Veto the “loan shark giveaway,” Gov. Hickenlooper

In the final hours of the legislative session last week, something bad happened.

Lobbyists for the subprime lending industry sneaked in a last-minute bill to allow huge interest rate increases on certain personal loans. The Colorado Attorney General’s office estimates that this legislation could mean increases of almost 40% to the total cost of a personal loan.

Send a message to Gov. Hickenlooper right now requesting a VETO of House Bill 15-1390.

There was no opportunity to properly debate this legislation–and that was by design. This bill to allow lenders to hike interest rates on personal loans was passed by both chambers in less than a week with almost no debate. Some lawmakers have already expressed regret over their rushed vote for this legislation. Passing bills that could cost thousands of Coloradans millions of dollars at the last minute with no debate is just plain wrong.

Tell Gov. Hickenlooper to VETO House Bill 15-1390, the “loan shark giveaway” bill. Your message will be delivered instantly to the Governor’s office.

Thanks for your timely assistance stopping this bad anti-consumer legislation. This time, the money saved could be your own.

Groups Ask Hickenlooper To Veto Interest Rate Hike Bill

380_image_loanshark_8662Here’s an excerpt from a letter sent by several consumer advocacy groups including the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Center for Law and Policy, and the Colorado Progressive Coalition to Gov. John Hickenlooper, requesting a veto of House Bill 15-1390last-minute legislation that shot through the General Assembly at the closing bell allowing lenders to dramatically jack up interest rates on specific types of personal loans:

We respectfully ask you to veto the Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions bill (HB15-1390). This bill, which was introduced in the final few days of session and did not get a full vetting in the Legislature, would raise the cost of credit for moderate- and low-income Coloradans on certain consumer credit transactions. Raising these caps would lead to more high-cost and unaffordable credit products, hurting Colorado consumers and middle-class families. We are not opposed to the loans, just to increasing the current rates so significantly.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which regulates these loans, testified in the House about how HB15-1390 would affect these loans. While neutral on the bill, the office said that it would increase the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent. The Attorney General’s Office also said there is nothing to indicate that this credit product is not available to consumers or that consumers are having a hard time accessing this product.

In a legislative session that was supposed to be about the middle class, this bill moves Colorado in the wrong direction. We wish this bill had come up earlier in the session to allow more time for conversations with legislators and a greater opportunity for the views of average Coloradans to be heard. Your veto of HB15-1390 will help protect low- to moderate-income Coloradans from detrimental credit products. The Legislature can address this issue again next session in a manner that ensures all viewpoints are heard and more measured deliberations take place.

As we discussed last week, House Bill 15-1390 passed through the General Assembly at lightning speed with almost no debate. Consumer group opponents like the Bell Policy Center had no opportunity to mount an opposition to the bill. In subsequent days, we’ve heard that lobbyists for the lenders who would benefit from higher interest rates facilitated the late introduction of the bill, and paraded lenders through the legislature in the final days who essentially threatened to close up shop if they couldn’t increase interest rates–this despite the fact that tens of thousands of these loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars were made under the current rates last year. This threat, which sounds remarkably like the hollow arguments against payday lending reform a few years ago, evidently persuaded all but two members of the House to pass the bill. In the Senate, after opponents had the chance to get their feet under them, most Democrats voted against the bill--a telling difference.


From all accounts we’ve heard, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office was not part of whatever dubious greasing of the wheels occurred here, and his signature is by no means assured. Over the coming days, we expect Hickenlooper to hear from both sides, but ultimately we think there is enough backlash forming against both the bill and the shady process by which it was introduced and passed to make a veto an easy decision.

And after that, we hope for a frank conversation within the Democratic House caucus–about how sticking it to subprime borrowers in the closing hours of the legislative session is not how you “protect working families.”

So Much For Keeping That Interest Rate Hike Bill Under Wraps

FOX 31’s Tammy Vigil reports on the last-minute giveaway to subprime personal lenders that passed the General Assembly with distressing bipartisan support–at least in the Democratic-controlled House–and is now headed to the Governor’s desk, where consumer advocates hope it will be vetoed:

Only the Governor can save consumers now.

House Bill 1390 raises interest rates on personal consumer loans by up to 71 percent. It would allow lenders to raise finance rates from 21 percent to 36 percent on loans up to $3,000.

