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]

—–

collins

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).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► 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…

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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?

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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.

Crowder Smacked By Retirees For Anti-PERA Vote

Sen. Larry Crowder.

Sen. Larry Crowder.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Ryan Severance reports, Sen. Larry Crowder is under fire from constituents after voting with fellow Republicans to make undesired changes to the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA):

State Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, said Saturday that he voted for Senate Bill 80 because he is concerned about the future of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association and being able to maintain it and believes this piece of legislation would help strengthen and save it.

“We can go along and say there’s no problem, we can put our head in the sand and say there’s no problem or we can take a stand for PERA,” Crowder said. “In my opinion, what we are attempting to do is save PERA, not destroy it, but doing nothing I think destroys it.”

SB80 is a measure that passed the Senate last month with all 18 Republican senators voting for it and all 17 Democrats opposing.

SB80 would let PERA members choose a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) plan, instead of the traditional defined benefit pension plan. Currently, only a small group of state employees such as state legislators can enroll in the defined contribution plans. Crowder said only state employees hired after May 2, 2009, would be affected by the bill.

Colorado’s PERA trust fund has already been reformed at the expense of public employees. 2010’s Senate Bill 1 reduced the amount contributed by the state to the PERA fund and increased the contribution of employees. As a result, PERA is on a long term course to be fully funded within 40 years. Republicans led by Treasurer Walker Stapleton have consistently “concern trolled” PERA’s solvency, even as the fund has outperformed its benchmarks in recent years. Stapleton’s remarks in August of 2013 were a good example:

PERA’s strong return on investment last year, nearly 13 percent, made up for the anticipated shortfall in revenue and actually reduced the unfunded liability by $800 million.

Those predictions assume an average 8 percent return on investments.

Stapleton said that number is unattainable in the new reality of the stock market.

We hope Stapleton is picking investments at his other job as a financial manager better than he speculates about PERA’s returns, because the stock market has surged upward since he said this–and PERA has returned an average of 9.4% over the last 30 years.

So what does Crowder mean by this “destroying PERA” stuff? Back to the Chieftain:

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Oh Lordy, Kumbaya

As the Denver Post's Joey Bunch reports, Republicans and Democrats at the state capitol are swaying to the same sappy tune when it comes to developing Colorado's workforce to meet the needs of the future:

Dozens of Colorado legislators from both parties stood together Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to tell the middle class that help is on the way…

The package would give employers financial incentives to take on interns and apprentices and would develop programs that coordinate high schools and colleges with companies willing to help train and eventually employ workers, bill sponsors said…

The industries targeted by the legislators pay well: engineering, research and development, manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources and other skilled trades.

In a separate blog post, Bunch details the workforce development bills introduced so far and on the way. Just about every legislative session features a similar moment of bipartisan camaraderie over a package of mutually inoffensive economic development legislation, but with so many nasty fights swirling on a host of hot-button partisan touchstone issues this year, both parties felt the need to make an extra show of it yesterday. And why not? Especially in a non-election year, voters love to see this and reporters love to write about it.

Yes, folks, that's Democratic Rep. Mike Foote (D) with his arm around Sen. Laura Woods (R). If you're thinking that this doesn't happen very often, you're right.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because the gun magazine limit repeal and Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt's "right to discriminate" bills are up for debate Monday! At which time Kumbaya will be over.

How Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg Keeps The Government Out of Your Business (But Not His)

Wiz-quiz.

Wiz-quiz.

THURSDAY UPDATE: A reader pointed out this 2012 Denver Post story about Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg that you might find relevant to discussion of his $628,000+ in federal cash subsidy payments:

Poor Coloradans who apply for monthly cash assistance would first have to pass a drug test before receiving benefits under a bill that cleared a House committee Thursday.

House Bill 1046, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, [Pols emphasis] requires anyone applying for benefits under the federally funded Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, or TANF, to first pay the $45 cost of taking a drug test.

Those who pass the drug test would be reimbursed by the state and could get TANF benefits. Those who fail, though, would be denied reimbursement and any benefits and could not reapply for TANF again for a year.

Those who fail a second time wouldn't be eligible to reapply for three years.

