing we’re describing here is out of the ordinary for an industry seeking favorable treatment in the legislature. Lobbyists with good relationships with lawmakers work their connections. People and companies make perfectly legal donations. Lawmakers vote on stuff. There’s no conspiracy.

The problem is that, while legally operating, these lenders are objectively bad actors. Their products do not help people, they hurt them by strapping them with unaffordable and often inescapable debtby design. The extreme and in many cases hidden costs of borrowing money from predatory lenders is a moral as well as an economic problem, and the decision to regulate interest rates and keep loan terms fair is a moral judgment also made with the demonstrable best economic interests of consumers in mind.

So yes, there’s a lot at stake. And legislators–especially self-professed progressive Democratic legislators–who side with these loan sharks over their constituents should pay their own price.

“Really Small Government”–Abortion Ultrasound Bill Dies

To wit–government small enough to fit in, well…as NARAL Pro Choice Colorado’s Karen Middleton memorably described yesterday:

Karen Middleton HB 1218 Press Conf April 21 State Cap

Places you probably don’t want it.

Here’s the press release from NARAL Pro Choice Colorado on the defeat yesterday of House Bill 16-1218, a bill that would have required ultrasounds and non-medical waiting periods for women seeking an abortion:

For the second straight year, a bill introduced by anti-choice legislators that would mandate transvaginal ultrasounds, a 24 hour waiting period, and non-medical propaganda being read to women seeking abortion care has failed in Committee. HB 1218 was defeated in the House Health Committee on an 8-5 vote. All the Democrats on the Committee are women.

According to Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, “HB 1218 is designed to shame and humiliate women who seek abortion care and to trap doctors in red tape and regulations. It crosses a line for Colorado women and I am glad legislators saw it that way as well.”

Dr. Aaron Lazorwitz, a Denver Ob-Gyn, testified in opposition to the bill. According to Dr. Lazorwitz, “There is no medical reason to mandate a 24 hour waiting period or to force a woman to view an ultrasound. HB 1218 would also introduce non-medical language such as ‘unborn child’ into legislation that could be used to establish fetal personhood, an idea that has already been rejected by Colorado voters three times.”

HB 1218 is yet another “model bill” from the national anti-choice group Americans United for Life, as detailed in NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s report, “Against Our Will: How National Anti-Choice Groups Are Targeting the Pro-Choice Majority in Colorado.”

As everyone knows, this legislation was never going to get far in the Democratic-controlled House. The decision to introduce this legislation in the House instead of the GOP-held Colorado Senate was deliberate, part of the delicate balance Republicans try to achieve between pleasing their fervently anti-choice base and remaining viable in general elections where anti-abortion bills become significant liabilities.

What we can tell you about House Bill 16-1218, despite the fact that it was killed in committee yesterday, is that it was sponsored in the House by Reps. Lori Saine, Patrick Neville, Steve Humphrey, JoAnn Windholz, Kevin Priola, Justin Everett, Clarice Navarro, Dan Nordberg, and Kim Ransom. In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by Sens. Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert, Kent Lambert, Kevin Grantham, Vicki Marble, Kevin Lundberg, and Randy Baumgardner.

In short, many of the sponsors of this bill to require a highly invasive ultrasound for nonmedical reasons of women seeking an abortion are running in some of 2016’s most competitive legislative races. Races where the last thing you want to have is an extreme record on wedge issues. We can’t honestly tell you if they have evaluated the full political consequences of sponsoring a bill like this, or if that have done so, you know, realistically.

But if it’s not used against them with swing voters to devastating effect between now and November, we’ll be very surprised.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 21)

Get More SmarterWe really can’t recommend eating something off the ground in the best of situations, but you should be particularly careful the day after 4/20. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republican Senate candidate Jack Graham is officially on the June 28th Primary ballot, joining GOP State Convention winner Darryl Glenn. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced Wednesday that Graham had enough valid petition signatures to make the ballot, but if the other petitioning candidates (Robert Blaha, Jon Keyser, and Ryan Frazier) don’t have a better “validity rate” than Graham’s campaign, we could be looking at a pretty thin group of Senate candidates after all. The Denver Post ponders the same question we brought up a few weeks ago.

 

► Would Democrat Hillary Clinton consider a woman as a running mate in a General Election? The popular parlor game, “Who Gets to be Vice-President” is picking up steam. As the Boston Globe reports:

Hillary Clinton’s short list of vice presidential options will include a woman, a top campaign official said in an interview — creating the possibility of an all-female ticket emerging from the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Clinton wants “the best person to make the case to the American people,” her campaign chairman, John Podesta, told the Globe. “We’ll start with a broad list and then begin to narrow it. But there is no question that there will be women on that list,” he said, adding that staffers are still focused on clinching the primary.

