Rep. Kevin Priola Doubles Down on “Family Values” Gaffe

priolakidsOne of the more significant messaging problems for Colorado Republicans this year during the legislative session was a gaffe committed by Rep. Kevin Priola, now a candidate for the Colorado Senate in closely-divided Senate District 25 in Adams County. Priola was part of a committee debating a bill to expand family leave rights for employees to attend their children’s academic functions. Priola voted no on the bill, but not before requesting a delay of the vote so he could take his own children to a doctor’s appointment.

The issue is expected to loom large in Priola’s closely-watched race for the Senate against Democratic opponent Jenise May–and as the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic reports, Priola seems eager to tackle the problem head-on:

This year at the Legislature, progressive groups pilloried Priola for voting against a parental leave bill after asking for time off from the committee that was considering the bill in order to take one of his kids to the doctor. Priola’s critics called him a hypocrite.

Priola said the flap actually says something positive about how he goes about his work at the Legislature.

“Honestly, it was going door to door that colored my decision on that bill. I’ve probably knocked 45,000 doors through the years. Not once, not one time, has one person ever said, ‘You know what, I really wish I had time off to go to my kids parent-teacher conference. [Pols emphasis] That’s a problem in my life.’ That never happened, not one time. And that’s because people live in the real world. They have good relationships with their employers, and employers know that if they’re too harsh, employees will just call in sick to go to the conference, or they’ll say their aunt died…

“It’s having that real world experience. I’m a small business owner. I work with people. I have lots of conversations. Too often, people run legislation that sounds good but that just clutters up the statutes, and no one is really coming to say this is a real problem. So you sometimes say, ‘C’mon, maybe this is just silly.’” [Pols emphasis]

Needless to say, or at least we hope it isn’t needed, this is a really horrible answer. The truth is that working parents of school-age children do need leave from work from time to time to attend their children’s academic functions. Priola “never heard about it” knocking on doors because he didn’t ask. But if you ask parents if they think they should be able to take leave from work for their kid’s school functions, they’re going to say yes in overwhelming numbers.

And that’s why downplaying parents’ need for parental leave, and especially calling the issue “silly,” is a huge mistake for Priola. Democrats have already signaled an intent to attack Priola on this issue, and this dismissive response proves the point they are trying to make. Sure there are a lot of good bosses, but Priola’s assumption that everybody has a good boss just doesn’t hold water in middle-class reality.

To have made the original mistake during the legislative session is one thing. To crassly double down like this as a candidate in a tough race? That’s a sign of real hubris.

Minimum Wage Hike Makes The Ballot

12by20A release from Colorado Families for a Fair Wage celebrates the qualification of Amendment 101, a measure to raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, for this year’s general election ballot:

A coalition of business owners, workers and supporters with Colorado Families for a Fair Wage had submitted 200,000 signatures, more than double the 98,492 signatures needed to qualify, showing overwhelming support for the measure.

“Our coalition of business owners, workers and supporters is energized by the voters’ enthusiasm for our ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020,” said Lizeth Chacon, Colorado Families for a Fair Wage co-chair. “Raising the minimum wage is smart and fair. It’s smart because when working people have more money in their pockets, they spend it here in Colorado, boosting our economy and helping our communities thrive. It’s fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families.”

Extensive research shows that modest raises in the minimum wage like this proposal helps the economy by increasing consumer spending – and does not result in job loss in sectors most likely to hire minimum wage workers. Because low and middle-income workers are more likely to spend pay increases than higher paid workers, each $1/hour wage increase creates a ripple effect in spending, generating $1.20 in the local economy, potentially leading to further job growth.

“We are solidly behind raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and we expect to be paying our own employees more than that by 2020. In our ten years of operation, we have seen results that show if we pay our staff higher wages, we have a better retention rate and we spend less money on hiring and training so we are able to keep our best employees and keep our high standards of service at the levels our customers expect. In turn, the business makes more money as we have a high number of loyal, repeat customers,” said Jeff Rogoff, co-owner of Sazza, a fast casual restaurant in Greenwood Village. “Even more important, we are giving our staff the ability to efficiently take care of their monthly bills and contribute to Colorado’s booming economy.”

