Caption This Photo: Jared Polis, Meet “Rep. Chaps”

From the floor of the Colorado House yesterday:

jaredandchaps

Congressman Jared Polis with Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt. Klingenschmitt, as readers recall, said last summer that Polis wants to "join ISIS in beheading Christians." In a 9NEWS story on Klingenschmitt this week, Polis said he is praying for "Chaps" "to return to reality from his delusional state."

What do you suppose they chatted about yesterday? Theorize after the jump.

Jeffco Residents Demand School Board Majority’s Resignation

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Gabrielle Porter of the Canyon Courier reports:

A petition signed by 6,554 Jeffco residents calling for school board President Ken Witt and board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams to resign caused a stir at the board’s meeting on Thursday evening.

Jeffco parent and petition organizer Molly Snyder told board members she is not affiliated with the teachers union, the Jefferson County Education Association. 

When Snyder presented the box of petitions during the meeting’s public comment segment, she alleged that the board’s conservative majority had broken public trust, wasted district money, violated the state’s open-meetings law, and misrepresented district schools and students in public discussions.

After last year's explosive battle over the conservative Jefferson County school board majority's politically stilted "review" of the district's AP history curriculum, there's been a bit of a lull in the action as the students, parents, and teachers involved regrouped. We've heard that, among other things, the photo taken by the Jefferson County Education Association's spokesman of board president Ken Witt with a group of fellow right wing school board presidents we posted last week has helped fire up the opposition again–a reminder that what is happening in Jefferson County is part of a larger agenda playing out in school districts across the state.

With that said, it will take more than a petition to dislodge Witt and fellow conservative board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams:

Newkirk said he would not step down until student achievement goals were met, and challenged Snyder to ask the petition signers to help meet those goals by volunteering in local schools. 

“When every child and every parent in Jefferson County has their first choice, whether it be in a school, charter school, option school, online school or otherwise — no more waiting lists — when there’s no achievement gap between our minority students and non-minority students, and, finally, when Jeffco becomes the nation’s leader in academic achievement, then I’ll step down, because my work here will be done,” Newkirk said. 

During his speech, nearly half the restive audience — largely made up of people in blue JCEA shirts — stood and turned their backs on the board podium.

What happens next? We don't know exactly–but everything we hear suggests that the conflict between the Jeffco school board's right-wing majority and the politically moderate community they serve is rapidly coming to a head. Stay tuned.

BREAKING: Libby Szabo Selected as Jefferson County Commissioner, Creating Vacancy in HD-27

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Szabo will take the seat of Republican Faye Griffin, a serial job jumper who resigned from the board after being elected county clerk in November.

Another GOP vacancy committee, for House District 27, will meet and appoint someone to take over Szabo’s seat. And the House GOP caucus will meet to elected someone to Szabo’s leadership post; she is the assistant minority leader.

Szabo said she did not know when she would be sworn in as a commissioner.

The liberal blog ColoradoPols has called into question the vacancy committee process, including the fact that it refused to release the names of other contenders for the post. Szabo, who has pushed for transparency, said she was not involved in how that committee operated.

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Libby Szabo

Libby Szabo

Republican State Rep. Libby Szabo, the Assistant Minority Leader in the GOP caucus who was just re-elected in November, has been selected by a Jefferson County Republican Party vacancy committee to become the new County Commissioner in District 1. A formal announcement is expected to come as early as this afternoon.

If you were wondering, Szabo never bothered to say anything publicly about seeking a new job one month after being re-elected to the State Legislature; nor did Szabo say anything on Dec. 15th, when she was named the top Republican on the influential House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. Szabo was one of 9 applicants to submit their names for the vacancy created by the early departure of Commissioner Faye Griffin, a serial office jumper who was elected Jeffco Clerk and Recorder (again) last November.

The 75-year-old Griffin has become notorious for failing to finish her elected term in office in order to prolong her time on the taxpayer's dole. Even the editorial board of the Denver Post ("Enough is Enough, Faye Griffin") was incensed at Griffin's apparent contempt for actually finishing her job in the office she was elected to serve. As the Denver Post wrote in October:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits. Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn't run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

"In two years, there's no county office that is open," Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998. [Pols emphasis]

Political blog JeffcoPols pointed out Griffin's move and speculated that it could be part of a larger shuffle of Republican politicians in Jefferson County intended to avoid open-seat elections. Even if it is wrong about the specific moves, the blog makes a valid point about how Griffin's action would cede power to the GOP vacancy committee in Jefferson County.