It also increases rates from 15 to 21 percent on loans more than $3,000 to $5,000.

These loans target people with some credit problems who can’t get loans from traditional banks and credit unions to buy consumer products like cars, boats and to consolidate debt…

As we discussed yesterday, House Bill 15-1390 would dramatically increase the maximum allowable interest rate on the specific types of personal loans offered by subprime lenders like Citigroup’s OneMain Financial and Springleaf Financial. Not surprisingly, lobbyists for these corporations were the driving force behind this legislation, and successfully prevailed on Democratic leadership in the House to allow the bill to be introduced late last week. Asked to defend the legislation yesterday by FOX 31, House sponsor Rep. Jovan Melton (D) made a disappointingly unconvincing argument:

“It is high risk. It has a higher interest rate of 36 percent, but it’s much better than 125 percent we see with pay day lending facilities,” said State Rep. Jovan Melton, a Democrat from Aurora.

He also said these lenders need a hand to stay in business in our state… [Pols emphasis]

The claim that these lenders need to be able to hike interest rates in order to “stay in business” is plainly contradicted by the huge success they are enjoying in Colorado today–in 2013 alone, millions of dollars in profits on over 31,000 loans of the type that would be affected by the legislation. Sure, 36% is a lower interest rate than payday loans, but the current rate caps are not hurting these lenders’ business. It is therefore completely disingenuous to claim that we must let them inflate the cost of loans they issue to consumers by almost 40% in order to “keep them in business.”

In fact, that’s the same nonsense we heard from the payday lending lobbyists and their political surrogates back in 2010, when legislation reforming that industry’s over-the-top usurious practices was signed into law. Five years later, surprise! You can still get a payday loan in Colorado with ease.

Bottom line: this was a major political mistake for Democrats who backed indefensible anti-consumer legislation, and another lesson about the constant vigilance needed at the Capitol to protect citizens from predatory corporate lobbyists. The last-minute rush to pass this bill was obviously meant to limit debate and public knowledge of what was happening, and that was a terrible decision by Democrats who should know better.

And now that the media is cluing in to what happened, it’s time for some mea culpas–and a swift veto by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Last-Minute Swindle: Personal Loan Interest Rate Hike Races Through General Assembly Ahead of Sine Die

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

Just when you thought it was safe to exhale as the end of the 2015 session of the Colorado legislature approaches today, fresh controversy is brewing at the Capitol over House Bill 15-1390: a bill that sped through the House yesterday before passing the Senate today to allow lenders to dramatically increase interest rates charged for specific types of personal loans. Passed with almost no notice or debate, the Bell Policy Center is urgently sounding the alarm–from their release yesterday before the bill passed the Senate this morning:

A late bill that is clearly bad for consumers easily passed the House and is on the Senate floor. This bill, Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions (HB15-1390), would raise the cost of credit for moderate- and low-income Coloradans on certain consumer credit transactions. The frenzied pace of the final days of the legislative session paved the way for this bill to sail through, and consumers stand to lose. [Pols emphasis]

The bill passed the House (62-2) last week and the Senate Finance Committee (4-1) this morning, despite strong testimony in both chambers from our Rich Jones. Jones said that raising the caps on certain supervised loans and consumer credit sales would lead to more high-cost and unaffordable credit products. We are not opposed to the loans, just to increasing the current rates.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which regulates these loans, testified in the House about how HB15-1390 would affect these loans. While neutral on the bill, the office said that it would increase the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent. In response to a question, the Attorney General’s Office also said there is nothing to indicate that this credit product is not available to consumers or that consumers are having a hard time accessing this product. [Pols emphasis]

In a legislative session that was supposed to be about the middle class, this bill moves Colorado in the wrong direction. We wish this bill had come up earlier in the session to allow more time for conversations with legislators…

But the extremely limited debate this bill received appears to have been a feature, not a bug. The legislation has its origin with lobbyists for OneMain Financial, a branch of Citigroup that specializes in the kinds of personal loans that would be affected. The bill was rushed through the House with almost no opposition, but the vote today in the Senate was not unanimous after Democratic Senators realized there was a problem. There seems to be an effort now that the bill is causing controversy to make excuses for its plain effect–allowing lenders to hike interest rates on personal loans. Unfortunately, it’s a one-page bill, and there’s no sugar-coating what it does.

