BREAKING: Judge Rules In Favor Of Lobato Case Plaintiffs

UPDATE #3: Ed News Colorado:

“We think it’s a great day for the children of Colorado,” said a jubilant Kathleen Gebhardt, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, who was giving a presentation on the lawsuit at the Colorado Association of School Boards convention when she got the news. “We’re calling on the legislature to step up immediately and fix the problem.”

Mike Saccone, spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, said, “We are going to consult with the governor in the coming days on this decision. However, if you read the opinion, the judge clearly invited an appeal and, at this point, an appeal is likely. The attorney general is disappointed in the ruling but not surprised. It was clearly very tempting for the judge to wade into what is a public policy debate.”

The lawsuit did not include a dollar figure or ask Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport to order the state to pay up or provide a specific amount. Instead, it asked the court to decide whether the state school finance system fails to meet constitutional requirements and if the legislature should be ordered to come up with a new one…

Studies done for the plaintiffs estimate that “full funding” of Colorado schools could cost $2 to $4 billion more a year than the state spends now. Such increases would wreck the state budget and decimate other programs say Gov. John Hickenlooper, a defendant, and Suthers, who oversaw the state’s defense.

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UPDATE #2: A meaty but by no means comprehensive excerpt from Judge Sheila Rappaport’s massive tome of a ruling follows–read the whole decision here, and get comfortable because it’s going to take awhile. Please liberally post excerpts of your own (it’s public domain after all) from any part of the decision you find noteworthy. And the bottom line on page 182:

The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. [Pols emphasis] These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”

Read it again. This really is that big.

—–

UPDATE: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

In a landmark case over education funding, a judge has sided with a group of parents and school districts and ruled that the state of Colorado is underfunding its schools, possibly by billions of dollars…

The decision will likely be appealed by the state, which said before the trial began that a ruling for the plaintiffs would force Colorado to direct roughly $4 billion in additional funding toward schools, leaving little money in the general fund to adequately fund other needs like transportation, corrections and health care.

The state already spends close to half its general fund on education, although per pupil funding has been in steady decline over the last decade with Colorado now spending $2,000 less per student than the national average.

—–

Details coming: a few minutes ago, Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the landmark Lobato vs. Colorado lawsuit filed by rural school districts–which charged that public education funding in the state of Colorado is not meeting the “thorough and uniform” test prescribed in the state constitution. Though subject to appeal, this is a major development that could well result in sweeping changes to Colorado fiscal policy.

We’ll update shortly with coverage and statements.

Page 158: The State introduced testimony from several members of the State Board of Education and other witnesses for its case-in-chief. However, the Court notes that much of the State’s testimony actually bolstered Plaintiffs’ arguments in this case, and certain other contrary testimony lacked factual support…

Page 176: The Court has found that in 1993 the General Assembly adopted HB 93-1313 that committed the State to develop and implement standards-based education as the anchor to the educational accountability system. HB 93-1313 was the foundation for the transformation of public education in Colorado. In 1994, the General Assembly adopted the Public School Finance Act of 1994 (the PSFA), the centerpiece of the school finance system. The PSFA established the basic funding mechanism for school district general fund (operating) revenues that has been in place since then. From this contemporaneous starting point, the two systems, which were not aligned to begin with, have radically diverged.

The following findings are essentially undisputed: When the PSFA was enacted, the General Assembly set the statewide base funding amount by working backwards from the total funding that it intended to appropriate and carrying forward preexisting school district expenditure levels. There was no effort to analyze the relationship to the actual costs to provide an education of any particular quality. The failure to do any cost analysis and to provide for funding based on such an analysis demonstrates the irrationality of the existing school finance system. Montoy v. State of Kansas, 102 P.3d 1160, 1164 (KS 2005).

In the past two years, the General Assembly, through the implementation of a negative factor, has actually decreased public school funding by what now totals nearly one billion dollars. The amount of the budget cuts and the method by which they were implemented are completely unrelated to the costs of providing the mandated standards-based education system. The budget cuts have aggravated the irrationality of the finance system by arbitrarily reducing funding with no educational rationale whatsoever…

Recent amendments to the standards-based education system have substantially increased the costs of public education. In 2008 the General Assembly adopted CAP4K, that mandated a complete revision of state content standards, programs of instruction, and assessments all aligned to accomplish universal student proficiency and postsecondary and workforce readiness. This was followed in 2009 by the Education Accountability Act that established accreditation standards for school districts based upon meeting the goals of CAP4K and imposed sanctions up to and including district closure for failure to meet those goals within fixed time frames. Most recently, the 2010 effective teachers amendments (SB 10-191) imposed new teacher and principal evaluation systems founded in student growth as measured by achievement on CSAP and other standardized tests…

The evidence also establishes that funding for categorical programs and for capital construction are completely unrelated to the actual costs of providing the services and facilities necessary to meet the mandate of the Education Clause. Capital construction funding in particular is now and has always been totally dependent on highly unequal local property tax wealth. For many school districts, particularly those in rural, poverty areas this method of funding capital needs has proved to be fundamentally inadequate, inequitable, and irrational. The recently adopted BEST program provides limited assistance, but is not sufficient to overcome generations of statutory underfunding. The deplorable conditions of numerous rural schools bears witness to this proposition.

The Court therefore concludes that the entire system of public school finance, including the PSFA, categorical programs, and capital construction funding, is not rationally related to the mandate of the Education Clause.

Page 177: The public school finance system falls short of providing sufficient funding to meet the mandate of the Education Clause and standards-based education.

Defendants contend that it is not possible to analyze the costs of meeting the mandates of the Education Clause. If that argument were accepted, the Education Clause and the directives of the Supreme Court would be meaningless. To the contrary, the standards-based education system provides a comprehensively detailed model of education standards, programs, assessments, and achievement goals. The costs of meeting those mandates can be rationally estimated.

Page 178: Due to lack of access to adequate financial resources, the Plaintiff School Districts and the school districts where Individual Plaintiffs reside (collectively, the “School Districts”) are unable to provide the educational programs, services, instructional materials, equipment, technology, and capital facilities necessary to assure all children an education that meets the mandates of the Education Clause and standards-based education.

