- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Aurora Sentinel, April 20, on Colorado schools having Native American mascots and names:

We were beyond skeptical that Gov. John Hickenlooper’s plan to create yet another committee to look at the offensive Native American mascots and names in Colorado public schools would resolve the issue.

We flat-out didn’t think it would do any good, and we were apparently wrong.

The problem with schools using offensive Native American mascots and names is an old one, but it’s garnered new attention. In 2015, state Rep. Joe Salazar offered a bill effectively banning the use of most American Indian names in schools unless they received express permission from a tribe or affected group to continue.

The bill failed. It failed because critics say many of these names and mascots in schools are a source of great pride from alumni and communities.

How any thinking or reasonable community or person can see the “Lamar High School Savages” The “La Veta Redskins” and others like it as a source of pride was impossible to fathom.

It’s mind boggling that even decades ago, modern, contemplative sensibilities wouldn’t first compel the schools themselves to stop insulting and demeaning Native Americans with these flagrant slurs. But it was just as appalling that state lawmakers would wait so long to take action against government-sponsored bigotry and racism.

It isn’t just names. The mascot of the Eaton High School Reds is an equally offensive cartoon demeaning Native Americans. Equally as obtuse, lawmakers, school and community officials repeatedly defended their right to continue using it.

If a teacher at any Colorado school were to call a Native American student a “redskin” or a “savage,” they would be out of a job before some other bigot trying to defend them could rally a response. It is unthinkable, even in the rural folds of Lamar or Eaton, that people would not know that Native Americans are among the most abused, marginalized, mistreated cultures and races in American history, and that these pejorative slurs only continue to trivialize them as humans and Americans. The site of the infamous Sand Creek Massacre, one of the most shameful events in U.S. history, is in the backyard of Lamar.

Given the entrenchment, we were surprised that the Governor’s Commission to Study American Indian Representations in Public Schools may have found a solution. The report recommends schools using Native American names and images to seek out and work with tribes and organizations to create something new that could be a source of pride to the schools, the communities, the tribes and ultimately all of us in Colorado.

The pact was made possible by a giant donation of grace and goodwill from Native American groups and individuals, something that is as much of their heritage as the state that has long been their home.

“American Indian mascots that portray (us) as caricatures, trivialize symbols of (our) culture, and lack any sincere connection to the people they purport to represent, can be harmful and offensive,” Southern Ute Indian Tribe Chairman Clement J. Frost said in a statement included in the April 15 commissioner report. “But using (names and images) creates an opportunity for schools and tribes to engage in meaningful relationships.”

He and and officials from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe point to a recent collaboration between Strasburg High School “Indians” and tribal officials to educate the community, redesign logos that are mutually agreeable and respectful and set out protocols for use.

So far, so good. With regional tribes and individuals offering these schools such a warm and gracious invitation to see this as a learning opportunity to do the right thing, success looks promising.

The commission essentially recommends that schools cease using the names and images - unless they collaborate with tribes to make sanctioned changes.

It would be unfathomable that schools like those in Lamar and Eads push back this opportunity. There is no need to.

With this commission report affecting dozens of schools across the state, we’ll be keen to see just how wrong we were about Colorado not needing to prohibit schools from using these names and images. But we, and many others, won’t hesitate to insist the issue be resolved this way - or on the state House and Senate floor in the future if it comes to that.

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

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The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, April 26, on protecting kids from marijuana edibles:

As far as regulating the retail marijuana industry goes, one would think that banning any edibles that a child might mistake for run-of-the-mill candy would be a no-brainer.

But some in the industry are opposed on the idea that parents should bear the responsibility of keeping marijuana out of the reach of children - just like booze and cigarettes.

Where liquor has a caustic taste signature that tells a child they shouldn’t be drinking it, marijuana candy tastes like candy.

Last week, the executive director of the Kempe Center testified before a House committee that 19 children have been admitted to Children’s Hospital for ingesting marijuana, according to The Cannabist, the Denver Post’s reporting arm covering all things marijuana.

That suggests that children can be easily confused by edibles that look too much like regular candy.

House Bill 1346 would ban infused edibles that are shaped like animals, people or resemble fruit. Supporters include the governor and the state’s chief medical officer. It’s expected to pass a third reading in the House this week before heading on to the Senate.

The fiscal note attached to the bill doesn’t anticipate any additional resources to enforce the ban, so the Senate’s action shouldn’t boil down to cost.

It sounds like a simple common-sense approach. The labeling of individual pieces of candy won’t stop a toddler. But getting rid of products that visually appeal to children might. But there’s still fudge, peanut butter cups and the like that won’t meet the ban’s shape criteria, so parents will still have to be on guard. If anything, the bill doesn’t go far enough.

