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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 18, 20177min113
A panel of Republican and Democratic lawmakers talked about the problems of taxing, spending and TABOR Wednesday morning for the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. House Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist laid out the plan GOP members are likely to run on next year: moving spending decisions away from a six-member Joint Budget Committee […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 17, 20174min8150

An endorsement from a freshman legislator isn’t usually news, but not many freshmen are Rep. Leslie Herod, who’s backing Jared Polis for governor next year.

The Democrat from Denver published a blog on the Huffington Post Tuesday with the subhead, “Colorado can make history by electing a gay governor. He’s also the best person for the job.”

“In spite of the endless chatter about the role of ‘identity politics’ in the Democratic Party, we don’t need to choose between leaders who will champion social justice and those who will champion economic opportunity,” she told Colorado Politics. “Polis will champion both.”

Herod was elected to the legislature by the widest majority of any statehouse candidate with opposition a year ago. She also was one of the original members of New Era Colorado at the University of Colorado, which has generated some of the state’s top young Democrats, including Joe Neguse, who is running to replace Polis in the 2nd Congressional District.

She also had one of the most productive sessions of any legislator this year, commonly co-sponsoring bills with Republicans.

Last March, when the state party honored Polis as Democrat of the Year, Herod was named its 2017 Rising Star at the party’s annual dinner.

She wrote for the Huffington Post:

Polis was the first openly gay candidate ever elected to Congress and was also the first gay parent ever to serve there. The Obama years were filled with historic victories for the LGBTQ community, and Polis played a part in virtually all of them. His career has been defined by taking bold ideas that once seemed unthinkable and making them a reality.

For example, Polis was instrumental in the passage of the first-ever inclusive hate crimes law. He was one of a handful of lawmakers who shepherded into law the legislation to get rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He was a driving force behind the Obama administration’s decision to implement comprehensive guidance on the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students at school. (Sadly, Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions quickly reversed this guidance.)

Contacted by Colorado Politics about Herod’s backing, Polis, not surprisingly, was pleased.

“I’m so honored to earn Leslie’s endorsement,” he said. “We’re running an upbeat, forward-thinking campaign about bold ideas, which makes Leslie a perfect fit for our growing team. In addition to being the first black, openly LGBTQ office-holder in Colorado, Leslie is an amazing community advocate and a tireless champion of economic and social justice.

“Together we’ll not only defend our values against attacks from Donald Trump — we’ll make Colorado’s economy work for every family, no matter who you are or who you love.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 14, 20177min2170


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 2, 20178min770


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 13, 20179min410

With the the grease fire that is Republicans’ too-big-to-fail promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, it’s time to remind D.C. how the Colorado legislature got things done this year, from healthcare to switchblades.

The state Constitution forces the legislature to balance its budget each year, that’s a big part of it. Moreover, Republicans and Democrats in the statehouse got tired of losing.

Republicans control the Senate. Democrats control the House. If you’re a partisan under the Gold Dome, that’s a losing proposition unless you have friends across the aisle. Partisans might as well howl at the moon. They’ll get just as far. The only point in picking fights when you don’t have the votes is politics, not governing.

As no small side note, our Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, is making the rounds with Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich.

They’re telling Washington that states want to work across party lines to fix health care. The issue is too important to spoil with brinksmanship.

The legislative session ended three months ago, and usually there’s finger-pointing and backbiting by the time the state fair rolls around. This summer, noticeably, the bipartisan victories.

Bipartisanship is turning into a Colorado thing, like legal weed and light rock music.

Let’s air out the session’s dirty laundry, however. When they convened in January legislators from both parties said their biggest priority would be to adequately fund transportation.

They didn’t.

But you can’t blame bipartisanship. It was an all-Republican knife fight that gutted House Bill 1242, co-authored by Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham.

The Democratic House majority passed a bill to ask voters to approve a sales tax hike. Three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee couldn’t support that. The Republican majority in the Senate then couldn’t agree on a replacement bill.

Colorado found a way forward on health care, however. The bipartisan breakthrough, Senate Bill 267, put millions into rural hospitals and some into transportation, while raising Medicaid co-pays and lowering the state government spending cap. Both sides got some wins there.

Then to prove bipartisanship happens in baby steps, Republicans got in a spat with the Democratic governor on where the  bill would be signed. The peace pipe has not been completely smoked.

The divided legislature also found a middle ground on construction defects litigation, fairly funded charter schools, forced law enforcement to better disclose the assets they take in forfeitures and more (driverless cars, more convenient contraceptive access for women and money to address the state’s opioid addiction crisis).

Democrats and Republicans did some real giving and taking. It paid off.

A lot of the progress had to do with Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, a Republican outdoorsman from Douglas County, and Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, the Democratic pastor from Denver who is the someday leader emeritus of the LGBTQ Caucus.

For six of the eight years of the Hickenlooper administration, Republicans and Democrats will have shared control of the legislature. Before this past session, bombast had a way of spoiling things.

Bipartisanship starts with better relationships, Holbert said. The Senate leadership in both parties tried to keep a lid on the accusatory, overblown rhetoric that makes subsequent bipartisanship a heavy lift.

“What we’ve tried to do is to reach across the aisle quite literally by standing in that center aisle and to shake hands and to embrace and not use that kind of (negative) rhetoric with each other, first just to set that example and to encourage other people in the caucus,” Holbert said.

Guzman said relationships at least provide an open ear across the aisle when the votes are against you.

