- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, Sept. 29, on the $11 million statewide apprenticeship program:

The idea isn’t new, but establishing apprenticeships as the foundation for economic growth and better educational outcomes finally has some serious clout behind it.

Earlier this month, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a new $11 million statewide apprenticeship system for high school students, largely funded by philanthropic organizations.

The announcement capped an effort already underway to duplicate Switzerland’s highly successful vocational education and training system. Earlier this year, Colorado sent a delegation of its leaders in education, business, government, workforce development and nonprofits to Zurich to hear firsthand from business executives how the program works and why it’s a cultural cornerstone of Swiss prosperity.

Creating a Swiss-style model for Colorado is the mission of CareerWise Colorado, which is moving quickly to recruit employers to see the benefits of apprenticeships.

School District 51 is fortunate to be among the first wave of schools involved in the pilot. CareerWise Colorado is looking to place 35 Mesa County students in apprenticeships at local businesses starting in fall 2017.

The goal is to expand CareerWise across the state, so that 20,000 high school students are working in apprenticeships in the next 10 years.

School districts have long sought to expand career pathways for high school graduates beyond the perceived binary system in place. Too often the choice seems to be an expensive college education or a minimum-wage future. School District 51 already has options for career technical education, including the Career Center and concurrent enrollment in programs at Western Colorado Community College.

The missing piece has been buy-in from the business community. European models succeed because businesses see apprenticeships as a valuable investment in productivity and procuring talent. Switzerland’s largest telecom company, for example, has 8,000 employees and 800 are apprentices.

“The model won’t work unless businesses engage in a material way,” said Noel Ginsburg, the CareerWise CEO said Tuesday during a rollout of the program at the Mesa County Workforce Center. “I have no question that the schools around the state are going to play because they … want better outcomes for their kids. But if businesses don’t view it in their self-interest to be a part of the education process, as our global competitors do, we’re only creating problems for ourselves.”

Students in their last two years of high school will be able to get paid, hands-on training in skilled fields, including information technology, financial services, advanced manufacturing and hospitality. An additional year of apprenticeship post-graduation will further prepare students to enter the workforce directly or continue their post-secondary education.

This is a wonderful, overdue development that can pay dividends to all stakeholders. It’s a cultural shift that we hope Mesa County business leaders will get behind.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2ddWHRi

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The Aurora Sentinel, Oct. 4, on the right to die in Colorado:

Understanding the compassion, wisdom and common sense behind Colorado’s Proposition 106 isn’t difficult, but it demands many set aside a long list of misplaced fears, bad assumptions, misnomers and propaganda.

The state ballot question is about dying with dignity and in peace when death is near and inevitable. It’s not about “assisted suicide.” The choice and act of ending your life when the options are beyond dismal would be only yours. The only assistance here is that those who are diagnosed by at least two physicians to have less than six months to live, and who must ask at least twice for medication that painlessly ends life, and who are deemed to be mentally competent, can get the fatal prescription.

The rest is up to the patient as to how or even when to use the prescription and end suffering or maybe even prevent it.

Hopelessly ill people wracked with pain and ending their own lives isn’t something this measure would start. Lots of people choose to end their lives rather than face an end of unrelenting agony, gasping for last breaths in helpless fear. But too many end up violently or clumsily ending their lives with misguided pharmaceutical cocktails, guns or suffocation. Often they fail.

State lawmakers themselves have failed to pick through the thorny issue, and voters must now finish the job so that terminally ill friends and family can finish their lives in peace and comfort. This is nothing but another choice that already includes dying in a hospice or at home when the body simply gives out. This allows you to easily force it, when you want, if that makes more sense.

So now the discussion and decision must be handled by voters.

The hard work was actually done by lawmakers and residents in Oregon in 1997. That’s when complicated rules were laid out for how a terminally ill patient could request a prescription for a lethal dose of medication and end their own lives. It’s a model for this Colorado measure.

