Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 5)

Cinco-LogoIt’s Cinco de Mayo, which translates in Denver to “Election Day.” 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…

► It’s Election Day in Denver. If you still have a mail ballot at home, you’re going to need to truck that sucker to a drop-off location before 7:00 p.m. Visit the website of the Denver Clerk and Recorder for drop-off information.

 ► Republican-led efforts to pass a fetal homicide Personhood bill in the legislature came to a predictable end yesterday when a House Committee axed SB-268 on a party-line vote.

 ► The U.S. Supreme Court seems a little hazy about what to do with legal marijuana, so they are asking the advice of the U.S. Solicitor General. As it turns out, we still have a Solicitor General.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Jeffco PTA Calls for Censure of Board Member Julie Williams

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Republican Julie Williams, Member of the Jefferson County School Board.

A few weeks ago, controversial Jefferson County School Board member Julie Williams upped her own ante on inappropriate behavior when she used social media accounts to promote efforts to oppose what she called “perverse indoctrination.” As we wrote on April 19:

The problem here is obvious to anyone who knows anything about Julie Williams, a close family member of the “Neville Nutters” clan of far-right Republican political figures. The reason Williams posted a fringe anti-LGBT hate group’s information about a walkout to counter the Day of Silence protests against bullying is simple: that’s where she gets her information from as a member of the far-right fringe. Although some of the worst examples have reportedly been purged along with this latest post, Williams’ Facebook page has lots of examples of the kind of fringy “wisdom” that we have every reason to assume informs her votes on the school board.

As for not having read the link she posted, that would have to be so literally true–the very first sentence contains the words “perverse indoctrination”–that it’s difficult to believe. It’s a much more likely scenario to us that one of the aforementioned press flacks had to explain to Ms. Williams how “perverse indoctrination” is not an acceptable way for a board member to refer to a district-sanctioned event against bullying LGBT students.

This did not go over well, obviously. In a letter sent today to the Jefferson County School Board, Michelle Patterson, President of the Jefferson County Council PTA, asks the school board to take the step of a formal censure of Williams:

If this were the first time we had seen this sort of careless thought and behavior from Ms. Williams, this community might be more forgiving, but it is not. In light of this, Jeffco PTA’s Board of Directors requests the topic of a formal censure of Julie Williams be added to the May 7 meeting agenda. [Pols emphasis] With a vote to censure Ms. Williams, this school board can send Jefferson County a strong message. The message must be that you stand with EVERY student, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation and against intolerance of any kind.

You can read the full letter here (PDF: PTA-JulieWilliams-Censure) or check the full text after the jump.

(more…)

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 Tuesday (April 28)

Hey, there it is! Welcome back, Sun. 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…

► Prosecutors are scheduled to call their first witness today in the Aurora Theater Shooting trial. The Aurora Sentinel provides a handy update for Day Two.

► As the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments over same-sex marriage, experts on both sides of the argument seem to think equality is a foregone conclusion. Or…maybe not?

► So-called fetal homicide Personhood legislation limped out of the State Senate yesterday. Senate Bill 268 is unlikely to make it through the State House, especially after running into all manner of political problems in the Senate. 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 23)

By the end of the week, the black market for carnitas will be booming. 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…

► After five months of waiting, the U.S. Senate is finally on the cusp of confirming President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner announced this morning that he planned to vote NO on Lynch’s confirmation. Seriously.

► There is a concerted effort underway in Jefferson County to “destroy” the teacher’s union, as Colorado Pols reported late yesterday. Jon Caldara and the Independence Institute may need to work fast — Julie Williams and the right-wing Jeffco School Board might just “destroy” the entire school district first.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Jon Caldara Pitches “Dougco-Style” Jeffco Schools Takeover

UPDATE: Jon Caldara responds via Twitter:

And there you have it, folks…

—–

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

We were forwarded scanned copies today of a lengthy letter from the right-wing Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara, soliciting funds from members to wage war against “the teachers unions and their Leftist allies in Jefferson County.” We’ve posted all eight pages of Caldara’s letter below (click to pull up high resolution scans)–safe to say that this letter was not intended for consumption outside a very conservative audience, as the stated goals of Caldara’s campaign are distantly out of the mainstream.

