Political Gravy in the Brain

If you put a chip in my brain, could you make it one that makes me smarter?

Democrats yesterday began plugging a package of bills that support Gov. Bill Ritter’s goal of making Colorado a leader in renewable energy. As Jeri Clausing of The Denver Post reports:

Gov. Bill Ritter and Democratic legislative leaders lined up with farmers, environmentalists and utility and labor lobbyists Wednesday to tout a renewable energy package they say will launch a new economy in Colorado. Republicans and representatives of rural electric cooperatives, meanwhile, stood in the back of the room, accusing the Democrats of advocating higher utility bills and onerous mandates on rural cooperatives.

The package includes requirements that utilities upgrade and build new transmission lines, produce more electricity from alternatives sources like wind and solar, and provide credits for businesses, farms and households that produce more energy than they consume.

“What we are going to put before you today is the beginning of Colorado’s realization of its great potential,” said Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden.

House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, said, “We’re literally embarking on a new energy future for Colorado.”

Ritter, who has made renewable energy the cornerstone of his first year’s agenda, said the policies will promote “great economic development prospects for the state” and energy independence for the country.


Okay, we’re going to go slow on this one in hopes that it won’t sound too weird. Brighton Rep. Mary Hodge has introduced a bill to prevent placing a microchip in the brain of a human because a librarian in Adams County urged her to pursue the issue.

Nope. Still weird.

Alan Gathright of the Rocky Mountain News has the story:

For years, people have been implanting tiny microchips under their pet’s skin so that if Rover’s collar slips off, there’s still a way to find him if he wanders away.

Now a state lawmaker has added a twist to that concept with a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to require two-legged critters to have a microchip implanted under their skin.

Under the bill, employers could not track workers’ movements, for example.

Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, said she introduced House Bill 1082 as a “proactive measure” at the urging of Adams County’s head librarian. He fears that “microchipping” people could become the next Big Brother tactic of a federal government whose use of warrantless telephone eavesdropping and the Patriot Act in the war on terror has alarmed civil libertarians.

There are so many things to love about this story, such as the fact that Hodge is running a bill because a librarian told her to do it. But the best part is that even though microchipping is a serious threat to the livelihood of people in Colorado, under Hodge’s bill it would only be a misdemeanor. This is scary and should be illegal, so if you get caught, you’re definitely going to get 10 hours of community service. We’re absolutely taking this seriously! Community service, buddy!


Electoral college? We don’t need no stinking electoral college. Ed Sealover of The Colorado Springs Gazette reports on efforts to scrap the Presidential electoral college system in the West:

The National Popular Vote movement, which aims to do away with the Electoral College, has a foothold in the Colorado Legislature.

State Sen. Ken Gordon’s bill to circumvent presidential electors and have the popular vote decide national elections cleared the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote Wednesday.

It’s headed to the Senate floor.

Under Gordon’s proposal, which is similar to measures expected to be introduced in 46 other states, Colorado’s nine electoral votes no longer would go to the presidential candidate who wins the state.

Instead, Colorado would enter into an agreement with other states to give its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.

The agreement would not kick in until enough states to control a majority of the 538 electoral votes have signed it. Democrats have pushed to do away with the Electoral College since 2000, when Al Gore received more votes than George W. Bush but lost the election.


Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation joined in support of a joint letter asking federal officials to declare an agricultural disaster in Colorado counties affected by last month’s blizzards. The letter received bipartisan support from everyone in the delegation…except for Rep. Tom Tancredo. As M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Tancredo’s name was notably missing, and that was not a mistake, according to his spokesman, Carlos Espinosa. The congressman decided not to sign “because he wanted to send out a separate letter, and one that’s going to recognize the urgency of the request but also get away from continued supplementary relief packages,” Espinosa said.

“A lot of the farm lobbyists have been telling us for years (that) if we would increase the farm bill, a lot of these supplementary relief packages wouldn’t be as necessary,” Espinosa said.

He said that was an important point that Tancredo planned to make in a separate letter.

