The Spot: Inside the Colorado House GOP’s war with itself

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Arguably the single wildest hour of Colorado’s legislative session was right after it ended.

While most lawmakers headed home for the summer, the House GOP convened Tuesday in a basement room at the Capitol for a meeting called by one of their newest members, Rep. Ron Hanks, who is best known for having attended the pro-Trump rally at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The second thing the Penrose Republican is known for is he made a joke about lynching on the House floor this year, before a speech about how the Three-Fifths compromise wasn’t racist.

To the 24 caucus members gathered, Hanks complained they were ineffective, unwilling to fight the Democrats in the majority and generally rudderless. He called for the ousting of the caucus leader, Loveland Rep. Hugh McKean. Over about 45 minutes, the Republicans snapped at one another, cursed, fought over the basic rules of how the meeting should be run — all in front of the media and House GOP staffers.

Recall that McKean became the leader because the caucus decided to move on from former leader and current Rep. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, who has a record of going after his own colleagues and has been accused by former and sitting Republican lawmakers of mismanaging campaign funds.

The pro-Neville faction, of which Hanks is a part, appears to be even more out of power than a year ago. Other than Lauren Boebert, the far-right, no-compromise culture-war stuff just hasn’t worked on voters, which is one big reason the Colorado GOP is out of power.

McKean survived the attempted overthrow, by the way, in a 15-8 vote, which didn’t include himself. The moral of the story? It’s hard to get your way in the minority, period. It’s much harder when your teammates can’t stand one other.

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Top Line

The pervasiveness of the Ku Klux Klan was hard to miss in Denver — members worked everywhere: the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, pie companies, pharmacies, the zoo, the jail and The Denver Post. Read about the ripple effects that linger today.

Capitol Diary • By Erica Hunzinger

Just the links

You may not have been glued to The Colorado Channel, political Twitter or The Post’s website on the final days of the legislative session. Fear not, it’s easy to catch up on what passed and what died thanks to the Post’s statehouse reporters Alex Burness and Saja Hindi. Just click on the following links.

  • If nothing else, find out the four major takeaways from the 2021 session and where the major pieces of legislation stand.
  • Data privacy: It’s more than a buzzword, it might become law.
  • The number of gun bills that passed this year is more than lawmakers have done in a long, long time.
  • In the end, Colorado won’t get a public option, but there’s likely to be a new health insurance plan.
  • A new (to Democrats) tactic: Pass a bill to thwart a ballot measure you don’t like — and change the tax code in the process.
  • High-potency THC is on notice under a marijuana regulations bill.
  • Agricultural workers may get minimum wage, overtime and the ability to unionize.
  • Institutions that knowingly hid child sexual abuse or didn’t try to stop it can be sued under a bill that passed this week.
  • Democrats believe prescription drug prices are too darn high and want to try to help bring them down.
  • Renters may have more protections in Colorado soon.
  • Start counting out your change, you’ll need 10 cents per plastic bag in the coming years in Colorado under a bill to restrict the use of plastics and polystyrene.
  • Two things that were killed in the final 36 hours: A bill meant to cut down on the state’s jail population and strengthen the avenues to sue for workplace discrimination and harassment.

Federal politics • By Justin Wingerter

BLM’s next leader on Grand Junction

President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning, fielded questions from U.S. senators on Tuesday. Very few involved the future of BLM’s headquarters in Grand Junction and her few answers left the matter unresolved.

“It’s my understanding that the department and the secretary (of interior) are currently reviewing that — that they are surveying employees,” Stone-Manning told Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado. “If I have the honor of being confirmed and get there in a timely way, you have my commitment to dive in and carry the folks of Grand Junction and their concerns with me (during) the consideration.”

Stone-Manning criticized the headquarters being moved two years ago, as did Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, but their noncommittal comments to senators this year have left onlookers guessing.

“Everyone knows how both of them felt before their nominations but I think it’s different when you’re in the position,” said Robin Brown, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and a top advocate for the Western Slope headquarters.

“I thought they’d immediately move it back to D.C. without looking at it and it’s my sense, from the time it’s taken, that they’re at least going to look at (it),” she added.

Scott Braden, director of the Colorado Wildlands Project and a critic of the headquarters move, said Stone-Manning’s comments show the Biden administration is sincerely studying the issue and preparing to make a good-faith decision.

“And it may not be a binary decision,” he noted. “It may end up being some combination of the headquarters being in both D.C. and western Colorado.”

More federal politics news

  • The U.S. Senate confirmed Denver lawyer Regina Rodriguez for a federal judgeship.
  • Major League Baseball derided a federal lawsuit that sought to move the All-Star Game back to Georgia instead of Coors Field.
  • Colorado’s Republican congressional delegation is all about harping on Vice President Kamala Harris.
  • A 10th Coloradan was arrested Friday in connection with the U.S. Capitol riot.
  • Eight of Colorado’s nine members of Congress have invited the vice president to visit.

Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson

One appointment down, two to go

In the old days, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock picked whomever he wanted for his cabinet-level positions and those people got to work. It hasn’t been that way since late last year.

Voters agreed with city council members last November about wanting transparency, so now every new Hancock appointee must go through the city council. He can still have his pick, but if they’re not approved by council, that’s that.

City council members who wanted the change said the confirmation process would also help them build relationships with those appointees, whom they also must work closely with. Hancock, however, saw the move as an intrusion and one that diminished his strong-mayor powers.

But there was hardly any intrusion this week when the council confirmed Andrew Amador as the city’s new head of Department of General Services. Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer — who proposed the confirmation measure last year — thanked Hancock for selecting an “exemplary candidate” and said she felt the process was working as intended.

The real test is yet to come: Hancock announced Monday that he wants to bring Phil Washington, former head of the metro’s Regional Transportation District, back from Los Angeles to run the Denver International Airport. That would put Washington in charge of multiple expansion projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars and a push to add new gates and a seventh runway to the airport.

Washington’s confirmation process is expected to start later this month, and is sure to draw more scrutiny from the council.

Hancock has also yet to name a successor to Eulois Cleckley, the head of Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, who is leaving for a similar position in Miami. That position oversees everything from the street paving and snow removal to traffic studies and clearing out homeless encampments — and will likely be a more intense confirmation process.

More Denver and suburban political news

  • Denver City Council’s decision to allow up to five unrelated people live in a single home faces renewed scrutiny after a group opposed to the move collected enough signatures to place a referendum on the November ballot.
  • The Denver metro’s suburbs are moving east and looking decidedly less suburban.
  • Hancock proposed a $400 million bond measure in April without a specific list of projects. Two economists told The Denver Post that approach is “backwards.”
  • Pit bull bans are nearly history in Colorado as Lone Tree nears lifting restrictions, leaving just Louisville with a breed-specific ban.

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