State Rep. Everett wants Gardner to appear on radio show where host won’t “let him slide” or “use message points”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Jefferson County Republican State Rep. Justin Everett wants U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to appear on a tea-party radio show that Gardner has been dodging.

KLZ 560-AM’s Randy Corporon has been airing his displeasure with Gardner for rejecting his pleas to appear on his “Wake Up with Randy Corporon” morning show.

“He and I have always gotten along well, had good conversations in the past,” Corporon told his listeners Wednesday, explaining that he’d personally asked Gardner to come on his show. “And I said, ‘Are you going to come on and explain some of the decisions that have been made.’ And [Gardner] started to talk like he would, and then he said, ‘You know what, you guys beat the crap out of me all the time.'”

“I think it would be excellent for both of you to be on the air and hash some things out,” Everett told KLZ’s Corporon Wednesday. “I think it would be very good for your listeners and the state of Colorado. So people can actually hear Cory on the radio talking to someone who’s not going to let him slide or use message points or whatever. And actually get to the meat of the matter and find out what’s going on, because I know there is a lot of definite grassroots activists on our side who aren’t too happy with Cory. You know, on Saturday [during the Republican State convention], I thought he got a pretty tepid response when he spoke.”

Corporon told Everett: “Well I wasn’t there Friday night, but I’m told at the big celebratory dinner before the [state chair] election that he got a similarly tepid response… In fact, I think the sound defeat of Ryan Call by Steve House was a repudiation of Cory Gardner as well because Cory expended a lot of resources trying to get Ryan Call re-elected.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 23)

Get More Smarter

Today is the nicest day of the work week weatherwise, so play hooky if you can! For the rest of 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).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Ted Cruz is running for President.

► Colorado had the third-highest voter turnout in America in 2014, which means we are doing something right–unless you don’t want everybody to vote.

► Republicans in Congress have a nightmare of a week ahead. From the FOX News report we cited over the weekend:

Next week could very well break the U.S. House of Representatives.

Or, if things go well, the House Republican majority could score two of its biggest legislative victories in quite a while, demonstrating it can govern.

The stakes are high as the GOP plans to debate and approve a budget. It’s a two-step in which Republicans slash spending but maneuver parliamentarily to bolster defense programs, satisfying both fiscal conservatives and budget hawks.

Or, the effort could blow up in the Republicans’ face.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Ted Cruz First To Enter 2016 Presidential Race

Sen. Ted Cruz, with Tom Tancredo (L) and Rep. Steve King of Iowa (R).

Sen. Ted Cruz, with Tom Tancredo (L) and Rep. Steve King of Iowa (R).

AP via the Denver Post:

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has become the first major candidate for president, kicking off what’s expected to be a rush over the next few weeks of more than a dozen White House hopefuls into the 2016 campaign.

“I am running for president and I hope to earn your support,” the tea party favorite said in a Twitter message posted just after midnight on Monday.

Cruz will formally launch his bid during a morning speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, choosing to begin his campaign at the Christian college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell rather than his home state of Texas or the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s a fitting setting for Cruz, a 44-year-old tea party darling whose entry into the 2016 campaign drew cheers Sunday among fellow conservatives.

“Tea Party darling” Sen. Ted Cruz has proved a major thorn in the side of most of his fellow Republicans, ready to scuttle delicately-balanced negotiations over important matters at any time in order to score relatively meaningless political points against President Barack Obama. “Tea Party” factions in both the House and Senate look to Cruz for leadership, sometimes to the profound chagrin of House Speaker John Boehner–as we saw perhaps most damagingly in last year’s standoff over Obama’s immigration executive orders.

Obviously, what Ted Cruz needs to be successful with his grand vision of…well, whatever his grand vision is, he needs to be President to do it. It’s tough to imagine Cruz actually winning the GOP nomination, kind of like it was hard to imagine Rick Santorum as President. But he’s certainly allowed to try.

In the 2012 cycle, fellow Texan Gov. Rick Perry, a candidate we’d consider on the same general tier intellectually and politically as Ted Cruz, earned the backing of Rep. Mike Coffman. Coffman in fact served as the state chairman of Perry’s campaign until Perry imploded in a series of campaign trail and debate gaffes.

Well folks, here’s another chance for Coffman to be “a proud member of the Party of No.”

Monday Open Thread

“If a man went simply by what he saw, he might be tempted to affirm that the essence of democracy is melodrama.”

