Printed on 1/9/21

2010 Freedom Watch

Home / The Issues / 2010 Session


So much that happens at the legislature happens in very small steps, but each step leads in a clear direction. Far too often that direction is for more government control of private businesses, individual citizens, and families.

2010 Freedom Watch is my journal of those many steps that are taken every day during the legislative session.

It is a compilation of the good bills, the bad bills, and any other actions of note. Unfortunately, the good bills promoting healthy families, freedom and personal responsibility are rare and will seldom be found in a list of bills passed by the Colorado legislature in 2010.

Bills that take steps in the right direction, or bad bills that are defeated will be listed in bold typeface.

Here is my running commentary on the 2010 session, with the latest entry at the top of the page:


May

12 - On this final day several things actually turned a bit our way. SB-191, the public school teacher tenure bill passed with full Republican support and some Democrats joining us. This was a hugh defeat for the CEA and a step forward for schools and students in Colorado.

My direct file bill, limiting D.A.'s authority in filing adult felony charges against minors (HB-1413) passed its final votes today.

HB-1281, deregulating VoIP (voice-over-internet-protocal) passed third and final reading.

Finally, I was able to conduct a fairly productive discussion on global warming and Cap and Trade on the Senate floor. HJR-1028 was considered
it passed, but not until we pointed out all of the deficiencies of the resolution and the argument.

I do not know what will happen in the November election, but I look forward to the possibility that future Freedom Watch reports on sessions will be written with much more bold type, even as it was for today.


Many other bills raised their ugly heads again as they were reconsidered for final votes, but I will leave their mention off this day and refer the reader to previous entries. Better to end on a high note as we look forward to future days and years.

11 - The day before Sine Die. In third reading several bills passed, including: SCR-003, with a two-thirds majority, asking the voters to significantly increase the requirements for constitutional changes. Requiring five percent of signatures from each congressional district and a 60% majority vote for passage!

HB-1408 stripping out the criteria in statute for redistricting congressional districts. This is a setup for a court to do whatever it wants if the legislature cannot redistrict, like the Democrats managed to engineer ten years ago. This was strictly party-line. All amendments were party-line, the final vote was party-line. 1408 is one of the setups for the hard-ball politics that are sure to come in the redistricting process that will follow the 2010 census.

HB-1019 increasing and creating new fines for misusing disabled parking privileges, The fines are incredibly high, some going from the current $100 to $5000 and creating a new felony, for falsely attesting to be eligible for the parking privileges, punishable as perjury (up to $500,000 fine and six years in prison). It is wrong, but the penalties are more in line with an oppressive police state than the great state of Colorado.

HB-1285 increases fines for commercial vehicles.

10 - Final three days - SCR-001 passed second reading. This would create a commission that could propose constitutional changes that could circumvent the single subject rule in changing the state constitution. My concern with this measure has the high probability that the end result would be to dismantle TABOR. In addition, as I said on the senate floor, this senate would not even allow out of committee my constitutional adjustment to the inflation guarantee to school finance (SCR-006), but somehow they do want us to take the wholesale approach of allowing a commission to change everything at once.

SCR-003 passed second reading, asking the voters to restrict their right to change the constitution by requiring 5% of petition signatures come from every congressional district and a 60% majority vote required to approve the changes.

Also passed in second reading was HB-1408, stripping out the criteria in statute for redistricting congressional districts. This is a setup for a court to do whatever it wants if the legislature cannot redistrict, like the Democrats managed to engineer ten years ago. This was strictly party-line. All amendments were party-line, the final vote was party-line. 1408 is one of the setups for the hard-ball politics that are sure to come in the redistricting process that will follow the 2010 census.

7 - In third reading HB-1358 passed, creating another mandate on home builders, this time requiring them to offer water efficiency options for all homes. SB-203 passed, by party-line, putting limitations on independent expenditures for elections. SB-216 passed, putting all referred measures in front of citizen initiated measures on ballots. This is a slap at the citizens that doesn't really accomplish anything.

SB-198 passed, eliminating the $100 late fees for all trailers, up to commercial size trailers (a small victory against the car tax issue).

In second reading bills that passed:

HB-1278 regulates HOAs.

HB-1131 creates one more program, this one is called The Colorado Kids Outdoors Grant Program.

HB-1238 creates wildlife crossing zones, where all traffic violations are doubled.



6 - Today has been designated as National Day of Prayer. The legislature still met (for many long hours, as it is close to the end of the session), but there was a two hour prayer meeting on the west steps of the capitol, which I and a few of my senate colleagues managed to attend, along with a few hundred citizens. Interestingly, it was not a very contentious day inside the building. I was also privileged to attend a similar event in Loveland in the evening. I include this on the Freedom Watch page, as I believe our freedoms are only preserved through God's blessing.

5 - In State Affairs my resolution, SJR-045 was heard. This resolution calls on Congress to obey the Tenth Amendment and not force Colorado citizens to participate in their new medical care law, including purchasing their mandated medical insurance. After several citizens testifying in favor of the measure it was killed on a party-line vote.

4 - SB-193, a bill limiting restraints on pregnant women in prison or jail during the birth process. The bill is good, but the problem that lands this in the lowercase Freedom Watch page is an amendment declaring that it is important to protect the unborn child was rejected on party lines. The reason? Because it acknowledged the unborn child as a child. Unless we recognize all humanity as persons, freedom will still be limited, even as when some called slaves only three-fifths of a person.

In Local Government and Energy committee HB-1349 was considered, directing the Department of Natural Resources to convert the state parks to 100% renewable energy production for the parks' needs by 2020. This is a laudable goal, but until renewables are truly cost effective (without subsidies and federal tax credits), it will cost the taxpayer more to accomplish the goal than without the goal. It will also be a less efficient system if we rush into this before the systems are truly competitive. I voted against the bill, but it passed, 5 to 2.

3 - In third reading several bad bills were passed, including:

SB-185, making it more expensive for landlords in Colorado, thereby increasing the cost of housing in the rental market.

HB-1141, regulating mortgage companies, increasing the costs for home loans, again increasing the costs of housing in Colorado.

SB-195, creating the "Early Childhood Leadership Commission", which is covered in the April 30 discussions.

HB-1033, creating a new Medicaid funding program designed to turn doctor patient contacts into a "big brother" substance abuse screening system.

HB-1241, which is covered in April 30 discussion. At the mic I repeatedly asked how many thousands of dollars this will add to the cost of a new home in Colorado. The sponsor neither answered or refuted my contention that this will drive up the cost of housing in Colorado.


In State Affairs two measures of mine were killed on a party-line vote. Both were to ask the people to vote in November.

One (SCR-006) would have limited the inflation guarantee on per pupil funding to five percent, allowing the legislature to decide how much more to add if we would have an inflation rate in excess of five percent. This would protect our budget from an unreasonable pressure in times of hyperinflation and it would effectively fix most fiscal conflicts created by Amendment 23 in our constitution.

The other measure killed would have asked the people to decide if the software sales tax and the out of state internet sales (use) tax should be continued here in Colorado. This is in response to some of the "dirty dozen" taxes the legislature imposed on the people of Colorado earlier in this session, without a vote of the people.














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April

30 - After repeated speeches from several members on how HB-1351 will directly kill hundreds of jobs in Colorado, jeopardize many businesses, and remove a financial option for the hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who have used these businesses every year, with no Republicans supporting the bill it still passed third reading. For details of this bill, refer to the discussion in the April 29 entry.

