Another Republican Joins Growing Anti-TABOR Chorus

UPDATE: Vic Vela at Colorado Community Media sheds some light on the arcane workings of TABOR in play here:

A TABOR technicality may require the state to issue pot revenue refunds – even though voters intended for money that's collected from marijuana tax money to go towards school construction and the cost of pot industry regulations.

TABOR is generally thought of as being a statute that requires all tax hikes be approved by the voters. But the technical clause also includes an area that requires the state to issue tax refunds when state spending exceeds expectations that are included in voter information material that is sent out each election, otherwise called the "Blue Book."

That seems to be the case this year and lawmakers are trying to figure out how to deal with it.

"This is confounding," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. "TABOR told us to let the voters decide. The voters have decided and their wishes may be frustrated by something hidden in the TABOR amendment."

Doug Bruce says, "mwah!"

—–

Rep. Cheri Gerou (R).

Rep. Cheri Gerou (R).

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, things sometimes look different from a seat on the powerful legislative Joint Budget Commission. And that includes, where the subject is a reasonable actor, Republicans:

For years Democrats have been ranting and raving about Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which requires voters to approve all tax hikes and keeps state spending from rising beyond a certain level.

On Tuesday, during a Joint Budget Committee briefing on the state’s quarterly revenue forecast, a Republican lawmaker joined them.

“I have to tell you, quite honestly, the more I learn about TABOR, particularly what it did with the floods in our counties, the less and less I like TABOR, and the more insidious I think it has been to state government,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee and is in her final year at the legislature…

“I’ll have an effigy burned in my front yard when I get home, but it’s the honest to goodness truth,” Gerou said. “It’s not been good.” [Pols emphasis]

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Grand Bargain’s proposed Social Security Cuts hurt Dems in recent Florida election

Memo to Mark Udall:

The National Republican Congressional Committee hit Alex Sink from the left on this, saying she "supports a plan that raises the retirement age for Social Security recipients, raises Social Security taxes, and cuts Medicare."  Liberal writers cried hypocrisy, but it didn't matter: Sink lost. For the Left, it's evidence that Democrats need to take a firm line on the entitlement program — or even support expanding it — at a time when some in the party, and especially the White House, have offered concessions.

It couldn't hurt to try. Obviously, Democrats get no political benefit from trying to cut these programs, (unless you count Villagers extolling them for being "grown-ups" which should get them at least a hundred votes in Virginia.) Why they persist in thinking this was good politics is beyond me.  Senator Jeff Merkley came out for Social Security expansion this week and Senator Mark Begich had signed on earlier so we should have a decent experiment in a blue state and a red state on this issue. I have no idea if it will be decisive, but in an off-year election that traditionally tilts heavily to older voters I think it's fair to say that denying the Republicans the ability to slap you in the face with a stated desire to cut Social Security (and a plan to actually improve it!) is a smart idea. 

Mark Udall used to love those pats on the head Lawrence Kudlow gave him for saying he would vote tomorrow to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of a Grand Bargain.

It was stupid then, it's stupid now, and there's plenty of evidence to say Dems, and Mark Udall, should drop the "adults in the room" facade and fully support the middle class and those social safety net programs that have kept it from becoming extinct.

Reminder: TABOR Has a Dark Side

weedmoney

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

Tax revenues from Colorado’s new recreational marijuana industry are pouring into state coffers — and that’s actually a bit of a problem for lawmakers…

According to a legal analysis conducted by the state and obtained by FOX31 Denver, the marijuana revenues are subject to the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which will require lawmakers to take action if tax revenues from the new legal marijuana industry exceed the estimated $67 million in annual revenue that was anticipated in the 2013 Blue Book analysis of Proposition AA, the new sales and excise tax rates voters approved in November.

The legal memorandum from the Office of Legislative Legal Services was sent to members of the Joint Budget Committee Monday night…

The most current Dept. of Revenue estimate forecasts that the state will take in $107 million, exceeding the Blue Book estimate by some $40 million.

