Cynthia Coffman Enters AG Race, but Where’s Waller?

Cynthia Coffman

PHOTO CREDIT: Colorado Statesman

Republican Cynthia Coffman has formally entered the race for Attorney General, joining Democrat Don Quick as only the second official candidate for 2014. From The Denver Post:

In her announcement, Coffman said she would campaign on protecting water rights; fighting the “federal government oversteps” on states rights protected by the 10th Amendment; and maintainin “the integrity of our criminal justice system” that she says “has been diminished by a flawed corrections system and unenforced death penalty.”

Cynthia Coffman has spent the last eight years working under current Attorney General John Suthers, who is term-limited in 2014. If she is on the ballot for the General Election, she will join husband Mike Coffman, the incumbent congressman from CD-6, in a rare husband-wife ballot combination.

Mark Waller, Attorney General Candidate

Hey, remember that time some people said I might run for Attorney General? Heh. That was cool.

Coffman's formal entry into the AG race is not unexpected, but it raises interesting questions about who (if anyone) might join her among fellow Republicans. By announcing her candidacy now, Coffman will have to file a brief fundraising report for the final weeks of June; this is one of the main reasons candidates rarely announce their intentions before the end of a fundraising period, because it's better to report on a full three months of raising money.

Perhaps Coffman announced early in order to get ahead of other potential candidates. Will 2010 Senate candidate and current Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck still entertain thoughts of entering the race? And what of House Minority Leader Mark Waller?

Back in April, Waller was being discussed as the potential Republican frontrunner for Attorney General. Perhaps the Democrats' unprecedented success in the 2013 legislative session put a serious dent in Waller's plans, but whatever the reason, he has gone from being near the top of the list to essentially an afterthought at this point.

 

BREAKING: Major, Misreported Developments In Gun Lawsuit

Colorado journalists

Colorado journalists “report” on House Bill 1224 (acorn courtesy Jon Caldara).

Yesterday, apparently under the radar of most local media, Gov. John Hickenlooper filed a motion in federal District Court requesting an injunction legally binding the enforcement of House Bill 1224, the bill restricting ammunition capacity to 15 rounds, to the technical guidance on the new law issued by the Attorney General a few weeks ago. Here's the key portion of the proposed injunction from Hickenlooper's attorneys:

The Technical Guidance is an “official written interpretation” of HB13-1224. It has been adopted by the Governor and the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Official written interpretations of criminal laws are binding and create an affirmative defense for individuals charged under those laws. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-504(2)(c) (providing an affirmative defense to criminal prosecutions contrary to “official written interpretation of the statute or law relating to the offense, made or issued by a public servant, agency, or body legally charged or empowered with the responsibility of administering, enforcing, or interpreting” it).

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d), the Court hereby issues a preliminary injunction binding the Governor, and any of his officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys,to the conclusions of the Technical Guidance as the official interpretation of the chief executive and chief legal officers of the State of Colorado. [Pols emphasis]

Here's the full text of Hickenlooper's proposed injunction, along with his motion for the injunction.

What this means pending the court's approval, as supporters on House Bill 1224 have long insisted would be the case, is that the new law will be interpreted under this order in the reasonable manner specified by Republican Attorney General John Suthers in his guidance when it takes effect at the beginning of next month. It means that the law will not "outlaw all magazines" as gun lobbyists and opponents like Dave Kopel and his boss Jon Caldara claimed and virally spread. Kopel actually admitted this development was a possibility at the bottom of a story by 9NEWS a few weeks ago:

David Kopel, the lawyer suing the state over HB-1224, says the technical guidance does not change the suit because the guidance can always be changed and constitutional concerns remain over having vague language on the books.

He did concede that the court may decide to adopt the guidance or set down other clarifications of the law in its ruling. [Pols emphasis]

That's exactly what's happening, folks. Yesterday's proposed order also requests a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court on the major components of the magazine limit law. What we will then have, assuming their answers are consistent with this guidance, is ironclad assurance that the extreme interpretations of House Bill 1224 promoted by opponents will never be what is enforced as law. All of which would severely discredit the manufactured outrage over the passage of this bill, which was principally based on such misinformation.