SB-195 was approved in second reading, creating an "Early Childhood Leadership Commission", to advance a comprehensive service delivery system for children from birth to eight years of age. In addition to this heady goal of managing all state government programs for young children, it creates another big data base system to track everything related to these areas. Finally, the bill states that this "comprehensive" system will at least include:"child health, child mental health, early learning, and family support and parent education."

Also approved in second reading was HB-1033, funding through Medicaid a system where doctors and other medical professionals always ask patients about substance abuse issues. This is turning the doctor patient relationship into a big brother screening process.

HB-1241 was approved, requiring fire suppression sprinkler system installers to be registered by the state. Included is a requirement that anyone registered be an apprentice for "eight thousand hours" - excuse me? 8,000 hours is four years, in order to know how to fit plastic pipe together? This is another example of this year's legislative agenda. I did get one amendment on the bill exempting an individual homeowner from having to be registered to install a system on their own home.

29 - HB-1351 passed second reading with no Republican support. This bill will drive the payday lending companies out of Colorado through strict price controls. The fiscal note says that currently they charge the equivalent of 391% annually. The problem is that they are wrapping all handling fees to the "percentage" charge, and extrapolating an annual percentage out of the fees that are charged for loans that are usually for no more than two weeks. 391% would be an extraordinary amount, if it were a true figure, but it is not and no one is actually charged 391% interest. Despite all of the claims that this is a "compassionate" bill, it is actually a heavy handed command and control measure that will deny legitimate businesses the opportunity to conduct their business in Colorado, kill hundreds of jobs and force those who need these loans into the grey or black market.

28 - In third reading HB-1125 was passed (essentially party-line) regulating used cooking oil. Except for the personal use exemption, only those licensed can possess and transport used cooking oil.

By a similar vote, HB-1330 passed third reading, setting up the system that will track all medical insurance claims in Colorado. It will, I am sure, create an intrusive and expensive computer system that we will struggle with for years to come.

HB-1022 was heard in Health and Human Services. This bill expands the food stamp program in Colorado by developing a marketing program to promote its use more and it eliminates any asset test for qualification for food stamps.

27 - In third reading the Senate approved SB-179, allowing felons on parole to vote.

SB-161 passed, allowing charter schools a little more authority, this time to collaborate together to contract for services. SB-144 passed, clarifying what taxes are required for mounted equipment on motor vehicles (PTO driven equipment). This bill eliminates an unintended registration tax.

In second reading a bad bill, HB-1125, regulating used cooking oil (yellow grease) was amended to allow an exemption for personal use of the product.
The bill is still a bad bill that regulates the commercial use of cooking oil and it did pass.

In second reading HB-1330 passed, creating a database to track all medical claims in Colorado. This is a huge reach into the personal affairs of Colorado citizens and will probably end up as one more expensive computer system the state of Colorado will have to maintain.

SB-110 came back from the House, amended to make child restraints a primary offense. This means police can stop parents if they suspect their children are not in legally approved restraint systems, up to the age of seven. Initially the Senate made it a secondary offense. After much debate the Senate capitulated to the House. This bill also increases the age child restraints are required from age six to age seven and it requires the children be in the back seat.

In Local Government and Energy HB-1358 will require all home builders to offer water efficient appliances. This is not needed at all. The market place is offering what works best. This is one more example of nanny government. One expert who testified told us that one of the requirements within the bill was not technically practicable (the sixty pound pressure limiting valve frustrates an 80 pound pressure test that is currently required).

In Local Government we also heard the Medical Marijuana Dispensary bill, HB-1284, until late into the night. In terms of freedom, I am having a hard time determining what the correct vote is. The Colorado constitution creates a medical marijuana system in Colorado. This bill codifies the dispensary system, but it also adds significant regulation and costs for dispensaries. In the end I supported the bill in committee, but if amendments are added that increases costs more I cannot continue my support for the bill.


23 - Once again, SB-190 came up for a third reading vote. This is the $188,000,000 property tax increase on seniors in Colorado over the next two years. It suspends the senior homestead property tax exemption for two years. With three of exceptions, the vote was party-line: Republicans opposing, Democrats supporting. The bill passed.


22 - HB-1021 returned from a conference committee for a final vote. This is the bill requiring medical insurance policies provide maternity and contraceptive coverage. The Catholic bishops opposed the mandate, as they view contraceptives, particularly those that are potentially abortifacient as morally wrong. Senator Scheffel moved to allow policies that do not include contraceptive coverage. The sponsor resisted the motion. I noted that it is ironic that the "pro-choice" advocates (who back the bill) will not allow any choice in this area. The motion was defeated and the bill passed, essentially on party-lines.

In HHS committee HB-1033 was heard, funding a Medicaid screening program for addictions at hospitals and clinics. It took a while in testimony to establish that this is intended to be a universal program for all clinics, for all patients. Essentially it is trying to get all medical visits to be an opportunity for the doctor and other medical professionals to ask patients about their habits with alcohol, tobacco and drugs. The medical professionals look at the efficiencies of trying to catch every addiction in doctors offices, but I find the obtrusiveness of this procedure to be unacceptable and voted against the bill.

Also in HHS SB-195 was heard. This bill creates the "Early Child Leadership Commission." This group will be charged with developing a comprehensive service delivery system for children from birth to eight years. It will also develop an "interagency data system infrastructure" that will include, at least, "health, mental health, behavioral health, child protection, family support, and early learning services." According to testimony it will involve using a unique student identifying number (set up in HB08-1364).

Further testimony revealed that the governor has already set up this commission. This bill will essentially perpetuate his policies beyond his term.

I have three problems with SB-195. First, it assumes the government must be more in charge of young children's lives. This inevitably will grow the authority of government at the expense of parental authority. Second, it calls for a comprehensive data system of all other government data systems that interface with children from birth to age eight. This is one more "big brother" intrusion into the lives of families in Colorado. Finally, the contemplated software system for this data set will be incredibly expensive. How many more big, "comprehensive" computer systems can we afford? (The Colorado Benefits Management System - CBMS has already cost us well over $200,000,000).

I introduced three resolutions today. Two are asking the voters to decide on:
1. Limiting the inflation guarantee on the per pupil funding requirement for public education to five percent.
2. Repealing the software and internet sales taxes the legislature imposed on Colorado this year.

The other resolution reminds Congress that the Tenth Amendment is still a part of the constitution and their Obamacare is a violation of the Tenth Amendment.


21 - In third reading several bills passed on party-lines, but the biggest bill that passed on those terms was SB-190 (Sen. White, Republican, was a sponsor of SB-190, and the only Republican voting for the bill). In preparation for the debate I discovered that the Joint Budget committee staff estimates the 2010-11 budget is already balanced, with a $55 million cushion, before the $91,000,000 tax increase!

20 - SB 160 was heard in second reading on the senate floor today. The vote? Essentially party-line, the exception being Sen. Sandoval, the only Democrat to support the bill. AARP had circulated a flyer calling for the defeat of the bill. I refuted every point they made, but to no avail. During debate it was obvious from the demeanor of the Democrats that they did not want to hear the arguments. They were doing anything but listening. That is always disappointing, but I am used to it. The only thing they will listen to is the vote in November. I trust the message will be clear and strong.

Today SB-190 was also heard in second reading, eliminating the senior homestead property tax exemption (over $91,000,000 in the first year alone). I argued against it, but the bill passed.