For one thing, the “libertarian” Caldara launches into a defense of last year’s controversial AP History curriculum review proposal that would make Julie Williams blush:

caldarajeffcoaphis

That “the union” staged last year’s enormous student protests will come as a surprise to the students who actually organized them, and who explained to everyone who would listen that they were outraged by Williams’ AP History “review” proposal without anyone’s help. It’s worth noting that Caldara is aligned with Republican politicians who sent out mailers last year using doctored photos of student protesters to imply their support–even though the students were protesting against the GOP-dominated school board’s actions. Republican politicians who benefited from those mailers include Tim Neville, the brother-in-law of board member Julie Williams.

And again, isn’t Caldara supposed to be a “libertarian?” Don’t libertarians respect questioning authority in the classroom? We can only assume that Caldara wasn’t writing for a libertarian audience.

Here’s another tidbit that won’t sit well in swing Jefferson County. Ever since taking control of the school board in 2013, the new conservative majority has insisted that they were not modeling their agenda on Douglas County, the arch-conservative stronghold presently mired in a lawsuit over religious school vouchers, and which has seen considerable turnover of teachers and staff since a right-wing activist school board started enacting sweeping changes. Well folks, don’t tell that to Jon Caldara:

caldaradougco

caldaradougco2

We’d say their cover is pretty well blown at this point, but in case you needed more proof, here you go.

You can read Caldara’s angry screed in its entirety after the jump–click on the images to pull up full-resolution versions. And next time somebody tells you that there isn’t a right-wing ideological plot afoot to radically alter one of Colorado’s best-performing public school districts, show them this letter.

Because apparently there is.

(more…)

Jeffco School Board’s Julie Williams Promotes Student Walk Out Against “Perverse Indoctrination”

SUNDAY UPDATE #2: Embattled Jeffco school board member Julie Williams does have someone in her corner–Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt:

chapswilliams2

Something tells us this is not the kind of backup Williams’ press handlers are looking for…

—–

SUNDAY UPDATE: It’s possible that not even the army of Republican media flacks now working for the Jefferson County Board of Education’s conservative majority can save board member Julie Williams now, as her preposterous excuses for posting a link to an anti-LGBT hate group help drive the expanding story–9NEWS’ Jonathan Gonzales reports:

After 9NEWS received numerous complaints from some students, parents and teachers, board member Julie Williams said she was simply trying to inform parents who had been asking her for more information about the protest, which is known as the “Day of Silence.”

“I posted it as information because I believe parents have the right to know what’s happening in our schools, and then it’s up to a parent whether they want to opt in or out,” [Pols emphasis] Williams told 9NEWS. “Should’ve read it before I posted it. I mean I did make a serious mistake there with that.”

And FOX31’s Kent Erdahl:

The “Day of Silence” is a silent protest conducted by students across the country each year, designed to raise awareness of bullying, especially involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

“Seven out of 10 gay and lesbian students experience harassment just because of who they are,” said Dave Montez, with One Colorado. [Pols emphasis]

Jeffco board member Julie Williams says when several parents asked her about the Day of Silence last week, she didn’t know what to tell them…

The problem here is obvious to anyone who knows anything about Julie Williams, a close family member of the “Neville Nutters” clan of far-right Republican political figures. The reason Williams posted a fringe anti-LGBT hate group’s information about a walkout to counter the Day of Silence protests against bullying is simple: that’s where she gets her information from as a member of the far-right fringe. Although some of the worst examples have reportedly been purged along with this latest post, Williams’ Facebook page has lots of examples of the kind of fringy “wisdom” that we have every reason to assume informs her votes on the school board.