And that's good, because those interpretations were always ridiculous, and only had credibility so far as a lazy, and in some cases willingly complicit media gave it to them.

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BREAKING: Sky Will NOT Fall When Magazine Bill Takes Effect

Late this afternoon, the office of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers released a long-awaited technical guidance letter prepared for the Department of Public Safety on the implementation of House Bill 1224, the magazine limit bill. This technical guidance was requested by Gov. John Hickenlooper at the signing of HB-1224 into law, following the many objections raised by opponents of the legislation that the bill would "ban all magazines," or at least all magazines "with a removable baseplate" or other design feature that could hypothetically allow them to be expanded beyond the legal maximum of 15 rounds.

As we have reassured our readers over and over, but unfortunately local media has failed to clarify for an anxious and misinformed public–even helping spread baseless speculation–that is not going to happen.

Definition of "Large Capacity Magazine"

Under House Bill 1224, the term "large capacity magazine" is defined, in part, as follows: "a fixed or detachable magazine, box, drum, feed strip, or similar device capable of accepting, or that is designed to be readily converted to accept, more than fifteen rounds of ammunition."

The phrase "designed to be readily converted to accept more than fifteen rounds of ammunition" has prompted questions regarding the scope of the definition, particularly because some ammunition magazines include features, such as removable baseplates, that can be removed and replaced, or otherwise altered, so that the magazine accepts more than fifteen rounds.

The term "designed," when used as a modifier, denotes a feature that meets a specific function. This suggests that design features that fulfill more than one function, and whose function is not specifically to increase the capacity of a magazine, do not fall under the definition. The features of a magazine must be judged objectively to determine whether they were "designed to be readily converted to accept more than fifteen rounds."

Under this reading of the definition, a magazine that accepts fifteen or fewer rounds is not a "large capacity magazine" simply because it includes a removable baseplate which may be replaced with one that allows the magazine to accept additional rounds. [Pols emphasis] On many magazines, that design feature is included specifically to permit cleaning and maintenance. Of course, a magazine whose baseplate is replaced with one that does, in fact, allow the magazine to accept more than fifteen rounds would be a "large capacity magazine" under House Bill 1224.

Here's the full text of the memo, which also explains the meaning of the "continuous possession" language in the bill–and again, the plain interpretation of the bill does not lead to the wild unforeseen consequences Republican opponents insisted would be the result. With both of these provisions but particularly the language on whether magazines were "designed to be readily converted," it is obvious now that opponents like Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute were not telling the truth when they claimed that House Bill 1224 would mean "almost all guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again." It means that every reporter who uncritically reprinted this lie now needs to write another story explaining how that wasn't true.

And folks, we're not going to forget this. The amount of misinformation spread about this legislation by opponents, and too often subsidized by reporters dismayingly willing to trade long-term credibility for short-term scoops, was totally unacceptable and needs to be called out. A lowly political blog should not be the only media source telling the public the truth about this bill, but that really does seem to be what happened in this case.

The people of Colorado deserved better. And we hope they finally get it now.

Waller AG Talk Growing Louder

The man who relieved us all of Rep. Doug Bruce.

The man who relieved us of Rep. Doug Bruce.

A notable footnote in FOX 31's Eli Stokols' story about attempts by GOP House Minority Leader Mark Waller to bring a few House Republicans in support of this year's budget bill–which no Republican Senator backed.

After all 15 Senate Republicans voted against the budget last week, prompting strong criticism from Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee and, a few days later, from the Denver Post editorial board, which echoed Steadman’s complaint that Republicans, after voting mostly in favor of budgets that had to be balanced the last few years with transfers and other gimmicks, refused to support a more measured, but expensive budget this year.

Unlike Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, who complained that the budget increases spending across the board, House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, appears to be more concerned with the optics of his entire 28-member caucus voting against the bill, especially after seeing the criticism leveled at Cadman’s caucus…

Waller, who is almost certain to run for Attorney General last year, [Pols emphasis] would like to be able to demonstrate that he leads a group of lawmakers who are pragmatic and responsible; and helping forge a bipartisan budget compromise would help him make that case.