In third reading the needle exchange program bill passed. I argued that the bill is the first step down the road of drug legalization. That, in my opinion, is a dangerous road and not in the best interest of the citizens of Colorado.

One more legislative action was taken today, but it was the governor who did it. He, by executive order, created the mechanism to implement Obamacare in Colorado. I initiated a letter that most of the Republican Senate Caucus signed asking the governor to rescind his order and allow the legislature to tackle this issue, as the state constitution's separation of powers requires.

16 - In Appropriations my Medicaid Reform bill, SB-160, passed unanimously. This is the first time in eight years I have gotten this bill onto the floor for debate!

In addition, today I presented SJR-26, creating the Staff Sergeant Justin Bauer Memorial Highway. Justin Bauer was killed in Iraq in 2009. The highway being designated is state highway 56, running through Berthoud, from I-25 to U.S. 287.


15 - Tax day, As thousands gather outside for a TEA Party, we saw one small victory. HB-1211 lowers the late registration fees for trailers. The Senate amended the bill to include trailers over 2000 pounds. The House rejected that amendment. Our small victory was to lay the bill over a day and the Senate President said he would allow a late bill to address the late fees for larger trailers. Hopefully the excessive late fees for trailers will be removed. It is still too much for other vehicles, but we might get this slice of the loaf.

14 - On third reading SB-185 passed, increasing the cost of rental housing in Colorado by modifying the residential warranty of habitability laws. HB-1273 passed, putting new requirements on local school districts to encourage the teaching of visual and performance arts.

In Health and Human Services committee SB-189 was heard, making needle exchange programs for drug addicts legal. The argument for the bill is that it lowers infection rates for AIDS and Hepatitis C. The argument against the bill is that it is in conflict with the state's policy concerning illegal drugs and to some extent begins the process of legalizing these drugs. It is a significant change in policy and should be considered in no less terms. The question cannot be isolated to only the immediate effect of removing dirty needles from public trash disposal and minimizing infection rates among drug users. The larger question is the appropriateness of making dangerous drugs illegal. I am not willing in taking that path and voted against the needle exchange bill.

13 - In second reading SB-185 passed, increasing the regulations landlords must follow for rental properties, thus driving up the cost of housing in Colorado.

In the Local Government and Energy committee HB-1342 was heard, creating "solar gardens." Sounds great, it is setting up a system to enable groups of homes to gang together their solar PV systems and use the utilities' renewable energy funds (2% taken off the top from all utility revenue). The 2% that creates the fund is a redistribution of wealth system, to subsidize renewable energy systems. I don't like this distortion of the market place, but if HB-1342 does nothing more than allow a greater variety of systems to be built, maybe it is a good bill.

However, in testimony it came out that this bill is designed to further distort the market, with new criteria for deciding who gets the subsidy and who does not. I finally decided that I could not support the bill. Others became troubled by other details in the bill and it was pulled from the table until the sponsor could fix problems they have with the bill.

HB-1328 was also heard, creating an up to $800,000,000 state tax free bond program for the "Colorado New Energy Improvement District." According to the bill it is, among other things, designed to reduce greenhouse gases to help mitigate "climate change." I opposed the bill.

Then... the committee brought HB-1342 back up, held more testimony and passed the bill. I opposed the bill.

12 - Today the big battle for me was HB-1122, creating a standardized form for end of life medical orders. This bill was heard in HHS on March 25, where it was amended to put limitations on how end of life medical orders can be implemented. The Catholic Conference designed the amendment that required two doctors verify a person was terminally ill before any treatment was withheld.

The bill, which was supposed to go to the floor, was instead sent to a second committee, to strip out the amendment. The votes were there (4 Ds, and only 3 Rs mean whatever the Ds want, they get). In testimony I was able to get a weak commitment of the sponsor to look for a compromise position that makes it acceptable for all the major hospitals in Colorado, including the Catholic hospitals. I did not stand in the way of their striping out the original amendment, but I will not support the bill if they cannot find language acceptable to all.

9 - Third reading for not only the "long bill", the main budget bill, but also several other budget balancing bills. These bills are, essentially, raiding cash funds, moving funds around to draw down more Federal funds (debt) and increasing fees. The bills I could not support were: HB-1389, HB-1388, HB-1383, HB-1381, HB-1380, HB-1379, HB-1378, HB-1377, HB-1386, HB-1385, and SB-169. For the long bill we had a thorough debate, on the Republican side making it clear that this bill is perpetuating the tax and spend policies that the Colorado legislature has been following for several years.

8 - This week the budget bill was considered in the Senate. The first few days were spent in caucuses and other meetings reviewing the budget for next year and preparing amendments for the budget debate.

In second reading several amendments were considered:

Sen. Schultheis tired to set aside any money collected, beyond the anticipated revenue, up to $55,700,000 into the TABOR emergency reserve fund. This constitutionally required fund has never been fully funded with real money. Instead much of it is attributed to non-liquid assets such as state buildings. This amendment would bring this fund closer to its constitutionally required form.

My amendment would have eliminated the metal detector security system at the capitol building and eliminated the Department of Corrections' early release program. It kept the budget balanced and removed two unpopular and risky programs.

Sen. Schultheis also presented an amendment to require that all colleges receiving state funds shall not give tuition aid (discounted tuition) to anyone not legally present in the U.S..

Sen. Renfroe had an amendment to defund the CBI background check system. His point was that background checks are in violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights to bear arms.

Sen. Brophy's had an amendment that called for a five percent reduction in personnel costs, in anticipation of a budget crisis when Federal stimulus dollars run out,

Sen. Brophy's had an amendment that called for a three percent reduction in the budget (nearly $400,000,000), in anticipation of a budget crisis when Federal stimulus dollars run out,

All of the above amendment were defeated by the other side of the isle.

This bill, HB-1376, which is six percent more than last year, passed second reading.

Sen. Refroe had an amendment that called for at least eliminating some personnel benefits (about $10,000,000), in anticipation of a budget crisis when Federal stimulus dollars run out,

1 - In second reading HB-1017 passed. This is opening up the door to rent control, by allowing municipalities to enter into agreements with developers to bind properties to limited rents.

HB-1122, which had been recommended to the Senate floor, was sent back to another committee. I am certain it is being sent to the Judiciary committee to strip out an amendment that was added in the first committee, Health and Human Services. This bill is concerning the legal orders for end of life care. I would characterize the amendment as a pro-life amendment that put limitations on how end of life medical orders can be implemented. We shall see what Judiciary does to HB-1122.


























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March

31 - HB-1365 passed third reading. I again spoke out in opposition to this bill. It will increase electricity costs and it will not bring the Front Range into compliance with future EPA ozone regulations.

In Health and Human Services HB-1252 was heard. This bill tightens up the mammogram mandate for medical insurance policies. The current law follows a national standards system for the parameters of required mammogram coverage. The group recently recommended fewer mammograms. The bill rejects their recommendation and returns to the tighter standards.

In Judiciary committee we met until after 9:00 PM (almost eight hours) for a series of bills on workers' compensation laws. Essentially all of the business community opposed the changes, as it will make workers' comp. more difficult and more expensive. By party-line (except one vote) the bills were passed.

