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Ernest LuningErnest LuningNovember 18, 201718min28180

In the days since additional claims of sexual misconduct by Colorado legislators emerged in a news report, numerous women who have worked with state Sen. Jack Tate, one of the lawmakers accused of improper behavior, have come forward to challenge anonymous allegations about Tate. They say they’re alarmed the Centennial Republican could be unfairly caught up in a scandal they agree is bringing long overdue scrutiny to harassment at the state Capitol.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 8, 20175min2860

 

Remember that high school teacher or college prof who was known as “an easy A”? The one you didn’t have to worry about too much around finals?

No such luck for the 100 members of Colorado’s General Assembly — at least, not when it comes to the report card just issued on the lawmakers for the 2017 session by tax-hating, spending-cutting, government-curbing conservative advocacy behemoth Americans for Prosperity-Colorado.

Only six lawmakers — all of them in the state Senate, all of them members of the GOP majority — earned an A grade. The six “Champions of Freedom,” as AFP dubs them, are Sens. John Cooke, of Greeley; Vicki Marble, of Fort Collins; Tim Neville, of Littleton; Jim Smallwood, of Parker; Jerry Sonnenberg, of Sterling, and Jack Tate of Centennial.

In stark contrast, 17 state senators — basically, all of the upper chamber’s Democrats — flunked. That’s right: a big, fat F.

Things look even worse in the House. All 37 of the lower chamber’s majority Democrats — plus three Republicans:  Reps. Marc Catlin, of Montrose; Polly Lawrence  (currently running for state treasurer), of Roxborough Park, and Lang Sias, of Arvada — rated an F.

And AFP handed out no A’s to House members. Not a one.

The grand total: six A’s and 57 F’s.

Of interest: Sonnenberg and Tate were among the Republicans to vote for Senate Bill 267, the “rural sustainability” measure that raised revenue for a number of budget items while raising the ire of the political right.

Also noteworthy was who didn’t make the Senate’s A-list: longtime fiscal conservative stalwarts like Sen. Kent Lambert, of Colorado Springs, who earned a B, and Sen. Kevin Lundberg, of Berthoud, who came home with a C.

Some of the House’s reputed righties also didn’t seem to impress AFP. Rep. Perry Buck, of Windsor — whose significant other is swamp-draining 4th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck — got a D. Rep. Justin Everett, of Littleton — another candidate for state treasurer whose Wikipedia page says he “has been described as a ‘Combative Conservative,’ and is one of the most constitutionally conservative members of the Colorado House” — got a C. Rep. Tim Leonard, the Evergreen Republican? Also a C. Rep. Dave Williams, of Colorado Springs: C. Even House Republican Minority Leader Patrick Neville, of Castle Rock, only got a B.

What’s the basis for the grades? The organization issued a press release accompanying the report card today, offering insights on methodology:

In an effort to provide the most comprehensive accountability tool to citizens, AFP-Colorado scored nearly 1,800 individual votes on a wide variety of legislation. Bills scored include those that relate to our Budget Colorado Public Policy Agenda: SB 267, the “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” bill, HB 1242, a sales tax increase for transportation funding, and SB 61, a bill that sought to equalize funding for charter schools from local property taxes.

AFP-Colorado State Director Jesse Mallory — who not long ago worked closely with the Senate Republicans as their chief of staff — was quoted in today’s press release:

“We are excited to release this year’s scorecard, a tool we use to hold members accountable and commend those who advance economic freedom … We plan to promote this scorecard throughout the state to inform Coloradans on how their legislators voted. …”

In other words, he thinks the F students might have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Depending, of course, on how much their constituents care.


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Paula NoonanPaula NoonanJuly 3, 20175min790
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Tri-partisanship is on life support in Washington, D.C.  The nation’s health-care system now has three irreconcilable options: Obamacare, RyanCare and MitchCare.  It’s barely possible to see a path to WeAgreeOnThisOneCare.

In our own square state, bipartisanship perked up at the end of the 2017 session, even though the bill that most carries the bipartisan brand is messy.  Work on the issues within the bill show under what conditions legislators will come together.