We expect this to be a hard-fought campaign between proponents of Amendment 101 and the Colorado Restaurant Association, but polls say the public strongly supports an increase to something closer to a survivable amount of money for full-time workers to live on. Campaigns like “Fight for 15” from labor unions have raised awareness of the plight of low-wage workers in America, from an inability to provide for themselves and their families to the resulting dependence of full-time working families on government assistance–assistance that carries negative stigma hard-working peeple do not deserve.

On the other hand, you might have to pay a bit more for your Big Mac. So there’s that.

Minimum Wage Increase Campaign Submits Yuuge Signature Haul

2016minimumwageA press release from Colorado Families for a Fair Wage announces their submission of over 200,000 petition signatures in support of their ballot measure to raise the minimum wage in Colorado to $12 an hour by 2020–more than double what was needed to qualify for the ballot in November:

Today, a coalition of business owners, workers and supporters with Colorado Families for a Fair Wage delivered boxes containing petitions with 200,000 signatures to place a ballot initiative that will raise the Colorado minimum wage to $12 by 2020 on the November ballot. The 200,000 signatures is more than double the 98,492 signatures needed to qualify, showing overwhelming support for the measure.

“It’s clear our measure to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 will be on the November ballot,” said Patty Kupfer, Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign manager “Raising the minimum wage is fair and smart. It’s fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families. It’s smart because when working people have more money in their pockets, they spend it here in Colorado, boosting our economy and helping our communities thrive.”

The average age of a minimum wage earner is 35 – and more than 86 percent of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20. A full-time minimum wage worker takes home less than $300/week, not nearly enough to afford food, rent and other basic needs. In Colorado, a minimum wage worker needs to work 80 hours per week to afford a basic two bedroom apartment.

“Even though I work full-time as a nursing assistant, I can’t afford to support us without public assistance,” said Marrisa Guerrero, a mom raising a school-age daughter. “We have no choice but to rely on subsidized housing, can’t afford health insurance and we even struggle to buy enough food for us to eat. I always thought if I worked hard and played by the rules, I’d be able to make it, but that isn’t going to happen until wages are raised.”

Extensive research shows that modestly raising the minimum wage helps the economy by increasing consumer spending – and does not result in job loss in sectors most likely to hire minimum wage workers. Because low and middle-income workers are more likely to spend pay increases than higher paid workers, each $1/hour wage increase creates a ripple effect in spending, generating $1.20 in the local economy, potentially leading to further job growth.

“Gradually increasing Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 by 2020 is the right thing for businesses, said Yoav Lurie, CEO and Founder of Simple Energy. “Higher wages drive better results, give customers more money to spend in our businesses, and create a better business climate. That’s why the majority of business leaders support raising the minimum wage.”

The Denver Business Journal reports that, after considering a smaller minimum wage increase ballot measure of their own, business interests led by the Colorado Restaurant Association are going with straight opposition to any further minimum wage increase:

Leaders of the Keep Colorado Working effort argue, however, that the proposal is an extreme one, especially after a 2006 voter-approved minimum-wage hike has upped the bottom level of pay by 61 percent in the past 10 years.

And while they acknowledge that the issue is a popular populist cause that is likely to draw people to the polls — both presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her former challenger, Bernie Sanders, supported a national minimum-wage hike in their campaigns — they believe that they can reach voters by explaining what they say is the negative impact on local companies.

The effort is likely to spend between $2 million and $3 million, said Loren Furman, CACI senior vice president of state and federal relations.

We expect this to be a good fight. Support for raising the minimum wage is running high after years of organizing by the “Fight for 15” coalition and both Democratic presidential candidates making a call for a minimum wage a central part of their own campaigns. It’s true that Colorado passed a progressive minimum wage increase in 2006, but in 2016 the argument that $8.31 isn’t enough for any worker to survive on is easy to make.