30 - HB-1365 was heard in second reading. This is the bill requiring Excel Energy to convert some of their coal fired plants to natural gas. The argument for the bill was that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency is tightening up on ozone standards and this bill will help head off more stringent, EPA imposed, mandates. I opposed the bill on the grounds that it will drive up electric costs for all, the bill will not fix the anticipated EPA ozone standards. Rather than accommodating the increasingly unreasonable EPA standards that are being forced onto all the states, we need to draw the line and insist on a reasonable implementation of the Federal Clean Air Act.

In Judiciary SB-156 passed, increasing regulations and therefore costs for mobile home park owners and mobile home owners.

In Local government we will now be regulating cooking oil transportation and disposal, complete with fees for businesses and individuals. This will control all cooking oil (called yellow grease) at the state level. The bill is HB-1125. The fees anticipated will be $950 for businesses, $475 for trucks, and $80 for individuals wishing to use cooking oil for their own use. The bill passed on a party-line vote.

29 - In Judiciary committee SB-187 was considered, concerning workers' compensation issues. In testimony it came out that the bill could increase costs on Colorado businesses by tens of millions of dollars, but the fiscal analysis does not discuss that impact at all. A motion to lay it over until more information is available were defeated on a party-line vote. The bill also passed on a party-line vote.

26 - In third reading HB-1004 passed, creating one more mandate on medical insurance policies. This was not a hugh mandate, as it required the standardization of medical insurance policy formats. However, every change complicates it that much more and drives the costs that much higher. Where is the relief for the family trying to survive? Instead of finding ways to lower the cost, we always drive it higher.

HB-1183 passed in third reading. It is "Concerning authorization of a pilot program to collect data concerning alternative school finance funding models." Sen. Schultheis submitted an amendment to include collecting data about the legal status of students in schools, for that has a hugh impact on the funding for public schools in Colorado. The amendment died on a party-line vote.

In second reading HB-1201, concerning "peace officer contacts", was amended to include: "A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY SHALL NOT OPERATE A SOBRIETY CHECKPOINT THAT STOPS DRIVERS TO DETERMINE WHETHER THEY HAVE VIOLATED ANY PROVISION OF SECTION 42-4-1301 WITHOUT REASONABLE SUSPICION", thus eliminating random DUI checkpoints, which comes very close to violating the Fourth Amendment. This is written in small case because the amendment was then challenged with a committee of the whole report amendment, and stripped out the amendment.

25 - In third reading HB-1118 passed, concerning the regulation of distressed real property by a board of county commissioners. This bill will allow a county to require abandoned properties to be secured and kept up, or the county will do it, and charge the owners. It will also let the county to require insurance be kept on abandoned properties.

In Health and Human Services Committee HB-1330 passed. This bill sets up an advisory committee to establish a database of all medical care in Colorado. Most of the information is to be collected from insurance companies, but for the information to be meaningful everyone will have to report to the system. In committee testimony it became very clear that they intend to pull together all medical information so that they can better "control" the process. If you like a centralized system of government, this is a great bill. If freedom and autonomy is more important, HB-1330 is one more step into an Orwellian future. Finally, and most importantly, the bill authorizes more than studying the database, it also authorizes implementing the program, but the title of the bill does not include the creation of the database! It only encompasses the creation of an advisory committee to make recommendations concerning the contemplated database. This bill does not fit under its own title. It is illegal.

In Local Government and Energy HB-1267 passed, exempting solar PV systems mounted on residential roofs, which are owned by a third party and leased to the homeowner, from personal business property taxes. In the hearing we learned that these systems are heavily subsidized, with about half the cost met from a program Excel Energy funds from the revenues taken from all rate payers (2% of gross revenues) and the Federal government gives the third party a 30% tax credit as well. Despite these very heavy subsidies, the cost for these solar PV systems are still a bit more expensive than conventional electric and in committee it was said that eliminating the personal business property tax will lower the overall cost by 10-15%. I supported the bill because I have a very hard time not supporting any roll-back of personal business property taxes.

24 - Snow Day! A heavy spring storm kept the legislature from doing any harm, today.

23 - On the Senate floor SJM-001 was presented. This memorial asks the Colorado's Congressional delegation to support the bills that would provide federal funds for the 2-1-1 telephone service. Currently this service is privately funded (United Way, etc.). I opposed this recommendation for the Federal government to take on the responsibility to fund one more program.

In the Local Government and Energy committee HB-1333 passed, creating a "green jobs training program." The problem is, it is taking money from the already in existence Workforce Investment Act program. It will also require 1.5 FTE, so one can see that it already creates new jobs! - At least 1.5 government jobs. I did not support the bill. One more reason I did not support this bill is that it is not the government's responsibility to provide workforce training. I have yet to see the government do anything more efficiently than the private sector and am sure it is the case here as well.

22 - In second reading on the Senate floor HB-1044 passed, creating another licensing program. This time it is "neighborhood youth organizations." The sponsor insisted that it is only a voluntary license, which would be a first in my understanding of Colorado's licensing policies. I would have preferred that the Boys and Girls clubs, who are asking for this legislation, would have formed a private association to establish credibility. When the government regulates it always becomes expensive and burdensome. HB-1044 will, in my opinion, become a problem for those who it is intended to help.

In third reading HB-1054 passed. I and many other Republicans opposed the bill. It requires institutions of higher education to create specific school safety programs. I believe higher education is smart enough to figure this out for themselves.

19 - HB-1030, which passed second reading today, is an example of this legislature's attitude. This is another Federal hand-out for another program, this time for the "Early Childhood Educator Development Scholarship Program." Senator Steadman, in defending the program said: if the Federal government is offering it, we need to hold our hands out an take it. I argued that that is the problem. We take whatever they come up with, and are then stuck with all of their strings, mandates and end up stuck with the bill if the Federal funds run out.

18 - In Health and Human Services HB-1017 passed, establishing some exceptions to Colorado's rent control prohibition. This double negative means that HB-1017 is the first step to allowing rent control policies in Colorado. Rent controls have destroyed whole neighborhoods in states that allow it.

17 - In Health and Human Services Committee HB-1004 passed, increasing mandates on medical insurance, again. This time it is a requirement that all policies and information (billing) forms be standardized. This standard will drive up costs, again. In addition, if I can judge by previous experience with government mandates and insurance company forms. Mandates do not ultimately simplify, they add one more layer and further complicate the end product for the consumer.

HB-1329 increases what is called the "tipping fee" (a fee assessed to all trash put in landfills). The increase authorized is from $.20/cubic yard to .50/cubic yard. This need for an increase is largely due to the $32,000,000 the legislature stole from the fund last year.

In Judiciary SB-185 was passed on a party-line vote (all amendments passed or failed on a party-line vote). This bill creates more "rights" for tenants, which ultimately will make housing more expensive in the state of Colorado. It is ironic, the sponsor indicated he is trying to enhance affordable housing, but the bill will make it more difficult for landlords and the inevitable effect will drive up the cost of housing, similar to other areas that have strict controls on housing rentals (New York...).

The next bill considered was SB-156, creating more rights for mobile home owners whose mobile home is in a mobile home park. And, once again, this bill puts new mandates in place that will drive up costs. The price of living in Colorado goes up again. This bill was pulled from the table to let the sponsor work through the many amendments that were in being contemplated.

16 - Again SB-110 was considered. I again offered my amendment that would have allowed parent to decide if their children are better off in the front seat, or the back seat. I called this part of the bill the "fatal flaw", for the state will be forcing parents to keep their children in the backseat, even when they know it will be more dangerous to keep them in the backseat. After much debate and several examples of when and how it can be more dangerous to keep children in the backseat, the amendment failed on a 17-17 vote.

