Clinton’s Colorado Campaign Ramps Up, Tackles Big Issues

Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton.

As the Colorado Stateman’s Vic Vela reports:

Volunteers for Hillary Clinton’s Colorado campaign this week received an education in “how to win a caucus 101,” laying the team’s groundwork for winning votes that won’t be cast for another five months.

“If we win Colorado, that puts Hillary in the best possible position to win the Democratic nomination,” Brad Komar, Clinton’s Colorado campaign lead, said in a call to volunteers Tuesday evening. Komar invited the press to listen in during the call…

In an interview with The Colorado Statesman following the call, Komar said many Colorado Democrats who have lived in the state for a long time know the caucus system “like the back of their hand.” But others might not have lived here or been eligible to vote in 2008, the last time a competitive Democratic caucus was held here — the same year then-candidate Barack Obama defeated Clinton for the nomination.

Komar, who ran Gov. John Hickenlooper’s successful re-election bid last year, said the organizing effort is just getting started but adds that Clinton has built-in advantages here.

“Hillary has a lot of institutional support in Colorado,” he said. “We have a lot of elected endorsers, just a lot of folks who want to help her. And that’s important in a caucus.”

Sources tell us that Colorado is taking a major role in Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s caucus and general election campaign strategy. Despite a summer of Republicans throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at her, Clinton remains the broadly-anticipated Democratic nominee for president, and her campaign views the caucus in Colorado as an opportunity to organize rather than any kind of political make-or-break. A press release from Clinton campaign chair Brad Komar today announced Hillary’s campaign leadership team in Colorado, headed by a face you’ll recognize:

“Coloradans are pioneers who collaborate from instinct,” said Governor Hickenlooper. “We were the first state where the people gave women the right to vote. That is why we are excited to finally crack that glass ceiling by electing Hillary Clinton as the first woman president of the United States.  From fighting for the rights of women and children across the world as Secretary of State to helping create SCHIP as First Lady which now provides health insurance to 8 million children, Hillary Clinton is a champion that has delivered results.”

That’s right–the same Gov. John Hickenlooper who made headlines last week after tossing out some throwaway speculation about the extremely well-publicized private email server Clinton used while serving as Secretary of State. Hick pulling his foot out of his mouth long enough to sign on to Clinton’s leadership council should help put that gaffe in its proper perspective. That’s Hick for you.


Coloradans Not So Bloodthirsty After All?

Lethal injection chamber.

Lethal injection chamber.

A new poll from Public Policy Polling, which is generally considered a Democratic-aligned polling outfit but has won many plaudits for accuracy over the years, has a new poll out challenging the conventional wisdom that Colorado voters overwhelmingly favor capital punishment. As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports:

Colorado voters appear split on whether the death penalty should remain in place, a new poll finds, a result that may indicate support for capital punishment is softening in the state.

The survey comes amid a conversation about the future of the death penalty in Colorado after juries in two high-profile trials opted against imposing it.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, asked voters last week whether the state should replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. The survey found 47.2 percent favor keeping the death penalty and 42.9 percent want to replace it — a difference that is essentially within the margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

An additonal 10 percent remained undecided, according to the poll, which was commissioned by the Better Priorities Initiative, a Colorado-based group that opposes the death penalty.

Boulder County DA Stan Garnett.

Boulder County DA Stan Garnett.

A press release from the Better Priorities Initiative quotes Boulder DA Stan Garnett:

“This poll shows that Coloradans have grown weary of this wasteful government program that prolongs victims’ suffering, provides little to no deterrent effect, and ultimately yields no executions,” said Stan Garnett, District Attorney for the 20th Judicial District. “As Coloradans continue to have this statewide conversation about the death penalty, they are concluding they can live without it.”

These findings come on the heels of the state’s two highest profile death penalty cases in many years. In both cases, the death-qualified juries determined that life in prison without the possibility of parole was the appropriate sentence for the perpetrators instead of death by lethal injection. The juries’ rejection of the death penalty in both the Aurora theatre shooting and the Fero’s Bar stabbing fall in line with national trends that show a marked decrease in the number of death sentences handed down by juries, which reached a 40-year low nationwide in 2014.

