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Colorado Gov. Polis says his $1.3 billion stimulus plan would create up to 15,000 jobs, but questions abound

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday asked state lawmakers to spend $1.3 billion on an economic stimulus package that he said would create up to 15,000 jobs and boost the state’s economy by 11% over current projections.

“Making these investments now with this one-time money will help restore economic growth faster and better, and shrink projected deficits in future years,” Polis said as he presented his budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. “The legislature really has a unique opportunity to put an imprint on Colorado and help Colorado lead the way in the economic recovery.”

The Democratic governor added another request: He asked lawmakers to authorize spending $205 million in the stimulus plan in the next few weeks. The first actions would include a temporary sales tax cut up to $10,000 for restaurants and other businesses restrained by public health orders limiting their capacity; an additional $50 million in rental and mortgage payment assistance; and $50 million in payments to early childhood centers pinched by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This is going to be one of the toughest winters ever just on the health side and the economic side,” Polis said.

Read more from John Frank, Colorado Sun.

More Coloradans than ever voted this year, and the state’s turnout ranks in the top 5 nationwide

Empowered by mail ballots and energized by the nation’s polarized political climate, more Coloradans voted this year than ever before in the state’s history.

More than 3.3 million ballots had been processed by state election officials through Thursday and the tally is expected to grow as remaining ballots are processed and counted. That represents 78% of registered voters. In 2016, 2.9 million voters cast ballots, or 74% of those registered, according to state figures.https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/4145015/embed?auto=1A Flourish chart

“It was really just very high turnout across the board,” said Ryan Winger, a data analyst for Magellan Strategies, which tracks early-vote numbers.

Colorado’s population has boomed in recent years, which allowed the state to top 3 million votes for the first time. But most significantly, the turnout hit 77% of the voting-eligible population — up from 72% in 2016, according to the nonpartisan U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. This year’s number is the highest rate since tracking started in 2000.

Read more from Evan Ochsner, Colorado Sun

Biden ahead in Georgia, Pennsylvania; Trump attacks process

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden overtook President Donald Trump in the vote count in Pennsylvania and Georgia Friday morning, closing in on a presidency that hinges on the outcome of tight contests in key battleground states.

Both races remained too early to call with votes still being counted. Neither candidate has reached the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, though Biden has the advantage after eclipsing Trump in Wisconsin and Michigan, two crucial Midwestern battleground states. Biden leads Trump by nearly 6,000 votes in Pennsylvania and just over 1,000 in Georgia.

It could take several more days for the vote count to conclude in some states, allowing a clear winner to emerge. With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Biden has already received more than 73 million votes nationally, the most in history

As Americans entered the third full day after the election without knowing who won the race, anxiety about the outcome was building. With his pathway to reelection appearing to narrow, Trump was testing how far he could go in using the trappings of presidential power to undermine confidence in the vote.

On Thursday, he advanced unsupported accusations of voter fraud to falsely argue that his rival was trying to seize power in an extraordinary effort by a sitting American president to sow doubt about the democratic process.

“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.

Biden spent Thursday trying to ease tensions and project a more traditional image of presidential leadership. After participating in a coronavirus briefing, he declared that “each ballot must be counted.”

“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” Biden said. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”

Trump showed no sign of giving up and was was back on Twitter around 2:30 a.m. Friday, insisting the “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”

Trump’s erroneous claims about the integrity of the election challenged Republicans now faced with the choice of whether to break with a president who, though his grip on his office grew tenuous, commanded sky-high approval ratings from rank-and-file members of the GOP. That was especially true for those who are eyeing presidential runs of their own in 2024.

Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential presidential hopeful who has often criticized Trump, said unequivocally: “There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”

But others who are rumored to be considering a White House run of their own in four years aligned themselves with the incumbent, including Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who tweeted support for Trump’s claims, writing that “If last 24 hours have made anything clear, it’s that we need new election integrity laws NOW.”

Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president’s chances, saying it would seek a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.

Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits there on Thursday, when Trump still held a small edge in Georgia — though Biden was gaining on him as votes continued to be counted. The same was true in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s lead had slipped to about 18,000 votes — and the race is destined to get tighter.