The development immediately injects liberal darling Senator Elizabeth Warren’s name into the growing speculation about who Clinton will choose as her running mate now that she is almost certainly on track to become the nominee.

While it may be fun to speculate on a potential Clinton ticket with Sen. Elizabeth Warren as her running mate, our friends at “The Fix” think it would be a long shot.

 

► House Speaker Paul Ryan says he doesn’t have the votes to pass a budget. Great work, Congressional Republicans. Really, really, great work.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Post reporter stands out for asking predatory lender about Colorado profits

(Credit where due – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

loanshark2A predatory-lending bill, allowing lenders to make more money on high-interest loans, passed a state senate committee yesterday, with supporters of the bill telling reporters that increased profits are necessary to keep personal-loan lenders in Colorado.

That’s the major argument for the bill. Specifically, backers told the Durango Herald that the one company offering such loans will leave Colorado if it’s not allowed to make millions more here.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch was the only reporter to ask Springleaf Holdings, Colorado’s only lender of personal loans (after a merger last year with its competitor), how the company was doing. I mean, that’s the key question.

Is it struggling to make ends meet, like many of the folks it lends money to are? People who pay the company 36 percent interest on a $1,000 loan as it is?

Bunch reported:

Phil Hitz, who represented Springleaf Holdings, acknowledged that the company is very profitable nationally and confirmed the 30 percent Colorado growth over the past four years.

Bunch apparently didn’t ask Hitz if Springleaf would leave Colorado if the bill didn’t pass, but all indications are that it would not.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 20)

Get More SmarterGood news: Colorado Pols is now 93% gluten-free! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Yes, we know today is 4/20. No, we’re not going to make any obvious weed jokes…well, maybe a few.

► The New York Primary is in the books, and it was a good night for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, both of whom cruised to easy victories on Tuesday.  Next up is the “Acela Primary,” as the Washington Post reports:

Emboldened by dominant victories in New York, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump plunged swiftly Wednesday into the next batch of primaries in five states along the Northeast Corridor, where they hope to bury or break their challengers for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island will vote next Tuesday in what many are dubbing the “Acela primary,” putting Clinton and Trump on terrain well-tailored to their campaigns.

For Clinton, it’s a chance to effectively end Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s long-shot hopes in the Democratic race. For Trump, the contests are an opportunity to further pad his delegate lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and send him tumbling into the final six weeks of the campaign. That crucial period will determine whether the mogul will clinch the GOP nomination outright or if the race will head to a contested convention.

 

► A bipartisan group of Colorado legislators are preparing a bill that would end the confusing precinct caucus system for selecting Presidential candidates in favor of a good old fashioned Primary election.

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 18)

MoreSmarter-RainFrom Snowmageddon to Slushpocalypse. Try not to get too squishy today. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Because April 15th fell on a Friday this year, today is Tax Day in the United States (unless you are a huge corporation, in which case today is just like any other day). Good luck scrounging up some stamps from your desk drawer.

 

► The legislature gave final approval to the 2016 state budget on Friday, but not without controversy. A last-minute request from the Governor’s office to give $3 million to the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a privately-run prison that apparently cannot exist without government help — nearly upset final negotiations on the “Long Bill.”

 

► Colorado Democrats didn’t let something like a little Snowmageddon keep them from turning out to various Congressional District Assemblies on Friday nor the Democratic State Convention in Loveland on Saturday. Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders performed well, as expected, and can lay claim to 39 of Colorado’s 66 Democratic delegates.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Breitbart should state that Woods likes Trump, making her involvement in pro-Cruz shenanigans unlikely

(Seasons change, people change – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Breitbart’s Julie Hahn reports that four Colorado lawmakers, who are members of Ted Cruz’s “Colorado Leadership Team, voted against a 2015 bill that would have created a presidential primary in Colorado.

Trump has said the absence of a primary or caucus vote helped Cruz trounce Trump in the race for Colorado delegates. And Hahn’s story implies that Cruz supporters in Colorado’s legislature might have been working to squash Trump as early as last year, when they voted against a bill establishing open primary that might have benefited Trump.

“Social media posts, along with Cruz’s campaign website, reveal that Sen. Ted Cruz supporters in the Colorado Republican Party were responsible for crushing an effort to give Colorado the ability to vote in a state primary…The four Republicans who voted against the initiative were Sen. Kevin Grantham, Sen. Kent Lambert, Sen. Laura Woods, and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.”

The trouble with this conspiracy theory is that Woods is actually factually on record as saying Trump is one of her top two favorite presidential candidates. As such, Woods is the only elected official in the state to affirmatively say she likes Trump.

Woods “narrowed the field” after watching the GOP prez debate in Boulder, and she concluded that her “favorites are Ted Cruz and Donald Trump” (here at 25 min, 50 seconds).

Later, Woods “liked” a Facebook post by The Conservative Update, which stated:

‘Like’ if you would vote for Donald Trump if he were the 2016 GOP nominee.

