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Kevin GranthamKevin GranthamJanuary 8, 20186min560

Aside from the fact that we all have the privilege of conducting our legislative affairs under stunningly-beautiful Capitol domes, one in D.C. and the other in Denver, there’s actually a world of difference between the “Colorado way” of doing things and the “Washington way,” which we hope to prove anew when the gavel comes down on the 2018 legislative session.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 29, 20176min496

With failed efforts by Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act now in the rearview mirror, at least in the eyes of the public, Congress has now turned to the next big ticket item in President Donald Trump’s agenda: tax reform.

But at least one Colorado congressman wants Washington to see tax reform coming out of Congress as a bipartisan effort, with full hearings and meetings and collaboration, unlike Republican efforts on the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Greeley Republican, spoke today to a small gathering of backers of tax reform in Denver’s Lincoln Park, across the street from the state Capitol.

“It’s time we get over the fact that Republicans steal from the Treasury to help their friends and Democrats steal from the Treasury to help their friends,” Buck told Colorado Politics. “It’s time we recognize that the American people deserve better.

“We cannot put a tax reform package on the floor of the House and expect Democrats to get on board. We should run this through committees, get input from members and leadership…and make sure we have the best package.”

The gathering, which was part barbecue and “tax reform games” and part serious policy discussion, was sponsored by the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group supported financially by billionaires David and Charles Koch.

Jesse Mallory, AFP’s state director and the former chief of staff to the state Senate Republicans, said Tuesday’s event would help raise awareness about tax reform.

“We want something that’s simpler, close loopholes and is fair,” Mallory told Colorado Politics. “We’ve been calling on Congress to take this seriously, and to create a system that is fair, flatter” and good for everyone.”

Mallory said AFP is actively engaged in discussions at the federal level, and that Tuesday was an opportunity to talk to citizens about tax reform — and to sign them up to help AFP with its famous door-to-door efforts.

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City also jumped onto the tax reform platform, telling the audience that they need to show up at the Capitol and to not let the 100 lawmakers in the General Assembly dictate what’s going on.

“Put the money back into the hands of those who know how to spend it,” Grantham said.

Grantham and Democratic Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver unsuccessfully sponsored a bill in the 2017 session to raise the state’s sales tax to fund a $3.5 billion bond issue to chip away at a backlog of fixes to the state’s roads, highways and bridges.

Buck explained that the tax reform package being floated in Congress would reduce the corporate tax rate, lower the small business tax rate to around 15 to 18 percent and reduce the tax rate and simplify the tax code for individuals.

“You could fill out a tax return on a postcard, he added.

The nation’s tax codes picks winner and losers, he said: special interest groups and corporations get certain privileges.

“We don’t get those privileges, which is fundamentally wrong,” Buck said.

He told the crowd of about 50 that the enemy of tax reform is not Democrats nor the Senate. “It’s the special interest groups that want to maintain their privileges,” he said.

By the end of September, Buck said, Americans should know whether such a tax reform package will be possible. It should be through the House of Representatives within the next two weeks, he added, but his greatest hope is that the package will be bipartisan.

“I hope it’s fair for Democrats, Republicans, affiliateds. I hope it’s a bill that America says ‘Congress did its best job, the president signed a good bill and we will go forward.’”

Buck demurred when asked if he is considering a run for Colorado attorney general, pointing out that he’s running for re-election to Congress next year “because Cynthia Coffman is running for attorney general. If anything changes I’ll let you know.”

Coffman is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2018.

As Buck walked away from the stage, the sound system, perhaps ironically, cranked out the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 10, 20173min318
At a time when Americans have lost faith in Congress, most of Colorado’s delegation believes it is working together to get the work of the people done. Five of the seven members of Colorado’s congressional delegation spoke Wednesday to an audience of business leaders in Denver at the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry’s off-year […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 18, 20173min278

Leave it to an old-school gentleman of politics like former Colorado U.S. Rep. David Skaggs to launch a new campaign championing bipartisanship in public office. The Boulder Democrat, who represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1987 to 1999, was widely recognized for his dignified demeanor — topped off with his trademark bowtie — during his lengthy tenure in state and national politics.