–Irving Babbitt

Impartial Montana Judge Rebuts Colorado Judiciary’s Pension Contract Breach Cover Up.

(Interestingly, the Montana Court Wrongly Believes that the Colorado PERA Statutory “Annual Benefit Increase” is Tied to the “Cost of Living,” When, in Fact, it is Identical to the Montana Pension Benefit.)

This recent Montana District court decision draws a bright line under our historic and brazen Colorado pension theft, a theft that makes Bernie Madoff look like a pickpocket.

From Helenair.com: “Retirees’ cost-of-living increases preserved.”

“A state district court judge on Wednesday struck down a legislative attempt to cut the annual cost-of-living adjustments for retired state and local government employees.”

“District Judge James Reynolds issued a permanent injunction blocking the attempt by the 2013 (Montana) Legislature to reduce what is known as the Guaranteed Annual Benefit Adjustment, or GABA, from 3 percent to 1 percent for retirees under the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS).”

“After the Legislature adjourned, the Association of Montana Retired Public Employees and four retirees filed the lawsuit challenging the cut in GABA.”

(Colorado public sector unions joined in the campaign to break Colorado PERA pensioner contracts. Retirees generally don’t pay union dues.)

Helenair.com:

“’By reducing the GABA, the state has significantly decreased the benefit payments that retired public employees receive,’ Reynolds wrote Wednesday. ‘Decreasing benefits for those who have already given their entire working life to the state, benefits to which they are contractually entitled, is not reasonable or necessary when other broader remedies were available.’”

“In his decision, Reynolds listed some other options available other than cutting the GABA that the Legislature could have used, citing the arguments of the retirees’ group.”

“These included: extending the pension debt amortization period beyond 30 years, adopting the bill as proposed without the GABA reduction, increasing the employer’s contributions, making a one-time payment to PERS from the state general fund reserves, diverting money from other accounts such as the coal severance tax trust fund, the tobacco settlement trust fund or the Big Sky Economic Development trust fund into PERS, or raising revenue through tax increases.”

(All of these options, including a prospective reduction of the rate at which PERA benefits accrue, that is, a reduction in the Colorado PERA pension “multiplier” going forward, were available to the Colorado politicians who broke the Colorado PERA ABI contract in 2010.)

Helenair.com:

“‘The court thus concludes that reducing the GABA was not reasonable and necessary to achieve the legitimate purpose of maintaining actuarial soundness in PERS,’ Reynolds wrote. ‘The substantial impairment caused by Section 5 of House Bill 454, therefore, is in violation of the contract clause of both the Montana and U.S. Constitutions.’”

“Reynolds said that he was persuaded that reducing GABA ‘constitutes a substantial impairment of retired public employees’ contract rights.’”

“’From a strictly financial point of view, the reduction in the GABA would have a substantial effect on the total value of payments a retiree could receive over his or her retirement – thousands of dollars in some cases,’ Reynolds wrote.”

“He said the publications distributed by the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement Administration made available to PERS members support the interpretation that the GABA is part of the members’ contract. Handbooks from PERS and workshops put on by its board did the same, he said.”

“’These publications show that public employees were told before and after they retired that they could count on the GABA,’ Reynolds said.”

(Colorado PERA publications demonstrating the contractual nature of the Colorado PERA ABI benefit are archived at the website: saveperacola.com.)

http://helenair.com/news/local/retirees-cost-of-living-increases-preserved/article_89db3266-00a0-5893-bb81-1f313351b836.html

Published comments on the Helenair.com article:

“In terms of the state pension, the only reason it was ever in trouble is that the legislature and Administrations, both Democratic and Republican ignored their obligation to fund it adequately, both by raising state contributions and employee contributions. By assuming that the stock market would always be super healthy, they assured the program would ultimately be in crisis.”

“I point out Bullock for his hypocrisy of being the one who introduced the amendment to cut GABA. On that day in April, 2013. He then vetoed it saying it was unconstitutional, as you say. So why did he drag everyone through it?”

“Note to reporter. You start the article saying Reynolds struck down legislature’s attempt to cut cost of living adjustments, Reynolds specifically said they are not COLA’s but are a specific 3% amount guaranteed by the law.”

(This ruse was quite useful in securing the Colorado Supreme Court’s political decision in the Colorado PERA public pension case, Justus v. State.)

THE MONTANA DISTRICT COURT DECISION.