The Court finds that due to the irrational funding system and significant underfunding, rural and urban poverty School Districts are unable to hire, compensate, and retain effective, highly qualified teachers and administrators; to provide the curriculum, technology, textbooks, and other instructional materials necessary to meet student performance expectations; and to construct, maintain, renovate school buildings and facilities. Many of these School Districts are relegated to obsolete textbooks and materials, lack of necessary computers and internet connectivity, and dilapidated and unsafe classroom and other facilities. These School Districts have been for many years and are today unable to respond effectively to the changing demands of standards-based education.

Page 182: The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”

Txting and Driving: Is There a Policy Solution?

This morning, I spent a couple minutes on David Sirota’s morning show weighing in on the topic of texting and driving. As many of you know, I was hospitalized by a distracted driver a couple of weeks ago, so I was more than eager to participate in the discussion.

Here’s the podcast if you want to listen to the whole discussion.

I mentioned that texting and driving is illegal in Colorado as of the summer of 2010. But, as I have said consistently since, I doubt that the ban on texting and driving will make much real impact on the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers. Because just like the “left lane is for passing only” law, the general public is either ignorant of its existence or willfully ignores it.

More after the jump…

And the issue extends far beyond texting. On my way to work today, for instance, I saw a woman using the mirror to apply makeup on the highway at 65mph. At that speed, you travel the length of a football field every three seconds, so your eyes should never leave the road. Yet, at any given moment, drivers on every road are eating, or texting, or doing any number of other activities that take their attention away from the road in front of them, often resulting in collisions.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation http://www.dot.gov/

…cell phone distractions cause some 600,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, and 3,000 deaths. This works out to more than 1,643 crashes, 904 injuries, and 8 deaths each day.

Full DOT statistics about distracted driving here.

So my question to you all is: Do you think there is a public policy solution to this problem, or does it have to be a cultural shift, similar to Denver’s water conservation efforts? (“This is how much you use… This is how much you need”)

In other words, is there anything the government can (or should) do about the problem of distracted driving?

Endnotes on “Fruity” Math


“Economic expert” Eric Fruits. (photo via Twitter)

The latest installment in the amusing story of conservative economist Dr. Eric Fruits, who has watched kind of haplessly as a study he authored on the economic impact of Colorado’s Proposition 103 is subjected to enthusiastic misinterpretation by local conservatives. Bloomberg reported this weekend:

Proposition 103 would increase the income-tax rate to 5 percent from 4.63 percent and the sales and use levy to 3 percent from 2.9 percent for five years, according to the Legislative Council, a nonpartisan research arm of the Colorado General Assembly. Supporters of the measure gathered 142,000 signatures to place it on the ballot…

About $200 million in cuts in the 2012 fiscal year forced some of the state’s 178 school districts to fire teachers, suspend textbook purchases, institute transportation fees, freeze salaries, lower graduation requirements and reduce the school week.

In Jefferson County, the state’s largest district with about 86,000 students across 780 square miles, administrators trimmed almost $40 million from this year’s budget. About 206 teachers, support staff and administrators lost their jobs as a result. The district also reduced funding for capital projects by $3 million, closed two elementary schools and increased class sizes.

“If Proposition 103 doesn’t pass, we will be looking at another $35 million in cuts,” said Cindy Stevenson, the district’s superintendent, in a telephone interview. “We’re beyond the bone.”

…Raising taxes over five years would slow Colorado’s economy and lead to 27,000 fewer people working by 2016, according to a study by Eric Fruits, president of Economics International Corp. in Portland, Oregon. [Pols emphasis] He was hired by the Colorado-based Common Sense Policy Roundtable, a research organization with several business leaders on its board.

“Raising taxes is always going to be like throwing an anchor behind you,” Fruits said. “It will always create a drag on the economy.”

Now the first thing you should notice is Dr. Fruits’ bottom line–to be distinguished from the absurd figure of “over 119,000 jobs lost” persistently bandied about by the GOP Senate Minority and various right-wing pundits, all allegedly quoting the same study. As we’ve patiently explained over and over and now Dr. Fruits confirms in this story by citing the “correct” figure, the wild prediction of over a hundred thousand “jobs lost” came about by way of a boneheaded arithmetic error–locals erroneously compounding numbers from Dr. Fruits’ charts.

We realize that once you deal with this math error, you’re still left with the claim from Dr. Fruits that restoring 1999 sales and income tax rates in Colorado–from 2.9% to 3.0% and 4.63% to 5% respectively–would result in “27,000 fewer jobs,” or for that matter a single “lost job.” It’s not our intention to take issue with Dr. Fruits’ dense formulas for determining the number of “jobs lost” if these tax rates are restored, since it’s generally a mistake to get into the formulaic weeds with conservative economists. It’s where they trap and eat their skeptics.

We’d simply ask you this: is Colorado better off now than when these taxes were cut in 1999?

The Primary Goal for the State of Colorado

The economy is stuck in neutral. But even worse, the economy has fundamentally changed and everyone is focused on trying to return to a world that no longer exists. We liberals castigate conservatives for wanting to return to the 1950’s with white picket fences. But many of us liberals are trying to return to a world with plenty of well-paid factory jobs. That world is also long gone.

It’s not just that factory jobs have been moved to China, it’s that many of those jobs have been eliminated via automation. And as 3-D printing moves into the factory line, we’re going to see the elimination of most of those jobs in China too.

When this country was founded 60% of the employment was on the farm. Now it’s 2%. We get more food but have done so while reducing the labor needed by 30,000%. The number of factory jobs needed have been on the same trajectory and even without outsourcing, most of these jobs have been going away.

We also have to embrace the fact that the world is flat. We are now competing worldwide. Some of us in industries where there is no advantage to any physical location (like mine), some where some advantage remains. But every one of us is now competing for work with people in Shanghai & Mumbai. And to compete successfully we have to embrace the advantages of that larger playing field, not bemoan the disadvantages of additional competition.

So what to do?

The future belongs to those who dominate in the key components of the global economy. In the last century America dominated because we had the largest and most advanced manufacturing base in the world. And we had a transportation infrastructure to match. That provided the basis for our economic and military domination of the planet.

Going forward the key component is education. The future belongs to the country, the corporations, the people who have the best education. And best is not just advanced degrees, it is degrees combined with creativity and a willingness to try the unknown. The future belongs to the Thomas Edisons, not the Henry Fords.

