Rain, Rain, Go Away

I think my house would be a lot cooler if I could call it a “hamlet.”

Governor Bill Ritter’s plan to fund public schools by freezing property tax rates was given initial approval yesterday in the state legislature. As Berny Morson of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to prop up the state education fund won approval Monday in the House Education Committee on a straight party-line vote.

The measure would freeze the tax rate in most school districts, canceling tax cuts that would otherwise occur under a 1994 school finance law. Ritter’s plan would allow taxes to decline in 34 districts that pay the highest rates.

The vote on SB 199 was 8-5, with all the Democrats in support and all the Republicans opposed. The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Republicans called the plan a tax increase. Democrats rejected that argument, countering that the plan does not determine anyone’s tax bill, only the rate at which property will be taxed.

Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, pointed out several times that the measure is projected to raise $1.8 billion in taxes over the next 10 years. The repeated assertion got under the skin of Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, the House sponsor of the bill.

“The sound bite is wrong, and you say it over and over again,” said Pommer, who believes that Gardner is unfairly inflating the figure by calculating it out over a decade.

Gardner and Pommer also clashed over a GOP assertion that more money could be raised from lands set aside as an endowment for schools. Pommer called the idea an “absurd proposal.”

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Democratic Rep. Gwyn Green has taken an early leave from her duties in the state legislature in order to tend to a family emergency. As Cara DeGette of Colorado Confidential reports:

State Rep. Gwyn Green will miss the remaining two weeks of the legislative session after an adult daughter’s unexpected surgery required her to fly to Georgia, lawmakers announced Monday.

The Jefferson County Democrat represents HD 23, which includes portions of Golden and Lakewood. She will help care for her granddaughter and daughter, whose condition or type of surgery was not detailed. House Speaker Andrew Romanoff indicated that Green, a retired social worker who was elected in 2004, is excused for the rest of the session.

“We send her our best wishes and prayers,” Romanoff said.

The last day of the legislative session is scheduled for May 9.


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The watchdog group Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government (CCEG) has won a ruling against a political committee it accused of violating campaign finance laws. As a press release explains:

In a precedent-setting ruling that changes reporting practices for political committees, a Colorado administrative law judge (ALJ) held that the Committee for the American Dream (CAD) violated Colorado campaign finance law.

Last month, Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government (CCEG) filed suit against CAD after learning that during the 2006 election cycle, CAD had purchased $28,435 of television time to air ads that attacked now State Representative John Kefalas (D-52), but had failed to file a single electioneering communication report with the secretary of state’s office.

State law requires anyone who spends over $1,000 on ads that refer to a candidate and are broadcast to voters within 60 days before a general election to file “electioneering communication” reports with the secretary of state’s office no later than 30 days after the election.  CAD argued that, as a matter of practice, political committees don’t file electioneering communication reports because expenditure reports already list money spent on advertisements. 

Electioneering communication reports, however, also require disclosure of the name of the candidate referred to in an ad and the name and address of any person who contributes more than $250 to the person making the ad.  The ALJ agreed with CCEG’s argument that the two reports are not the same and, therefore, that political committees must file both reports. CAD also argued that political committees are excused from filing electioneering communication reports under the so-called “business exemption,” which allows committees not to disclose communications made in the normal course of business.  The ALJ rejected this argument, agreeing with CCEG that allowing political committees, which are in the business of influencing elections, to claim this exemption would undermine the purposes of campaign finance disclosures.

“Thanks to CCEG’s complaint, not only has CAD been held liable for ignoring reporting requirements, but more importantly, Colorado campaign finance laws will be more strictly enforced in the future,” said Chantell Taylor, CCEG’s director. “This case sets an important precedent that will increase transparency in Colorado elections.”

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Conservative Republican Doug “TABOR Daddy” Bruce will face a primary challenge in his bid for re-election to the El Paso County Comissioner’s Office. But as Bill McKeown of The Colorado Springs Gazette reports, the challenger may be even more conservative than Bruce:

A politically connected conservative and former employee of Focus on the Family has set up a Web page announcing she’ll seek the District 2 commissioner seat held by fellow Republican Douglas Bruce.

Amy Lathen’s decision – coming a full year before the GOP caucuses and 20 months before the general election – could set up a primary challenge against a man well-known in El Paso county for his antitax crusades and his ability to flummox opponents.

Lathen, 39, said that she will formally announce her candidacy in June, but that she already has filed paperwork with the El Paso County clerk and recorder that allows her to seek campaign donations.

Lathen is a member of the El Paso County GOP executive committee, ran John Newsome’s successful campaign for district attorney in 2004 and played a role in the campaigns of former Gov. Bill Owens and President Bush.

She said she has started her campaign early because she wants the ability to accept donations, wanted to satisfy the urgings of “excited” supporters and wants to be ready in case the Republican caucuses are moved to early February.

