Calling All Supreme Court Justices

Look on the bright side: At least the Broncos didn’t lose the Super Bowl.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has decided to let someone else take the blame (or praise) for what happens with Amendment 41. As Jeri Clausing of The Denver Post reports, Romanoff is letting a higher power handle it:

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said Sunday he will ask the legislature to seek Colorado Supreme Court guidance on a bill being drafted to ensure Amendment 41 doesn’t ban things such as scholarships for government workers’ children.

It’s a somewhat unusual move, Romanoff said, but one that would make it easier for lawmakers to figure out the best approach for resolving the problems with the constitutional amendment, which even its drafters admit is flawed.

“We’ve been too paralyzed here,” said Romanoff, D-Denver. “The problem is we’re on sort of uncertain constitutional ground. The proponents tell us we are fully within our power to pass a statute (clarifying the amendment’s reach). And they may be right.

“But I think we need to ask. The only folks who can answer the question are the folks on the Supreme Court.”

At issue is the amendment approved by voters in November to prohibit lawmakers from taking anything from lobbyists and to ban all government workers and their families from taking gifts worth more than $50 in most instances.


Aww, how cute. Governor Bill Ritter has signed his very first bill, according to a news release issued today:

Signing his first bill, Gov. Bill Ritter today created the Colorado Cares Rx Program, which will provide up to 264,000 eligible residents with access to discounted medications.

“Throughout the campaign, I made it clear that one of my top priorities was to address health-care challenges around cost, quality and access,” Ritter said. “I pledged not only to seek long-term solutions to a health-care crisis that has 17 percent of our population without insurance, but also to take immediate action to lower costs.

“We took a step last week when I signed my first executive order and established a Preferred Drug List. We take another big step today by signing Senate Bill 1 and creating the Colorado Cares Rx Program.”…

…Colorado Cares Rx will allow the state to negotiate lower drug prices with manufacturers of generic medications. Pharmacies can then voluntarily sign up to participate in the program and sell the medications to Coloradans who enroll in the program.

Coloradans who are uninsured but do not qualify for Medicaid, Children’s Basic Health Plan or other state aid, and whose family income does not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level, will be eligible to participate.


Top staffers of former Governor Bill Owens got a nice parting gift on their way out of the office in the form of hefty bonuses. As Mark Couch of The Denver Post reports:

The top officials in former Republican Gov. Bill Owens’ Cabinet earned two weeks of bonus pay for staying on the job with him in his final year in office.

The bonuses – totaling about $64,000 to 12 executive directors – came on top of a lump-sum payment of $309,000 that the officials received for unused sick leave and vacation time.

State workers are allowed to collect payments for vacation and sick leave when they retire, but most don’t get bonuses for staying on the job.

“These are public service positions and it seems that lavish bonuses for political appointees merely to stay in the job violates the notion of public service,” said Bill Vandenberg, co-executive director for Colorado Progressive Coalition, a watchdog group.

“Shoveling more taxpayer funds at them just to stay at the job they’re doing fails the smell test,” Vandenberg said.

Hmm…I wonder what a bonus smells like.


Evangelist leader Ted Haggard, who got into some trouble last year for his forays into methamphetamine possession and companionship with a male escort, has decided to leave the Colorado Springs area. According to the Associated Press:

Evangelist Ted Haggard, who resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals last year after allegations of sexual misconduct, is leaving Colorado Springs, a television station reported.

Haggard founded the 14,000-member New Life Church here but was forced out as pastor after a former male prostitute alleged Haggard paid him for sex and sometimes used methamphetamine when they were together. Haggard, who is married, has publicly admitted to ”sexual immorality.”

Haggard said in an e-mail Sunday to church members that he and his wife, Gayle, plan to pursue master’s degrees in psychology, KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs reported. The e-mail said the family hasn’t decided where to move but that they have been offered spots in Missouri and Iowa.

Political Gravy is as amazed as you are that Haggard hadn’t left already. It’s nice, however, that the states of Missouri and Iowa have offered Haggard a place to live. Those states are so considerate.


President Bush, he of the (cough, cough) “smaller government” party, has submitted a $2.9 TRILLION spending plan to congress:

President Bush sent a $2.9 trillion spending plan to a Democratic-controlled Congress on Monday, proposing to spend billions more to fight the war in Iraq while squeezing the rest of government to meet his goal of eliminating the deficit in five years. Democrats widely attacked the plan and even a prominent Republican said it faced bleak prospects.

Bush’s spending plan would make his first-term tax cuts permanent, at a cost of $1.6 trillion over 10 years. He is seeking $78 billion in savings in the government’s big health care programs – Medicare and Medicaid – over the next five years.

Release of the budget in four massive volumes kicks off months of debate in which Democrats, now in control of both the House and Senate for the first time in Bush’s presidency, made clear that they have significantly different views on spending and taxes.

“The president’s budget is filled with debt and deception, disconnected from reality and continues to move America in the wrong direction,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

It’s hard to argue with Bush’s logic here. The best way to fund a big budget is by cutting taxes. It’s simple economics, really.


Will legislation aimed at increasing the transparency of so-called “527” political committees really help eliminate the problem of scurrilous campaign ads? Maybe not, as Mike Saccone of The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports:

During the 2006 election cycle, Front Range and East Coast political committees drowned out Grand Junction’s House District 55 candidates in a deluge of direct mailings, television talking points and “outright lies,” in the words of one former candidate.

But even as House lawmakers aim to make “527” political committees more transparent, Republican Bob Caskey and Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, said this week the pending disclosure requirements will not eliminate the 527 problem.
A 527 is a tax-exempt organization created to influence the election or the defeat of candidates running for office. Its name is derived from a section of the U.S. tax code.

The transparency bill, backed by Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, would require the largely unregulated 527 political committees to file campaign finance disclosures just like candidates do with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. These requirements will force 527 committees active in Colorado to disclose at monthly intervals where their money is coming from and what it is being spent on.

That information already is available via Internal Revenue Service forms that the groups file quarterly. But these tax disclosures are most often filed after elections. Thus, the largest spending and most active political groups affecting voter opinion and clogging the airwaves with advertisements fly under the radar until the election is an afterthought.

Holy conflict of interest, Batman! Former Rep. Scott McInnis, a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2008, is a lobbyist for The Pueblo Chieftain. As Colorado Media Matters notes, the Chieftain doesn’t often note:

In reporting on a dust-up between potential rivals in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, the Rocky Mountain News uncritically repeated the false claim by former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis’ (R-CO) spokeswoman that U.S. Rep. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) wife is an environmental lobbyist. The News, as well as The Pueblo Chieftain, also failed to note that McInnis himself is a lobbyist.

A February 2 article in the Rocky Mountain News uncritically repeated a claim by former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis’ (R) spokeswoman that the wife of his potential rival in the 2008 Senate race, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), is a Sierra Club lobbyist. In fact, Udall’s wife, Maggie L. Fox, has been the president of America Votes since early 2006, although she did work previously for the Sierra Club for more than 20 years. In addition, both the News article and an article in The Pueblo Chieftain about Udall and McInnis failed to mention that McInnis currently works as a lobbyist for Hogan & Hartson, whose list of clients includes the Chieftain.

Note taken.