Search Results for: civil unions

Gardner Clams Up As Same-Sex Marriages Resume

Good for the economy, too.

Good for the economy, too.

As the Denver Post's Jesse Paul reports, same-sex marriages are taking places across Colorado today as the last remaining stays against county clerks are vacated. After years of political battles, lost elections, and in the end anticlimactic court decisions responding to public opinion that has shifted dramatically, marriage equality is the law in Colorado:

Douglas County started issuing same-sex marriage licenses at 8 a.m. on Tuesday…

In Jefferson County, the first same-sex licence was issued at about noon, and Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson said it was "pretty exciting."

Anderson expects a similar number of same-sex marriage licenses as civil unions. The county has issued 241 civil unions.

The licenses are being issued in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday to deny appeals against laws allowing same-sex marriage and a subsequent proclamation that the marriages will now be legal in Colorado.

9NEWS has more from Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, a Republican:

"I believe strongly in individual rights," the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson said. "I personally support marriage equality, and I am proud to be part of this historic day."

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Polling shows that Colorado voters are strongly in favor of marriage equality today–61% in favor to only 33% opposed. That's a sea change from the electorate's mood in 2006, when a gay marriage ban was passed in Colorado and even civil unions failed a popular vote. In the past eight years, the issue has evolved right out from under Colorado Republicans–to the extent that the GOP House majority's shenanigans in 2012 to stop a civil unions bill from passing the legislature playing a significant role in Democrats retaking that chamber in November.

And it's another moment where GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner's long record is now a liability. As a state representative, Gardner voted against joint custody for same-sex couples in adoption cases. In Congress, Gardner voted against funding to implement the repeal of the military's hated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. At the same time, Gardner's long string of flip-flops in this campaign is a major liability all by itself. And with the press now paying critical attention to what he says, it's an increasingly dangerous ploy.

With all of that in mind, what is Gardner supposed to say about same-sex marriage? Answer, as FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports: as little as possible.

"My views on marriage have long been clear," Gardner said to FOX31 Denver. [Pols emphasis] "I believe we must treat each other with dignity and respect. This issue is in the hands of the courts and we must honor their legal decisions.

"While others might seek to divide Coloradans, I will not do that. Coloradans are tired of politicians who spend all their time on partisan hot-button issues that divide our state…"

The problem with that, of course, is that Democrats didn't force the Supreme Court to take this action. Before Republicans found themselves on the wrong side of public opinion, Gardner was more than happy to campaign against, and vote against, the very same equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens that the Supreme Court has upheld and much of the state is celebrating today. The fact is, this is an issue both sides have spent a great deal of time and effort on–LGBT Coloradans and Democratic allies in support, Gardner and Republicans opposed.

The only difference today is that Gardner's side lost.

Supreme Court Won’t Take Up Gay Marriage Appeals; Colorado to Begin Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

POLS UPDATE #4: More reaction, Sen. Mark Udall:

"We are a stronger, better state when all couples are able to publically affirm their shared commitment and responsibilities to one another through marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court's move to let the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in favor of marriage equality stand is a win for all Coloradans," Udall said. "We should celebrate what this will mean for so many of our friends, family members and neighbors. And while this is an important milestone for our state and for other states around the country impacted today, we still have work to do to ensure equality for Americans nationwide."

Udall has been a vocal advocate of striking down misguided laws that discriminate against committed, married gay couples at both the state and federal levels. Udall last year helped to pass in the U.S. Senate the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused to act on the legislation. He also led the successful effort to repeal the harmful and discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

The Colorado House and Senate majorities in a joint statement:

"The Supreme Court's decision to let the lower-court rulings stand vindicates a lot of work by a lot of people over a lot of years," said Speaker Mark Ferrandino, the House sponsor, with Rep. Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge), of the 2013 Colorado law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. 

"It's gratifying that this moment came before my time in the legislature ends," the term-limited Speaker Ferrandino said, "but what really matters is that our state and our country will finally offer equal treatment under the law to all loving couples." 

"We knew this day would come," said Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), who with Senate President Pro Tem Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) were the Senate sponsors of the 2013 law. "The only task left for us is to fix the obsolete Colorado laws now on the books and make them constitutional according to the decisions handed down by the courts, particularly the 10th Circuit." 

"The majority of Americans, and a majority of Coloradans, support marriage equality," Sen. Guzman said. "This is about families, and Coloradans know that families are the backbone of a strong, healthy state. This decision provides further opportunity for all families to succeed under the law." 

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POLS UPDATE #3: The Denver Post reports that Pueblo County is now issuing same-sex marriage licenses, the first jurisdiction in Colorado to do so after the Supreme Court's action today.

bomarriage

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POLS UPDATE #2: Colorado Attorney General John Suthers concedes the obvious. From the Denver Post:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers on Monday said all 64 county clerks must begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear all appeals on gay marriage bans.

Suthers' announcement is an abrupt and unexpected resolution to the legal battles in Colorado, including the attorney general's previous successful efforts to stop to county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses this past summer…

…"By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place," Suthers said in a statement. "We expect the 10th Circuit will issue a final order governing Colorado very shortly. Once the formalities are resolved clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples."

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POLS UPDATE: Our friends over at "The Fix" sum up today's decision quite nicely:

The Court's ruling (or lack thereof) is expected to extend gay marriage to 30 states — and it's easy to imagine a number of other states will follow suit in seeking legalization since there will be no pending legislation in front of the Court to keep them from doing so. Will there eventually be a challenge to the legality of same sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court? Yes.  Does the makeup of the Court make some difference in how that decision turns out? Also, yes. But, by not acting on the current challenges, the Court has allowed the massive momentum in favor of gay marriage to continue. And not just to continue, but to grow.

Original post follows…

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(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

What will Colorado's Attorney General do now?

The news out of Washington, DC this morning is that the Supreme Court has denied the appeals from opponents of marriage equality this morning: (AP News blurb). With the announcement, the stays of various Appeals Courts are vacated and gay marriage is now legal in all jurisdictions where appeals courts have found in favor of marriage equality!

AG Suthers said he wanted the courts to wait until a decision was handed down by the Supreme Court. This is the decision: the Appeals Courts are unanimous so far – gay marriage is a fundamental right! Will Suthers abide by the decision and ask for his stays to be lifted so that GLBT couples can join in the celebration of marriage? Or will he continue to delay and obstruct?

Hickenlooper v. Beauprez: Live Blog Tonight!

Democrat John Hickenlooper

It has become something of a tradition here at Colorado Pols for us to give you, our loyal readers, a live blog, play-by-play of political debates in Colorado, and we're back at it again.Bob Beauprez Governor

Tonight we'll be at the auditorium in the Denver Post building once more, this time for a debate between Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez.

The festivities are scheduled to begin at around 5:45 pm. Live streaming of the debate should be available at denverpost.com/debates.

