Baltimore Exploding in Violent Protests, Riots

Image from WBAL 11 in Baltimore, MD

Image from WBAL 11 in Baltimore, MD

This is not directly related to Colorado, of course, but as the issue of police “brutality” continues to rise in the public consciousness, so does the level of violence. As CNN reports:

A riot erupted on the streets of Baltimore late Monday as protesters clashed with police, several of whom were injured.

“This afternoon, a group of outrageous criminals attacked our officers. Right now, we have seven officers that have serious injuries, including broken bones, and one officer who is unconscious,” Capt. Eric Kowalczyk told reporters…

…Earlier in the day, the Baltimore Police Department said it had received a “credible threat” that gangs were teaming up to “take out” officers.

It did not say where the information came from, nor did it say whether the threat was tied to the recent death of Freddie Gray. Gray died in police custody under circumstances that remain unclear. [Pols emphasis]

His death has sparked ongoing protests in Baltimore and raised long-simmering tensions between police and residents there.

WBAL-TV has more on the fires that are now breaking out at various stores. Maryland State Police Officers are being dispatched by the Baltimore Police Commissioner, and Gov. Larry Hogan has placed the National Guard on alert.

Who Ordered a Cake with “Homosexuality Is a Detestable Sin” Written on Top?

(Mmmm…cake. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s not for everybody, but if you’re me, you can’t help but be curious about a guy who asks Azucar Bakery, on Broadway in Denver, to make cakes shaped like an open Bible with the these messages:

One cake: God Hates Sin, Psalm 45-7. Homosexuality Is a Detestable Sin, Leviticus 18-22.

The other cake: God Loves Sinners. While We Were Yet Sinners, God Died for Us. Romans 5-8.

It turns out that Bill Jack, the man who placed this cake order, is also a sometime talk-show host, which gives a radio aficionado an opening to find out more about him.

After listening to a few hours of his shows on “Generations Radio,” a fundamentalist Christian outlet, and talking with him on the phone, I would describe him as a deeply religious individual who feels so besieged and alienated by cultural norms that he has to carve out an extreme path to function in everyday society.  His path has an internal logic to it, but to the rest of us, it can be hateful and discriminatory.

For example, on a podcasted “Generations Radio” show in January (below), Jack and co-host Steve Vaughan got angry about Planned Parenthood teaching sex-education in public school. (more…)

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 27)

MoreSmarter-RainToday’s forecast calls for rain, or something. 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…

Opening Statements begin today in the Aurora Theater Shooting trial, nearly three years after the attack at a late-night screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The Associated Press takes a look at what to expect over the next several weeks as attorneys attempt to deal with an “insanity” plea. Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry has a very thoughtful take on what is sure to be an unpleasant summer for all involved with the trial.

► The Office of Consumer Counsel is a hot topic this week in the legislature. Democrats in the House have introduced legislation to re-authorize the OCC without stripping it of authority over the telecommunications industry.

► The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a “field hearing” in Denver on Friday to discuss the myriad of problems associated with construction of a new VA Hospital in Aurora. Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) also attended the hearing, which came on the same day as a new report showing that Coffman hasn’t done much “oversight” despite being the Chairman of the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Monday Open Thread

“There is no fool like a careless gambler who starts taking victory for granted.”

–Hunter S. Thompson

The Office of Consumer Counsel: Sonnenberg’s Faustian Bargain

SUNDAY UPDATE: Setting up a late-session battle, majority House Democrats have introduced an alternative “clean” bill to reauthorize the Office of Consumer Counsel without stripping it of authority in telecom rate cases. The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch:

The main differences between the bills are telephones and duration before the next sunset review. Sonnenberg, the sponsor of Senate Bill 271, and other Senate Republicans say there’s no need for the Office of Consumer Counsel to ride herd over phone rates. Those are dictated by competition in the free market, after the legislature deregulated telecoms last year.