For the State of Colorado to be one of the leaders in the future, and not just a giant ski resort serving vacationers from other countries who better embraced the future, I think we need to focus on a primary goal. And I think we can get the leaders of both parties to agree to this goal. And that is:

The Primary Goal of the State of Colorado is for 50% of the adults age 25 – 55 to have a college degree.

Yes we have other serious problems that need to be addressed. But with an educated populace addressing the other problems becomes a lot easier. And without it, addressing the other problems is a lot harder. In some cases impossible. Because that educational level directly relates to higher tax revenue and lower unemployment.

We also have to face the fact that other countries explicitly have similar goals. China and India are very focused on getting everyone they can through college. They’ll be at this level in another generation or two. And some European countries are approaching this goal today.

If we get serious about education determines the future of this state. At present we’re headed for 2nd world status because we’re in neutral while other countries are full speed ahead.

President Hickenlooper ’16? Don’t Rule It Out, But…

As Politico’s Reid Epstein reports, popular Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sees his own hurdles to a run for President in 2016–and frankly, we see them too:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who founded a brewpub and was twice elected Denver’s mayor, cruised to victory in 2010 in a three-way race against a fractured state Republican Party. He registered a 54 percent approval rating in a Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month, a whopping 30 percentage points higher than his 24 percent disapproval…

“You never say never, but it’s hard to imagine,” Hickenlooper told POLITICO in an interview in his state Capitol office here. “What we’re trying to do here necessarily, I think, is going to irritate and I think in some ways divide some of the strongest constituencies that are going to be making those decisions.”

Hickenlooper’s best path to national office in 2016 would come in a Democratic Party looking for a centrist leader in the mold of President Bill Clinton, said University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin.

“Under many circumstances, Hickenlooper would represent a Democrat with crossover appeal who can win in swing states,” Franklin said.

There’s no question that Gov. Hickenlooper’s broad popularity and moderate appeal place him on a hypothetical–very hypothetical over five years out–short list of viable Democratic candidates for President in the 2016 elections. But Hickenlooper makes perfectly clear in this interview that positions he holds on hot-button issues like “fracking” in oil and gas production could spell real trouble for himself in a Democratic primary. Hickenlooper talks about Colorado as a “model” in education, health care, and transportation; but most would agree that this is expressing, to put it charitably, an aspirational goal less than a year into his term.

Bottom line: Hickenlooper has the potential to be a great candidate for President, and his centrist liabilities in a Democratic primary could easily become powerful general election assets. It’s true that the recent trend towards more strident ideology on both sides of the aisle represents a challenge for moderates like Hickenlooper. But we’re inclined to accept the argument that, as of now, Democratic primary candidates are subject to less rigid ideological litmus tests in general than Republican candidates.

Perhaps the bigger obstacle to a Hickenlooper candidacy is that another well-known Coloradan is likely to at least kick the tires on a Presidential run in 2016 — and they can’t both become serious candidates. It’s a quiet, but open secret that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar wants a shot at the Presidency himself in 2016, and he and Hickenlooper — who are friends, by most accounts — would probably have to decide quietly which one of them will take the stage and which one will stay behind. If Hispanic voting trends continue to rise, Salazar may have the better argument by then.

A lot can change in the next 4-5 years. Let’s revisit this in 2015 — by then it will either be a serious discussion, or not.

KFKA’s Oliver advocates government dismantlement but forgets about it when Gardner jumps on board

(Gardner’s adventures in AM radio continue – promoted by Colorado Pols)

“The Amy Oliver Show made national news,” Amy Oliver told her KFKA listeners Aug. 11, reading the headline from The Hill, a Washington-DC blog, “GOP lawmaker OK with dismantling DOT.”

“That’s not exactly what he said,” Oliver explained to her radio audience, apparently forgetting that Gardner was talking with Oliver when he said it’s a “great” idea to “basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.” (See transcript here.)

I emailed Oliver to find out why she thought Gardner didn’t say what he said in plain English (and then did not retract).

“Interpret the dialogue as you wish,” she wrote back. “The only story I see here is that a freshman Congressman is thinking outside the box for solutions to our current budget situation.”

I appreciated Oliver getting back to me, but I wish she’d have answered my question about why she let Gardner off the hook, overlooking sounds and words that she got first hand.

You’d have to assume that Oliver herself supports dismantling the Department of Transportation, given that Oliver works for Caldara’s Independence Institute and all.

So you’d think she would embrace Gardner’s dismantlement position, not deny it. It’s not every day that a Congressman jumps on board with dismantlement of a major federal agency.

I mean, in the same Aug. 5 interview with Gardner, before she asked him about the Department of Transportation, Oliver told Gardner that the Environmental Protection Agency is “one agency that I think should be completely dismantled.”

In fact, she asked Gardner point blank, “When are we going to de-fund the EPA.” Gardner answered that the EPA had taken a “significant funding decrease,” and he said he hoped more was on the way.

Later, Oliver told Gadner: “You can’t de-fund the EPA until you get the Senate on board.”

To which Gardner responded, “Right.”

Oliver didn’t get Gardner to agree with her that EPA should be abolished.

But if she had, you wonder if she’d have denied what he said to her, once it was reported in the news media.

Gardner’s attempt to clarify his thinking on the Dept. of Transportation raises more questions

(Do not backpedal, severe tire damage – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Hill picked up the ball after KFKA radio host Amy Oliver dropped it, and asked Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) about his statement on Oliver’s radio show Friday that there are “great ideas” floating around to “basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.”

The Hill’s Transportation blog reported yesterday:

“When you listen to whole interview it is clear that Rep. Gardner is simply saying there is a discrepancy in transportation funding and Colorado is a net loser when it comes to the money we get back,” Gardner spokesman Rachel Boxer said in a statement provided to The Hill.  “He believes in letting Colorado keep more of the gas tax it collects therefore cutting some of the bureaucracy between the states and Washington.”

Gardner’s office has yet to return my call, so I’m hoping a journalist, or even Oliver, will ask Gardner for details on this, to fill in the journalistic gap here.

First of all, the statement doesn’t actually say anything about whether Gardner believes that the Department of Transportation should be dismantled. So if Gardner’s office is trying to backpedal, he hasn’t done it.

So, the question remains hanging, “Does Gardner think, as he told Oliver, that it’s a great idea to basically turn the Department of Transportation over to the states?” If so, how would he do it? If not, why not?

