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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 8, 20175min2130

 

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.



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.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningFebruary 16, 201720min57

On his last day as chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, Don Ytterberg had a few things to say. After welcoming several hundred members of the county GOP’s central committee — along with family, friends and a handful of Republican candidates — to the party’s biennial reorganization meeting on Saturday, Feb. 4, at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, Ytterberg spoke to the crowd about his time at the helm.



Peter MarcusPeter MarcusFebruary 6, 20174min29
State lawmakers on Monday advanced a measure that would once again grant leave time to workers to take part in their children’s school academics. House Bill 1001, sponsored by Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, passed the Democratic-controlled House Eduction Committee on a party-line 7-5 vote. One Republican member of the committee, Rep. Clarice Navarro of Pueblo, […]

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John TomasicJohn TomasicAugust 14, 201614min47

The maps on the wall at Democrat Rachel Zenzinger’s state Senate District 19 campaign headquarters in Arvada are a web of lines outlining voter precincts, each precinct speckled with marker colors. Some precincts are predominantly Republican, some predominantly Democratic, and there are numbers written onto each of them. “479-480” reads one of them, another “412-410.” In 2014, Zenzinger lost that first precinct to incumbent Republican Sen. Laura Woods by one vote. She won the second one by two votes. It’s an eye-popping map in part because so many of the voter totals are separated by ultraslim margins. “Yep, I know,” said Zenzinger looking up at the lines and numbers. “Every vote counts.”


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Jared WrightJared WrightMarch 24, 201646min510

By TCS Publisher and Editor in Chief Jared Wright _@JaredWright_ DENVER — Good morning, and a happy Holy Thursday. Back to work today on snow packed side streets, icy interstate highways, and what should be a gorgeous, mostly sunny, snow-covered day in the Denver metro area. Travel safe out there. "Ask any woman and she'll tell you: health care for women is more expensive than it is for men. In fact, during their reproductive years, women spend 68 percent more on health care than men do." — Rod Blagojevich Now, your substrata feed straight from the politics pipeline:


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Ramsey ScottRamsey ScottJanuary 22, 20163min470
The Colorado House chamber.
The Colorado House chamber.

Abortion decision recognition

Democratic members of the House took time Friday morning in the chamber to recognize the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Speakers, including Reps. KC Becker, D-Boulder, Angela Williams, D-Denver, Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, Lois Court, D-Denver, Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, spoke for several minutes each about the importance of the decision to women’s health and safety and well-being. They also lauded Colorado for leading the nation by liberalizing its abortion laws in 1967, six years before the Roe decision.

Democratic caucus members stood in support of the remarks. No Republicans went to the well to speak and observers noted that some House Republican members left during the Democratic comments. Sources at the Capitol, however, said there was no statement-making undertaken on the part of Republicans — not with words or feet.

Republican Reps. Lang Sias, R-Arvada, and Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, are sponsoring an anti-abortion personhood bill this session.

Bipartisanship for the championship

Members of the House and Senate agreed to pass a joint resolution supporting the Denver Broncos and the team’s push to make it once again to the Super Bowl, and declaring Sunday Jan. 24 as Denver Bronco’s Appreciation Day. The team will play a conference championship game this Sunday against the New England Patriots. Orange-clad lawmakers from both sides of the aisle teamed up to show their support and to throw shade on teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Senators donned Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning jerseys and noted that his winning No. 18 is the same winning number of votes it takes in the Senate to pass a bill.

–Ramsey@coloradostatesman.com