The conclusion: the state must lower the tax rate and either refund the excess amount of revenues above the $67 million estimate or refer a measure to the November 2014 or 2015 ballot seeking permission from voters to let the state keep and spend all of the tax revenue from recreational marijuana.

As news reports came in that the tax revenue being collected from the legal sale of marijuana in Colorado was greatly exceeding early estimates–something we predicted would be the case–the possibility that this new robust source of revenue might be subject to Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits was in the back of our minds.

When defending TABOR, Republicans generally stick to the most popular provision of convicted felon Doug Bruce's labyrinthine 1992 constitutional "tax reform" measure: its requirement that affected citizens vote on tax increases. If that was truly all TABOR did, it would be harder for Democrats and good government-minded Republicans–some also part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn TABOR–to publicly oppose it, though the basic question of whether that disrupts the whole principle of small-r republican government remains. When you poll that one aspect of TABOR, naturally, it polls well.

But when you start getting under the hood–how tax increase elections are subject to stringent limits on timing and ballot question language, how TABOR stymies the ability of the state to plan in good times for bad times, how (as may be in this case) the state cannot even take advantage of a huge new revenue source twice approved by voters–it's not nearly as rosy a picture now, is it?

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Beauprez: “I’ve Lived Off The Land All My Life”

chateaudbeauprez2
Chateau d'Beauprez, Lafayette, CO.

Here's a clip of audio from 2006 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's interview with radio host Jimmy Sengenberger that had us blowing soda out our nose when we got it yesterday evening:

Transcript–this clip comes just after Beauprez decries new emission standards passed by Gov. John Hickenlooper's Air Quality Control Commission. If you like, listen to the whole interview here.

BEAUPREZ: Everybody wants clean air, they want a safe environment, they want to be good stewards of the environment, and I'm certainly in that category. As a guy who's lived off the land all of his life, I want to protect that land and that environment. [Pols emphasis]

"Lived off the land all of his life?" It's true that Beauprez's parents were dairy farmers, but the reality is, Beauprez sold off the family farm. The Beauprez family farm is now an upper middle class suburban neighborhood. Beauprez's wealth derives not from farming, but from banking. Now, maybe the beautiful subdivision and golf course that sits on Beauprez's former farm is what he meant by "living off the land," but that's not what will come to mind for most people. As Todd Hartman reported in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News back in 2006:

[Beauprez] went on to sell the cows along with the family farm, converting it to a shiny 1,350-home golf course community in Lafayette. He took the profits from that deal and poured them into a failing hometown bank, building it into a 13-branch showcase that recently sold for $72 million. Beauprez's share: $16.5 million.

You bet Bob Beauprez "lives off the land"–by selling it!

If that's not bad enough: Beauprez made this statement while attacking regulations on oil and gas drilling (listen to the whole interview for context). The land Beauprez "lives on," literally and figuratively, is located in Lafayette.

The same Lafayette that passed a ban on "fracking" last fall.

Could it get any more ridiculous, folks? We're inclined to think not.

Today In BS: Paul Ryan And The “Free Government Lunch”

Stop Whining About Overreaching

A story from outside Colorado, but illustrative for when the same thing happens here. Which it does. A lot. Raw Story:

[Rep. Paul] Ryan’s remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday regarding a “young boy from a very poor family” relying on “a government program” for his lunches was strikingly similar to the premise of the book An Invisible Thread, which recounted author Laura Schroff’s 1986 meeting with an 11-year-old “homeless panhandler” named Maurice, who was receiving lunches through a school program…

On Thursday, Ryan recounted nearly the exact same story, attributing it to Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Director Eloise Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). But Ryan said it was Anderson who met a young student who told her he did not want a lunch from a government program, but one served in a brown paper bag.

“He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him,” Ryan said. “This is what the left does not understand.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Paul Ryan (R).

Rep. Paul Ryan (R).

The Los Angeles Times has a little more of Ryan's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday:

"She once met a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him."

In Ryan's hands, this became a lesson for "the left….What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul."

