- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Pueblo Chieftain, May 17, on allowing grocery stores to sell liquor:

Gov. John Hickenlooper must veto Senate Bill 197, which would allow Walmart, Target, King Soopers, Albertsons/Safeway and other large retail chains to sell liquor.

We are disappointed that our state legislators gave in to the pressure applied by a group financed by the aforementioned chains and passed a bill that would put many, if not most, of the mom-and-pop liquor stores here in Pueblo and throughout the state out of business. The General Assembly bills on alcohol that failed in past years applied only to full-strength beer and wine and not to high-alcohol-content spirits, which means SB197 would be even more detrimental to small liquor stores than those prior alcohol-related proposals.

How did this bill make it through the General Assembly? The big interstate chains all contributed funding to a group called “Your Choice Colorado.” That group worked out a complex compromise with lawmakers that gradually would allow the big chain stores to sell all varieties of alcohol (not just beer and wine) in all their stores by Jan. 1, 2037.

According to the bill, in 2037 drugstores and drugstore chains, such as Walgreens would each be eligible to apply for an unlimited number of liquor licenses. This creates a gigantic loophole in the bill for Walmart, Target, King Soopers and Albertsons/Safeway, which all have pharmacies in their stores, to slip through. The likely result? The volume buying power of those big multistate chains eventually would squeeze the small mom and pops out of their local markets - as those chains have done before with locally owned grocery stores, drugstores, hardware stores, furniture stores and other small, more-specialized retailers.

The mom-and-pop liquor stores should start to phase out gradually. Beginning next year, each big chain store in Colorado, by virtue of it having a pharmacy, would be eligible to apply for liquor licenses at five of its stores statewide. That number jumps to eight stores in 2022, 13 in 2027 and then 20 in 2032.

We support the local mom and pops because the money spent at their shops stays in our community. Also, we have a strong feeling small liquor store owner/operators are more vigilant about asking customers for identification to prevent selling alcohol to minors than the average supermarket or drugstore chain cashier would be.

Again, we urge the governor to take SB197, put it in a brown paper bag and toss it in the waste basket.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1YAA8aI


The Denver Post, May 17, on what lawmakers approved in the legislative session:

It’s easy to grouse about the recent legislative session, and we’ve done our share of it. There was the failure to tackle the state’s long-term budget squeeze and refusal - again - to deal with Colorado’s dearth of condo construction despite growing evidence the market isn’t about to self-correct.

For that matter, the death of a presidential primary bill despite fresh memories of the widely panned caucuses was bewildering.

And those are just a few of the lowlights.

Yet we come here today not to disparage lawmakers. The 120 days they spent at the Capitol were by no means in vain. A number of constructive accomplishments deserve recognition, of which we have space to mention but a few. Among other things, lawmakers:

-Required an audit of the state’s “tax expenditures” - tax credits, deductions and exemptions - to see if they achieve their intended purpose. Colorado has hundreds of such benefits for corporations and individuals that reduce tax collections by billions of dollars, and yet no one really knows whether their benefits justify their cost - or, in some cases, whether there are any benefits at all. This bipartisan bill will finally force the state to consider which tax expenditures are cost-effective.

-Updated the state’s campaign finance rules so they no longer are in flagrant violation of the First Amendment, according to federal court rulings. Such a bill might seem a no-brainer, but the burden on individuals and groups that raise small amounts of money for ballot measures has been obvious for several years without legislative response. But a wide spectrum of lawmakers finally came together to support a fix.

-Made life a little easier in several ways for charter schools, even as the House Democratic leadership rebuffed an effort to ensure equitable funding for those schools.

-Provided protections for student data privacy without crippling incentives for software providers to continue innovation.

-Allowed Coloradans to collect rainwater from residential rooftops for outdoor uses such as gardening.

-Provided seed money for a project to turn the state into a hub for cybersecurity research and training.

-Finally addressed the plight of juveniles who’d been sentenced to life without parole before the Supreme Court ruled such sentences unconstitutional.

We could continue, but some praise is deserved for what was killed, too, including an attempt to eliminate remaining PARCC tests in high schools and, thanks mainly to the Senate, several measures that would have damaged the state’s appeal to newly locating businesses.

It wasn’t the most productive session in memory, but it wasn’t the worst, either. In some areas, preserving the status quo is an achievement in itself.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/27xH2DA


The Durango Herald, May 15, on unaffiliated voters and the primary election:

Without a primary and with either incomplete or inadequate caucus organizations, Colorado was not a player in this election year’s run up to selecting November’s presidential candidates. The primary was eliminated about 10 years ago because of cost, while Republicans had decided a year ago not to risk identifying too many presidential favorites at the caucus level and instead to have state leadership make that decision. As for the Democrats, Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly furious challenge to Hillary Clinton encouraged so many party members to participate in their caucus that the tallying fell short.

The mood now is to provide some certainty and discipline in the process for Coloradans by bringing back the primary, which will next be 2020.