"If you can spend money on drugs, why do you need the government's check?" Sonnenberg asked members of the House Health and Environment Committee. [Pols emphasis]

Indeed, Senator! You first. Original post follows.

—–

UPDATE #2: None of former Sen. Greg Brophy's $113,000 in federal crop subsidy payments came from melons, which is good because he shoots those. 

—–

UPDATE: Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown, a top 2016 Democratic target and another co-sponsor of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance exchange and subsidies, pulled down over $180,000 in direct cash subsidy payments from the federal government between 1995 and 2012–almost $130,000 of which was subsidy payments for wool and "sheep meat."

Got that? No health insurance subsidy for you, but sheep meat subsidies for J. Paul Brown. That's going to make for one hell of a direct mail piece.

—–

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling is one of the louder voices in the Colorado Senate GOP delegation, both literally and figuratively. Sonnenberg can be reliably counted upon to introduce some of the more combative pieces of legsialation in any given session, and he hasn't disappointed this year as sponsor of bills to roll back Colorado's renewable energy standards and to speculatively "compensate" mineral rights owners if local governments prohibit fracking operations on the surface. On the latter effort, the Craig Daily Press quoted Sonnenberg in typical form:

Sonnenberg said if counties or local government entities cannot afford to pay for what they take, they shouldn’t make regulations limiting mineral rights.

“If you can’t buy it, don’t ban it,” Sonnenberg said.

Got that? The last thing you need is the government up in your business, folks. Let the free market reign!

And then we got to thinking about it: what does Jerry Sonnenberg do for a living?

Jerry Sonnenberg is a Colorado native who has been farming and ranching in northeastern Colorado his entire life. He continues to live and work on the same farm that both his father and he were raised on growing wheat, corn, sunflowers, millet and cattle.

Jerry Sonnenberg is a farmer. Certainly an honorable profession and an important part of Colorado's economy. But in modern American agriculture, as America's growing resource-disconnected urban population is increasingly oblivious to, there's a catch.

The catch is government subsidies.

You see, the agricultural commodities market as we know it today is very far from what you'd call "free." The U.S. Department of Agriculture closely monitors the supply and demand of farm products, and pays billions of dollars each year in direct subsidy payments to farmers to protect their incomes from price volatility. We could write a very long post on how this all works, but the overall goal is to keep food prices in the United States low while keeping farmers gainfully employed. There is a great deal of debate about the efficacy and true beneficiaries of farm subsidies, but the political power wielded by farm states has protected the status quo for the last two decades.

The amount paid to farmers by the USDA in direct subsidies is a public record. The Environmental Working Group maintains a searchable index of receipients of direct farm subsidies since 1995. So we clicked here, and entered the name Jerry Sonnenberg:

sonnenbergsubsidies

That's right! Jerry Sonnenberg received almost SIX HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS in direct cash subsidy payments from the USDA between 1995 and 2012. Clicking through to the breakdown of his subsidy payments shows that over $300,000 was paid to Sonnenberg in wheat crop subsidies alone, with smaller amounts for land conservation and periodic crop disaster declarations.

Again, our purpose here is not to disparage the practice of subsidizing farmers to stabilize the agricultural products market. But when you think about things like Sonnenberg's co-sponsorship of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance marketplace, which could deprive thousands of Coloradans of their subsidies to buy health insurance…well, how is that not as utterly hypocritical as it looks?

We have no doubt that Sonnenberg has a blowhard answer ready, but it is what it is. And the questions this kind of hypocrisy provokes are, in our view, pretty fundamental to debates he is having right now at the state capitol.

Bonus round: search for the names Greg Brophy and Mark Hillman! Or try some others.

House (Finally) Passes DHS Funding Bill as Republicans Abandon Ship

UPDATE: Statement from Rep. Diana DeGette:

“Finally, Republican leaders recognized what has been clear for weeks: whatever their disagreements with President Obama and his actions to address our broken immigration system, Congress must provide the necessary resources to protect our homeland from attacks and be prepared to respond to natural disasters. While we should have taken this action weeks ago, I am pleased to see this get done at last.”

—–

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

This picture of House Speaker John Boehner is a good summation of his last couple of weeks in Congress.