Garnett went on to say, “As a District Attorney who has the responsibility of managing a large office of lawyers and staff, I always focus on what is efficient and what keeps my community safe. The reality is that the death penalty is wasteful and does nothing to make our communities safer. Tough and focused prosecutors across Colorado are coming to the same conclusion.”

The poll stands in marked contrast to another poll taken during the recently-concluded trial of the Aurora theater shooter, in which over 60% percentage of respondents indicated they favored the death penalty in that case. The most recent round of debates over the death penalty has raged in Colorado since well before this summer, however, after Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to the so-called “Chuck E. Cheese killer” who had been scheduled to be executed in 2013.

It was widely assumed that Hickenlooper’s decision to grant a reprieve in that case would cost him politically. In last year’s gubernatorial election, GOP opponent Bob Beauprez used Hickenlooper’s decision in campaign ads to paint the incumbent as “soft on crime”–a similar tactic to what Beauprez had unsuccessfully tried against Bill Ritter in 2006. It didn’t work, in part because Beauprez’s ugly negative campaign had begun to backfire on a variety of issues.

Or maybe the issue just doesn’t have the purchase with voters that we all thought?

Today’s poll asked Coloradans what they think would be the most important issue in deciding how to vote for their state legislator next year. The death penalty barely registered, with only 5% of voters saying the issue would guide their vote, and other issues like the economy and health care scoring far higher. This again would seem to indicate that the death penalty is not nearly the marquee issue that Republicans have claimed–against Hickenlooper, or in support of either the policy or politicians like George Brauchler who have significant political capital invested in support for capital punishment.

The death penalty is one of those emotive issues where polling can swing wildly based on contemporary issues. When it seemed likely that the Aurora shooter would receive it, polling suggests voters liked it better. Now that the death penalty has failed to be applied in our state, in two cases where conventional wisdom would surely suggest the law warranted it?

It’s possible this debate has entered a new phase.

Colorado’s Death Penalty Teeters on Brink of Irrelevance

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s editorial board says “the death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired.”

There will never be crimes any worse than those committed by Holmes and Lewis. There may be crimes that are their equal in cruelty, but how often are they likely to occur? And why should those criminals be put to death if Holmes and Lewis were not?

Is the death penalty really only for people who commit crimes of similar magnitude who are neither mentally ill nor the product of childhood abuse? How often do such monsters come around?

The death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired. And it didn’t happen because of bleeding-heart lawmakers or activist judges. It happened because juries themselves wanted no part of it.


sir-mario-owens-nathan-dunlap-robert-rayThe Denver Post reports on the final decision yesterday by a jury in yet another Colorado death penalty case, this one in Denver related to the murders of five people in October of 2012 during a botched robbery attempt at Fero’s Bar and Grill:

When a Denver jury on Thursday spared a convicted mass killer the death penalty, a confused silence enveloped the courtroom. Dexter Lewis, who stabbed five people to death in 2012, will spend the rest of his life in prison…

Almost three years after Lewis joined in on a robbery that spiraled into a gruesome massacre, the case came to a blunt and dazed ending.

After deliberating for less than three hours Thursday, at least one member of the jury of 10 women and two men found that the details of Lewis’ life that suggested mercy — including chronic abuse and neglect — outweighed the heinous details of the crime that suggested death.

The decision yesterday to sentence convicted murderer Dexter Lewis to life in prison instead of the death sentence sought by prosecutors comes just weeks after a jury in Arapahoe County failed to agree on a death sentence for the killer in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre. Both of these high-profile cases represent circumstances that the prosecutors believed merited the ultimate punishment. But in both cases, at least one juror could not be convinced, and that ended the question of imposing a death sentence.

Lethal injection chamber.

Lethal injection chamber.