Faye Griffin

Who needs elections when you have a Faye Griffin?

Szabo's appointment will trigger yet another Republican vacancy decision — yet again leaving the voters out of the process. By state statute, Jeffco Republicans have 10 days to pick a replacement for House District 27 once Szabo officially resigns her legislative seat, and if history is any indication, they'll keep the process a secret for as long as they can get away with it. Take a look at what Ramsey Scott wrote in the Canyon Courier on Tuesday:

Natalie Menten, who works for the Jeffco GOP, said the party wasn’t releasing the names of the nine applicants. The seven-member vacancy committee was working to narrow the list to a few finalists. [Pols emphasis]

Menten said the party had received more than 50 comments from the public on the process, mostly recommending someone for the vacancy. 

The Republican vacancy committee refused to release the names of applicants to one of the most powerful elected positions in Jefferson County. Why is that okay? You are required to put your name on the ballot if you want to run for office in every other scenario involving elected officials, but once a vacancy committee convenes, it all becomes a big secret?

This nonsense has been going on for years in Jefferson County, with elected officials leaving office early as a way around term limits and to allow a Republican Party vacancy committee to choose the successor. We have no quarrel with the process of filling a vacant seat in general, but something needs to change when it is being so blatantly abused as it is in Jefferson County. A committee of just 7 members selected Szabo to an office that normally requires winning the votes of the entire county; there are more than 256,000 people in Jeffco who voted in November but will now have no input into who will serve as one of three County Commissioners — or who will decide their representative in one of a handful of House Districts in Jeffco.

We've been following this story closely for a very long time; remember, dear readers, that you heard it here first.

Senate Dems Smack Down “Radical Republican Rollback”

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

So far this legislative session, which we admit is only a few days old, the prevalent discussion at the Capitol has been mostly about bipartisanship. The beginning of the legislative session is always a time for platitudes about "working across the aisle," perhaps a bit more so right now given the narrowly split control of the legislature for the next two years.

It never lasts, of course. A press release from Colorado Senate Democrats yesterday afternoon is a shot across the bow of the new one-seat Republican Senate majority, calling them out on their "radical repeal-a-thon agenda" in not-screwing-around terms. Game on:

While Senate Democrats have been hopeful of working together to move Colorado forward, there has been a pattern of bills introduced by Republicans legislators which aggressively move the state backward. 

Despite Pres. Bill Cadman saying, “We all want to be a part of building a better future for Colorado,” only nine days into the 70th Legislative Session, the Senate Republicans have introduced extreme bills that put ordinary Coloradans at risk.

In the Senate alone, examples of the “Radical Republican Roll-Back” include bills that would allow:

• pedophiles or other criminals to run small daycares,
• the repeal of the renewable energy standard,
• felons to get guns by repealing criminal background checks,
• developers to build without regard to homeowners’ rights,
• discrimination against workers,
• more unvaccinated children in our schools,
• sale of Colorado’s public lands and open space,
• unconstitutional vouchers to drain public funds for K-12, and
• special interests to spend more on elections with less transparency. 

“I don’t think this radical repeal-a-thon agenda reflects common-sense Colorado,” said Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.  “While the Republicans speak of working together, they introduced bills that smack of extreme ideological positions and special interests.”

More after the jump. It's better this way, folks. Admit it.

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Friday Open Thread

"The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they'll sleep at night."

–Otto Von Bismarck

Something For Everyone In Hick’s 2015 State of the State

hicksos

As the Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports:

Governor John Hickenlooper used his fifth State of the State speech today to paint his legislature, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, with a Colorado-ness that reaches beyond party priorities. He touted the new first-ever statewide water plan, quoting Thomas Hornsby Ferril, whose poetry is engraved in the Capitol and that emphasizes common interest: “Here is a land where life is written in water.”

“Representatives of urban areas recognized that locally sourced dairy and food is vital to all of Colorado; while the agricultural areas realized that they could not simply allow urban areas to dry up,” Hickenlooper said of the water plan, noting it involved “the largest civic engagement process in state history.”