And Boxer’s statement to the Hill raises a number of other questions, such as: How much of the gasoline tax does he think should be returned to Colorado and other states? How would he cut the Department of Transportation budget to make up for lost funds? How would he determine how much tax money individual states should keep? Does he support the other functions of the Department of Transportation, as described here? Does he believe the Department of Transportation serves the national interest?

Also when you read a transcript of Gardner’s interview with Oliver, it’s not at all “clear,” as Boxer told The Hill, that Gardner was “simply saying” that Colorado should keep more of the gasoline tax it sends to Washington.

That’s what Oliver, the talk show host was saying.

But Gardner got all excited and one upped Oliver. He told her about great ideas to “basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.”

Sorry to write that back-to-the-states phrase again, but even after writing it six times, it still sounds like the entire Transportation-Department banana to me. Or basically the entire banana. Maybe leave a bite or the skin in Washington DC?

Was this a misstatement on Gardner’s part, rather than a misreading of his interview on the part of The Hill, me, and anyone else in their right mind who heard him on Amy Oliver’s show Friday?

Nudged by radio host, Gardner says he supports turning “Dept. of Transportation back to the states”

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Egged on by radio-host Amy Oliver, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) revealed Friday that he favors plans that “would basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states.”

Oliver, who hosts the “Amy Oliver Show” on KFKA 1310-AM in Greeley, told Gardner that Colorado should keep most of its federal gasoline tax, so “we don’t have to beg or anything like that.”

The sentiment apparently struck a nerve in Gardner, who ran with Oliver’s suggestion:

“Well, I think there are some great ideas that would basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states, because why do we have this system that says, hey, we’re going to just have you collect money, and we’re going to scrape some off the top. I mean, it makes no sense to have this middleman treated the way it is.”

You’d expect Oliver, who works at the right-leaning Independence Institute, to favor dismantling the Department of Transportation.

But when a U.S. Congressman like Gardner jumps on board, you’d think even Oliver would recognize that she owes it to you, me, and her audience to extract more details from him. Instead, she went, as planned, to a commercial break, Gardner disappeared, and the topic was dropped.

So, what would turning over the Department of Transportation to the states mean?

I asked former Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena for a reaction to Gardner’s notion.

“At first blush it may seem to be an attractive idea to let the states control their own funding, but the reality is that there is a real need to have a national highway system that supports our economy and contributes to our national security,” Pena said, adding that a national entity is needed to provide oversight so that transportation systems from coast to coast run smoothly and support economic development.

“I guess one could say every state should fund its own airports, but we could not have built Denver International Airport without $500 million from FAA,” Pena said. The FAA is part of the Dept. of Transportation.

DIA was not built just to benefit Colorado, Pena said, but to help the nation’s airports run more smoothly. Backups at Denver’s old airport, Stapleton, were causing inefficiencies and backups at airports nationwide, Pena pointed out, and it was clear DIA would remedy these problems.

“There was a national need to build DIA,” Pena told me.

The Department of Transportation has played this role, identifying and addressing national transportation needs, including those of less populated regions, since its inception, Pena argued. This role extends beyond airports and highways to ensuring that pipelines and other transportation systems are efficient and meet national safety standards. (Here’s a summary of the Department of Transportation’s responsibilities.)

“I don’t think he’s [Rep. Gardner] done his homework or analyzed his position very closely, because it [dismantling DOT] would have terrible consequences for national security and for our economy,” said Pena, who also served as Secretary of Energy.

On the radio, Gardner didn’t seem to care about national concerns:

“But if you look at the broader picture of transportation in general, Colorado gets less than a dollar for every dollar of tax dollars it sends in for the package of highway systems. So we are a net loser when it comes to sending a dollar in and getting less than a dollar back.”

Neither Gardner’s Office nor Amy Oliver returned calls for comment.

Listen to Gardner’s views on the Department of Transportation 12 minutes into the Aug. 5 podcast here. A partial transcript follows:

Oliver: I want to ask you about this. It really gets to the philosophy of what the proper function of government should be. Why on Earth should someone from Mississippi, why should federal tax money from any other state, Mississippi, Main, Missouri, Ohio, anybody, have to pay for a runway here in northern Colorado?

Gardner: Well, it really goes to the heart of what’s happening now in the bigger discussion on whether or not we should be trying to do all things for all people. I mean, certain people in the aviation industry do pay user fees to land. They do pay av tax on their aviation fuel. And that comes back to the airport and helps fund projects like the runway extension. But if you look at the broader picture of transportation in general, Colorado gets less than a dollar for every dollar of tax dollars it sends in for the package of highway systems. So we are a net loser when it comes to sending a dollar in and getting less than a dollar back.

Oliver: Well, we actually get less than that because they have their overhead that they have to do.

Gardner: You’re right. The middleman. They just kind cut it off. There’s states like Wyoming that get more money. Alaska gets more money. So the question is, how does this continue and how can we continue it when people are struggling to make ends meat as it is, and we have a government that’s far beyond its means.

Oliver: Let me ask you something, and this might be getting back a little bit to your state capital days. Couldn’t we do something with our federal gasoline tax and just say, hey listen, you guys, what is the federal gasoline tax, I think it’s 18 cents a gallon, we’ll give you two cents. Let us just keep the rest. That way we don’t have to beg or anything like that. We just keep it here in Colorado.

Gardner: Well, I think there are some great ideas that would basically turn the Department of Transportation back to the states, because why do we have this system that says, hey, we’re going to just have you collect money, and we’re going to scrape some off the top. I mean, it makes no sense to have this middleman treated the way it is.

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog.

Are Unpaid Political Internships Withholding Opportunity from Young People?

(Damn good post, Cowgirl. – promoted by c rork)

The unpaid internship is a rite of passage for young professionals today–or, rather, for the young professionals who can afford to perform weeks or months of work without financial compensation. Says Ross Perlin, the 28-year-old author of Intern Nation:

Those who can’t access internships, those who can’t pay to play, who can’t afford to work unpaid for significant amounts of time … those people are being left behind, and they’re unable to enter a lot of key professions in the white-collar workforce. Professions like politics, media, film, and entertainment. There is a social justice issue here.

(emphasis mine)

As a twenty-something young professional myself–and one who had to leave unpaid internships behind after high school, as I was self-supporting with no debt by age 18–this quote rang true to me. How many of my talented young friends would have the resources to take the internship of a lifetime if it came without even a small stipend? I can think of few.