As CNN reports, the House of Representatives finally voted to approve a "clean" funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but all is not well in the GOP caucus:

The House cleared legislation Tuesday that will keep the agency operating through the end of September after a standoff last week threatened to shutter the agency and furlough thousands of workers. The 257-167 vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who rarely casts votes, backed the bill, along with his top lieutenants. A majority of House Republicans opposed the bill. Just 75 GOP lawmakers joined with 182 Democrats to push it across the finish line. [Pols emphasis]

The legislation does nothing to rein in Obama's immigration executive orders — a top priority of conservatives. That issue was a sticking point for weeks as Republicans tried to tie DHS funding to the repeal of the orders but the party couldn't overcome Democratic filibusters in the Senate…

…Boehner told his members Tuesday morning that he had run out of options and the Senate couldn't pass a bill with immigration language attached.

It's nice to see the House doing its job and actually, you know, governing, though the political damage has been considerable on the GOP side. After weeks of arguing, House Speaker John Boehner seems to have all but given up on trying to work with his fractured caucus, which didn't help him anyway; despite holding the largest majority in Congress since the New Freakin' Deal, Republicans couldn't even fund a critical department without the support of Democrats. Colorado's Congressional delegation reflected this divide, with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) the only Republican to vote YES, along with Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Jared Polis.

How bad have things gotten for House Republicans? Bad enough that the American Action Network, a political group aligned with House leadership, spent $400,000 this week on TV and radio ads targeted at Republican dissenters. As Politico reported yesterday:

So, that worked out well.

So, that worked out well.

The nonprofit American Action Network is airing an ad in three states — Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio — urging Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to back funding for the anti-terrorism agency. The 30-second spot will run at least 50 times in each district — on broadcast, in prime slots — Tuesday and Wednesday as the House is expected to take up a DHS funding bill.

The group says the ad campaign, which also includes radio ads on nationally syndicated shows and digital ads in dozens of other districts represented by House conservatives, is the opening salvo of a larger effort to help Republican leaders pass center-right legislation. American Action Network says it will spend millions of dollars to contact voters in the coming months. The move appears designed to give Boehner cover to end the months-long impasse over homeland security funding.

The TV ad feature images of what appear to be terrorists and says that “some in Washington are willing to put our security at risk by jeopardizing critical security funding. That’s the wrong message to send to our enemies.” [Pols emphasis]

Jordan is the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, which led last week's effort to oppose Boehner's vote on DHS funding, and he voted NO today along with Reps. Huelskamp and Bridenstine. Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars going after fellow Republicans in their home districts just to try to get them to not shoot their own toes off. It's safe to say they aren't listening.

Republicans have been getting hammered for weeks by local and national media over an ideologic battle against President Obama's immigration policies…but they didn't do anything to stunt Obama's plans, either. Hell, Brian Shaw might be a better leader for House Republicans at this point.

It was obvious to anyone who could read that Republicans were not going to win this fight, but the degree to which they completely bungled this mess is stunning. This is an absolute disaster for Boehner and Congressional Republicans. It's difficult to see how things won't just get worse from here.

Partisan Battle Lines Forming Over Parental Leave Bill

parental-leave-bill-2013

A fact sheet from 9 to 5 Colorado summarizes House Bill 15-1221, legislation to renew existing Colorado law allowing parents to take unpaid leave for their childrens' school activities. This legislation passed its first House committee test today on a party-line vote, but faces an uncertain future in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate:

In 2009, the Colorado State Legislature passed the Parental Involvement for Academic Achievement Act, which allowed many Colorado employees to take leave to attend their children’s school activities. Research has consistently shown that increased parental involvement in the education and schooling of their children correlates with greater academic achievement outcomes. This legislation expires this year and should be permanently extended.
 
