- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Greeley Tribune, April 18, on allowing military members under age 21 to carry guns:

Too often we’ve scratched our heads at proposed bills that have us wondering what our legislators could have been thinking. Other bills are based so much on common sense we wish to see them zip on through the Legislature. (OK, that’s a lot to ask for in today’s polarized political quagmire.)

State Sen. John Cooke’s bill to allow members of the U.S. military to qualify for a concealed weapons permit before they reach the age of 21 - the current requirement - falls into the “makes perfect sense” category.

The Greeley Tribune editorial board isn’t pro all-gun all the time. As with our cherished First Amendment, we support the Second, and recognize there may be a few, limited exceptions, as has been upheld by court rulings over the years.

Cooke’s proposal, which cleared the Senate and was sent to the House, is easy to support. It seems ridiculous to give well-trained 18- to 20-year-olds heavy armament and send them to combat situations with authority to use deadly force, but then say they are not qualified for a concealed weapons permit back home.

These soldiers and citizen-soldiers likely have had much more firearms training than the majority of concealed permit holders. This isn’t to say, however, that just qualifying to wear the uniform means there may not be problems ahead. Military men and women are much the same as the general populace. Some well-publicized shooting and crimes committed by military personnel over the years are proof of that. But being able to carry concealed isn’t likely to worsen that.

Senate Bill 144 amends the state requirement so that the applicant must be 18-21 years old on active duty in, or honorably discharged from, any branch or reserve branch of the U.S. military. They will still have to go through the permit process, with a background check and pay the same fees as everyone else.

The bill has pushback from some Democrats in the state Legislature who are generally leery of loosening any gun control regulations.

However, this is one that easily passes the common sense test and should become law.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1WdIju6

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The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, April 14, on the use of medical marijuana on school grounds:

School districts in Colorado have passed on an opportunity to approve policies allowing the use of medical marijuana on school grounds, so some lawmakers plan to press them on the issue.

A bill that passed last year allowed school boards to create policies around medical marijuana, but didn’t require them to approve use on campus. But in the past year, only one has taken any action, leaving some very sick students in the lurch.

Medical cannabis is hailed as a miracle for students with some severe conditions that include seizures and constricted muscles. The law prohibits smoking, so the medical marijuana is administered via edibles or skin patches. Many strains of medical pot are low in chemicals that deliver a high, but still contain healing properties.

Children need approval from the state health department and recommendations from two doctors to use medical marijuana. Despite the narrow parameters, nearly every school district in the state, including Mesa County Valley School District 51, requires students to leave school grounds to take medical marijuana -forcing families to choose between education and medicinal measures.

“It’s inexcusable, absolutely irresponsible. I’m absolutely appalled,” Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton) told KUNC’s Bente Birkeland.

As The Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported in Tuesday’s edition, Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, introduced a follow-up measure, HB1373, that would force action.

The amended bill cleared the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee by a 10-3 vote Monday. It specifies that if a district doesn’t enact a policy allowing medical marijuana, then a parent or caregiver would be allowed to administer the medication on school grounds.

The idea is let students have the medical marijuana they need to function, but to do it in an appropriate way. The measure aims to give schools some control over how medical marijuana is administered - most likely in a nurse’s office.

Colorado has about 350 kids under 18 on the medical marijuana registry, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The school districts say they’re being forced to sanction a practice that violates federal law. The Colorado Association of School Boards opposed the bill on grounds that it could jeopardize federal funding.

That’s a legitimate concern. A new presidential administration may have a different approach to enforcing federal law in states that approve medical marijuana. But as one of those states, Colorado should move forward on clear policy that ensures that students can access a necessary medical intervention without sacrificing an education.

If the federal government’s stance changes, the Legislature is going to have bigger problems than re-examining this law - if passes at all. The bill heads to the full House for more debate.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/20WxBJk

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The Denver Post, April 19, on juvenile sentencing laws:

The evolving science of juvenile brain development has had a major influence on attitudes toward crime and punishment - and for good reason. Juveniles are more impulsive and process information differently from adults. It’s not always fair to hold them accountable in quite the same way as adults.

