You Can’t Smoke, But You Can Burn

Results of the Anna Nicole Smith autopsy were made available yesterday. As it turns out, they were fake…

There’s nothing more thrilling than state budget time at the legislature. April Washington of the Rocky Mountain News has the thrilling details:

The Colorado legislature unveiled a record $17.8 billion spending plan for next fiscal year, but said that the state still must pinch pennies as needs and wants continue to outpace a slight bump in state revenue.

This week, the Senate will take up the “long bill,” the state budget for next year. The spending plan reflects a $1.3 billion, or 7.9 percent, jump in revenue.

If the plan is approved, the biggest winners would include health care, public schools, higher education, renewable energy, prisons and mental health needs.
Under the plan, spending would increase $185 million for public education, $52 million for health care, $52 million for higher education and $51 million for prisons.
The budget also calls for opening three driver’s license offices in Larimer, Jefferson and Adams counties to ease long lines and a backlog.

State workers would receive an average 3.7 percent bump in pay, but lawmakers said that the increase wouldn’t be enough to make up lost ground during the recession.

The state also plans to fund pay-for-performance by 1.5 percent, but individual raises would vary depending on how each employee’s position fared on a salary survey – a comparison with similar jobs – that the state uses to set wages.

I’m disappointed to report that once again, the state budget does not include any money for me. Not even a dollar.


Governor Bill Ritter will sign two new renewable energy bills today. According to a press release:

Gov. Bill Ritter kicks off a week of New Energy Economy advances Tuesday when he signs House Bill 1281 and Senate Bill 100 into law. HB1281 will require that 20 percent of the energy provided by large utilities like Xcel come from renewable sources such as wind and solar. SB 100 will make it easier for the construction or expansion of transmission lines to get wind power onto the electric grid.

Ritter will sign the bills at 12:15 p.m. today at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder. Bring your own kite.


Republicans are threatening each other down at the State Capitol, as Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

A lawmaker says a fellow Republican warned her she’d be a target in future elections if she supported a construction-defects bill the home builders industry opposes.

Rep. Debbie Stafford, of Aurora, won’t say which colleague reminded her that the industry has given money to her and other Republicans in previous elections.

But the admonition from a lawmaker came amid what Stafford called the “most heavy-handed lobbying” she’s felt in her seven years in the legislature.

“I’m enraged beyond measure,” she said Monday. “I’m not going to be blackmailed into kowtowing to anybody just because I’ve gotten a campaign contribution from them in the past.

“My vote is not for sale.”

Stafford voted for the bill in committee last week. She said she doesn’t care how that might affect her political future. She is term-limited next year, but has been asked to consider running for the state Senate.

Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D- Denver, said he was concerned when Stafford relayed what had been said to her. The bill in question is House Bill 1338, by Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder.

Stafford shouldn’t be too worried about Republicans targeting her in future elections. Given that they didn’t pick up a single state house or senate seat in 2006, they aren’t very good at beating anybody.


Bay Buchanan has left her talking head job at CNN to become the senior advisor for Rep. Tom Tancredo’s Presidential campaign. As Anne Mulkern of The Denver Post reports:

Angela “Bay” Buchanan, who directed her brother Pat Buchanan’s three bids for the White House, is new senior adviser to Rep. Tom Tancredo as he decides whether to formally run for president.

Tancredo, R-Colo., will announce within two weeks whether he’s joining the Republican primary race. He said last week that his exploratory committee had raised $1 million, which he considered an important barometer of his viability.

“He is a hero to conservatives across this country, and I am honored to have the opportunity to be part of what promises to be an exciting campaign,” Buchanan said about Tancredo in a statement.

Buchanan is a longtime Tancredo ally. In previous interviews with The Denver Post, Buchanan said she knows what it takes to win primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. She managed Pat Buchanan’s campaign in 1996, when he won the New Hampshire primary.

“I’m not saying this is going to be easy,” Buchanan said about Tancredo’s presidential prospects in a late-2005 interview with The Denver Post, when Tancredo first considered making a run for president. “I think there’s a chance.”

This reminds me of the movie “Dumb and Dumber,” when Jim Carrey’s character asks a woman if she would ever date him and she replies that the odds are about a million to one.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance,” Carrey’s character replies.


State Rep. Dan Gibbs is going to be putting in work at a different rounded dome today. As Anne Mulkern and Christa Marshall of The Denver Post report:

A Colorado bill designed to reduce the impact of oil and gas drilling on wildlife could serve as a model for federal law, state Rep. Dan Gibbs will tell a House committee today.

Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, is scheduled to appear at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on how a surge in oil and gas drilling in the West is affecting the environment.

Gibbs’ bill, which passed the state House on Monday, would require Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to consult the Colorado Division of Wildlife on the effects of drilling on such things as animal habitats and mating.

Concerns about the effects of drilling have united hunting and wildlife interests, who were previous political foes.
“I’m going to make a pitch to say, ‘Hey, maybe Congress should take a look at it,”‘ Gibbs said. “Animals don’t know … when they’re going from state lands to federal lands.”

The House committee is looking at ways to balance oil and gas development and environmental interests, said Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman for Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, who is on the panel.
“This is becoming a bigger issue as we see more oil and gas development in the West,” Pacheco said.

I still like former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s plan for protecting wildlife in the face of drilling. Beauprez wanted to teach elk to migrate around drilling sites. I would have liked to have seen that plan put into action, if only for the unintentional comedy factor.


You don’t light up my life. Not anymore.

The only indoor place for smokers left in Colorado may soon be the smoking lounges at Denver International Airport. As April Washington of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

A year from now, the smoking lounges at Denver International Airport might be the only public place in Colorado where smokers can light up.

Under two bills on track to become law, casino patrons would no longer be allowed to smoke, and neither could customers of cigar bars and certain taverns.

On Monday, the Senate gave final approval to House Bill 1269, which outlaws smoking at casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

The Senate amended the bill to give the gaming operations a year before going smoke-free to allow owners to build outdoor patios and adjust their business plans.
A separate measure by Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, will eliminate most other exemptions in the statewide smoking ban passed last year.

Casinos, the DIA smoking lounges and cigar bars were exempted from the 2007 ban, but a loophole in the cigar-bar exemption has allowed tavern owners with heavy cigarette sales also to avoid the ban. Both bills must pass the House, but Democratic leaders said they have excellent chances.

Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. Just do it quickly.


A bill that would have put restrictions on the use of tanning beds was burnt to a crisp at the State Capitol yesterday. Alan Gathright of the Rocky Mountain News sheds some UV light on the subject:

A Senate bill that would have required a parental OK for teens to use tanning salons got burned in the House on Monday as a dozen Democrats helped Republicans kill it on final vote.

“It’s just the dumbest bill of the year,” said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, when asked why Senate Bill 23 died 38-27 with no debate.

May said it doesn’t make sense to prohibit youngsters from indulging in indoor tanning when “you get can (get skin cancer) in your back yard laying out in the sun. Who cares where you get your suntan?”

The dumbest bill of the year? Not quite. The dumbest bill of the year, hands down, was the bill that would have made it illegal to implant microchips in people’s brains.


Republicans may have seriously erred by pushing former Rep. Scott McInnis out of the race for the U.S. Senate in favor of a more conservative candidate. As The New York Sun reports:

Mr. McInnis served in Congress between 1993 and 2005 and, in that time, developed a record for being suitably tough on fiscal issues and suitably moderate on social issues. He earned respectable ratings  during his last five years of service from Americans for Tax Reform (between 80% and 95% each year) and the National Taxpayers Union. He  also happened to be a pro-choice Republican, but he was one still  moderate enough to earn a 0% rating in 2003 from NARAL Pro-Choice  America. He was also one of the Republicans who voted against Mr.  Allard’s and Ms. Musgrave’s infamous Federal Marriage Amendment.

In sum, Mr. McInnis was the Colorado Republican Party’s best shot at holding the line in 2008. However, he seems to have been forced out  of the race by social conservatives who, in a state that is home to
Evangelical leader James Dobson and his Focus on the Family, want a  “traditional” Republican (i.e., one of them) to be their nominee.

Just before Mr. McInnis withdrew his name from consideration, the godfather of the Colorado Republican Party, former Senator Bill  Armstrong commented to the Denver Post that he would not support Mr.  McInnis and instead preferred the more socially conservative Bob  Schaffer, another former Colorado congressman. Mr. Schaffer and Mr.  McInnis have received similar ratings from fiscal groups, but Mr. Schaffer has an edge with so-called traditional Republicans in his co- sponsorship of the original Federal Marriage Amendment, and his pro- life stance. All this presumably leads to Mr. Armstrong’s  determination that Schaffer “is the most likely Republican nominee.”

The most likely Republican nominee, perhaps, but the most likely  successor to Mr. Allard? That’s doubtful.