- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The (Longmont) Times-Call, April 9, on transportation funding:

Look around. Colorado is booming. Hiring is up. Tens of thousands of new residents are coming to the state each year. The real estate market is as frantic as anyone can remember.

Yet the view from the state Capitol is one of fiscal gloom. The state’s economy is rosy, but budget writers have had to find a way to continue to prune state spending, due to Colorado’s particular condition - bad years require fiscal restraint, and so do good years.

Checks on state spending are necessary, but the inability to respond to the state’s most critical needs, even when cash is pouring into the state’s economy, will leave Colorado unable to maintain this level of growth.

Nowhere will this be more evident than in transportation, which must fight for its 11 percent slice of the budget.

The state’s manufacturing industry, its agriculture and its tourism all rely on a transportation system that can meet their needs. And tens of thousands of new residents each year means thousands of more cars on Colorado roadways, which are facing maintenance challenges - especially on the northern Front Range - and which desperately need expansion along the most traveled corridors.

Colorado must continue to pursue alternative means of transportation, such a buses and rail in the metro area. But if goods cannot get to market, and if tourists are parked on Interstate 70, the state as a whole suffers, because it is transportation infrastructure that carries the economy and which supports the state’s budget in the long run.

Yet transportation continues to see cuts - $50 million trimmed in this year’s budget.

While it is easy to point fingers at legislators, they continue to build a budget that is hemmed in by education, health care and pensions, among other expenses.

To say that lawmakers have to make tough choices is to state the obvious. However, those choices must take into account that some types of spending support other segments of the budget. Transportation is that.

Voters need to make tough choices, too. What is needed is the political will to break the constitutional lock that ratchets down the state’s budget in lean years but keeps too tight a rein on spending in fat years. If Coloradans want a state that is vibrant, growing and attractive to industry, they must be willing to pay for the infrastructure that allows it, and there’s no better time to do it than now.

Yes, the state is facing a budget challenge, but the state’s infrastructure is facing worse.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1oWO5Dg


The (Boulder) Daily Camera, April 12, on Trump and Colorado’s delegates:

Here’s a sentence we didn’t think we would utter during this or any other presidential campaign: We agree with Donald Trump.

The subject is the selection of Colorado’s delegation to the Republican National Convention in July. Trump called it “rigged.” And he’s right.

“The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”

Trump also tweeted a YouTube video of a Colorado Republican burning his party registration after returning home from the state convention in Colorado Springs. “I’ve been a Republican all my life,” the Trump supporter says, “but I will never be a Republican again.”

Trump took a lot of grief in national media for apparently not knowing Colorado’s new rules, established last summer. No doubt he deserved it. But that doesn’t make him wrong.

The first step in rigging Colorado’s delegation was eliminating the presidential straw poll that normally accompanies party caucuses in March. That process wasn’t very democratic, either, due to restrictions on mass participation implicit in the caucus process. A primary in which everyone gets to vote would be much better. But a straw poll is better than nothing, providing at least some sense of the presidential preferences among those interested enough to take part.

With the straw poll eliminated, the selection of delegates was left in the hands of a core group of conservative GOP activists, whose mission was to control seven congressional district meetings, which produced 21 delegates, and the state convention last weekend, which produced 13 more.

Miraculously, all 34 of the chosen delegates turn out to be for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. If you think he’s a little far right for Colorado’s brand of purple centrism, well, too bad, you weren’t as organized as his people. That’s the national take on Trump’s complaints - that his campaign has an incompetent ground game, which appears to be true. But Colorado would also have seemed promising territory for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who passes for a moderate in this year’s field of Republicans. Like Trump, he took one look at Colorado’s closed process and decided his time was better spent elsewhere.

As a result, while Colorado Democrats were treated to multiple visits by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the state GOP convention heard from Cruz and Cruz alone.

The Texas senator’s campaign is to be complimented for out-organizing his rivals in Colorado, but that doesn’t make the result any more representative. Does anyone believe a Colorado Republican primary would have produced a Cruz landslide so overwhelming he would have won all the delegates?

The bottom line is a small cadre of activists basically shut out all other Colorado Republican voices from one of the most interesting national nominating processes in recent memory.