 

*NOTE: The most current update appears at the top of the page. As always, unless it is in direct quotes, consider all statements paraphrased in the interest of time.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS
Governor Hickenlooper was poised, funny, and his general affable self. Beauprez seemed much more relaxed than normal — but almost too relaxed. Beauprez needed to land some solid punches in this debate, and he just…didn't. There weren't a lot of memorable lines from tonight's debate, despite some pretty good questions, which makes this absolutely a missed opportunity for Beauprez. Hickenlooper wanted either a "win" or a "draw" tonight; you can argue whether he won, but he definitely ended up with at least a draw.

As for Beauprez? The only thing he was consistently on-message about was saying the phrase "kick the can down the street" whenever possible. He seemd tonight like a man who is unaware that tomorrow is the first day of October. Beauprez absolutely, positively needed to throw some punches that would at least leave a small mark on Hickenlooper. Instead, he just kicked the can down the road toward the next debate.

 

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Dr. Chaps: Jared Polis Wants To Behead America’s Christians

MONDAY UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols with reaction from GOP chairman Ryan Call as Gordon Klingenschmitt apologizes for his self-described "hyperbole."

“Gordon, as I’ve said before, does not speak for the Colorado Republican Party,” Call told FOX31 Denver. “His views do not reflect my personal position or the position of the party.

“But this tired, ineffectual tactic of trying to brand all Republicans based on these comments — the Todd Akin approach [Pols emphasis] — it’s not going to work this time around,” Call continued. “Voters are too sophisticated. They know that one legislative candidate in Colorado Springs doesn’t reflect the views of Bob Beauprez or Cory Gardner.”

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To summarize, Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call really doesn't want to accept that Klingenschmitt is the Republican Party's nominee for Colorado House District 15, a safe Republican seat–which means that barring the extraordinary, this man is headed for the Colorado Capitol in January as an elected GOP state representative. That makes "Dr. Chaps" Call's responsibility, to a significantly greater degree than if he was some lone crazy with a sandwich board.

Chairman Call fails to recognize this at his peril.

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Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

MONDAY UPDATE: House Speaker Mark Ferrandino calls on Colorado Republicans to speak out about "Dr. Chaps." From a press release (full text after the jump):

"I call on Ryan Call and other Republicans to denounce Mr. Klingenschmitt and his homophobic, extreme, and slanderous attacks against Congressman Polis."

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Colorado House District 15's Republican nominee, Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, continues to shock national audiences with his video program–in which he has made statements that are, there's no nice way to say this, disqualifying from anything you'd call responsible politics. But after Klingenschmitt's victory in the June HD-15 primary, a relatively safe Republican district, the chances are pretty good that Dr. Chaps will be bringing his special brand of over-the-top distasteful lunacy to the Colorado Capitol next January.

When we say this guy is insane, do we really mean in a clinical sense, or just kind of, you know, metaphorically for politics? For those who still haven't heard about Dr. Chaps, we can't introduce him any better than Right Wing Watch:

Just let that sink in: a man who thinks that "Obamacare causes cancer," that the Bible commands people to own guns in order to "defend themselves against left wing crazies," and that the FCC is allowing demonic spirits to "molest and visually rape your children" is now a Republican candidate for office.

Yes, folks, we mean crazy on the objective scale. And you really can't say that about many politicians.

Early this morning, Klingenschmitt possibly topped even his own very high mark for insanity. In an email from Klingenschmitt's Pray in Jesus' Name Project, a screed attacking Rep. Jared Polis that very straightforwardly blew us away:

Gay Congressman:  "No Religious Exemptions" for Christians

The openly homosexual Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a revised bill to force Christian employers and business owners to hire and promote homosexuals with ZERO RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS for Christians who want to opt out.

Polis "wants sexual orientation and gender identity treated the same way as race, religion, sex, and national origin, when it comes to employment protections," claims the Advocate, under the headline "Polis trims ENDA's religious exemption."

Dr. Chaps' comment:  The open persecution of Christians is underway.  Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy.  Next he'll join ISIS in beheading Christians, but not just in Syria, right here in America. [Pols emphasis]

There's really no commentary necessary to elucidate how disgustingly inappropriate, false, nonsensical, whatever adjective you want to apply this is. To say this kind of talk has no place in Colorado politics is a major understatement. Perhaps the best that can be said is it's so far over the line, no one can take it seriously–but that brings us back to the fact that this man is the Republican nominee for a seat in the Colorado legislature.

Like it or not, many more people than Dr. Chaps should be ashamed right now.

 

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One Colorado PAC Officially Endorses Gov. Hickenlooper and AG Candidate Don Quick

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

HickQuick1

Today, One Colorado PAC – the statewide political action committee dedicated to supporting fair-minded candidates as part of One Colorado’s mission to advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Coloradans and their families – endorsed Governor John Hickenlooper and Attorney General candidate Don Quick for the 2014 general election.

“Elections matter – and this November, full equality for our families is on the line,” said One Colorado Executive Director Dave Montez.

“Attorney General John Suthers has vowed to continue defending our state’s discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples, even as Republicans in other states have decided to drop their defense of similar bans and stop wasting taxpayer dollars. We need to elect a Governor and Attorney General who will allow our families to share in the joys of marriage and stop defending the indefensible. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Attorney General candidate Don Quick are the team who will get it done as quickly as possible.”

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Hickenlooper To Suthers: Stop The Same-Sex Marriage Appeals

UPDATE: Statement from LGBT advocate group One Colorado:

“By calling on Attorney General Suthers not to appeal Judge Crabtree’s ruling striking down Colorado’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, Governor Hickenlooper has shown incredible leadership as a champion for all Colorado families. From the moment he took office, the Governor has stood up for LGBT Coloradans and their families every step of the way: signing legislation to fight bullying and make our schools safer for LGBT youth, calling a special session on civil unions and ultimately signing the bill into law, and lending both his support and his signature to legislation that protects against workplace discrimination and provides tuition equity to undocumented Colorado students – including many LGBT young people. The record is clear.

“As a proud supporter of marriage equality, Governor Hickenlooper joins the 61% of Coloradans who believe that everyone should have the freedom to marry the person they love. With three Colorado counties now issuing marriage licenses to loving, committed couples who want to protect each other and their families, there is no doubt that our state’s discriminatory ban is hanging on by a thread. That thread is Attorney General Suthers, who is the only person left standing in the way of equality for our families. It’s time to move on. It’s time for Attorney General Suthers to stop wasting taxpayer money defending this indefensible ban, and it’s time for the freedom to marry for all Coloradans."

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Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols caught up with a traveling Gov. John Hickenlooper late last night, and obtained by far the strongest statement yet urging GOP Attorney General John Suthers to give up the fight to preserve Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage:

Late Thursday evening, Hickenlooper, who is attending meetings of the National Governors Association in Nashville, told FOX31 Denver that he supports Crabtree’s decision and is urging Suthers not to appeal it any further than the Colorado Supreme Court.