But as it turns out, Ryan's story was lifted and misattributed from an almost thirty-year-old (that is, Reagan administration) story about a panhandling kid in New York City, not Wisconsin–who didn't want the author's money, but was happy to take food in a brown paper bag because it implied a caring home life. The true story had nothing whatsoever to do with a "government program" of any kind. Times:

So we start with a story about a harried sales executive learning about life from an abandoned child. That gets transformed, via the Republican wringer, into a lesson about the supposedly soul-sapping effect of a government nutritional program, and thence into a reproach to "the left," which doesn't care about the souls of our children, only about making sure they're, you know, fed. This is how the old game of "Telephone" is played in Washington today.

Once outed, Ryan issued an apology of sorts via his Facebook page: "I have just learned that Secretary Anderson misspoke, and that the story she told was improperly sourced. I regret failing to verify the original source of the story, but I appreciate her taking the time to share her insights."

Rep. Paul Ryan has a long and very well-documented history of petty dishonesty during stump speeches, including the one from 2012 about having climbed "40" Colorado fourteener peaks. You would think that so many repeat examples of Ryan demonstrably lying would convince him to, you know, stop lying.

But apparently, that would make for less exciting speeches.

So What You’re Saying Is, Magpul Played Us Like a Fiddle

Colorado-based gun accessory maker Magpul.

Colorado-based gun accessory maker Magpul.

A typically slanted write-up from the conservative "news" site Colorado Observer responds to criticism of Erie-based gun accessory maker Magpul, who is moving their manufacturing operations to Wyoming and Texas with millions of dollars in taxpayer economic development subsidies:

Magpul has come under fire from the left since announcing Jan. 2 that the company intends to move its manufacturing facility to Cheyenne and its corporate office to Texas, making good on last year’s promise to leave Colorado as a result of Democratic gun-control bills signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

A Feb. 10 article on the liberal website ColoradoPols carried the headline: “Reminder: Magpul Played Everybody Like a Fiddle,” while the progressive Colorado Independent ran a Feb. 6 article with the headline, “Magpul is relocating because it landed long-sought financial deal.”

“Far from a hardship, [this] could be the most profitable ‘crisis’ in Magpul’s history!” said Colorado Pols in a Jan. 3 post.

Republicans described the reports as an effort by the left to discredit Magpul and rewrite the narrative of last year’s gun-control melee, which resulted in the historic recalls of two Democratic state senators and the resignation of a third.

“They [Democrats] passed a bill that drove hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of revenue out of the state of Colorado,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray). “How do you defend that, other than to demonize the people who left by saying, ‘Good riddance, they should be gone?’” [Pols emphasis]

Unsurprisingly, Valerie Richardson of the Observer omits the key fact central to our previous stories on this: as reported by local news media last year, Magpul specifically sought and was offered economic subsidies by Texas and Wyoming a year before the gun safety bills later used as a pretext to justify Magpul's move were ever introduced. Setting aside that rather glaring discrepancy, here's what Magpul's spokesman says about those subsidies:

Anderson countered in an email exchange with the Observer “the Wyoming incentives are not ‘subsidies.’”

“[T]hey are loans from Wyoming to the local economic development office Cheyenne LEADS,” said Anderson. “Cheyenne LEADS will use those state funds to build a 100,000+ sq. ft. facility.”

He added that, “LEADS is leasing the facility to Magpul and will repay those state funds.  Magpul has an option after year five of the lease to purchase (the) facility for the full construction cost.”

According to all reports we've read out of Cheyenne, this just isn't accurate–a significant component of the package offered to Magpul consists of grants, not loans. And if you read the weasely language carefully above, he doesn't actually say Magpul is obliged to repay the "full construction cost"–that's just an "option!" According to the Wyoming Eagle Tribune, Magpul is only contractually on the hook for $6 million as part of a "revenue recapture plan."

Bottom line: The superficial story of Magpul's impending departure from Colorado is one that can be gainfully spun by Republicans, as it services lots of other Republican lines of attack. But the truth of this story is very different. When people learn that Magpul was shopping for economic subsidies from the same states, Wyoming and Texas, that it has now announced their move to, a full year before the gun safety bills Magpul claims were the justification for doing so were introduced–even before the mass shooting incidents in Aurora and Connecticut that motivated these bills to begin with–their reaction inevitably changes.