Link to the Montana COLA (GABA) Decision:

http://mpera.mt.gov/docs/GABAdecision2015.pdf

Excerpts From the Montana Court Decision:

“The GABA is not, strictly speaking, a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) because it is not dependent on the actual cost of living at the time. Rather, the GABA is applied regardless of whether it is higher or lower than the change in the cost of living.”

(This is a pertinent observation on the part of the Montana Judiciary that unaccountably escaped the Colorado Judiciary.)

“Leading up to the 2013 legislative session, the funding ratio of the (Montana) PERS was 67 percent, meaning the fund was only able to meet 67 percent of its current liabilities.”

(The Colorado PERA pension system had a 69 percent funded ratio at the time of the PERA ABI contract breach in 2010.)

“AMRPE claims that HB 454 violates the contract clause of both the Montana and United States Constitutions because retired public employees have a contractual right to the GABA and, by unilaterally reducing the GABA, the legislature has impaired that right.”

“Beneficial amendments automatically become part of an employee’s contract because acceptance of the modification is presumed, but acceptance cannot be presumed when a modification is detrimental to the employee.”

 (Another important observation by this Montana District Court judge.)

“Montana’s Constitution has no such provision that directly addresses the contractual nature of public retirement benefits.” (Well, just like the Colorado Constitution.)

“The (Colorado) Court compared the COLA statute to other laws it had previously determined created contractual rights, using words such as ‘entitled,’ ‘future,’ and ‘payable for the life of the retiree,’ and noted that the COLA statute did not contain any such language. (Justus) Moreover, the Court noted that ‘[b]y its very nature a statutory cost of living adjustment is a periodic exercise of legislative discretion that takes account of changing economic conditions in the state and/or nation.'” (Justus)

(The Montana court is unaware that the Colorado statutory language creating the Colorado PERA base benefit contract is identical to the statutory language creating the Colorado PERA ABI benefit contract. Both contractual obligations “SHALL” be paid under Colorado statutes. How is it that ordinary public pensioners possess knowledge that court officials miss?)

The Montana Court is Under the Impression that Colorado’s Statutory Annual Benefit Increase [ABI] is a COLA, When in Fact, It is Identical in Form to the Montana Pension GABA, a Fixed Statutory, Periodic Increase.

Montana Court: “While these cases from other states are helpful to the Court’s analysis, none address an identical situation to that in the present case. The (Montana) GABA is not a COLA that is tied to economic factors outside the control of the legislature. It is a fixed percentage that compounds annually, regardless of market performance. In that sense, the GABA is unlike the COLAs in New Mexico, Maine, or Colorado which were not contractually protected because, in part, they were subject to the whims of the economy.”

(The Montana court failed to consider the political nature of the Colorado court’s treatment of the ABI benefit in the case, Justus v. State and thus misinterpreted the legal status of the Colorado PERA ABI benefit.)

“Once that enhancement was made, it became part of the contract.”

(This is the historical [pre-contract breach campaign] position taken by Colorado PERA officials.)

“The legislature did not reserve the right to reduce that enhancement in the future, nor did it declare that the GABA was not part of the contract. The legislature knew that public employees had a contractual right to retirement benefits and chose to guarantee an additional benefit beyond those in existence at the time.”

(Evidence Ignored by the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado PERA’s Former General Counsel and Current Executive Director:

August 17, 2005, Rocky Mountain News:

“His [Colorado PERA General Counsel Greg Smith’s] briefing paper said ‘there has never been a finding in Colorado that the state has reserved its power to make changes’ in PERA’s benefit structure.”

“Smith said in his opinion that ‘other [non-Colorado] courts have set a high burden to meet the necessity threshold.'”

“The PERA board, however, relying on a legal opinion by General Counsel Greg Smith, thinks benefits cannot be cut for any active PERA member. That means not just current retirees and workers who are eligible to retire but the brand-new employee who has put less than a year of contributions into the plan.”

“Smith argued, however, that there is no precedent for declaring an actuarial emergency unless a pension fund has a serious cash liquidity problem.”

http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2005/aug/17/span-classdeeplinksredpart-four-the-pera-puzzle/

Again, Greg Smith:

“Shrink the COLAs: ‘The attorney general’s opinion seems clear that fully vested employees — those retired or with enough years of service to retire — cannot see any benefits reduced, including cost-of-living adjustments,’ Smith said.”

