HISTORY LESSON FOR HICK: The Blue Ribbon Commissions That Went Nowhere

There is nothing Democrats seem to love more than a good ol’ fashion Blue Ribbon Commission.  Former Gov. Bill Ritter was famous for creating them on everything from healthcare and education to transportation.  It actually became a joke that anytime Ritter was too scared to take a position on real issues he would convene a blue ribbon commission to study it.  

Sometimes these commissions would make policy recommendations.  However, even when that is the case, there is never enough political will to implement the suggestions.

Take President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform – better known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission.  It detailed a $2.5 trillion deficit reduction plan that is now collecting dust on a shelf in the White House. Obama even went to great lengths to distance himself from its recommendations.

These blue ribbon panels/commissions/boards – whatever you want to call them – produced absolutely bupkis.  All they do is waste time and money and give politicos like Gov. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Jared Polis more empty talking points.

That is why the creation of yet another blue ribbon panel to study the issue of oil and gas is such a massive failure of leadership.  A similar commission was created two years ago on this exact same issue.  We’ve been there.  We’ve done that.   

Isn’t it time for a new approach?

 

DROPPING DOWN: Colorado Slides in Multiple Economic Rankings

Hick toasts the Republican counties that keep him afloat

Good ol’ J.W. Hickenlooper the second would like Coloradans to believe he’s a business-friendly governor.  Slick Hick says, “come look at these nice statistics that tell you how fabulous I am for businesses.”  But, like a man who has come by wealth through inheritance, Hick is only skating by on the great resources Colorado has to offer, and not enhancing them.

The American Legislative Exchange Council released its annual state economic outlook for 2014: Colorado has fallen to 22nd.  After years of consistently ranking in the top ten (#2 in ’09, #2 in ’10, #6 in ’11, #8 in ’12) Colorado has dropped dramatically over the past two years, ranking 16th last year and fallen a further six spots this year.  The six spot drop from 2013 tied Colorado for the second worst drop of all fifty states.

With Slick Hick adding over 24,000 pages of regulations in 2012 and 2013 alone, along with the 10th highest tax increases among the all fifty states over the same period, this tumble in the rankings should come as no surprise.  Luckily for El Deuce (get it? because Hick’s the second) the conservative-bastion that is Douglas County—still considered business friendly—has the jobs rolling in, while Weld County has been pumping out more gas and jobs to keep other traditional metrics of Colorado’s economy afloat.

How much is Douglas County’s 5.9% and Weld County’s 5% growth rate compensating for other counties with lackluster growth across Colorado?  Certainly Colorado’s unemployment would be higher without the thousands of jobs those two counties have brought in.

But it’s not just ALEC that has downgraded the economic environment in Colorado.  George Mason University’s Mercatus Center economic and personal freedom rankings have Colorado falling steeply to 19th in the country when just back in 2007 we were 4th.  Hell, even under former Democratic governor Bill Ritter we only slipped to 7th in 2009.  Since then, and since having J.W. Hick in charge for the past four years, we have slipped a further twelve spots.

While Colorado continues to look pretty compared to the rust-belted states to the East, and the impossibly over-regulated by hippies states to the West, we sure are the ugliest economic step-sister when it comes to the states most like us.  If Slick Hick isn’t replaced this November, we can resign ourselves to an economy more suited to Cleveland than Salt Lake City.

 

TONE DEAF: Democrats Select Trial Lawyer & Tax Hike Cheerleader For New Senate Leadership

Senate Democrats chose not to listen to their caucus members urging moderation and selected two extreme liberals for their new leadership today after Senate President John Morse was recalled from office last month.

Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) – a trial lawyer on the left-wing fringes of the Democratic Party – was selected to replace Morse as Senate President. Senator Rollie Heath (D-Boulder), who led the failed Prop 103 tax hike campaign in 2011, took Carroll’s position at Majority Leader.

More moderate members of the Senate Democratic caucus are likely to be displeased, as they hinted they would be to Lynn Bartels of The Denver Post last week.

Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) and Senator Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge) both expressed hopes last week that their colleagues would select a leadership team other than Carroll and Heath, instead adding at least one moderate voice to the mixture.

“I think everybody wants some moderation in the House and the Senate,” Jahn told Bartels.

The selection of Carroll and Heath is also a rejection of the advice of former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter, who advised Democrats to not be only the party of the Denver-Boulder corridor.

“The Democratic Party cannot be the party of metro Denver and Boulder,” Ritter told the New York Times. It has to be the party who understands the values, views and aspirations of people who live outside of those areas.”

With a 50% disapproval rating in the latest Quinnipiac poll, Democrats must figure their majority is already in peril so they might as well push through whatever they can get in 2014. We’ll see if their candidates feel the same way on the first Tuesday in November 2014.