Upon digging deeper, I discovered additional troubling statistics indicating a potentially worsening class divide among the young.  

One study is especially applicable to our little corner of the Internet. From the University of California, Berkley:

Overall, the study found, less than 10 percent of the U.S. population is participating in most online production activities, and having a college degree is a greater predictor of who will generate publicly available online content than being young and white.

The results suggest that the digital divide for social media users is wider between the haves and have-nots than it is between young and old, and underscore growing concerns that the poor and working classes lack the resources to participate fully in civic life, much of which is now online. That chasm is unlikely to break down until everyone has a host of digital production tools at both home and work, Schradie said.

(Hat tip to Sirota for bringing this study to light–I’m not the biggest fan, but the man knows how to spot a compelling story.)

What does this have to do with unpaid internships? Bear with me for a moment, and let’s look at something lower-income students depend upon heavily: Libraries. In 2010, Library Journal reported that social networking sites are segregated by income and social class. Myspace attracts residents of blue-collar neighborhoods, with only 16% of users making over $100,000 annually. By comparison, more than one-third of LinkedIn users earn six figures. According to the same article, young people using the Internet at public libraries tend to be loyal MySpace users.

In a 2009 presentation at the International Communications Association Conference, danah boyd documented a migration from MySpace to Facebook as a population of students graduated from high school and moved on to college. She suggested that it’s not a matter of choosing one over the other as much as an exodus fueled by the perception of MySpace as an unsafe ghetto.

Back to those internships once more. As Perlin points out, it takes significant resources to work for free. Even living on a shoestring budget and student loans, you’ll likely need, at the very least, friends willing to house you in the area of the internship for nothing or almost nothing; enough cash on hand to pay for transportation; contacts or credit to acquire professional apparel; and the list could easily go on.

But if you secure one of those high-profile political internships, presto! You’re exposed to white collar social networking. You’re part of that top 10% creating the bulk of publicly available Web content. Why? Because, in internship situations, young people are typically called upon to handle social networking, which is perceived as their strength–even though, according to the Berkley study, a young intern’s social class is more predictive of her online content production habits than is her age.

According to the New York Times, many unpaid internships are illegal, yet they’re mushrooming, particularly those marketed to affluent students.

No one keeps official count of how many paid and unpaid internships there are, but Lance Choy, director of the Career Development Center at Stanford University, sees definitive evidence that the number of unpaid internships is mushrooming – fueled by employers’ desire to hold down costs and students’ eagerness to gain experience for their résumés. Employers posted 643 unpaid internships on Stanford’s job board this academic year (author’s note: this refers to 2010), more than triple the 174 posted two years ago.

And where are the most desirable unpaid internships of all located?

The White House, of course. Applications opened this week for 2013 White House internships.

White House Internships are unpaid positions. Applicants are encouraged to contact educational and other non-profit organizations to apply for funding or housing assistance, but note that any outside income, funding or housing assistance you may receive as a White House intern must be pre-approved by the White House Counsel’s Office.   If you are selected as an intern, we will be in contact with you to review any outside funds you intend to receive.

In Colorado, many of our local candidates and elected officials hire talented young people and pay them something as close to a living wage as state-level candidates can afford while making what can hardly be called a “living wage” themselves.

Nationally, however, political firms and politicians are quite prone to offer the standard “experience and college credit” as compensation for hard work that may or may not qualify as a legal unpaid position under federal law.

Essentially, and most importantly, the employer should “derive no immediate advantage” from the intern’s work. That’s hardly a criterion I’ve seen applied to internships advertised to students in any collegiate institution I’ve attended! The above described White House internships might qualify–barely–but what of the numerous unpaid internships that have students fetching coffee, updating Twitter, arranging events, and more?

Students are hardly equipped to report these internships to enforcement agencies at a time when many in-demand entry level jobs are completely inaccessible to applicants without internship experience. Yet, unpaid internships are not an effective method of identifying and developing the best talent among passionate students. Rather, they identify and develop any talent that happens to be present among the students of a socioeconomic background enabling them to pursue a period of unpaid work.

All the while, a digital class divide appears to be widening throughout the social networking communities once heralded as a great equalizer. Sure, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog:

But does it matter if you know whether or not your conversational partner is a dog, if she’s overwhelmingly statistically predisposed to be not only human, but also college educated and affluent?

“For the children” is perhaps the most frequently repeated of all contemporary political canards. (Or, perhaps second to questioning one’s opponent’s patriotism.)

Most recently, Rep. Walsh crashed and burned when nobly declaring his intention to heap “not one more dollar” of debt upon his kids or grandkids, all the while dodging his own child support obligation.

Is it any less egregious when a person or organization claims to have the best interests of the young at heart in offering a “prestigious internship opportunity,” but fails to pay students for work that does, indeed, provide an immediate benefit to the employer?

When young people earn, we save, invest, and spend. When we do those things, we secure our futures and stimulate the economy. By paying young people for their hard work, political employers can extend opportunity to students who otherwise would be forced to use their advanced studies to inform their work behind a fast food counter, rather than in the fast-paced and challenging world of politics.

By paying interns, employers can also free themselves to demand a high standard of work, and demand that interns’ work provide a tangible benefit to the employer. Furthermore, already competitive internships (and politicians are fond of reminding us of the benefits of competition in the marketplace!) would be made still more competitive by opening them up to students unable to accept unpaid work. Your most talented future intern may be a young person on her own, with no familial support to help her eat while working for free.

As a young professional and current college student, I call upon each and every politician who has ever claimed, or will ever claim, to work on behalf of the “next generation” or “our children” to commit to paying his or her interns. It’s a small investment in a brighter future for us all.  

Military Imposter Chameleon Rick Strandlof Does It Again

Political news followers may recall a story from ’09 about a Colorado mental patient named Rick Strandlof who pretended to be a decorated Veteran named Rick Duncan, rose to the top in the Veteran’s advocacy community, and made political allies with many of the state’s top legislators and candidates, on both sides of the aisle. Later, after the national news picked up the story and he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper, Rick Strandlof was tried for impersonating military personnel under the “Stolen Valor Act”. The case was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled that the Stolen Valor Act violates free speech protections.

As the story unfolded, it became clear Rick Strandlof had a long history of posing as people he was not, networking with leaders in each of his fake identities. In his latest incarnation, Rick Strandlof has become Oil and Gas Attorney Rick Gold, an observant and active member of Denver’s young Jewish professionals community.