An amendment to reduce the child restraint issue to a secondary offense did pass, thus police cannot stop someone if they suspect somebody is in violation of this law.

Finally, SB-110 passed second reading. It is a mixed bag for this bill, as amended. It increases the age requirements for special child restraints and puts them in the backseat, but it has been reduced to a secondary offense.

In Local Government HB-1118 passed, empowering counties to regulate unoccupied buildings. The bill will give counties the authority to require all such properties are "secured, maintained, and insured", with the power to put a lien on the property for any costs and penalties the county would charge to the property.

I visited 28 precinct caucuses tonight, in Loveland and Berthoud. Most had 15-25 people attending. It was a historic night as we are beginning the process that will revolutionize Colorado's politics and Colorado's future. Life and liberty still means something and we will prove it next November.

15 - In second reading we had two troubling bills that took most of the morning:

SB-110 was again considered. I ran an amendment to take away the requirement that children under eight be kept in the back seat. After extensive debate, where I, and others noted that often this will force an unsafe circumstance and parents should have the prerogative to decide what seat is best for their child, the amendment was still rejected by the sponsor. During the amendment discussion the bill was laid over until tomorrow.

HB-1008 mandates that medical insurance in Colorado may not have any gender rating differences. In committee testimony a principle proponent for the bill (from the National Women's Law Center) stated that they also believe that age rating should be abolished. That means that medical insurance would cost the same for a ten year old and it would for a 75 year old.

I opposed the bill. Mandates increase costs and this mandate could very well lead to the logical conclusion the National Women's Law Center has already admitted. The bill passed.

In the afternoon Judiciary committee went until late into the night. We had two bills.
The first, HB-1244, creates a little more prerogative for owners of incorporated medical clinics. Currently they can only be owned by licensed doctors. This bill allows their heirs to take ownership for a limited number of years if the doctor dies. The bill simply allows the obvious reality of who may end up owning an incorporated clinic if the owner dies.

The second, which took the most time, is to clarify river rafting laws. The dilemma we have is balancing this with the established property rights of adjacent land owners. I supported the amendments that provided more protection of property rights. Some passed, some did not, so I opposed the bill.

12 - In third reading several bills passed that, once again, increase costs and create more regulations.

SB-94 expands the 1% set-aside for art on capitol construction projects.
SB-170 regulates limited care medical clinics in retail outlets.
HB-1021 increases medical insurance costs by 1-7% (according to the sponsor) by mandating contraceptives and other "reproductive services" for individual insurance policies. An amendment that would have allowed those who consider contraceptives morally objectionable, or at least contraceptives they consider to be abortifacient to opt out of policies that pay for those services was rejected. This tyranny of the majority over freedom of conscience for the minority is, unfortunately, far too much the pattern for this year's legislature.

In second reading SB-110 originally would have made put even more mandates on child restraints in vehicles. It was amended to only require children under eight to be kept in a back seat of the car with a restraint system (infant, or child seat, or booster seat, depending on age). Note: it also stripped away the exceptions for height and weight. The bill was killed in a second reading vote, but then revived in an amendment to be considered again next week.

11 - In second reading I engaged in the debate of two bills. HB-1021 is one more mandate on medical insurance. This time it is "reproductive services" for individual policies. I have two concerns. First, it will increase premiums (1-7%, according to the sponsor). Second, it excludes abortion services, but it still requires contraceptives, including drugs and devices that kill the unborn child that has not yet implanted in the uterine wall (therefore, the "contraceptives" are far too often abortive). So, despite the claim that the bill does not require abortion services to be in medical policies, it does mandate many "contraceptives" that are, in fact, abortifacients.

The other bill regulates limited care medical clinics in retail outlets. This bill will increase the cost of medical services in Colorado and add regulations to an already highly regulated medical system. Both bills passed second reading.

10 - The only bill debated on second reading in the senate today was SB-94, expanding the requirement that capitol construction projects include a one-percent set aside of funds for art projects. I find the timing of this bill to be extraordinary (maybe not for this legislature, but by any other standard it is extraordinary). Why, in this, the most difficult of economic times are we requiring even more money to be set aside for art projects? Do we still have more money than we need for our essential infrastructure, or is this legislature simply not capable of ending its spending habits?

I ran an amendment that would have suspended the one-percent requirement when the legislature declares "a state fiscal emergency", which is contemplated in a resolution currently on our legislative calendar. My amendment was rejected, without one Democrat supporting the concept that we should, at least, not spend the extra one-percent when we are in a state fiscal emergency. Unbelievable, but another clear example of how hard it is to cut out the excesses of government spending.

In Judiciary Committee HB-1057 increases the fees sheriffs offices can charge for serving papers. As I understood the testimony, it will add more clarity to what those fees will be, but it will also double the overall payments to sheriffs offices, and therefore double the costs to the citizens. The bill passed on a party-line vote.

In State Affairs all of the Republican bills aimed at correcting the problems created by the car tax put in place last year were killed. It was not surprising that all of the Democrat bills passed. My bill, SB-44, was a part of this political power-play. SB-44 would have repealed the $100 late fees. I call this wholesale rejection of all Republicans bills submitted the March 10 Massacre.

9 - SB-76 has a title that sounds great: "Concerning Unreasonable Insurance Claims Settlement Practices." No one wants to see unreasonable insurance claims settlements. The bill prohibits insurance companies from paying any employee to "encourage the decision to deny, or delay the resolution of, a claim..." The problem is, where does the line lay between properly processing claims and what this bill prohibits? This is government micro-management of businesses. If any insurance company refuses to properly settle a claim, there are already remedies in place to hold them to their contract. More vague laws of this sort will not fix abuses, but it will increase the cost of doing business in Colorado and thus drive up costs for everyone.

8 - Today Amazon.com cancelled all affiliate business relationships with Colorado businesses because of the passage of HB-1193, the enforcement of internet sales taxes (see Feb. 8 and 10 discussions). Here we go. In our rush to extract as much money as possible out of everyone in Colorado, the state ends up hurting business, citizens and even government revenues.

In Judiciary Committee HB 1135 was heard. This bill is dealing with the "Dissolution of Marriage" portion of our law by replacing "spousal abuse" with "domestic violence" and includes violence or threatened violence to property or animals in the definition. It is probably appropriate to expand this concept of abuse to include violence of property and animals. However, the bill also inserts the definition of the adult relationship that is breaking up to what is called "intimate relationship." Hence, in the "Dissolution of Marriage" portion of our law we are not just dealing with married couples, but expanding this part of that law to include any "intimate relationship." I cannot support any law that essentially redefines the marriage relationship as any "intimate relationship."

5 - On Third reading three bills were considered. They all passed. The first, SB-26, created a new program in the Department of Higher Education, to track the college intentions of public school students. I voted against this new program.

The second bill was SB-28, creating a new unemployment insurance program for the partially employed (see the discussion on March 1). I joined the rest of the Republican caucus and opposed this new program as well.

The final bill was HB-1001, increasing the renewable energy standard from 20% to 30%. As was the case yesterday, the debate was long, and hard, and broke along party-lines. The main points I tried to make were, first, it is a budget busting bill and, second, there are distinct differences in our political philosophies. Republicans want to support and enable the free market to promote liberty and prosperity. The other party is committed to subsidies and mandates that shares the misery and distort market forces.

