Archive for the 'Colorado State Legislature' Category

Colorado Springs GOP primary turns the Legislature’s smiles into snarls

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

A mailer  in Colorado Springs includes actual factual photos of state house candidate Larry Liston cross-dressing, but the attack letter fails to mention that Liston’s step into a dress was all part of a joke.

As reported by the Megan Schrader at the Colorado Springs Gazette:

One page of the letter includes two photos of Liston from Hummers, a skit put on by the minority party in the House chambers every year skewering the majority party. It also includes a link to a story about criticism Liston faced for calling unwed mother’s “sluts.” Liston later apologized for the statement. Another link in the letter takes readers to the 2011 voting log on Senate Bill 200, which created the state exchange for the Affordable Care Act and shows Liston voted for the legislation.

Liston said those are “gross misrepresentations.”

[Former State Rep. Amy] Stephens said there is a “long-standing House and Senate agreement” that anything in Hummers would not be used for or against someone in political campaigns.

“It’s just reprehensible that this would be violated,” Stephens said.

The mailer appears to be the work of GOP consultant Jon Hotaling in support of Rep. Janak Joshi (R-Colorado Springs), who’s facing a primary challenge from Liston. Hotaling defended the letter in the Gazette’s story.

Hotaling, who has ties to Jeffco State Senators Tim Neville (SD-16) and Laura Woods (SD-19), as well as failed GOP candidate Tony Sanchez (SD-22),  reportedly orchestrated similar dirty tricks in support of Rep. Doug Lamborn’s primary victory in over KVOR talk-show host Jeff Crank.

In that 2006 race, a mailer linked to Hotaling and his brother accused the ultra-conservative Crank of supporting the “homosexual agenda.” Crank still talks bitterly about the race.

On his radio show Saturday, Jeff Crank said, “I think Joshi is hanging out with the wrong people. I think he’s hanging out with the wrong crowd.
His campaign manager is known for these dirty, divisive tactics.”

“This kind of stuff is tearing our party apart,” said Crank on air, calling Joshi and his backers the “Pharasies,” slimy holier than thou characters from the Bible.

Colorado Springs Republican Bernie Herpin, appearing on Crank’s show Saturday, said Sen. Kent Lambert has admitted to signing the Liston mailer. But the mailer wasn’t Lambert’s idea, Herpin said. .Listen to Herpin on KVOR 5-14-16 here.

Humans not contributing to global warming, Glenn again says

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn reiterated his belief last week that humans are not contributing to global warming.

Asked about the issue by KNUS 710-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger Show May 7, Glenn, an El Paso Couty Commissioner, said:

Glenn: Climate change, we can debate that until the cows come home, for lack of a better way of stating that. The bottom line is, I do not believe that man is contributing to that factor. We need to stand up for energy independence, and Colorado needs to lead the nation.

Sengenberger: I think this issue is so overblown. But it is something that is very important to Millennials in particular, because they have gone through a college process and a K-12 education where this is something constantly ingrained in them. How can we appeal to Millenials, to young people, in your mind on the issue of energy, to say, ‘We need to be developing our energy infrastructure in this country and in the state of Colorado, not harming it.

Glenn: I agree. And it’s an extensive conversation.  You mentioned education. As conservatives, we cannot just concede education over to the Democrats. We really need to be actively involved. And that’s why I’ve been such a proponent of school choice and the other options that are out there, because the left is clearly out there driving the agenda, trying to shape the minds of the next generation.

Glenn’s position contrasts with the consensus view among scientists worldwide that human activity is contributing to climate change. Interestingly, Glenn’s stance has so little credibility that some journalists argue that it should be ingored as a legitimate opinion in news articles.

Glenn hopes to prevail in Colorado’s June 28 GOP primary and take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who believes climate change is already affecting Colorado and who hammered his GOP opponent in 2010 for denying that humans were causing climate change.

A predatory lender’s empty threats to abandon its growing business in Colorado

Monday, May 16th, 2016

If you followed the debate over a bill allowing a predatory lender to charge millions more in high interest rates, you know that the key question, at the end of the day, was: Will OneMain holdings leave Colorado if it can’t make even more money here?

In a Denver Post op-ed over the weekend, I addressed this question by comparing last year’s debate about predatory lending to this year’s.

