High Noon: Hickenlooper has changed; Keystone game continues

Susan Greene:Welcome everyone. It’s High Noon here at Colo Indy headquarters. Today our panelists are libertarian/comedian/conservative activist/private school mom Jessica Peck and libertarian lawyer/Facebook fiend Elliot Fladen. They join our in-house “vagrant lurker,” columnist Mike Littwin. Jessica and Elliot, thanks for putting down your Ayn Rand readers and debating today.

Gov. John Hickenlooper was re-inaugurated yesterday. He said he has matured in the past four years. What do you make of that, and what changes — if any — have you noticed?

Mike Littwin: Actually, Hick said he has changed, being governor through all the tragedies that hit Colorado over the last four years. I guess anyone would change. The question is whether Hick has grown up. He still has a very bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth and an even worse habit of wanting everyone to like him. It was fascinating during the debates with Beauprez how Hick would basically argue with the audience, trying to get them to agree with him. They would end up being like a 500-way debate.

Elliot Fladen: That he will be more circumspect with potentially revealing his presidential ambitions? Here’s a question: what do you think Hickenlooper does after this term? Does he take a few years off and run for US Senate? Does he try to get a presidential cabinet post? Does he go back to running a brewery?

What is his ambitions are will probably play a large role in determining how he will act.

Littwin: Hickenlooper put his presidential ambitions at 1 in 20,000 the other day. I’d say the odds were much longer than that.

Fladen: So if not president then what?  I know – he goes for Independent Ethics Commissioner with Scott Gessler!

Littwin: It’s an interesting question. I don’t see Hickenlooper going off to Washington to be a senator. He could take his Colorado turn in the cabinet. We’re a great place for cabinet members, although a pro-fracker might not be perfect for a Democratic president. And if it’s not a Democratic president … actually, Hick is the perfect Democrat for a Republican to name.

Not sure if he’ll run a brewery again. He will visit one or more, however.

I wonder if Scott will moonlight on his new job.

Jessica Peck: Thank God Almighty! Free at Last.  To moonlight like all our other statewide office holders (meaning those who are still in office).

Hick needs a nice long nap.  If you ask me.  I see him taking a break, ala Fred Thompson and then he’ll be back…

Littwin: Hick is not the nap type. He’s the hyper type. Ask anyone who works for him. If he took a few more naps, everyone would probably be better off.

Greene: Ok, enough prognosticating. Let’s get back to the here and now. Hickenlooper is definitely starting over. He’s got a new (and split) legislature. He’s got a new chief of staff. He’s got the same old fracking headache. What does he need to do to succeed in his second term?

Fladen: I see there are new fracking bills that are out.  Senate Bill 15-093 just dropped. 

Peck: Club 20 is struggling.  Western Colorado needs to unite but can it with Pitkin versus Mesa struggling to even speak the same language when it comes to fracking.

Littwin: Fortunately for him, governors aren’t like presidents. They don’t become lame ducks immediately after being re-elected. I’m sure he’ll take the he’s-not-a-leader thing to heart and try to do some actual leading stuff. TABOR is a start. He’s waffled on the refunds, and he needs to stop that. Fracking should be the one place where he can actually get to the middle. The question is whether he can get anyone to follow him. Let’s agree that the commission will be a disaster. But if I’m the oil companies, I’d be ready to find a compromise.

Littwin: Elliot, what’s in the fracking bill?

Fladen: Remember I said there is a large tension between local control and property rights?  This bill addresses that concern by requiring that mineral rights holders get compensated for the value of their rights prior to certain local control regulations prior to those regulations being enforceable against them.  

Peck: Shocking!  I love how the word “fracking” gets everyone sufficiently worked up to totally ditch actual constitutional protections, like eminent domain and property rights.

Littwin: I’m all for protecting the guy who wants to drill under my lawn. For example, I hope no one accidentally gets hit by my roto-tiller (full disclosure: I own neither a roto or a tiller.) Sometimes, you get competing constitutional protections, no? 

Greene: Moving on, there are interesting developments with education at the legislature — a combination of liberals and conservatives coming out against standardized testing. Do you see the educational establishment holding its ground against these unlikely bedfellows?

Littwin: This is one of my favorite issues. For most of these guys, testing has never been about testing. It’s been about the teachers’ unions, breaking them or supporting them or whatever. Now we have the Common Core, and I don’t know what that’s about. All these Republican governors supported it, until they were told that everyone (meaning right-wing talk radio) hated it. It’s obvious that much of testing revealed only what we already knew and that it has to be more and better targeted – and much less often.