Rep. Waller's name has been floated as a potential candidate for Attorney General in 2014 a few times, but particularly with the sidelining of Weld County DA Ken Buck as he battles cancer, Waller could very easily become the GOP's presumptive nominee in this race if he gets in. Working hard to build his reputation as a better partner and good-faith negotiator than his predecessor Frank McNulty, an upcoming bid for AG would provide some perspective for this and a few other statesmanlike actions from Waller this year.

Incumbent AG John Suthers was appointed to the job before being elected in 2006. The solid wins he enjoyed were partly due to that, and a good campaign organization to push him through to relatively easy re-election in 2010. Waller will have neither advantage, of course, and next year's open race for attorney general could be the one Democrats have been waiting for to take this office back.

John Suthers, Meet The Wrong Side of History

The Denver Post's Allison Sherry reported moments ago:

Colorado’s Republican Attorney General John Suthers signed onto a brief that urges the Supreme Court to uphold California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage.

Reports Sherry, Attorney General John Suthers claims to be taking this action in defense of Colorado's Amendment 43, passed in 2006 amending our state's constitution to define marriage as "between one man and one woman." Since the passage of Amendment 43 nearly seven years ago, public opinion in this state (and the party affiliation of the state's chief executive) have shifted solidly in support of equality for gays and lesbians. Just last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Colorado Civil Union Act into law in an historic ceremony at the History Colorado Center.

But today, John Suthers' discordant act against the same equality most of the state is celebrating? To say it stands out in ugly relief, a mark against him any time this man ever aspires to higher office, is an understatement.

Whaddya Complainin’ About Now?

The Colorado Attorney General's office announced today its list of the Top 2012 Consumer Complaints. From a press release:

To mark the beginning of National Consumer Protection Week, the Consumer Protection Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office today unveiled its list of the top ten consumer complaints of 2012. During the 2012 calendar year, Colorado consumers filed 7,911 complaints with the Office of the Attorney General — an almost 10 percent increase over 2011’s total of 7,297 complaints.

We've included the chart of the Top 10 complaints, as compiled by the Attorney General's Office, after the jump. See how many you can guess before you click to read the results…

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DeGette Stands Up For Colorado Voters, Hickenlooper Not So Much

ABC News follows up on the passage of Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana in Colorado:

Voters in Colorado and Washington pushed the limits even further when they approved ballot measures Tuesday allowing adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana under state regulation and taxation.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said Colorado will respect the will of voters but added that he was awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Justice on how to proceed.

“In a situation like this, where our law is at loggerheads with federal law, my primary job is to listen first,” the governor said.

Hickenlooper opposed the ballot measure and has downplayed the likelihood of a commercial marijuana market materializing in Colorado.

“Based on federal law, if it’s still illegal under federal law, I can’t imagine that 7-Eleven is ever going to sell it,” he said.

In a Denver paper editorial today, we’re told of a new amendment to the federal Controlled Substances Act proposed by Rep. Diana DeGette that would simply exempt state laws regarding pot. It’s odd to learn of such a thing from an editorial as opposed to a news story, but we expect advocates for Amendment 64 will be happy to see it nonetheless.

So where does that leave Gov. Hickenlooper? Considerably less proactive, folks.

Hickenlooper’s first response to the passage of Amendment 64 was to warn proponents “don’t break out the Cheetos and gold fish too quickly.” Hickenlooper probably thought he was being cute, but doesn’t that seem a little insulting to the 53% of Colorado voters who approved this? Certainly not all of those voters were pot smokers with the munchies–they had other, more serious reasons for voting to legalize marijuana.

Like ending a failed policy that has needlessly criminalized millions of people.

On Friday, Gov. Hickenlooper and state Attorney General John Suthers, who has pledged to implement Amendment 64, had an inconclusive phone call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Again, Amendment 64′s advocates are showing restraint in their public comments, but there is a sense that Hickenlooper is almost hoping the feds will put the kibosh on Amendment 64, and is purposefully not doing enough to support the will of the voters here.