Mike Littwin at the Colorado Independent opines today that these outcomes further delegitimize capital punishment as a viable means of seeking justice, even as public polls show the idea of capital punishment still enjoys broad support in this state:

If Lewis and Holmes don’t get death, who does? It’s with that question — and with the near-certain answer — that the conversation almost certainly has to end…

Colorado has executed one person in the past 48 years. It currently has three people on death row. There’s no deterrence argument left, if there ever was one. For that matter, it’s hard to see where there’s a justice argument left.

It’s a punishment that is used so rarely — with decades-long waits on death row for the few assigned there — that any execution now seems to be little more than random, an accident of time or place. And a random punishment, as Supreme Court Justice Steve Breyer recently wrote, can’t, by definition, be just. He called it “the antithesis of justice.”

…John Hickenlooper made that decision himself in the case of Nathan Dunlap, granting him a “temporary reprieve” rather than letting an execution go forward. He didn’t say that Dunlap deserved any form of mercy. He wouldn’t even bring himself to use Dunlap’s name. Hickenlooper said his problem was with the system of capital punishment and whether it delivers the justice that it promises. He said you can’t have an imperfect system and also have justice.

The imperfections are there for all to see, in matters of race, gender and class. It’s no wonder that only seven states executed anyone last year. The botched execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett led the Nebraska legislature, of all places, to end the death penalty there, even overriding a governor’s veto to make it happen.

There’s little question that the outcomes of these two high-profile death penalty cases will affect the debate over capital punishment in Colorado next year: in the legislature, and maybe at the polls as well. It’s worth remembering that at the same time Gov. John Hickenlooper was contemplating a reprieve for the “Chuck E. Cheese killer,” which he granted in May of 2013, his office helped scuttle legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. There were a number of factors that went into Hickenlooper’s tapping the brakes on repeal of the death penalty in 2013, not least the already very ambitious slate of bills that had passed that year–including the hotly controversial gun safety bills that would later provoke recalls against Democrats state senators.

Bottom line: a poll in late July, just before the verdict in the Aurora theater trial, showed that over 60% of Coloradans supported the death penalty in that case. But today, with the Aurora shooter headed to prison for life and now the killer in the gruesome Fero’s Bar massacre also spared the death penalty, the question becomes whether the death penalty still works at all: as a punishment, a deterrent, or even a workable means of obtaining satisfaction for victims. At least one Aurora victim’s relative has been vocal about the wasted effort, expense, and emotional trauma of seeking the death penalty, only for the jury to impose a sentence that defense attorneys had offered over a year before.

At the very least, you have to concede that Hickenlooper’s postponement of the one execution he would have been responsible for looks very different today after these other arguably more vicious killers’ lives have been spared. And as one of the last “civilized” places on earth that still judicially kills people, these events provide context for a debate that may really be, in the long arc of history, in its final stages.

What’s Next for George Brauchler?

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

The Aurora Theater Shooting trial finally came to a close on Wednesday when Judge Carlos Samour Jr. sentenced convicted killer James Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure. Following the sentencing, Samour put an exclamation point on the trial when he said, “Get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Privately, at least, life should essentially return to normal for Judge Samour and the countless others who have invested much of the last few years on this case. But for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is being courted by Republicans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he may just be exchanging one spotlight for another.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, Brauchler acknowledged that he feels the pressure to make a decision on his political future by Labor Day – less than two weeks away. Now that the sentencing is complete, it’s a good time to look at the political ramifications of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial for Brauchler — and by extension, Colorado Republicans in general.

We decided to do this Rickey Henderson-style by having a Q&A conversation with ourselves, so let’s get to it after the jump… (more…)

All of Colorado is (NOT) Contaminated

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River.

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River.

Governor John Hickenlooper juggles a lot of different responsibilities as Colorado’s top elected official — which includes serving as Colorado’s chief tester of gross-looking water, which he did again last week in chugging a bottle of water from the Animas River in the aftermath of the Gold King mine wastewater spill.

Hickenlooper agreed to drink from the river at the request of several people in the Durango area in an effort to assure people that the water was safe — and the big sip made Hick plenty of friends as a result. From the Durango Herald:

John Hickenlooper was Johnny-On-The-Spot, clearing his schedule to be in town, see the Animas River firsthand, listen to concerns and offer the power of his office.