The final vote was party-line, again!

4 - HB-1001, raising the renewable energy requirement for the major utilities in Colorado from 20% to 30%, was heard in second reading. We spent most of the day debating this budget busting bill. The budgets it will bust are budgets for families, businesses and government, as it will drive up electricity costs higher for all. It will also distort the marketplace dynamics that could lead to the most effective development of renewable energy. The bill is touted by the proponents as a jobs bill, but in debate it came out that many of the jobs contemplated are from a requirement to have certified installers do all the work, including on homes. This prohibits homeowners from being allowed to install anything under this program without hiring a certified installer. Having successfully installed my own solar system on my home many years ago, without any certified installer, I argued against this heavy handed part of HB-1001.

If we would simply let the free market work, the most cost effective renewable energy solutions will be implemented at the best time. When the government makes the plan, the efficiencies that could be found with businesses going with what works best for their circumstances are co-opted by governmental central planning.

I, along with four other senators challenged the fiscal note, because it did not discuss the impact of higher electric rates on state government. We took an hour off to allow the fiscal note to be prepared, and then we resumed debate. Unfortunately the result was the fiscal note simply saying they did not know the impact it will have on state government budgets, but at least we posed the question.

On the Republican side of the isle we presented amendments all day, and not one was accepted. In lockstep the other side of the isle rejected everything, including an amendment I presented that would have simply firmed up the 2% cap on rate increases and eliminated the rate increases if the standard, or the interim targets are attained earlier than the required time-line.

When the dust settled over the day and the Senate floor, with absolutely no Republican amendments accepted, the bill passed on a party-line vote.

In Health and Human Services Committee HB-1008 was considered. This bill mandates that medical insurance in Colorado may not have any gender rating differences. In testimony a principle proponent for the bill (from the National Women's Law Center) stated that they also believe that age rating should be abolished. That means that medical insurance would cost the same for a ten year old and it would for a 75 year old.

I opposed the bill. Mandates increase costs and this mandate will also lead to the logical conclusion the National Women's Law Center has already admitted.

3 - SB-28 was brought back up for second reading consideration and passed.

In the Health and Human Services Committee SB-167 was passed on a party-line vote. SB-167 regulates medical clinics located in retail stores. It is one more mandate on medical services which presses prices that much higher.

2 - In the Local Government and Energy committee we heard HB-1001, increasing the renewable energy standard for major utilities from 20% to 30%. Despite the clear fact that this will drive electricity costs higher, it passed on a party-line vote.

1 - SB-28 creates a new unemployment insurance program for the partially employed. This means that an employer, instead of laying one person off can reduce the hours for several employees and they can share the unemployment insurance. This is a creative alternative, but it is also a duplication of the current part-time unemployment insurance program. After extensive second reading debate the bill was laid over for further debate on a later date.















































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February

26 - Today we voted on 48 bills in third reading. All passed. Thirty-one were the budget balancing supplementals. Most retracted the budget to some degree, but far too much was taken from cash funds which were collected for other purposes, (like the waste tire disposal fund), or the budgets were propped up with one-time Federal funds that were created through more Federal debt, or they were funded with the new taxes passed last week.

I supported many of the bills, because they were trimming back a little bit, but I still regret that we are not really living within our means. We are still using every trick in the book to spend at the maximum possible rate, and we are stealing from cash funds, increasing taxes, and borrowing from the Federal debt. Only when we build our budgets no bigger than our legitimate revenue will we be building a solid foundation for a prosperous state.

24 - Today the Senate debated the "negative supplementals," balancing the budget for this year's budget. There were 31 bills. I ran an amendment to the Department of Corrections bill, HB-1298, which would have rejected the governor's early release from prison program. Predictably, it was defeated on essentially party-lines (the only exception being the Republican JBC member).

Another bill was vigorously debated, with attempts to amend: HB-1327. This bill raids cash funds, again. This time taking nearly $88,000,000 from designated cash funds. The bill passed second reading

In third reading SB-81 passed, creating another program, this time a task force to study food at schools. HB-1055 allows the Department of Revenue to charge collection fees on top of debts owed from taxpayers (see discussion on the 19th). HB-1055 passed.

In second reading SB-72 passed, requiring all potato growers to use certified seed under most circumstances, and requiring all potato growers to report all of their potato growing activity of one acre or more to the Department of Agriculture. I am troubled by this significant increase of mandatory regulation in agriculture, and I expressed my concerns in second reading debate. The bill passed second reading.


22 - SJR-15 recommends every private 401k in the state invest in renewable energy companies. The resolution has no binding authority, but my confidence in the Legislature giving good investment advice is not very high. The resolution passed the on essentially a party-line vote. However, when the House got the resolution, the Republicans made the argument again and several Democrats saw the logic and joined the Republicans to defeat the resolution.

19 - On second reading HB-1055 came up again. This bill allows the Department of Revenue to charge the collection costs for debt collection, on top of the taxes and interest and penalty fees owed. When a private business turns over a bill to a debt collector, the collection costs come out of the money collected on the debt. HB-1055 gives the Department of Revenue much greater authority than the private sector, and it is more punitive to the taxpayer than I can agree with. The bill passed second reading.

18 - Another program in the Health and Human Services Committee, this time in SB-153. This bill creates the "Behavioral Health Transformation Council." The council is given a "modest" charge: to work toward "a comprehensive, efficient, effective, and integrated behavioral health system" for the state of Colorado. At its very best this program will simply coordinate overlapping mental health services in the state. At its worst I am reminded of Orwell's "1984," Huxley's "Brave New World," or Lewis' "That Hideous Strength."

When I asked what limits this bill places on the council so that it will not develop into a system that would be controlling and possibly coercive in future years. The answer given was not very reassuring, for it amounted mere assurances that we would never do that because our intentions are pure. Okay, but what about in future years, when the program is fully implemented and "a comprehensive, efficient, effective, and integrated behavioral health system" is in place. Can we always trust everyone to have the best of intentions, especially when they have full, unchecked control over a system that is designed to "modify behavior"?

Bottom line: do we trust government to always be the wise, beneficent, and appropriate manager of our mental health or do we consider this to be an over-reaching of the role of government in our lives? Despite my concerns and comments, SB-153 passed.

One more program was introduced (SB-126), raising $200,000 in fees levied on manufactures of drugs, medical devices and medical supplies and the bill will require those manufacturers to publicly report all financial ties with all Colorado health practitioners (gifts, samples, financial interests, etc.) to the Secretary of State. Also fines are established for non-compliance of no less than $1,000, up to $1,000,000.

The bill passed on a party-line vote. It is ironic to note that the very same committee that fully trusts the government to create a comprehensive behavioral health system that could manage the mental health of all Coloradans, is fully willing to slap tight reporting regulations on the private transactions between doctors and medical supply companies.

My bill, SB-160, creates a Medicaid voucher for older Coloradans on Medicaid. The bill is totally optional, would give Medicaid recipients full authority to choose their medical care and could save the state millions of dollars every year. The fiscal note, curiously, said the bill would increase the costs for the Medicaid program, despite the fact that it saves the state 30% of costs for all recipients in the program.

If 1000 people were in the program, and if their regular Medicaid support would have been $6000/month (an easy number to see if one is in a nursing home) then the state would save $24,000,000 a year ($12 million for state funds and $12 million for Federal funds). If it were 5000 people it would be a $120,000,000 total savings!