On the other side, you have millions of dollars from opponents with a direct bottom-line interest in the lowest minimum wage possible, not to mention Donald Trump’s infamous view of the minimum wage: “wages are [too] high.” So yes, the fight over raising the minimum wage in Colorado will have a proxy warfare component, as the larger competing ideological poles in this year’s election duke it out for votes. If Trump gets drilled in November, Colorado’s most vulnerable working families could benefit in more ways than…well, than just Trump losing.

CU Calls Union Meeting, Openly Engages in Union Busting

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After calling for a meeting of CU-Boulder classified employees, CU administrators openly and brazenly spoke out against the union. Using typical union-busting tactics, Interim Chief HR Officer Katherine Erwin decried the importance of workers coming together for a common cause and insisted that individuals represent themselves in discussions about pay, benefits and other job-related matters.

 Additionally, at the beginning of the meeting, CU administration requested that all union staff leave the room, a move denounced by Colorado WINS members in attendance.

 The July 7 meeting, called by CU-Boulder’s Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Kelly Fox, was described as an effort to combine the administration’s meetings with union-elected representatives of the classified staff and another unnamed employee group. However, only classified employees and CU administrators participated in the proceedings. Additionally, several graduate student workers showed up in solidarity with Colorado WINS members.

 At least 35 workers from Dining Services, Facilities Management, Housing and other areas of the University attended the meeting to push CFO Fox to commit to a living wage of $15/hour for all campus workers. They were met with resistance to the idea and an offer to continue meeting to discuss alternate ways in which the University can support its employees.

 Workers stood united in their demand to keep wages as the primary focus of any negotiations. Management, in turn, pushed to shift the discussion to benefits, including parking fees, tuition discounts for employees and their dependents, professional development courses and other perks. Members acknowledged that some discussion is needed about certain benefits but that a living wage and pay compression (for those in senior or supervisory positions who now make as much as workers who recently received raises) were a priority.

 In response to management’s union-busting tactics Colorado WINS members insisted on their right to organize and be represented by their union. They pointed out that by organizing themselves they were able to pressure the administration to issue nearly 500 wage increases to lowest paid campus employees.

 The only commitment from management that resulted from the meeting was to continue discussions and extend the meeting time from a half hour to a full 60 minutes. Colorado WINS members will continue to organize their coworkers so that all voices of CU Boulder employees can be heard collectively.

 

Bernie Sanders to Supporters: Run for Office, Keep Progressive Agenda Alive

On June 16, 2016, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders  spoke to  his supporters for 25 minutes. Since I have been and am a supporter, I signed up, and took notes on the speech, the important points of which are summarized below. A video link is also included at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot of Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders speech to supporters, screenshot 6/16/16

Most of Bernie’s speech was a list of what progressive Democrats want and fought for, what we want our country to be and to do. As such, there are few surprises in the list.These are not “demands”, as we used to say in the 70s. These are the prerequisites for social and economic justice.

I didn’t expect, but was delighted by, Bernie’s call for his supporters to run for local political office: school boards, county commissioners, entry-level offices, however we can get our feet in the door. I applaud this and agree strongly. That is what it will take for real change. From the bottom up -that’s how change happens. As expected, Sanders called for the party to unify to defeat Donald Trump. He has pledged to support this effort, and will do so.

UPDATE: 6700 people responded to Bernie’s call for public service. Per Berniesanders.com, “The 6,685 supporters who expressed interest in running cover 51 percent of state house districts, 69 percent of state senate districts and every congressional district in the country.”

He called for his 1900 delegates to come in to the convention to create the most progressive platform in Democratic history, and to act on it. He called for a 50 state strategy – decrying the lack of support for Democratic candidates,  allowing right wingers to take red state governments unopposed.

He called for the Democratic National Committee to open its doors, welcome young people and working people. He called for the DNC to embrace a $15 / hour wage. He called for a party which has “the guts” to take on the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries. He called for stopping the  Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) –  it should not come to a vote during a lame duck session of Congress, he said. These are positions which sharply differentiate his policies from those of Hillary Clinton.