Much like the shenanigans we’ve seen in previous years to undo hard-won reforms of the payday lending industry, what we’re seeing here is another ugly brute-force attempt by lobbyists and allied politicians to ram through an undesirable piece of legislation during the final crush. Longtime readers will recall that the payday loan reform battle was fraught with lobbyist-engineered treachery, with several attempts before success in 2010 scuttled by Democrats making “surprise” votes to kill the bills. Sen. Cheri Jahn, the Senate sponsor of House Bill 15-1390, has a long history of this kind of thing, and has little trust among consumer advocates as a result.

Bottom line: lender lobbyists are some of the most audacious under the Dome, but this bill could well be a step too far–for them, and for legislators in both parties who signed on to this ill-advised ploy. There is simply no reason to ram through legislation like this except to gouge consumers and enrich lenders. And the only reason to ram it through at the last minute is to keep it quiet.

In short, it’s one of those situations that makes voters, you know, cynical. Hopefully, Gov. John Hickenlooper will correct what appears to be a major bipartisan mistake.

Are Colorado PERA Negotiations Being Influenced by Federal Politics?

(clockwise from top): U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

(clockwise from top):
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported late yesterday on a troubling political strategy from Republicans that intertwines state and federal politics:

Intense negotiations are underway at the state Capitol to try to revive a Denver Public Schools pension bill that critics claim was killed by Republicans because of former DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet’s Senate re-election bid.

House Bill 1251 is important for DPS because it would allow the district to quit paying around $23 million more a year into the state pension fund than other school districts…

Three people with knowledge of the bill told The Denver Post that they talked about it with Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who said national Republicans didn’t want to see a bill passed that potentially could help Bennet. Hill briefly ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014. [Pols emphasis]

Hill responded Thursday that his chief concern is that PERA is a “real ticking time bomb,” but he acknowledged people told him they had concerns about “some bad deals that were cut” when Bennet oversaw Denver schools.

Bennet’s financial dealings at DPS were an issue in his 2010 Senate primary. “Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt,” read a headline in The New York Times. Republicans have said they plan to revisit the issue on the campaign trail next year.

For his part, State Senate “PresidentBill Cadman says that he has “never” talked to the Republican Party or “anyone in Washington” about HB-1251, although it’s difficult to say how much people are really listening to Cadman anyway.

We won’t get into the policy discussion of the relative merits of HB-1251 and PERA reforms here (Colorado Pols is a political blog, after all), but the idea that Colorado legislation might be torpedoed because of how it might harm the re-election chances of a U.S. Senator is more than a little troubling. It also speaks, again, to the leadership structure surrounding Colorado Republicans. If this story proves true, it seriously calls into question how much Senate Republicans are even making their own decisions locally.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 27)

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Opening Statements begin today in the Aurora Theater Shooting trial, nearly three years after the attack at a late-night screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The Associated Press takes a look at what to expect over the next several weeks as attorneys attempt to deal with an “insanity” plea. Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry has a very thoughtful take on what is sure to be an unpleasant summer for all involved with the trial.

► The Office of Consumer Counsel is a hot topic this week in the legislature. Democrats in the House have introduced legislation to re-authorize the OCC without stripping it of authority over the telecommunications industry.

► The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a “field hearing” in Denver on Friday to discuss the myriad of problems associated with construction of a new VA Hospital in Aurora. Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) also attended the hearing, which came on the same day as a new report showing that Coffman hasn’t done much “oversight” despite being the Chairman of the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


The Office of Consumer Counsel: Sonnenberg’s Faustian Bargain

SUNDAY UPDATE: Setting up a late-session battle, majority House Democrats have introduced an alternative “clean” bill to reauthorize the Office of Consumer Counsel without stripping it of authority in telecom rate cases. The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch:

The main differences between the bills are telephones and duration before the next sunset review. Sonnenberg, the sponsor of Senate Bill 271, and other Senate Republicans say there’s no need for the Office of Consumer Counsel to ride herd over phone rates. Those are dictated by competition in the free market, after the legislature deregulated telecoms last year.

