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The Spot: Colorado Republicans look to use Democrats’ spending against them in 2022 elections

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Colorado Republicans are in a hole electorally, and their challenge in 2022 at the state level is enormous. They’re down 17 seats in the House and 5 in the Senate, and they control none of the big four statewide offices.

In a lengthy debrief last week on the legislative session, Republican leaders signaled one tool they’ll use is to criticize Democrats’ spending — specifically those laid out in SB21-260, the omnibus transportation bill that Gov. Jared Polis signed into law this morning. The GOP is banking on Coloradans getting sticker shock and turning against a party they’ve overwhelmingly flocked to over the last decade.

But, House Minority Leader Hugh McKean said, the Democrats were tricky to set the effective date of many new fees to after the 2022 primary election — the November 2022 election in some cases.

Of course, had the transportation bill fees taken effect immediately, Democrats would have aught heat from Republicans for the opposite reason. McKean’s assistant leader, Rep. Tim Geitner, made that clear last week.

“The idea of doing 260, especially on the heels of COVID,” he said, “and say, ‘Oh, here, Colorado, after you’re trying to get through a pandemic … and you’re trying to look at economic recovery, then you’re gonna have 260.’”

But Republicans are overthinking it, Democratic Rep. Matt Gray said.

“We know we’re going to get politically attacked for it, … but we didn’t come into this to accomplish a political or an election thing,” said Gray, a sponsor of the transportation bill. “I can guarantee you none of our conversations — and there were hundreds of conversations — were based on the timing. They were based entirely on delivering the best transportation policy.”

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Top Line

Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Denver Post

A demonstrator carries a sign saying ‘I am Juneteenth’ during a march from Manual High School through Five Points honoring Juneteenth on June 13, 2020, in Denver. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Denver Post)

The U.S. has its first new federal holiday since 1983: Juneteenth. Denver is celebrating this weekend with its annual festival, including Saturday morning’s parade and tons of music to see all weekend from acts like 112, DJ Jazzy Jeff, A Meazy, Danae Simone and Conjunto Colores.

Capitol Diary • By Erica Hunzinger

Catch right up

The Statehouse is quiet, but the Post keeps reporting. Check out these stories from the last week:

  • Four hundred executive orders later, the governor says he’s “phasing out” pandemic powers.
  • A senior Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager is back on the job after allegations he meddled in wolf reintroduction.
  • Colorado has two new laws meant to bring down the cost of health care.
  • Too far? Just right? Not enough? Colorado’s ketamine-use bill is contentious, even after it passed the legislature.
  • They’ll be back, both the legislature and some of the ideas that didn’t get through this year.

Federal politics • By Justin Wingerter

Considering CORE

The CORE Act, a bill to expand and further protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, received a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday — a procedural step that, coming so early in the 117th Congress, should allow the bill to advance farther than it did last Congress.

The hearing itself revealed little. Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, the bill’s sponsor and co-sponsor respectively, spoke in support. Then representatives from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service said their agencies largely back the bill.

“S. 173 aligns with the (Biden) administration’s climate and conservation goals and the BLM supports the bill,” said Nada Culver, BLM’s deputy director for policy. “We would like to work with the sponsor on a number of modifications to aid the bill’s implementation.”

Since its introduction in 2019, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act has lacked a Republican co-sponsor. It picked up five GOP votes in the House in 2019 and 11 GOP votes in February. It remains unclear whether it can garner 10 Republican votes in the Senate in order to pass as a standalone bill. (The other option is for it to be attached to an annual spending bill.)

“The CORE Act is a partisan land grab promoted by big-city Democrats who aren’t affected by the land-use bureaucracy that they are shoving down rural Colorado’s throat,” Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, who represents most of the lands impacted by CORE, said in a statement.

Boebert’s Republican predecessor, Scott Tipton, also opposed CORE. Boebert claims she was never consulted on it this year. “While locking up land may sound good to the swamp,” she said Wednesday, “it doesn’t work for the people who actually live there.”

More federal politics news

  • Colorado’s federal forests are overrun. Ski fees and Congress could help.
  • Colorado’s Ken Salazar was nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
  • Boebert voted against giving medals to U.S. Capitol police.
  • Claims that Boebert aided the Capitol riot won’t be investigated in Congress.
Phil Washington, right, speaks at Denver International Airport on Monday, June 7, 2021, after Mayor Michael Hancock, left, announced Washington as his choice for the airport’s next CEO. (Conrad Swanson, The Denver Post)

Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson

Airport nominee caught in the middle

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s pick to run the Denver International Airport is stuck with unflattering headlines as his old agency in California pushes back against an investigation. And a resolution any time soon seems unlikely.

There’s an ongoing criminal investigation into the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a nonprofit that it hired as part of an apparent no-bid contract. Hancock’s nominee to run Denver International Airport, Phil Washington, ran L.A. Metro as its CEO from 2015 to this May.

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department officials confirmed that investigation and that search warrants had been served as part of it. But L.A. Metro officials say it’s entirely baseless and drags Washington’s name down as part of a smear campaign.

While search warrants were served in February, the sheriff’s department has released no additional information since. L.A. Metro’s attorneys have argued in court that the warrants themselves are “ill-conceived” and “legally-flawed,” court documents show.

The subtext, according to additional statements from officials at L.A. Metro, which were shared with city staff in Denver, is that L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva is looking to punish the transit authority and nonprofit Peace Over Violence.

The Los Angeles Daily News reported in February that the executive director of the nonprofit, Patricia Giggans, also sits on a citizen oversight board that called for Villanueva’s resignation in September 2020. A close friend and ally, Sheila Kuehl, who is a Los Angeles County supervisor and member of the L.A. Metro board, has also called for the sheriff’s resignation.

So Villanueva struck back with the investigation, looking to “punish his political enemies which, not surprisingly, are growing in number,” L.A. Metro representatives said in a memo explaining the situation.

Precisely where this will end up is unclear, but before the city council votes whether to confirm Washington as DIA CEO, it will ask him a few questions.

More Denver and suburban political news

  • Arvada said no to … Amazon.
  • In case you haven’t noticed, it’s pretty hot outside. Here’s where to keep cool in Denver.
  • This is not a ranking the Denver metro should want to move up in.
  • Food delivery companies in Denver must soon itemize their receipts, the city council decided Monday.

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