What Bernie did not say was more surprising:

  • He did not “concede” defeat in the primary election, although that was implied.
  • He did not endorse Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, although he emphasized that they have much more in common than not.
  • He included very little on foreign policy – only in points 29 and 30 below did he allude to the Department of Defense and wars abroad, and only to emphasize cutting waste in the DoD, and not to spend young people’s lives in unnecessary wars. This was primarily a domestic policy speech.
  • He didn’t talk about the drug war or marijuana legalization, although he criticized the prison industry and school-to-prison pipeline in point 27.
  • He did not call for an end to superdelegates, lobbyist contributions to the DNC. He did not say what his negotiations with rules committee would be. He did not mention today’s big news that unpopular chairwomanDebbie Wasserman Schultz is stepping aside as party chair to allow Brandon Davis to take over operations.
  • He did not mention the numerous allegations of fraud and voter suppression in the Democratic primary.

 

Here’s what the man did say:
1.    The revolution continues – like every movement for social change, civil rights, etc.
2.    In every state, we won the overwhelming majority of those under 45.
3.    We are mainstream, not a fringe movement.  Numbers. 12 million votes, 22 states, Stats on contributions, 75 million phone calls, 5 million doors, 740,000 meetings, etc. Showed that we could run a national campaign without big money contributions. Bulk of contributions came from low income and working people.
4.    In every state, we took on the entire political establishment. Senators, Reps, Governors, elected officials.
5.   6:35  This campaign has never been about any single candidate .
6.    It’s about ending income inequality. It’s about ending corrupt campaign finance by corporations. Creating an economy for all of us, not just the 1%.
7.    Ending status quo: Native American reservation low life expectancy, lower than 3rd world countries. Millions of Americans dying at a younger age than their parents: suicide, drugs, alcohol, highest rate of childhood poverty of any industrialized country on earth. Ending the disgrace, undocumented people exploited on their jobs.
8.    Tens of thousands of Americans dying every year from preventable diseases, because lack health insurance, high deductibles, costly drugs.
9.    Young single mom in Nevada in tears, asking on $10/hr, How can we make it ? Millions like her.
10.    Mom in Flint, Mich. Excessive lead in water, stunted intellectual development of her child. Thousands of CA homes can’t drink tap water.
11.    Homelessness is increasing.  veterans in streets – lack of affordable housing.
12.    Corporations avoid paying a nickel in Federal taxes, stash in tax havens.
13.    6:40 Priority this year is defeating Donald Trump. Makes bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign.  Trump wants to give hundreds of B of $ in tax breaks to very rich, is a climate change denier.
14.    Major political task: Defeat Trump, badly. My role in that process will begin soon. But can’t be our only goal. Must continue grassroots  movement.
15.    Must take our energy in to the Dem convention in Philly with >1900 delegates. I met with Sec. Clinton.
16.    No secret HRC and I have strong disagreements, on important issues but agree on others.
17.    I will make sure that your voices are heard. Democrats will pass the most progressive platform in its history and that we actually fight for that agenda.
18.    I look forward to working with Sec. Clinton to form aparty that has the guts to take on the Pharma, Fossil Fuel industries, others.
19.    Dem party must support raising Fed. minimum wage to $15 / hr.  women .79 / vs men $1. Women must have right to control own bodies. Protect right to gay marriage.
20.    As Orlando has made clear, Ban sale and distribution of assault weapons, gun show loophole, and have instant background checks.
21.    Stop the TPP, must not come to the floor in a lame duck session.
22.    Expand Social security, not cut it.
23.    Greed, recklessness of Wall st must end. Pass a modern Glass Steagal. No more “too big to fail”.
24.    Aggressively combat climate change, impose a tax on carbon. Must protect our water supply by banning fracking.
25.    To compete effectively globally, Make public colleges tuition free reduce student debt.
26.    Join rest of industrialized world – Health care a right, not a privilege
27.    Stop incarcerating more people than any other country – Rein in prison industry, criminal justice reform.
28.    Comprehensive immigration reform for 11 M undocumented people.
29.    Cut waste in every department including Department of Defense.
30.    Can’t keep throwing young people into perpetual unnecessary wars.
31.    6:47 Revolution means more than Fight for our ideals, defeat D Trump. At every level continue to fight for our nation to be just. Current DNC leadership has turned its back on dozens of states, like red states, allowed right wing to run unopposed, we need a 50 state strategy. Must provide resources to ignored and poor states.
32.    Leadership, DNC must open its doors, welcome working people and young people. That is the energy we need to transform the Democratic party and our country. Cold hard fact. Since 2009, some 900 legislative seats have been lost to Republicans.  We must Start engaging at local and state level in unprecedented way.
33.    Young people deeply concerned about country and community. Start running for office! School boards, commissioners, whatever! Be prepared to engage at that level.
34.    6:50 With energy and enthusiasm our campaign has shown, we can win significant numbers of offices at down ticket level. We need new blood. You are that new blood.
35.    Government is not the enemy.(what Republicans say). I disagree. Government must protect us and our planet. But we need to attract dedicated people from all walks of life to run for office.
36.    Tens of thousands of new Dr.s, medical personnel, where people lack care.
37.    We need child care workers, teachers.
38.    We need scientists, engineers, entrepeneurs to work for renewables, efficient and cost effective as possible. Construction.
39.    Business people who respect employees and environment.
40.    Conclude: we have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America. My hope is that when historians look back and find when we began reversing the trend towards oligarchy. They see that the political revolution began in 2016. 6:53. Dark screen.