Proponents of Prop 106 want us to be brave in confronting our fears about what is as natural as being born: dying. It’s the one thing on Earth that binds us all together, yet something that Americans, generally, work so hard to ignore.

Opponents are working themselves into a state, creating all kinds of preposterous tales, and it’s because of irrational fear. Prop 106 makes us uncomfortable because it rips the Band-Aid off the lie that all of us die a “peaceful” death. Many do, but hardly all. Ask any health professional or loved one who’s been at the end of life with someone terrified and gasping for breath until they’re finally robbed of it. It’s not peaceful, it’s cruel.

It’s so cruel, that we don’t even put our dogs and cats through such torture. We mercifully and compassionately end their suffering and life when it’s clear what the alternative is. Why is something so natural and so easy to understand so difficult to accept, codify and talk about, prepare for?

The amendment doesn’t force anyone to participate in asking for a dignified, easier death. It only helps those and their families who have arrived at a place where it all makes sense. There is no worry that death squads will round up Alzheimer patients, as they do not even qualify for the consultation, even if they’re terminally ill. This is only about terminally ill people able to soundly make their own decision.

It’s cruel beyond comprehension that we would make such a decision even harder by complicating it with laws that leave people few options but to become outlaws or pursue violent, clandestine suicides. It no longer has to happen like that.

Proposition 106 is long overdue. It’s time to bring these changes to Colorado so we can talk about them, put them in place, and understand them for those who want or need them. Any else is inhumane.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2dDQ4et

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The (Loveland) Reporter-Herald, Oct. 1, on a measure to shorten the ballot and other proposals:

As voters consider the intended and unintended consequences of the many statewide ballot issues this election, it would be appropriate to thank legislators for an unintended consequence of having elections move predominantly to mail-in ballots: The ballot is so long, it might require rest breaks between consideration of the questions.

One of the ballot issues actually addresses the lengthiness of the Colorado ballots and offers an alternative that would strongly limit future tinkering with the Colorado Constitution through the use of citizen-initiated amendments.

Amendment 71, also known as “Raise the Bar,” would require those who offer changes to the state constitution to increase the variety of petition signatures they collect. Instead of focusing on heavily populated areas to gather the necessary signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, the amendment would require significant signatures from each of the state’s 35 Senate districts. In addition, it would require a supermajority for passage of a constitutional amendment.

Opponents say an important tool will be lost for voters to deal with issues neglected by the Colorado General Assembly. However, the requirements for initiated statutes, such as Propositions 106-108, will stay the same. And indeed, many of the amendments this election (and in many others) would have been better served as statutes instead of cluttering the Constitution.

Amendment 71 deserves full support.

Here are our recommendations for the other statewide issues:

Amendment 69: Known as ColoradoCare, this would create a statewide single-payer health care system in the state.

This is a public policy experiment that comes before voters because the threshold for constitutional petitions is so low. If approved, the state would take over the administration of health care for all residents.

While health care policy is fraught with challenges, this amendment is not the answer. A “no” vote is recommended.

Amendment 70: This would increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020. While the sentiment behind the measure is appealing in this time of extreme income inequality, a constitutional solution is not the answer. The legislative route would allow lawmakers the flexibility to deal with different economic factors - and different sections of the state where the economy might not be as robust as it is on the Front Range. A “no” vote is recommended.

Amendment 72: The measure would increase the tax rate on tobacco products. Unfortunately, such a large tax increase is regressive, in that it affects low-wage earners much more than high-wage ones. In addition, the tobacco cessation programs the tax would fund, if successful, would generate less revenue if fewer people smoke. That could prompt an unending spiral of tax increases to keep such a program funded. A “no” vote is recommended.

Proposition 106: After an aid-in-dying measure failed at the Legislature in 2016, its supporters were able to gather enough signatures to place it on the ballot. However, this is one of those issues that is best left to lawmakers to ensure that if this right were to exist, it would be under an extremely narrow set of circumstances. That does not appear to be the case now. A “no” vote is recommended.