Tom Tancredo, ladies and gentlemen. Your Republican candidate for President.


Democratic Rep. Mark Udall is making more noise about his expected candidacy for the U.S. Senate. As The Associated Press reports:

Colorado Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, an all-but-official candidate to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, predicted Wednesday that the state is ready to elect a second Democratic senator.

After years of supporting Republicans, independent-leaning Colorado voters now believe Democrats best represent their interests on issues ranging from the environment to government intrusion to balancing the budget, said Udall, Eagle County’s congressman.

“I think Democrats are better tapped into those beliefs among Western voters and Coloradans in particular, and that’s why we’ve been winning elections,” he said. “It’s not so much about party as it is about the right leadership.”…

…Udall tried to downplay the attention the race is expected to get. But in a Capitol corridor Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California made clear how important Democrats consider the race, calling after him in a teasing voice: “Senator! When a U.S. senator comes by, we stand!”

Udall is the only Democrat so far to say publicly that he plans to run, but he hasn’t set a date to formally declare.

“Stay tuned,” he said. “I’ll make that announcement in Colorado at a time and a place that makes sense. I think that Colorado is ready for the kind of leadership and vision that I bring.”


President George Bush still isn’t having much luck with his new plan on Iraq. As The Washington Post reports:

A bipartisan group of senators announced a formal resolution of opposition yesterday to President Bush’s buildup of troops in Iraq, calling for more diplomacy, international cooperation and an “appropriately expedited” transfer of military responsibilities to Iraqi security forces.
The nonbinding resolution, which could come to a vote within two weeks, moves Congress a major step closer to a public confrontation with the Bush administration over war policy. A Senate vote would be followed quickly by action in the House. But even before the resolution’s introduction, prominent lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), were pushing for far tougher measures that could cut off funding for the war and legislatively thwart Bush’s “surge” of 21,500 additional troops.


Officials throughout Colorado gave a harsh assessment of the state’s welfare system yesterday, as April Washington of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Officials in some of Colorado’s largest counties say that former Gov. Bill Owens’ administration was in “a defiant state of denial” regarding problems with the state’s welfare computer system, and that it could leave counties on the hook for millions of dollars in benefits overpayments.

“The system is ineffective, and it’s not working. It’s as simple as that,” Gilpin County Commissioner Jeanne Nicholson said. “The state has stayed in a defiant state of denial.”

Counties worry that they’ll have to reimburse the federal government millions of dollars in overpayments to the needy, and some lawmakers are so concerned they called a hearing on the matter today.

The $223-million system was designed to replace the 25-year-old Legacy system and streamline food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Aid to Needy Families.
But it has denied benefits to thousands of qualified clients, and has been maddeningly slow, hard to operate and labor-intensive.

Is it possible for a welfare program to apply for welfare funding so that it can fix its program? Would that work?


The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill yesterday that would cut down on the time it takes to locate missing persons and return them to their families. According to a press release from the House Democrats:

House Bill 1005, sponsored by State Representative John Soper (D-Thornton), would create a faster and more extensive response when a person with a developmental disorder disappears.  Once that person is declared missing, the police are alerted and directed to the area where the person was last seen.  The alert is also sent to the media to ask the public to be on the lookout for that missing person and to advise the public on what to do when the person is found.

“This bill creates a vital tool,” said Rep. Soper.  “Hopefully, it is one we can keep in the shed and never have to use.”

Soper used his own personal experience in developing the bill.  He is the court appointed guardian for his disabled brother and saw firsthand how quickly his brother would wander off and not be able to find his way back.  This inspired him to introduce an Amber Alert program to help people like his brother who need extra help in returning home.

This program does not require any state funds.  The bill is similar to the alert program for missing senior citizens, sponsored by State Representative Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley) in the 2006 session.


The House State Affairs Committee is considering two bills regarding campaign disclosure this afternoon. House Bill 1052 deals with filing requirements for issue committees. House Bill 1074 is the 527 issue committee bill sponsored by Rep. Morgan Carroll, who discussed the legislation in a Live Q&A with Colorado Confidential.