Version 1 of this diary posted at caucus99percent.com

Video available here and here

Full transcript of Sanders’ speech from Burlington Free Press

To recruit candidates, go to berniesanders.com/win

Minimum Wage Increase Campaign Kicks Off

Photo courtesy Michael Carrigan.

Photo courtesy Michael Carrigan.

A press release from Colorado Families for a Fair Wage kicks off a statewide ballot initiative campaign to raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020:

“The problem facing families and our economy is the same thing – low wages,” said Lizeth Chacon, Colorado Families for a Fair Wage co-chair. “Raising the minimum wage is fair and smart – fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families without being forced to rely on public assistance, and smart because people with money in their pockets to spend boosts the local economy and creates jobs.”

The average age of a minimum wage earner is 35 – and more than 84% of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20. A full-time minimum wage worker takes home less than $300/week – well below federal poverty level for a family of three – not enough to afford food, rent and other basic needs. In Colorado, a minimum wage worker needs to work 80 hours/week to afford a basic 2 bedroom apartment. “I’m working hard but still living in poverty – I am one paycheck away from being homeless and I literally have to balance every dime to make sure I eat every day, said Marilyn Sorenson, a home healthcare worker who has cared for high-needs disabled and elderly clients for more than 20 years. “The truth is that the cost of everything has gone up over the years but my paycheck hasn’t kept up. People like me who work hard should be able to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table but more and more of us can’t afford even the basics.”

Extensive research shows raising the minimum wage helps the economy by increasing consumer spending – and does not result in job loss in sectors most likely to hire minimum wage workers. Because low and middle-income workers are more likely to spend pay increases than higher paid workers, each $1/hour wage increase creates a ripple effect in spending, generating $1.20 in the local economy and leading to further job growth.

“I believe we have a moral imperative to pay our employees a fair wage they can actually live on. This philosophy has been good for my business by helping me keep great staff. We have the lowest turnover in the region” said Kevin J. Daly, owner of Vine Street Pub & Brewery and four other Colorado Brewpubs. “How does someone make ends meet on the current Colorado minimum wage? It’s just not right.”

As we noted previously, the $12 an hour by 2020 campaign may not be the only such minimum wage increase initiative on the 2016 ballot, with Republican Scott Gessler helping the Colorado Restaurant Association push a much smaller minimum wage increase. There seems to consensus that some increase will likely pass with voters who have been hearing the “Fight for 15” campaign’s message for several years now. Business interests would prefer to forestall this more progressive measure in favor of something more modest to appease voters–naturally, with the smallest possible concession.