 

TO MODERATE OR NOT? Colorado Democrats Debate Leftward Lurch Of Caucus In Leadership Fight

Did Democrats sleep through the recalls?

The historic recall elections of Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron have caused some Democrats to reflect on the sharp leftward shift their party took in the last legislative session. While some openly pine for a more moderate agenda, it’s not clear that Democrats will take that path.

As Lynn Bartels of The Denver Post reported:

With the swearing-in comes a power struggle for new leadership, and an attempt by Republicans to have a say, although Democrats will still hold the majority, at 18-17.

Conventional wisdom says Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, would be the logical choice to succeed Morse as president, but not everyone thinks that’s the direction the Senate should go when the leadership election is held later this month or in early November.

Carroll has declined to discuss the leadership race, but several Democrats said she has told them she is running for the post and they believe she has the votes.

Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, is running for majority leader, a position that would be vacant if Carroll is elected Senate president.

The problem for Democrats is both Carroll and Heath are left wing politicians from the metro area – the exact recipe that got Democrats in the bind they’re in right now.

Former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter warned about this in the New York Times the day after the recalls:

“The Democratic Party cannot be the party of metro Denver and Boulder. It has to be the party who understands the values, views and aspirations of people who live outside of those areas.”

In an implicit repudiation of Carroll and Heath as outside the mainstream, Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) told Lynn Bartels she thinks that leadership team would be lacking a “moderate voice”:

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RITTER INDICTS DEMOCRATS: Says Party Must Stop Representing Only Boulder And Denver

Governor Ritter…ouch. The former one-term Colorado governor used the megaphone of the New York Times today to blast his former colleagues for losing the recall elections because they became the party of Boulder and Denver.

[S]tate officials said that the recalls showed how Colorado’s political pendulum could still swing in surprising directions, and that deep rifts still lay beneath its increasingly blue veneer.

“This is a state with a wide variety of interests at stake,” said Bill Ritter, a Democrat and former governor. “The Democratic Party cannot be the party of metro Denver and Boulder. It has to be the party who understands the values, views and aspirations of people who live outside of those areas.” [Peak emphasis]

Senator Angela Giron’s recall defense campaign may have blasted her opposition as being the work of “extreme groups from Denver” but voters in Pueblo decided it was she that was beholden to the metro areas’ interests over her own constituents.

Back in January we pointed out the fact that most Democratic leadership in the Legislature being from either Boulder or Denver was going to create problems. And a tone-deaf liberal bubble it created.

The arrogance of legislative Democrats is widely credited for helping bring about the downfall of John Morse and Angela Giron. But it extends beyond just taking orders from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. They simply didn’t listen to the citizens who showed up to testify.

A story by National Review’s Charles Cooke, who was in town for the recalls, takes a look at the women who testified against the gun bills and felt completely ignored and disrespected.

From Katherine Whitney to Kimberly Weeks to Amanda Collins, some truly brave women told their harrowing stories of violence that could have been stopped had the victim been armed.

But legislative Democrats, ensconced in their Boulder bubble of liberalism, refuse to hear them out.

They may want to re-think that strategy for 2014.

 

CLOSE TO HOME: Senate EPA FOIA Report Reaches CO

A recently released Senate report detailing the Environmental Protection Agency’s abuses of the Freedom of Information Act has ties to Colorado. The report was published by Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The report was a scathing indictment of the EPA practices:

“As Congress has raised questions about EPA’s lack of transparency, the agency has steadfastly ignored its constitutional obligation to subject itself to congressional oversight, apparently in an effort to prevent the public from knowing what is going on behind closed doors.”

According to excerpts published by the Washington Examiner, the abuses even touched Colorado’s Governor’s mansion.  Most troubling is the use of aliases to purposely avoid sunlight on the EPA’s activities, particularly by James Martin, former Region 8 Administrator for the EPA.  Here are the excerpts:

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STAFFING UP: Lt. Gov Garcia’s Hire of Union Boss Hints At Higher Aspirations

News broke last week that Lt. Governor Joe Garcia had hired union boss Scott Wasserman, of state government union Colorado WINS, to be his Chief of Staff. We’d be remiss if we didn’t note the subtext to that announcement.

Wasserman, the first big boss of the union created by one-term Governor Bill Ritter’s controversial executive order unionizing state government, shows that Garcia is beefing up for a run for something, probably governor in 2018, according to our sources.

Some old guard Dems and liberal operatives have allegedly been saying that former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and State Senator Mike Johnston are a better choice, but Garcia isn’t apparently eager to take a dive for Salazar (D-BP).

Earlier this year Democrats floated Garcia as a potential candidate against Republican Congressman Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District. That apparently went over like a lead balloon, as Tipton’s seat is rather safe at this point and Garcia doesn’t seem interested in wasting his time in an unwinnable race.

