Morgan Liddick: The good, the bad and the ugly in this year’s Legislature
And On the Right
It’s that time of year again, folks. As the legislative session grinds to a halt, let’s take a look at what’s been going on under Denver’s golden dome. We can call this one “Good Bills, Bad Bills, and the Terminally Weird ” General Assembly Edition.”
First, the price tag. For the upcoming fiscal year, HB 1037 appropriates just less than $31 million for operations. Slightly less than $12 million go directly to the House and Senate; another ten million are divided between the Legislative Council and the Committee on legal Services, funding more than 50 positions each. The rest is parted out over a variety of operations.
Let’s see what this kind of money buys, beginning with the state budget. The big news here is the Governor’s nod toward higher education: $65.8 million. But before we get to back-slapping and high-fiving over Boss Ritter’s rediscovery of the University system, we should note that another $76.8 million was dedicated to raises for state employees. The difference is understandable: institutions of higher learning don’t vote.
On to the good, beginning with HB 1039 which would require a photo ID for “election-related purposes.” The bill names a great number of possible credentials, from the mundane Colorado driver’s license to a FAA-issued pilot’s license, to a valid Medicaid or student ID card with photo. A reasonable requirement to protect the integrity of the electoral process, as the U.S. Supreme Court has noted.
The Senate addresses high school graduation requirements in SB 023, which seems to fit with the abandonment of CSAP for the ACT. This bill directs the State Board of Education to establish minimum standards for a high school diploma, which Colorado school boards “shall meet or exceed” in determining graduation requirements. Just imagine: A bill requiring that high school graduates from Cherry Creek have the same basic proficiencies as those from Silt. What a concept.
In the “bad” category, we have SB 013, sporting an 18-line mind-numbing title the upshot of which is, “We don’t care what the original purpose was, we’re taking money from the mineral severance trust fund, and spending it as we dam’ well please.” For all you folks living in Northwest Colorado, the giant sucking sound you hear is money from the Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety being siphoned off to pay for Wildlife and Parks.
And there’s HB 1023 “Criminalizing the Possession of Graffiti Tools,” which is so vague one could probably be arrested for walking out of a Home Depot with a bagful of colored chalk and cans of spray paint. Honestly …
SB 244, a recent addition, proposes tacking additional “fees” onto auto registration and car rentals, to fund road-and-bridge repairs. This bill’s problem is dishonesty. Calling a tax increase a “fee” doesn’t change its nature, but it does contribute to the sense of cynicism about politics.
I agree, our transportation infrastructure needs repair desperately; but those driving the process should advocate for these repairs and for the tax increases necessary to fund them, rather than engaging in a ploy that fools no one.
Governor Ritter’s initiative to tax Colorado’s oil and gas producers to fund scholarships is similarly misdirected. Although our institutions of higher education are in as much need of funding as are our roads, the governor has chosen the risky step of increasing taxes on those who search out and develop energy sources in Colorado in order to fund … individual scholarships.
This may not make a lot of sense until one realizes that about 60 percent of Colorado’s students may be eligible for these transfer payments. And if you count their families, that’s a lot of registered voters, yes?
Finally, the weird. This one’s mostly behavioral, and no, I don’t mean well-paid adults arguing about the size of the state seal or making the Western Painted Turtle the state reptile, although those are pretty good.
Instead, consider SB 049, making it a misdemeanor to keep a firearm which can be accessed by a minor who does so and then causes “death or serious bodily injury to himself, herself, or another person …” This is evidently a product of the “people don’t kill people, guns kill people” school of thought. Fortunately, it has yet to find sponsorship in the House.
Or SB 015, governing the disposition of Cemetery District monies. Is this really a serious problem in Colorado?
There is also HB 1042, which exempts those practicing “Animal Massage” from needing a veterinary license ” provided they do not practice surgery, prescribe drugs, and have a degree in “… animal massage from an institution recognized by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.”
So go out and rub those cows to your heart’s content, folks. The Legislature is looking out for you.
I’ll sleep better tonight, knowing that.
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