“I remain a strong advocate for marriage equality,” Hickenlooper said. “The decision on marriage by Judge Crabtree puts Colorado on the right side of history.

“I have urged the attorney general not to appeal Judge Crabtree’s ruling. If he feels he needs to continue to defend this discriminatory law, I urge him to seek final resolution at the Colorado Supreme Court.” [Pols emphasis]

It was important for Hickenlooper to get out of the weeds of this issue and clearly take a stand. Now that he's done so, Suthers is in a much more difficult position politically–continuing to fight an unpopular wedge-issue battle against the wishes of the state's chief executive. The political damage this risks extends to Suthers' desired successor as AG, chief deputy Cynthia Coffman. Doing herself no favors, Coffman published an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette today where she defends the state's continuing appeals:

The issue of same-sex marriage divides very good people with strongly held opinions.

Public debates can be contentious and polarizing.

Indeed, it is more difficult to defend laws in the eye of this public policy storm than it is to succumb to personal and political goals.

However, unlike my opponent in the race for attorney general, I do not confuse my policy preferences with my duty to defend laws with which I may disagree. When I chose to run for attorney general, I committed to set aside my opinions of what the law should be in favor of a higher legal system that recognizes the pivotal role of voters and the courts.

Efforts to change the law on same-sex marriage are now moving rapidly but are not yet settled, and until they are, the attorney general has a duty to play his part and defend current Colorado law.

Bottom line: there is a growing possibility that the Attorney General's race this year will have a much higher profile due to the fast-moving issue of same-sex marriage equality–an issue on which Democrats like AG candidate Don Quick took a risk by focusing on early in their campaigns, but now appear to have been brilliant politically as the issue makes headlines and public support increasingly becomes lopsided on the side of marriage equality.

It is an issue that Cynthia Coffman is now wholly on the wrong side of, along with her boss.

Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional!

POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post reports:

Judge C. Scott Crabtree pulled no punches in his 49-page ruling, saying the state's voter-approved ban "bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest."

The ruling makes Colorado the latest in a string of 16 states that have seen their bans on same-sex marriages tossed out by state and federal judges.

The ruling came as another judge in Boulder County considered a request by Attorney General John Suthers to stop a county clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. And last week, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking to challenge Colorado's gay marriage ban.

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Today in Adams County, Judge Scott Crabtree, an Owens appointee and former DA declared Colorado's gay marriage ban unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution.  Unfortunately he stayed his opinion pending appeal.

Interestingly his opinion held that the recent passage of civil unions was just another discriminatory act by Colorado against gays.  He held that the right to marry is a fundamental right as many courts dating back to 1888 have so ruled.  He ruled that the argument that prohibiting gay marriage was to protect the state's interest in pro-creating was a pretext for discrimination.  He then goes on to quote Mark Paschall and Doug Dean (to of the most notorious right wing fruitcakes in the legislature) making outrageous remarks as further support for the fact that these new arguments are a pretext, calling them a "fabrication."

He found that the states interest in pro-creation was "post hoc in response to litigation."

He also dismissed the personal claims against Hickenlooper under the Federal 1983 act for continuing to enforce the law.

Congrats to all marriage supporters.

KOA’s Rosen says he’d be “fair” if he moderated a Hickenlooper-Beauprez debate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

CORRECTION: This post incorrectly states that most journalists consider themselves Democrats. Over half of journalists in a recent survey self-identify as having no party affiliation. About 7 percent said they were Republicans, and 28 percent Democrats. My point about Rosen is unchanged.
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From: Jason Salzman
To: [KOA Radio Host] Mike Rosen
Subject: question for my blog

Hi Mike –

I hope all’s well.

I noticed you told Bob Beauprez the other day that you’re hoping to moderate a debate between him and Hick.

You said, “By the way, even though I’m a partisan Republican, I’ve moderated these debates before, and I can set that aside and be fair in a head-to-head debate.”

How does this square with your belief that journalism is biased toward the Democrats because more reporters are registered Dems?

Thanks for considering a response.

From: Mike Rosen
To: Jason
Subject: RE: question for my blog

Moderating a debate is different from reporting. I’m not a reporter. I admit my bias when doing commentary and set it aside when I moderate a debate. Too many liberal “reporters” don’t admit their bias (some may not even recognize it) but infuse it either intentionally or unintentionally in their news stories or so-called analysis.

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New Jersey Appeals Court: Public Pension COLA Benefits Are Contractual Obligations.

From NJ.com:

"NJ court: Retired public workers have a contract right to cost-of-living adjustments."

"A state appeals court ruled today that New Jersey’s nearly 300,000 retired public workers have a contract right to yearly increases in their pension benefits, and those cost-of-living adjustments are part of the state’s benefits package."

"Today's ruling, Ouslander said, means 'those benefits cannot be withheld or denied unless the state establishes a basis to impair, i.e., break, the contract between it and pension members.'"

NJ.com citing the Appellate Court Decision:

“'It is not the courts' role to run the pension systems,' Reisner wrote.  'Our responsibility is to interpret and apply the constitution in light of the evidence, and we will do so."

“'But to a very great extent, the strength of the pension systems rests on policy choices made by the other two branches of government, and on their political will to preserve the systems and satisfy prior commitments made to public employees and retirees.'”

"Under settled law, for the state to be able to break the COLA contract, it must show at the trial court that the harm to retirees is not 'substantial,' that the government is breaking its agreement for a 'reasonable public purpose,' and that the freeze is related to 'appropriate governmental objectives.'"

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/06/nj_court_retired_public_workers_have_a_contract_right_to_cost-of-living_adjustments.html

From an earlier NewJerseySpotlight.com article:

“'It’s one thing to change the rules in the middle of the game, it’s another to change the score after the game’s over, and that’s what the state did when it eliminated the COLAs,' said Charles Ouslander, one of the plaintiffs in the Berg case."

"'A reversal of Judge Hurd's decision by the appellate court would not only protect pensioners' contractual rights to receive their full pension benefits, but would also insure that the state keeps its contractual obligation to properly fund the pension system, based on the 2011 law signed by Governor Christie,' Ouslander added."