What the Current Parental Involvement Policy Does:

•    Allows employees of Colorado businesses to take up to 18 hours of leave per academic year to attend their children’s parent-teacher conferences, special education services, response to interventions for dropout prevention, attendance, truancy or other disciplinary issues.
•    Allows parents to participate in the above activities for children in Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade.
•    Applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. 
•    Limits leave to 6 hours per month, and the employer may require that the leave be taken in increments of 3 hours or less.
•    Requires parents to provide employers with at least 1 calendar week’s notice of the leave, except in an emergency. 
•    Employers may require that employees provide written verification of the reason for leave, and in the case of leave taken for an emergency, the employee must provide written verification of the leave upon return to work. 
•    Part-time employees accrue their leave at the percentage of full-time hours that they work (if you work 20 hours a week you would receive half of the leave time received by a full-time employee).
•    An employer may limit the leave granted to an employee if the health and safety of a person necessitates that the employee be present at work.  
•    Specifies that businesses that already have comparable leave policies that may be used for the same purpose and under the other provisions of the bill are not required to provide additional leave.
•    Allows for employers to deny leave if their absence would result in a halt in service or production.

House Bill 15-1221 would permanently renew the 2009 Parental Involvement for Academic Achievement Act, and expand the definition of "school activity" to include events like back-to-school meetings and meetings with counselors. This legislation saw a significant fight in 2009 when originally passed, which is one of the reasons it included a five year "sunset" provision requiring it to be reauthorized by the General Assembly. We've seen nothing to suggest that the 2009 bill has caused problems for employers, but Republicans are getting air cover from conservative group Compass Colorado as they try to kill it:

“Everyone wants to encourage parent participation in their children’s academic lives,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “We need to ask ourselves if we really need to legislate every aspect of the employer/employee relationship. Does more regulation imposed on businesses get the desired outcome, or will it just create more red tape and make the employer/employee relationship more adversarial?”

We're not saying they have a good argument, but it's interesting that Republicans are trying to fight what seems like a no-brainer bill. Supporters cite polling that says 93% of parents want to be involved with their child's education, but 52% say work responsibilities make that harder. We're not aware of any Democrats being targeted in 2010 for supporting parental leave legislation–but in 2016, what kinds of ads will be made about Republicans who are trying to repeal it? What does this say about the party who claims they're "pro-family?"

Once again, this is not a fight we would willingly take on, with a huge potential for blowback on Republicans from voters if they kill this bill. But that appears to be what's happening as of now.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 27)

MoreSmarterLogo-Hat1

The dress is definitely bluish-brown. 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…

► Today is the deadline for Congress to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so what should we expect of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner? If you guessed, "punt the issue for three more weeks," you win the door prize. But as Politico reports, Republicans are merely delaying an answer on a budget problem that is about to get much, much worse:

First the good news: Congress appears to have found a way to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security for the next three weeks.

Now the bad: March is beginning to look awfully grim for the new Republican Congress that had lofty expectations for legislating in 2015.

GOP leaders appear set to win approval of their short-term solution to the DHS impasse on Friday, hours before the money runs dry. But that will leave the House and Senate just three weeks to bridge their fundamental differences on funding the department for the long term and blocking President Barack Obama’s changes to the enforcement of immigration policy.

On top of that, Congress must update a complicated Medicare reimbursement formula for doctors. And it needs to pass a budget.

This is where we remind you, again, that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS and they still can't figure out how to govern.

Mr. Spock is dead.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

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John Boehner is Losing It

UPDATE: It's been animated, because of course:

boehnerkiss

Sorry, folks. It can't be unseen now.

—–

Via NBC News, here's House Speaker John Boehner blowing kisses at a reporter who asks a question about funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Watch the video:

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Feb. 26)

MoreSmarterLogo-Hat1

We've installed fresh batteries in the Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese), which is predicting as much as 10 feet of snow today. Or maybe less. 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…

► With one day left to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Colorado's Congressional delegation remains divided on how to move forward — no surprise, perhaps, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner can't even work things out inside their Republican majority. And what about freshman Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)? Here's Mark Matthews of the Denver Post:

Less clear was the stance of newly elected U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The Colorado Republican did not agree to an interview. Instead, his office released a statement that spoke less to a legislative solution and more to the actions of Democrats. "Senate Democrats are playing politics with our national security. It's wrong, and they should stop," he said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

Once again, we remind you that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS. Blaming Democrats for this one is like saying it's John Hickenlooper's fault that the Denver Broncos didn't win the Super Bowl. There's no way out of this mess for Republicans now.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post explains how Republicans got into this DHS funding mess in the first place.