The Association of American Retired Persons (AARP) opposed the bill, none-the-less, it passed on a 5 to 2 vote.


17 - SB-106 creates a state sponsored Food Systems Advisory Council. Before the vote I observed to the sponsor, Senator Bacon, that the state already established a state agency to improve Colorado's food system, in 1860. Today we call it Colorado State University's School of Agriculture and Extension service. We do not need another group to reinvent this wheel. On a party-line vote the Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill.

15 - Most remarkable today was the hearing on SB-89 in the Judiciary Committee, "concerning the creation of religious bills of rights for individuals connected to public schools." This bill, which I am a co-sponsor of, developed into an opportunity for the left to rail against Christians in the public square. The point of the bill is to clarify the legal religious rights of faculty, students, and staff in public schools. The opponents remind me of Hamlet's words: "Me thinks the lady doth protest too much." Their opposition to simply identifying and communicating the religious rights of citizens in public school was remarkable. The bill died on a party-line vote.

10 - The bills debated in second reading on the 8th were considered in third reading today. The debate lasted all day, ending at about 5:00 PM. For all but the final bill (HB-1193) I spoke of the unconstitutional aspect of every bill, for they are increasing taxes without a vote of the people. HB-1193 is the internet sales tax bill. This bill is not a tax increase as much as it is a tax enforcement bill, but it is probably the biggest bill in the lot, as it would significantly change interstate sales tax policy, if it were ever to be fully implemented. My discussion at the mic was primarily concerning the dysfunctional nature of this bill. After all of the inevitable court challenges and what I expect will be a wholesale lack of enforcement, I doubt if this bill will ever be fully implemented. No Republican supported any of these tax increasing bills all day.

After the floor work, we went into committee meetings. In State Affairs my voter registration drive accountability bill, SB-104 was killed on a party-line vote. In addition, Sen. Renfroe's bill (SB-95) to remove Larimer and Weld counties from the soon to be enforced enhanced emissions testing program was killed on a party-line vote.

8 - Here are the bills we debated, all costing the taxpayers millions more every year. First we finished the debate on HB-1191, the candy and soda pop tax bill. I submitted an amendment to take this to a vote of the people, as the constitution requires. The amendment failed, the bill passed.

HB-1194 was then debated. This bill taxes "non-essential consumables" for restaurants. That means the napkins, straws, and other containers are taxed when the restaurant buys them, and then taxed again when sold to the customer. I brought my lunch to the microphone and asked, "what will be taxed twice?" I held up the napkin, the straw, and spoon, the cup holding an ice-cream drink, the paper wrapping the hamburger, the paper bag that held it all. The bill's sponsor had no answer. He did not know. none-the-less, the bill passed with no Republican voting for it.

HB-1196 removes a tax credit for the purchase of hybrid vehicles. It is another illegal tax, for the Colorado Constitution does not allow such an increase in government revenues without a vote of the people. I moved an amendment to refer this bill to the people. It was rejected, again with all Republicans supporting the amendment. Then, with no Republicans voting for the bill, the bill was passed.

HB-1199 makes it more expensive for big businesses to operate in Colorado by limiting what operating losses they can deduct from their state income taxes. I attempted to amend the bill by referring it to a vote of the people. The amendment was rejected and the bill passed, with no Republicans supporting this anti-business, anti-jobs bill.

HB-1195 taxes agriculture. I argued from the perspective of the dairy industry, who will be hit hard by this bill. Dairies have been stressed to the limit by other economic dynamics already. This bill will be one more load on an industry that can least afford it. I also submitted an amendment to take this to the people for a vote, as the Colorado Constitution requires. The amendment was defeated (party-line) and the bill passed by the same groups.

HB-1192 levies a tax on additional software products. Once again, new taxes during a recession... bad idea. My amendment to take it to the people for a vote was rejected.

HB-1190 taxes energy use of industry. This will really hurt the steel industry in Colorado. How many more taxes can we stand? My amendment to refer it to the people was rejected, along party-lines.

HB-1193 requires out of state retailers who do not collect sales taxes for sales into Colorado to still report to the Colorado Department of Revenue. In addition, it also requires them to send first class letters to all purchasers in Colorado. This runs very close to violating, or in fact does violate the U.S. Constitution's due process provisions and interstate commerce clause. This bill also gives the Department of Revenue subpoena power over any out of state retailer who they suspect might not be complying with this Colorado law. On this bill I sought to remove the safety clause to give the citizens an opportunity to seek a referendum vote on the bill. I did not make it a direct referendum, as it is not a new tax, as much as it is a new enforcement mechanism. In the spirit of TABOR, the people deserve a chance to directly review this bill with their vote. My amendment was rejected (like all the others) and the bill passed.

Throughout this big tax increase battle I repeatedly noted the irony. As the Democrats raise taxes to find more revenue, they are in fact cutting back the economic engine that creates the revenue they are desperately trying to find. None-the-less they march forward with their lockstep march in the wrong direction.

The Senate finally ended the debate at 11:27 PM.

5 - On second reading debate of the Democrat "dirty dozen" bills of tax increases began. We went all day and made it through one bill, HB-1189, taxing direct mail advertising materials. I submitted an amendment calling for a vote of the people. It was defeated. The bill passed with no Republicans supporting the bill. The Senate continued the debate on the tax increases until it recessed for the day, and take up the debate again on Monday, the 9th.

4 - In Senate Health and Human Services SB-68 was considered. This bill modifies the standards required for the Colorado Works Program (Colorado's welfare system). Included is a removal of the immunization requirements for children. I amended the bill to also include the exemptions from immunizations currently in Colorado law (25-4-903 C.R.S.), similar to what we did to SB-56 yesterday.

In HHS SB-6 removes the fees for birth and death certificates for many indigent people. Sounds good, but it also will increase the fees for all others who need these certificates. This is a clear example of redistribution of wealth through the force of government. It also shows how fees can be twisted into taxes, for now the fee for the certificates is not only for the cost of providing them, but also for providing them for others.

3 - SJR-004 was brought back up. It was again clearly stated that the new Federal requirements for Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" will drive the costs up, probably by 20-25%. We cannot afford such excesses and should stand up to the Obama Administration's unreasonable, budget busting requirements. The resolution passed on a strict party-line vote.

Today the Senate begins to debate the "dirty dozen" tax increase bills. The bills will be heard in Finance today and tomorrow, with the floor debates starting on Friday.

In Senate Health and Human Services we herd SB-56. This bill creates a statewide standard for immunization information provided to parents of public school students. We were able to amend the bill to include the exemptions from immunizations currently in Colorado law (25-4-903 C.R.S.)

2 - SJR-004 was considered. This is the annual approval of water development projects from around the state. It is usually approved by all, but not this year. The Federal government has put a requirement that all water projects be built under the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act, requiring higher labor costs, even for projects already under contract! This is just like Federal highway funding, which drives the costs of road construction at least 10% higher than what competitive labor costs would be. Because of this controversy, the measure was laid over until tomorrow.

In the Local Government and Energy committee SB-97 passed, concerning County Home Rule Charter Commissions. Currently it takes two votes of the people to convert a county to home rule, which gives the commissioners more power and control over the citizens in the county, one at the beginning of the process and one at the end. SB-97 replaces the first vote of the people with a ruling from the commission and public hearings. This bill partially disenfranchises the people.