Lawmakers and leaders should come together, Hickenlooper suggested, to apply similarly high standards of public input and cooperation to tackle tough questions surrounding topics like oil and gas development and government funding under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR)…

The Denver Post's John Frank on Gov. John Hickenlooper's measured comments on the controversial so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR):

Hickenlooper capped his speech by addressing the state's budget situation — which he labeled a "financial thicket" in his inaugural address Tuesday. It's a reference to the possibility of refunds under the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, despite underfunded state programs.

"There is a legitimate debate of whether government should be a bit bigger or a bit smaller," the governor said, according to prepared remarks. "But that misses the point. Regardless of size, government must work."
 
But he stopped short of asking for an overhaul of TABOR and avoided taking a direct stance on how to address the issue.

"Some people want to get rid of TABOR, some want to get rid of Amendment 23, others want to get rid of Gallagher. There is no shortage of thorns in this fiscal thicket," he said. "And while we will continue to strategically prune, our state budget can only endure so much cutting. "

The Denver Business Journal:

Referencing the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper emphasized the number of environmental protections he has added through collaboration with the industry during his first term, then said he looks forward to seeing the recommendations that a task force examining the role of local government in regulating the industry will deliver later this session. But he did not give any parameters as to what kind of increased regulations he may be willing to back in the Legislature.

On the issue of local control of oil and gas drilling, an issue that caused intense infighting among Democrats last year, Hickenlooper didn't offer much in the way of specifics–but the language that he used to describe those proposals, and the competing interests of surface and subsurface property owners, is unlikely to make conservationists very happy. From the speech:

As part of a compromise to keep economically-devastating initiatives off the ballot, [Pols emphasis] we have worked with the Keystone Center and brought long-polarized interests to the same table…

I look forward to the recommendations of this task force, and pledge to work with you and other stakeholders in developing our energy resources, protecting property rights and our natural environment and public health.

The insistence that increasing local control over oil and gas drilling, in particular the setback and "environmental bill of rights" initiatives put forward during last year's debate, would be "economically devastating" broadcasts our Democratic governor's bias on the issue. There is a legitimate conflict between the rights of surface landowners and mineral rights holders needing resolution, but Hickenlooper still appears firmly on the side of mineral rights owners against local communities based on his comments today.

We wonder how politically tenable that position will be for Hickenlooper throughout his second term, as more research on the effects of "fracking" near residential neighborhoods comes out, and the plummeting price of energy caused by OPEC's price war on the frackers eats away at the already-overblown estimates of the economic impact of the industry in Colorado. Might the same changing economics that led Hickenlooper to endorse President Barack Obama's threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline soften Hick's hard line against communities worried about fracking in their boundaries?

That's one of the biggest of many questions awaiting Hickenlooper in his "legacy term."

Michael Bennet Gets First 2016 Challenger: Darryl Glenn

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet apparently has his first official (potential) challenger to his 2016 re-election campaign, and you probably didn't see this coming any more than we did. As the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post both reported today, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Who is Darryl Glenn, you ask? Well, you see…um…er…we'll tell you?

Actually, we had never heard of Darryl Glenn before today, and we're not alone. From what we understand, this announcement was as much of a surprise to many Republican politicos as it was to everyone else. We know that Glenn is an attorney in private practice and a super-duper conservative Christian who was just elected to his second term as an El Paso County Commissioner after serving two terms on the Colorado Springs City Council. Here's part of his bio from El Paso County:

Darryl Glenn graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master’s in Business Administration from Western New England College and a Juris Doctor from New England School of Law.

Glenn retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after 21 years of active duty and reserve service. He led a $19 million Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program implementing performance standards that saved $400,000. He served as Program Manager for a $5 billion office responsible for implementing a base realignment and closure plan. And, he supervised 35 communication system programs valued at $1 billion developing support plans that saved $20 million while providing a 40 percent increase in warfighting capability.

Say what you will about Glenn, but anybody who helped implement performance standards for the Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program must be…well, whatever. We don't know what that means, either.

What we do know is that the 2014 election of Republican Cory Gardner to the U.S. Senate has created a perception of a new sense of opportunity for many Republicans looking to take a shot at higher office — and Glenn is just the beginning. Glenn acknowledged his early entry into the race in announcing his campaign, saying in a press release that he is jumping in the race now because he wants to use all the time he can to put together a statewide infrastructure that can help him secure the Republican nomination for the seat.

It's too early to judge whether Glenn can be a competitive candidate, but by entering the race now, he is going to force other potential Republican candidates to make their intentions known sooner rather than later. Remember that Gardner didn't enter the 2014 race until late February, and you can see how things are changing already. 2016 is not going to be like 2014, in more ways than one.