I remember when I met Rick Duncan (Strandlof) at a political event in 2009. I talked to him for a good while about his endorsement of Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman in ’08, when he (as Duncan) was the Chair of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, a group he said represented 32,000 veteran members. We were at a meet-and-greet for a Democratic candidate for Congress in ’09, and I recognized him from across the room. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hey, I recognize you!” I said.

“You do?” he says, almost choking on his mimosa.

“Yeah, you’re the guy in the photos posing with Congressman Mike Coffman last year. You’re a head of a Veteran’s group in Colorado, aren’t you? I’ve been trying to reach you through your website to find out more about veteran’s concerns.”

“Yes, yes, I am. I am Rick Duncan”, he lies. Nice to meet you in person” .

I continue, “I can’t believe you’re here. I thought you were a Republican?” I pry.

“I’m committed to veteran’s issues — veteran’s rights. I think this candidate is right on the issues, so I am going to back him .”

Intrigued, I could not leave it alone.

“Really! How has Mike Coffman disappointed you –disappointed veterans? I want to hear all about it! I’d love to see him out of office, and I think we need veterans to stand up and tell their story about how the GOP is using them for votes, then not delivering, especially after they’ve been injured. It’s so obvious!”

Rick knew his stuff. He told me details about votes, and was disgusted that the troops were not getting the necessary supplies they needed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a wounded veteran, he said, he had opinions about the Veteran’s Administration, as well.

Strandlof appeared charming, knowledgeable, and articulate. Still, there was something almost-too-good-to-be-true about him. I called the campaign manager for the candidate who held the meet-and-greet, and asked, “How well do you know Rick Duncan?”

“He is one of my best friends”, he said. Later, I learned this was not true, but that the young campaign worker (whose identity I will never reveal) was trying to impress the volunteers with his grass-top’s connections.

Not long after, I got a call from another campaign volunteer warning me not to ever talk to Rick Duncan again, and to make sure I never link his name with any candidate. “Delete whatever photos you may have of him with any candidates, legislators, or campaign staff, okay? This guy is a fake, and is being investigated by the FBI.”

Immediately, I went back to Coffman’s website. I couldn’t understand how someone could pretend to be the President of a group with 32,000 veterans, and my Congressman, a proud veteran, did not know he was a fake. Apparently, Coffman’s office learned Strandlof’s true identity before we did. Photos and mentions of Rick Duncan (Strandlof) had already been deleted. Any references to the Colorado Veteran’s Alliance endorsement were also deleted. Hours later, former CO GOP leader Dick Wadhams’ posse was all over the news saying Strandlof was associated with Democrats like Congressman Jared Polis and Senator Mark Udall.

The next time I saw Rick Duncan/Strandlof/Gold, he was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN. Despite the ocean of legal trouble he was in, he eagerly answered questions, admitting who he really was. Clearly, the man appears seriously mentally ill.

As the story unfolded, many newspapers and television programs told the rest of Strandlof’s bizaree story. In 1997, he was Richard Glenn Pierson, charged with forgery and bad-check charges and sent to prison for five years in Montana. Later, he started a foundation in Reno, Nevada to advocate for open-wheel racing and children’s charities. His Linked-In profile as Rick Strandlof still lists him as the owner of the Reno Tahoe Grand Prix. Strandlof then spent nine months in Washoe County jail for stealing a car. Numerous other stories about Strandlof also emerged, each more colorful and interesting than the last. Apparently, he had hoodwinked hundreds of people, over many years.

Fast forward to today. An article appearing in Denver’s main daily rag is titled “Man unmasked as fake military hero in Springs reappears as “lawyer” in the Highlands“. The article tells of Strandlof posing as a young Jewish lawyer from the trendy Highlands neighborhood, who was able to hide the fact that he is bipolar, schizophrenic, homeless, and none of the things he pretended to be.

I immediately looked up Rick Gold on Linked-In. Sure enough, there is Strandlof, posing with one of Colorado’s members of Congress. Listed on the resume portion of his Linked In account, it says this:


Summary

Knowledgeable in 1031 exchanges, Section 29 credits, tax partnership agreements, unrelated business taxable income issues, mineral titles, leases, leasing, seismic agreements, exploration agreements, drilling contracts (IADC and custom), joint operating agreements (AAPL and AIPN), farmouts and farmins, gas balancing, oil and gas sales contracts, natural gas transportation agreements, gas processing agreements, dedication contracts, crude oil processing and exchange agreements, LNG contracts, pooling and unitization, and indemnification and anti-indemnification statutes.

Specialties

Various types of badassery.

According to today’s newspaper story, Senator Udall’s office also confirms the identity of the man in the photo as Rick Standlof.

On social networking site Plancast, Strandlof is listed as Rick Gold with a bi-line of “G-d, Country, Baseball. Not necessarily in that order”. It also indicates he is planning to attend a future event with Tom Tancredo.

I urge the Obama administration and all legislators and candidates to google this man’s story and images and beware. He is a master chameleon, one who researches and absorbs details of professional positions he pretends to hold. He is able to convince people of his falsely important standing, and gains access at high-level political events. Until now, he has been non-violent, but his interest in politics, the military, and community leaders shows he cannot be trusted.

(Author’s note: Sadly for the Denver Post, I cannot link to their articles due to their history of legally harrassing Colorado Pols. A number of them contain great investigative research into Strandlof’s long career of lies. My sources for this blog diary are from my own on-line investigation.)  [poll id=”1374″]

Stimulus Hit-Piece Ignores Reality

(Apparently, Adam Savage wrote the GOP playbook for ’12… you know, “I reject your reality and substitute my own?” – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)

In an article in the Weekly Standard that has been re-tweeted around the beltway, a new standard has been set for intellectual laziness. The purpose of the blog post, to create a talking point, is just as simplistic as the methodology used to reach it’s conclusion; that every job saved by the Stimulus cost taxpayers $278,000 per job . Using a 4th grader’s math skills, the total amount of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act distributed thus far, $666 billion, is divided by the number of jobs saved or created.

When the Obama administration releases a report on the Friday before a long weekend, it’s clearly not trying to draw attention to the report’s contents. Sure enough, the “Seventh Quarterly Report” on the economic impact of the “stimulus,” released on Friday, July 1, provides further evidence that President Obama’s economic “stimulus” did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.