As a result, Colorado in 2006 eliminated a sentence of life without parole for juveniles convicted as adults of first-degree murder, six years before the U.S. Supreme Court declared such sentences unconstitutional. We supported that change a decade ago, and have been harping ever since about the need to apply the updated law, with its potential for parole after 40 years, retroactively to those convicted earlier.

However, a bill that is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday in the state Senate goes way beyond applying the 2006 law to juveniles previously convicted as adults for murder. Senate Bill 181 is a fairly radical revision of sentencing, and some of it goes too far.

It begins by slashing by nearly one-third the time when a juvenile murderer - past or future - might be eligible for parole. It does this by allowing “earned time” in prison to be subtracted from the current minimum of 40 years.

And for the 48 inmates sentenced to life without parole between 1990 and 2006, the bill goes further. It offers the option of a 24- to 48-year sentence when a court finds “extraordinary mitigating circumstances.” As the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council points out, this sentence range is only slightly more severe than the range for second-degree murder and other Class 2 felonies.

And since parole is typically an option at 75 percent of a sentence, the actual requirement for time served, with earned time, could drop to as low as 12 to 24 years.

This might be a defensible option for those few inmates on the list who participated in a crime but didn’t do the actual killing - felony murder, as it is called. But it’s a short sentence for the cold-blooded taking of a life, even when a teenager is involved.

And why should only those convicted between 1990 and 2006 benefit from this option? Or will lawmakers be back in a year or two with a bill to extend it to all?

It’s worth remembering the types of crimes that landed these 48 inmates in prison when they were teens. Many were stunningly savage. Reading through the details of their cases is truly sobering - as is the degree to which a number of the offenders failed to register normal emotion during and after the event.

And while some were fairly young - 15 or 16, for example - others were not far from 18.

If lawmakers approve SB 181, they’ll be moving toward a future in which two teen friends who go on a murderous spree - one just over 18 and the other just under - would get radically different sentences when both were tried as adults. That wouldn’t be justice. It would be more like a travesty.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/1U6Cqin

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Durango Herald, April 17, on bringing clarity to health care in Colorado:

The lack of transparency in health care delivery in the U.S. continues to cause confusion on many fronts, and in response to this, the Colorado Legislature is considering playing a role. The issue is the freestanding urgent care centers that have popped up in many towns and cities, offering what can be faster and simpler professional health care response better matched to minor or moderate needs.

It is no wonder they are appealing. Facilities are probably closer to home, and have short hallways and easy check-in counters. Parking may be right outside the door. And, they have the reputation of being less expensive than a hospital.

The care clinics are either owned by local hospitals or by relatively new corporations which specialize in such facilities.

While urgent care centers are successful at meeting moderate-level care needs, they are also profitable. They are a part of the growing breadth of health care providers.

In this case, what has the Colorado Legislature involved is that there are now also freestanding emergency rooms which can be mistaken for urgent care facilities. Freestanding emergency rooms allow a local hospital to extend its geographical reach in treating more serious medical needs. That may be well and good. But the billing rates for emergency rooms are higher, much higher, than they are for urgent care centers, and patients who had thought they had pulled into the parking lot of an urgent care center may be very surprised when they receive their bill.

In some cases, both emergency and urgent centers are in the same building.

To a large degree the confusion is a matter of familiarity: “Emergency” is not the same as “urgent.” But we have seen little indication that the health care industry is educating consumers on the significant difference, and the error can be very expensive. It is not difficult to imagine that some health care providers are enjoying profiting from the unfamiliarity.

A committee of the state House debated last week the need to caution patients as to just what being treated at an emergency-level center might entail. At check-in, staff would have to make available printed warnings that prices might be higher and that treatment might not be covered by an insurance plan, for example.

In some regards, it seems as though proper health care services’ labeling ought to occur at the federal level. Given the similarity of delivery, Americans’ mobility and their all-state insurance coverage, the same care center mandates ought to apply across the country. But if that is not happening, then the Colorado Legislature is right to be involved. Coloradans should not be blindsided by high health care charges that could have been avoided with a mandated notice.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1Nl0RHl


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