#Coleg Notebook: Debating guns, schools and race
Private education tax credit launches a flurry of education amendments
For years, Senate Republicans have been trying to pass a tax credit for private K-12 education. Now that they’re in the majority, they have brought the tax credit to the floor. Democrats used the opportunity to discuss a slew of education issues, many of which had already died in committee this session.
The Democrats proposed to make student loans tax deductible, to create a state-run tuition plan, to make private schools subject to the same standardized tests and evaluations as public schools, and to postpone funding private education until public kindergarten and preschool have full funding.
In the end, one amendment did pass with unanimous support. Carried by President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, the amendment made the tax credit refundable. That means families too poor to pay income tax could still get a check from the state to fund their children’s private education.
Cadman said he supported the move because it would help kids who need it the most.
Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, who sponsored the amendment earlier in the debate, rallied his caucus to support it for a different reason.
“Make a Duck a Duck” amendment on SB45 just passed unanimously. State tax dollars will now be used as vouchers for private schools #coleg
— Jessie Ulibarri (@jessie4CO) March 24, 2015
Gun debate: What we talk about when we talk about “success”
On the surface, lawmakers were fighting over a repeal of universal criminal-background checks for all gun purchases. In practice, they were debating how to measure the success of the existing universal background-check law.
Democrats in favor of retaining universal background checks for all firearms purchases — including private, or peer-to-peer sales — said the policy’s success should be measured by how many people were prevented from legally buying guns because they couldn’t pass a criminal background check. That’s nearly 6,000 would-be gun buyers since the law went on the books in 2013.
Republicans advocating a repeal of universal background checks focused on the peer-to-peer sales the bill was intended to cover, pointing out that only three people have been caught and convicted for privately buying a gun without a background check.
This disagreement about how to measure or even talk about the law’s success was never settled. The ships-passing-in-the-night debate lasted several hours. In the end, everyone voted as expected: 18 Republicans shouted “yes” to repealing the background-check law, and 17 Democrats shouted “no”.
Salazar still mulling the mascot debate
Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton spoke with us about his provocative bill to make American Indian school mascots subject to approval by a board of tribal members. The debate hasn’t left his mind, specifically the arguments of GOP lawmakers.
“That is the essence of institutionalized racism right there, that we don’t trust American Indians enough to allow them to make decisions about themselves,” said Salazar. “Anything that you do, we still have to approve like you’re a bunch of children.’ That’s what really got to me, and I wish I had said so more clearly yesterday.”
As for his controversial introduction of the bill, which deployed other racial stereotypes and slurs to demonstrate how Indian students feel when confronted by names like “redskins,” Salazar said he has no regrets.
“This bill challenges social mores and norms, and we meant for that to happen,” he said. “We’re watching a sociology experiment take place with this bill … this is what our republic was set up for.”
“Debating Society” by Isaac Cruikshank, public domain.
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