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_11105271)

Back to the Montana Court Decision:

“Given the structure and language of the relevant statutes, and the promises made to public employees, the Court concludes that the GABA is part of the contract between public employees and the state.”

“The Court is persuaded that, by reducing in the GABA from three percent to 1 percent, HB 454 constitutes a substantial impairment of retired public employees’ contract rights. From a strictly financial point of view, the reduction in the GABA would have a substantial effect on the total value of payments a retiree could receive over his or her retirement-thousands of dollars in some cases.”

“As described above, PERB distributed literature and held seminars and workshops that repeatedly assured employees that the GABA was guaranteed, not subject to the whims of the market, and something on which they could rely.”

Colorado PERA’s lawyers, December 16, 2009:

Colorado PERA officials in written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee: “The General Assembly cannot decrease the COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”

http://www.kentlambert.com/Files/PERA_JBC_Hearing_Responses-12-16-2009_Final.pdf

If Colorado PERA’s lawyers believe that the PERA ABI benefit is a contractual obligation, why should the relatively unsophisticated PERA pensioners not also hold this belief?)

Montana Court:

“Retired public employees reasonably expected that the GABA would not decrease, despite the fact that the GABA statute had been amended in the past, because the GABA had never been reduced, except for new hires.”

“In 2007, the Montana Legislature reduced the GABA to 1.5 percent for employees hired after January 1,2007. This further strengthens AMRPE’s reasonable expectation that the GABA, as applied to them, would not decrease.”

(As we have observed, similar legislation was adopted in Colorado in 2005.)

“Public employees have a legitimate expectation that the GABA is part of their contracts with the State, and a reduction in GABA substantially frustrates that expectation.

“The burden is on the State to prove that the impairment was reasonable and necessary.”

(Colorado PERA’s lawyers agreed with this point, until they shifted their legal strategy for the PERA pension contract breach from “actuarial necessity” to a simple denial of contractual obligations. The Colorado Judiciary circumvented this problem of having the defendants prove reasonableness and necessity by accepting the defendant’s suggestion that the court simply deny the existence of the PERA ABI contract, a contract which PERA’s lawyers and the sponsor of SB10-001 had previously acknowledged.)

Note that the Montana court cites the federal case, US Trust, a case the Colorado Supreme Court artfully ignored:

Montana District Court:

“Though courts generally defer to the legislature’s judgment, in this case ‘complete deference to a legislative assessment of reasonableness is not appropriate because the State’s self-interest is at stake…. If a State could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all.” (US Trust)

“Nevertheless, the cases both parties cite make clear the when the State is a party to the contract that is substantially impaired, complete deference to the legislature is inappropriate. And the State is clearly a party to the employment contracts of public employees. The Court, therefore, will not grant complete deference to the legislature and will instead apply a heightened level of scrutiny.”

“Even if alternatives might be ‘politically more difficult,’ the State is limited in its ability ‘to abridge its contractual obligations without first pursuing other alternatives.'”

“Decreasing benefits for those who have already given their entire working life to the State, benefits to which they are contractually entitled, is not reasonable or necessary, when other broader remedies were available.”

“The substantial impairment of contract rights caused by Section 5 of HB 454, therefore, is in violation of the contract clause of both the Montana and United States Constitutions. AMRPE is entitled to summary judgment and a permanent injunction.”

“The State is permanently enjoined from enforcing the amendments to § 19-3-1605, MCA, contained in section 5 of HB 454, reducing the GABA for retired public employees.”

From the Montana PERA website:

March 4, 2015

“Judge Reynolds today granted PERS retirees’ request for a permanent injunction to prevent the Board from implementing the decrease in GABA under Section 5 of House Bill 454 (2013).”

“The Judge ruled that the PERS retirees have a contract right to the GABA increases and that the State’s reduction of the GABA to address the actuarial soundness of PERS was not ‘reasonable and necessary’ and thus violated the contract clauses of the Montana and the US Constitutions.”

http://mpera.mt.gov/perslawsuitamrpe.shtml

For reference, I provide links to a few previous ColoradoPols.com articles addressing the attempted governmental theft of the Montana retiree’s GABA pension benefit:

http://coloradopols.com/diary/41512/montana-governor-likely-to-sign-a-pension-reform-bill-he-believes-is-unconstitutional#sthash.1Y5eOS6k.dpbs

http://coloradopols.com/diary/46521/montana-retiree-cola-theft-lawsuit-progressing-colorado-pera-retiree-cola-theft-lawsuit-cert-petition-pending#sthash.1bmBRUM8.dpbs

http://coloradopols.com/diary/44462/montana-public-sector-unions-to-sue-over-pension-cola-theft-colorados-unions-supported-the-taking-of-the-contracted-colorado-pera-cola-benefit-from-pensioners#sthash.Hmot55ms.dpbs