This year, the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora), was quoted as saying that OneMain will pack up its money bags and leave Colorado unless it’s allowed to make more cash:

“I’m running this [legislation] for progressive reasons,” Melton told The Durango Herald last month. “If we don’t do something about this now, then we’re going to lose that last company, which means the only option we’ll have left is payday lenders.” [BigMedia emphasis]

Trouble is, Melton essentially said the same thing last year, when a similar bill was under consideration, and, lo and behold, OneMain didn’t go anywhere.

“This is one of those issues where you almost have to hold your nose and still vote for it, because if you don’t, the branches will close, and the only option you’ll have is payday lending,” Melton told The Herald last year. [BigMedia emphasis]

A year has elapsed, and OneMain is still in Colorado, and payday lending is not the only option. In fact, OneMain’s business has grown, even as some branches have closed, following a merger and an industry trend toward online (and more efficient) business.

So now that House Democrats have killed the predatory-lending bill, who expects Colorado to “lose that last company,” as promised by Melton? Last year’s threat is probably the best yardstick we have, meaning it probably won’t be going anywhere.

And if OneMaind doesn’t leave, and the company or its supporters trot out a sob story next year about needing to flee Colorado because profts are so intolerably low here, we’ll know what to tell them.

 

Best reporting on the the state legislature in 2016

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Here’s my list of the best reporting on the state legislature this session, from a progressive perspective. The press corps is threatened and depleted but continues to crank out quality journalism. Let’s hope we can say that next year.

o In a detailed analysis of votes on numerous issues, The Denver Post’s John Frank illuminated beautifully that the split among Republicans in our state senate reflects divisions in the Republican Party nationally. His list of eight hard-right state senators, later dubbed the “Hateful Eight” by liberals, includes two in possible swing districts: Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Laura Woods of Westminster.

o The Denver Post’s John Frank broke a story exposing the tactics of Americans for Prosperity in pressuring state lawmakers to sign a pledge not to “undermine the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by creating a special exemption for the Hospital Provider Fee.” The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins filled out the picture of AFP with an illuminating piece about the organization’s field work—as well as another story featuring the angry response of Republican Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) to AFP’s apparent pressure on Crowder. The pressure from AFP appeared to have ratcheted up after Hutchins had matter-of-factly reported Crowder’s views in support of turning the provider fee into an enterprise.

o The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins also banged out an excellent explainer of the hospital provider fee (and related issues), just as the legislative session was cranking up and few people understood what the fee was and what was going on.

o Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland offers a daily drumbeat of short interviews that often prove illuminating or provide a springboard more in-depth analysis (e.g., Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ position on election modernization or Sen. Larry Crowder’s stance on Syrian refugees).

o The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus asked why J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio) had voted last year for a program offering contraception to low-income women and teens, but this year voted against it.  It’s basic journalism, of course, but often forgotten in onslaught of other news.

o The Colorado Independent’s Marrianne Goodland provided in-depth coverage on, among other legislation, a predatory-lending bill that was defeated by state house Democrats.

o Fox 31 Denver’s Amanda Zitzman put a human face on a bill aimed at informing citizens about the cost of free-standing emergency rooms versus urgent care.

o The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch is trying to do something different at the newspaper with his “Joey ‘Splains” series. He’s on the right track.

o On the legislative campaign trail, we owe thanks to the reporters who covered the caucuses and county assemblies, allowing us not to rely solely on reports by party activists. The Colorado Statesman’s coverage, especially Ernest Luning’s, on social media and in articles stands out.

o The Boulder Weekly’s Caitlin Rockett found holes in the assertion that a bill targeting tax havens was bad for small business.

o The Colorado Statesman’s Hot Sheet is a welcome infusion of legislative news. (In the advocacy world, ProgressNow Colorado’s Daily News Digest is a userful compilation of political news coverage.)

o The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland was the only journalist to write about the crazy irony of Rep. Kevin Priola missing a vote on a parental-leave bill, which he opposed, because he had to take his kid to the doctor.

 

Did GOP flack intend for his attack on anti-vaxxer Neville to richochet into anti-vaxxer Woods?

Monday, May 9th, 2016

GOP operative Tyler Sandberg took a Twitter shot at State Sen.Tim Neville (R-Littleton) last month, just after Neville lost his bid to take on Michael Bennet in this fall’s Colorado Senate race.