As for not having read the link she posted, that would have to be so literally true–the very first sentence contains the words “perverse indoctrination”–that it’s difficult to believe. It’s a much more likely scenario to us that one of the aforementioned press flacks had to explain to Ms. Williams how “perverse indoctrination” is not an acceptable way for a board member to refer to a district-sanctioned event against bullying LGBT students.

And we’d say that speaks for itself. Original post follows.

—–

UPDATE: Via Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia, full retreat:

Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams said late Friday that she was “sincerely sorry” and that she would remove a link on her personal Facebook page that she shared that encouraged families to keep their students home Friday and “away from perverse indoctrination” of the“homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda.”

“To be honest with you, I didn’t read the article,” Williams said. “I just saw it and thought I was sharing information with parents.” [Pols emphasis]

…SaveCalifornia.com describes itself as a “frontline pro-family leader standing strong for moral virtues for the common good.” But the Southern Poverty Law Center considers the organization a hate group, akin to the white supremacy political party American Freedom Party and Westboro Baptist Church.

…Williams’ post, first revealed Friday afternoon by the political blog ColoradoPols.com, will likely provide grist for her critics. [Pols emphasis]

Yes, that seems likely. Original post follows…

—–

doswalkout

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

A Facebook post from Jefferson County School Board member Julie Williams, who gained infamy last year as the main proponent of a politically biased “review” of AP U.S. History that led to massive protests by students, is promoting…well, a walk out by students–but not for the same reasons that Jeffco students had last fall. From the link she shared:

If you have children in K-12 government schools, in California or another state, please keep them home and away from perverse indoctrination on Friday, April 17.

That’s the day of the so-called “Day of Silence,” where sexually confused students and teachers refuse to speak during the entire academic day. They’ll indoctrinate everybody else through handouts and chalkboard writings and videos and other propaganda tools. They’ll teach children to support and embrace the unnatural and unhealthy homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda and will label anyone who’s against it a “bigot,” a “hater,” or worse…

[N]o matter what, please keep your children home on April 17, to express your strong disapproval of the pro-perversity state school bureaucracy. Your children’s hearts and minds matter!

Today marks the annual Day of Silence, a protest originally organized by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and carried out autonomously by students and faculty nationwide to raise awareness about bullying and violence against LGBT students. The event is opposed by the organization that sent out the above action alert, the Campaign for Children and Families, which has been heavily involved in the battle against marriage equality in California and elsewhere.

Now, given the umbrage Williams took with students who walked out in protest against reviewing the district’s history curriculum to ensure it “promotes patriotism,” isn’t it hypocritical to encourage students to stay out of school to protest the LGBT Day of Silence? That’s the question we ask before the real question, which is how Williams can conscionably promote this hateful vitriol against “perverse” students she is charged with representing as a member of the school board.

Unfortunately, we already know the answer to the second question. She got elected.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 14)

Forgot to do your taxes? You’ve got a good 36 hours left. 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 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…

(more…)

GOP Chairman Withdraws From Jeffco Schools Event

Colorado GOP chairman Steve House.

Colorado GOP chairman Steve House.

A mini-uprising from Jefferson County parents appears to have scuttled another attempt by the conservative Jeffco school board majority to inject partisan politics into the work of Colorado’s biggest public school district. Here’s the text of a letter we were forwarded from a Jeffco parent to the board, questioning an upcoming appearance by new Colorado GOP chairman Steve House at an upcoming board retreat:

Dear John, Julie and Ken,

I just received the email from Helen Neal with the link to the agenda for the Board Retreat next Thursday. I am disheartened and disappointed that Steve House remains on your Retreat Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education. On the agenda, Mr. House is listed as the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. I see nothing that would even remotely connect him to education in his professional role. I even looked over his profile on LinkedIn…nowhere in his “experience” does his list anything even remotely connected to education. Nor does education appear in the 50 skills he has listed.