Calling For Rep. Chaps’ Resignation (After Helping Elect Him)

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman finally gives freshman Colorado Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt the feature profile he deserves in the Denver media market–and it's pretty brutal stuff:

Klingenschmitt got blowback from both parties before he was ever elected after he compared US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) to ISIS.

He later explained that this was supposed to be hyperbole to make a point.

Now that he's sworn in to office, Klingenschmitt is still making his satellite TV show and upsetting groups people with what he says…

"I know our state legislature is part time, but I didn't realize Dr. Chaps would continue his comedy career while in office," Polis told 9NEWS. "I will continue to pray for him to return to reality from his delusional state. I'm not offended so much as I am concerned for him."

Klingenschmitt has continued posting his Pray In Jesus' Name Youtube shows after his swearing in as a Colorado legislator. Last week, Rep. Klingenschmitt celebrated the repeal in December of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas that he claimed was intended to "put Christians in jail." Klingenschmitt's latest show, picked up by Right Wing Watch, features an interview with anti-Muslim activist Bill Warner, who declares that President Barack Obama is "the face of Islam in America."

So, like we said, Rep. Chaps isn't toning down the crazy to serve. We never expected him to, of course, but it's no longer a hypothetical.

Perhaps most interesting about Klingenschmitt's 9NEWS profile are statements by his predecessor, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller. Waller is now more or less calling for Klingenschmitt to resign:

Waller agreed that at some point soon the freshman legislator is going to have to choose to be Dr. Chaps or be Rep. Klingenschmitt, but he can't be both.

"I just don't think he can do that and be successful," said Waller, adding that if Klingenschmitt is not willing to part ways with Dr. Chaps, "then, perhaps maybe the best thing for the people of the state of Colorado and for the constituents of house district 15 would be for him to step aside and let somebody else take on that challenge."

The contrast between what Waller says today and what he said before the 2014 elections is fairly important to understand:

"If you're not voting for him, you're voting for the Democrat and quite honestly legislative majorities matter," Waller said. [Pols emphasis]

That's what Waller said last August. At least then, which was well after "Dr. Chaps'" special brand of crazy was broadly understood, Waller was still more interested in securing a Republican majority in the Colorado House than protecting that institution–and Waller's own constituents–from the embarrassment Rep. Klingenschmitt is currently visiting upon them. Of course, now that Klingenschmitt has beaten his Democratic opponent, the GOP faithful of HD-15 could pick a replacement for him if they succeed in pushing him out. Failing that, Klingenschmitt might be targeted in a GOP primary next year, much like Waller himself did against infamous appointed Rep. Doug Bruce in 2008.

The biggest problem? Rep. Klingenschmitt won his seat by almost 70% of the vote. No matter how disastrous he may be for the Republican brand, the results of last year's elections are a pretty strong argument that "Dr. Chaps" doesn't need to listen to Waller or anyone else

On radio, Buck says the “middle” is not where he’ll be in Congress

(Don't act so surprised – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

You can't win if you're Rep. Ken Buck and you go on Tea-Party radio, just after you've voted to retain Tea-Party anathema John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S. House.

You've already been called out for treason on Facebook, and you have to say that's wrong. On the other hand, you have to show that you understand why liberty listeners hate Boehner so much.

Under tough questioning by guest-host Nancy Rumfelt on KFKA last week, here's how Buck threaded the needle.

Buck (at 12:40): “I want to face people.  And especially the people that thought they were being cute in putting ugly things on my Facebook.  You know, if you want to say something nasty to me, say it to my face.  Don’t put something on Facebook.  What happened yesterday was just a disgrace.  You know, go to Trey Gaudy’s town hall meeting and call him traitor. Say that he committed treason. It’s just ridiculous.  And yes, we voted for John Boehner.  We thought it was the best path forward, but it is not an act of treason.  And it’s just silly to use those terms.”

But don't even think Buck will slide toward the middle:

Buck (at 6:50 below): "Speaker and the leadership team know that they cannot count on me when they move to the middle, that I will be voting against leadership's efforts in certain areas, especially is true when it comes to the fiscal issues, the appropriations bills and the regulatory issues. And I include Obamacare in that. But absolutely. The people in the 4th Congressional District can count on Ken Buck to be with the conservative votes when it comes to the bills that are coming up in the future."

