Printed on 2/7/17

2017 Session

Home / The Issues



February 1, 2017

1. School Clinics
2. Help Pass Educational Tax Credits!
3. Roundabout Bill Passes Committee
4. Budget Buster of the Week

______________________________________________________________________________

1. School Clinics

During a Joint Budget Committee hearing several weeks ago I asked the Colorado Department of Education a question they found rather uncomfortable. The Department was asking for additional funding for school clinics. In the description of school clinics it stated that they primarily provide referral services for medical care.

The question was: "do school clinics ever refer students to abortion clinics?" The Department said they do not know. My next question was what policy they have in place concerning this issue. Weeks later they essentially admitted they have no policy.

I asked this because the Colorado Constitution (Article V Section 50) prohibits any state funds from being used directly or indirectly for abortions. Referring a student to an abortion clinic is indirectly participating in the abortion. Ever since this section was added to the Constitution (1984) most state government agencies have been ignoring this prohibition.

From the answers the Department of Education has given, it is obvious they too are ignoring this part of the State Constitution. I will try, through the budgeting process, to correct this policy and it is a very simple fix. The Department of Education needs to publish a clear statement that Article V Section 50 does not allow the indirect funding of abortions through school clinic referrals to abortion clinics. Without this policy in place, I cannot support the funding of school clinics.


2. Help Pass Educational Tax Credits!

On Tuesday, February 7, I will be presenting my Educational Tax Credit bill in the Senate Finance Committee which meets at 2:00 pm in Committee Room 271. I hope to see the citizens of Colorado come together and testify in support of this bill!

This bill is designed to encourage parents to consider the benefits of private school and home school. The bill could also save the state general fund hundreds of millions of dollars in the long run.

It would create a tax credit for anyone who helps pay the tuition for a student who moves from a public to a private school. It would also provide a tax credit to families who move their students from public school to home school.

The incentives created by these educational tax credits would give the state a healthy, competitive education system. Colorado could become the example for the nation. Parents would have better choices, students would have better access to the educational format that fits their learning style, the state would maximize the use of its educational dollars and every educational format would thrive.


3. Roundabout Bill Passes Committee

Informally, I call this bill the "Make Colorado Drivers Legal Act."

Senate Bill 59, a minor deregulation bill, removes the requirement to use a turn signal in a roundabout. The bill does preserve local control by allowing jurisdictions the prerogative to maintain the requirement by posting signs at a roundabout. This common-sense legislation passed the Transportation Committee, but not without opposition from the State Patrol. I trust we will be able to get approval from both houses and the Governor.


4. Budget Busting Bustang

This Budget Buster of the week is not under the direct authority of the Legislature but it is still your taxpayer dollars which are being used to pay for tow-trucks, buses and ad campaigns by the Department that is supposed to be building roads (CDOT). This might be seen as a reasonable expenditure if transportation was fully funded. But with a backlog of road construction projects amounting to many billions of dollars I see no justification for spending millions on these expensive peripheral projects.

The Bustang, a bus system that radiates out from Denver, took about $10 million to set up (obtain the buses) and takes another $2.7 million per year to run the system. About half of the annual cost is subsidized. Fares make up the remainder. (I don't think this includes any of the initial capital costs to obtain the buses and I seriously doubt it includes any replacement costs when those vehicles eventually wear out.)

I also recently learned that CDOT is spending about $6 million a year to hire tow trucks, primarily in the Denver metro area. These vehicles are called "Courtesy Patrol." Their stated purpose is to help keep the roads clear of disabled vehicles. Sounds nice, but the private tow truck industry has been alive and well in Colorado, many people also have towing insurance, and I believe CDOT could better spend their (our) money building highways.

Finally, this is not quite as large a line item, but when CDOT converted the HOV lanes to three or more people (HOV 3 ), they spent over a quarter of a million dollars on an ad campaign. In the past I did criticize them for not informing the public when they required a switchable pass to use HOV, but what I was hoping for was aggressive public service announcements and adequate warning time, not a slick add campaign to try to convince us the HOV 3 is a better feature than HOV 2 .



Back to Top

January 26, 2017

1. Appointment to Chair Colorado Health Exchange Oversight Committee
2. My Bills so Far
3. Budget Buster of the Week

______________________________________________________________________________

1. Appointment to Chair Colorado Health Exchange Oversight Committee
I have been appointed as chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee for the Colorado Health Exchange. Having been on the committee since its inception five and a half years ago, I am well aware of what the committee can and cannot do, which is pretty much restricted to asking questions in a public forum. However, since Obamacare is about to be repealed, it is time to completely reevaluate the Colorado Health Exchange. As chairman I intend to initiate that process.


