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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 5, 201813min458

The #MeToo movement must seem like déjà vu to Karen Middleton. The former state lawmaker, longtime education policy wonk, self-described "fierce feminist" — and nowadays, point person for abortion-rights advocacy in Colorado — took her seat in the legislature a decade ago in the wake of the Capitol's last big sexual-misconduct scandal. It was her own predecessor in her state House district who wound up resigning in the face of allegations. And while some things never seem to change, she says the response by some politicians to the latest round of harassment allegations actually has been worse than was the case in 2008. She explains how and also discusses education reform; her first forays into politics — and the therapeutic value of home renovation — in this week's Q&A.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 7, 20188min899

A Democrat-led House committee gave another celebrated approval — along party lines — for a proposed family and medical leave insurance program for Colorado.

Democrats passed a leave bill out of the House last year (without a single GOP) vote last year, and it was quickly squashed by the Republican majority in the Senate, at is it’s likely to again this year.

Employees would be required pay in less than 1 percent of their salaries annually to be insured against having to take time off to take care of a family member for up to 12 weeks. To create a broad enough pool to keep costs low, everyone would have to pay in, even if even if their employer already offers medical leave.

The program would increase labor force participation, especially for women who make up most household breadwinners. For young families, family leave gives mothers time to heal and bond with their child, as well breastfeed, which has benefits, witnesses told the committee.

Leave also could ultimately decrease the number of people forced leave the workforce or rely on taxpayer-supported programs, including putting loved ones in nursing homes, proponents said Tuesday.

House Democrats designated it as their top priority and made it the first bill introduced in the chamber this session, House Bill 1001. Such measures are a high-priority for Democrats nationally to sustain or build on the  #MeToo momentum of female and lower-income voters this fall, in response to Republican leadership in Washington.

One of the bill’s sponsors is Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster, who is challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik of Thornton in the north metro district that could, ultimately, decide whether the GOP retains its one-seat majority in the upper chamber. Democrats have a nine-seat edge in the House. Winter carried the bill last year, as well.

Near the end of the four-hour hearing Tuesday, committee member Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said he wished a solution was a bipartisan goal, short of changing the majorities in the next election.

“I wish this wasn’t partisan,” he said. “I wish we didn’t have to wait for a moment in time where we reshuffle the board and see if this can pass next year.”

Rep. Lang Sias, R-Arvada, said there are bipartisan ideas, perhaps that could be considered this session, but they do not create “a government behemoth” insurance program. Rep. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, said lots of small businesses already offer leave programs. He preferred that such an individualized approach for busienesses, “rather than the government mandating a one-size-fits-all program.”

Colorado Democrats, however, have at least one Republican in their corner. President Trump called for a federal program (paid for by the government) in his State of the Union address last week. He called it “an investment in America’s working families.”

If a federal program came about, the state program would unwind.

“I would be happy to have that problem,” another of the Colorado bill’s Democratic sponsors, Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, told the committee.

Chambers of commerce and most other business groups oppose the bill, said it would make Colorado less attractive to employers. Small businesses would face a new level of record keeping and regulatory compliance, businesses representatives told the committee.

Loren Furman, the senior vice president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the state’s chamber of commerce, said a survey of members found many different kinds of leave programs appropriate for each business and its employees.

“Each employee’s situation is going to be different,” she said. “The best solution we see is working with those employees and seeing how we can meet those needs, based on the business that they operate (in).”

Small businesses would struggle to find skilled temporary employees for three months who would expect to have a job with the employee on leave returns, Furman. That labor force might not be available, and that could have a detrimental impact on some small companies, she warned.

Five states have implemented similar insurance programs: New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, pointed to an analysis by a conservative economist showing Colorado with a much more attractive job market than some of those states.

“Why would Colorado want to move in the direction of New York and New Jersey, when this would hurt the very people it’s meant to help” if there are fewer jobs, he said. “Why would we want to move toward the bottom rather than stay near the top?”

Winter argued that the employee-funded program is good for businesses, because it retains good employees who can return to work rather than quit to take care of a family member.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Rhonda Fields of Aurora and Kerry Donovan of Vail.

Donovan told a lunchtime rally for the bill on the Capitol steps that in the rural communities in the seven mountain counties she represents, if a person has to leave a job for a temporary family priority such as an infant or a sick family member, returning to the workforce is no guarantee, and it might mean a family has to move away to find work.

“It isn’t always an option to find another employment opportunity in a small town,” she said. “Having lost a job means you’re moving to a different community, and the impact that has on a family is self-explanatory.”

Fields promised a fight for the bill looming in the GOP-led Senate.