A primary challenge couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.


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An anti-affirmative action measure has been proposed in the state legislature by two of the most conservative members of the Republican Party. As David Montero of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Sponsors of their self-described “civil rights initiative” launched their campaign at the Brown Palace Hotel Monday morning in hopes of dismantling affirmative action in government – including everything from admissions to state universities to contractors submitting bids to do work for government.

Flanked by State Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, and State Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, the face of the anti-affirmative action movement spoke about moving toward a color blind society and that the existence of affirmative action laws actually promotes race bias instead of eliminating them.

Ward Connerly, chairman of the Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Institute, said the state shouldn’t promote discrimination and that this ballot measure “goes to the heart of who we are as a country.” He also said it was time to end what he called “double standards” for ethnic groups.

“What we’re about to do – what we’re setting upon a course to do – is to bring a single standard to every government agency and every village and hamlet in this country,” Connerly said. “That’s what the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative is about. Passing this, the people will be joining those bluest of blue states – California, Washington, Michigan – all of which passed that language … this is not some marginal initiative that is asking people to do something to turn back the clock on civil rights or racial progress.”

But Dennis Parker, director of racial justice program of the American Civil Liberties Union, said race is still a major issue in America and cited the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina as an example of how far society is from being color blind.

“The significance of Katrina laid bare the fault in the argument that race doesn’t matter,” Parker said. “It was hard to look at that experience and say race doesn’t matter in America.”

…every village and hamlet in this country.

Where did the American Civil Rights Institute get their spokesman? The 15th century? Was Rosencrantz too busy?


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Coincidentally, a plan to make it more difficult to change the state Constitution advanced in the legislature yesterday. As Jennifer Brown of The Denver Post explains:

State representatives voted Monday to put a measure on the 2008 ballot asking citizens to make it harder to change the Colorado Constitution. Fueled by dislike of the state’s new ethics-in-government law, the proposal made it out of one chamber of the legislature for the first time in four years.

The measure now goes to the Senate, which failed to pass a similar proposal last year by one vote.

Supporters said the too-easy process to amend the state constitution has made it a “doormat” and a “laughing stock,” a document cluttered with conflicting fiscal policy, hog farm rules and a section on the trapping of fur-bearing animals.

“We don’t change the constitution like we change an undershirt,” said Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial.
The measure needed 44 votes, two-thirds of the House, to pass. It was approved 46-16.

The proposal from Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, would require a margin of three-fifths of votes – 60 percent – to change the constitution. The standard now is a simple majority, 50 percent plus one.

Some critics, including House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, were not against making it harder to change the constitution. But they said that because the measure can’t go on the ballot until 2008, lawmakers should spend the next year gathering citizen input.

But White said lawmakers should use that time to explain to the public why the proposal is necessary.
“The time is now,” he said, noting public confusion over whether Amendment 41 bans inheritances or scholarships to the children of government employees. “I’m not sure what will happen to the public a year from now.”

The ethics amendment passed with 62 percent of the vote last November. But White believes Amendment 41’s backers likely would have sought a new state law instead of a constitutional change if the threshold had been 60 percent.

And if Amendment 41 was a statutory measure and not carved into the constitution, the legislature could have clarified its scope this year, White said.

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Good news! President Bush has given Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a vote of confidence. As The Washington Post reports:

President Bush said his confidence in Alberto R. Gonzales has grown as a result of the attorney general’s testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as the administration moved to end speculation that Gonzales would step down after a performance criticized by senators in both parties.

“The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment and answered every question he could possibly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job,” Bush told reporters in the Oval Office yesterday. “Some senators didn’t like his explanation, but he answered as honestly as he could.”
Soon after Bush spoke, Gonzales said he has no plans to resign. “I will stay as long as I feel I can be effective,” the attorney general said at a news conference called to discuss identity theft. “And I believe I can be effective.”

Taken together, White House advisers and consultants said, the comments suggested that the president intends to ride out the storm despite qualms among Republican lawmakers and even some of his own aides. “He’s staying,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters when asked about Gonzales. Perino later added that Bush did not watch the testimony but received updates from aides.

Leading Republicans continued to express doubt yesterday that Gonzales is up to the job, in light of his contradictory explanations for the firing last year of eight U.S. attorneys. Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told reporters in Harrisburg, Pa., that keeping Gonzales as attorney general would be “harmful to the Justice Department because he has lost his credibility.”

But the White House appears to have concluded that Gonzales has done nothing to merit firing — and that letting him go would only create more political problems for the administration. Bush also seems to be digging in against the proposition that his appointments can be dictated from Capitol Hill.

It’s hard to believe that letting Gonzales go “would create more political problems for the administration.” Could things really get worse for Bush?

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Jason Bane

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