So if Woods was secretly in the tank for Cruz last year, when she voted against the presidential-primary bill, she, at a minimum, had a change of heart after being wowed by Trump at the Boulder GOP debate. But, more likely, she voted against the prez-primary bill for other reasons.

In any case, Hahn should update her post with the fact that Woods praised Trump and said he was one of her favorite candidaates along with Cruz, before she jumped on the Cruz boat.

Predatory-lending bill shouldn’t fly under journalists’ late-session radar

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

predatorylendingSometimes reporters ignore bills in the state legislature that look like they would surely die quickly in the hands of divided government. But here’s a piece of right-wing legislation that surprisingly cleared Colorado’s divided legislature last year, before a being vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper: a “predatory-lending” bill.

Similar legislation, introduced just last week, should be scrutinized by journalists, despite the end-of-session onslaught on top of the usual onslaught.

This year’s predatory-lending bill (SB16-185), which could be heard this week, would allow for an increase in interest rates on subprime “personal loans,” which are sold to people whose credit problems preclude them from obtaining loans with more favorable interest rates.

Such loans are convenient–and can actually help struggling families improve their credit ratings. But they’re costly, with the potential to be devastating economically for low-income people.

Lenders are getting 36 percent on the first $1,000 in a personal loan, and 21 percent on such loans from $1,000 to $3,000. Yet the senate bill would set up a mechanism to jack up the rates even more. Last year’s failed bill aimed to set the interest rate at 36 percent for all personal loans up to $3,000.

Personal loans average $6,000 in Colorado. They shouldn’t be confused with pay-day loans, which typically carry an even higher interest rate and can be no more than $500, under state law. So these are completely different types of loans.

In vetoing the measure last year, Hickenlooper was “particularly struck” by the Colorado Attorney General’s assessment that higher interest rates on personal loans would not make them more readily available to consumers.

This validates statements by the bill’s opponents that lenders of personal loans are profitable and thriving–despite allegations by the bill’s opponents last year that higher interest rates are needed to keep lenders from abandoning the business. And the number of personal loans sold last year is the highest since 2009, so the market is actually growing under the current regulatory structure, opponents say.

A number of groups have lined up against the predatory lending bill, including AARP Colorado, Bell Policy Center, Center for Responsible Lending, CLLARO, Colorado Catholic Conference, Colorado Center for Law and Policy, Colorado Council of Churches, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Gary Community Investments, Company, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, One Colorado, ProgressNow Colorado, and Small Business Majority.

Given what happened last year, and the public’s well-known demand to know what lawmakers are doing to help (or in this case hurt) working families, journalists should keep a close eye on this year’s predatory-lending legislation.

Colorado Budget: Private Prisons Get Their Pound of Flesh

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Strescino reports, the Colorado state legislature gave final passage to the 2016 budget on Friday–but not before a last-minute request from the Governor’s office, supported by Senate Republicans, almost derailed the deal yet again:

A last-minute request by the governor to keep afloat a private prison — and help a rural economy — held up the final budget deal until the state Senate approved it Friday.

The budget, $25.8 billion, is headed for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

Hickenlooper requested at the last minute to spend $3 million to boost payments to a private, for-profit prison company that is threatening to close the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a move that stalled the budget bill after Senate Democrats raised complaints…

Corrections Corporation of America.

Corrections Corporation of America.

The Denver Post’s John Frank has more on the $3 million to subsidize operations at the Kit Carson Correctional Center just east of Burlington, which is operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America:

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, noted that the state gave Corrections Corporation of America a cash infusion four years ago to keep the facility open and now it’s back asking for more money. At the same time, other parts of the state budget are facing cuts or no new funding increases. [Pols emphasis]

Johnston said the timing of the request — just as budget negotiations finished — amounted to “blackmail.”

“It’s not in the best interest of the state of Colorado,” he said.

In the end, the $3 million for Corrections Corporation of America was not enough to blow up the long negotiations that led to this year’s budget compromises–which include hotly-contested line items like funding for the state’s groundbreaking IUD contraception program, a big win over the objections of the Senate’s far-right “Hateful Eight” caucus. But that doesn’t mean this “bailout” of an underutilized private prison was a good thing, as a statement from the state’s public employee union Colorado WINS makes very clear indeed:

According to WINS Executive Director, Tim Markham, “The for-profit prison industry is built on exploitation. They exploit our criminal justice system, they exploit their workers, they exploit the communities in which their facilities are located and they exploit Colorado taxpayers.

Unlike our state correctional facilities and professional correctional officers, for-profit prisons are not accountable to taxpayers. And they do not provide stable, community-building jobs – these are low-wage, low-security, high-turnover positions.