Supporters of House Bill 1381 say the office needs to keep a watch on remaining phone services and issues, such as 9-1-1 service and whether deregulation is giving customers a fair shake.

The newest OCC bill sponsored by Reps. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and 28 Democratic co-sponsors preserves the OCC’s telecom oversight. The Senate bill reduces the time until the next sunset review from 11 years to six. The House bill maintains it at 11.

From House Democrats’ presser:

“Extending the Office of Consumer Counsel is a no brainer,” Rep. Esgar said. “It provides critical protections for Colorado consumers and businesses to ensure that big utilities and telecom companies aren’t ripping off hardworking Coloradans to increase their profits.”

HB15-1381 will continue the counsel in its current form for another 11 years. A Senate bill, SB15-271, also extends the counsel, but only for six years and removes the counsel’s oversight over telephone providers, potentially threatening 9-1-1 services and causing unneeded rate increases.

“We know the counsel has prevented telecom rate increases in the past,” Rep. Winter said. “We shouldn’t create a loophole that threatens 9-1-1 services and will cost consumers more money.”

Stay tuned, the classic battle of consumers versus corporate lobbyists is about to resume.

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Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports on a deal in the works with Colorado Senate Republicans to prevent the Office of Consumer Counsel from sunsetting–an office important to consumer advocates to represent utility customers in rate hike proceedings.

As Bunch reports, Republicans are seeking a pound of flesh in exchange:

Consumer groups have been fretting the fate of the Office of Consumer Counsel, whose experts have helped convince the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that some of the rate increases requested by gas, power or phone providers are either more than necessary or not necessary at all.

The agency will reach its sunset on July 1, unless the legislature passes Senate Bill 271 or tries to revive the agency early in next year’s session. There’s a provision that allows the office to “wind down” for one year, but a delay would deal it a crippling blow, supporters say.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, is sponsoring the bill and will argue its merits before the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee next week. The bill could be heard and moved to the full Senate as early as Tuesday or as late as Thursday, though it’s not on the committee agenda for either day as of Thursday evening. Despite the late hour of the legislative session, Sonnenberg is confident the reauthorization will face few roadblocks on its way to the governor.

“I don’t see there’ll be much opposition,” he said. “I do understand there’s a little bit of heartburn about taking out the telecom.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s right–the “deal” being offered by GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg would reauthorize the OCC for the purpose of negotiating electrical and gas service rates, but would strip the office’s authority where it concerns telecommunications services. Bunch quotes the director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group warning that “now’s not the time to bench Colorado’s consumer advocate on telephone issues.” So why is this happening, you ask?

It’s simple: CenturyLink and the rest of Colorado’s telecom players have really good lobbyists. There’s nothing about stripping the OCC of its authority in telecom utility service negotiations that helps consumers, but with the legislative session winding down and Republicans in control of the Senate by one seat, this is in all likelihood the best deal consumers are going to get. And if you don’t like it, your alternative is to lose all of your representation before the Public Utilities Commission on rate hikes.

Such a deal, Sen. Sonnenberg.

Mike Coffman and the Aurora VA Hospital: Coffman’s Part of the Problem

(Right back at ya – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As Rep. Mike Coffman appeared in Aurora today to grandstand at a U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee field hearing about the troubled VA Hospital project in Aurora, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, released a new report documenting Coffman’s own oversight responsibility over the project, and failure to take action for years despite knowing that massive cost overruns were occurring.

“We all know the situation with the VA hospital in Aurora,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms, “a project that will drag on for years beyond its target completion date and is currently estimated to be a billion dollars over budget. But there are some key facts in this situation that have been conveniently overlooked.”

“Representative Mike Coffman, who represents district where the hospital is being built, has recently become very outspoken about this issue,” said Runyon-Harms. “Coffman can be outraged. He can be frustrated. But he cannot be shocked or surprised when as Chair of the Oversight Committee, he had known this information for years–and until recently has done almost nothing to fix the problem.”