► The Colorado legislature took a Snow Day on Monday because of poor road conditions, but not again today; there's plenty of legislatin' going on under the Golden Dome of the State Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Senate Close to DHS Budget Deal; Republicans are Screwed

kenbuckonthebutton

Republican Rep. Ken Buck is probably a little less enthusiastic about pressing these buttons this week.

As Politico reports:

The Senate is moving quickly to break a weekslong impasse that has threatened funding for the Department of Homeland Security and paralyzed the Capitol, putting pressure on House Speaker John Boehner on the brink of a shutdown of the national security agency.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Wednesday afternoon that they would move forward on a “clean” $39.7 billion DHS-funding bill — free of provisions targeting President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. McConnell agreed to relent after Reid’s caucus filibustered a House-passed bill on four separate occasions, demanding that Republicans strip the immigration provisions or risk a shutdown of the department.

The Senate voted 98-2 to open debate on the House bill, setting the stage for a last-ditch scramble for Congress to act before DHS funding expires on Friday.

Politically-speaking, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basically just punted the ball back to House Speaker John Boehner. The story of this funding bill has largely been about dissention among Republicans than about anything Democrats have proposed, and it's hard to see any scenario where the GOP doesn't lose on this one. The House can hold firm on Tea Party principles and refuse the Senate version, but if they do that and refuse to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for political reasons related to immigration reform, they will hand Democrats the undisputed title of "Party that gets to say it cares more about protecting Americans from terrorism."

And for what? It's not like Congress is just going to stop funding for DHS forever. Republicans have majority control of both chambers of Congress, which limits the number of fingers they can point, and even trying to toss this onto President Obama's shoulders isn't going to save them; Obama is in his seventh year in office and his approval ratings are starting to rise as he nears the end of his stay in the White House.

Whatever happens, this isn't going to end well for Republicans. The only question yet to be answered is this: Just how bad will it get for the GOP?

Localvores, Pick Up Your Forks! Oil and Water Don’t Mix.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

By @ColoFarmFood, crossposted at ColoradoFarmFood.org 

Attention has been focused on Denver, as Governor Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force finishes its work, mostly avoiding the contentious issues that surround the industrial realities of oil and gas—noise, pollution, traffic, and impacts to land and existing uses—which led to its formation 18 months ago. 

Many of Colorado’s farmers, and the farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, wineries and sundry other businesses along those lines, meanwhile, were thinking instead of the weather.  Glad for snow, and the hope for a decent water year.

But watching the weather on the advent of spring does not mean many were not also watching what came out of the Task Force, and paying attention to oil and gas development generally, especially where it impacts or threatens business and operations.  And they always have an eye on their water.

Earlier this month concerned valley residents packed the Paonia High School to learn about and comment on the proposed Bull Mountain natural gas drilling and fracking project planned in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River, and the source of most of the area’s irrigation water. 

GRAND JUNCTION SENTINEL 2/11/15

PAONIA — North Fork Valley residents are rallying again to try and stop oil and gas development involving tens of thousands of acres, but in this case face a daunting challenge because the land already is leased.

Some 200 people turned out at a Bureau of Land Management meeting at Paonia High School regarding SG Interests’ plan to drill up to 146 natural gas wells in the upper North Fork Valley, with many in attendance indicating their concern about the project.

…Residents Tuesday voiced concerns including possible air and water impacts, heavy truck traffic on Highway 133, the potential for harm to the Paonia area’s burgeoning organic farm industry, and whether the local economic benefits are enough to justify the risks. 

…“There’s no reason to use clean water for dirty energy extraction,” Jere Lowe, who owns a local organic farming supply company, said Tuesday.

 

The Bull Mountain Master Development Plan proposes almost 150 new natural gas wells.  In addition to their potential impacts on the valley’s water supplies, they would lie along the world-famous West Elk Scenic Byway in the heart of its aspen country.  

From there, public lands—many that could face future oil and gas development—stretch across Clear Fork Divide, Springhouse Park, Mamm Peak, and over into the Battlement Mesa area, where residents are raising similar concerns. 

GRAND JUNCTION SENTINEL 2/24/15

Among those concerned about both her water and the earthquake risk are Williams’ mom and Gardner’s aunt, Alberta Payton. She lives on a ranch that has been in her family since 1892, and uses her well for drinking and domestic uses. It’s also used to provide water for cows on her property.

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