Then there was The Moment – when Gov. Hickenlooper took a bold stand for Durango and La Plata County. He defiantly raised a bottle of river water and downed it.

“If that shows that Durango is open for business, I’m happy to help,” he said.

Hickenlooper didn’t say whether or not the Animas River was tastier than the glass of fracking fluid he once quaffed, but the move nevertheless generated a bit of controversy. On Monday, Denver Post reporter John Frank Tweeted a link to his Sunday story about the Animas River, asking the question “Is [Hickenlooper’s] big Animas River sip a liability or political win?” Here’s what the Governor had to say regarding his motivation for drinking from the river:

“The point I was trying to make is that the river is back to normal,” Hickenlooper said in an interview after returning from Durango. “There’s a silver lining in all this. It doesn’t appear there is going to be lasting environmental damage or significant environmental damage, and what most of us were fearful of didn’t happen.”

Sunday’s Post story notes some vague disapproval from the likes of state Sen. Ellen Roberts, who offered her usual brand of WTF-flavored commentary, but you’d have to really squint your eyes in order to make out the downside of Hick’s demonstration. By swigging river water, the Governor was making a pointed effort to ease fears and tamper speculation about the extent of the pollution in the Animas River — and to make sure that misinformation didn’t cripple the tourism economy in Southern Colorado. (more…)

Get More Smarter on Friday (Aug. 14)

Get More SmarterAre you ready for some Denver Broncos football? YEAAAHHHHHHH!!! 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).



► Back-and-forth accusations continue over the massive wastewater spill into the Animas River near Silverton. As the Denver Post reports, wastewater contamination from the Gold King mine may have been nearing a tipping point even before an EPA investigation inadvertently triggered last week’s river spill:

The EPA has yet to release its work order detailing precautions the crew was to take before the Aug. 5 spill. But other documents reviewed by The Denver Post show the EPA was acting on a growing awareness that state-backed work done from 1998 to 2002 on mines around Gold King had led to worsening contamination of Animas River headwaters.

The EPA was acting at Gold King after what, in an October document, the agency deemed a “time critical” effort to try to contain the increased toxic leakage — with elevated cadmium at 35 parts per billion, lead at 60 ppb and zinc at 16,000 ppb — from the nearby Red and Bonita Mine.

► We’ve started the “The Dropout Clock” on Colorado Pols as we try to gauge which Republican candidates for President are most likely to leave the race before the Iowa caucus. Our guess is that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will be the first to go; “Republican insiders” tell Politico that they think former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the most likely candidate to fold up shop.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Hickenlooper Steps Up To Sell TABOR “Baby Step”

UPDATE: Although the Denver Post story this weekend represents this proposal as a “revamp” or “fix” to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, commenters note correctly that this is merely a proposed exemption of revenues from the 2009 hospital provider fee from TABOR. The proposal would prevent the fee from busting TABOR’s revenue caps, allowing the state to keep the money.

Not that TABOR’s zealous defenders will like it any better, of course.


Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is putting his money where his mouth his–or is it putting his mouth where he wants your money to be?–by proposing a small “tweak” to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) that would allow the state to retain several hundred million dollars to fund needed projects:

On the first day of a new statewide tour, Gov. John Hickenlooper found an appropriate venue in this high mountain town for his push to revamp how the state spends money.

The Democrat stood on stage at the historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville and made a lengthy pitch for an overhaul to TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Hickenlooper wants to exempt the hospital provider fee from state revenue collections under TABOR because it pushes Colorado over the constitutional cap, prompting taxpayer refunds next year even as the state struggles to adequately fund priority areas.

If the fee were removed from TABOR, Colorado’s revenues would fall under the cap and the state would have $200 million more to spend on road projects and classrooms, the governor said.

To be clear, this is not the “grand bargain” that would undo the fiscal chokehold of the combination of TABOR with other constitutional spending caps and mandates to let our elected officials do their jobs as prescribed by the same state (not to mention federal) constitution. The hospital provider fee was passed in 2009 under Gov. Bill Ritter in order to qualify for additional federal matching funds for Medicaid. The program has been very successful, but that success has come with the side effect of pushing the state beyond TABOR’s dreaded revenue caps.