Could you please explain to me (and the myriad other taxpayers who are concerned at this line-up of “innovation experts”) what Steve House has to do with education innovation? Why are you wasting taxpayer time and money on this farce? Consider the district staff who must attend your meetings. Why are you wasting their time? From what I can tell, I have more education expertise than Mr. House. What I don’t have, however, is a “certificate” from the Leadership Program of the Rockies. It seems that’s all it takes to make it in Jeffco these days. From our communications director to a guest panel on education innovation – educational expertise is no longer required to guide our school district, just participating in a right-wing organization one of whose main goals is to destroy public education.

We live in an amazing county, state and country – surely there are ACTUAL experts on education innovation that could provide useful information to the Board of Ed and the district. Mr. House has no credentials to be participating in the panel, and the three of you, in supporting his participation, are an embarrassment to public education. For people who rely so heavily on data, I can see none to support his role on the panel.

I strongly urge you to remove him from the panel on education innovation – his participation makes a mockery of the Board of Ed of Jeffco.

We’re not privy to whatever discussion that took place between the receipt of this letter by the conservative Jeffco board and now, but the board’s agenda for the upcoming retreat in question has changed as of today:

Subject: Retreat: Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education (EL-11)
Type: Discussion

estimated time: 7:30 p.m. (estimated duration: 2 hours)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Tony Lewis, executive director, Donnell-Kay Foundation
Scott Fast, parent, Columbine High School, retired executive director, Accenture Foundation
Steve House, chairman, Colorado Republican Party withdrew [Pols emphasis]

So much for that! The only thing that remains is for an intrepid reporter to ask two questions: why House withdrew, and for what reasons the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party was picked for this “retreat” to begin with.

You know, beyond the obvious reasons that have nothing to do with education.

Something Stinks On The State Board of Education

Val Flores, Colorado Board of Education.

Val Flores, Colorado Board of Education.

Several local organizations including Planned Parenthood and One Colorado, the state’s major LGBT advocacy group, sent out action alerts to their members yesterday warning about an upcoming vote by the Colorado Board of Education that could do major harm to a program known as the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. From Planned Parenthood’s alert yesterday afternoon:

Every two years, Colorado middle and high schoolers take an important, anonymous, voluntary survey that provides our state with vital information about their health and well-being. The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) determines the prevalence of health-risk behaviors and trends related to this behavior, including: physical activity & nutrition, school & family, injury & violence, mental health, alcohol & drug use, and sexual health. And the data is used for creating important policies and programs to better serve Colorado’s youth.

This year access to that survey is being obstructed. Our opposition is trying to change the survey by creating a difficult process for youth. This process could significantly decrease Colorado youth’s access to the survey, and lower response rates by up to 30%.

Meanwhile, the current process already has several opportunities for parents and students to opt out of the survey. Changing this process will only reduce the data that helps the state allocate resources, and most damagingly, could result in negative impacts for our vulnerable youth.

Conservatives on the state board of education, led by GOP lobbyist and appointed board member Steve “Prince of Darkness” Durham (actually his nickname under the Gold Dome, we didn’t make it up) of Colorado Springs, want to substantially reduce student participation in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. This anonymous survey asks a range of questions about behavior and lifestyle that Durham claims could be “self-incriminating,” and therefore wants parents to affirmatively opt in students to the survey instead of the current opt-out system. That seemingly small change would have the effect of greatly reducing response to what advocates say is crucial to understanding and providing the right services for at-risk students of all kinds. With their bills dying in the split state legislature, supporters of the “Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights” legislation and other similar proposals are now looking to this vote on the state board of education for a victory.

What we’ve heard about the dynamics of the current board suggests that this vote is very much in doubt, with at least one member of the conservative majority not on board with hobbling the HKCS. Attention appears to be focused on the would-be “safe” Democratic representative on the board for Denver, Val Flores–and there’s a problem. Since winning the CD-1 seat on the state board of education last November, Flores has apparently manifested as a tool of Durham and the far-right wing of the board: voting repeatedly following Durham’s explicit lead, and severely straining her relationship with her former supporters. In the case of the Healthy Kids Survey, the “opposition” consists almost completely of manufactured controversy from the same Tim Neville conspiracy theory types that backed the attacks in the legislature this year against immunizations. To say that these actors do not have the best interests of a diverse urban population like Denver at heart is a considerable understatement.