In a report summarizing Rep. Coffman’s statements and actions in response to the Aurora VA Hospital’s cost overruns, ProgressNow Colorado finds that Coffman knew that the price of the new hospital would exceed a billion dollars, hundreds of millions over its original budget, since at least 2013. Coffman participated in the drafting of legislation to address problems identified in early 2013 by the General Accounting Office, but admitted delaying the bill for 16 more months.

Read the report in full here.

“As chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Oversight Committee, it has always been Coffman’s responsibility to do something about the problems at the Aurora VA Hospital project,” said Runyon-Harms. “But up until this point, all we’ve gotten is finger pointing, grandstanding, and even attempting to fundraise off of this catastrophe for his re-election. There is plenty of blame to go around for this budget-busting debacle, but Mike Coffman has spent over 5 years on the Armed Services Committee, and over 2 years as the Chair of the VA Oversight Subcommittee. So instead of political grandstands, we call on Coffman to take some responsibility for this problem, and offer real solutions instead of slogans to get it fixed.”

“Coffman is fond of the words ‘lead, follow, or get out of the way,'” said Runyon-Harms. “It’s time for Coffman to take his own advice.”

Get More Smarter on Friday (April 24)

Today is not the anniversary of anything particularly important, as far as we can tell. 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…

► The U.S. Senate is coming to Colorado…some of them, anyway. Members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will be in Aurora today for a field hearing regarding the ongoing problems with construction at the Aurora VA Hospital.

► The State Senate gave preliminary approval on Thursday to legislation intended to reduce student testing requirements in Colorado. The State House is scheduled to discuss a similar bill today.

► Republicans are going to have a tough time continuing to pretend that so-called fetal homicide Personhood legislation is anything but a purely political attempt to restrict abortions in Colorado; some of the language used in SB-268 is exactly the same as wording used in model legislation proposed by the group Americans United for Life.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Friday Open Thread

“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

–President George H. W. Bush

By Hook or by Crook: Colorado GOP’s Attempt to “Seize” U.S. Public Lands

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Old Fuss and Feathers defeated the Mexican general Santa Anna leading to the acquisition by the United States of lands in Western Colorado.

The story in my family is that General Winfield Scott is a grandfather.  My own connection, I suppose, and not yet seven generations removed, to the tragedy of ‘Manifest Destiny.’

Scott was a colonel when he marched the Cherokee to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.  And he was a general when he took Mexico City, and the United States took half of Mexico in what has long been considered an unprovoked and unjust war.

Where I sit today, along the arroyos that sweep down from the flanks of the Grand Mesa, maybe right atop where Friar Dominguez stood to look at the plain of the North Fork of the Gunnison 80 years before my forebear marched against Santa Anna, and when the valley was still claimed by Spain; this was all part of  Mexico, and ceded at the point of a bayonet in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Of course the land only ‘belonged’ to Spain and then Mexico in the sense that they claimed it, their explorers and traders and trappers passed through most certainly on occasion, as had the Spanish friars in 1776, not too far from what became one leg of the Old Spanish Trail

And other people already lived here too.  The Spaniards did not discover it. Indeed in western Colorado, and right here in the North Fork, people have made their home for 12,000 years or more.  

(more…)

Hypoglycemia Pushes “Dr. Chaps” To Run For SD-12?

The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Kassondra Cloos reports:

What was billed as a town hall meeting turned into a half-hour tease for Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt’s announcement that he plans to run for a state Senate seat.

Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, went through a list of his accomplishments in the state Legislature Wednesday at the Airplane Restaurant. He also discussed his attempts to “fight for Republican principles” that didn’t make it through the Democrat-controlled House. He took a small handful of questions limited to constituents in House District 15, teasing his “plans for 2016″ along the way, before announcing he plans to run for Senate District 12…

Colorado Senate District 12 is currently represented by Senate President Bill Cadman, who is term-limited. Cloos reports (as our readers already know) that former Rep. Bob Gardner is planning a run for this seat, and there are rumors that former House Minority Leader Mark Waller could also throw his hat in the ring. Under ordinary circumstances, we’d say either of those experienced lawmakers should be more than a match for Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, for whom the controversies have flowed fast and furious since his inauguration in January. But Klingenschmitt has surprised us before, winning the seat to begin with despite a long history of over-the-top on-camera craziness as part of his “Pray in Jesus’ Name” Youtube ministry.

If this does turn out to be a career-ending misstep for Rep. Klingenschmitt, he may be able to attribute it to a 72-hour fast he claims to have engaged in before making the decision. We don’t know about you, but after 72 hours without food we’d be in no condition to make any kind of responsible decision.

In all seriousness, though, while it’s true that Klingenschmitt has placed himself in the line of fire against two experienced and theoretically more credible politicians, we can’t ignore the potential positive effect of the large amount of press “Chaps” has garnered in recent months. Klingenschmitt believes that Obama is possessed by demons and that gay people should not have civil rights, and the voters of House District 15 didn’t care in the least–electing him by a wide margin anyway. How many conservatives in SD-12 might actually agree with Klingenschmitt, as disgusting as it may sound, that Michelle Wilkins was punished by God for America’s sin of abortion?

For this reason and others that are similar, we’d be fools to count him out.

There’s just gotta be better ways to advance the conservative agenda on talk radio than holding the hand of Lisa Pinto

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Schools Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

One wonders if the GOP’s Leadership of the Rockies Program, which schooled GOP operative Lisa Pinto, needs to add a class on how to gracefully ignore anonymous tweets.

In her job as Chief Communications Officer for the Jefferson Country  School District, Pinto has massively more important problems on her plate than complaining about tweets directed at her. Yet, she’s wasting time on conservative talk radio whining about her tweets.

You’d any right-leaning talk radio program, normally home base for the get-over-it approach to personal problems, would boot her off the show, but KNUS host Krista Kafer wrapped Pinto in a warm blanket, introducing a April 3 segment on the tweets:

Kafer: “So there are these people out there. I don’t know. Do they not work? Do they not have a hobby? Do they not garden? I don’t know, but apparently they have a lot of extra time just to be mean. I guess being mean is a hobby.”

This opened the floodgates from Pinto, who emphasized that she took time on vacation to discuss the tweets on KNUS 710 AM, not on the taxpayer dime. (Listen below.)

“Thanks for taking up this really important topic,” Pinto told Kafer. “It’s really crazy that this is going on in this day an age in Colorado.”

Really important? Crazy in this day and age?  She’s a communications pro? Maybe she’s under the spell of the Independence Institute, which found recent tweets about Jeffco-School topics so important that it established a website, MeanGirlz.org, to promote them. Read more about this in Westword.

Anyway, Pinto went on for the next 20 minutes or so, making me wonder if she knew anything at all about the content of Twitter.

(more…)

“Fetal Homicide” Bill Uses Anti-Abortion Group’s Model Language

UPDATE: Credit where due–in a report broadcast today, Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee becomes the first local reporter to correctly identify the origin of the language in Senate President Bill Cadman’s “fetal homicide” bill–a national anti-abortion group.

University of Colorado law professor Jennifer Hendricks testified that similar laws in other states have led to pregnant women being prosecuted for having miscarriages or taking drugs, in spite of similar protections.

“My concern that it will be interpreted much more broadly is not hypothetical. It is exactly how an Alabama Supreme Court interpreted a similar law,” Hendricks said.

Abortion rights supporters say a fetal homicide law could also have a chilling effect on access to abortion. The bill was modeled after legislation written by an anti-abortion group, [Pols emphasis] although the organization says it is not attempting to limit the procedure with this policy.

As we detail below, Americans United for Life most certainly is attempting to limit abortions as part of this legislative strategy–just a little over the horizon. Original post follows.