Listen to Ken Buck on KFKA's Amy Oliver Show, Jan. 7, 2015, guest hosted by Nancy Rumfelt.

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“Major Confusion” Coffman Does it Again on Immigration

Mike Coffman takes all sides

Go ahead and roll the dice — “Major Confusion” Coffman has every side covered.

Fox 31’s Eli Stokols has the rundown on today’s Congressional immigration battles, and Republican Rep. Mike “Major Confusion” Coffman is picking up kudos after a handful of conflicting votes and mismatched public statements:

[Coffman] voted against the amendment that seeks to end the Deferred Action program and the final bill, which included the amendment.

“The President’s executive actions are clearly unconstitutional and I strongly oppose his unilateral decisions on immigration but my party needs to stop just saying what we are against and start saying what we are for when it comes to fixing our broken immigration system,” said Coffman in a statement.“Under the DACA amendment that passed, young people who were taken to this country as children, who grew up here, went to school here, and often know of no other country but the United States, would not be allowed to renew their status and would face deportation. We should have had an opportunity to pass a version of the DACA program into law.  Moving forward, immigration reform should be about securing our borders, growing our economy and keeping families together and we need to do it all the constitutional way – through Congress.”

Immigration policy is confusing enough without Coffman's help, so stay with us here – this is about to get silly.

Congressman Coffman is a former U.S. Marine. If you’ve spent any time around Colorado politics, you are almost certainly aware of this; Coffman never misses an opportunity to mention his military career and call upon related clichés such as “boots on the ground.” We do not have a negative word to say about Rep. Coffman’s service record. To borrow a phrase from Democrat Andrew Romanoff, Coffman’s General Election opponent in 2014, Rep. Coffman’s military career should be applauded and respected.

His rank as a citizen lawmaker perhaps should be adjusted, however, to include the title “Major Confusion,” because that seems to be Coffman’s strategy when it comes to dealing with the issue of immigration.

While nothing ever actually happens on immigration reform, “Major Confusion” always makes sure to take credit for specific immigration votes while at the same time making sure to so obfuscate his position that it seems like he’s always on your side on the issue (Coffman even issued a statement in Spanish today about how he totally supports DREAMers). This is a pretty clever political tactic, actually, even if it is completely meaningless.

Take a look at this blog entry from Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry, who is consistently one of the most understandable and understanding journalists in Colorado, and you’ll see what we mean about the strategy of “Major Confusion.”

Coffman, a Republican, voted against a broad bill what seeks to undo the ability of illegal immigrants brought here as children to find a permanent home in the United States.

Good for you, Congressman. It was an impressive and important move. The vote was nothing but a flagrant political slap to President Barack Obama as retribution for seeking administrative ways to solve immigration problems. But it passed, 236-191 because other Republicans don’t have the temerity and good sense Coffman showed.

If you’re going to slap Coffman on the back here, it’s important to draw the distinction between being a “vote maker” and a “law maker.” Congress is in the business of making laws – or as House Speaker John Boehner routinely crows, not making laws. “Major Confusion” Coffman did indeed cast several votes today on immigration reform, but the votes were contradictory and his actions did absolutely nothing to contribute to “making laws” on immigration. Coffman split his votes on various controversial amendments, which is the real-world equivalent of flipping a coin and calling both “heads” and “tails.”

A press release issued by Colorado immigrant rights and Latino advocacy groups had a different perspective on what took place on Capitol Hil today:

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New SoS Williams’ Agenda: Bold Solutions In Search of Problems

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Nothing you shouldn't have expected from Colorado's freshly sworn-in Secretary of State Wayne Williams, but national liberal blog Think Progress reports on Williams' priority as Secretary of State: whatever voter ID law he can get.

Wayne Williams (R) was sworn in this week as Colorado’s Secretary of State, and has already begun pushing for laws to make voters show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. “I think most Coloradans are honest and law-abiding and follow the rules, but I think it’s important to have the processes in place to protect the election system so that people have confidence in it,” Williams told Colorado Public Radio in an interview over the weekend.

He added that because Democrats still control the governor’s mansion and state house, passage of such a law is unlikely, but offered that he’d be willing to settle for rules requiring a photo ID for Coloradans taking advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration. “This is someone we’ve never seen before. We don’t have any proof they are who they claim to be,” he said.