Of course it changes. Because they realize we were all being played like a fiddle.

Poll: Land Use, Clean Air and Water Could Impact 2014 Elections

Colorado College has released results from its 4th Annual "Conservation in the West" poll, which shows that voters are increasingly considering conservation and environmental issues when making their decisions at the ballot box. From a press release:

This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states looked at voter attitudes on a list of issues, including land use, water supplies, air quality and public lands’ impact on the economy. The results show overwhelming – 85 percent – agreement that when the government closes national parks and other public lands, small businesses and communities' economies in the West suffer. In a follow up message to elected officials and land managers, 83 percent believe funding to national parks, forests and other public lands should not be cut, as it provides a big return on a small investment.
 
"The Rocky Mountain region is politically diverse, with communities running the spectrum from red (predominantly) to purple to blue,” said Colorado College McHugh Professor of Leadership and American Institutions and regular Colorado political commentator Tom Cronin. “These poll results reinforce that a love for protected lands ties western voters together. Westerners across the political spectrum support the work of public land managers and expect conserved public lands to remain that way."
 
Other public sentiments expressed in the survey include that:

  • 72 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote more use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
  • 69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.
  • 58 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who votes to increase funding for land-managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service. 

The survey also holds warning signs for candidates, including that:

  • 72 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
  • 67 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who reduces funding for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.
  • 54 percent of westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to stop taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

Of particular interest is how much conservation and environmental issues tend to have a stronger impact on Hispanic voters, who aren't only interested in the issue of immigration reform. If Colorado Republicans are going to start winning over Hispanic voters, renewable energy, clean air, and clean water is a good place to start.

Of (Preble) Mice and Men: The Making of a Non-Scandal

Preble mouse Colorado

Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse. That’s a long name to put on a birth certificate.

This is the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse. He/she looks harmless enough, but last week it inadvertently gave cause for three Republicans to go, well, mouse-shit crazy. The mouse itself isn't all that interesting (unless you're into that sort of thing), but the non-scandal that played out over its status as an Endangered Species is a fascinating look at how quickly some politicians can get moving when they think there's an opportunity to score some mindless political points.

This is also a story of how quickly those same politicians shut up and move on once their "scandal" proves misplaced.

Our story begins with a harmless news release that CBS4 in Denver turned into a serious story about flood recovery efforts. The CBS4 report caused Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-4), state Sen. Greg Brophy, and state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg to collectively go crazy about liberals and Endangered Species and anything else that Democrats might have done wrong. It just wasn't true.

Here's a look at the CBS4 story from Feb. 4, titled, "'Endangered' Mouse Could Delay Flood Recovery":

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning that many flood repair projects could be delayed because they are in an endangered mouse’s habitat.

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is listed as a threatened species, which means it and its habitat are protected by federal law. Its habitat lies along rivers and stream beds where flood repairs are underway.

The news upset Colorado State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents many of the flooded communities. He sent a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation asking it to intervene saying the federal government has put a mouse ahead of Colorado families.

“We’re holding up the ability to redo safe drinking water, to rebuild sewage treatment facilities so we can keep sewage out of the rivers, trying to have a safe environment because of a mouse,” said Sonnenberg.

According to him, communities have to delay repairs after FEMA issued a warning that local governments could lose federal funding if they violate the Endangered Species Act. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner Preble mouse flood recovery

Not pictured: Rep. Sonnenberg and Sen. Brophy running around with their pants aflame

Did you happen to catch the spot where this story went off the rails (if you didn't, take a look at the sentences in bold)? "According to [Sonnenberg]" sounds like the title of a convoluted Indie movie, but for some reason CBS4 thought that state Rep. Sonnenberg would be the ideal person to explain the ins and outs of FEMA policy. Congressman Gardner was all too pleased to ride to the rescue. Here's his press release "demanding" immediate relief from the mighty Preble:

Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-04) took immediate action after it became apparent that flood recovery efforts in Colorado could be slowed significantly due to the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse.