Propositions 107, 108: These would alter the primary election rules in Colorado to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in a newly created presidential primary (107) and in other primaries (108). Currently, if an unaffiliated voter wants to vote in a primary, he or she can declare an affiliation at the polls. To participate in the presidential selection process, he or she can choose a party in the weeks before the caucus and then revert afterward. For the costs associated, this solution is not worth it. A “no” vote is recommended.

Amendment T: This issue, referred by the General Assembly, would remove a reference to slavery as a punishment for a criminal conviction. This language is indeed outdated. A “yes” vote is recommended.

Amendment U: This would change tax rules that would in essence exempt a small number of property tax payers from paying tax bills that are less than the cost of producing and mailing the notices and statements. A “yes” vote is recommended.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2dsHAp5

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The Gazette, Oct. 1, on raising the minimum wage:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday publicly supported increasing Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, advocating passage of Amendment 70 on November’s ballot. If approved, the measure would kill good jobs and impose hardship on small businesses and the young Coloradans they employ.

“I’m not sure there’s another way to help move more people out of poverty than to raise the minimum wage,” Hickenlooper said on the radio program Colorado Matters. “I think in this country, if you work 40 hours a week, and you work hard, you ought to be able to afford an apartment somewhere.”

That’s a nice sound bite and easy to digest. If wages are low, just pass a law.

It does not withstand scrutiny. Few could afford an apartment in Colorado on $12 an hour. If we can merely pass a law to make all jobs fund entire households, we’ll have to do better than $12 an hour. If it really works this way, go for $20 or $30 an hour. If that works, we should pass minimum wages to ensure all full-time jobs pay for single-family homes with no fewer than four bedrooms.

The reason minimum wage advocates don’t reach for the sky is the fact a lot of nonprofessional jobs cannot produce $20, $30 or more each hour. In fact, lots of good jobs don’t produce enough to support $12 an hour. Politicians want the image of raising wages while limiting the ensuing job losses to low-profile entry-level workers.

An employer forced to pay all employees $12 an hour will, by necessity, eliminate jobs that don’t produce enough revenue to support the mandate. If anyone should understand this, it is Hickenlooper. He’s a small-business entrepreneur who understands the effects of escalating overhead.

An independent study by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable found a $12 minimum wage will reduce overall employment by 90,000 jobs by 2022. Teenagers, who can do well on $8.31 an hour, will lose 10,500 jobs by 2022. A survey of Colorado restaurant owners found 72 percent would reduce employee hours; 71 percent would reduce staffing; and 20 percent would close locations.

The higher wage will raise prices for working families, as it will raise overhead for child care businesses. Those costs will be passed along to customers.

We should not expect all jobs to support apartments or other forms of households. Some jobs are perfectly suited for 15-year-olds who live with their parents and work for spending money and experience. Under this proposal, many of those jobs will vanish.

Hickenlooper’s support of the mandate comes as a surprise. In a September interview with Colorado Public Radio, he criticized the proposal for not properly compensating for the higher wages earned by tipped employees - sometimes “30 an hour,” by Hick’s estimation. Many of those solid-wage workers began as low-wage bussers or dish washers because low-wage jobs were allowed.

A $12 minimum wage will do disproportionate damage to small businesses and entry-level employees in rural areas that cannot support substantial price increases to support the mandate. Hickenlooper’s executive imposition of “clean power” mandates has already burdened rural Colorado with high electric prices and layoffs associated with the closure of coal mines. Rural residents don’t need another regulatory hit from Denver.

Hickenlooper could have helped explain the unintended consequences of raising the wage mandate. Instead, he chose the political of supporting it. It sounds good. Meanwhile, unemployed teens and young adults won’t likely connect the dots and won’t be heard if they do.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2dRAt8P

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