“I am ready to take this bill on in the state Senate,” she said to cheers at the rally. “When it comes us (Democrats) we’re going to fight for it. There are people in the building behind me who do not want to see this bill pass. They don’t want to provide benefits of paid family leave insurance to all people who live in the state of Colorado. But I do. They need to hear from us.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 24, 20173min569
This week the NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation will finalize its merger with the Freedom Fund, which provides money to help women pay for abortions. The program will be called the Women’s Freedom Fund. The program was started in 1984 by the First Universalist Church of Denver to help women who were barred from abortion services […]

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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJuly 21, 20178min504

A former Democratic elected official is accusing Levi Tillemann, an Aurora Democrat, of acting as a congressional candidate when he was operating an exploratory committee to determine whether to challenge U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a five-term Republican, in Colorado's 6th Congressional District. But Tillemann, one of three Democrats running for the swing seat, said his conduct has been well within the limits of federal election law and then opened up a fresh attack on Jason Crow, one of his primary opponents, for legal work the attorney has performed in recent years.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 13, 20175min1173
Karen McCormick
Karen McCormick (Photo courtesy of the campaign.)

Karen McCormick’s campaign said Thursday the Democrat and veterinarian from Longmont raised $20,805 since filing to run in May to take on Rep. Ken Buck in Eastern Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.

Buck has raised a similar amount to McCormick this election cycle, but, moreover, has $383,851 cash on hand, according to the website OpenSecrets.org. Buck raised nearly $1.3 million for his first race for the seat in 2014 and more than $1 million to defend it last year.

McCormick faces an uphill push in the district that’s as red as a clown’s nose. Since 1972, it has been represented by a Democrat for one term, Betsy Markey, who was elected in 2008. (The last Democrat before that, GOP political guru Dick Wadhams tells me, was Wayne Aspinall, who held the seat from 1948 to 1972, when the 4th CD was primarily the Western Slope with Larimer and Weld counties, before redistricting in 1972.)

Cory Gardner returned the seat to GOP hands in 2010, and Buck, the former Weld County district attorney, won it easily in the last midterm election in 2014, while Gardner was beating incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

McCormick is a political newcomer.  Her policy positions cited on her website are mainstream Democratic fare on healthcare, the environment, education and international relations.

On “individual rights,” a key issue in the independent-minded rural Eastern Plains district, is also addressed.

“By right and tradition, our Constitution considers each of us an autonomous individual, not as a member of some labeled group,” the campaign states. “People are discriminated against often due to the group they identify with, or are placed into. We are all individuals, and should be treated and held responsible as such. Thus the rights and responsibilities we enjoy should be the same for each of us. All citizens should be treated equally under the law.”

McCormick’s announcement Thursday cited her father’s 30 years in the Navy as a fighter pilot, a captain of the aircraft carrier USS America and as the Navy’s inspector general, retiring as a rear admiral.

“My family’s sacrifice for our country built a clear understanding of what it means to be an American and how we have an individual responsibility to stand up for the values that built our democracy,” she said in a statement.

McCormick has lived in Longmont 22 years, and her husband, Gregg Perry, is a Colorado native who owns and runs an auto repair shop. They have three daughters. Her announcement talks about how she volunteered to teach English at Intercambio and serves on the board for of Project V.E.T.S., as well as how she built her veterinary business.

“With the experience of 33 years of practicing veterinary medicine, building a two person practice into one grossing over 2 million dollars a year with 24 employees, Dr. McCormick knows first-hand about job creation and business development,” her campaign said. “This field requires constant problem solving skills and the ability to make decisions that benefit a growing business while delivering important and affordable services to the public.”

The campaign also provided testimonials from friends.

“Having known Karen for over 22 years I can say that she is one of the most diplomatic people I know,” local physician William Benedict stated. “She is intelligent and willing to sit down with others of various viewpoints in a civil and respectful way. We need our representation in Congress to use reason in approaching the challenges of the modern world. I am tired of our present Congressional representatives erecting barriers and resisting progress with undemocratic roadblocks. Karen has my full support to bring problem solving and sensibility to Washington D.C.”


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 26, 20178min251

A group of liberal advocacy organizations for the first time released combined legislative scorecards this week, conglomerating assessments of the 100 Colorado lawmakers’ votes last session on key legislation the organizations said they plan to present to voters next year. A Republican who received among the lowest overall scores, however, dismissed the endeavor as a “political stunt” and told Colorado Politics he doubts the predictable rankings — Democrats good, Republicans bad — give voters any meaningful information.


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John TomasicJohn TomasicApril 5, 20176min679

State Senate Republicans introduced a sweeping bill on Monday adapted from similar efforts across the country that would establish new rules around abortion services in Colorado with an eye to lowering the number of abortions performed in the state. The bill sped into committee Wednesday, leaving opponents playing catch up. NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado called a hasty tele-press conference before the hearing, sounding warnings against the bill. “This is literally ten elements of anti-choice legislation pushed by national groups like Americans United for Life all jammed into one bill,” said executive director Karen Middleton.