Colorado WINS has long stood publicly against the for-profit prison industry. This latest bailout is just one more example of why Colorado should extricate ourselves from this predatory and morally corrupt industry.” [Pols emphasis]

“Extrication” of Colorado’s prison system from for-profit corporate interests that have little regard for the state’s actual needs, unlike state employees who could be redistributed throughout the system and–key point–are much more qualified professionals who contribute far more to their local economies than the CCA’s low-wage employees, is a debate that will have to wait for another year. But these threat-laden “requests” for infusions of cash to a for-profit corporation under threat of closing underused prisons and “killing jobs,” this being the second such request in four years, is not at all what the private prison industry promised in the early 1990s: a happy arrangement in which private capital took the risk of operating the prisons and the public benefitted from “lower costs.”

Since that logic has now been turned on its head, we’d say it’s appropriate to question the state’s whole relationship with the private prison industry.

Help us stop the loan sharks in Colorado (again)

(Just say no – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

At the end of the Colorado legislature’s session in 2015, lobbyists for subprime predatory lenders rushed a last-minute bill through with almost no debate allowing lenders to dramatically increase interest rates on personal loans. You might remember this battle: with our members’ help, we fought back against the loan sharks and persuaded Gov. Hickenlooper to veto the bill.

With only weeks left in the 2016 legislative session, the loan sharks are back. Contact your legislators right now and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 16-185, the “2016 Loan Shark Enrichment Act.”

Politicians like to say they’re for protecting the middle class, but Senate Bill 16-185 would do exactly the opposite. Hiking interest rate caps on personal loans will lead to more unaffordable debt and years of steep payments–or default, which these lenders fully anticipate with some of the most aggressive collection practices in the industry.

Senate Bill 185 will cost Colorado families millions of dollars in higher interest payments, for no good reason other than increasing profits for the out-of-state hedge fund that dominates Colorado’s “supervised lending” market. Contrary to the industry’s claims, there is no evidence to indicate these loans are not accessible to consumers, and certainly no evidence they are unprofitable. Colorado consumers and hard-working families who need access to credit deserve better than predatory terms.

Contact your legislators right now: urge them to vote NO on Senate Bill 185.

Loan shark lobbyists are very good at what they do. Last year, similar legislation almost became law with practically no debate. This year, help us get the message to our lawmakers loud and clear that they work for us–and not the predatory lending industry.

Loveland Reporter-Herald Rips Sen. John Cooke

Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

We took note earlier this week, as did gun safety activists, of remarks by Sen. John Cooke of Greeley during debate last week over Senate Bill 16-113–legislation that would repeal the state’s 15-round limit on gun magazine capacity passed in 2013. Sen. Cooke, making the argument that the magazine limit is not enforceable, explained that he tells his “people,” whom we assume to be his constituents to “go to Wyoming” to buy high-capacity magazines that aren’t legally sold in Colorado.

You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal.

Which, while technically true, doesn’t make it any less illegal to bring those high-capacity magazines back into the state of Colorado from Wyoming once you buy one. Sen. Cooke is surely aware of this, since in his previous job as Weld County Sheriff he was responsible for patrolling a significant length of the Colorado/Wyoming border to prevent illegal fireworks being brought into our state. Any way you slice it, Cooke’s encouragement to break the law and (most importantly) advice on how to break the law is not appropriate for a lawmaker–and not okay from a former sworn law enforcement officer.

We’re happy to report that, in a hard-hitting editorial today, the Loveland Reporter-Herald agrees:

Crossing the border into Wyoming to purchase items that are illegal in Colorado happens all the time. Flying and exploding fireworks are illegal on this side of the state line, so Coloradans who believe that this state’s fireworks regulations are onerous regularly take the risk of driving over the state line and purchasing fireworks that they may legally possess in Wyoming. Bringing them back across the border is illegal, and any elected representative who would encourage his constituents to do so could lead them to run afoul of the law and common sense.

Cooke has been an opponent of gun control measures passed in 2013, to the point of saying when he was sheriff of Weld County that he would not enforce those laws. He was within his legal right to do so.

Choosing not to enforce a law is one thing, but encouraging people to break the law is beneath the office of a state senator. [Pols emphasis] It would be as if a legislator in Nebraska who disagreed with marijuana prohibition encouraged Nebraskans to make their purchases in Colorado and return home with them, as some of Cooke’s opponents have pointed out.

It’s true, and the Reporter-Herald does make the point that Sen. Cooke has a constitutional right to tell his constituents it’s okay break the law–and even how to do it. But a constitutional right to say something does not make it a responsible thing to say, and a lawmaker can reasonably be held to a higher expectation where it concerns basic respect for the law. We would say the same of law enforcement officers like Colorado’s elected county sheriffs.

We’re pleased to see some accountability in the local press. However you may feel about Colorado’s gun laws, and we know there are strong opinions here, lawmakers encouraging citizens to break laws crosses a line.