Readers should note that protections afforded to public pensioners by the US Constitution vary dramatically depending on which side of a state line a pensioner happens to be standing. To wit:

http://coloradopols.com/diary/64487/the-colorado-supreme-court-politicians-in-black-robes-as-it-turns-out#sthash.XwxTOij1.dpbs

Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook.

When Ken Buck Is The Reasonable One…?

Finger on the button.

Finger on the button.

FOX News’ Chad Pergram with a surprisingly candid report on a tough week ahead for Speaker John Boehner and the fractious GOP-controlled House:

Next week could very well break the U.S. House of Representatives.

Or, if things go well, the House Republican majority could score two of its biggest legislative victories in quite a while, demonstrating it can govern.

The stakes are high as the GOP plans to debate and approve a budget. It’s a two-step in which Republicans slash spending but maneuver parliamentarily to bolster defense programs, satisfying both fiscal conservatives and budget hawks.

Or, the effort could blow up in the Republicans’ face.

In addition, the House will tiptoe through what has become one of the most-nettlesome votes in Congress: approving a replacement measure to cover the “doc fix” for physicians and seniors who use Medicare.

In the days since the Republican-controlled House and Senate released their competing budget proposals, each has been widely panned as reliant on “gimmicks” to achieve their stated goals–for this year, and to achieve the long held “Tea Party” goal of balancing the budget within a decade. The biggest problem is that, while both budget proposals would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, they keep the tax revenue generated by it.

In other words, they’re totally unworkable.

The only thing we can add is that when freshman Rep. Ken Buck, one of the loudest and angriest conservatives in the GOP House says his chamber’s plan is not realistic, we’re obliged to take note:

Still, some Republicans aren’t even drinking their own party’s Kool-Aid when leaders extoll the merits of Price’s budget.

“I don’t know anyone who believes we’re going to balance the budget in 10 years,” claimed Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. “It’s all hooey.” [Pols emphasis]

And one more problem: any conservative alternative likely would be even worse.

[T]here’s a problem when considering a substitute: If the House adopts a substitute before the base resolution (in this case, Price’s budget), that budget wins. The entire process comes to a screeching halt and members never get to Price’s outline.

One senior Republican leadership source told Fox “we’re screwed” if the House OK’s the RSC budget or anything. The source argued the top-line spending numbers in any budget more conservative than Price’s are too low and could have drastic fiscal impact on the entire federal government. [Pols emphasis]

So before we conclude that Ken Buck really is the voice of Republican reason in the budget debate, we should probably ask what his alternative would be. Because there’s every reason to believe what Buck wants would be much worse. The again, based on recent experience, the entire effort from the GOP to produce a budget that the President could sign with this dysfunctional majority is mostly likely a waste of all of our time.

We invite Rep. Buck and his colleagues to prove us wrong.

Weekend Open Thread

“It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it.”

–Miguel de Cervantes

Don’t Discriminate Against the Elderly; Everyone Else is Fair Game

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters Woods

Freshman Senator Laura Waters Woods (R-Arvada) is up for re-election in 2016, and that means Senate District 19 will be one of the most heavily-contested legislative races of the cycle. Republicans may wish they could get rid of her (and they might try), because she has been nothing short of her own negative advertisement during her first few months in the Senate. 

“We don’t want to discriminate against the elderly, so that is why they were excluded in this bill.”

— Sen. Laura Woods, speaking today on the Senate Floor in support of SB15-069

Senator Waters Woods was again on the Senate floor today speaking in favor of her “Right to Discriminate” legislation (SB15-069) that seeks to repeal anti-discrimination laws put on the books just a few years ago. Under existing law, employees have rights against discrimination based on disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry; Republican-aligned business interests have opposed these laws because they fear “frivolous lawsuits,” and Woods has been just the person to carry this leaking pail of water around the Capitol in 2015.

Woods wants to get rid of almost all of the anti-discrimination protections created in the “Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013,” but she has rendered her own arguments moot by insisting on one solitary exception. Woods believes that Colorado should only have anti-discrimination laws that protect the elderly, an absurd stance to take on an already ridiculous policy idea. As Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) said in a press release, “It doesn’t make sense. A 77 year old white man, like me, is protected under the bill still, but a 60 year old African American is not. Why?”