Ooohhh…"immediate action!" But before sending his "immediate action" letter to FEMA and issuing a press release, perhaps Gardner's office should have checked with the people who actually do know what is going on. On Feb. 5, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FEMA issued a joint press release with a pretty unambiguous lede:

Recent news accounts suggesting the Endangered Species Act and the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse are delaying flood recovery projects in Colorado are inaccurate. [Pols emphasis]

From unambiguous lede we move quickly to unambiguous quote:

“We are working very closely with FEMA and other partners to make sure important flood recovery projects proceed on time while ensuring no harm occurs to species listed under the ESA,” said Noreen Walsh, Regional Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. “But let me be clear: the Preble’s and other federally listed species have not, and will not, delay flood recovery efforts in Colorado.” [Pols emphasis]

Not only are the USFWS and FEMA clearly stating that the Preble will NOT impact flood recovery efforts…they are unequivocally saying that the Preble "and other federally listed species" have had ZERO impact on flood recovery efforts thus far. In other words, THIS IS ALL HORSESH*T.

So how did all this happen?

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House Passes Debt Ceiling Bill as Boehner “Gives Up?”

House Speaker John Boehner (R)

I make you laugh? Are you calling me a clown?

Interesting series of events today in our nation's capitol. From NBC News:

The House has passed a "clean" extension of the debt limit.

Twenty-eight Republicans joined all but two Democrats to approve the extension of the debt limit until March 2015 — without any additional legislative wish list items attached…

…Republicans had wanted to attach some kind of policy provision to the must-pass legislation. Members suggested including measures like approving the Keystone XL pipeline or repealing part of the Affordable Care Act, but leaders were unable to secure enough votes for those add-ons to ensure passage. The White House also insisted it would not pay “ransom” for the extension, a position that Obama successfully held during last year’s government shutdown.

Ultimately, House Speaker John Boehner brought a “clean” debt limit extension for a vote, a move that incensed many conservatives who wanted to extract some kind of concession from the White House.

Prior to the vote, our friends at "The Fix" wrote about the Greek tragedy that has become Speaker Boehner's legacy, suggesting that Boehner "quit" on the debt ceiling bill because he couldn't reach a deal with the many different factions of his Caucus:

House Speaker John Boehner summed up his speakership during a press conference Tuesday morning: “We don’t have 218 votes. When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing.”

Boehner was talking specifically about his failed attempts to cobble together a deal that would have allowed the Republican House majority to support an increase in the debt ceiling.  Over the past 10 days, he had tried to lure tea party conservatives to vote "yes" by putting approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, elimination of risk corridors in the Affordable Care Act and, finally, restoring the cost of living adjustment for members of the military on the table. Nothing worked. The simple fact is that there was no proposal that Boehner and his leadership team could think up that could overcome the fact that 30-40 Republicans wouldn't vote for any debt ceiling increase.

And so, Boehner gave up. "Let his party give him the debt ceiling he wants," Boehner said of President Obama. (Boehner's work is far from finished, of course. He will still need to deliver at least 17 Republican votes — if all 199 Democrats vote for their clean increase. And that's far from a sure thing.)

We've seen this movie before.  From the fiscal cliff to the farm bill to the government shutdown — and at several points in between — the narrative arc just keeps repeating itself: A controversial deadline looms, Boehner and the GOP leadership try like hell to avert it through a series of offers to the tea party wing of the conference, those offers are rejected, and Boehner is left throwing up his hands and cutting a deal with Democrats.

This, as has become clear over the past year or so, is Boehner's fate as Speaker: To lead a group of Republicans who do not want to be led.  And, ironically, even in the attempt to lead his conference (that is his job after all), Boehner has become further villainized by outside conservative groups.

In Boehner's defense, it is exceedingly difficult to lead a group of Republicans who not only don't want to be led, but don't know where they want to go anyway. Many conservative groups, such as the Senate Conservatives Fund, are openly calling for Boehner's ouster as Speaker, as though changing the man at the top would have any effect on changing the incompatible dynamics of the Republican caucus.