So make sure to tell your friends which one is the better deal.

Loan Sharks: An Incredible Political Loser

loanshark2With the Colorado House set to take up Senate Bill 16-185 tomorrow, this year’s bill to allow subprime personal lenders to jack up interest rates on larger loan amounts, the Center for Responsible Lending is out with a poll today of Coloradans’ opinions of the subprime lending industry–and whether they agree these lenders should be able to rake in even more interest on the least qualified borrowers.

No surprise: Coloradans say not just no, but oh hell no:

Raising the cost of these consumer loans is so unpopular with voters that 77% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote against a state legislator who voted to increase interest rates. The strongest opposition – 93% – came from voters with household incomes of $30,000 to $50,000 the voters most likely to be affected by a proposal now before the Colorado legislature.

A bill currently before the Colorado legislature would increase the interest rates that lenders could charge on all consumer loans larger than $1,000. Senate Bill 185 would increase the interest rates on most loans by over 2 percentage points. This would result in a 10% increase in the cost of these loans. The bill, pushed by OneMain, a large lender, would cause these rates to rise higher each year. Current borrowers have an average household income of $46,000.

With reference to a prior iteration of the proposal, 89% of those surveyed said they opposed raising interest rates from 28% to 36% on a $3,000 loan. The opposition was similarly strong among Republicans and Democrats and independents. Seventy-five percent of voters “strongly opposed” increasing the rates. Senate Bill 185 woud raise the rates on such loans from 28% to over 30%, and would cause rates to rise automatically over time.

Here’s the details of CRL’s survey. These numbers reveal an industry that, although they are doing a robust business in Colorado, remains deeply unpopular with the public, and garners absolutely no sympathy from their arguments that higher interest is necessary to “remain profitable.” There’s little doubt that the industry is well aware of their dubious reputation with the public, which explains why subprime lender lobbyists have run last-minute bills two years in a row in hope of limiting public awareness of what was happening.

With support somewhere in the Paris Hilton/root canal/Republican Congress abyss, no politician with a sense of self-preservation should be caught anywhere near these loan sharks. We’ll see tomorrow if that lesson is getting through in the Democratic-controlled House, where similar legislation rushed through last year on a 62-2 vote–and left a lot of Democrats making awkward excuses to angry constituents.

Loan Shark Liability: Dems Take Aim at Larry Crowder

Sen. Larry Crowder.

Sen. Larry Crowder.

A press release yesterday from the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund calls out Sen. Larry Crowder, in a hot race against Democratic Las Animas County Sheriff Jim Casias, for his support of Senate Bill 16-185: the bill that passed the Senate this week on a party-line vote to jack up interest rates on subprime personal loans.

“In a session in which helping working people should be the focus, my opponent is co-sponsoring a bill that would enlarge profits for the wealthy at the expense of the working class. We need to be looking at how to reward people who work hard and play by the rules, not giving big breaks to Denver special interests at the expense of working people.” said Jim Casias, Candidate for Senate District 35.

Crowder’s senate district has struggled to regain footing since the Great Recession and many people in his district have taken note. During his first-term, Crowder has voted to gut retirement benefits for teachers, state patrol, correctional officers, and other public employees (SB15-80) while voting to give a pay raise for politicians like himself (HB15-1256). Additionally, he has been under fire for voting down a rural economic bill that would bring broadband Internet to rural districts like his (15’ Cow Budget #34).

District 35 resident Paula Lucero said, “I don’t see how helping loan sharks benefits our district. Who is putting Larry Crowder up to this and what is he getting out of it?”

…Non-partisan experts on local and state economy and finance, including AARP Colorado, Colorado Fiscal Institute, and Colorado Center for Law and Policy, testified that the measure is a solution in search of a problem. The bill would allow interest rates up to 36% for loans.

