What Happens in Colorado Stays in Colorado

Today is the first day of the rest of today.

Colorado is moving forward with efforts to expand health care coverage in the state, but first it has to pick a plan to follow. As Bill Scanlon of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Four health care proposals chosen by a blue ribbon commission would move Colorado to near-universal coverage by about 2010. But whatever emerges likely would require voter approval because of increased taxes, officials said Monday.

The state legislature and the governor appointed members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Healthcare Reform. Their task is to recommend three to five plans that would improve access to health care while keeping down costs.

Three plans chosen from the 31 presented to the commission would mandate coverage by requiring that either the individual or the employer prove that coverage is provided. The fourth would guarantee coverage for those who earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level – $30,630 for an individual; $61,950 for a family of four…

…But the prevailing sentiment among commissioners is that too many Coloradans can’t afford health insurance. As a result, they either go without or rely on emergency rooms for routine care, a practice that drives up the costs for everyone. There are about 770,000 uninsured Coloradans.

Commission chairman Bill Lindsay said the next step is to bring in the Lewin Group, a consulting firm, to assess the options’ costs and impacts. The firm should be able to say how many Coloradans would be uninsured under each of the four plans, and under a fifth plan that the commissioners may carve out from the best ideas of the other four, Lindsay said.

I’ll tell you the real problem with Colorado’s health care system: gay marriage.


An immigration reform compromise reached in the U.S. Senate last week now has new hurdles to clear. As The Washington Post reports:

The Senate voted last night to move forward on an overhaul of immigration laws, but even proponents of the delicate compromise proposal conceded that the furor over the deal was surpassing their expectations and endangering the plan.

The 69 to 23 vote masked deep troubles from the right flank of the Senate, as well as from the left. Opponents of even conducting a debate on the measure included some unexpected voices, such as freshman Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bernard Sanders, an independent liberal from Vermont. Several conservatives — and some liberals — made it clear that they cast a vote to proceed only in order to fundamentally change the proposed legislation in the coming days.

With dozens of amendments planned, traps being laid by opponents could upset the fragile coalition that drafted the measure. What’s more, Senate leaders gave up hope last night that they could pass the bill this week, ensuring it will be left hanging over a week-long Memorial Day recess. That will allow the opposition to gather strength before a final vote can be scheduled next month.

“Our plan is a compromise. It involved give-and-take in the best traditions of the United States Senate. For each of us who crafted it, there are elements that we strongly support and elements we believe could be improved. No one believes this is a perfect bill,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), the deal’s chief Democratic architect. “The world is watching to see how we respond to the current crisis. Let’s not disappoint them.”


The line for throwing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales under the bus is getting shorter, because just about everyone has taken their turn. Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard is not one of them, however, as Peter Roper of The Pueblo Chieftain reports:

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., is sticking with President Bush on the future of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales – even as Gonzales is likely to face a “no confidence” vote from Senate Democrats over the Justice Department’s firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

“While at times I’ve been disappointed in the attorney general, here is the problem: How do we get anyone confirmed (to replace him) for that position,” Allard said in a telephone press conference Monday. “I don’t see any alternative, so I’m going to stick with the president. Whatever his position is, I’ll be supportive of that.”

Allard had largely been on the sidelines of the Gonzales controversy, dismissing it as political fighting between Democrats and the White House – until he learned a week ago that his own nominee to be U.S. attorney in Colorado, William Leone, had been dismissed out of hand by Justice Department screeners. Testimony by former Gonzales aides before congressional panels has alleged that the targeted U.S. attorneys had been judged not to be loyal enough to the Bush administration.

Leone, a Republican, was named an interim U.S. attorney for Colorado after John Suthers was appointed state attorney general. Allard nominated him for the permanent appointment in 2006. Responding to news reports that Leone was among the federal attorneys rejected by the Justice Department, Allard called that process “very strange.”

“Overall, Attorney General Gonzales has been responsive to our needs in Colorado, coming out to inspect (the federal) Supermax prison at the request of myself and Senator (Ken) Salazar,” Allard said. “But I’ve been disappointed in the process for selecting U.S. attorneys.”