The Democratic Party process wasn’t a whole lot better, but at least it held a straw poll and permitted rank-and-file Democrats to participate - assuming they could get in the door at many overcrowded caucus sites. The result of the straw poll - Sanders got 72,115 votes, or 59 percent; Clinton, 49,314, or 40 percent - was roughly reflected in the pledged delegate count, where Sanders got 38 and Clinton 28. (We’ll get into superdelegates another time.)

How rank-and-file Republicans react to their exclusion from the process remains to be seen, but it is yet another argument for the Legislature to step in and re-establish a presidential primary on both sides in 2020. It is a dubious honor indeed to earn a national reputation as one of America’s least democratic states.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1V0LOoW


The Denver Post, April 7, on Colorado’s charter schools:

Charter schools were introduced in Colorado nearly a quarter century ago and yet still are struggling in many school districts to be treated fairly.

Soon-to-be-introduced legislation at the statehouse intends to rectify this state of affairs, but its bipartisan sponsors will have to overcome pushback from powerful forces for the status quo.

You’d think charter schools were an untested experiment given how current law allows districts to deny them a full share of local funding. And yet in reality the charter movement has grown from its infancy in the early 1990s into a robust force that includes 226 schools with more students than the state’s largest school district - and about 12 percent of enrollment statewide.

In a number of districts, such as Denver, charters also dominate the list of high-performing schools.

So by what logic is it still possible, for example, for a district to deny its charter schools a full share of the local mill levy? Especially when charters are just as much public schools as any other district schools.

Currently, districts can decide for themselves whether they will share revenues equitably with charter schools. And a number of them do. But many still refuse to do so. And, as Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, said at a press conference Thursday at the Capitol, the recalcitrant districts collectively are discriminating against 43,000 students by depriving them of funding provided to other students.

Williams quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in promoting the legislation she co-sponsoring, and her reference was not out of line. It’s time to stop assuming that it’s fine if some districts want to treat a select group of public schools as unworthy of equal financial support.

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, said Thursday that “50 to 60 percent of mill-levy override” revenue in Colorado is not being shared with charter schools. “We want to treat all of our public schools equally,” Owens, the Senate sponsor, added.

Mill-levy override revenue isn’t the only area where charter schools don’t receive fair treatment. They suffer disadvantages in terms of access to land, building and maintenance funds as well. And in order to address those issues, charter proponents plan to sponsor two bills.

Williams told us she doesn’t think these proposals should be partisan since they involve equal opportunity for kids. And she’s correct that they shouldn’t be partisan given the deep roots charters have sunk in this state and the expectation for choice that they’ve engendered among parents of all political persuasions.

Yet the reality is the educational establishment - not only the teachers union but groups representing the school boards and district management - has never been keen on full equity for charter schools. It will be a tough chore to push these measures over the finish line, but the goal of fair treatment is worth the fight.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/1RIjSmZ


Durango Herald, April 12, on service animal legislation:

Republicans on the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee did the right thing Monday in killing House Bill 1308, which would have made it illegal to fraudulently claim a pet as a service animal. The bill was flawed. They should know, however, that the problem it sought to address is real and worthy of governmental attention.

There is a reason why pets - dogs in particular - are not allowed in many places. They are, after all, animals and undisciplined examples can be dangerous and often exhibit behavior distinctly out of line with human hygiene.

At the same time, there are excellent reasons why true service animals are accorded greater access. Guide dogs for the blind, for example, are rightly permitted almost everywhere.

That is in part because true service animals like guide dogs are integral to their handler’s independence. But the fact that they are allowed so many places is also based on the fact that they are highly trained - and known to be so.

Simply calling a dog a service animal does not make it one. Except that, under the law, it pretty much does. And therein lies the problem.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act service animals are defined as animals individually trained to do work or tasks for an individual with a disability. And that work or task must be a specific action directly related to that person’s disability.

The ADA also mandates that such service animals be allowed in hotel rooms, to pass through salad bars, to accompany their handlers into bars and restaurants and in some cases even hospitals.

But there is no requirement that a service animal be professionally trained, certified capable or otherwise qualified. The ADA specifically says people with disabilities can train their own service animals. And with that unscrupulous pet owners can claim theirs is a service animal and use that designation to avoid fees or “no pets” policies in hotels, stores, restaurants and housing. It is enough of a problem that County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Retail Council and advocates for people with disabilities all supported the bill.

But without some way to determine easily whether a service dog is legitimate, in practice it would be unenforceable. Congress should look at that.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1N824Sk

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