However ingratiating lobbyists for subprime personal lenders may be, the fact is that the industry does not have a good reputation among voters–especially voters in economically challenged areas like the sprawling southern Colorado district Crowder represents. Especially after every Democrat in the Colorado Senate held firm in voting no on Senate Bill 16-185, this is an issue that can be capitalized on to good effect in the upcoming elections.

sb185sponsors

And it won’t just be Crowder. Ahead of final passage, several Republican Senators added themselves as co-sponsors, including at least two in targeted races this year–Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate.

We expect to see all of them in shark suits this fall.

Senate Dems Vote Unanimously Against Loan Sharks

loanshark2A press release from the Bell Policy Center celebrates…well, it bears some explanation, but they’re celebrating the passage of a bill they strenuously oppose: Senate Bill 16-185, a late bill to allow predatory subprime lenders like OneMain Financial to charge higher interest rates on larger personal loans.

Why would the Bell celebrate the passage of a bill they oppose? Simple: every Democrat in the Colorado Senate voted against it. In the fraught battle to protect Colorado consumers from predatory lenders who are deliberately courting Democratic support, that’s a big, big win:

Today the Colorado Senate passed (18-17) Senate Bill 16-185, meaning some senators chose to support New York hedge funds over hard-working Coloradans.

We appreciate and thank the 17 senators who stood against making Coloradans pay at least $9.5 million in additional interest and finance charges. Now we need help urging the House to reject this bad bill.

The senators who voted yes on this bill did so despite there being NO need to increase interest rates. The number of loans issued and the amount loaned has increased over the past five years.

This bill would increase interest rates on all supervised loans larger than $1,000. The bill would also increase the rates charged to Coloradans who finance the purchase of appliances, furniture and used cars. Many of these loans are more expensive than they appear because of high-cost credit products sold with them.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office testified at the hearing on the bill there is no evidence that borrowers cannot get access to these loans or that lenders are not making them available. The lenders making these loans are highly profitable and their cost of capital has decreased dramatically since 2000. The representative from Springleaf, the major Colorado lender, told the Denver Post that the company is very profitable nationally and confirmed a 30 percent Colorado growth over the past four years.

The majority shareholder in Springleaf is the owner of Fortress Investment Group, a Wall Street Private Equity Group/Hedge Fund. Its investment in Springleaf has grown by 2,700 percent since 2010.

From here the bill moves on to the Democratic-controlled House. Last year, a bill allowing predatory lenders to jack up interest rates started in the House, and with the help of Democratic-friendly lobbyists raced out of that chamber on a 62-2 vote. All indications are as of this writing that House Democrats are not interested in getting burned again, as they were in 2015 when the pushback against the bill took leadership by surprise. We’re watching for this bill to be routed directly to the “kill committee.”

Looking ahead, what we’re seeing here could be the end–at least in Colorado–of the predatory lending industry’s corrosive influence over Democratic lawmakers. For years we have documented this struggle, first against payday lenders who tried to win over Democrats in the name of “access to credit,” and now high-rate personal lenders making almost exactly the same arguments. We don’t expect the debate over predatory lending to end entirely, but we do foresee a clearer partisan split on the issue: thanks to the patient work of the Bell Policy Center to educate Democrats.

For anyone who thinks the harm of predatory lending outweighs any benefit, stripping away its “bipartisan” veneer is a good thing.

How to protect Colorado’s “non-prime population” from being exploited as a “market opportunity?”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Reporters have done a good job informing us that most people who sign up for predatory loans are struggling.

But there’s a media gap in pointing out just how important the “struggling” part is to the business model of OneMain Holdings, the company backing legislation that would allow it to charge 36 percent interest on more and larger loans.

In a presentation a couple months ago, OneMain boasted to investers about its “Market Opportunity” in the personal loan business.

After noting that “Americans have $3.3 trillion in consumer debt,” and then identifying its “target market” as the 100 million Americans with low credit scores, the company pointed out where its pay dirt lies:

OneMain Holdings: “Large non-prime population with limited liquidity–63 percent of American households do not have at least $1,000 in savings, more than 40% have no emergency savings.” [Emphasis added by OneMain Holdings, not by the BigMedia Blog.]

