- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Feb. 28, on moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to Colorado:

Colorado remains threatened by the unwanted importation of terror detainees. President Barack Obama is desperate to keep his old pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center before leaving office. The plan could ship dozens of inmates to federal prisons in Colorado, South Carolina and Kansas, as well as six locations on military bases.

Those who don’t want terror suspects moving to Colorado can give thanks to Republican control of the House and Senate. House Speaker Paul Ryan insists he has enough votes in Congress to block Obama’s plan and override an anticipated veto. If true, Gitmo may survive to spare our state the role of hosting unwelcome guests.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who visited with The Gazette’s editorial board this month, has consistently opposed closing the Gitmo facility and pledges to do whatever possible to keep detainees out of Colorado and other states. Gardner, R-Colo., said he believes detainees would use federal prisons, in Colorado or elsewhere, to recruit and radicalize domestic prisoners before they are released.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., supports Obama’s quest to close Gitmo. Bennet also visited members of The Gazette’s editorial board this month, and his staff later told us the senator has consistently opposed transferring detainees to Colorado. An email from Bennet press secretary Lauri Cipriano on Friday leaves open the possibility of Bennet supporting Ryan’s desire to block Obama’s anticipated closure. Here is the statement, in full:

“Senator Bennet would oppose an executive action. He has supported bans to transfer detainees to the U.S. every year. He opposes bringing them to Colorado - military detainees should be in military prisons. To the extent Speaker Ryan’s plan - or anyone’s plan - aligns with these principles, he would support it,” Cipriano wrote.

That’s good news, we think, but somewhat perplexing. If the senator wants to keep Colorado free of Gitmo detainees, why close the prison in the first place? Terror suspects must be housed somewhere. If they don’t belong in Colorado, they don’t belong in South Carolina, Kansas or any other state. They should be held offshore, on an American military base, where they cannot mingle with civilian prisoners who have connections on the outside. They should be in a place like the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. If ever Bennet had a great opportunity to fully disagree with Obama, this is it.

All Colorado members of the U.S. House and Senate should get behind a sensible effort by Ryan to stop the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The president’s plan threatens Colorado and other states. The solution to this looming menace could not be more simple. Leave Gitmo alone. Don’t disrupt something that works, to replace it with a half-baked scheme Americans overwhelmingly dislike.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/1QQdcVh

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The (Loveland) Reporter-Herald, March 1, on allowing residents to collect rainwater:

Spring rains may soon be coming, but don’t put out a rain barrel just yet.

The Colorado Legislature is once again considering a bill to allow residents to collect water that falls on their property, but at this point it’s still illegal.

Colorado, like 18 other states, has a doctrine of prior appropriation. Rain that falls belongs to people who long ago claimed it as their own. But Colorado is the only of those states that bans use of rain barrels. Indeed, Colorado is the only state in the nation that bans rainwater collection.

Last year, the legislature considered a bill to change the law and allow rain collection. It passed through the House of Representatives but then expired in the state Senate without a vote.

This year, Democratic Reps. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Daneya Esgar of Pueblo have proposed it again. Their bill faces one more vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

The 2016 bill contains amendments designed to address concerns of farmers and ranchers, two added just Monday. The newest amendments make it clear that rain barrels do not come with water rights and stipulate the state will monitor the impact of the barrels on water rights.

But many farmers and ranchers still express concerns that they will have less water for their own needs if rain barrels are allowed.

Colorado, as it grows in population, faces a looming water crisis.

Supporters of the bill, such as Drew Beckwith of Western Resource Advocates, say that use of rain barrels could remind residents of the importance of conserving water.

Colorado State University researchers have said collecting rainfall would have little impact on downstream users.

They said homeowners would use little of the water that falls on their homes. An average year can drop 8,000 gallons of rain on a home in Northern Colorado. A rain barrel collects about 55 gallons. Up to two rain barrels per home would be allowed under the proposed bill. The proposal would limit use of the water to lawn and garden irrigation, not for drinking.

Indeed, some experts say it makes no more sense to use treated water, as happens now, for outside irrigation than it would to drink untreated water.

Not every homeowner would want to use a rain barrel. Estimates are only 5 percent to 10 percent of homeowners use them in other states.

The bottom line is, as Colorado grows water conservation will be ever more important.

Rainwater collection will be a good start toward that effort, while having minimal effect on downstream use.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/1QKJTNR

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The Aurora Sentinel, March 1, on Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights:

Of course Colorado’s hospital provider fee system can be considered an enterprise fund and exempt from TABOR restrictions, as Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman revealed this week to the consternation of state Republican leaders.

And of course Republican leaders are making a purely political decision by using what they’ve discovered to be a mechanism - and nothing close to a mandate - to smack down state Democrats, Obamacare, themselves and all the rest of us in the process.

Those GOP leaders have long betrothed their political lives and Colorado’s shaky future to the so-called Taxpayers Bill of Rights. It’s a convoluted and highly overrated state constitutional amendment that was sold to voters as a way to stop tax hikes.