But after years of open frustration with Tea Party Republicans, perhaps Boehner is charting a new direction as leader — by no longer pretending to hide his cards. At the very least, perhaps Boehner has come to a different conclusion following last fall's government shutdown debacle. If they're not going to let him steer the ship, at least he's going to decide which iceberg to ram.

 

Reminder: Magpul Played Everybody Like a Fiddle

magpulheadline

As reported by the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle's Becky Orr Friday, and apropos today with a bill to repeal Colorado's magazine limit law up for certain death debate in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee:

The Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board approved a $13 million grant Thursday to help a company that makes magazines and other gun accessories move to Cheyenne.

The board voted 4-1 in favor of the grant to help recruit Magpul Industries, a company based in Erie, Colo. SLIB is made up of the top five elected officials in Wyoming…

The company is expected to be in temporary quarters in Cheyenne as early as this summer. The business will remain there while a new building is built.

The state and local investment in the relocation effort will reach about $17 million over 20 years. The return to the public is estimated at about $20 million.

Colorado-based gun accessory maker Magpul.

Colorado-based gun accessory maker Magpul.

Last Thursday, the Colorado Independent's Shelby Kinney-Lang published an in-depth look at Erie-based ammunition magazine maker Magpul's impending move to Cheyenne, and the millions in taxpayer-funded financial incentives they'll receive to do so–and as we've discussed in detail, how that move appears to have been in the offing long before Colorado passed any law limiting gun magazine capacity.

Magpul announced last month that it would be moving its manufacturing to Wyoming and headquarters to Texas, and it is now clear that financial considerations unsurprisingly dominated negotiations around the move.

Yet the expansion plan itself and the company’s financial bargaining never made news in all of the reporting around Magpul last spring during the gun-law debates at the capitol. The main narrative spinning around Magpul at the time was that the company would move as a political statement. As the conservative Colorado Observer put it, Magpul executives “announced they would leave in reaction to the Democratic state legislature’s passage of gun-control bills.”

But Wyoming and Texas offered financial incentives to Magpul in 2012, when the company began exploring how best to realize its expansion plans and long before the gun measures had even been introduced…

Magpul’s January press release announcing its plan to move to Wyoming and Texas seemed to suggest that 92 percent of its Colorado workforce would join the company outside the state. But Magpul’s Duane Liptak told the Denver Post that wasn’t the case, that most of the company’s employees would be left behind in Erie. Liptak did not respond to the Independent’s requests for clarification, though a story about Magpul in the [Casper] Star-Tribune states that “some” unknown number of employees will move with the company and that 184 positions will be available in Wyoming. A more recent AP story says Magpul will bring “90 new jobs” to Cheyenne.

We do expect that executives from Magpul will testify at today's hearing, and that the example of their leaving Colorado–expressed in plaintive terms as "jobs lost"–will be frequently invoked as a reason a central magazine limit law should be repealed. But as we've tried diligently to ensure our readers understand, there's much more to this story–from Colorado employees who may or may not move/commute to Cheyenne, to the millions of dollars Magpul was shopping other states for before Colorado's magazine limit law was ever introduced.

Debate the efficacy of the law all you want, but don't misrepresent what happened here.

A Better “Amazon Tax?”

onlinetax

As the Durango Herald's Joe Hanel reports:

Democrats are back with another attempt to tax Internet sales, and this year, they are confident the courts will be on their side.

The so-called “Amazon tax” has roiled the Legislature for the last five years. Colorado passed an Internet tax law in 2010, but its status has been uncertain after it was thrown out by a federal judge, then reinstated and currently is the subject of a new lawsuit that seeks to block it again.

Colorado isn’t alone in trying to impose taxes on Internet sales. States got a big boost in December when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a New York law passed in 2008 to tax companies such as Amazon.com…

“It’s really simple. Our brick-and-mortar businesses are being undermined,” [sponsoring Rep. Lois] Court said.

Supporters include the Colorado Retail Council, a lobbying group for local businesses.

Here's the full text of the Marketplace Fairness and Small Business Protection Act as introduced.

