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April 27, 2012 08:18 PM UTC

In Which Frank McNulty Opens a Can of Worms

  • by: Colorado Pols

9NEWS’ Jeffrey Wolf reports:

Exactly one month after the Lower North Fork Fire started, Colorado House Republicans introduced legislation late Thursday aimed at compensating victims…

“We’re going to move forward, the governor can catch up with us when it gets to his desk,” Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty said on Tuesday while announcing a plan by House Republicans to ignore established limits on what the state will pay.

The state caps liability claims at $150,000 per person and a total maximum of $600,000 per incident…

One fellow Republican strongly disagrees.

“Needless to say they’re not happy with me,” Attorney General John Suthers (R-Colorado) said. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea and I’m not going to say it’s otherwise because they happen to be Republicans.”

Suthers says lawmakers should raise the cap if they don’t think it’s fair, not ignore it for high-profile cases, because the hard truth is it’s not that uncommon for people get hurt or die because of something the state did. [Pols emphasis]

We were quite surprised on Tuesday to see a release from the Colorado House GOP announcing this bill to compensate victims of the Lower North Fork Fire, a state-conducted controlled burn that got out of control, killed three people, and destroyed dozens of homes near Conifer–above and beyond the $600,000 cap on the state’s aggregate liability under the Colorado Government Immunity Act. The biggest reason this move didn’t make sense is the way it undermines a host of other Republican arguments in favor of limiting liability.

Now that the House GOP has opened that discussion in a desire to capitalize politically on this disaster, other Republicans, like Attorney General John Suthers, are understandably getting nervous about where this is going. For one thing, the commission is charged with “investigating” the circumstances of this specific fire. Isn’t that redundant to the investigations that have already been carried out or are underway? And if there’s going to be an independent investigative body looking into the disaster, shouldn’t it be…independent from the state?

In fact there are a whole slew of procedural questions that come to mind, which like we said on Tuesday is very hard to morally oppose. But above all, why shouldn’t this process be taking a harder look at the Government Immunity Act, like Suthers suggests above? We’ve already agreed on principle that these victims should be adequately compensated for their loss by the state. Why shouldn’t this “opportunity” be used to fully examine the Colorado Government Immunity Act, to see if this arbitrary cap on liability is fair on a fundamental level?

No, folks, the Lower North Fork Fire might not be where it ends. Why should it be?

And what about Colorado’s other notorious damage caps in all kinds of personal injury and wrongful-death cases, known as “some of the strictest damage cap provisions of any state?” Do McNulty’s sweeping statements about “responsibility” not apply to the private sector?

When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why John Suthers is freaking out, isn’t it?


4 thoughts on “In Which Frank McNulty Opens a Can of Worms

  1. First of all, the House GOP is already making changes to the bill to accommodate Suthers’s concerns. Your desire to portray a Republican attacking fellow Republicans is bogus, or at the very least won’t last long. Also, problems like this are fairly rare, so I agree that a special one-time commission is better than dramatically increasing liability for everyone.

    Secondly, there is a HUGE difference between liability caps for the government and for the private sector. The government has much more power than a private corporation to take actions that harm citizens. Many lawsuits against private enterprise are for the purpose of exploiting the law and getting rich, not about being fairly compensated.

    I’m sorry that you can’t see past your petty politics to acknowledge Republicans want to do the right thing by victims of the state’s neglect. But that’s really all this is, and to politicize it is disgusting!

    1. Hoo boy… I’d laugh like hell if that wasn’t such a dangerous notion. When government is subservient to private corporations, nothing BUT harm to citizens results.

      Where, pray tell, will the money for this come from?

      Why shouldn’t we regard it as Republicans cynically buying votes in an election year?

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