Unfortunately, 4th grade reading skills were not used in analysis of the report that the author cites, The Economic Impact of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Employment shows the same pattern of an accelerating decline before the Recovery Act was passed followed by a significant improvement after. In the first quarter of 2009, the economy lost  an average of 784,000 jobs per month.  Job losses fell to 515,000 per month in the second quarter, 255,000 per month in the third, and  138,000 in the fourth.  The economy began adding jobs in 2010, with average gains of 15,000 per month in the first quarter, 97,000 per month in the second quarter, 65,000 per month in the third quarter, and 141,000 per month in the fourth quarter. Solid job gains continued into 2011 as an average of 165,000 jobs were added per month in the first quarter.The reversal in the average monthly change in employment over the past eight quarters was among the largest on record. (Rork emphasis)

The Orwellian assertions about what the report states are pretty bad. Even worse is that in trashing the Stimulus, the Weekly Standard’s columnist is essentially contradicting conservative ideology. Roughly a third of the stimulus was distributed through tax cuts. Among them were $122 billion in individual tax credits, $89.3 billion in “Making Work Pay” tax breaks, $33.4 billion in tax incentives for businesses and $2.1 billion in tax-exempt bonds to expand industrial development. If the amount of the ARRA set aside for tax cuts is included in Jeffrey Anderson’s rudimentary calculation, this marks the first time I’ve heard a conservative columnist argue that tax cuts don’t create jobs.

It is truly breathtaking to hear Anderson admit in his article that the Stimulus has created millions of jobs and stopped an economic freefall, all the while using tortured logic to assert it has cut jobs.

Furthermore, the council reports that, as of two quarters ago, the “stimulus” had added or saved just under 2.7 million jobs – or 288,000 more than it has now.  In other words, over the past six months, the economy would have added or saved more jobs without the “stimulus” than it has with it. In comparison to how things would otherwise have been, the “stimulus” has been working in reverse over the past six months, causing the economy to shed jobs.

Goodness me. Looks like someone missed this paragraph on the second page of the report:

The Recovery Act was designed to be temporary. The amount of stimulus outlays and tax reductions has begun to decline and, as discussed in previous reports, as it does so the impact on the level of GDP and employment will lessen over time.

That’s right, folks: because the stimulus is ending, it is bad for jobs. I hope this guy isn’t getting paid for his writing. If he is, it’s really going to hurt my pride. It is as if he wrote his article without the report existing to contradict him.

All sides agree on these incriminating numbers – and now they also appear to agree on this important point: The economy would now be generating job growth at a faster rate if the Democrats hadn’t passed the “stimulus.”

And now the report he is writing about:

CEA estimates that as of the first quarter of 2011, the ARRA has raised employment relative to what it would have otherwise been by between 2.4 and 3.6 million (Rork emphasis)

He even suggests that $100,000 checks should have been given to citizens instead of investing in education, energy, transportation, infrastructure and research and development. The commonality in the areas I just listed? The U.S. is falling behind other countries in all of them. They are investments. Just taking the total cost of the program and dividing it by jobs created, of which there are many estimates, is intellectually disingenuous and completely ignores what can be learned from a 2 minute trip to Recovery.org.

The fact is that the vast majority of economists praise the Stimulus for doing what it was aimed to do, invest in key areas and halt an economic freefall:

Whenever you talk about counterfactual versions of the 2009 stimulus bill, you end up with some version of the same response: The stimulus failed – after all, look how high unemployment is! – and now you’re telling me it should’ve been bigger? What’s wrong with you?

Most authorities don’t think the stimulus failed. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, for instance, says it created between 1.2 million and 4.6 million jobs “compared to what would’ve happened otherwise.” IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com all estimate that the laws ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. Economists Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder put it at 2.7 million jobs.

Look at this pretty graph:



Let’s imagine for a moment that we had 2.5 million less jobs and 3% lower GDP. That is what Jeffrey Anderson is advocating for. Anderson’s post was not written to propose an alternative plan or solution, not to critique the policy behind the stimulus, but to create a deceitful talking point to attack a program that has saved the jobs of millions of hard-working Americans. It is political commentary at its worst.

Alabama Shocker: Still Struggling with Prejudice

Gov. Bently of Alabama has signed a bill with incredibly strict immigration laws. Easily the strictest in the country at this point.

Not only will profiling be mandatory, but it will also be illegal to provide transportation, or shelter to anyone in the country illegally. Yep, that’s right. Churches and charities will have to check your identification before offering help (isn’t that in the Bible?). Homeless and robbed? Go back to the street! If volunteers are being arrested for letting you sleep on a cot, or driving you to the doctor, they won’t have any volunteers for long. Get a job, rummy.

Possibly the worst part is the citizen check for students. All state run schools will be required to verify the immigration status of their students.

There are no exceptions, unless you don’t look like an immigrant. Please make a note, Canadian aliens, it’s “about”, not “aboot.” Keep that in mind and you’ll be fine.

Anyone darker than a paper bag should be on the lookout even while driving through Alabama. This includes anyone with too dark a tan on a summer vacation. If your 15 year old doesn’t have identification, you could find yourself in jail for transporting them.

But don’t worry because this law isn’t prejudice at all. It’s just preconceived judgment based on skin color.

Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay More

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Ruby pipeline–which will bring gas from Wyoming and Colorado to the West Coast–is set to come online soon, the Sentinel is reporting:

The Ruby Pipeline, scheduled to go online in March, is set to begin carrying natural gas from the Rocky Mountains west to Oregon in July, officials said.

No date has been set for the opening of the 675-mile, 42-inch, natural-gas-transmission pipeline, which is to carry as many as 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

At least a portion of that will come from the Piceance Basin as Bill Barrett Corp. has a contract to supply 50,000 cubic feet per day, said David Ludlam of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

While this will increase the marketability of Colorado’s natural gas, there is some question about how well it will work to achieve American energy independence or lower consumer prices.  Instead it is more likely to increase our dependence (on global markets) and make us pay more.  

Given the current glut The Ruby Pipeline Project is likely an attempt to open new markets in Asia, turning natgas into a fungible commodity like oil and hurting American consumers.

Currently natgas is a regional, rather than global, commodity.  Priced around $4 mcf, Colorado’s gas is less economical to drill than Pennsylvania’s, about 1/6th the cost according to my napkin math.  But making it a global commodity would ‘stabilize the price differential’–meaning Americans would likely pay more for our home-produced energy.  