Supporters of House Bill 1381 say the office needs to keep a watch on remaining phone services and issues, such as 9-1-1 service and whether deregulation is giving customers a fair shake.

The newest OCC bill sponsored by Reps. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and 28 Democratic co-sponsors preserves the OCC’s telecom oversight. The Senate bill reduces the time until the next sunset review from 11 years to six. The House bill maintains it at 11.

From House Democrats’ presser:

“Extending the Office of Consumer Counsel is a no brainer,” Rep. Esgar said. “It provides critical protections for Colorado consumers and businesses to ensure that big utilities and telecom companies aren’t ripping off hardworking Coloradans to increase their profits.”

HB15-1381 will continue the counsel in its current form for another 11 years. A Senate bill, SB15-271, also extends the counsel, but only for six years and removes the counsel’s oversight over telephone providers, potentially threatening 9-1-1 services and causing unneeded rate increases.

“We know the counsel has prevented telecom rate increases in the past,” Rep. Winter said. “We shouldn’t create a loophole that threatens 9-1-1 services and will cost consumers more money.”

Stay tuned, the classic battle of consumers versus corporate lobbyists is about to resume.


Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports on a deal in the works with Colorado Senate Republicans to prevent the Office of Consumer Counsel from sunsetting–an office important to consumer advocates to represent utility customers in rate hike proceedings.

As Bunch reports, Republicans are seeking a pound of flesh in exchange:

Consumer groups have been fretting the fate of the Office of Consumer Counsel, whose experts have helped convince the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that some of the rate increases requested by gas, power or phone providers are either more than necessary or not necessary at all.

The agency will reach its sunset on July 1, unless the legislature passes Senate Bill 271 or tries to revive the agency early in next year’s session. There’s a provision that allows the office to “wind down” for one year, but a delay would deal it a crippling blow, supporters say.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, is sponsoring the bill and will argue its merits before the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee next week. The bill could be heard and moved to the full Senate as early as Tuesday or as late as Thursday, though it’s not on the committee agenda for either day as of Thursday evening. Despite the late hour of the legislative session, Sonnenberg is confident the reauthorization will face few roadblocks on its way to the governor.

“I don’t see there’ll be much opposition,” he said. “I do understand there’s a little bit of heartburn about taking out the telecom.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s right–the “deal” being offered by GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg would reauthorize the OCC for the purpose of negotiating electrical and gas service rates, but would strip the office’s authority where it concerns telecommunications services. Bunch quotes the director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group warning that “now’s not the time to bench Colorado’s consumer advocate on telephone issues.” So why is this happening, you ask?

It’s simple: CenturyLink and the rest of Colorado’s telecom players have really good lobbyists. There’s nothing about stripping the OCC of its authority in telecom utility service negotiations that helps consumers, but with the legislative session winding down and Republicans in control of the Senate by one seat, this is in all likelihood the best deal consumers are going to get. And if you don’t like it, your alternative is to lose all of your representation before the Public Utilities Commission on rate hikes.

Such a deal, Sen. Sonnenberg.

The nation has to do better than regional standards to combat methane waste

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In case you missed it, and it looks like Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper may have, NASA scientists descended on the Four Corners region of the southwest to discuss the problem of natural gas waste, which is widely believed to be caused in part by venting and flaring.   

Gov. Hickenlooper deserves to be applauded for his administration’s strong commitment to tackling the wasteful methane emissions caused by resource extraction activities.  It’s great that Colorado stepped up, but his recent suggestion that the BLM shouldn’t weigh-in is misguided at best:

“I think if the states can agree, our soles are on the dirt–the soles of our boots are right on the ground. If we can agree among ourselves then I think we have a stronger case to go back to the BLM and say, “You don’t need to regulate methane emissions[.]’”

Most states with a methane waste problem aren’t doing squat and no one is coming close to what Colorado has done. In fact, Colorado and New Mexico have a big problem, as evidenced by the Delaware-sized methane cloud NASA discovered that is hovering over the Four Corners.  

Because most states haven’t been as bold as Gov. Hickenlooper’s Colorado, it’s time for strong national standards from the BLM to combat a problem that clearly crosses state borders, and the borders between federal, state, and private lands.

The BLM also has a financial obligation to the American taxpayer. Wasting methane from flaring and venting means lost tax revenue (about half of which goes to states)—and waste is something that the BLM is legally mandated to minimize. It’s clear that we need a smart, comprehensive approach to methane waste.