Despite a backlog of funding priorities and money cover them, it’s necessary to hold a statewide vote to simply allow those funds to be retained and used by the state. For citizens who don’t understand TABOR, there’s a widespread assumption that our better economy means more revenue that the state can then use to pay for all the stuff we depend on every day–roads, schools, health care.

But in Colorado, that’s just not the way it works.

“I think giving people the real facts is half the battle,” he said after the first events. “To make sure they understand that … it’s going to crowd out, over the next few years, hundreds of millions of dollars from the things all these people want from their state government.”

We’ve heard some grumbling that Hickenlooper “squandering” an opportunity for a much more comprehensive solution for a smaller-scale proposal like this might make it harder down the road for such a “big fix” to pass muster. But we honestly think that the battle to unwind TABOR’s deviously complex restrictions on raising revenue in our state is a longer-term problem than Hickenlooper or anyone else can solve by 2016. The political backing doesn’t yet exist to make a wholesale repeal viable, and the projections of looming and persistent shortfalls in the future aren’t close enough yet to be real to voters. There is more work to be done educating the public, and more harm that needs to be seen with voters’ own eyes.

In the meantime, Gov. Hickenlooper is doing what he can. The arguments that he’s making for this small-scale proposal apply to the big questions as well–and either Hick or his successor will benefit from his touring of the state to tell this story when TABOR’s judgment day finally arrives.

So You Don’t Like Toll Roads? Well…

U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project.

U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project.

The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela has a story up today about the long-term shortage of federal funds for transportation projects, and what that’s forcing states like Colorado to do to provide for the infrastructure needed to sustain economic growth–not to mention keeping your commute from driving you totally insane:

Congress faces a July 31 deadline to pass legislation addressing the country’s transportation needs. But recent history suggests lawmakers will fall short of passing a long-term funding bill, instead opting for yet another stopgap measure.

Over the last six years, Congress has passed short-term transportation funding extensions 33 times.

The temporary funding measures are unsustainable, Mendez said, if Congress intends to repair roads and bridges…

[Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez] called on Congress to take action on the Grow America Act, a six-year, $478 billion highway funding bill supported by President Obama and Mendez’ boss, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

According to Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez, passage of the Grow America Act would bump Colorado transportation funding up 20%, with an even bigger increase for transit projects. As you can imagine, though, the measure is going nowhere in the Republican-controlled Congress:

“There’s difficulty getting it through the Republican House right now, which is sort of par for the course,” said Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who represents the 7th Congressional District.

The U.S. Senate has introduced a more modest bipartisan proposal, cosponsored by GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, that would increase transportation funds by a smaller amount via a relatively gimmicky incentive for corporations to repatriate overseas earnings at favorable tax rates. Anything would help, of course, but the huge long-term deficit in funding for transportation projects, both to maintain current infrastructure and to provide for the future, is much bigger than what Gardner’s bill would provide for.

But there’s another big difference between the two proposals: the President’s bill relies on provisions that Coloradans may not like, even though they are being embraced by cash-strapped Colorado transportation officials right now. The Grow America Act would significantly ease restrictions on tolling of existing interstate highways, as well as encourage so-called “public-private partnerships” to build new transportation projects. In Colorado, the new U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project is an example of what the future would look like under the Grow America Act–new infrastructure, but at a significant long term cost and loss of control:


Beer Wars: Coal, Water, Smelt, and the Great Beer Boycott of 2015

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Forget about buying New Belgium Craft Beer in Craig, Colorado. Most of the liquor stores, and some of the bars, just aren’t selling it anymore. The boycott is a reaction to New Belgium’s support of the work of the Wild Earth Guardians (WEG). WEG has successfully promoted an environmental lawsuit halting expansion of the ColoWyo coal mine in Moffat County near Craig, and some local coal miners fear that their livelihoods will be sacrificed for an environmental cause or an endangered species. In an article in the Craig Daily Press, Lori Gillam, an owner of Stockmen’s Liquor store, said, “We pulled those beers because their support of WildEarth Guardians… who said their ultimate goal is to shut down coal mines. Craig is a coal mine town.”