It’s not like this bill was a late addition to the calendar that caught some people off guard; Woods introduced this bill in January, and has been taking heavy blows in the media ever since. Did Senate Republicans not realize that Woods would be so vocal in her support of an exception for the elderly? Have they not been paying attention to the words that are coming out of her mouth? [Video after the jump]

The “Right to Discriminate” bill has one stop left on the Senate floor before it heads to the House for its official demise, which makes this whole thing that much weirder from a political and strategic perspective. Republicans don’t have the votes to get this bill to the Governor, so why not just kill it in a Senate committee before Woods can use it for self-harm? This is a bad bill, made worse by stupid arguments, all of which will undoubtedly come back to haunt Republicans in one of their most at-risk State Senate seats.

Watch the video after the jump…

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Gardner Gets Weasely On Crude Oil Exports

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

A news hit for Colorado’s junior Sen. Cory Gardner from the trade journal Hellenic Shipping News, a story titled Oil Producers Face Skeptical Congress in Drive to End Export Ban:

Coming into this year, it seemed that the time was right to overturn a ban on exporting U.S. crude oil: Republicans controlled Congress, production was nearing an all-time high and gasoline was falling toward $2 a gallon.

Despite a lobbying push by drillers, and steep job losses in the oil fields, there’s been no significant effort in Congress to lift the 40-year-old ban. Even the Senate’s top advocate for the idea hasn’t proposed legislation…

The reason for the go-slow approach is wariness among lawmakers that they’d be blamed if gasoline prices climb after the ban is lifted. And the oil industry itself is split, with some refiners, who benefit from low prices, opposed to lifting the ban. Oil produced domestically is selling for about $9 less than the global benchmark.

Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Sen. Gardner serves, held a hearing on the subject of lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Going into the hearing, Gardner was reportedly “undecided” about whether to support lifting the ban, but his reported comments certainly indicate where he’s leaning:

Two members of the panel, Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who often sides with Republicans on energy issues, and Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said they were still undecided on the issue.

Gardner said it may make sense to sense to send some of the light sweet crude produced from shale rock formations overseas, because U.S. refiners along the Gulf Coast can better handle heavier crudes. [Pols emphasis]

Sounds pretty supportive to us! And an energy industry press release after yesterday’s hearing praises Gardner’s “insightful question” that teed up the industry’s argument perfectly:

“Colorado Senator Cory Gardner asked an insightful question yesterday about what happens if we don’t lift the ban,” said Eberhart. “We will have a glut of crude with nowhere to go.  Oil and gas companies will no longer have an incentive to keep producing, so we’ll start losing jobs. The current shale boom has helped create 1.7 million of them.”

Consumers are plowing their savings from cheap gasoline right back into the economy all around the country, helping boost economic growth. The full reasons for the current rock-bottom price of oil are more complicated than simply the “shale revolution,” most importantly the price war initiated by foreign oil producers intended to make North American shale production from “fracking” unprofitable. The industry wants a “price floor” to ensure their operations remain profitable, and the ability to export crude oil would raise prices at least by the difference between the American and global market price–and possibly much more, depending on what OPEC does.

And once the price of oil starts going up again as it surely will, American consumers would feel the pain even more. This is where politicians with the authority to decide these questions must face the hard reality of choosing between their oh-so friendly allies and donors in the energy industry…and the rest of the economy.

Gardner may pay lip service to being deliberative about this, but where he’ll land in the end is unfortunately a foregone conclusion.

Get More Smarter on Friday (March 20)

Get More SmarterYour bracket isn’t busted; it’s just resting…for next year. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Everyone wants to know how construction costs for a new VA Hospital building in Aurora got so out of hand. Electa Draper of the Denver Post takes a look at the discussion.

► Republicans in Congress, federal budgets, and the “Magic Asterisk.” Paul Krugman of the New York Times explains why Republicans budgets are complete nonsense:

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Lawsuit: Susan Shepherd Misled Public on Zoning Change for A Campaign Contributor

The last place a struggling political candidate wants to be is in court, on the wrong end of a lawsuit from voters. But that’s exactly where Susan Shepherd, the rookie City Council representative for Northwest Denver’s District 1, has landed.