It did all that when it was approved in 1992 and so much more. The TABOR amendment not only requires tax hikes to be sanctioned by voters, it also makes a confusing and illogical case for what taxes are. It compresses state spending in a variety of ways. One of those ways is by setting complicated baselines and caps on year-over-year spending. It means that even when state expenses go up along with revenues - a natural occurrence when state population grows along with the need for more services, such as schools, roads and police - under TABOR, the state can’t keep all the revenue it needs. It can’t keep the money even if there was no tax increase. According to TABOR, certain “excess” revenue then must be returned to taxpayers as “refunds.”

In an effort a few years ago to parlay federal money into covering more indigent residents with Medicaid, the state created fees assessed on health care provided by hospitals. The money from the program - fully endorsed by hospitals, doctors and insurance companies - helps offset increased Colorado Medicaid costs. The state enacted the program to prevent mushrooming hospital care provided to the indigent. It means hospitals pass fewer indigent care costs onto its paying customers and provide better health care to poor people for less.

Republican leaders, however, say the fees collected are actually taxes, and must be counted as such. That trips TABOR triggers, meaning the state has to “refund” about $200 million a year, which was never paid as a tax by anyone. It also means the state now bleeds red budget ink at a time when the need for road and schools dollars have never been more critical.

Why? Because GOP leaders are eager to play to their far-right base, which worships this odd anti-tax law. The ploy also allows them to join the national GOP pastime of taking shots at the Affordable Care Act. The problem is, this is beyond partisan political amusement. It’s hurting Colorado residents who want no part of state Republican Senate leadership shenanigans.

The fee-vs-tax argument is led by GOP state Senate President Bill Cadman. He and fellow proponents are willing to leverage their one-vote Senate majority against the will of the state House, the governor and others to use the money as transparently intended for increased Medicaid spending to help pay for it, shortchanging roads and schools.

They base their argument on a memo questioning whether the fee might be a tax under TABOR. Of course it’s not. Of course it’s an enterprise fee. Enterprises are government programs that collect fees for a sole purpose. In Aurora, the golf department is an enterprise fund. So, too, is the water department. Fees collected for those purposes can only be spent on those programs, which they are. In Colorado, fees assessed hospitals for patient care can only be spent on Medicaid reimbursement to the state, which they are. Plenty of politicians and lawyers agree with that interpretation, including the state’s top lawyer, Cynthia Coffman.

Our guess is that there are many Republicans who disagree with Cadman’s political scheme, since it has nothing to do with tax hikes. In GOP strongholds, Cadman’s tactic allows those lawmakers up for re-election or trying to win seats the ability to play to the far-right base. But in swing districts, it gives Democrats the chance to persuade reasonable voters how utterly unreasonable these antics by Cadman and others really are.

No one wins by staying the hard-line course here, most of all residents cheated out of road and school improvements because of this plot. Cadman should let the money be spent how it was legally intended. Save the political ruse for a winning argument.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/1Shql99

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The Greeley Tribune, Feb. 29, on funding for more youth corrections officers:

We’ll grant right from the start that during a tight fiscal year for the state of Colorado there are many worthy budget priorities that need more money than they’re likely to get when the budget is set.

Clearly, balancing the competing priorities of transportation, schools and higher education is no easy task for legislators. Still, one request seems like a slam dunk to us. Colorado’s Department of Human Services Director Reggie Bicha talked about that request during a recent trip to Greeley. Bicha oversees the state’s youth detention centers, including Platte Valley Youth Services in Greeley.

Youth detention facilities around Colorado are understaffed, Bicha said, including Platte Valley. Colorado’s facilities don’t meet the level of staffing set by federal regulations, specifically the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

That’s where the money comes in. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed budget includes $4.75 million to add 125 new youth corrections officers at facilities statewide. If the legislature keeps that funding in the final budget, it could mean as many as 24 additional employees at Platte Valley, which would bring the facility within three staff members of being in compliance with federal requirements.

The act requires one youth correctional officer for every eight juvenile inmates during waking hours and one officer for every 16 inmates during sleeping hours, Bicha said, noting authorities have plans to come into full compliance with the federal mandate in future years.

The money, and the 125 new officers it will pay for, is important for several reasons. First, the state is running out of time to comply, which could put some federal dollars at risk. And the additional personnel will help ensure the kids detained at places like Platte Valley Youth Services stay safe. That’s an important goal, especially when it comes to children.

Most importantly, though, the resources will make the youth corrections facilities better at their mission, which is preparing the youth to succeed when they re-enter society. When youth corrections officers succeed, that benefits all of us.

Unlike in a prison, 100 percent of the kids detained at Platte Valley will return to the community. Most of them will come here. Whether they become productive members of our society or fall into a life of crime depends in large measure on how well the staff members at Platte Valley Youth Services have done their jobs.

We hope legislators will find a way to keep the $4.75 million request in the final budget. It seems like a small price to pay to ensure troubled youth can become productive members of our society in adulthood.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/1nhJFG8

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