These fears are being relentlessly inflamed in the right wing blogosphere, and on right wing talk radio. On June 9 and 10, Ken Clark’s Freedom 360 show was all about the so-called “War on Coal” in Craig, Colorado. 

New Belgian Beers on Tap

New Belgium Beers on tap, from National Journal article by Matt Berman. Photo by Quan Ha



“They’re coming after Colorado!,” Ken Clark breathlessly reported at 8:39 minutes into his 6/9/15 Freedom 560 show. From 5:23 to 8:20, Clark made the following statements about Wild Earth Guardians:

  “These are the same folks that created all this havoc in California. [They] .. are the whack jobs that shut down all of the irrigation to these farmlands in order to protect that smelt, that fish. . . They pretty much killed California and their farm production.  Fresno County – the unemployment rate’s 47%. These are the same guys. . . .They have set their sights on Colorado. They are coming here.  And now they’re coming after us.” 


Factually, Clark is just plain wrong here, although he wisely left wiggle room by saying that his “friend told him so”, and he plans to “check it out”. Fresno’s unemployment rate in 2014 was 11%, not 47%. California is obviously suffering from drought, and farmers, tourists, developers, businesses, and wildlife are all struggling and negotiating for the use of the same diminishing pool of potable water. The only reference to environmental regulations and fish in the Fresno Bee article was the mention of how water is being kept in Lake Shasta to keep  salmon and trout alive. 


Get More Smarter on Monday (June 8)

Get More SmarterThis doesn’t seem very fast to us. 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).



► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is pushing for a major overhaul of campaign finance reform. We all know that campaign finance laws are pretty useless at the moment — hell, GOP Presidential contender Jeb Bush has been openly breaking the law for months.

► The Veterans Administration is promoting a new plan to help pay for completion of the Aurora VA Hospital. A three-week extension on funding construction is set to expire this week.

► The deadline for Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto legislation from the 2015 Colorado Assembly came and went on Friday with no new vetoes. Hickenlooper vetoed three bills from the prior session: two red-light camera restriction bills, and nonsense legislation that would have allowed predatory lenders to drastically increase interest rates. Good on ya, Gov.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


BREAKING: Hickenlooper VETOES Interest Rate Hike Bill

FRIDAY UPDATE: More coverage in today’s Denver Post and Grand Junction Sentinel.


UPDATE #3: The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela:

“While we certainly see the benefits of offering the loan and credit products that are considered in this legislation, it has not been clearly demonstrated that access to such loans is under threat,” Hickenlooper said in his veto letter.

The governor “was particularly struck” by testimony provided by the Attorney General’s office during a legislative committee hearing. That testimony included an analysis that indicated that changes to interest rate structures would not make these loans more available.

The bill sought to raise the maximum amount of interest charged for supervised loans from 21 to 36 percent for loans up to $3,000. Interest charges would spike from 15 to 21 percent on loans that carry balances of $3,000 to $5,000.

“These changes would result in a 200 percent increase in the loan amount allowed in the 36 percent interest rate tier and a two-thirds increase in the 21 percent interest rate tier,” Hickenlooper said. [Pols emphasis]

And the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus:

Consumer-interest groups rejoiced on Thursday after Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed legislation that they feared would have hurt low-income individuals applying for small loans…

“Prior to approving any increase in the allowable amount of interest charged, we believe it is necessary to more fully explore and substantiate the claim that a change in the law is necessary for these products to be accessible,” Hickenlooper wrote in his veto explanation. “Colorado’s consumers deserve this clarity as they will ultimately carry the expense that would result from this legislation.”