Studies show such a law targeting same-day registration would disproportionately impact voters who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized.

There have been no reports to suggest any problem with the execution of Colorado's modernized election laws in 2014, including the administration of same-day registration. Even Williams' predecessor Scott Gessler, one of the most vocal critics of the 2013 legislation that revamped Colorado's election system, grudgingly admits that the system overall worked pretty well. With that in mind, nothing about same-day registration overcomes the well-documented problems with requiring a photo ID to carry out the constitutional right to vote. In the absence of any actual problem, there's simply no reason to impose this burden–except to make it harder to vote.

But as Think Progress continues, Williams is all about making it harder to vote, even where that means breaking campaign pledges:

Williams’ campaign centered on his reputation as a “champion of access and transparency in government” and his promise to “ensure voter access to the polls” — though he did express support for voter ID laws during his run for office. He also often touted his record of making voting more convenient as a county clerk: “We have worked with all parties and groups to ensure that our polling locations are located in easy to reach locations and we’ve exceeded legal requirements by opening more locations and opening them for longer hours. As a result of these efforts, more citizens have voted than ever before in my county.”

After winning the race, he flipped on this point as well, telling Colorado Public Radio that too many polling locations were open for too many hours in this past election. “That’s not really a very cost-effective way and there certainly wasn’t a demand for it,” he said, adding that he hopes to give counties “flexibility at the local level” to decide when and where polling locations should be available.

During the 2013 recall elections, Williams came under fire for severely limiting voting locations and hours in Senate District 11. After mail ballots for the recalls were disallowed in court on a technicality, having convenient locations and hours for voters to cast ballots became far more important. Despite this, Williams' polling centers in El Paso County opened days after their counterparts in Pueblo–and in Manitou Springs, a stronghold for recalled Sen. John Morse, a vote center didn't open until the Monday before the election.

In that case, anyway, the "flexibility" Williams wanted was flexibility to game the system.

Bottom line: Williams gets a little space as a new Secretary of State to get his agenda together, but we can't forget that this is the same Wayne Williams who made a nationwide joke of himself last October–reaching for excuses to question mail ballots that were simply laughable. Suffice to say, whatever Williams ends up proposing had better be backed up with hard evidence or it will go nowhere. After Williams' embarrassing failure to gin up scandal on FOX News–not to mention four years his predecessor spent making wild allegations about vote fraud in Colorado that were totally unfounded–he starts with basically zero credibility.

And we have a strong suspicion that is where he will remain.

Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, the winds are a swirling around TABOR reform in Colorado after Gov. John Hickenlooper's inaugural speech on Tuesday:

The governor didn’t offer specifics on issues he intends to address in his second four-year term, possibly intending to save that for the State of the State speech he will give to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. Still, he hinted at a few, not the least of which are the revenue caps mandated under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Under that constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992, revenues that the state collects that exceed the current year’s budget, plus inflation and population growth, are required to be refunded to taxpayers.

But some state legislators are considering asking the voters if the state can retain some or all of those TABOR surpluses to put toward things such as K-12 education or transportation, saying both had dramatic cuts during the recession and aren’t yet fully restored.

Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time. However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow for quicker, stronger and more effective growth.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter John Frank of the Denver Post added some more TABOR-reform flavor from yesterday's festivities. Gov. Hickenlooper invited former Governors of Colorado to offer advice on his second term in office, and former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer got right to the point:

“My advice is, governor, lead a movement in this state to repeal the TABOR amendment,” he said to cheers from the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium, where guests paid $100-a-plate to attend. “We need to invest in the future of our children’s education and the infrastructure of this state. We need to return that power, that authority, that decision, to the people’s representative, the legislature and the governor.”

Romer kept at it. “We need to revise this tax system and do what the conservatives do — invest in the future of this state,” he continued. “We need to revise the TABOR amendment and get a better tax system it needs not a political election, it needs a movement. Governor, lead that movement.”

As much as Republicans will be squawking about any suggested reform to TABOR, there's reason to suggest that this is more than just a talking point. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman's first piece of legislation this session deals with TABOR adjustments — though certainly not on the level that Colorado really needs. We couldn't sum up the problem any better than Hickenlooper did last night, when he said, "Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time." Will Republicans heed that reality?

Wednesday Open Thread

Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious.
Great speech is impassioned, small speech cantankerous.

–Zhuang Zhou

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