Fladen: I don’t have any special info about that.  But here is something to consider.  Once a special interest is in place it is tough to dislodge.  Is the testing industry a special interest at this point?

I think it is one thing to be against common core, but so many people today seem to think that leaving it in place will be the death of the American Republic (except wasn’t Obamacare supposed to be that?).  You are seeing this a bit with reaction against the Jeb Bush candidacy.

Littwin: The argument about Common Core is a silly argument. The argument about testing involves millions of school children. Elliot, your kids will be taking these tests in a few years. What’s your thought on that?

Fladen: My thought is that this is something that should be decided locally, not federally.  But I don’t care enough about it to go demonstrate in the streets or think it is a big enough deal to warrant sitting shiva for the USA.  I also suspect that there is some overlap between the Agenda 21 protesters and the Common Core protesters.

Littwin: Agenda 21? By the way, that’s one of my top-five, all-time agendas. And it always makes me smile because, you know, Dan Maes.

Greene: Conspiracy theories. We love them. What we also love: the way, just a few months after Election 2014, the conversation keeps swinging toward Election 2016. Meantime, Hick gives his annual State of the State speech tomorrow. In his view, he says the state of the state is pretty good (and not just because the Gold Dome is FINALLY RENOVATED). Talk amongst yourselves….

Littwin: The state of the state isn’t bad. I think that’s why Hick got re-elected in a Republican wave – that and the good fortune of running against Bob Beauprez. But there are real unresolved issues. TABOR and the Gordian knot. Higher ed funding. Fracking. The problem is that in each case, there are no easy answers. This will require more than leadership. It’s going to require some really good ideas (and not from ALEC).

Fladen: Why do you think TABOR is an issue where there isn’t an “easy” answer?  Wouldn’t the easy answer be to simply follow the Constitution, including that provision?

Littwin: Because our state can’t really work under TABOR. Hardly anyone wants to change the people-raise-the-taxes bit. But because we have competing amendments, our government doesn’t actually work. Instead, they have to fake it, like they did on Amendment 23 when there wasn’t enough money to fund it. There’s a reason no other state in the country has this. It’s bad government.

Fladen: So maybe the problem isn’t TABOR but rather the amendments which are causing higher spending?

Greene: On to DC…. Sen. Michael Bennet has endorsed Keystone. He also co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’ Keystone amendment, which would force Republicans go on the record as to whether humans play any role in climate change. Ya think he’s trying to have it both ways. 

Fladen: Operating under the assumption, for the sake of argument, that humans are a predominant cause of global warming through their consumption of fossil fuels doesn’t necessarily mean that a pipeline increases global warming.  Without the pipeline that oil is still going to get consumed, it is just going to perhaps be more expensive (in terms of both money expended and fossil fuels burned) to bring it to the market through less efficient mechanisms.  Or am I missing something?

Littwin: It’s politics at its best/worst. It’s Washington. I don’t know why Bennet is pro-Keystone. Again, this is one of those symbolic things that’s not really about anything, except giving a very large gift to the oil boys (and presumably gals). But the pipeline’s popular, according to the polls. So when Bennet runs for re-election in two years, he doesn’t want to have to defend an anti-Keystone vote. But he does want to be pro-science. This is how America works (or doesn’t). 

Fladen: Elliot, you’re trying to look at this thing rationally. You’re missing the irrationality, which is where this begins and end. Keystone is more a word than a pipeline. It’s not about jobs. It’s about politics.

Greene: Thanks High Nooners. You’ve covered ground and picked scabs. That’s how we like it. Still, as a nod to Elliot, we here at Indy HQ obviously need to read up on “Agenda 21” before next Wednesday. In the meantime, this land is your land. This land is our land… Have a great week ya’ll.

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litwin hnMike Littwin has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. A rapier wit.

peck hnJessica Peck is a libertarian Republican lawyer-mom-comedian best known as the founder and sacred leader of Jessicaterrianism, the world-watched global phenomenon changing the way people think about politics.

fladen hnElliot Fladen is a former Department of Justice trial attorney and a 2005 graduate of Stanford Law School. He specializes in commercial litigation, government transparency, and construction litigation. Besides testifying on major state ethics legislation before the Colorado State House, stories regarding his work have appeared in the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Colorado Independent, the Colorado Observer, and the Colorado Statesman. He is also an occasional guest columnist and/or contributor to the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Colorado Independent.

sgreeneSusan Greene is moderator today, standing in for John Tomasic. (Thanks Susan!) She is a longtime Colorado journalist, a former Denver Post columnist and the editor of the Colorado Independent.

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.