The governor also pointed out that the legislation moved quickly through the legislative process. It was introduced as one of the last bills of the legislative session – which ended May 6 – and sat on the calendar for only a week before it cleared both chambers. [Pols emphasis]


UPDATE #2: From the Bell Policy Center, who led the underdog opposition to House Bill 15-1390 from progressive nonprofit groups:

Today Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have increased loan costs for low- and moderate-income Coloradans. The Bell led more than a dozen organizations in asking the governor to veto this bill, Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions (House Bill 15-1390). We greatly appreciate the governor’s action to protect Colorado consumers.

HB15-1390, which was hurried through in the last week of the 120-day legislative session, would have increased the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The bill would have cost Coloradans more than $25 million in additional interest charges, according to a Center for Responsible Lending analysis of the two largest lenders in Colorado…

The governor’s veto represents a huge victory for hardworking Coloradans. This bill would have dramatically increased the revenues of very profitable lenders at the expense of families struggling to make ends meet. To learn more about why this bill was bad for Colorado, check out our fact sheet.

As the governor’s veto said, any additional conversations about this issue will need to include all stakeholders. If those conversations happen, the Bell will be closely involved and will do our best to ensure that all voices are included.


UPDATE: Gov. John Hickenlooper has released a letter explaining his veto of House Bill 15-1390. You can read it in its entirety here, and here’s an excerpt:


From a statement by ProgressNow Colorado, one of the groups who opposed this bill:

“House Bill 1390 was bad policy, introduced at the last possible minute to stifle debate, and written specifically to allow big lenders to hike interest rates on consumers who can least afford it,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Increasing the total cost of a personal loan by almost 40% is not the way to help Colorado families get their finances in order. This legislation was sold to lawmakers in both parties based on misleading arguments and threats by big lending corporations that don’t stand up to scrutiny.”

“At a time when Colorado’s middle class families are just beginning to recover from the recent recession–a recession brought on in part by irresponsible predatory lending practices–the last thing they need is a 36% interest rate to borrow money,” said Runyon-Harms. “The truth is, personal lenders issued hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these loans in Colorado last year, and the subprime lending industry’s profits are skyrocketing nationwide. They don’t need to hike up interest rates on borrowers who can least afford it to ‘stay in business.’”


loanshark2We’ve just received word that Gov. John Hickenlooper will veto House Bill 15-1390 today, a hotly controversial bill to allow large interest rate hikes on subprime personal loans that passed in the final days of this year’s legislative session. Hickenlooper’s veto comes after an urgent campaign by a few progressive and consumer groups led by the Bell Policy Center against the legislation, after it passed with dismaying speed out of the Democratic-controlled House with most Democrats voting in favor. In the Senate, most Democrats opposed the legislation after advocates were able to sound the alarm.

As for the many Democrats who voted for this bill, the Democratic House leadership who allowed it to be introduced at the end of the session, and Democratic lobbyists who convinced them it would be okay? They’ve all got egg on their faces, and may well draw heat for their actions at upcoming town hall meetings from their constituents.

And you know what, folks? They should. This was truly a low point for Colorado legislative Democrats, a significant breach of faith with their base voters–and there should be a price paid to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

We’ll update shortly with statements and coverage–a big victory for scrappy nonprofit groups, over both Republicans and backsliding Democrats in the General Assembly. And also a good day for Gov. Hickenlooper, who showed real independence from the corporate interests he is often criticized for being beholden to.

Sometimes the good guys actually do win. And that’s pretty cool.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 3)

Get More SmarterColorado is purty. 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).



► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, along with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) are asking the Veterans Affairs Department to dig into its own pockets to find the money to finish the VA Hospital Project in Aurora. One again, we remind you that Coffman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

► The runoff for Denver’s Municipal Elections is finally over. Kevin Flynn, Jolon Clark, Wayne New, and Stacie Gilmore were each successful in their respective races.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 28)

Get More SmarterIs this week still happening? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).



► The ugliness just doesn’t stop when it comes to the right-wing Jefferson County School Board. Here’s video of School Board President Ken Witt refusing to allow a student to speak about LGBT rights at a public board meeting.

The EPA has finalized a new clean water rule intended to help crack down on polluters.