With all of that in mind, and especially given Gov. Hickenlooper’s charge to uphold the will of Colorado voters–more directly his responsibility than DeGette’s–we think he should strongly consider adopting a more aggressive stand. We certainly aren’t downplaying the conflict between state and federal law, obviously that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

But for Gov. Hickenlooper to more or less insult an electoral majority, while meekly awaiting the edict of federal law enforcement on Amendment 64, makes him appear feckless and contemptuous of the same Colorado voters who elected him–even more of whom, we are obliged to point out, voted to legalize marijuana than voted for John Hickenlooper in 2010.

Bottom line: on this issue, like marriage equality for gay and lesbian people, reproductive rights for women, and sane immigration reform, we see a new majority consensus emerging with generational change. The issues aren’t related except in the respect that the voters are really beginning now to act against what they see as wrong–and reject politicians who don’t.

Which side do you think Hickenlooper should be on?

Consumers Saved $99 million in 2011 Under Payday Lending Reforms

(And they’ve stopped spamming us, too – promoted by Colorado Pols)



$99 million.

That’s how much Colorado consumers saved in 2011 thanks to changes in the state’s payday lending law, according to data in a report released Monday by Attorney General John Suthers.

The report shows the impact of the first full year of reforms, which were a major achievement of the 2010 legislative session. A key feature of the reforms is a minimum six-month term for payday loans, which gives borrowers an opportunity to pay them off without rollovers.

According to data in Suthers’ report, consumers saved an average of $223.90 per loan on 444,333 loans, for a total savings of $99.5 million. The report says that about 77 percent of loans were paid in full before their maturity date.  

The report also shows that the number of loans dropped almost 60 percent, from 1.1 million in 2010 to 444,333 in 2011; the dollar amount of those loans fell from $409 million to $167 million.

The numbers show that consumers had an easier time of managing the loans. In 2010, about a third of all loans were refinanced or rolled over, resulting in additional fees. In 2011, after the reforms, there were none.

“The attorney general’s report shows that 2010′s reforms are helping hard-working Colorado families. They are saving money, which will help meet basic needs, and this money will stay in the community,” said Rich Jones, the Bell’s director of policy and research, who worked on the reforms as part of Coloradans for Payday Lending Reform.

Here is a comparison of costs and fees after reforms, according to the attorney general, and costs and fees under the previous law:

Actual fees for 2011 (from AG’s report)

Origination fee           $40.37

Actual interest           $31.56

Monthly maintenance fee   $50.84

Total loan costs          $122.77

Cost under old law (from AG’s press release)

Number of loans (average 104-day borrowing period)   5.78

Cost per loan (average finance charge)   $60

Total loan costs (5.78 x $60)   $346.67

Savings under the new law

Savings per loan      $223.90

Total payday loans    444,333

Total statewide savings $99,484,678

Fun With Press Releases: You’ll Be Rapping in Jail!

We get a lot of press releases here at Colorado Pols. While some are good, others are, well…not. The following press release falls into the latter category. The office of Attorney General John Suthers seems pretty excited about the fact that one of the people convicted was a “rapper.”

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office announced today that an Adams County District Court jury found six individuals, including the rapper known as “Dame Fame” of Brighton, Colorado, guilty in a pattern of racketeering activity. The six committed credit card and bank fraud as well as aggravated motor vehicle theft. They were all found under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. The verdict was returned on September 20, 2012.

“This rapper and his group of cohorts engaged in a multi-state crime ring to steal and intimidate,” said Attorney General John Suthers. [Pols emphasis] “We’re pleased the jury recognized this criminal enterprise and held the perpetrators responsible.”

Sounds pretty scary, eh?

We don’t profess to know much about the current state of “rap music,” but “Dame Fame” (real name Stacy Damon Harris) doesn’t even have an album available on iTunes. He seems to be a “rapper” like your cousin who waits tables in New York City is an “actor.”

So why does Suthers go out of his way to define Harris as a “rapper?” The press release doesn’t indicate how being a “rapper” relates to the crimes committed (full release after the jump), which adds an unnecessary tinge of racial and class bias.