Fighting Overseas Tax Havens to Help Colorado’s Schools

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)


It’s gotten to the point where everyone in Colorado wants politicians to find a way, somehow, to tax the money big corporations hide to avoid paying taxes, and then to use the tax revenue from these hidden profits on education. Okay, not everyone wants this but, seriously, most of us do.

But how to do it in a way that’s got a prayer of untying the knot of legal restrictions (TABOR) and divided government?

Democrats in the state legislature may have hit on a way to get this done.

Standing inside the Capitol on the eve of Tax Day, state lawmakers unveiled legislation that would stop Colorado corporations from hiding profits in overseas tax havens, like the Cayman Islands. Closing this tax loophole would generate a tidy $150 million in tax revenue annually that would go to education.

“There are some corporations that don’t pay their taxes, like the rest of us do,” said Rep. Mike Foote at the April 14 news conference, as you can see in a Denver Business Journal video here.

“They do get a chance to use our roads, to take advantage of educated folks to work in their businesses, courts for dispute resolution and so forth. But they don’t pay for the use. It’s not fair to the state of Colorado. It’s not fair to the rest of us. And this bill will address that lack of fairness by closing loopholes that some corporations use by funneling their money offshore in order not to have to pay taxes on it.”

The bill, sponsored by Foote and Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, would not only have to clear the legislature but also be approved by voters in November. So it has a long way to go.

But similar bills became law in Montana and Oregon, picking up bipartisan support along the way, according to the bill’s sponsors.

So you’d think a bill like this would have a chance here in Colorado, where the public is overwhelmingly in favor of such measures, according to a polls.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reported that the legislation is opposed by The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry:

“We understand the intent to eliminate the shifting of income to tax havens to avoid Colorado taxes,” said Loren Furman, CACI’s senior vice president for state and federal relations. “But, there are many instances where legitimate business is conducted in these countries, and that income may not have been subject to Colorado tax.


Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 14)

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► The Obama Administration says it has a plan to fund construction of the troubled VA Hospital in Aurora. Congressman Mike Coffman, the Republican Chair of the Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight, continues to bluster without taking time to suggest an actual solution.

► The State House is finished debating several more attempts to overturn gun safety laws passed in 2013. There was much debate, talking, and blustering, but in the end, nothing changed…though divisions within the Republican Party are growing, as the Colorado Springs-Gazette editorial board writes:

Forget Michael Bloomberg, Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislative Democrats for now. The bigger threat to gun rights in Colorado is Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, headed by political operative Dudley Brown.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Equal Pay Day 2015 In Colorado: We Are The Front Line

As women across America participated in Equal Pay Day 2015 commemorations, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, reflected on the challenges faced by Colorado women even as conservative lawmakers voted to kill our state’s Pay Equity Commission this year.

“The data is clear: in Colorado, women face greater pay inequity than the national average,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “In the last decade, America overall has made some progress close the pay equity gap, but in Colorado the gap has actually grown over the same period.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in late January that women in Colorado earn a median weekly full-time wage of $762, compared to a median weekly wage of $978 for men. Since 2002, the pay equity gap has worsened in Colorado while improving slightly nationwide. [1]

“The choice by conservative lawmakers to kill Colorado’s Pay Equity Commission makes no sense in light of the facts,” said Runyon-Harms. “Closing the pay gap between men and women would mean huge benefits for working families and Colorado’s economy as a whole. Instead of ignoring this problem, Colorado should be leading the charge to solve it. That’s why so many people, including hundreds who signed our petition in support of pay equity, were outraged by the votes this year to kill the Pay Equity Commission. And it’s why voters will hold conservatives accountable at the polls in 2016.”

In Colorado Springs, They Love Their Slumlords

SUNDAY UPDATE: Shocking video of Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins and Doug Bruce walking out of court Friday, a brief exchange that appears to end with Bruce violently ripping the camera from the hands of the questioner:

He’s not a nice man, folks. Original post follows, updates undoubtedly forthcoming.

Because that’s assault, right?