Garcia’s hiring of Wasserman seems to indicate he’s set his sights a bit higher than Congressman.

 

LONG TIME, NO TALK: Ritter’s Revisionist Recitations

Just when we thought Democratic Sen. Bennet was the clown of the week with his faux outrage over the IRS scandal that he, himself, caused, former Colorado Governor and (we presume) current Democrat Bill Ritter steps in with a trite and totally inaccurate assessment of the current state of affairs here in Colorado.  Here is the rubbish that froths from his pen Sunday in the Pueblo Chieftain:

“Here in Colorado, we are ahead of the curve on many public policy issues that other parts of the country call intractable. There’s a pragmatic optimism in Colorado that leads us to find sensible solutions and compromises on tough issues, and move forward when others dig in their heels, putting ideology over progress.”

Initially, we thought he was planning to chastise his own party and we settled in to read the rest of the piece.  But, no.  Is Ritter living in an entirely different Colorado than the rest of… Colorado?  In the “real” Colorado, the Democrats killed bills that would have saved children from pedophiles, worked overtime to strip citizens of Second Amendment rights, penalized small businesses with extra burdens and regulations, and just generally made life miserable for Colorado’s middle class all in the name of liberalism.  (Or, perhaps, all in the name of their radical leftist patron saint, Tim Gill, who bought this year’s legislature and it’s bassackwards legislation.)

The ideas he expressed throughout his op-ed aren’t new, nor are they disagreeable – “let’s work together to get things done”.  It’s just that he’s so detached from reality.  And, it’s not just about the state of Colorado.  He even seems to have rose-colored glasses when it comes to his own administration.

He claims he “balanced the budget” – doesn’t every Governor have to do so because of TABOR?  That’s kind of like a criminal taking credit for serving his time.  And, then there’s the Medicare fee that he passed, which contributed heartily to the national debt.  Since he’s so worried about our debt.

By putting such a rosy spin on his and other Democrats’ actions, we can’t help but wonder if the lady doth protest too much.

 

GLASS JAW GOVERNOR? Hickenlooper’s Ability To Withstand A Political Punch Relatively Untested

Governor Hickenlooper has been the recipient of a hard-hitting, professional attack ad campaign by Republicans just once in his political career. Once. And then Dan Maes took the GOP nomination and every outside player fled the state.

With Hickenlooper taking a 20-point hit in favorability in the latest PPP poll, it’s instructive to look back at that brief moment of political peril for the governor for what it says about his ability to take a political punch.

The assault by the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) in early May 2010 focused heavily on his raising taxes as Denver Mayor and the job losses at Frontier Airlines that happened as a result, and tied him to unpopular one-term Governor Ritter.

The smartly produced, memorable spot had a little over half a million behind it over a one-month period — a not insignificant, nor exceptionally huge, budget.

As a result, Hickenlooper’s numbers went into freefall.

Less than two weeks after the assault on the airwaves began, a PPP poll found Hick had gone from an 11-point lead over Scott McInnis in the previous PPP poll to being tied.

It was a crushing blow that reshaped the race dramatically.

Unfortunately, soon thereafter everything fell apart. The plagiarism scandal consumed McInnis’s campaign and paved the way for the most disastrous major party nomination in modern history in Dan Maes. 

But it’s that ever-so-brief moment that makes some wonder whether Hickenlooper is as politically invincible as conventional wisdom would suggest.

The second sustained assault Hickenlooper has faced from Republicans in his career, though with virtually no paid media, was over gun control.

And just like after the RGA attack, Hickenlooper’s polling numbers plummeted like a cartoon anvil.

Two assaults, two big poll hits.

Does Governor Hickenlooper have a glass jaw?

 

EROSION: Coloradans Freedom Score “Among Most Worsened”

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University each year measures “freedom” in each state.  While Colorado’s overall score (19) is in the middle, the analysis of the state points out that “its freedom score is one of the “most worsened” in the country over the 2001 to 2011 period.”  From 2009 alone, Colorado’s rank has slipped 12 points – from #7 most free to #19.

It’s worth noting in the graph below that Colorado’s decline really began in 2007, which coincidentally or not was when Bill Ritter became Governor.

The reasons for the low scores are cited in the analysis video below and include its high state government spending and tax burden, which increased from 8.3 to 9.6% over four years.  Over the last decade, the state has dropped from #7 to #21 in terms of fiscal policy.  Additionally, “half-hearted” eminent domain reform and highly regulated telecom industries also drove the score lower.

After this year’s legislative session, we can’t even imagine how the score will fall.  Afterall, 14,000 pages of new regulations in the state in just half of a legislative session doesn’t bode well for Coloradans’ freedoms.  Nor does the Bloomberg/Biden gun grab.

 
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