Susan Shepherd

Source: 9news

Shepherd was singled out in a lawsuit that three local homeowners and the Sloan’s Lake Neighborhood Association filed March 16 in Denver District Court against the entire City Council. The suit seeks to overturn the Council’s controversial vote to allow significantly larger-than-originally-promised buildings in one portion of the St. Anthony redevelopment project by Sloan’s Lake, in Shepherd’s district. Shepherd has received campaign donations from at least nine developers involved in projects at St. Anthony or on nearby West Colfax Ave., including NAVA Real Estate Development, which benefits directly from the upzoning at the heart of the lawsuit.

The crux of the lawsuit is that the City Council improperly considered and voted on the upzoning, ignoring an earlier city-sanctioned development plan and violating in various ways the legal requirement that Council must function as an impartial, quasi-judicial body in considering such requests. The complaint specifically cites Shepherd’s actions during the Council’s Feb. 17 hearing and vote on the matter as a key piece of evidence for its claim:  

“At said hearing, Councilwoman Shepherd made the claim that the proposed rezoning conformed to the West Colfax Plan, and read aloud a relevant portion of the Guiding Principles–which were incorporated into such plan—to make her point. Such principles require the tallest buildings to be “toward West Colfax”. When Shepherd read from the Guiding Principles, she omitted the words “toward West Colfax” from her recital. Furthermore, at said hearing, the Community Planning and Development (CPD) staff made no reference whatever to the significant words “toward West Colfax.” [author’s emphasis]

This is a big deal because while the St. Anthony redevelopment is widely popular, hundreds of residents have rebelled against an ongoing push by its developers to allow huge buildings closer to Sloan’s Lake than originally planned. There, the 12-story buildings that developers want — instead of the five-story structures the zoning previously allowed — would block views and cast shadows on the popular park. Residents want them further south of the lake, nearer to West Colfax Ave., as they say the area redevelopment plan specifically intended. Shepherd voted in favor of the upzoning that would allow those high-rises to cluster by the lakefront, despite the request of 500 nearby residents that she vote “no.”

The suit also alleges that instead of approaching the zoning hearing in the impartial, “quasi-judicial” manner city law requires Council to take for such hearings, Shepherd had determined in advance how she planned to vote:

“Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, within whose District lies the subject property, immediately after the quasi-judicial hearing, read from a prepared statement approving the rezoning. In her statement, which was purportedly read from the Urban Form, Guiding Principle of the St. Anthony Task Force Report and Recommendation regarding building height and density, but specifically omitted the operative language, and two most important words, “towards Colfax”. Upon information and belief, Plaintiffs believe Shepherd failed to conduct herself as a neutral quasi-judicial decision-maker, having already spoken in favor of the zoning change at the November 12, 2014 Planning Board hearing on the C-MX-12 zoning map amendment, and having engaged in extensive ex parte contacts with the property owner and its representatives while the rezoning application was pending, and having already decided to vote in favor of the rezoning before the February 17, 2015 City Council hearing.” [author’s emphasis]

It gets worse: The zoning change in question primarily benefits one of Shepherd’s campaign funders, NAVA Real Estate Development. Shepherd  was in hot water already with District 1 voters over her ties with developers with whom she has sided in numerous cases vs. aggrieved constituents. Now, her growing opposition can point to another in a series of occasions in which Susan Shepherd appeared to favor a campaign donor over local residents.

For GOP State Chair Steve House, Game On.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado GOP chairman-elect Steve House.

Colorado GOP chairman-elect Steve House.

On Saturday, Steve House was awarded the honor to lead Colorado’s Republican Party. Now what?  How will he prioritize, and how will he deal with the fires and ashes surrounding him as I type? That’s the story flowing from House’s not-so-surprising victory over incumbent chair Ryan Call, and there’s lots of material to work with.

The first fire: The developing campaign to recall of Rep. Dan Thurlow. Will Steve House support a Republican-recalling-a-Republican? Will the new chair get out in front of this one and say, that’s not how we treat our own?

That fire will be burning for a while, you get the feeling, and it may be fueled by anger over how House sets his priorities as chair. He rose to power with promises to turn the state-party county entities into “franchises,” empowered to raise money and innovate.

But which counties will get the dough? There’s House’s friend, Pueblo GOP Chair Becky Mizel and others like her, who have virtually no hope of electing Republicans. Does she get an equal slice of the Republican empowerment pie? Does she get any pie, given other needs?

(more…)