Many of the 24 states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use do not allow for the sale of THC-infused edibles. If Colorado manufacturers want to preserve this part of the market, they should lead the charge on making sure that the products aren’t mistakenly consumed by children.

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

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The Denver Post, April 26, on campaign finance laws:

A state Senate committee took the first step Monday toward bringing Colorado campaign finance laws into compliance with the First Amendment - six years after federal courts began to point out the problem.

Ah, but let’s be magnanimous. Lawmakers are busy and the free-speech rights of small-time political activists are not always uppermost in their minds. Tom Paine may remain a political icon, but his modern-day successors who spend a few hundred dollars on yard signs and leaflets to support a ballot measure will be subjected to a welter of complex legal rules and no one gives it a thought.

Except the courts, fortunately. In three separate opinions - in 2010, 2014 and again last month - federal courts have indicated that Colorado’s law governing individuals and groups that raise and spend relatively small amounts of money on ballot measures violates the First Amendment.

If you raise or spend more than $200, you become an “issue committee” that must register with the state and then comply with a host of disclosure rules. Basically, you’ve got to hire an attorney to make sure you are following the law when all you’re doing is engaging in protected speech.

Senate Bill 186 would offer relief. You’d still have to register with the secretary of state when you reach the $200 threshold for donations or expenditures on behalf of ballot measures. However, the detailed reporting rules would be waived until at least $5,000 was involved.

This change would offer essential relief to small groups without undermining the campaign finance law’s ability to shine a spotlight on funding for ballot measures. That’s because the vast majority of money spent on these measures is handled by issue committees with assets far in excess of $5,000. Transparency guardians will still be able to track the big money that is behind many initiatives, particularly at the state level.

Small issue groups should not have to repeatedly defend their free-speech rights in court because the state refuses to take the hint from federal judges and reform its campaign laws. SB 186 is an important bill that should be a priority this session.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/21eYUie

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The (Loveland) Reporter-Herald, April 23, on background checks for youth sports coaches:

Youth sports, as with other activities involving children, attract adults who want to mentor and support children as they grow. Our communities’ best residents often volunteer their time so that children have opportunities that they might not have otherwise.

Sadly, the access to children that such positions allow also is an attraction to predators who seek to abuse children.

Last year, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Rollie Heath that would have required youth sports leagues to conduct background checks on coaches, other workers and volunteers who work with children failed in committee. It was rejected as opponents said the background checks it called for would not be stringent enough. Among other concerns, it would apply to volunteers who work with children fewer than five days per month.

This year, Singer is back with a similar measure. House Bill 1443 would require youth sports organizations to reveal to parents or guardians whether they have conducted background checks and the nature of those checks. Further, it would require that any worker or volunteer who works with children and has not been the subject of a background check during the previous 12 months be supervised at all times they are with children.

So, rather than forcing leagues to do background checks, HB 1443 allows parents to make choices based on each league’s or organization’s policies. That’s a smart idea. Parents can be the judge of whether league policies are thorough enough, and they can learn more about the entity doing the checks. Organizations would respond to the requirements of parents, and parents would know that they are paying for the background checks that could protect their children - averaging $20 to $40 per check.

Still, this bill could be viewed as forcing background checks, because the supervisory requirement may be difficult to meet. Leagues have multiple teams and coaches, so supervising each coach could prove impossibly difficult. And the definition of who would do the supervising is not clear in the bill, so leagues might be left uncertain of even how to meet that requirement.

The bill is still early in its process, so the requirements on youth sports leagues can be made clearer. At a minimum, it is wise to make sure that any adult who has not been subjected to a background check be paired with an adult who has been, regardless of the role that other adult plays in the organization.

That said, it is makes sense for youth sports leagues to conduct background checks on everyone who works with children, even if not compelled by the state. Not looking into the criminal background of a candidate means that nothing can stop someone who already has offended from getting another job working with children.

Already, teachers and coaches in school-based sports leagues face background checks. And private organizations such as churches conduct background checks on adults who work with children. It’s wise to address the protection of children in private sports organizations, especially considering that so many of those children are of elementary school age or younger.

Regardless of the outcome of HB 1433, Colorado lawmakers should pursue a law that protects minors who participate in group sports.

As Singer noted in an interview with Colorado Public Radio last year, 48 million children are involved in youth sports in America, making these organizations targets for predators. Parents have the right to know what sports leagues are doing to keep those predators away

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1SA5UR9

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