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/05/12/74-billion-in-future-pension-payments-at-stake-in-lawsuit/?p=all

From NorthNewJersey.com:

"The court decided these payments constituted a contractual right, making it far more difficult for the Christie administration to argue that they can be suspended.  The case, which was brought by the unions, will now be heard again.  A lower court will decide whether the state’s decision to break the contract and stop paying the cost of living amounts was 'reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose.'  Over time, pension increases from cost of living increases can make up a substantial portion of a pension fund’s overall responsibility.  John Bury, an accountant who blogs about pensions, said that over the last two years, COLA payouts would have increased New Jersey's obligations by about $500 million."

http://www.northjersey.com/news/court-cost-of-living-increases-are-a-contractual-right-for-retired-nj-public-employees-on-pensions-1.1042085

An earlier article from the public pension blog of actuary John Bury:

“Now fast forward to Colorado 2010 where the state cut back COLAs and brought on this morass of litigation.  Would the Knicks be able to do the same thing to (the private sector contract of) Tom Riker . . .?  What if they wanted to spend that money for other purposes that they considered more significant and legitimate and it was reasonable and necessary to reduce his payments?  Could the Knicks get away with that?  And if they did would anyone ever sign another contract with them?  Then why should Colorado?”

http://burypensions.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/defining-whats-legal-for-colorado-retirees-and-tom-riker/#comment-4718

Link to New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

https://burypensions.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/berg-decision.pdf

Excerpts from the New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"We reverse the grant of summary judgment in Berg and New Jersey Education Association v. Christie . . . and we remand Berg to the trial court for further proceedings required to address plaintiffs' Contract Clause claims under the New Jersey Constitution."

Cited by the Appellate Court:

"Beginning in the mid-1990's, a series of Executive and Legislative policy decisions — which the State later characterized as short-sighted — resulted in underfunding of the pension systems."

(My comment: The Colorado Legislature has not paid its full Colorado PERA pension system actuarially required contribution for the last twelve years.  Former Colorado PERA Executive Director Meredith Williams, February 23, 2012:

"We've had a significant problem over the years, in that . . . contributions, payments by [PERA] employers into PERA have been kind of the last thing in the budget building process, and we have not made the required payments.  Unfortunately, in our line of work, where we're involved in compounding shortfalls grow, particularly when the shortfalls continue year after year after year.")

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"In 2011, however, the Legislature made significant changes to public employee pension and health care benefits, including the suspension of automatic COLAs for current and future retirees."

"In a press release accompanying the bill, the Governor stated that 'pension funds are considered to be adequately funded if their AVA funded ratio is at or above 80% [the federal standard for 'at-risk' funds.]"

(My comment: Note that in the 2010 Colorado bill taking the PERA pension COLA benefits of Colorado PERA pensioners, SB10-001, the Colorado Legislature proposes to take Colorado PERA pension benefits until a 100 percent actuarial funded ratio is achieved.  This lofty and unnecessary level of funding has occurred in only two fiscal years during Colorado PERA's 83 years of existence.

From: PERA Shareholders Meeting Fall 2006 document:

“Note that PERA was over 100% funded in only two years of our 75 year history.”

http://www.copera.org/pdf/Shareholder/ShareholderPresentation06.pdf.

The ratings firm Fitch Ratings deems public pension systems "adequately funded" at an 80 percent funded ratio.  Thus, the Colorado Legislature's bill, SB10-001, constitutes not simply a taking of contracted public pension benefits, but an outrageous taking of public pension benefits.

From, Meredith Williams, CAFR Summary to Members, 2002, December 5/21 (REV 6/03):

“PERA directs its efforts at keeping the funding ratio, [AFR, the ratio of actuarial assets to accrued liabilities] for the three divisional retirement funds at a minimum of 80 percent.  A funding ratio over 80 percent is considered good.”

http://www.copera.org/pdf/5/5-21-02.pdf

From, PERA Shareholders Meeting Presentation, Fall, 2005 document:

“Note that PERA’s funded status was lower 30 years ago than it is now.  You may recall that there was no perceived 'crisis' in PERA’s funded status in 1975.”

“What the PERA Board and staff would like is for the funded status curve to be flat or stable at around 80 percent.  Why?  Because not all benefits are due and payable today or tomorrow . . . PERA can weather the ups and downs in the markets.”

http://www.copera.org/pdf/Shareholder/ShareholderPresentation05.pdf)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"Plaintiffs alleged the suspension constituted a breach of express and implied contract (counts one and two), violated the Contract and Due Process Clauses of the Federal and State Constitutions (counts three, four, and six), and violated their state civil rights (count five)."

(My comment: Public pension legal scholar Professor Amy Monahan notes that the Denver District Court's initial decision in the case, Justus v. State, was surprising in light of Colorado public pension case precedent:

"The (Denver District) court’s ruling is surprising both because the court appeared to break from earlier Colorado decisions that found pension benefits to be contractually protected prior to retirement and because the change could be characterized as a retroactive change to benefits, which is the type of change that invites the most scrutiny under a contract clause analysis."

Professor Monahan on the public pension legal doctrine, the "California Rule" (embraced by Colorado courts):

“The (Denver District) court’s ruling is surprising both because the court broke from the previously endorsed California Rule, under which it is clear that detrimental changes to the benefits of current employees are only permissible where they are offset with comparable new advantages, and because the change at issue is one that could be characterized as a retroactive change to benefits, which is the type of change that invites the most scrutiny under a contract clause analysis.”

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cvzed3lmwt8t8v2/Understanding%20Pension%20Reform.pdf

Meredith Williams, Colorado PERA Executive Director: “The AG’s opinion states that when a PERA member retires and begins receiving pension benefits such member’s pension rights have fully vested and such pension benefits may not be reduced.”)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"There is no dispute that, at the current time, there are sufficient funds in the pension systems to pay COLAs to current retirees.  Moreover, pensions are neither funded by appropriations on a pay-as-you-go basis, in the way that COLAs used to be, nor is their payment contingent on the making of a current appropriation."

(My comment: Note that the Colorado Legislature struck the "ad hoc" PERA COLA language from Colorado law in 1993.  Since that time, the Colorado PERA pension statutes have provided an "automatic" pension COLA benefit that may not be diminished by the Legislature for pensioners who have fully-vested contracts.)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"During the years that the State skipped making its pension contributions, the pension systems continued paying COLAs to retirees.  In fact, in 2010, the State assured this court that the pension systems were capable of paying out benefits for the next thirty years, despite the State's failure to make its contributions to the funds."

(My comment: August 11, 2009, Colorado PERA Board Trustee Casebolt assures PERA retirees present at Colorado PERA Denver meeting of the PERA “Listening Tour”: “PERA faces no immediate danger of being unable to pay benefits, in fact, PERA can pay benefits for many years to come, based on our current funding and our benefit structure coupled with over $30 billion in assets, at present market value.”

http://www.copera.org/pera/about/listeningtour.htm.)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"Because pension legislation is remedial in nature, it should generally be liberally construed in favor of the employee."

(My comment: November 17, 1975, Colorado Supreme Court in Taylor v. PERA: “As was noted in Endsley v. Public Employees Retirement Association . . . (1974) ambiguities appearing in statutes regulating pension and retirement funds are construed favorably toward the employee.”