Now, he is behind a new effort to restore a measure of dignity to Congress. Yes, Congress. A press release from American University in Washington, D.C., which is partnering in the endeavor along with Republican former U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma, explains:

At a time when gridlock on Capitol Hill has replaced consensus, and public approval of Congress has reached historic lows, former Rep. David Skaggs … and his wife Laura have established a new award. The Madison Prize for Constitutional Excellence will recognize and reward legislators who persist in striving for bipartisanship, cooperation, and, in the words of James Madison, a spirit of public service that transcends “faction.”

The Madison Prize for Constitutional Excellence, endowed by Rep. and Mrs. Skaggs in partnership with American University’s School of Public Affairs, will be awarded after each biennial Congress to recognize one Member (a U.S. Representative or Senator) from each major political party (or an Independent who caucuses with one of the parties).

The press statement quotes Skaggs:

“The only way our political system can work to solve problems is through negotiation and compromise … The Madison Prizes will honor Members of Congress who recognize that and will, Laura and I hope, encourage them.”

According to the university, its Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies will oversee the selection process for the prize, with the first awards to be presented in early 2019.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningMay 25, 201727min656

By one measure, state Rep. Justin Everett, a House Republican serving his third term in the Colorado General Assembly, and state Reps. Chris Hansen and Chris Kennedy, a pair of Democrats in their first terms, stand as far apart as any lawmakers at the Capitol, based on the votes they cast in the just-completed 2017 regular session. Considering all the bills that made it to final, third-reading votes in the session — 490 in the House and 459 in the Senate — between them, these three legislators cast the most ‘no’ votes and the most ‘yes’ votes, respectively, according to an analysis prepared by bill-tracking service Colorado Capitol Watch.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusMarch 17, 20175min167
At the start of the legislative session, in my inaugural column, I said, “There’s a good chance the split legislature could actually come together this year.” A week later, I said, “Hope springs eternal but optimism dies young.” We’re now halfway through the legislative session, so here’s your update: I have no idea, and I don’t […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 9, 20172min252

Even as the country’s newly minted Republican president mulls plans for building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico,  Republicans in Colorado’s legislature, joined by their Democratic colleagues across the aisle, are going global. At least, when it comes to the language arts.

Senate Bill 123, introduced into the upper chamber by Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada and Republican Sen. Kevin Priola of Brighton, would “grant a diploma endorsement in biliteracy” to every Colorado high schooler who demonstrates proficiency in English and at least one foreign language by graduation. The bipartisan proposal picked up a bipartisan endorsement when it made its debut in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, winning approval 6-1.

From a Senate GOP press release noting the bill’s progress:

Priola…told the Senate Education Committee that advertising a graduate’s biliteracy on a diploma not only would encourage students to study a second language, but it would impress college admissions offices and improve a certificate-holders job prospects.

…”By allowing school districts in our state to publicly recognize and credential academic achievement in the study of foreign languages, the seal of biliteracy will give universities and potential employers an additional tool to evaluate an applicant’s qualifications and skill set,” said Priola. “With a significant number of Colorado’s most prominent employers seeking bilingual candidates, Colorado students who have received this seal in foreign language proficiency will be highly competitive for positions in these key industries and excel in the increasingly global economy.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

 


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John TomasicJohn TomasicJanuary 24, 201712min445

State Sen. Kevin Lundberg has lived off the power grid in Berthoud for the last 25 years. He generates and stores his own electricity and right now he is awaiting a shipment from China of nickel-iron home batteries. “These kind of batteries were invented by Thomas Edison,” Lundberg said in an interview last week. “The batteries he invented are still functioning. They last forever, not like the lead-acid batteries we use now, which you have to replace. The problem is, they shut down all production of the nickel-iron batteries in the 1960s — except they're still making them in China.” Lundberg seems to be just warming up into his topic. It’s hard to get it all down.


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John TomasicJohn TomasicJanuary 18, 20176min307

In her first press conference this legislative session, House Speaker Crisanta Duran on Wednesday celebrated the bipartisan cooperation she said had marked the first week of work. She also told reporters to expect a package of bills aimed at addressing the growing affordable housing crisis that has plagued cities and towns across the state in recent years. She argued that bipartisan bills have filtered out at a regular clip and that work to find common ground behind the scenes was continuing apace. “We’re off to a very good start,” she said. Duran commented only briefly on comments House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R- Castle Rock, issued Tuesday, in which he pointing out that Duran had already assigned a suite of high-priority House GOP bills to the State Affairs kill committee. He called into question her commitment to bipartisanship and he decried the fact that Duran had expanded the Democratic majority on the kill committee from three to six members in order to shore up defenses against any surprise compromise.