Responding to an article quoting Neville as graciously saying “the people” had spoken, Sandberg snapped, “And the people support vaccinations.”

Sandberg is correct. Neville supported an unpopular bill in the state legislature last year (SB15-077) that would have made it even easier for parents to opt-out of getting their kids vaccinated in Colorado. Progressives have called Neville and others “anti-vaxxers” for supporting the efforts last year (and opposing sensible vaccination reporting this year) given that Colorado has some of the most lax vaccination policies in the country.

The funny part is, Neville is far from alone in the anti-vaxxer crusade. He’s joined by, among others, Republican State Sen. Laura Woods, whose Westminster race in November will likely determine whether Republicans retain control of the state senate and thus stop the Democrats, who have the governor’s office and state house, from taking control of state government.

So Sandberg’s shot at Neville inadvertently ricocheted into Woods. Or was the salvo intentional?

You don’t often see a muckety-muck flack like Sandberg, who’s been a mouthpiece for Rep. Mike Coffman, throwing shade at a candidate who’s got control of state government riding on her shoulders. And such an attack should have been spotlighted by reporters.

So I asked Sandberg on Twitter whether his anti-vaxxer aspersion applied to Woods and others as well:

.@wtylersandberg Just saw this, but wondering if you’re mocking not only @NevilleforCO but also @SenLauraWoods & others? #copolitics #coleg

How much damage does Sandberg think Woods’ anti-vaxxer stance will cause?

Powerful Christian-right group aligned with 33 Colorado Republicans against Planned Parenthood

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Thirty-three Republican members of the Colorado legislature joined last year with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a national anti-choice and anti-LGBT organization, in demanding the Colorado health department investigate Planned Parenthood, according to a letter released by ADF via Colorado State Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s office.

Considered to be one of the most powerful Christian right organizations in America, ADF is well-known at the Colorado legislature for pushing legislation and testifying in favor of the social-conservative agenda.

But it’s rare to see ADF form a direct alliance with so many legislators, as it did in advocating for a Planned Parenthood investigation.

“I’m not surprised to see ADF branching out into working alongside state legislators,” said Robert Boston, author of Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do, via an email. “While I’m not aware of efforts on this scale in other states, I do know that ADF has of late been sending unsolicited ‘advice’ to state and local lawmakers concerning issues like the ability of government clerks to refuse service to same-sex couples. The influx of Tea Party-style Republicans in state governments since 2014 has given the group a host of natural allies in the state capitols, and it’s not surprising to see this relationship growing.”

While its work directly with legislators isn’t widely seen, ADF has a longstanding and multi-pronged history of attacking Planned Parenthood, including efforts to defund the health-care organization and to organize grassroots opposition among people and businesses. The organization’s anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ stances are widely documented.

In a 2015 handbook designed to help religious entities discriminate without facing legal repercussions, ADF equates bestiality and incest with being LGBTQ, participating in adultery, and using pornography.

“We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female,” states the handbook. “These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God. (Gen 1:26-27.) Rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.”

The handbook continues: “We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. (1 Cor 6:18; 7:2-5; Heb 13:4.) We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography) is sinful and offensive to God. (Matt 15:18-20; 1 Cor 6:9-10.)”

ADF, which did not return a call for comment, campaigned in support of a 2003 Texas lawsuit, arguing that it’s “clearly” true that “same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem.” ADF has backed efforts to criminalize homosexuality abroad, according to a report by Media Mattes for America.

ADF has gained attention more recently for providing legal defense for anti-LGBTQ business owners who refuse to serve same-sex patrons.

“ADF and its allies are attempting to reverse something like 50 years of social progress,” wrote Boston, who serves as communications director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national progressive organization. “They are essentially at war with modernity. Some might argue that this is alarmist, and it won’t happen. But the fact is, reproductive rights have been under constant assault since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, and opponents of legal abortion have made a lot of progress.”

In the September 25 letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), GOP lawmakers requested the “standards or criteria that are required to initiate an investigation” of Planned Parenthood, and it asked how a heavily edited video that falsely purported to show illegal dealings in fetal tissue donation would not be investigated.

The video and others like it, part of an undercover series by the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), has been discredited and their creators indicted, but the videos have spawned local and national Republican-led hearings and investigations of Planned Parenthood. No evidence has shown Planned Parenthood to have broken any laws.