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11856628789716288634&q=Taylor+v.PERA&hl=en&as_sdt=2,6

August 14, 1984 Colorado Attorney General Duane Woodard in an Opinion of the Attorney General: “In resolving this question, I am guided by the cardinal principle that ambiguities in statutes regulating pension and retirement funds are to be construed in favor of the employee"

http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/ag_opinions/1984/no_84_14_ag_alpha_no_pa_pe_aganf_august_14_1984)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"During the May 20, 1996 hearing, a union-retained actuary explained the employees' concern that, as a result of skipping pension payments, the State would eventually find itself facing a need to make a much larger contribution in the future, would balk at such a large expenditure, and would instead try to cut benefits."

"Senator Inverso responded: I feel strongly that the same protections and rights that are accorded . . . under an ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] standard to people in the private sector, should be accorded to people in the public sector, the governmental sector; that once they have their pensions established as at a point in time with regard to vesting it, that you cannot go back retroactively and change what has been earned, what has been accrued, what has been vested in."

"In a recent case, the State conceded that retirees have a contractual right to the basic pension benefit they began receiving upon retirement."

(My comment: 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)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"As previously discussed, both opinions advised that N.J.S.A. 43:3B-9.5 created a contractual right to pension benefits, and hence the State could not diminish vested pension benefits unless it could satisfy the constitutional standards under which the State may impair the obligation of a contract."

(My comment: "Indeed, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators issued a recent study that showed that, on average, pension costs represent only about 3 percent of total state and local government expenditures. In Colorado, state and local government expenditures to fund retirement benefits totaled only 2.16 percent.”

http://www.copera.org/pera/about/issues.htm#42611.)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"As previously discussed, while COLAs were originally funded by annual appropriations, and could be denied if the Legislature failed to make an appropriation, N.J.S.A. 43:3B-5, that system was abandoned decades ago."

"Instead, through amendments adopted in the late 1980's and early 1990's, COLAs are funded in the same way that the regular pension benefits are funded, and COLAs are payable from each of the applicable pension funds."

(My comment: As we have seen, HB 93-1324 struck the former “ad hoc” COLA language from Colorado law. The language stricken in the bill: “(2) Cost of living increases in retirement benefits and survivor benefits shall be made only upon approval by the general assembly.”  This fact was recognized by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The Ritter Administration on Colorado's "automatic" PERA COLA:

“The essential difference between an automatic COLA and an ad hoc COLA is the legal requirement; with this core difference there is no way for the two not to be substantively different.  The legal difference in this instance is critical to the determination of whether the government is unable to avoid the surrender of resources to meet the obligation.”

http://www.gasb.org/cs/ContentServer?site=GASB&c=Document_C&pagename=GASB%2FDocument_C%2FGASBDocumentPage&cid=1176157387791)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

"We conclude that the laws governing COLAs are part of the laws governing the retirement systems or funds."

"Clearly the Legislature was well aware that COLAs were part of the various pension benefit plans.  In fact, in discussing the various actuarial assumptions, Robert Baus, the State's actuarial consultant, observed that the inclusion of COLAs as a pre-funded part of the pension system, instead of as a separate pay-as-you-go item, was a critical issue: 'The methodology is not driving the funding of this system.  What is driving the funding of this system is the phasing in of the COLA.'"

(My comment: Recall that in 2001, Buck Consultants provided an actuarial report to the Legislative Audit Committee of the Colorado General Assembly.  The 2001 Buck Consultants report clearly identifies the Colorado PERA 3.5 percent COLA as “automatic,” refers to “guaranteed benefits at retirement,” and the “fixed” COLA, that is “compounded annually for each year of retirement.”  The Buck Consultants report identifies the 3.5% PERA COLA as “automatic,” contrasting the PERA COLA with an “ad hoc” COLA “as approved by Legislature.”

http://www.nctr.org/pdf/coloradodcdbstudy.pdf)

Cited by the New Jersey Appellate Court:

"'In contrast [to health benefits] the COLA [is] inseparably tied to the monthly retirement benefit as a means for maintaining the real value of that benefit.  It [cannot], therefore, be said to be ancillary to the benefit . . ."

"However, consistent with constitutional principles and common sense, we cannot blindly defer to the State's own evaluation of a law's reasonableness and necessity, lest political expediency replace objective fiscal evaluation."

The New Jersey Appellate Court cites the seminal case U.S. Trust:

"In applying this standard, however, complete deference to a legislative assessment of reasonableness and necessity is not appropriate because the State's self-interest is at stake.  A governmental entity can always find a use for extra money, especially when taxes do not have to be raised.  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."

"On the other hand, plaintiffs contend that the State was partially responsible for the pension shortfall by skipping its pension contributions in prior years, and it should not be permitted to thus precipitate a pension crisis and then solve it at the expense of retirees.  Plaintiffs also argue that the State has taken contradictory positions about the health of the pension systems, assuring this court in N.J. Educ. Ass'n that the systems were sound enough to meet their obligations for the next thirty years despite the State's failure to make its contributions, and now telling us that 'the pension system is teetering on the brink of collapse.'"

(My comment: Colorado PERA Executive Director Greg Smith, August 11, 2009, at the Denver meeting of the Colorado PERA “Listening Tour” blames the Colorado General Assembly for the decline PERA’s actuarial funded ratio, “We have not been paid what’s called the actuarially required contribution.”  “We’ve not been receiving that full contribution in any of our divisions for many years . . . seven years to be specific.”

http://www.copera.org/pera/about/listeningtour.htm)

New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

" . . . because a contract-impairment claim presents 'a mixed question of fact and law,' N.J. Educ. Ass'n, supra, 412 N.J. Super. at 206 n.10, a remand is required to allow all sides to create a complete evidentiary record."

"In remanding, we end with these observations.  It is not the courts' role to run the pension systems.  Our responsibility is to interpret and apply the Constitution in light of the evidence, and we will do so.  But to a very great extent, the strength of the pension systems rests on policy choices made by the other two branches of government, and on their political will to preserve the systems and satisfy prior commitments made to public employees and retirees."

(My comment: “Asked why states are taking the risky strategy of aiming at current retirees, Robert Klausner, a Florida attorney who specializes in public pension law, says many state officials believe they have less to lose in the courtroom by challenging pension protections than taking no action at all. ‘The belief is that if the employer [the state] prevails, it will have been worth the political risk,’ Klausner says.  ‘And if they lose, they will be no worse off than before.’  Klausner adds that legislatures are taking the politically-difficult step and letting the courts be the ‘bad guy’ if they overturn the law.”

http://www.governing.com/news/state/States-Test-Whether-Public-Pension-Benefits-Given-Can-Be-Taken-Away.html

Link to New Jersey Appellate Court Decision:

https://burypensions.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/berg-decision.pdf

Support the rule of law in Colorado at saveperacola.com.