—–

Senate President Bill Cadman.

Senate President Bill Cadman.

As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports, Senate Bill 15-268, the so-called “fetal homicide” bill introduced by GOP Senate President Bill Cadman last week as a “response” to the horrific attack on a pregnant Longmont women last month, passed its first hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee:

After a nearly five-hour hearing, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee backed the bill on a 3-2 party-line vote, with support from Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.

“This bill, I don’t see it about abortion,” Roberts said. “I see it as criminal justice.”

Senate Bill 268 was introduced by Republican leaders in the waning days of the legislative session in reaction to a recent horrific event in Longmont in which a woman suffered as her 7-month-old fetus was cut from her womb by another woman. The fetus died.

The issue is mired in controversy, as pro-choice advocates say that the legislation would create so-called “personhood” in the state, which they fear would lead to arresting and charging women for murder simply for having an abortion…

“I support a woman’s right to choose, and for nine years in this building, my voting record shows that,” Roberts said. “It does not create personhood, and I’m very disappointed in those who have perpetuated that myth.”

Although the legislation contains vaguely-worded exemptions for “medical procedures” and acts “performed by the mother of her unborn child,” the fact remains that the bill grants legal rights to fetuses “at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.” That provision, say opponents, is functionally identical to the Personhood ballot measures, and sets a dangerous precedent that could be used to undermine abortion rights in the future.

And there’s another problem that was pointed out in debate over this legislation yesterday by Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr: despite insistence from Cadman and other GOP supporters that this legislation is not meant to undermine abortion rights, Senate Bill 15-268 in fact uses verbatim model language supplied by Americans United for Life–one of the nation’s foremost anti-abortion advocacy groups. Here’s the model language from AUL in its entirety. And here’s the part that matters:

aulmodel

Compared to the relevant portion of Colorado Senate Bill 15-268:

sb268

For their part, Americans United for Life proudly noted in a press release yesterday that Senate Bill 15-268 is “based on AUL model legislation.” So it’s not like they’re being secretive about this. Despite that, we have yet to see any of the extensive press this issue is receiving note that Cadman’s bill is cribbed directly from “the nation’s premier pro-life legal team.” That’s how AUL describes themselves on their About Us page:

At the state, federal and international levels, AUL works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced. AUL knows that reversing Roe v. Wade can be accomplished through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life. [Pols emphasis]

But AUL’s distinction extends beyond federal measures. AUL works at the state level to craft tailored strategies and legislative tools that will assist state and local officials as they defend and protect life…

[AUL] has been unparalleled in pointing the way to protecting women now, to limiting the abortion license created by the Supreme Court, and to preparing the ground to overturn Roe. [Pols emphasis]

This legislation is, by the explicit admission of its true authors, part of a much broader strategy to chip away at Roe v. Wade. What happens when the rights this legislation confers on unborn fetuses today are interpreted tomorrow to be “unjust” since they contain exemptions? Once you legitimize these legal rights from the moment of conception, you’ve set down exactly the path AUL wants you to be on as part of their long-term objective of overturning Roe v. Wade–and curtailing or eliminating abortion rights nationwide.

Bottom line: if you’re wondering why pro-choice advocates and their Democratic allies are suspicious of ulterior motives at work here, you can stop wondering. Beneath the veneer of a “response” to last month’s horrific crime, a longstanding agenda to attack abortion rights is what this whole debate is about.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 23)

By the end of the week, the black market for carnitas will be booming. 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…

► After five months of waiting, the U.S. Senate is finally on the cusp of confirming President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner announced this morning that he planned to vote NO on Lynch’s confirmation. Seriously.

► There is a concerted effort underway in Jefferson County to “destroy” the teacher’s union, as Colorado Pols reported late yesterday. Jon Caldara and the Independence Institute may need to work fast — Julie Williams and the right-wing Jeffco School Board might just “destroy” the entire school district first.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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