That’s the kind of leadership that Colorado was hoping to get from its senior Senator. What do you think about Alberto Gonzales, Senator? “I don’t know, go ask your father.”


There may be no more corrupt county government anywhere than in Jefferson County. Heath Urie of The Canyon Courier has the latest in a seemingly never-ending saga of dubious behavior:

A former Arvada bank worker has filed a civil lawsuit naming County Commissioner Jim Congove, a private detective who is a personal friend of Congrove, and the entire Board of County Commissioners as defendants.

Lori Stille, formerly an employee at a Washington Mutual branch office in Arvada who worked as a personal financial representative for Congrove from 2002 to March 2005, filed the suit Thursday in Jefferson County District Court.

The sweeping complaint alleges, among other things, that Congrove threatened the lives of her and her two daughters; that he harassed them at their places of business; and that Congrove conspired to solicited help from a number of elected county officials to remove more than $200 million in county investments from the Washington Mutual bank in an effort to have her fired…

…Stille further alleges that Congrove called a closed-door meeting on June 16, 2005, with Mark Paschall, the former county treasurer who is currently facing charges that he asked a political appointee for a kickback from a large bonus he offered her last year, as well as with Commissioner Kevin McCasky, then-Commissioner Dave Auburn and several other high-ranking county officials. In that meeting, the suit alleges, Congrove asked the others to “conspire” with him to remove more than $200 million worth of county funds from Chase Bank, where Stille was employed.

“Congrove was requesting a consensus for his plan … and to threaten to withdraw those funds if Stille was not terminated,” the lawsuit states. “While there was no agreement to engage in this proposed conspiracy, none of the participants took any action to impede or to restrain Congrove’s future efforts at retaliation and retribution against Stille.”

Stille was fired from her new job on July 13, 2005. She claims it was in response to Congrove’s actions…

…Requests for comment about the lawsuit from Congrove and McCasky went unanswered last week.


The former executive director of the Colorado Republican Party has found new work in Nevada. As The Los Angeles Times reports:

Getting the Republican house in order in time for the caucuses could be crucial in determining whether Nevada becomes a major player in the 2008 Republican nomination battle or a political punch line – and whether Republicans can keep the Democrats at bay in a state that has sided with the winner in every presidential election but one since 1912…

…Peter Ernaut, a Republican consultant and fundraiser in charge of finding the $2 million the caucuses are expected to cost, said the party is hiring Hans Gullickson, executive director of the Colorado Republican Party with experience in the Iowa caucuses, as caucus director. The state Democrats hired two Iowa veterans to direct their caucuses.

Gullickson oversaw several down years for Republicans in Colorado, including the 2004 and 2006 elections, so he may have needed to head West for a new beginning. Apparently what happened in Colorado stayed in Colorado.


New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson made his campaign for President official yesterday. As USA Today reports:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he was banking on foreign policy expertise and appeal to Hispanics as he formally entered the crowded Democratic presidential field with bilingual remarks in Los Angeles on Monday.

Those themes from Richardson’s announcement were aimed at putting him where he has long thought he deserved to be: closer to the front of the Democratic pack. He is unique among the presidential candidates for his undertaking of diplomatic missions to Iraq, Burma, Sudan and, just last month, North Korea – a delicate trip approved by the White House.

California is the largest of several states with burgeoning Hispanic populations – including Florida – that have moved their primaries to early 2008, boosting the importance of the minority vote.

Richardson told supporters he wants to restore fairness and diplomacy from the “ravages” of the Bush administration. He acknowledged that his challenge is “to get that message heard.”

“There are a lot of candidates out there with a lot of good ideas – some are rock stars,” he said. “But I have a proven record. I won’t have their money, but I will have the voters and the grass-roots campaign that will win.”

Richardson has strong support from several influential Coloradans, including former Senate candidate Tom Strickland. Mike Stratton, who oversaw both of Strickland’s campaigns for Senate as well as Ken Salazar’s successful 2004 run, is one of Richardson’s top advisors.


Mark Couch of The Denver Post resurrects what seems to be an annual story among the Colorado media

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