Dudley Brown’s Temporary Triumph: RMGO’s Last Hurrah?

Dudley Brown of RMGO.

Dudley Brown of RMGO.

AP's Ivan Moreno reports this morning in the wake of huge legislative GOP primary victories for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in bellwether Jefferson County, over comparatively moderate Republican challengers–victories that have nonetheless worsened Republican odds of retaking the Colorado Senate this November:

In Senate District 22, which covers Lakewood, Tony Sanchez defeated Mario Nicolais, a party attorney who helped draw maps during state redistricting in 2011.

In Senate District 19, which includes Arvada, Laura Woods defeated Lang Sias, a veteran of both Gulf Wars. Woods was involved in two recall petition efforts against former District 19 Sen. Evie Hudak.

Both districts are considered toss-ups, and political analysts saw the defeated Nicolais and Sias as more established candidates who could have attracted independent voters in November. Nicolais advocated passage of civil unions for gay couples last year, and Sias narrowly lost to Hudak in 2012.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols lays it out more plainly:

Senate Democrats might also be excited about Tuesday’s result, in large part because they believe both Sanchez and Woods are too conservative for the districts they are seeking to represent. If Democrats are able to defeat both candidates, it will go a long way in helping them hold onto their one-seat majority this November.

Some Republican analysts feel the same way.

“These are very competitive districts in a very competitive county,” former Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams said. “And if the wrong candidates win these primaries, they cannot win these competitive districts. Lang Sias can win. Mario Nicolais can win. Their opponents (Woods and Sanchez) cannot.” [Pols emphasis]

With victories in these two key battleground primaries now in hand, Dudley Brown's Rocky Mountain Gun Owners now moves to the next stage–as Brown put it, "hunting Democrats" in the general elections. But that is quite likely to prove a bridge too far for RMGO, who has had great success getting their favored candidates elected largely by winning GOP primaries in safe Republican seats. In a general election in a competitive district, what operates in RMGO's favor in a safe-seat primary becomes a liability. Both RMGO endorsed candidates who won last night in Jefferson County, Laura Waters Woods and Tony Sanchez, and distantly out of the mainstream of a wide variety of issues that have nothing to do with guns.

While no one should write off these races by any stretch of the imagination in what remains a challenging year, Democrats were cut a tremendous break last night when the more electable Republicans lost these two primaries. RMGO, whose energies Republicans have been glad to channel when it suits their purposes, may be about to discover the hard limit of their power.

In a way that's going to leave a mark.

ProgressNow Colorado’s Winners and Losers of the 2014 Legislative Session

WINNERS

 

LOSERS

1. Colorado students

This year, Colorado finally began the road back from years of devastating budget cuts to our public schools and colleges. Thanks to an improving economy and sound budgetary decision making, the state was able to restore $100 million in funding for our colleges and universities and begin to restore millions of dollars in badly-needed funds to K-12. We have a long way to go to restore all of the cuts to education since the Great Recession, but 2014 was a great start.

 

1. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners

In 2013, the extremist pro-gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners helped organize recall elections against Colorado Senators who supported last year’s common-sense gun safety reforms. This year, it was widely expected that RMGO would flood the Capitol with angry mobs and misinformation in an attempt to repeal these new laws. Unfortunately for RMGO, those crowds of gun rights activists failed to reappear at the Capitol as they had in 2013. The reason is simple: the sky didn’t fall, and Colorado’s new gun safety laws are working.

 

2. Colorado’s economy and working families

From support for advanced industries to helping ensure the working families most in need can get child care assistance, this was a great legislative session for Colorado’s economy. Following up on legislation from 2013, support for advanced technology job creators was increased. Legislation brought by Sen. John Kefalas and Reps. Brittany Pettersen and Tony Exum to expand child care grants will provide invaluable help to families trying to balance their careers with caring for young children. 

 

2. Anti-choice extremists

This year, far-right legislators introduced yet another piece of legislation that would ban all abortions in Colorado, even in cases of rape or incest. Colorado is a pro-choice state, and voters have repeatedly rejected abortion bans in statewide ballot measures in recent years. This year’s abortion ban bill failed, but not before numerous conservative legislators, including House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, had signed on as cosponsors. Attempting to ban abortion in Colorado has already done grave political damage to conservatives, but they still haven’t learned their lesson. Colorado women won’t go back.

 

3. Victims of floods and fires

Following devastating floods and fires in 2013, Democrats and Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly came together to pass comprehensive legislation to help our state recover from last year’s catastrophic events and improve our ability to cope with future natural disasters. Leaders like Rep. Dave Young, co-chair of the Flood Disaster Study Committee, worked overtime to ensure the lessons learned in 2013 were reflected in policy this year. Tax credits to offset damage to property owners, streamlined relief funding for affected residents, and flexibility for local government to fund road and bridge repairs are just a few of the sensible reforms that passed this year with bipartisan support.

 

 

3. House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso

Republican Colorado House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso deserves some credit for helping pass many bipartisan bills this year, but he stumbled badly by signing on to the disastrous abortion ban legislation mentioned above. DelGrosso also faced major embarrassments within his caucus, such as the chronically sleepy and tardy Rep. Justin Everett, and Rep. Jared Wright leaving a loaded gun unattended in a Capitol hearing room. Some leaders make the best of a bad situation, but DelGrosso was unable–or unwilling–to help himself and his party's brand this year.

4. Governor John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration worked both in public and behind the scenes to defend and expand on the historic progress made by the General Assembly in the last two years. Hickenlooper has shown real leadership on issues ranging from education to reproductive choice to equality for every Colorado family. And Hickenlooper ends the 2014 legislative session with an unbeatable record of solid economic growth in his first term.

 

4. Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman

At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman exploded in a fit of rage on the Senate floor, claiming that bills were being mishandled, and even threatening recalls against Senate leadership. But as it turned out, Cadman was completely wrong, and the gun safety repeal bill he complained about received a fair hearing. But the incident underscored Cadman’s reputation as an erratic hothead, prone to emotional outbursts and unsuited to leadership.

 

5. Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino

Mark Ferrandino, ending his term as Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives this year, has made history in too many ways to count. As the first openly gay Speaker of the House in Colorado’s history, Ferrandino presided in 2013 over the long-sought passage of civil unions legislation. This year, Ferrandino has been invaluable in defending the gains made in 2013, and pushing forward with this year’s progressive agenda of economic growth, disaster recovery, and funding education. Republicans and Democrats alike have praised Ferrandino’s steady and fair leadership this year.

