afp6-square-1536.jpg

Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 12, 20173min269
Four Colorado legislators will stand up alongside football legend Herschel Walker as Healthier Colorado recognizes their legislative touchdown, Senate Bill 207, which puts money and a plan in place to keep people in mental health crisis from being housed in local jails awaiting a hospital bed. Sens. John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


unnamed-1024x323.png

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 8, 20175min2120

 

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.


SirotaHeadShot-693x1024.jpg

Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 24, 20174min520

Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy CommitteeLiberal journalist extraordinaire David Sirota did what he told Colorado Politics he would do back in May. He got his eyeballs on Colorado Senate Republicans’ e-mails from a period when a bill to move oil and gas wells farther from schools was pending in the legislature.

You can bet Dave would raise a left-slanted eyeball. He published his findings Friday in the International Business Times.

But he didn’t find any bombshells. Just both sides pleading their case.

From the article:

While the emails, which were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests filed by IBT, show no sign of illegal activity or quid pro quo dealings between lobbyists and lawmakers, they do reveal the asymmetrical war fought between the fossil fuel lobby and ordinary citizens who work and live near their facilities, many of whom wrote their representatives to assert that they weren’t anti-fracking, but simply worried about their own or their children’s health. Some pleaded with their representatives for help, only to receive a form letter, or nothing at all.

He cites an example letter from a Greeley school teacher to Sen. John Cooke, a Republican from Greeley who is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. The committee killed Democratic Rep. Mike Foote’s House Bill 1256 on a party-line vote on April 12. The teacher wrote she was begging for Cooke’s support.

“We should not be risking the health and safety of children without an attempt to at least provide the minimum of support of a 1000 foot setback from where they are playing and breathing. Protecting the health and safety of children should not be a partisan issue — we all care about protecting the most vulnerable, and as a former Weld County Sheriff, I’m sure you understand.”

Sirota also found an e-mail to Cooke from Brent Backes, an executive with DCP Midstream, a petroleum services company based in Denver, as well as an executive board member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

“DCP has a lot of new development activity in Weld County that I would like to make sure you are aware of as well as having a general discussion of the issues facing our industry,” Backes wrote. “I would be happy to come to the Capitol as our headquarters are located just a few blocks away.”

Sirota found that Cooke RSVP’d to a COGA seminar later, but it’s hard to say if Cooke responded to the e-mails, Sirota wrote.

In the scheme of things, that’s not unusual. Legislators from both parties attend all kinds of events put on by special-interests groups, from industry to philanthropy. Associations associate with policymakers because that’s how the public sausage is ground. Legislators say they learn about the issues from the “stakeholders,” even if you prefer to call that influence.

Editor’s note: This story corrected that Sen. John Cooke is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, not the chairman. The chair is Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling.



Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 19, 20174min230

Jail cells are no longer a substitute for the help needed by people in behavioral and mental health crises in Colorado.

Thursday Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation on 72-hour mental health holds, a significant issue for Colorado’s far-flung rural areas, where proper help can be hours away. When there’s not a hospital nearby to take a person in crisis, a jail cell often is the landing spot, even if the person hasn’t committed a crime.

Colorado Politics’ Peter Marcus first told you about the dilemma and legislative efforts in January.

“Until now, people in Colorado could spend up to 72 hours in jail simply because they had a behavioral health issue and needed help,” said Nancy VanDeMark, director of the state’s Office of Behavioral Health, in a statement.

“Through the hard work of many people, we’re now able to expand and enhance the availability of crisis response services statewide. Coloradans in crisis will be connected with the right behavioral health services in an appropriate setting.”

Senate Bill 207 abolishes the practice of locking up people simply because of mental health distress. Instead, the new law creates a needs study, regional contractors, training for first-responders, community partnerships, mobile units and, by Jan. 1, a 24-hour walk-in center on the Western Slope.

The Department of Human Services, which runs the state’s response program, will get about $7.1 million from marijuana taxes next year and $7.4 million the next year to extend and bolster services across the state.

About $5.2 million a year will go toward law enforcement and mental health professionals working together on ways and means.

The bill had strong, diverse leadership. Republican John Cooke, the retired Weld County sheriff, and liberal attorney Daniel Kagan sponsored the bill in the Senate. In the House it was led by Deomocrat Joe Salazar, a civil rights lawyer and Democratic attorney general candidate, with former Top Gun pilot Lang Sias.

The legislation passed the Senate 27-6 and the House 51-14.

Lawmakers and DHS have been focused more intently on behavioral health response since the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, when clues were missed that might have led to a better intervention with gunman James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured at least 70.

The next legislative session lawmakers passed Senate Bill 266 to appropriate about $29 million to create many of the services being extended to rural areas this year.

Four years ago the bill charged the Department of Human Services with creating a 24-hour hotline staffed by mental health professionals.

Since it launched in October 2014, the hotline has heard from 293,663 people, or about 1 in 20 Coloradans, according to DHS’s count.

The line can be reached at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or by texting TALK to 38255.


cooke-stalking.jpg

John TomasicJohn TomasicApril 28, 201710min540

Sate Sen. John Cooke, a Republican from Greeley, played point-man Thursday in an effort to <a href="https://www.coloradostatesman.com/touted-energy-efficiency-program-re-hits-legislative-speed-bump/" target="_blank">kill</a> a popular Colorado energy efficiency program, which he argued was an absurd waste of money and a form social engineering. But <a href="http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/HB17-1227" target="_blank">House Bill 1227</a>, which would reauthorize the ten-year-old program, isn’t dead yet, and its bipartisan supporters didn’t submit meekly to the surprise legislative jiu-jitsu Cooke let loose in the Senate Agriculture and Energy Committee.


wires.jpg

John TomasicJohn TomasicApril 26, 20175min560

A bipartisan bill to reauthorize a popular and by most accounts dramatically successful utility-run <a href="https://www.coloradostatesman.com/state-energy-efficiency-program-renewal-faces-main-legislative-hurdle-thursday/" target="_blank">energy efficiency program</a> in the state was detoured Wednesday on its way to the Senate floor. Republicans on the Senate agricultural and energy committee voted as a bloc to send <a href="http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1227" target="_blank">House Bill 1227</a> to the hardline Senate finance committee.