So why the hell is Denver’s voice on the state board of education wavering? We haven’t heard a good answer for this, but we’re told that a vote to gut the Healthy Kids Survey could be the last straw for Flores politically. She may be voting like a Colorado Springs Republican, but that’s not who she answers to at the ballot box.

Stay tuned, we’ll update this story after the vote tomorrow.

Jeffco School Board Media Flacks Doth Protest Too Much

Michelle Balch Lyng, Lisa Pinto.

Michelle Balch Lyng, Lisa Pinto.

We talked last month about a GOP-aligned media relations shop, Novitas Communications, that was hired by the Jefferson County Board of Education’s new communications director Lisa Pinto–herself a longtime Republican political operative. Novitas’ contract to “shift” coverage of the controversial board majority to positive from the more or less unbroken string of disastrous press the district’s conservative majority has earned since taking office is a tall order, but we’ve been watching since this announcement for signs of Novitas and their conservative usual suspect friends swinging into action.

This week, we began to see the conservative media counterstrategy on behalf of the Jeffco school board take shape. Conservative blog Complete Colorado teamed up with the Independence Institute to hit back against the army of critics of the Jeffco school board majority on social media:

Parents, students, and teachers upset with the Jefferson County Public School District Board of Education majority members and select district staff continue to use social media to get their frustrations out.

However, some of those targeted by anonymous Twitter handles call their messages rude, intimidating, unflattering, and just plain mean at times.

And it appears the @notlisapinto, @notjohnnewkirk, @notdanmcminimee, @notkenwitt and @notjuliejeffco accounts are being operated with the blessing of the Colorado teachers union top official and the two top officials for the Jefferson County Parent Teacher Association – despite those organizations touting their goals as student-based and continually denouncing bullying through the #standup4kids Twitter hash tag.

Lisa Pinto, chief communications officer for Jeffco, said the Tweets about her are hurtful and judgmental. Because Pinto is not an elected official, those posting to her site could be held liable for the remarks…

#jeffcoschoolboardhistory

#jeffcoschoolboardhistory

First of all, there’s no question that Twitter has not been very good for the conservative Jefferson County school board majority. Last fall, the board’s proposal to “review” the district’s AP history curriculum to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, and respect for authority” became a worldwide news story largely because of the Twitter hashtag #jeffcoschoolboardhistory–which went viral with literally thousands of satirical Tweets lampooning Julie Williams and the proposal generally. Another Twitter hashtag, #standup4kids, is a major communications hub for opponents attending Jeffco board meetings.

So yeah, the Jeffco school board majority probably aren’t big fans of Twitter.

Hoping to garner sympathy for the board majority and discredit intense criticism on Twitter, the Independence Institute put up a low-quality website aggregating Tweets from some of these pseudonymous accounts. In the Complete Colorado post, there are allegations of racially charged Tweets against Pinto, who is Hispanic, but we haven’t seen that proven–or even clearly alleged which of the many Twitter accounts involved in discussion of the Jeffco school board might be responsible. The examples of “mean Tweets” posted to the Independence Institute’s Mean Girlz site aren’t anything close to that level of offense, and we assume if bonafide examples of racial harassment existed they would be front and center. Certainly anonymous Tweets can be meanspirited, but attempting to discredit real people simply because they “Re-Tweeted” something is asinine. And as for the notion that these accounts are operating “with the blessing” of the PTA or anyone else? Based on the Complete Colorado blog post, that appears to be totally baseless conjecture at best, and possibly downright libelous.