1 - In second reading SB-042 was passed: "Concerning prior consent for release of financial information to facilitate investigations of financial exploitation of at-risk adults." That means that banks would provide consent forms which account holders could sign to allow a bank to turn over account information to law enforcement, if they suspect somebody is taking advantage of the account holder. On the surface this looks like a good idea. It is voluntary, and addresses the problem of unscrupulous family members and others who the account holder may trust who steals money from bank accounts they have been given access to.

The concern I have, and expressed at the mic, was the strong possibility of banks, to protect their liability, of turning too many situations over to the authorities and law enforcement becoming regular monitors of any bank account activities that are considered out of the ordinary, in the bank's opinion. It may catch a few more problems, but at what cost to our privacy and autonomy? I also noted that in committee some citizens called for this authority to be mandatory, not voluntary.









































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January

29- The media didn't make this the top story of the week, but under the gold dome it certainly was the main event as the Democrat majority introduced in the House several bills illegally increasing many taxes. The entry for the 27th covers the first round of the battle. House Finance then heard the rest of the bills on Friday, spending another six and a half hours in committee. Finally the House met for second reading on the bills, and that lasted until after midnight! I applaud the entire Republican House caucus. Despite the fact that the Democrats are using their majority to drive all of these taxes down our throats, the House Republicans stood shoulder-to-shoulder defending the people of Colorado.

These bills have been called tax breaks for businesses. That is a gross mischaracterization.

First, they are changing long established tax policies and clearly constitute tax increases, which Article Ten, Section Twenty of the Colorado Constitution does not allow without a vote of the people. House Republicans submitted amendments on all of the bills to require a vote of the people and the Democrats defeated them all.

Secondly, some bills are clearly aimed at a particular industry or business practice, but all will have a direct impact on the people of Colorado. Higher prices and lost jobs will hurt everyone. Some bills are direct taxes on the people, like what could be called the sugar tax (HB-1191), adding sales taxes to soda pop and candy, or HB-1192, adding sales tax to software sales, or HB-1193, taxing internet sales.

The bottom line is this: these are illegal tax increases at a time when the people can least afford it. I wish the majority party would spend this much energy on cutting the budget, rather than figuring out ways to dig deeper into our pockets.

27 - In the Senate Health and Human Services committee I heard testimony for several hours on a medical marijuana bill. I am not sure it should be reported as a negative or positive step for freedom, but it has become a significant issue which should be noted in this column. The Colorado constitution establishes the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This bill creates some of the systems that are needed for state oversight of this unique constitutional provision. This bill, SB-109 passed out of committee after several amendments. I voted yes.

In the Senate State Affairs committee my bill, SB-44, to repeal the late fee penalties from the car tax, which was put on the law books last year, was heard. The bill was pulled from the table after testimony, to await the progress of some bills on the same subject in the House. It would be nice to think the bill has some hope of passage in State Affairs, but had it been a serious consideration, the bill would have been sent to a committee that deals with taxes and fees or transportation. My video comments on the bill can be found here.

Over in the House about a dozen bills removing certain tax exemptions (read: tax increases) were scheduled to be heard in committee. The committee went until 3:00 AM and they only worked through seven of the bills. All amendments to refer the tax increases to the people were rejected on party-line votes.

26 - Two of the governor's appointments were debated on the Senate floor; the executive director for the Department of Natural Resources because of the governor's policy against the oil and gas industry, the executive director for the Department of Public Health and Environment because of the governor's policy on carbon dioxide restrictions. Both appointments were passed on pretty much party-line votes.

25 - Today was Military Appreciation Day. The morning was spent in honoring all of our men and women in uniform and particularly those who gave their lives in the line of duty.

In the afternoon the House and Senate Judiciary committees met together to hear several reports from various departments. Two points to note:

The Chief of the Colorado State Patrol stated that alcohol is a factor in about 40% of all traffic fatalities.

Secondly, the attorney general, John Suthers said that if there is no check to the medical marijuana system in Colorado we can expect 100,000 resgistered users in about six months.

22 - The Senate had very little business today. There was a resolution encouraging people to help with the relief effort for Haiti and commending the organizations that are currently working hard in Haiti. I spoke in support of the resolution on the Senate floor.

At noon I went to the Rally for life on the West steps of the capitol. This was one of the largest rallies for life at the capitol, with about 1500 people attending. Several members of the House and Senate (including me) publicly endorsed this year's Personhood Amendment, which Colorado Right to Life is trying to gather enough signatures for to get on the ballot.

One speaker in particular stood out at the rally. She was intelligent, attractive, a wife, mother, and attorney who defends life in court. She is also a remarkable example of why abortions in the case of rape are still wrong, for her life began when her mother was raped at knifepoint. Had abortion been legal she would not have lived. Today, how many people just like her never live to their potential because of abortion?


21 - In a joint Senate and House committee meeting, Tom Plant, director of the Governor's Energy Office (GEO), reported on his department's activities. Their three year budget is about $180,000,000, virtually all from Federal funds. The exclusive focus is on renewable energy programs; rebates, weatherization programs, renewable energy education programs, etc..

When I asked Director Plant about pursuing nuclear energy solutions, he deferred his office's attention to the matter, citing the time, expense and the overall large scale of such projects. It is disappointing to hear that the Governor's Energy Office is ignoring this most significant of energy possibilities for the people of Colorado.

The other problem I have with the GEO is that its policies are based on the unfounded assumption that manmade carbon dioxide emissions are the problem that must be controlled through taxes, subsidies, and mandates (global warming issue).

To many it seems harmless, or even productive to promote renewable energy in Colorado, but the GEO is founded on the premises of the governor's climate change policy ("The Governors Energy Office (GEO) helps implement the Governors Climate Action Plan and the New Energy Economy goals at the utility scale." - GEO website), and most of their work involves taxes, subsidies, and mandates. This policy is a significant threat to our state and nation's future prosperity, and therefore the well being of our citizens.

In our era of oceans of Federal red ink, and ever shrinking state funds, the GEO's $180,000,000 could be put to better use.

19 - After an extended weekend the legislature again met on Tuesday.

Sponsored by the Independence Institute, a rally was held on the west steps of the capitol urging Congress to back off from their plan to force Colorado citizens into their healthcare program. This was a pro-Tenth Amendment and anti- Obama health-care rally. Hundreds of people attended and I was given an opportunity to speak to the rally.

In the Local Government committee a great deal of time was spent discussing increasing the salaries for county employees. A task force of county officials were reporting back on a study they were charged to conduct. What I found incredible was their insistence that we proceed with the increases, despite the current economic circumstances. I should hope that all such considerations be tabled this year and we spend more time looking at ways to trim back budgets.

14 - First SB 36 passes the Senate third reading. I explained my no vote (along with 6 others) in the terms of not wanting to add to the $12 trillion Federal debt and not wanting to add than many more mandates and strings (I called them thick ropes) to our schools. Later in the day the House went through the same routine on SB 36 as we did on Wednesday.

13 - Opening day for the session. Before the morning is over SB 36 is introduced, fast tracking a study of public school teacher effectiveness. The goal of accountability is laudable, but the additional cost at this time is not justifiable, nor is the prospect of more Federal oversight of our schools. In addition, during floor debate in the afternoon, Senator Heath says that this is part of a hoped for $400,000,000 Federal grant for Colorado schools (part of the Race to the Top program). Washington D.C. is already drowning in red ink. This is too much to saddle future generations with.

After two committee approvals SB 36 passes second reading.











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