 

5. Legislators seeking higher office

For a host of reasons, conservative incumbent legislators seeking higher office failed to achieve their objectives. Sen. Greg Brophy’s bid for governor fizzled, Rep. Amy Stephens, Sen. Owen Hill, and Sen. Randy Baumgardner failed to gain any traction in their brief campaigns for the U.S. Senate, and Rep. Mark Waller’s run for Attorney General fell apart after faring poorly at the Republican state assembly. In some cases these were simply unqualified candidates, but legislative experience isn’t the plus for Republicans seeking higher office that it once was–mostly because the extreme GOP grassroots can’t stomach the compromises necessary to effectively govern.

 

6. State employees

Through the Great Recession, Colorado’s state employees worked without a raise for years. Colorado public employees make less than their counterparts in the private sector, and as the state’s largest employer, state employee income has a direct impact on our economy. In the 2014-2015 budget, state workers are seeing base-building pay increases for the second year. Every day we rely on our road workers, corrections officers, firefighters, and other state employees, and it’s great to finally see them being recognized for their hard work.

 

6. The “clown car caucus”

From banning abortion to going after the non-problem of buying marijuana with public assistance, there was a group of conservative legislators that one could always count on to sponsor the most embarrassing legislation this year. Many of these legislators, such as Rep. Lori Saine and Sen. Vicki Marble, won their seats with help from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which seems to not care if candidates are completely unqualified as long as they vote RMGO’s way on guns. Republicans hoping to put on a fresh face after years of electoral defeats in Colorado weren’t helped by the “clown car caucus” this year.

 

7. Women

With one of the nation’s highest rates of female representation, the Colorado General Assembly remains a model for the entire nation. This year, in addition to vital support for single moms and working families through child care assistance, progressives in the legislature beat back yet another attempt by the far right to ban all abortions in Colorado. Senate President Morgan Carroll become the second woman to serve in that leadership role. Conservatives keep trying every year, but thanks to our strong women and progressive leadership, the “war on women” stops cold when it arrives at the Colorado General Assembly.

 

 

7. Wage thieves

After years of trying, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and Rep. Jonathan Singer’s bill to strengthen protections for Colorado workers from wage theft by employers finally passed the Colorado General Assembly. Many victims of wage theft don’t have the resources to fight a long, expensive court battle to win back their wages. Ulibarri and Singer’s bill will allow the Department of Labor to determine cases of wage theft directly, and help ripped-off employees get paid faster.

8. Transparency and good government

One of the bills already signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper this year is legislation to make it easier for citizens and watchdogs to obtain government records through the Colorado Open Records Act. Rep. Joseph Salazar and Sen. John Kefalas teamed up to pass this important bill to prevent abuses of the system by public officials with something to hide.

 

8. Secretary of State Scott Gessler

This year’s legislative session was a disaster for Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Gessler made headlines after irresponsible budgetary decisions left his office millions of dollars in the red, compounding a record of bad judgment that already included the Independent Ethics Commission’s ruling that Gessler had “breached the public trust for private gain.” Gessler’s attempts to undermine and vilify Colorado’s election modernization laws fell flat, and his failed quest to uncover “illegal voters” has seriously harmed Gessler’s reputation under the Dome.

 

9. Colorado’s air and water

Gov. Hickenlooper’s work this year to pass important new air quality protections for oil and gas drilling is a prime example of bringing industry and conservationists together to make a positive step for everyone. New, dramatically steeper fines for oil and gas drilling violations passed by the legislature this year add teeth to the laws already on the books. And protections for water quality around uranium mining and processing sites will protect the public and the environment from harm as that industry responds to market demand. The job of protecting the public health and environment may not be over yet this year, but progress has undeniably been made.

 

9. Representative Jared Wright

Rep. Jared Wright’s brief legislative career has been marred by controversy, ever since details of his resignation from the Fruita Police Department led to attempts by fellow Republicans to get him out of the race. In the legislature, Rep. Wright further angered his fellow Republicans after leaving a loaded handgun in a Capitol hearing room–leading to calls for all legislators to check their firearms at the entrance to the Capitol like all other citizens must do. Since being pressured into not running for reelection, however, Rep. Wright has turned over a new leaf–frequently siding with progressives on issues related to public health and energy production. That has only made Wright more of a loser among his fellow Republicans, but Wright’s constituents may finally have a reason to appreciate his service.

 

10. Bipartisanship

Most of what we hear in the news today is about political controversies, and this year had its share. But it’s also worth remembering that around 95% of bills passed this year in the Colorado General Assembly had bipartisan support. On issues like disaster relief, job creation, and government transparency, more often than not there was no daylight between Republicans and Democrats. The issues that divide us sometimes define us, but other times we know how to come together as Coloradans to do what’s right–and that’s important to remember when emotions run high.

 

10. Palisade peaches

The Palisade peach lost out this year in a bid to become the state’s official fruit. Elementary school student Nick Babiak made a strong effort this year lobbying in favor of a bill to designate Palisade peaches as the state fruit, but was thwarted by opposition from the Rocky Ford Growers Association. Progressives stand with Nick Babiak and with the finest peaches grown anywhere, and hope 2015 will be the year that Palisade peaches finally receive their due.

Faced With Catholic/GOP Uprising, Dems Kill Pro-Choice Bill

Protesters against SB-175 Tuesday. Photo credit: Peter Zelasko, Catholic News Agency

Protesters against SB-175 Tuesday. Photo credit: Peter Zelasko, Catholic News Agency

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports on drama yesterday in the Colorado Senate over Senate Bill 14-175, the Reproductive Health Freedom Act. After several days of intense controversy, what was once an important bill for at least some Democrats to close out this year's legislative session is now dead–and the finger-pointing is well underway:

Rather than battle Republicans over a proposal they stressed would help protect reproductive rights, Senate Democrats on Wednesday spiked the legislation — a move that drew applause from some religious groups packed into the chamber's gallery who strongly opposed it…

All Senate Republicans, alongside the Archdiocese of Denver, denounced the legislation as "overreaching" and "ambiguous," saying the measure was not needed.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," said Sen. Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs. "There is no one, no evidence, that has said there's a denial of things like contraception to women in Colorado."

Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, who sponsored the measure, said he carried it because constituents expressed at town halls and forums concerns over efforts in other states to make it more difficult for women to seek guidance on abortions and receive common forms of contraception.

From Senate President Morgan Carroll's statement after Senate Bill 175 was killed:

We were optimistic that the Republicans would come on board with a proposal that would ensure all women are able to make private and personal reproductive health decisions with freedom from government interference. But we are disappointed that we were unable to get bi-partisan support to acknowledge and uphold the values of the majority of Coloradans.
 
With 21 days left in the legislative session and 269 bills still pending, having a GOP filibuster would bring D.C. style dysfunction to Colorado.  We have made our point and in the interest of getting the remaining work done, on education, jobs, higher education affordability and childcare, we laid the bill over. 
 
We will continue to fight against attacks on women and their private healthcare decisions and uphold the values of Colorado women and families.