The ADF letter, which has not been previously reported on, came after CDPHE, in an August 31 letter, rejected a demand by many of the same state legislators to “initiate an investigation” of Planned Parenthood.

Among the GOP lawmakers listed on ADF’s letter calling for an investigation of Planned Parenthood are State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Westminster), whose fate in November’s election, some say, could determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Colorado Senate, and State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), who was rejected by Republicans to run against Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet this fall.

State Rep. JoAnn Windholz (R-Commerce City), who’s been asked to resign after blaming Planned Parenthood for being the “true instigator” of November’s deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, was also listed as a signer.

Multiple calls for comment on the letter and ADF’s legislative priorities were made to Rep. Dan Nordberg (R-Colorado Springs), whose name appears first among the lawmakers listed on the letter, were not returned.

Many of the Colorado legislators aligned with ADF were part of an unofficial “hearing” in November focused largely on the CMP smear videos, that turned into a day-long condemnation of Planned Parenthood. It took place just over two weeks before three people were murdered at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, which re-opened fully Sunday.

The ADF letter, which was included in an ADF briefing book distributed to legislators at the “hearing,” also requested public documents from CDPHE, including all correspondence with Planned Parenthood, pursuant to Colorado’s open records law.

It was signed by senior ADF Counsel Michael J. Norton, who left ADF in December to start the Colorado Freedom Institute, which will focus on conservative religious causes.

Norton, who drafted a 2006 amendment that voters added to the Colorado Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman, testified frequently at the state capitol and has been an outspoken advocate for anti-choice campaigns.

Norton did not return emails asking if the lawmakers who joined his former organization’s letter support ADF’s broader agenda of criminalizing homosexuality and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Journalists correctly see challenges faced by candidate who “needed a court ruling to keep his campaign alive”

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

In its report on a Denver judge’s decision to allow U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser on the Republican primary ballot, after the Secretary of State had rejected his petitions, The Denver Post’s John Frank and Mark Matthews reported:

Once considered a favorite in the race, Keyser must now overcome other challenges that are injecting questions into this campaign not least among them, the fact he needed a court ruling to keep his campaign alive. [BigMedia emphasis]

It’s unclear just how much of a liability Keyser’s signature-gathering fiasco will be, but the reporters were correct to write that it raises questions–as yet unexplored in detail by journalists–about whether Keyser’s short stint on the campaign trail and in public service has shown him to be competent not only to run a campaign but to be an effective U.S. Senator, to replace Democrat Michael Bennet.

Keyser’s Republican colleague in the Colorado State House, Rep. Justin Everett of Littleton, jumped on Facebook last week to write that Keyser “isn’t ready for prime time,” as evidenced by Keyer’s fundraing troubles, problematic petitions, and other bungles.

Everett: Not to say he won’t cure, suers gonna sue. But what’s interesting here is how close he was in Congressional District 1 (20 signatures), in heavily Republican CD5 (a mere 76 signatures), and CD 6 (75 signatures). If another candidate were to contest the validity of those Congressional Districts, he may be deemed insufficient in other areas. Not to mention his announcement claim that he had $3 million pledged to his campaign but only raised $200K, while contributing $100K of his own money. After serving with him for a mere year in the legislature, it is still pretty clear he isn’t ready for prime time…

“After serving with [Keyser] for a mere year in the legislature, it is still pretty clear he isn’t ready for prime time….”

If you couple that statement with the campaign lapses, you have a bunch of unanswered questions about Keyser’s basic competency that need to be addressed by reporters as the campiagn gears up.

When will a reporter ask Woods why she likes Trump?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

How many times does State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Westminster) have to say she likes Donald Trump before a reporter will ask her the simple question of, why?

In an email to supporters Sunday, Woods wrote that she’d vote for Trump, if he were the nominee, adding, “I have liked Trump and Cruz, and at times I have disliked them both.”

Woods, who’s been more open about her support for Cruz, said earlier this year on KNUS 710-AM of the Republican prez candidates:

Woods: “My favorites are Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.”

Now, with Trump set to roll one step closer today to securing the Republican nomination–and with Woods apparently the only elected official in Colorado to affirmatively and proactively express her fondness of Trump–you’d think a journalist out there would jump on the local angle and ask her why.

