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I recently received an email with the subject line, “Democratic Colorado State Legislators Endorse Paid Leave.”
Fifty-eight of them (40 in the House, and 18 in the Senate) were backing Proposition 118, a ballot measure that proposes to provide Colorado workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave — plus another four weeks on top of that, in some cases.
The funny thing is, the Colorado Democrats who have controlled the legislature for the past two years couldn’t coalesce around a bill to provide paid leave statewide. What’s more, the various stalled bill drafts that were so hotly contested in the legislature were mostly much more moderate than the ballot measure. Lawmakers couldn’t agree over policies that would’ve provided eight weeks of leave through a program run through private insurance. Now the Democrats are almost universally on board with a ballot initiative that promises workers more time off and cuts out the private sector in favor of a government-run approach.
But also not surprising.
The paid leave bills I’ve covered over the past couple years have been complex, and understandably so — this would be a really big-deal policy change. The more complex a bill, the more details for lawmakers, the governor and lobbyists to haggle over. Two Democratic sponsors took their names off the bill as it evolved earlier this year, feeling that efforts to moderate it to please Gov. Jared Polis and others went too far.
A ballot measure, on the other hand, says what it says, and lawmakers can’t change it at will. That means the various Democrats who wavered on paid leave bills must, in the case of Prop 118, pick a side. No amendments, no lobbyists urging rewrites, no task force to study the matter further. Just a ballot with a yes-or-no choice.
Given this choice, 18 people in the 35-member Senate and 40 people in the 65-member House say they’re in. Polis is staying neutral for now. And it’ll up to the people of Colorado to decide if, on balance, they want a progressive version of paid family and medical leave or not.
Also in this week’s Spot, don’t miss Conrad Swanson on a far-left Denver councilwoman siding with protesters, and Justin Wingerter on the latest in Hick v. Gardner.
Other state politics news
- The governor says Colorado high school football can be played this fall. CHSAA says no thanks.
- Colorado is making progress on a Front Range railway. Here’s what it will take to make it happen.
- Booming Front Range cities take first steps to build $500 million dam and reservoir near Holy Cross Wilderness.
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More than three out of four claims made for unemployment assistance under a program for self-employed workers and independent contractors since July 18 were found to be fraudulent, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday.
#COSen 2020 • By Justin Wingerter
A final test for Gardner in Washington
Late Tuesday morning, Lakewood teacher Julia Johns sat in the corner of a classroom and, behind a mask and face shield, spoke in a quivering voice about how her students, some of them refugees, must eat meals on copy paper because the classroom lacks disinfectant wipes.
Johns spoke at a virtual event for U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, along with a southeast Colorado mayor, a Fort Collins small business owner, a Pueblo military veteran and another Denver-area teacher. The overlapping message from each was that the federal government is not doing enough.
Ballots will be mailed to Coloradans, many of whom are struggling mightily, in less than a month and between now and then Congress will seek an agreement on a fifth relief bill. It will be a final test for Sen. Cory Gardner — maybe the last thing voters see him do in Washington before casting their ballots in his re-election run.
“As Coloradans struggle to make ends meet, keep their businesses open, and provide for their families, they are looking for Congress to come together to help our country through this pandemic,” Gardner said in a press release Tuesday.
The Senate voted Thursday on a Republican relief bill that fell short of the 60 votes it needs to pass. Democrats considered it woefully inadequate when considering the enormity of the economic crisis.
“I can go down the list of things that aren’t in this skinny bill,” Hickenlooper said, emphasizing the adjective. “Again, this is a crisis. We don’t have the time for dragging out the negotiations.”
Republicans quickly criticized Hickenlooper’s opposition to the bill as proof he doesn’t care about getting relief to Coloradans. Gardner voted in favor of it Thursday, which will allow him to say he voted to alleviate the economic burdens crushing Coloradans and accuse Democrats of obstructionism.
Related: Congress returns as Coloradans seek help with housing and unemployment.
More federal election news
- Poll shows narrowest lead yet for Hickenlooper in Senate challenge of Gardner.
- The 2020 presidential election will have a major impact on oil and gas policy.
- Cory Gardner accuses public health experts of politicizing the pandemic.
- Colorado Democrats accused Gardner of “jamming through … anti-choice judges” this week. But those nominees are also backed by Democrats, National Journal reports.
- A new ad accuses Gardner of disguising his alcoholic drink preferences, Colorado Politics reports. The Post’s original story on the champagne party he attended is here.
- The fiscal conservatives at Club for Growth are attacking Diane Mitsch Bush, the 3rd District Democrat, with what Politico reports is a $216,000 ad buy.
Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson
Candid camera: CdeBaca vs. the police
Everyone was doing what they were told to do in late August near the intersection of 28th Street and Glenarm Place. Sort of.
Police stood guard, city staffers swept through the homeless encampment there, and people experiencing homelessness, well, moved.
But a group of protesters had something to say about the sweep — a practice has come under more intense scrutiny during the pandemic — and Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca joined them.
Police body camera footage obtained by Denver7 offers some insight into the protest and the councilwoman’s actions as the scene heated up. Here’s what the TV station found:
In the video, CdeBaca calls the officers “dogs” and insults them.
“They don’t know s–, they do what they’re told. They’re f—ing guard dogs. They’re f—ing guard dogs. They’re just animals like pit bulls, they’re f—ing guard dogs,” CdeBaca said during the incident.
These particular dogs were sicced on the people by Mayor Michael Hancock, CdeBaca said.
Apparently an officer’s body camera fell during the run-in, and CdeBaca told protesters to keep it.
“There might be footage on there that we need,” she said after protesters presented the camera to her, the video shows. “But I don’t know how to access it. We could give it to the attorney.”
Those actions apparently rubbed the police union the wrong way. President Nick Rodgers told Denver7 the attempt was “felony criminal tampering.”
It’s unclear whether Rodgers is correct that attempting to access video, which by and large might be considered public anyway, is actually a felony. There doesn’t appear to be a legitimate push to file a criminal charge against CdeBaca, in any event.
And CdeBaca has said that her actions have been meant to hold police accountable. She told Denver7 that while she might have used harsh language, it was directed at officers performing a “militarized sweep” while city residents suffered medical episodes.
The footage shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. While the vocabulary might be more coarse than normal, CdeBaca has never been shy about her opinions about the mayor, police practices or the sweeps through homeless encampments in the city. She proposed a ballot measure recently abolishing the police department and replacing it with a “peace force,” though her colleagues forcefully shot down the idea.
It appears unlikely the camera footage will change much, if anything. Police will continue to stand guard as staffers repeat the sweeps month after month, and CdeBaca and others will be there to speak out against the practice.
Related: How do cops spend their time? As Denver debates police funding, these numbers offer an inside look.
More Denver and suburban politics news
- RTD is weighing more than 600 layoffs to close its budget shortfall.
- Denver city attorneys win a round in fight over the constitutionality of the city’s urban camping ban.
- Many hope to take Denver’s shared streets pilot program a step further, adding to the trend that has already begun to tip Denver away from its reliance on cars.
- A Denver neighborhood tiff over yard signs is probably just the beginning in an election season filled with polarizing issues.
- Thornton’s mayor left half of city council in the dark about a taxpayer-funded trip to D.C.
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