One reason is that elections officials were not allowed to process mail-in ballots until Election Day under state law. It’s a form of voting that has skewed heavily in Biden’s favor after Trump spent months claiming without proof that voting by mail would lead to widespread voter fraud.

Mail ballots from across the state were overwhelmingly breaking in Biden’s direction. A final vote total may not be clear for days because the use of mail-in ballots, which take more time to process, has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area. The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.

“The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “We will follow the facts in all cases.”

Trump’s campaign was lodging legal challenges in several states, though he faced long odds. He would have to win multiple suits in multiple states in order to stop vote counts, since more than one state was undeclared.

Some of the Trump team’s lawsuits only demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted. A judge in Georgia dismissed the campaign’s suit there less than 12 hours after it was filed. And a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump lawsuit over whether enough GOP challengers had access to handling of absentee ballots

Biden attorney Bob Bauer said the suits were legally “meritless.” Their only purpose, he said “is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process.”

Robbins: The nine? Stacking the Supremes

Several years ago, Jeffrey Toobin (who has been in the news of late for reasons he would rather not) penned a book entitled “The Nine.”  It was, if you will, a layman’s guide to the Supreme Court and was conspiratorially subtitled “Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court.”  I suspect it was an editor’s idea. It was an easy and entertaining read.

Why was it entitled as such? Well, I can’t speak for Toobin but I rather strongly suspect because there are, um… nine of them? Brilliant, no? But must that be? Is nine somewhere set in stone or at least ensconced in the United States Constitution?

Well, not exactly.

If you have been paying attention — and who really isn’t these days? — President Trump, who as you read this may or may not be heading for the White House exits — has “presidented” during an auspicious time. The open seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in the last year of the Obama administration was quickly filled by Colorado’s own Neil Gorsuch.  Then Anthony Kennedy retired and his seat was filled by the contentious Brett Kavanaugh. And in the waning days before the recent election, the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsberg had the temerity to pass and Amy Coney Barrett was quickly ushered into RBG’s still-warm seat.

The stars lined up in such a way that Trump has filled three Supreme Court seats, fully one-third of the starting lineup (and, yes, this is a euphemism; there are no players at the court on the reserve squad).

The last — the rushed confirmation of Justice Coney-Barrett in the wee hours just before the presidential election (many would say rightly) — has got undies in a bunch. Most of them, the sensible underclothing of the Dems.

In the Newtonian physics of Washington politics, what has been muttered, threatened, and discussed is the “equal and opposite reaction” of stacking the court if, as you read this, there is a new sheriff in town wearing a 10-gallon Democratic hat.

Biden has been asked this: If the Dems succeed to power, will they “stack” the court? And, for our purposes, if they do not, could those in power — left, right, or somewhere in the bleachers, do so?

In its simplest iteration, what “stacking” means when it comes to the Supreme Court, is adding more justices. Instead of nine could we have … say, 11, 13, 27, or whatever other odd number suits one’s fancy?

Perhaps. Could the president determine to enlarge the Supreme Court by a justice or three, thereby ensuring a long legacy of justices with a less conservative bent?

How we got here

Most folks are surprised to learn that the number of justices — nine — is more a matter of tradition than Constitutional imperative. In fact, rather than dictating how many justices there must be, the Constitution allows for Congress to decide how many Justices make up the A Team. Article III, Section 1, yields broad discretion to the Congress, holding that,  “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the first Supreme Court, with six Justices. “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the supreme court of the United States shall consist of a chief justice and five associate justices…, and shall hold annually at the seat of government two sessions, the one commencing the first Monday of February, and the other the first Monday of August.”

Since 1789 (the year of the Judiciary Act), Congress has changed the maximum number of Justices on the Court several times. In 1801, President John Adams and the lame-duck Federalist Congress, in an attempt to hamstring incoming President Thomas Jefferson’s appointments to the high bench, passed the Judiciary Act of 1801 which reduced the Court to five justices. Jefferson and his Republicans soon repealed the Act, quickly putting the number back to six. Then in 1807, Jefferson and the Congress expanded the number to seven.

In 1837, President Andrew Jackson added two more Justices. 