Yet, apparently Woods has skated by the press corps, somehow avoiding the scrutiny you’d expect her to receive as the senator whose fate in November’s election will likely decide whether divided government comes to an end in Colorado.

So, with so much at stake, as well as a news hook the size of Trump, you’d think Woods would have explained her feelings for Trump many times over on the record.

To emphasize the point, and as a means to suggest a few obvious avenues of questioning that reporters might pursue in questioning Woods about Trump, here’s a video.

https://youtu.be/3xMMMWNqrj8

How to protect Colorado’s “non-prime population” from being exploited as a “market opportunity?”

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Reporters have done a good job informing us that most people who sign up for predatory loans are struggling.

But there’s a media gap in pointing out just how important the “struggling” part is to the business model of OneMain Holdings, the company backing legislation that would allow it to charge 36 percent interest on more and larger loans.

In a presentation a couple months ago, OneMain boasted to investers about its “Market Opportunity” in the personal loan business.

After noting that “Americans have $3.3 trillion in consumer debt,” and then identifying its “target market” as the 100 million Americans with low credit scores, the company pointed out where its pay dirt lies:

OneMain’s Market Opportunity: “Large non-prime population with limited liquidity–63 percent of American households do not have at least $1,000 in savings, more than 40% have no emergency savings.” [Emphasis added by OneMain Holdings, not by the BigMedia Blog.]

“Non-prime population?” That’s an unfortunate phrase for this company to use, but it spotlights the point.

A lot of poeple are struggling with debt problems, and they need loans. But they obviously need protection from a big company that targets them as a “market opportunity.” How much protection from interest-rate hammering is appropriate?

We’re never going to know exactly how much money OneMain Holdings is really making in Colorado.

We’re just going to get shards of information, like the company representative confirming 30 percent growth in Colorado during the last four years. Or the Colorado attorney general’s office confirming again that access to personal loans is not a problem here. Which indicates that OneMain is happily doing business here.

Objectively, it looks like the company is doing very well, thank you very much.

Except, OneMain claims that it’s not doing well enough, and one key supporter has said, if nothing is done, the company might have to walk away from Colorado!

So if you’re a state legislator, and you know OneMain will never open up its books for review (and you know that people need loans), do you err on the side of protecting those people with little or no personal savings? Or do you respond to the company’s complaints and help it out, to the tune of $9.5 million?

That’s the key question that reporters should zero in on. How much evidence is there that this company actually factually needs to make more money on the backs of Colorado’s “non-prime population?” In fact, is there any evidence at all, except what the company says?

Post reporter stands out for asking predatory-lender about Colorado profits

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

A predatory-lending bill, allowing lenders to make more money on high-interest loans, passed a state senate committee yesterday, with supporters of the bill telling reporters that increased profits are necessary to keep personal-loan lenders in Colorado.

That’s the major argument for the bill. Specifically, backers told the Durango Herald that the one company offering such loans will leave Colorado if it’s not allowed to make millions more here.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch was the only reporter to ask Springleaf Holdings, Colorado’s only lender of personal loans (after a merger last year with its competitor), how the company was doing. I mean, that’s the key question.

Is it struggling to make ends meet, like many of the folks it lends money to are? People who pay the company 36 percent interest on a $1,000 loan as it is?

Bunch reported:

Phil Hitz, who represented Springleaf Holdings, acknowledged that the company is very profitable nationally and confirmed the 30 percent Colorado growth over the past four years.

Bunch apparently didn’t ask Hitz if Springleaf would leave Colorado if the bill didn’t pass, but all indications are that it would not.

Last year, when a similar predatory-lending bill was debated, the Colorado Attorney General’s office testified that access to such loans is not threatened under the current interest-rate structure.  Similar testimony was reportedly offered yesterday as well.

So the bill’s backers haven’t refuted the key point that lenders of personal loans are profitable and thriving. Instead, the market in Colorado is actually growing. There’s no indication that the lenders will walk away from Colorado and its money.

To be fair, Hitz told Bunch that Colorado is the company’s lowest yielding state, and other states help subsidize it.

But lowest yielding state compared to what, astronomically-earning ones? We know the company is “very profitable” nationally. So the fact that it’s doing well enough in Colorado is a signal that states should protect consumers, many of them low-income, and adopt Colorado’s humane regulatory framework.

That’s another conversation reporters might have with Hitz.