Unlike crude oil, which is traded globally via tankers and pipelines, natural gas trading remain primarily isolated within the producing regions and lacks the infrastructure to be a true global commodity.

So the recent spike in crude prices has also accentuated the international LNG price differentials to the U.S. Henry Hub….of up to 300%.

While Henry Hub gas in the U.S. is sitting at less than $5 per mmbtu, NBP gas in the UK costs more than $9, and the benchmark for east Asia which is liked to JCC, ‘Japanese Customs Clearing Price’, or ‘Japanese crude cocktail,’ is more than $13 per mmbtu, according FT.com based on Platts data.

With an estimated 100 years of domestic shale gas supply at current rates of demand, and a farily flat domestic demand outlook, it is understandable the excitement of market players from the prospect of gas exports to higher priced markets in Asia and Europe.

Once priced on international, rather than national, markets producers will seek the larger return, driving up local prices as well.  

Of course, that’s not how it is being sold:

Project Summary

To address our nation’s growing demand for natural gas and associated transportation infrastructure, Ruby Pipeline, L.L.C. (Ruby) filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on January 27, 2009, for a certificate of public convenience and necessity authorizing the construction and operation of the Ruby Pipeline Project.

Rather it is being touted as addressing our nation’s energy needs–similar to the broader meme that drilling more in the U.S. will move us toward ‘energy independence’ in any significant way.

In Coos Bay, Oregon a fight is underway regarding a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) hub, and the possibility that it is being built for export rather than import, as first announced.

Many assumed that the ongoing construction of the Ruby Pipeline would signal the end of proposed US West Coast LNG import terminals and pipelines because, as Jordon Cove admitted in the FEIS, Ruby would supply the West Coast with ample domestic natural gas.  The Ruby Pipeline has begun construction, but instead of admitting defeat, Jordon Cove is fighting harder than ever, even suing the State of Oregon for going too slow. This shows that Jordon’s Cove hidden agenda is to export domestic gas, not import LNG. Exporting would be from Ruby, through Pacific Connector, right to the terminal location on the Oregon coast.

And this:

Several LNG terminal owners have filed applications with the U.S. Department of Energy for authorization to export natural gas produced in the United States from their facilities, many of which were built last decade with the intent of importing – not exporting – LNG to meet what was perceived at the time as a growing demand for natural gas in the U.S.

Perhaps building new markets is wise–for our energy producers, the jobs they support, and for the revenue that activity generates in state and federal coffers.  But it is not moving us closer to energy independence.  Rather it is locking American consumers into a new global energy market that will quickly devour surplus and ‘stabilize’ the price differential–meaning that you and I and everyone else in the U.S. is likely to pay more, not less, for natural gas.  

‘Drill here, drill now’ resulted in a massive glut of natural gas and no market–and now American consumers are likely to ‘pay more.’  

TABOR–Rhymes With Shaffer!

The Colorado Republican House Majority and Senate Minority have sent a joint letter to Senate President Brandon Shaffer, asking him to convene a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council in response to the lawsuit recently filed attacking the constitutionality of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR):

The letter that Shaffer, who chairs the Executive Committee of Legislative Council, received from Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens and Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, states:

“The proponents of the lawsuit claim that requiring prior voter approval of any tax increase violates the core principles of representative government and is therefore unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution.  We believe that the right of Colorado voters to approve or reject any tax increase is clearly appropriate.”

McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said, “Legislative leaders need an open discussion to decide whether we are going to defend the will of Colorado’s voters, or take away the important taxpayer protections in our state Constitution.”  

“Elected officials should be fighting for working families and small businesses, not looking for new ways to raid their pocket books,” said Stephens of Monument…

First of all, there’s very little question that Shaffer will convene this meeting as requested by the Republicans–we haven’t heard yet, but it’s entirely likely he already has and they’re just working out the schedules. It will of course be an opportunity to get prospective congressional candidate Shaffer on the record regarding the TABOR lawsuit, beyond which it’s not really clear what the legislature can do about the case other than grouse for or against. Hopefully they’ll stick to the subject instead of devolving into more proxy running of interference for Cory Gardner.

Which reminds us, are we the only ones who have noticed how many press releases about Shaffer the state-funded House and Senate GOP press offices are churning out these days? A little of that is expected, but it’s getting a bit thick. Can somebody consult the rules about this?

In any event, the lawsuit against TABOR now underway does make a rather fundamental assertion about the role of direct democracy under the Constitution, and as intended by the Founders. The question for the court to decide is not whether citizens have the right to an initiative process where state constitutions provide for it, but whether certain laws passed under that right–in this case, TABOR in Colorado–have so far restricted the ability of their representative government to function that it amounts to an unconstitutional usurpation of legislative authority. And by extension, representative government itself.

As Exhibit A, the powerlessness of the state to meet basic mandated needs like education, transportation, and health care in the slightest economic downturn. Why was it necessary for the legislature to hunt down so many favored small-fry tax exemptions for business, or abrogate another constitutional provision, Amendment 23, or any of the one-time “gimmicks” and other forms of balance-sheet “trickery” Republicans bemoan year after year? Why does this state consistently rank near the very bottom for funding of so many core functions of government?

Answer: in 1992, the voters of Colorado, rightly or perhaps wrongly, decided that from then on, our elected leaders should not have the authority to solve these problems. And while that may make Frank McNulty’s job nice and easy as a legislator, we’ll be very interested to see if a court finds that the Founding Fathers…expected a little more of him.

Sal Pace Announces for 3rd CD

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Leading with Tipton’s position on Medicare cuts, dissing the Roaring Fork, and not paying attention to local issues, Sal Pace makes his bid official in an email to potential supporters:

Dear [redacted],

I wanted you to be among the first to know:  just this morning, I proudly and officially began my run for US Congress from Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.

It’s a big step for me and my young family, one I don’t take lightly.

But I’ve now seen how Scott Tipton votes back inside that Beltway.  He voted – and strongly defends – the Ryan plan ending Medicare as we know it.  He won’t support projects like the Roaring Fork’s Regional Transportation Authority that will help solve some of the challenges faced by our local communities.  He’s not paying enough attention to issues like Pinon Canyon or Fort Lewis’ Native American tuition waiver.

http://www.paceforcolorado.com/

[poll id=”1353″]