“Non-prime population?” That’s an unfortunate phrase for this company to use, but it spotlights the point.

A lot of poeple are struggling with debt problems, and they need loans. But they obviously need protection from a big company that targets them as a “market opportunity.” How much protection from interest-rate hammering is appropriate?

We’re never going to know exactly how much money OneMain Holdings is really making in Colorado.

We’re just going to get shards of information, like the company representative confirming 30 percent growth in Colorado during the last four years.

(more…)

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.

Minimum Wage: Beware Honey Badgers Bearing Gifts

Scott Gessler, a.k.a. the "Honey Badger."

Scott Gessler, a.k.a. the “Honey Badger.”

With the recent “Fight for 15” protests in Denver and other cities around the country ongoing, and a number of cities and state governments opting to raise their local minimum wage, the group Colorado Families for a Fair Wage is working to put a ballot measure on our state’s 2016 ballot to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

But in what can best be described as a cynical bit of jujitsu, this week the Colorado Restaurant Association presented four ballot measures to the title board that appear to be intended to derail the $12 by 2020 minimum wage ballot initiative supported by workers and community groups. The key point is that although the Restaurant Association versions would increase the minimum wage, they would only increase it to $10.10 by 2019–a small relative increase to what existing Colorado law would provide for under Amendment 42, and needless to say not nearly as good a deal for minimum-wage workers.

But here’s the kicker: the Colorado Restaurant Association’s attorney on these ballot measures is none other than Scott Gessler, the Republican ex-Secretary of State and failed 2014 gubernatorial candidate our readers came to know as the “Honey Badger!”

Gessler’s Bizarro-world role as the CRA’s “working people’s champion” hasn’t been reported in any press we’ve seen, but ideologically speaking, it should tell people everything they need to know about about this smaller proposed wage increase. To us, this is proof that the campaigns across the nation and in Colorado calling for a livable wage are having an impact. If the restaurateurs are willing to concede any increase in the minimum wage, it can only be because they know an increase is likely to pass–and they want to pass as small an increase as possible, with control over the details.

Of course, it’s possible Gessler is genuinely interested in bettering the lot of Colorado’s lowest-paid workers! After all, while in office he made every reasonable effort to maximize his own income. In fact, some of his “efforts” weren’t so reasonable.

We joke, but you can bet Gessler is getting more than $10.10 an hour.

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.

(more…)

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.

Safeway Beer Buyer: I’d Like to Sell *More* Colorado Craft Beer

(This post was authored by the Your Choice Colorado campaign. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

I’m Russ Novotny, the Liquor Sales Manager for Safeway. I’ve seen Keep Colorado Local’s signs on liquor stores—the ones that claim the sale of real beer and wine in grocery stores would put Colorado breweries out of business.

I’m not sure what math they did to get those numbers. But here’s what I do know: Colorado grocery stores want to help local brewers grow.

I’d like to be able to stock real craft beer in all of our Safeway locations across the state. Colorado shoppers want to buy it, which makes it a no-brainer for our business.

But under current Colorado law, only one grocery store per chain is allowed to sell real beer and wine in Colorado. That rule means we can only stock local beer and wine in our Littleton location. At that store the demand for real beer and wine is so high that in the next couple of weeks we’re rolling out a new display to put hundreds of Colorado craft brewers front and center.

If every store could fulfill shoppers’ demand for real beer and wine, one study estimates that craft beer sales would grow by $125 million.

But Keep Colorado Local and the liquor lobby are teaming up to block progress. They’re using fear tactics to protect their monopoly on real beer and wine sales in Colorado. Without competition, they can charge nearly 20% more. They’ve continuously convinced legislators to protect this unfair system through backroom deals.

Our opposition might claim they’re on the side of brewers, but their actions tell a different story.

It’s time to stop denying Colorado brewers more access to customers and give consumers real Colorado beer and wine in grocery stores.