When the legislative session ended last week, that went undone. The disagreement was just how “Republican” and how “Democrat” a registered unaffiliated voter should be to participate on that primary day. There was general agreement that the unaffiliated should be able to choose a party and participate, as they are a third of the electorate, so that was not the issue. Rather, it was the degree of intensity of being a party member for a day that was not resolved.

In the House, the general consensus was that the unaffiliated would receive a pass of sorts that would allow them to participate in the party primary of their choice. They really would not lose their unaffiliated label.

In the Senate, more was desired. The consensus was that the unaffiliated should give up their unaffiliated designation and become a Republican, or a Democrat. Then, after participating in the primary, they would have to go through the existing procedure to return to their unaffiliated status.

Under the Senate language, participation would be a weightier step.

Count us among those who favor the Senate position.

Political parties play an important role in American politics by setting general boundaries as to what is favored and what is not in economic, foreign policy and social issues (although this election’s Republican presidential candidate-to-be is upending that party with his several very significant different stances).

Parties help voters to sort out their own positions, serving up issues and underlying themes that should test their members’ thinking. Without parties, participation in democracy would decline.

Marking a primary ballot by the unaffiliated should require more than just knocking on a door and saying “Here I am, give me a pen,” and then going on with the day. Giving up the unaffiliated category and formally becoming a member of a major party is not too much to expect. Then, take the current steps to return to being unaffiliated.

This is not requiring land ownership to vote, as Thomas Jefferson believed in, or to have to pay a poll tax or pass an exam, which was done to prevent blacks from voting.

There is a chance, of course, that what transpires during the months leading up to the election of 2020 will be very different than what the country is experiencing now. But 2016’s events will not be forgotten for a long time, and not returning to a primary in Colorado would be a mistake. Let’s just require the unaffiliated to make an effort to participate.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1rSSNE5


The Aurora Sentinel, May 17, on the hospital provider fee:

In a world awash in political histrionics and hyperbole, this is serious, Colorado, and we all must act.

Colorado has perilous problems keeping up with deteriorating roads, unbuilt roads, operating public schools and colleges and keeping the state safe.

The problem right now isn’t that the state is critically short of money. Colorado has the cash, but a minority of Republican state officials won’t let Colorado spend it.

In fact, the state’s safety and future are in jeopardy because of just one man right now: outgoing state Sen. Bill Cadman.

To keep state programs and infrastructure from running off the rails, Gov. John Hickenlooper must call a special session to address the hospital provider fee quagmire, and the public needs to pressure all state lawmakers, especially Cadman, to do the right thing.

Colorado’s public safety and future are hamstrung by the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the state’s hospital provider fee and the public’s political fatigue.

The issue should have been resolved by the 2016 legislature, and it nearly was. But a one-vote Republican majority in the state Senate gave GOP Senate President Bill Cadman the mechanism he needed to prevent an easy majority of state lawmakers to fix the so-called “glitch.”

That refers to a previous budget fix when the Affordable Care Act was being shaped. It was created to ensure Colorado got its fair share of federal Medicaid money. The state agreed that the general public and taxpayers are hurt by hospitals and doctors treating the poor for free and then passing the costs onto others. By expanding Medicaid, the federal government would pick up as much as half of the bill for treating local poor people. Local hospitals and doctors backed the plan, which called for creating a “hospital provider fee,” which would help offset increased state Medicaid costs.

So Cadman, backed by other Republicans, invoked bureaucratic voodoo this year on Colorado, insisting that under TABOR, the hospital fee should be considered tax revenue, which would trigger paltry individual refunds to state residents. But those refunds would create a giant hole in the state budget.

Some Republican state lawmakers then and now were critical of the Medicaid expansion, saying it would grow to assume too much of the state budget. They’re valid concerns that need to be addressed, and Cadman’s sketchy rationalization for choosing the nuclear option. Holding the state hostage - and cheating us out of badly needed road money and already grossly inadequate education dollars - was the epitome of bad government. It’s exactly why Congress is so overwhelmingly despised and feared.

Cadman resorted to legislative contrivances to snuff House Bill 1420, a solution that had clear bipartisan support in the House, and enough Republican Senate votes to make it to the governor’s desk. And so schools and roads will be shorted up to $373 million a year for no reason - other than the obstinance of the soon-to-retire Cadman, who’s forced out by term limits and won’t even be around to suffer the political consequences he’s inflicting on his fellow Republicans and the fiscal consequences he’s imposing on all of us.

Hickenlooper should immediately call back state lawmakers for a special section to complete a bipartisan housekeeping chore that imperils so much and that fellow Republicans, even GOP state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, agree doesn’t affect or impugn TABOR.

Colorado residents must take the time to contact their state senators, and especially Cadman, to give the issue a fair hearing among all state lawmakers, and vote as well.

And those who think ailing schools and roads are the place to political Russian roulette? You can cure the problem for good at the ballot box this fall.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/25aR3b9

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