Liddick: Clown shoes needed at State Capitol
April 9, 2009
Its time to measure the Colorado General Assembly for clown shoes. A review of the legislative low points last week confirms that our solons have become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barnum & Bailey. Theres no other explanation.Consider the Open Borders Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 170. Sponsored by Sen. Chris Romer of Denver, this bill proposes to give in-state tuition to illegal aliens.Justified by the weepy argument that we shouldnt deny in-state tuition to children whose parents brought them here illegally, the bill was headed for a dead end in the Senate Appropriations Committee until chairman Sen. Abel Tapia rescheduled a vote to take advantage of the absence of a Republican member who was dealing with a family emergency. Democrats Tapia and Romer might regard this example of sleaze as a clever maneuver, but they ought to think again. This sort of back-door tactic only highlights their fear that the bill will not stand scrutiny in the full light of day.The primary problem with this legislative foul ball is that it encourages and subsidizes lawbreaking and providing rewards for illegal behavior only assures one will have more of it. It is also politically duplicitous. Although polls have consistently shown that Coloradans do not want more illegal immigration, Democrats are eager to pander to a minority they consider vital to their political future. SB 170 allows them to do so by flouting the law.It will be expensive. Supporters of the measure insist -through arcane calculation that it will result in a revenue gain for Colorado. They are either unable to read federal law, or they think it akin to Colorado statutes, which can be ignored by the Legislature with the connivance of a like-minded State Supreme Court. But the law of the land provides that no illegal alien shall receive benefits denied to citizens so opening the doors of Colorados universities to illegals will also allow any U.S. citizen to attend a Colorado university at in-state rates. A conservative estimate of the annual loss to the state university system ranges in hundreds of millions of dollars.Then theres the Tony Soprano Pay Up Or Else Money Grab, in which the Joint Budget Committee decided to cut $300 million from Colorados higher education budget in order to force Pinnacol Assurance, a quasi-government agency, to transfer $500 million to state coffers. For those unfamiliar with the agency, Pinnacol was founded in 1915 to provide guaranteed workers compensation insurance to employers. Its money comes from the business community, not from the government, making this a raid on private funds by the state government. Not that Rep. Don Marostica, who has been leading the attack on Pinnacol, is bothered by that: Its up to the people in higher ed, he says, to see if they can get Pinnacol to transfer the money. Otherwise, theyre out $300 million.Cough up the dough, or the kid gets it. Nice.Note that this shameless example of extortion comes courtesy of the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision which held that a tax is not a tax unless the Legislature decides it is, and cancellation of a tax break or tax exemption which results in a rise in revenue is not a tax increase. Hold onto your wallets, folks. This is going to be ugly.Finally, the Trial Lawyers Full Employment Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 246, that allows homeowners who sue builders for construction defects to collect 6 percent interest on any judgment not from the date the claim was initiated, but from the date the home was purchased. This amount could be substantial, since many claims are filed years after the date of sale; perhaps that is why trial lawyers are exhibiting an unhealthy interest in seeing the bill passed. After all, their compensation often depends on the size of settlement and who would ever object to these folks taking care of their own?Of course SB 246 threatens residential builders in Colorado with enormous losses, and will undoubtedly result in substantial increases in their liability insurance rates, but theyre only businesses, right? Theyll just have to pay up. Except they wont. You will, through higher home prices and higher unemployment, as construction firms reconsider doing business in Colorado a process already under way for several companies involved in mixed-use construction. That the bill is just what the doctor ordered for Colorado, given the parlous state of our construction industry and housing market, goes without saying.All that was only this week. So call your elected officials and tell them what you think of their efforts. While youre at it, ask them what their shoe sizes are.And what colors theyd like their clown shoes to be.Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.