Both Jefferson’s move and Jackson’s reflected the expansion of federal court “circuits” from six to seven and then seven to nine. A “circuit” is a geographical area covered by a federal appellate court that hears appeals and whose rulings may be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States

 In 1863, during the Civil War, Congress created the 10th circuit and the Court briefly had a 10th Supreme Court Justice. However, after the war, Congress passed legislation to reduce the court to seven. That only lasted three years, until 1869, when a new Judiciary Act set the number back to nine.  

Since then, aside from President Franklin Roosevelt’s ill-fated threat to stack the court with justices more friendly to his proposed agenda in 1937, the number of justices on the court has remained at nine.

Could the number change again? Yeah sure. At least in theory. But in practice? Well, that might be another story. After FDR’s last failed attempt, it would take great hutzpah to hoist that flag again.

But then, ya never know …  It’s 2020 after all.

We do, indeed, live in most interesting times.

Goldberg: Trump was right — the election was about him

At rally in Wisconsin the day before the election, President Trump was talking about the choice between him and Joe Biden. He started to say, “This isn’t about …” and then stopped himself and said, “Yeah, it is about me.”

He was right. The election was about him.

As of this writing, it wasn’t assured that Joe Biden would win, but it seemed likely. Regardless, one result is clear. Republicans did very, very well in this election despite the fact that the party-defining person at the top of the ticket was extremely unpopular. Republicans gained seats in the House when every pundit (including yours truly) and almost every pollster said they would lose seats. In Texas, which many thought might actually go blue for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth (measured in political time at least), the Democrats failed to flip a single House seat.

As for the U.S. Senate, as of this writing, with the exception of Colorado’s Cory Gardner, every Republican senator who wasn’t appointed to a seat appeared to have survived. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was easily reelected despite massive spending by Democrats to unseat him. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who never led in a poll going into the home stretch, was reelected.

At the state level, the GOP gained control of two state legislatures (the Alaska House and the New Hampshire Senate), and as of this writing, it didn’t appear that they lost control anywhere (though that could change when all the votes are counted).

Meanwhile, Trump underperformed his party. He lost states he won in 2016, and he lost the popular vote by a wider margin than he did in 2016.

This is baffling to many of the president’s most committed supporters. For them, Donald Trump is bigger and better than the GOP. How could Republicans survive when he didn’t? Some even think this is proof the election was “stolen” from him. (This dangerous and deceitful conspiracy theory would have to explain, among other things, why Democrats would manufacture ballots for Biden but didn’t check the boxes for the down-ticket Democrats). How could Republicans do so well when Trump didn’t?

Because the election was about him.

One reason many of Trump’s biggest fans love him is that he “owns the libs.” As Donald Trump Jr. said on election night, “We cannot only keep making America great again, but we can make liberals cry again!”

Among the myriad problems with this juvenile attitude: It invites a backlash. Democrats turned out in massive numbers not to vote for Joe Biden but to vote against Donald Trump. Trump, not Biden and not Kamala Harris, energized the Democratic base.

Just as important, Trump gave Republicans and independents who prefer Republican policies (or who dislike extreme Democratic policies that have tainted the Democratic brand) an excuse not to vote for him. The fact that Republicans weren’t sent packing along with Trump demonstrates this.

One of the defining features of pro-Trump apologetics is to hold everybody but Trump to standards of decorum, honesty and good character. If you complain about Trump’s unreasonableness you’re the one being unreasonable. “Get over it. That’s just who he is.”

One problem with this argument is that it assumes Trump is owed loyalty from those who don’t like his behavior or many of his policies, while Trump owes nothing to them. As with a king, fealty should only run one way, and he shouldn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do to earn the support of those who find his schtick tiresome or odious. Trump said many times that he could act presidential if he wanted to, but that would be “so boring.” Heaven forbid a president be forced to do something boring for the good of the country or his party.

This attitude, both on Trump’s part and among his boosters, served him better than many of us expected. He attracted new voters to the GOP and kept most of the party with him. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to counteract the backlash from Democrats and independents, and it wasn’t enough to hold on to the Republicans who were happy to vote for other Republicans but not for four more years of a president who believed that the presidency was only about him.

The lesson of this election: Americans just weren’t that into him.

Georgia judge dismisses Trump campaign lawsuit

A judge in Georgia has dismissed a lawsuit by the state Republican Party and President Donald Trump’s campaign that asked him to ensure a coastal county was following state laws on processing absentee ballots.

Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass did not provide an explanation for his decision Thursday at the close of a roughly one-hour hearing. The county includes the heavily Democratic city of Savannah.

The suit had raised concerns about 53 absentee ballots that poll observers said were not part of an original batch of ballots. County elections officials testified that all 53 ballots had been received on time.

“We knew it would be tight”: Colorado wolf reintroduction riding on razor-thin vote margin

The tightest statewide race of the 2020 election in Colorado was about wolves. 

As counties meticulously counted dense ballots on Wednesday, Proposition 114 remained close, hovering, at points, within hundreds of votes of an automatic recount. 

The measure that would task Colorado Parks and Wildlife with creating a gray wolf reintroduction plan by the end of 2023 was slightly ahead the day after the election. A gap of 7,600 votes early Wednesday grew to more than 10,000 votes by midday but then fell to 8,800 votes by afternoon. By late Wednesday, the gap reached almost 13,000 as more Front Range county votes were tallied.

Opponents of the measure, which include the Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, were closely watching the numbers, waiting for the gap to get small enough to trigger a recount. 

Colorado law says a recount comes when the gap between the high vote and the low vote is equal to or less than 0.5% of the highest vote tally. Early Wednesday, as votes trickled in county-by-county, the recount target was as close as 700 votes and as far as 3,700 votes. 

Read more from Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun.

Colorado Prop 118: Paid family and medical leave passes

Colorado voters on Tuesday adopted one of the most progressive family and medical leave programs in the country — one that would be run by the state and provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off in most cases, according to unofficial results.

With 83% of votes counted Tuesday night, Coloradans supported the creation of that new program by a margin of 57% to 43%.

Proposition 118 does what Democrats in the state legislature have failed to in recent years.

Funded through a 0.9% tax on an employee’s annual pay split evenly between the employee and employer, Prop 118 would create a social insurance program similar to those that already exist in states including New Jersey and California.

Workers caring for newborns, sick relatives or dealing with personal health emergencies could take up to 12 weeks off and be paid through the program. The maximum paid time off would be extended to 16 weeks for those dealing with childbirth or pregnancy complications.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Colorado Proposition EE results: Higher tobacco, nicotine tax approved

Coloradans voted to approve a tax increase on tobacco products and a new tax on vaping products such as e-cigarettes on Tuesday.

Proposition EE will increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 84 cents to $2.64 by 2027. Taxes on other tobacco products will also increase to 22% of the manufacturer’s list price by the same year, while nicotine products will increase by 62% of the list price by 2027.

As of 11:01 p.m., more than 1.8 million (68.4%) votes were in favor of the measure and 877,219 votes (31.6%) were opposed. About 83% of votes were counted.

“Our kids just won big,” said Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado in a statement. “Voters chose to make life-changing investments in our children by providing every kid with access to preschool and implementing smart policy to keep them from getting hooked on nicotine.”

Read more via The Denver Post.

Colorado voters approve Amendment 77, split over Prop 117 and Amendment C

Voters again on Tuesday appeared ready to allow those three gambling towns to grow their casinos, with Amendment 77 leading 59% to 41% in early results by 8 p.m. The amendment gives voters in Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk the authority to increase maximum bets beyond the $100 limit allowed in 2008 and to add new games beyond slots, blackjack, poker, roulette and craps. Almost all the financial support for the measure — more than $4 million — has come from the three largest casino operators in Black Hawk: Caesars Entertainment, Penn National and Monarch Casino Resort.

Amendment C still too close to call in early returns 

Another gambling measure, Amendment C, would ease dated laws regulating charitable bingo and raffles. Early returns were close on that measure, which would require 55% approval to pass because it adds to the Colorado Constitution. 

Colorado voters split over Prop 117, which could trigger elections over government fees 

In early returns Tuesday evening, Colorado voters were narrowly split on whether to impose new TABOR-like restrictions on their government officials by requiring lawmakers to seek voter approval for the creation of certain fee-based programs.

With 2.4 million votes counted, 52% of voters were in favor of Proposition 117’s passage.

The measure, supported by conservative groups, would require voter approval for the creation of some fee-funded state government programs known as “enterprises.” Common examples include water utilities, parks or toll roads that are funded primarily by user fees rather than taxes.

Read more at ColoradoSun.com.

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