On the other side, here's the story as told by the Catholic News Agency:

Amid growing protests led in large part by the Catholic Church, the Colorado Senate on April 16 killed a controversial bill that could have banned all pro-life laws in the state…

Originally introduced March 31, the controversial bill – S.B. 175 – only gained wide publicity last week. It sought to ban all new pro-life laws and regulations, including requirements for pre-abortion ultrasounds and restrictions on the RU-486 abortion drug.

With the bill now dead, there are reporters and Republicans who say this was a "quixotic effort"–but clearly the bill's religious opponents didn't agree while they massed crowds at the Capitol to oppose it. Proponents point to new restrictions on abortion being passed around the nation, as well as other so-called "pre-emptive" bills, like a bill signed in Oklahoma just this week that pre-emptively bans future minimum wage increases and paid sick day laws, to justify both the intent and functional precedent for the Reproductive Health Freedom Act.

It's our understanding and has been reported, though victorious Republicans deny it today, that threats were leveled by the Senate Minority to bring the entire chamber to a halt for the rest of the legislative session if Senate Bill 175 passed–which could have endangered dozens of important bills. The fact is, Democrats are on solid ground, given the polling on the abortion issue and the overwhelming defeat of abortion ban initiatives in Colorado, pushing a bill to affirmatively protect reproductive choice rights. For that reason alone, predictions that the defeat of Senate Bill 175 has major ramifications seem overblown–certainly not to the degree that Republicans harmed themselves by killing the popular civil unions bill two years ago. In the eyes of voters, questions about efficacy and timing aside, Democrats were on the right side of the issue.

If anything? If you have to take on the Catholic Church, Holy Week might not be the best timing…

Renfroe to Run in CD-4; McNulty Next to Jump In?

UPDATE #3: FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

State Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth, confirmed Monday that he was still thinking about a run; and Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, is rumored to be weighing a campaign in the Fourth C.D., which now includes a good chunk of his home turf in Douglas County, although another GOP lawmaker in the House told FOX31 Denver Monday that a McNulty run was doubtful.

And former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, is also still weighing a bid.

Nikkel, who in 2012 was the first Republican lawmaker to vote in favor of a civil unions bill, would be able to self-fund a campaign in the early stages; and, as a woman who is politically moderate, she might draw financial support from national GOP organizations and committees.

—–

UPDATE #2: Add another potentially big Republican name to the list considering a challenge to the not-so-inevitable Ken Buck in CD-4–former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel, who served as district director under Marilyn Musgrave, is seriously considering jumping in the race according to sources.

—–

UPDATE: Via Lynn Bartels, count Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer in:

—–

Republican Sen. Scott Renfroe confirmed over the weekend that he is going to run for Congress in CD-4, joining Ken Buck in a field that is only likely to grow in the coming weeks.

Rumor has it that former House Speaker Frank McNulty is also preparing to enter the GOP field for the seat being vacated by Rep. Cory Gardner. We'll update more as news develops–and we've got a feeling it will.

(STILL BREAKING): How Does Cory Gardner for Senate Make Any Sense At All?

They too would like to be your Senator.

And the Republican clown car rolls on…

Okay, so let's get this straight…The Republican Party is going to defeat Sen. Mark Udall with Rep. Cory Gardner? The GOP thinks their best chance in 2014 is running an anti-incumbent message through an incumbent member of Congress — which is now the most disliked group of individuals in the history of public polling?

Huh?!?

The current crop of Republican candidates for Senate is, in a word, terrible. All of the candidates have massive flaws, from publicly backing Personhood to supporting the government shutdown. All of the candidates are unappealing to women and Hispanic voters. All of the candidates are from outside the Denver Metro Area — which is where the most voters are concentrated…

RedCheck
…BUT SO IS CORY GARDNER!!!


Consider this list and where Gardner ends up: You can put a checkmark next to his name and every one of these problematic issues for Republicans in 2014:

X    Personhood supporter
X    Backed government shutdown
X    Opposes immigration reform efforts
X    Opposes in-state tuition for immigrants
X    Has favored "redefining" definition of rape
X    Wants to shut down Departments of Energy and Transportation
X    Has low statewide name ID
X    Is weak with women and Hispanic voters
 X  Opposes civil unions
 X  Talked favorably about Eastern Colorado Secession

The point here isn't to just list the problems with a Cory Gardner campaign for U.S. Senate. The point is to show that there is no major issue where Cory Gardner is any different or better for Republicans in 2014 than any of the existing GOP Senate candidates. Different body, same head (or is it the other way around?)

In fact, you could make an argument that Gardner is potentially worse than the current crop of candidates because: a) his candidacy was born in a smoke-filled backroom in Washington D.C., which nobody ever likes, b) he makes it harder to run an anti-incumbent message against Udall, and c) he's been in the news recently for high-profile Congressional junkets.

We understand that Gardner will probably be a much better fundraiser than any of the current candidates (though it would be hard to do worse when 2014 Republicans have been HISTORICALLY bad), but how is he anything more than a younger version of Ken Buck? (and we mean the 2014 version of Buck, not even the 2010 model).

 

Lawsuit Filed To Overturn Colorado’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

UPDATE: The Denver Post reports:

The lawsuit filed Wednesday names Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver City Clerk Debra Johnson as defendants. Currently Colorado permits civil unions between gay couples, but the Colorado constitution bans gay marriage…

Although some states have declined to defend against similar lawsuits challenging same-sex marriage bans, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said his office's obligations are clear.

"It is the job of the Attorney General's Office to defend our state laws and we will defend against this new lawsuit as we would any other," Suthers said. "This is an important issue that ultimately the appellate courts will resolve."

—–

Liberty and Justice, together at last.

Liberty and Justice, together at last.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, a bit of a snag this week on the way to the proverbial altar:

After a false start of sorts, a group of same-sex couples are likely to move ahead and file a lawsuit challenging Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban…

Sources told us that attorney John McHugh, who is handling the lawsuit, hadn’t conferred with the defendants, notably Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson, whose office denied a same-sex couple a marriage license last Friday, which was serving as grounds for the lawsuit.

McHugh, who has not returned a call seeking comment, wasn’t aware that Johnson, who was out of the office when a same-sex couple applied for a marriage license Friday, was herself open to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which would have rendered the lawsuit pointless.

But a joint press release a short while ago from One Colorado, ACLU of Colorado, the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, and the Colorado GLBT Bar Association announces a lawsuit now indeed underway seeking to overturn Colorado's Amendment 43–the constitutional amendment passed in 2006 banning same-sex marriage in this state. A wrinkle arose when Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson said she would issue marriage licenses anyway, but now she reportedly gets that denying the licenses (as the law presently requires) was the best way to help the cause. As you're likely aware, lawsuits in support of marriage equality are rapidly proceeding–and succeeding–in many states.

As of today, add Colorado to the list. Statements after the jump.

(more…)