Welcome back, to those of you still alive after botching Valentine’s Day.
After weeks, and weeks, and weeks, and weeks of discussion surrounding Amendment 41, an actual fight on an actual compromise might finally be in the works. Karen Crummy of The Denver Post has more:
After weeks of political sparring over whether the state legislature can tinker with Amendment 41, lawmakers today will file a bill that seeks to prevent the unintended consequences of the ethics reform law.
The legislation is expected to escalate a political fight among lawmakers, who have different opinions on whether they have authority to fiddle with a constitutional amendment. Although the amendment was intended to crack down on gifts to public officials, its broad language has been construed to prohibit everything from scholarships for the children of government workers to Nobel Prize money for college professors.
The amendment prohibits lawmakers from taking anything from lobbyists and bans government workers and their families from receiving gifts worth more than $50 in most instances. The legislation is an attempt to clarify that the voter-approved measure was intended to apply only to those who use their jobs for private gain.
It also sets out procedures for a five-member ethics commission to oversee complaints. The Senate, the House, the governor and the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court would appoint one member each. A fifth would be a local government official or employee appointed by the other four members. If backed by the legislature, the measure would take effect only if also ruled legal by the Colorado Supreme Court.
For those of you who are really into the story about disgraced pastor Ted Haggard and Mike Jones, the male escort that he only called for massages, you can now own a piece of “history.” Bill Husted of The Denver Post reports on the story that was first reported by Cara DeGette here at Colorado Confidential:
Jones is the gay masseur/body builder who brought down evangelical preacher Ted Haggard with revelations of a three-year sexual relationship. Now Haggard says he’s 100 percent hetero after some counseling. And Jones says he’s out of the back-rub business and auctioning off his purple massage table on eBay.
Coloradoconfidential.com broke the story over the weekend and Jones confirmed it Monday. “I’m done with the business,” he told me.
Surely you can supply your own joke here.
Congressman Mark Udall, the likely Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2008, spoke out on the House floor yesterday against escalating the war in Iraq:
And while the resolution before us is largely symbolic and non-binding, it can be – and I think it should be – the opening part of a longer, thoughtful debate about our long-term national interests not only in Iraq but the entire Middle East.
So, this resolution is a start – and I will vote for it because I agree with the message it sends.
The resolution expresses disapproval of the president’s sending more troops to Iraq – an action that is contrary to the wise advice of the Iraq Study Group, critical members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and experienced military commanders like former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The president’s escalation is probably too small to be effective. And adopting new counterinsurgency tactics comes two years too late.
I think the resolution represents the correct response to these facts – it expresses support for our brave men and women in uniform, but disagreement with a policy of military escalation.
Not to be outdone, freshman Rep. Doug Lamborn plans to deliver floor remarks this morning about the Iraq Resolution.
President Bush declared yesterday that Iran is aiding militants in Iraq, as The Washington Post reports:
President Bush bluntly accused Iranian agents yesterday of providing sophisticated explosives to kill U.S. troops in Iraq but said he did not know whether they were acting on orders of the Islamic republic’s leaders and denied using the allegations as a pretext to go to war with Tehran.
As the House entered its second day of debate over the Iraq war, Bush tried to quiet talk that he is heading down the same road with Iran that he did with its neighbor four years ago. At his first news conference since announcing that he will send more troops to Iraq, Bush said he sees fresh progress in Baghdad and warned Congress not to cut off funding or set timetables for withdrawal.
The president spent much of the hour-long televised session in the East Room addressing skepticism about his government’s assertions regarding Iran and fears of a widening regional conflict. “The idea that somehow we’re manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing [explosives] is preposterous,” Bush said. Repeating a reporter’s question, he added: “Does this mean you’re trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I’m trying to protect our troops.”
Let’s be honest: The Bush press conference was really just an excuse to get to say the word Ahmadinejad in public. It’s cool to say.
Bush also said Wednesday that the redeployment of troops to Iraq isn’t hurting morale among soldiers. Maybe he’s been surveying the soldiers who don’t have to go.
Governor Bill Ritter is considering major changes to the oil and gas commission, as Joe Hanel of The Durango Herald reports:
Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration is considering a shake-up of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a panel that critics say is too friendly to the energy industry. “They are having discussions of a possible significant change in the makeup of the commission,” said Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus.
Meanwhile, several bills to reform the oil and gas commission are already making their way through the Legislature. Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, wants the commission to cooperate with the state health department to set rules on public health. Her bill will be heard in a committee on Wednesday.
Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, wants to tell the commission to work on wildlife protection with the state Division of Wildlife. Gibbs’ bill calls for new rules to curb habitat fragmentation caused by roads and closely spaced well pads. The bill was introduced Tuesday.
Ritter’s potential reforms could also require a bill, Isgar said. He predicted legislators would know about the governor’s plans “soon.”
Industry officials are anticipating a move, too. “I think we’re all waiting to see what the administration is going to do,” said Howard Boigon, who is on the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s Board of Directors. Boigon is a partner at Hogan & Hartson, Ritter’s former law firm, and was co-chairman of Ritter’s transition committee on natural resources.
Taken together, the bills could add up to a wide-ranging reform of the way the state regulates the drilling industry.
An Immigrations and Customs Official accused of illegally helping Bob Beauprez’s campaign for governor obtain information is still waiting on results of an investigation. As Stuart Steers of the Rocky Mountain News reports:
A man who was at the center of a political firestorm a few months ago is still waiting to find out if he will be charged with a crime.
Cory Voorhis, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, is being investigated as the suspected source of information from a government database that was given to Bob Beauprez’s unsuccessful campaign for governor.
Use of the confidential database for purposes other than law enforcement is against the law. Beauprez used the information for a series of TV ads attacking Gov. Bill Ritter’s record as Denver district attorney.
Because Voorhis was well known in Denver law enforcement circles, oversight of the case was transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Wyoming. That office is now waiting for agents of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI to conclude their investigation.
John Powell, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney, said they’re waiting for a few more interviews to be completed, and then “we’ll make a determination.”
A freshman congressman ratted out Rep. Tom Tancredo yesterday for smoking cigars in his office, which he has every right to do. As M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News reports:
Like many other members of the House, Tancredo has special air filters in his office that are supposed to catch the smoke. But apparently, they didn’t scrub the air enough for his new next-door neighbor, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
The Hill, a congressional newspaper, reported that a call by Ellison’s office led to the Capitol Hill police showing up at Tancredo’s last Wednesday night to inform him that his neighbor had complained.
“It’s very bizarre,” Tancredo told the newspaper. “Seemed to me not a good way to say hello.”
The District of Columbia government recently banned smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, but Congress is exempt.
Tancredo said he has no plans to quit his occasional cigar smoking, but as a “peace offering” he joked that he might invite Ellison over for a cigar.
Here’s a question for the anti-immigration Tancredo: Was it an American cigar?