The fight over collection of Colorado's standard state use tax of 2.9% for online purchases has raged in the Colorado legislature, and on this blog, for a number of years. As Hanel reports, Colorado passed a bill in 2010 meant to push online retailers to remit this tax, more or less by imposing an onerous paperwork requirement if they didn't. That law was ruled unconstitutional in 2012 by a federal judge, whose ruling was then overturned on appeal. The court battle over that law continues, but as Hanel reports, House Bill 14-1269 could render the issue moot.

In the time between passage of the 2010 "Amazon Tax" and today, the question has shifted at least rhetorically in favor of taxing online purchases, with large online retailers like Amazon expressing a new willingness to remit taxes in a "fair" manner. Federal legislation has been introduced to create a nationwide system for sales tax collection on online purchases, but like so many agenda items in today's paralyzed Congress, its status today is "uncertain."

But the bottom line hasn't changed: business groups like the Colorado Retail Council support collecting tax on internet sales because local retail has been severely impacted by the switch to tax-free online buying and selling. Not only has it hurt brick-and-mortar local businesses, the state and local communities are deprived of revenue. It can't–and shouldn't in a free market–be undone, but there's nothing radical about trying to level the playing field. In fact, claims that these laws are "anti-business," generally from Republican lawmakers, could not be more wrong. This is pro-business.

That is, pro local business. Now that this is becoming a more prevalent attitude nationwide, it will be interesting to see if House Bill 1269 gets a better reception from Amazon's many previous defenders.

More Republican Bills “Killed” With No Witnesses

Rep. Justin Everett (R).

Rep. Justin Everett (R).

A release from the Colorado AFL-CIO celebrates the death of two bills in the House State Affairs Committee today–House Bill 14-1087 to outlaw the state's public employee union, and House Bill 14-1098, this year's version of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-authored "Work For Less" anti-union bill:

Today the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs overwhelmingly rejected dual proposals to “Prohibit collective bargaining for public employees” (HB14-1087) and “Prohibit discrimination labor union participation” (HB14-1098).  Both proposals would strip away the right to come together for better wages and working conditions—as the Denver Broncos currently do…

In response, Mike Cerbo, the executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO made the following statement:
 
Colorado’s working families applaud the members of the committee today who rejected these irresponsible policies. Republicans whine about legislative overreach and talk about preserving individual rights, yet they will not stand up for the basic rights of individuals to come together to call for better wages, working conditions and quality of life. They have been stuck in a race to the bottom. The legislature was right in discarding these proposals.

Of particular note was the manner in which the bill died. The legislation from Rep. Justin Everett — to ban public employee unions — was apparently not worth its sponsor's time, either:

(more…)

Are we running a state or a fast food chain?

(Quite a smackdown of the Denver Post – promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Thursday, the Denver Post editorial board published a brief but disingenuous editorial that can only fairly be described as a declaration of war against Colorado’s middle class vis-à-vis Colorado’s state employees.

At issue, ostensibly, is the 3% pay raise that state employees have been advocating for since last fall and which was given temporary approval by the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Monday.

But really the issue goes well beyond state employees – this is an issue of whether Colorado is going to have an economy that works for the middle-class. This is about whether or not Colorado policymakers are going to lead on the issue of income inequality or whether they’re going to perpetuate economic stagnation for Colorado’s middle-class. The Post has clearly chosen the side of economic stagnation for the majority of Coloradans and now the question is which side are our elected leaders on?

The Post blithely states that the 3% raise plus average merit pay comes with an $88 million price tag. That number is presented without any citation or context in a deliberate attempt to stoke maximal outrage. The Post neglects to mention that the governor’s budget request is for $58.5 million in salary and merit pay funds, a request they seem to endorse when stating, “It’s not a question of whether state workers deserve a pay hike.”

So fully 2/3rds of what the Post insinuates is an extreme and untenable financial outlay had already been requested by the governor and is endorsed by the Post. Let us assume, arguendo, that the Post’s completely uncited $88 million figure is correct. The governor’s total budget request for 2014/15 is $21.9 billion dollars – $88 million dollars is just 0.4% of that total budget. If 30,000 middle-class workers aren’t worth 0.4% of our budget then what are they worth?