2. My Bills so Far
Two of my bills passed their first committee hearings this week. The first, SB-34, extends the length of time that a county has to exercise more flexibility with their funds which are used for disaster recovery. It is a followup to a bill I helped sponsor after the floods of 2013.

SB-65 is the "Transparency in Health Care Prices Act." It requires health care facilities and providers to publish the prices for their most common procedures. This bill is meant to initiate greater cost-consciousness for providers and patients. Medical prices are out of control and higher than most can afford. SB-65 is one step toward driving those prices down to more reasonable levels.


3. Budget Buster of the Week
In the Joint Budget Committee we were told that the state is now providing through Medicaid, treatment for Hepatitis-C, an often deadly and until recently, incurable disease. Now there are drugs that cure, but at a price to the state of around $46,000 per person treated. With about 14,500 Medicaid clients currently diagnosed with Hepatitis-C, this translates into about $650,000,000!

However, there is a generic version of the drug in India, of identical formulation and efficacy. The Department of Healthcare, Policy and Financing (HCPF), who administers Medicaid, is paying the local, higher price for the drug. I am asking them to consider medical tourism, which could drive the cost down to $5,000, or lower.

As it stands today, HCPF is asking for an additional $66,000,000 for this year as they begin to implement their program for treating Hepatitis-C, hence, they deserve the budget buster of the week.

Back to Top

January 20, 2017

1. President Trump
2. Budget Buster of the Week

______________________________________________________________________________

1. President Donald J. Trump

A new administration began today with the swearing in of President Donald J. Trump and Vice-president Mike Pence.

Despite the glaring disdain with which the media and political establishment have tried to spin it, I was impressed with the President's inaugural speech. He didn't claim victory for himself, or go into mind numbing policy details. He efficiently laid out the principles by which he plans to govern.

The President deferred the hope and the glory of this moment to the American people. In his own words: "This moment is your moment, it belongs to you, This is your day, this is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country."

"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now," he continued. "Today will be remembered as day the people became the rulers of this country again."

He took on the established political class, particularly with these words: "For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land."

President Trump also showed a remarkable reliance on divine guidance: "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."
"We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.

"When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

"There should be no fear -- we are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God."

This was not a dark speech of American protectionism, as some have reported. It was a straight forward declaration of where we are as a nation and how President Trump intends to steer the ship of state in the next four years.

Trump's speech, coupled with his brilliant choices for cabinet appointments, show a man of action who is committed to reestablishing the principles of liberty and prosperity for the people of our great nation.

2. Budget Buster of the Week
This week in the Joint Budget Committee we have been considering what are called supplementals. These are bills that adjust the current annual budget for each department, which are considered by the legislature early in every regular session. The fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30. Supplementals are needed to keep the budget in balance through the end of the fiscal year and helps keep individual line items flowing at a smoother pace for all twelve months.

Among the requests was $1.947 million in child care development funds for the Department of Human Services. These are dollars used to subsidize child care costs for individual families. We were told that the money was needed to address the needs of 459 families who were on a "wait list." This might sound reasonable, until we dig a little deeper.

Each county is given a fixed amount of money each year for their share of these dollars (about $87 million for the entire state). So what we are talking about is over spending this year by several counties. The reason they gave for the overage was an underestimation of increased rates for child care. The rate increases were, we were told, due to higher standards for child care.

Here is the problem, aside from the fact that it is a two million dollar budget buster for the state and the counties knew how much they had to work with from the start, this practice perpetuates the out of control costs of child care in Colorado. We have some of the highest child care rates in the country already. Additionally, because the rate hikes are due to increased government regulation (that's the "higher standards" bit), this additional cost is already because of more government red tape. More money in this system will help drive the overall costs that much higher and all families in child care will suffer.

I voted no on the recommendation, along with the chairman of the committee, but the recommendation passed on a 4-2 vote.

Back to Top

January 13, 2017

1. First Days of Session
2. Make Colorado Drivers Legal Act
3. Budget Buster of the Week


______________________________________________________________________________

1. First Days of Session

The 2017 Legislative Session officially began on Wednesday with speeches by the President of the last General Assembly, Bill Cadman and the incoming President,
​K​evin Grantham.

President Cadman emphasized that as leaders, we must honor and respect each other while standing on principle.