“I’ve known President Grantham since we came in together,” Guzman said. “He and I traveled to Israel together. We’ve done lots of things together.”

Holbert said the Colorado Constitution forces the legislature to work together to pass scores of bills, including balancing a budget.

“The way we have to do our jobs is different than most other states and could be different than all other states,” he said.

It’s complicated and detailed, so he wrote out Colorado’s unique governing requirements for me.

For my fellow Colorado government geeks. Holbert’s lesson:

Single Subject Rule

Everything in a bill before the Colorado General Assembly must fit under the title of that bill. This restriction prohibits “pork barrel” legislation and deal-making when unrelated issues are combined into one bill.

Every Bill Must Receive a Hearing

In many states, legislative leadership or committee chairmen have the authority to decide whether a given bill will receive a hearing. If a bill does not receive a hearing, then it cannot pass. Here in Colorado, all bills that are introduced must receive a hearing.

No Pocket Veto

In Colorado, no one legislator or even the Governor has the authority to kill a bill simply by ignoring it. Bills in our legislature can and do die by vote of a committee or chamber, with at least a simple majority of members voting against the measure. If a bill passes both chambers, our governor must either sign it into law, sign it as a veto or the bill becomes law without his signature.

Balanced Budget Requirement

The Colorado Constitution requires our state legislature to pass a budget each year and that the budget be balanced. The Colorado General Assembly cannot deficit spend, meaning that it cannot spend more than it has. With our current spilt legislature, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate must work together to pass a balanced budget.

Voter Approval Required for Taxes

Unlike many state legislatures, the Colorado General Assembly does not have authority to create a tax or increase an existing tax rate without voter approval.

Term Limits

Individuals may serve up to eight years in each chamber of our state legislature. House terms are two years each and Senate terms are four years each.

Limited Session Time
The Colorado Constitution limits the annual general session to no more than 120 days, including weekends and holidays. Unlike other states that limit session duration, here in Colorado, neither the legislature nor the Governor has authority to extend a general session beyond 120 days.

Lobbyist Restrictions

Colorado voters have also amended our state Constitution to prohibit lobbyists from giving anything of value to a state legislator. Whereas non-lobbyists can currently spend up to $59 per year entertaining a state legislator, lobbyists can spend nothing on such activities.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJuly 28, 20172min490

Legislation to overturn the Affordable Care Act might have died in the U.S. Senate overnight, but opponents of Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare aren't letting up. Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a former health care executive and a Democrat, is set to headline a Saturday morning rally in Denver that's one of more than 100 "Our Lives on the Line" events planned nationwide aimed at preserving health coverage for millions of Americans.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 26, 20177min483
The Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington. President Trump said on Twitter Wednesday the military no longer will accept transgender recruits. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Colorado LGBTQ leaders said they were dismayed and angered that President Trump is proposing a ban on transgender people serving in the military.

“I cannot imagine how our transgender service members, who are serving honorably all over the world, right now to protect our freedoms, feel waking up to their Commander-in-Chief not only demeaning their service, but dehumanizing who they are,” said state Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, a member of the legislature’s LGBTQ caucus, told Colorado Politics. “To be told you cannot serve simply because of who you are is just plain wrong.

“Our country is better than this, and we deserve a president who is conscious about valuing what makes America great — not on dividing and dehumanizing us — that is not who we are.”

 

Transgender military service

Another Colorado LGBTQ caucus member, Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, called Trump’s move “a black mark in the history of our country.”

“The civil rights movement for LGBT Americans has been forced backwards,” he said in a text message to Colorado Politics. “This is very sadly just the beginning of decidedly negative steps this administration will take in the next four years whether we have a President Trump or Pence. We need all Americans, regardless of political party, to band together to resist the oppression and discrimination we are now and will experience in the future.”

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, said Trump is on the wrong side of history.

“Any action to deny any able-bodied person the opportunity to serve our country in the armed forces is anti-American and blatant discrimination,” said Guzman, a pastor and prominent LGBTQ leader in the state. “The president’s tweet is a cowardly attack on the thousands of patriotic transgender Americans who are currently serving in the military across the globe. Our military leaders need to stand with our transgender brothers and sisters, and against this statement that is an affront to the principles that make our country great.”

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, co-chair of the LGBT Caucus, called the announcement deeply troubling, as well.

“My hometown of Pueblo proudly bears the name ‘The Home of Heroes,’ and we steadfastly support all those who serve our country,” she said in a text. “To exclude members of our military who have served honorably — or who aspire to serve — is simply wrong.”

One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people and their families, said it amounted to an attack on patriotism.

“President Trump just attacked thousands of patriotic transgender Americans who already serve in our military and who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe and free,” said Daniel Ramos, One Colorado’s executive director. “The U.S. military is the largest employer of transgender people in the world, employing an estimated 15,000 transgender people today.”

Ramos called it another example of the Trump administration singling out a vulnerable target instead of bringing the country together.

“Transgender people — like all Americans — should be judged for their qualifications, nothing more, nothing less.” he said. “As we learned in repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing service members to serve with integrity strengthens our armed forces.

“Our veterans and military deserve better and we will fight against this vicious attack on dignity and equality. Transgender people are our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They are veterans who have served with honor, and active duty service members who have sacrificed to protect our freedoms. When it comes to being able to serve their country, earn a living, having a place to live, or being served by a business, transgender people should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include remarks from Guzman and Esgar.