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Urban Myth Becomes “Clown Car Caucus” Legislation

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Last Tuesday, we took note of a spoof story on a satire "news site," The National Report, hilariously breaking the scandalous news of food stamps being accepted at Colorado's new retail marijuana stores:

“If you are a tax payer in Colorado, you get to pay for welfare recipients, a majority of whom are Democrats of course, to smoke pot now,” stated Denver resident Paul Horner.  ”Where will this all end?  First it was Obamaphones, then Obamacare, now Obamaweed?  Will we be paying for tattoos, manicures, body piercings, gay marriages and porn next?”

Store owner JC Franco defended his decision to accept EBT cards in an interview with National Report:  “Everyone should have access to marijuana. If a user is not able to afford their buds on a limited budget then having taxpayers help cover the shortage is only fair.  This isn’t a right only for the wealthy.”

So, as most readers of this piece were quickly able to determine, this didn't really happen. The National Report's website clearly disclaims that "all news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news." Unfortunately for the Douglas County Republican Party, as we discussed Tuesday, this story was lifted and reprinted on a number of real, non-spoof conservative websites as fact. It subsequently picked up with no disclaimer by lots of conservatives, including the Douglas County GOP's Twitter feed. It was our assumption that a little good-natured ribbing of our gullible friends in Douglas County would be the end of it.

weedopenBut as AP's Kristen Wyatt reports via CBS4, that's not the end of the story after all!

Food stamps for a pot brownie? It’s an urban myth in Colorado, but state lawmakers want to make sure that doesn’t happen. [Pols emphasis]

A bill proposed this week by several Republicans would add marijuana dispensaries to liquor stores, gun shops and casinos as places where recipients of public assistance payments and food stamps can’t use their electronic benefits cards to access cash.

There haven’t been any reports of public EBT cards being used at marijuana dispensaries. But lawmakers say pot shops should be added to the law to make clear it’s not legal.

“We need this bill, if for nothing else, as a statement,” said Rep. Jared Wright, R-Grand Junction… [Pols emphasis]

That's right, folks! Senate Bill 14-037 is actual legislation meant to ensure a satirical news story never "comes true." Senate Bill 37's sole Senate sponsor is the infamous Sen. Vicki Marble. In the House, the bill is sponsored by pretty much the entire "clown car" caucus of downright wacky and frequently-embarrassing GOP representatives: Reps. Jared Wright, Dan Nordberg, Perry Buck, Steve Humphrey, and Lori Saine. If they could just get Bob Gardner and Janak Joshi to sign on, it would be pretty much a perfect caricature.

Dispensary owners say they’ve been debunking rumors about food stamp use in marijuana shops.

According to Wyatt, the Marijuana Industry Group hasn't yet taken a position on Senate Bill 37. To be fair, they also haven't taken a position we've seen on the Daily Currant's shocking headline from last week, "Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization." There are probably a few other spoof stories about marijuana in Colorado they haven't taken a stand on. Which makes sense once you know they're fake.

Back in reality, only specific qualifying food items can be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. Retailers who want to accept these funds must apply and be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We feel pretty confident that any licensed retail marijuana merchant who tried to accept SNAP funds for the purchase of marijuana, or anything containing it, would be frog-marched to the federal prison in Englewood faster than you can say "pass the bong." With lines around the block full of eager buyers with pockets full of cash, the idea that any marijuana retailer would need or want to try this is simply laughable.

With that said, AP reports that recipients of Social Security for Disability and certain other assistance funds that are deposited to the same account can be used essentially as cash for those funds–our understanding is that items are allotted to different funding pools from the same card at the point of sale. This has led to legislation prohibiting these cards being used at casinos and liquor stores. Those aren't "food stamp" funds at all, of course, but the outrage a good conservative feels at the mere thought of public assistance funds being spent in such disreputable places motivated them to be absolutely certain those immoral entitlees use an ATM across the street.

We suppose that alone might give this bill some pro forma utility–a "statement," like Rep. Wright says. What urban myth do you suppose our intrepid "clown car" caucus should tackle next? We open the floor to suggestions.