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Hickenlooper Makes Jeffco Schools Super Look Pretty Stupid

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader follows up on the story of the conservative-controlled Jefferson County school district’s snubbing of Gov. John Hickenlooper this week, denying his office’s request for a bill signing ceremony at a Jeffco public school.

Hick’s sense of humor wins the day once again:

Gov. John Hickenlooper fired back at a perceived snub from Jefferson County Schools on Wednesday after two high schools refused to let him hold a bill-signing ceremony on school property.

“The last time I was at Lakewood High School, Katy Perry was there and somehow she wasn’t a risk,” [Pols emphasis] Hickenlooper told a crowd gathered for the bill signing at a historic one-room schoolhouse owned by the city of Lakewood. “I fear, I’m not sure, but I fear that it’s a reflection that education has become more polarized and more partisan.”

Gratuitous Katy Perry photo.

Gratuitous Katy Perry photo.

The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela has more:

The Democratic governor recently sought permission from Jeffco schools to hold an education bill signing at Lakewood High School. Instead, his request was denied by conservative district Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who cited security and other logistical concerns.

Instead, Hickenlooper held a May 20 event to sign into law key changes to student testing policy from inside an old school house at a museum site in Lakewood. From there, Hickenlooper said he was “disappointed” with McMinimee’s decision.

“I think it introduces at least the impression of partisanship,” Hickenlooper told reporters after the bill signing, which was held on the grounds of the Lakewood Heritage Center…

Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy said the school also hosted a 2012 event with Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who at the time was a vice presidential candidate. Murphy said the city and the school district was only given a couple of days notice, but that all the necessary security was put in place. [Pols emphasis]

There’s little question about it, the negative press the already embattled Jeffco school district received for rejecting Hickenlooper’s bill signing was not worth whatever political points they may have scored with fellow conservatives. The district’s spokesperson Lisa “Big Résumé” Pinto insists that politics weren’t a factor at all, but that doesn’t square with the public’s recent recollection of political campaign events in 2012 and 2014 at various Jeffco schools–like the 2012 event for Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan at the same school. If those were okay, voters will reasonably ask, why couldn’t Hickenlooper sign a bill directly pertaining to education?

It’s doesn’t matter what excuses the district’s right-wing staffers offer up, the optics of this situation are awful. The incident underscores what a lot of Jefferson County voters already believe–that this school district has been taken over by divisive partisan political operators, who are now dispensing their own political paybacks. Even conservatives in Jefferson County should be able to see the problem with a school district alienating high-ranking elected officials with petty games, not to mention the chilling effect this could have on ordinary citizens who don’t share the board’s political agenda.

Is it their worst offense? Hardly. But it’s pretty revealing.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 20)

MoreSmarter-RainThe Denver Nuggets ended up with the exact results expected in last night’s NBA Draft Lottery, which gives Denver the #7 pick in the June Draft. 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).



► It’s hard not to read the panic between the lines of Rep. Mike Coffman’s latest statement regarding potential delays at the Aurora VA Hospital project. As 9News reports, Coffman has found yet another person to blame for the fiasco:

With precious few days left to avert another work stoppage at Colorado’s VA hospital construction project, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) is making an unusual move: publicly calling into question the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner on the issue.

“I’m disappointed in the VA for their mismanagement. I’m disappointed in the speaker, for in my view, not showing appropriate leadership so far,” Coffman told 9NEWS in an interview Tuesday. “I hope I can convince [Boehner] to understand that our veterans should not be the casualty.”

We’re just going to keep repeating this because it’s so important: Mike Coffman is the CHAIR OF THE OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Guess who should have “oversaw” this coming?

► The editorial board of the Denver Post blasts the Jefferson County School District for its nonsense claims that they couldn’t host Gov. John Hickenlooper for a bill signing ceremony because of last-minute security concerns:

It is difficult to believe a school where Super Bowl halftime entertainer Katy Perry performed would have had that much of a problem hosting the governor.

Jeffco swears Hick is welcome to come any other time. But for now, this rejection looks bad.

Hickenlooper ended up signing the bill yesterday at Lakewood Heritage Center, which somehow managed to to provide a secure building at the last minute.

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