UPDATE: The Colorado Springs Independent sheds significant light on the apparently extensive business relationship between Doug Bruce and Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins:

Evidence suggests the two are more than just political allies. According to a lawsuit filed in 4th Judicial District Court, Bruce and Collins have been working on land transactions together across the country, including in North Dakota, South Carolina, Illinois and Oklahoma, besides Collins’ 2013 acquisition of two apartment buildings in Kansas City for which tenants say Bruce has been in charge…

[T]enant Heather Dugger was scrambling to gather up her family’s belongings and get out on Monday. She said she, her husband and three young children, ages 11, 7 and 3, lived without water for about a month before the notice was posted.

“The water got shut off about a month ago,” Dugger says. “Somehow, the water was still on [at the other building] so we were going next door and filling buckets of water.”

She says she paid rent to a property manager who worked for Bruce. “He’s the one who hired the property manager,” she says, adding that Bruce was supposed to be paying for trash removal and water service and that she paid rent of $450 a month by money order made out to Douglas Bruce. She quit paying rent about three months ago, she says, because the property manager “quit coming by.”

Dugger then cut the interview short, because she was trying to load a U-Haul trailer. “There’s a lot of cuss words [for Bruce],” she says. “All the rent we paid and the water got shut off, and it’s just crazy, knowing they’re taking money away from people.” [Pols emphasis]



Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the continuing trouble City Councilwoman Helen Collins is running into with her real estate investments. This week, Collins survived a recall attempt related to a case currently before the city’s ethics commission, alleging she helped conservative activist and convicted tax cheat Douglas “Mister TABOR” Bruce avoid paying a court judgment in excess of $7,500 owed to the city of Colorado Springs. Bruce has owned a number of residential rental properties, and has frequently run afoul of the law for failure to properly maintain them.

Well, as Gazette reporter Billie Stanton Anleu writes today, Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins is a slumlord in her own right:

One of two Kansas City, Mo., apartment buildings owned by Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins was boarded up and closed Wednesday, a city inspector there confirmed.

Repeated violations, including no water in the building for more than four months, more than $7,000 in unpaid city water bills, multiple fines and the inability to provide a local property manager, led to the closure, said Kansas City inspector Marja Nolan…

In Kansas City, residents in one of two seven-unit buildings, which Collins bought in November 2012, had gone more than four months without water, Nolan said.

Violations dating to Oct 14, 2014, cite an unprotected exterior surface; litter, trash, refuse and rubbish; unapproved storage; failure to register; lack of water; peeling, cracked, blistered paint; rank weeds or unattended growth; and limbs and brush ordered to be removed, the city’s records show.

Doug Bruce.

Doug Bruce.

The report on Collins’ apartment building in Kansas city reads like an urban decay horror story: area residents described how the building was taken over by squatters and subject to drugs raids prior to being boarded up by city officials this week.

But considering who Collins had “managing” her properties in Kansas City, it’s possible that none of this is a surprise:

[Neighborhood leader Tom] Ribera said Collins never returned his calls, but “Douglas Bruce, her acting manager, [Pols emphasis] said he was trying to get a property manager over there. … It’s beyond maintenance; they need a contractor.”

Mystery solved! If you were wondering where Helen Collins got her awesome property management skills from, you can stop wondering. She learned how to be a slumlord from Doug Bruce! Who, in addition to being the Colorado Republican Party’s patron saint of tax policy as the author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), is one of our state’s more notorious slumlords.

Perhaps the worst part of this touching story of civic pride and urban renewal is the fact that the voters of Councilwoman Collins’ district didn’t care about any of this–or were at least kept in the dark about Collins’ landlady follies in the “Paris of the Plains” long enough to keep it from factoring in the now-failed recall attempt against her. It might seem unthinkable that a slumlord would be allowed to serve on a city council at all, even if the worst of the blighted properties in her possession are located in another city. But in conservative Colorado Springs, it’s apparently no hindrance to one’s political career.

And next time they vote to turn off the streetlights, it’ll make more sense.

Get More Smarter on Friday (April 3)

We’re almost Klingenschmitt-free today. Almost. 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).



► The State Senate has approved a $26 billion budget for Colorado, despite complaints from Democrats that they were largely shut out of the process. The “Long Bill” now heads to the State House, where Republicans will inevitably complain about the process when they don’t have the majority.