President Grantham began by quoting the preamble to the Colorado Constitution: "We the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in order to form a more independent and perfect government..."

He offered kind words to many senators who have served in past sessions and quoted Hebrews 12:1: "...let us run with patience the race that is set before us."

"We the people" was the phrase he used many times acknowledging the duties and responsibilities of the citizens as the sovereign authority for Colorado's civil government. He emphasized the need for educational choice, accountability in government agencies and preserving the rights and freedoms of citizens. He spoke of lowering taxes and cutting red tape so that families and small businesses can prosper.

Policy priories were transportation funding, construction litigation reform, reducing regulatory burdens, repealing the Healthcare Exchange, and allowing military members under 21 to carry concealed.

Conversely, Minority Leader Lucia Guzman had a very different speech. She focused on unemployment, and the aging workforce. She emphasized "underfunded classrooms" and her solution was to change the Hospital Provider Fee into an enterprise.

She praised the federal tax subsidy for wind and solar.

While President Grantham's solution to the state's problems was "we the people" Minority Leader Guzman's solution was to grow government.

On Thursday, the Governor gave his State of the State speech to a joint session.

First calling for bipartisan cooperation he then jumped to big government policies that Republicans have always resisted. These policies included the Hospital Provider Fee issue, building a broadband network, starting with a new broadband office in his administration.

He talked about transportation priorities, which is good, but fell short of the immediate solution we can start with today, which is trans-bonds. The solution he hinted at was higher taxes.

Speaking for nearly 60 minutes, Hickenlooper covered a wide range of policies including praise for our energy resources, but noticeably absent was any praise for the coal industry.

To his credit, he did call for the passage of a construction litigation reform bill.

After starting with a call for bipartisan cooperation, toward the end of his speech he said he will "fight" to keep the essence of Obamacare government subsidies in Colorado.

Majorities matter and the dichotomy between the two parties was very telling. When government is strong, freedom suffers. When Liberty rules, the state will be prosperous.


2. Make Colorado Drivers Legal Act

My title to this article may sound a bit ostentatious, but when it comes to use of turn-signals in roundabouts, very few drivers follow the dictates of the traffic laws. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to follow what the law says. To indicate a turn, one must use their turn-signal at least 100 feet before making the turn. For many roundabouts in Colorado, the 100 foot requirement renders the use of a turn-signal meaningless and confusing. As a consequence, very few drivers use their turn-signal at all.

Roundabouts are confusing enough without this legal conundrum. It is not a real big deal, but I think it is important to make our traffic laws as clear and functional as possible. Hence, I have introduced a bill to eliminate the requirement to use a turn-signal in a roundabout, unless local authorities post a different requirement.


3. Budget Buster of the Week

The Budget Buster I have chosen to highlight is already known to most people. However, with the changes in Washington DC there is the prospect of actually fixing this problem. I am speaking of Obamacare in general, and the Colorado Healthcare Exchange in particular. It takes about 50 million dollars a year to run the Colorado Exchange. The only thing they have really been successful at is to push hundreds of thousands of people into Medicaid, for everyone who applies for health insurance through the Exchange is first screened for eligibility in Medicaid and if they qualify are only offered Medicaid. All others are referred to health insurance companies to buy a policy. On the health insurance side, brokers and insurance companies have always been providing this service without any taxpayer dollars. The $50 million is paid for by the insurance companies who work with the Exchange, which really means anyone who buys a policy from those companies is paying the bill.

Congress is working hard on repealing Obamacare. The big question is with what will it be replaced? I strongly urge Congress to eliminate the tax penalty associated with the individual mandate (essentially ending the individual mandate), allow insurance companies to write policies with pre-existing condition limitations, and reestablish high-risk pools at the state level for those who cannot qualify for those policies. The high-risk pool we used to have in Colorado was called Cover Colorado. These three points, plus allowing policies to be purchased across state lines should create enough competition to actually drive premiums lower.

Which brings us back to the Exchange. Without Obamacare it would then have no purpose. It would be a redundant, government-run referral system (which is pretty much what they are today). The people deserve a better than this forced $50 million tax.



Back to Top

January 6, 2017

1. 2017 Session Starts Next Week
2. Educational Tax Credits
3. Budget Buster of the Week
4. National Association of Scholars Study

______________________________________________________________________________

1. 2017 Session

The 2017 session officially starts next Wednesday (January 11), but I have been attending the Joint Budget Committee meetings for the past two months. Today getting to the Capitol was a bit more challenging than my usual pattern. Due to the snow, last night I could not get through my driveway (800 feet long) so I had to park my car at my in-laws house and they shuttled me home in their four-wheel drive truck. This morning (at ten below zero) I started out by skiing back to my car (and driving from there).