Put it this way: if Harris worked at Starbucks, would Suthers have said, “This barista and his group of cohorts…”

Somehow we doubt it.


ATTORNEY GENERAL SECURES CONVICTION AGAINST RAPPER DAME FAME AND  FIVE OTHERS FOR CREDIT CARD AND BANK FRAUD

DENVER – The Colorado Attorney General’s Office announced today that an Adams County District Court jury found six individuals, including the rapper known as “Dame Fame” of Brighton, Colorado, guilty in a pattern of racketeering activity. The six committed credit card and bank fraud as well as aggravated motor vehicle theft. They were all found under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. The verdict was returned on September 20, 2012.

“This rapper and his group of cohorts engaged in a multi-state crime ring to steal and intimidate,” said Attorney General John Suthers. “We’re pleased the jury recognized this criminal enterprise and held the perpetrators responsible.”  

Beginning in July 2009, Stacy Damon Harris, a.k.a. Dame Fame (38 years old); Tangelar Annette Houston, a.k.a Tangie Houston (36 years old); Dumarco Marty, a.k.a. Deco (23 years old); Salina Patrice Lactaoen (24 years old); Darnell Plazmarell Meal (24 years old) and Tenisha Nicole Kuykendall (35 years old) began operating a national bank fraud ring. Harris was the leader of the enterprise and coordinated the details of the scheme defrauding the Dolores State Bank, Montrose Bank, Valley Bank & Trust, Colorado Community Bank, Montrose Bank as well as stealing from other commercial businesses including Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

Harris directed the members of the enterprise to commit crimes and then kept significant proceeds of stolen money and merchandise for himself. Muzi obtained phone numbers that were placed on the fraudulent credit cards and used to facilitate the thefts. Houston and Alder answered phones and deceived bank employees into manually overriding the bank computers for cash advances and/or other merchandise purchases. Alder is alleged to have advised the group where to target its activity and Marty and Stenschke recruited people, including Lactaoen, to go into businesses to complete the fraudulent transactions. Lactaoen and Harris then presented fraudulent credit cards to get cash and other merchandise. Meals and Kuykendall received the stolen money via money wires and turned most of the stolen funds over to the higher ranking enterprise members. In total, the value of their crimes in Colorado equaled approximately $30,000.  

The group originated in California and committed their crimes in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation was the lead investigating agency and worked in cooperation with the Cortez Police Department. The Office of the Attorney General prosecuted the case in the District Court City and County of Denver. Sentencing will occur on November 26, 2012 at 8:30 a.m..

TABOR Challenge May Continue, Says Federal Judge

Big news breaking this morning on TABOR. As Tim Hoover of the Denver newspaper reports, a federal judge rejected arguments from Attorney General John Suthers intended to prevent a legal challenge to the 1994 ballot measure that greatly restricts the State’s ability to raise and spend money.

Today’s decision means that the lawsuit will be heading for a trial. At issue is whether TABOR violates a U.S. Constitutional guarantee that every state is guaranteed a republican form of government as opposed to a direct democracy (where citizens govern themselves, essentially).  

Gessler’s brazen partisanship should make even the Mike Rosens of the world mad

(Split to fit…more after the fold – promoted by ClubTwitty)



As Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s term drags on, you’d think even the stomachs of conservatives like KOA’s Mike Rosen would turn when Gessler re-launches the partisan attacks he’s been on about since day one in office.

Maybe you wouldn’t expect Rosen to be sick of it, but everyone else, yes?

It’s almost laughable to suggest again that Gessler should take his office seriously and start sounding like our state’s top election official, instead of like a Republican attack dog, because no one expects Gessler to change his ways at this point.

But still, his partisan rhetoric is, to use an over-used word in political commentary, unacceptable, and even the likes of Rosen should call him on it.



For example, on Rosen’s show last week, Rosen read Gessler a Denver Post quote from Joanne Kron Schwartz, the Director of the progressive group ProgressNow, saying that Gessler’s attempt to find noncitizens on the voter rolls could intimidate some eligible voters, particularly Latinos, and result in their not voting.