A top official at the Veterans Administration has apologized (again) for the long list of problems in building a new hospital in Aurora. But Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson thinks Rep. Mike Coffman’s suggestion to cancel all bonuses until the hospital is complete is a bad idea.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Help us protect homeowners from shoddy construction

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: 7NEWS’ John Ferrugia with a hard-hitting report last night:

Jennifer Seidman is a lawyer with a major national law firm that has filed many suits against builders for defective work. While conceding that changes in the law affect her business, she says homeowner sometimes have no alternative to suing.

“With arbitration, the homeowners have to pay a private judge and the person that they are paying often times has a relationship with the building industry,” she said.

That’s because the bill makes it clear that people, such as Harris, would not only be prohibited from suing for defective work, they would be limited in the hiring of experts to advise them about defects.

And, they would have to accept the builder’s arbitrator, and pay for the proceedings.

Original post follows.


I need your help to stop what may be one of the worst bills of the year in the Colorado legislature. Today, a bill will be heard that will weaken the ability of homeowners to hold developers accountable for construction defects.

Contact your senators right now to tell them to vote NO on this bill.

Senate Bill 15-177 would force homeowners and homeowners associations into arbitration over construction defects to multifamily construction. We’ve all heard horror stories about new condo projects in Colorado, like the Beauvallon in Denver, where avoidable defects in construction hurt homeowner property values, caused public safety issues, and turned the condos into money pits. In the case of the Beauvallon, the only way homeowners were able to get help was to have access to the courts to fight the developers of this shoddy construction.

If Senate Bill 177 had been the law when the Beauvallon started leaking, those homeowners wouldn’t have had the power to get justice. The fact is, for most middle class Colorado families, buying a home is the biggest investment they will ever make. Why would anyone want to give up their rights to hold developers accountable for negligence in the construction of their home?


Things You’re Not Supposed To Admit, Chris Holbert Edition

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported Saturday on the death earlier this month of Senate Bill 15-118, a bill that would have upped the incentive for Colorado middle class families to save for college tuition via the CollegeInvest program:

Senate Bill 118 concerned Coloradans who save for college through a not-for-profit state agency called CollegeInvest, where money is put into what are known as 529 plans.

As amended, the proposal from Merrifield, a Colorado Springs Democrat, would have eliminated the state income tax break for those earning more than $500,000 a year, while doubling it for those making less than $150,000 a year. Coloradans earning between $150,000 and $500,000 would still receive some tax break.

The bill died March 5 on a 3-2 party-line vote in the GOP-controlled Senate Finance Committee, where Sen. Chris Holbert made a statement that stunned Democrats and bill supporters.

We’d say on an objective scale, this was pretty stunning.

“I represent a part of a county that has the sixth-highest income demographic in the nation,” the Parker Republican said. “The people who elected me and who I represent, many are in those upper-income brackets.” [Pols emphasis]

So-called “529” plans like Colorado’s CollegeInvest program enable tax-deferred investments to save for a designated beneficiary’s college education. In Colorado, families can also claim a tax credit against their state income tax for the amount they invest in 529 plans. Under Merrifield’s bill, wealthy 529 plan investors would still benefit from their tax-advantaged status, but wouldn’t qualify for the additional state income tax credit unless their income is under $500,000 per year.

Republicans at every level of government face a significant message setback when trying to justify policies that either disregard the interest of or actively work against the middle class voters who make up the bulk of the electorate. We’ve seen this manifest over and over in the last few years, with phrases like “attacking job creators” and “class warfare” nervously appropriated by Republicans to avoid having to say simple declarative things like “I represent the rich people.”

Politically this is not difficult to understand, since there are simply not enough rich people to form an electoral majority–and even among the Republican rank-and-file, blind fealty to the upper class is breaking down as middle class incomes stagnate while the rich get richer.

That is why this statement we assume Sen. Chris Holbert made without any hesitation is so shocking. Republicans work hard to pigeonhole Democrats as the party that represents the only very poorest Americans–those “other” Americans it’s broadly assumed are “lazy” and “not pulling their weight.” Democrats respond that they have the interests of the middle class at heart–in this case families saving for college–and that Republicans have become the party of only the very rich.

And here you have the deciding vote on a bill to help the middle class candidly admitting it. The political significance of that, even if you’re not surprised, should be very great indeed.