Issue one was the hospital fee put in place to support hospitals that provide lots of uncompensated care. From spring 2010 to September 2016, hospitals received $1.4 billion to make up for Medicaid and other patients unable to pay their medical bills, according to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

That’s a lot of get-to-even money for mostly rural and urban hospitals.  But the funding comes with a catch.  The hospital fee, if considered a tax, pushes state tax revenues into Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) restrictions.

State Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, has long supported exempting the uncompensated care hospital fee from TABOR.  At one time, he was the one Republican Senate vote that could preserve the fee.

Many GOP lawmakers do see the fee as a tax. If it is a tax, hospitals take a double hit because the state has to reduce the fees and thus matching federal dollars to ensure that total tax revenues don’t trip TABOR limits.

Rural hospitals and the citizens they serve argued to their Senate and House legislators, including Republicans Jerry Sonnenberg, senator from Sterling, and Jon Becker, representative from Fort Morgan, that they absolutely needed all the fee money or they would have to close.  That position put the anti-taxers Sonnenberg and Becker, along with Crowder and some other rural Senators, in conflict with their pro-TABOR colleagues.

Then came the second big issue:  state transportation funding.  HB17-1242 would create a transportation funding initiative to bring sales tax dollars to save the state’s degraded infrastructure.  The bill passed the Democratic House with some GOP votes but couldn’t get out of the Republican Senate, killed in the Finance committee by Republican Senators Tim Neville, Jeffco; Jack Tate, Arapahoe, and Owen Hill, El Paso.

It looked like the provider fee would lose and transportation was done.  But Sonnenberg and Becker hooked up with two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Majority Leader K.C. Becker, as sponsors for the Sustainability of Rural Colorado bill.

In the last days of the 2017 session, the sponsors had to get creative.  They came up with a $2 billion tax go-around using state buildings for lease-to-purchase deals and a new Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise for the provider fee.

Democrats and some Republicans went with the plan, including Sens. Owen Hill and Jack Tate, who earlier voted against the sales tax initiative in Senate Finance.  Democrats added some education money, but the pinch on affected lawmakers hurt enough to get enough to “yes.”

A world of urgent hurt for a large majority of constituents can get lawmakers to bipartisanship.  That may end up the only ticket at the national level.  Lots of constituents and interests from all over the nation are stirring the health care stew and the heat is on high.



Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 5, 20173min1020

The long fight is over to slow down lawsuits over construction defects in Colorado, which lawmakers were told is the main reason builders aren’t interested in providing affordable condos in an expensive market.

Legislators have argued for four sessions over whether the cost of insurance and litigation are really the roadblock, or whether builders are trying to skirt responsibility for shoddy work.

The bipartisan House Bill 1279 requires a modest step of getting a majority of residents to approve a lawsuit against a builder, instead of the homeowner’s association board. It also requires a meeting in which the builder can present his side and possibly offer to remedy the problems.

Before they vote on whether to sue, residents would hear about the cost of the litigation and the impact it could have on selling or refinancing their property.

The push for an agreeable solution — there were four other bills on construction defects since the session started in January — was driven by the need for affordable housing. Condos have been cited as affordable places to buy.

The share of condos in the Denver market have slid from 20 percent condo market to 2 percent since 2005, according to the Colorado Homeownership Opportunity Alliance, a group of builders, trade associations and others that supported construction litigation reform.

The median price for a condo in metro Denver last month was $260,000 compared to $400,000 for a house, according to the Colorado Association of Realtors.

The bill was sponsored by Reps. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and Lori Saine, R-Dacono, with Sens Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and Jack Tate, R-Centennial.

It passed the Senate on a 33-0 vote Thursday, and the House 64-0 on April 24.

Tate called the legislation “an important step in the right direction.”

“First, it acknowledges that there is a problem,” he said. “Secondly, this is a positive corrective measure to addressing the problem we have when it comes to construction litigation issues.”

He said the bill doesn’t change the existing complicated construction laws, but it does ensure informed consent before lawsuits are filed.

Democratic Sen. Lois Court of Denver, who cuts Republicans little slack when she thinks they’re wrong, was all praise for Tate and the other co-sponsors.

“I want to congratulate the sponsors of the constructive defects bill for figuring out how to get us here,” she said before the final vote. “I want to congratulate all 100 of us for acknowledging that we could a way to do this and address the needs of the people.”