A Secretary of State in his right mind, who wants people to have faith in elections, would answer Schwartz’s reasonable objection with a fact-based response, sticking to his lines about how the voting rolls must be scrutinized.

But Gessler’s immediate response sounds like something Rush Limbaugh might blast out.

“Unfortunately this is part of the left’s common tactic,” Gessler told Rosen, “just to scream voter intimidation whenever anything comes up they don’t like.”

Let me just say, I’m part of the left and I don’t scream voter intimidation “whenever anything comes up” that I don’t like. I never scream it at my 15-year-old son, for example, when he leaves a pig-pen-like trail of debris around the house.

Maybe Gessler means to say that the left is too concerned about voter intimidation.

But why would you expect a person with Gessler’s job title to stick to a measured response?

Gessler’s un-statesmanship continued, with Rosen’s approval:

Gessler: “I mean if you look back, back in 2004, you know, the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign actually published a Colorado election-day manual, and in that, they specifically said, if no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a preemptive strike. And they go through a whole list of things where the Democrats are supposed to launch a preemptive strike, accusing Republicans of intimidation, rounding up minority people. And that’s their word. It says, quote minority leadership denouncing tactics that discourage people from voting. So it’s really sort of a cynical way for the Democrats to try and rile up, and I should say the left as well, to rile up their base by making these accusations whether or not there are any facts to support it.”

Even if you accept Gessler’s facts about the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and why should you, do you really want your secretary of state to dismiss a historically legitimate concern about voter intimidation by accusing Democrats of cynically riling up their base?

It’s this sort of brazen partisanship that, at the end of the day, is Gessler’s core downfall as Secretary of State, epitomized in Gessler’s quote to the Greeley Tribune about his job: “You’re here to do something, to further the conservative viewpoint.”

We can disagree with his loose-with-the-facts style, and priorities, but his sullying of the office is what kills me most-and should even kill a civic-minded guy like Rosen.

“You have to sort of wonder at the motivations,” Gessler said later in the interview, speculating about the evil leftists that seem to haunt him. “I think a lot of times, what they are trying to do is play the race card, play the disenfranchisement card, and use it as a political talking point to rile up their base.”

Thanks, Rush Gessler.

DHS Hands Gessler Voter Purge Victory?

UPDATE: Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler praises the decision in a brief statement:

“As Colorado’s chief election official, protecting our elections is my top priority. I’m pleased that DHS has agreed to work with states to verify the citizenship of people on the voter rolls and help reduce our vulnerability. Coloradans deserve to know we have these most basic protections for election integrity.”

—–

There are conflicting opinions this morning about the full meaning of a decision this weekend by the federal Department of Homeland Security to cooperate, with important restrictions, with the state of Florida’s request for information on non-citizens their Republican governor and Secretary of State believe may be illegally registered to vote. Politico reports today on what will soon most likely be a major story in Colorado:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Monday an agreement between the Sunshine State and the Department of Homeland Security “creates a path” for other states to purge their voter rolls of non-citizens.

An agreement Sunday between DHS and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner gives Florida access to the federal SAVE – Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements – database, which should allow the purge to restart. The database lists legal immigrants and green card-holders who aren’t eligible to vote. It doesn’t contain the names of illegal immigrants…

“The right to vote is a sacred right,” Scott said. “We gotta make sure a U.S. citizen’s right to vote is not diluted.”

…Five presidential swing states – Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Colorado and Nevada – are among those hoping to use the DHS database to check their own voter rolls, according to CNN and the Associated Press.

“Hopefully,” Scott said, the agreement “creates a path for other states that have the same concerns.” [Pols emphasis]

We talked this past weekend about the related request from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler for access to information about some 5,000 registered voters he believes may be illegally registered. Based on a “spot check” of immigration detainee records from local jails, Gessler found 85 possibly illegally registered voters, 29 of whom may have voted since 2010. We haven’t seen any response from Gessler yet to DHS’s agreement with Florida, but there’s a possibility that he won’t find it adequate. Even if he does, everything we said about the possibility of “matching mistakes” made by Gessler doing harm in excess of the “gain” of purging a tiny number of illegal voters applies–mitigated only by the restrictions from DHS impeding that.