Starting out for the Capitol at dawn.

There are several important events planned for next week: a prayer rally at the capitol on Tuesday, swearing in the newly elected legislators on Wednesday, opening day speeches, the governor's state of the state speech on Thursday and a speech to a joint session by the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice on Friday.

Each of these events are open to all, on a space available basis. I particularly encourage all to attend the prayer rally, scheduled for 2:00 PM on Tuesday. It will take place on the West Steps of the State Capitol building. You can click here to view the Call to Prayer for Colorado facebook page for further details and updates. Among the items for which we will pray are: for the President, Congress, and the State Legislature, for the poor, for our military, and others.


2. Educational Tax Credits

The first bill I will introduce this Session is one I have either run myself, or been closely involved for many years.

This bill is designed to encourage parents to consider the benefits of private school and home school. The bill could also save the state general fund hundreds of millions of dollars.

It would create a tax credit for anyone who helps pay the tuition for a student who moves from a public to a private school. It would also provide a tax credit to families who move their students from public school to home school.

The incentives created by these educational tax credits would give the state a healthy, competitive education system. Colorado could become the example for the nation. Parents would have better choices, students would have better access to the educational format that fits their learning style, the state would maximize the use of its educational dollars and every educational format would thrive.


3. Budget Buster of the Week

Budget Buster of the Week: $350,000 for a new Program, the AG Charitable Fraud Unit

Recent news stories have covered a request from the Attorney General's office to the Joint Budget Committee for about $350,000 to fund a new charitable fraud enforcement unit. This means a couple of attorneys, an investigator and related services which would be devoted full-time to enforce the Colorado Charitable Solicitations Act.

First a little background. Last year HB-1129 passed, putting in place a stiff penalty system (up to three million dollars) for charitable fraud and a new requirement that "paid solicitors" for non-profits be bonded. In my research on that bill I was shocked to learn that Colorado's charitable solicitation laws, if followed to the letter, creates an almost impossible system to navigate for many non-profits in Colorado. The fiscal note for the bill was less than $20,000. Now the AG wants $350,000 for a new enforcement unit.

Part of their rationale is a supposed "sudden growth in charities" (Denver Post, 12/29/16) over the past ten years. In fact, in 2008 there was a big push from the Secretary of State to enforce registration requirements for non-profits and consequently many more have now registered with the Secretary of State. There is no evidence that Colorado has just become a haven for non-profits (which would actually be a great thing, given all of the good work of most non-profits).

So I asked them how big the problem seems to be. Early in December they told me that in 2016 they had received 30-40 calls concerning instances of possible charitable fraud. Of these inquiries, most were dismissed with a little checking up on (a return phone call) and none have resulted in a significant case that they could cite. The only actual case they noted was a national issue involving the attorneys general in all fifty states. This means that the AG's office gets less than one phone call a week. They want a brand new, full-time team to followup on those almost once a week calls?

I am concerned that this new enforcement unit will end up on fishing expeditions among the non-profits in Colorado until they find some problem upon which they can exert their heavy penalties.

This is worse than a budget buster. It is wasting taxpayer dollars to put out a dragnet for non-profit "scofflaws" who may not have filled out the proper forms for the government and posted the proper bonds (at great personal expense).


4. National Association of Scholars Study

I am honored to have been asked to be one of the speakers at a meeting to roll out a significant study conducted by the The National Association of Scholars (NAS) concerning a radical change in how civics is taught in our universities. The study highlights the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and the University of Wyoming.

The study is titled: "Making Citizens: How Universities Teach Civics." which details the way universities have strayed far from traditional government studies and are becoming a training grounds for left-wing political activists. College civics classes should be teaching students about law, liberty and the process of self governance that we have in America, not how to stage protests. In addition to explaining their findings in modern universities, the study goes into the history and background of the movement to take "old civics" out of the classroom and replace it with "new civics."

The event I am speaking at will be at the IIndependenceependence Institute located at 727 E 16th Ave, Denver, CO 80203 on January 12, and will begin at 5:00 with a reception followed by the program at 5:30. Please join us!

Click here for the NAS website and more information on their project and to RSVP for this event. You also can RSVP by calling 917-551-6772.

Back to Top

< Back to The Issues

"2011 Taxpayer Champion"
- Colorado Union of Taxpayers