Bottom line: whining about treatment on social media doesn’t make the conservative Jeffco school board majority or their army of paid media flacks look good. Twitter is just one venue in which damaging information about the board majority’s actions flows freely to the public, and overwhelmingly, the content speaks for itself. If the board’s media flacks want to respond, the way to do that is factually–not by complaining about meanie anonymous Twitter trolls and playing silly guilt-by-association games.

Another Contentious Jeffco School Board Meeting Tonight

When you're done trying to pull your hair out, you may look like this.

When you’re done trying to pull your hair out, you may look like this.

The always contentious Jefferson County School Board convenes again tonight to discuss their plan to make major changes to several schools in the Wheat Ridge/Arvada area.

Earlier this week, YourHub reporter Josie Klemaier took a look at the latest controversy regarding the unpredictable school board:

The Jefferson County Public Schools board proposed at its March 5 meeting that Manning, an option school, take over the Everitt Middle School building in Wheat Ridge, which would allow Maple Grove Elementary to expand into Manning’s building at 13200 W. 32nd Ave. Maple Grove is currently at 3085 Alkire St…

…While some members of the board see this as an opportunity to expand the schools’ successful programs, parents and administrators are worried it will muddy the close relationship the Applewood neighborhood has with the two schools.

“Our students would be attending an elementary that is larger than most middle schools and some high schools,” said Ali Lasell, who has two children at Maple Grove and said she and her husband moved to Applewood in part for the schools. “We would have some very serious conversations in my house about whether we will continue in Maple Grove or not.” [Pols emphasis]

Maple Grove Elementary School has long been one of the strongest K-6 schools in Jefferson County. The right-wing Jeffco School Board likes that Maple Grove, so their solution is to just keep adding more and more students to the good school. Brilliant!

The action kicks off tonight at 5:30 pm at the Jefferson County Administration Building.

 

“Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights” Gets Euthanized Today

UPDATE: An amusing sidenote via Twitter, as posted by Rep. Patrick Neville, House sponsor of the so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights.”

“Parent’s deserve rights?” It seems Rep. Neville is exempt too.

—–

Measles.

Measles.

AP via 7NEWS reports, a bill that was never going to pass, and has arguably damaged Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly much more than it ever helped them is set to die this afternoon in a Democratic-controlled House committee:

Democrats are expected Tuesday to kill a Republican bill giving parents broad authority over their children’s school curriculum and medical treatment…

Republican sponsors have called it a needed check on government. The bill passed the Senate last month.

But Democrats control the House and say the measure goes too far. It limits schools from providing non-emergency medical care without a parent’s permission. Democrats say that’s a recipe for hiding child abuse.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

As opponents testified at every stop during this bill’s trip through the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate, there are a huge number of excellent reasons to oppose the so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights.” Advocates for children and organizations devoted to fighting child abuse argued that the legislation would make it harder for schools to intervene in abuse cases. Public health experts warned of disastrous consequences for important programs like the Colorado Healthy Kids Survey, an anonymous and already optional questionnaire regarded as critical for making informed decisions about a broad range of issues affecting young people.

But by far the biggest controversy with Senate Bill 15-077, and the one that caught the attention of local and national media, is the bill’s further easing of already-weak regulations in Colorado on the vaccination of school age children. With an epidemic of measles in California making national news, along with ongoing local outbreaks of whooping cough and controversy over Colorado’s last-place rank among the 50 states for vaccination of children, the Senate GOP caucus totally lost control over the optics of this bill–which morphed, despite the protestations of “moderates” like Ellen Roberts, into the “Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights.” And the fact is, Roberts and others who voted for this bill have no one to blame but their fellow Republicans, after Sens. Laura Waters Woods and Tim Neville contradicted with their own words Roberts’ insistence that this was “spun by the media” into an anti-vaccination debate.

We expect Roberts will not be overly saddened to see this bill die today despite her vote for it. But for Roberts and all of the Senate Republicans who voted with her, the damage is already done.

(more…)

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.

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.