Like we said, this is more a question of motives. Previous evidence submitted by Gessler has been found wanting based on the normal rate of naturalization of new citizens. Gessler’s “spot check” uncovered possible problem registrations that, while important, must be put in perspective with all kinds of benign errors that occur in every election. How many babies can tolerably be thrown out with the proverbial bathwater? Is one too many?

Gov. Rick Scott makes clear above which side of the debate he’s arguing from, “dilution,” and Gessler will no doubt agree–with Colorado’s GOP Attorney General John Suthers. A different variable in Colorado is the fact that our governor is a Democrat, and John Hickenlooper could change the game here if he decides to start questioning the process (or motives).

We’ll update when we have a clearer sense what this fluid story means here in Colorado.

GOP Setting Up Metro State For Election Year Grandstand?

FOX 31′s Eli Stokols reports:

Republican Attorney General John Suthers issued a formal opinion Tuesday afternoon that Metro State College of Denver cannot legally create a new, lower category of tuition for undocumented students.

The school’s Board of Trustees voted 7-1 earlier this month to do just that, reigniting the debate over tuition equity just a couple of months after state lawmakers again killed a bill that aimed to make college more affordable for qualifying illegal immigrants…

Metro State’s President, Dr. Stephen Jordan, and Trustee Melody Harris are set to meet Wednesday afternoon with the Joint Budget Committee at the Capitol after Chairwoman Cheri Gerou requested a meeting to determine how the school decided to move ahead with its proposal.

“My goal is not to make this any more political than it already is,” said Gerou Tuesday. “I just want to find out what Metro’s thought process was, why they decided to do this, because they never hinted they were going down this road when they presented to us before.”

As the state’s only 4-year open enrollment “college of opportunity,” downtown Denver’s Metro State would always have been one of the more affected schools from any legislation or policy change easing the burden on undocumented students. Metro’s comparatively low tuition, and relatively high dependence on state funding compared to other institutions, make the school naturally more vulnerable to the political whim of legislators holding the purse strings.

Proponents say there is legal precedent for Metro’s policy change, and point to a California Supreme Court decision, Martinez vs. Board of Regents of the University of California, which held that “exemption from nonresident tuition did not violate statute prohibiting education benefits to unlawful aliens on basis of residence.” An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

Regardless, after Attorney General John Suthers’ non-binding advisory opinion yesterday, there is a great deal of attention focusing on this afternoon’s meeting of the legislative Joint Budget Committee. GOP JBC chair Rep. Cheri Gerou has come uncomfortably close to making threats to Metro State’s funding in news coverage of Metro State’s original decision. There are differing opinions as to the range of options Republicans on the JBC might entertain to deal with this “problem.” But given the free-wheeling lack of discretion with legislative power we’ve seen this year, it’s probably wise to not rule anything out in advance of today’s meeting.

Suthers Forces Lower North Fork Fire Bill Compromise

The AP reports via the Durango Herald:

Colorado legislators agreed Thursday with a compromise suggestion from Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican who chastised members of his own party in the state House for seeking a way to give victims of the Lower North Fork Fire compensation beyond the $600,000 allowed under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.

Some Democrats agreed with Suthers, setting up a potentially ugly political confrontation in the closing days of the Colorado Legislature. Suthers’ proposal was to keep the liability cap, but add state-set fires to the exemptions.

The proposal would allow fire victims to seek amounts greater than $600,000 while preserving the overall liability cap, which is in place to protect state taxpayers from unlimited payments in damage claims.

So ends what might otherwise have been an ugly fight between a Republican Attorney General and the GOP-controlled Colorado House. We’ve said all along that there was a powerful case for fairly compensating the victims of the Lower North Fork Fire, but to do so with legislation that only pertains to the one event would be unfair, cheap, political–and as Suthers says, illegal.

With this solution, these and future fire victims in similar circumstances will be fairly compensated, and we’re a bit baffled as to why the House GOP didn’t come up with it originally.

But this whole GOP in favor of bigger damage awards thing is kind of weird for everybody.