Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Putting sunshine where the sun don’t shine

Posted by on Aug 07 2014 | education, Petition Rights, Politics, Transparency

Last Friday, the Independence Institute took another step towards forcing more transparency in government–school districts in particular.

We delivered over 127,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office to place a citizens’ initiative on this fall’s ballot. If passed, it would require that, when school districts negotiate a teachers union contract, it be open to the public. Pretty radical, huh?!

Here’s the exact wording you’ll see on your ballot in November: “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”

Imagine that. Government doing the work of the people, well, in front of the people, and not in smoke-filled back rooms. Isn’t it insane that we have to go through all the trouble and expense of a citizens’ initiative to pry open the locked doors of government?

In the last several years, Republicans in the state legislature introduced bills three times to have Colorado join the 11 other states with such a policy. And three times it was shot down by the special interests who want to continue meeting in the dark: teachers unions and school districts.

Well, since the legislature won’t get the job done, we will! It’s what we do around here.

Financially speaking, the most important function of a school board is negotiating their teachers’ contracts. It can be 80% of the district’s budget. Imagine the state legislature negotiating how to spend 80% of the state budget in a back-room meeting? No one would stand for it. And we won’t stand for it in our school districts, either.

We all have a stake in these talks, and we all should be able to keep an eye on the negotiating table. Teachers can finally observe how both sides represent pay and working conditions. They can finally see if their union and the district really have their interests at heart. Parents could see how policies affecting their children’s teachers and classroom policies are discussed and decided. It’s their children, after all.

Back in June, the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote an editorial endorsing our ballot initiative. You can read their endorsement here.

We’ll find out within 30 days if we’ve made the ballot. You can bet those who love back-room deal-making will hope we fall short of the 87,000 valid signatures needed. We won’t.

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You’ll Like This Story

Posted by on Jan 30 2014 | Politics, Purely Personal

In a good story or movie, something happens which then makes something else happen. Luke Skywalker buys a droid. The droid has a message. Luke brings the droid to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan makes a deal with Han Solo for transport to another planet…

If Luke didn’t buy that damn droid in the first place, there’d be no Star Wars, and George Lucas would be working at Olive Garden today.

This idea that something causes another something, which causes yet another, well, it works in our world of politics, too. Here’s an example:

Our investigative reporter, Todd Shepherd, walks into my office asking for money. This is a pretty common occurrence (usually due to his gambling habit), but this time he wants it for an open records request. While Colorado has open records laws, it can cost quite a bit to make public records actually public. Anyway, Todd’s in my office paddling on about his great idea, and it’s only going to cost us around $400. After wearing me down like a teen-aged girl asking her daddy to borrow the car, I finally give in.

Days later, he breaks the story that U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s staff was pressuring state employees to change the official number of Coloradans who got insurance cancellation notices thanks to Obamacare. Accuracy is rarely good in an election year. Not only does this story become front page news in Colorado, but it also makes national news and highlights Udall’s key role in passing Obamacare.

Now, when Chris Christie’s folks were caught intimidating state workers, he fired them and apologized. Senator Udall, by contrast, doubled down and stood by his staff. So the story continues. Pressure built for an ethics investigation. So a “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel was convened and quickly determined that Udall’s staff did nothing inappropriate. Story ends? Nope.

Other media outlets made their own records request of the “neutral” Ethics Panel only to find there were no records. The head of the state regulatory agency wouldn’t release any of the panel’s records, saying there were none. So that causes everyone– from the Denver Post, to legislators, to candidates for governor– to demand an investigation into the investigation. But they still wouldn’t even release the names of those who made up the “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel.

But all that causes the agency head to leak the names to just one news source. And that causes all of the other news sources, like the Post, to cry foul. So that causes the state to release the names of the “neutral and objective” panel officially. And we find out the panel was made up of that same head state regulator, who is a Hickenlooper appointee, her deputy, and her legislative liaison, the former chief of staff for the state Senate Democrats.

So now we know what “neutral and objective” is. And the story will continue.

Imagine. All that wouldn’t have happened if Todd Shepherd didn’t walk into my office to sell me his simple idea for an open records request.

Remember, your support made this happen. To fund future projects like this, donate here.

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How To Deal With a Faithless State Lawmaker: The Hudak Recall

Posted by on Nov 27 2013 | Civil Rights, congress, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, elections, guns, Politics, Second Amendment, TABOR

Advocates of freedom and constitutional rights won a victory today when Senator Evie Hudak resigned to avoid being recalled.

For years, people have asked me, “When a Member of Congress repeatedly violates his or her oath of office, what can we do?” Because Congressmen can’t be impeached (and their colleagues rarely expel them), my answer always has been, “You have no alternative but oppose him or her in the next election.”

But for Colorado elected officials, we do have an alternative: recall. And after long failure to use that tool, the voters finally have deployed it—three times this year.

Recall elections work because in recall elections, unlike general elections, issues aren’t “bundled” together in inseparable packages. You vote on one office, and on the record of one politician. Of course, the political class doesn’t like that: They like it when government is involved in so many matters and election campaigns are so muddled that you don’t really have a clear “yes” or “no” vote: So you just re-elect the person whose name you know—the incumbent.

But a recall, like a voter initiative, offers the electorate a much more focused choice. It’s democracy at its finest.

In some other states, the political class (sometimes through the courts) have gelded the recall process by requiring adequate “cause” for a recall. In those states, whether there is “cause” is decided by (guess who?) the politicians or judges. In light of what has happened this year, look for an effort to limit recall in Colorado, too. If they do try to limit recall, just remember: In a republic, lawmakers are the agents of the people, and the only judges of whether an agent has been faithful are those who hired him.

In the case of Evie Hudak, the signs were that a majority of her district believed she had been faithless: Contrary to her oath of office and contrary to her employers’ instructions (as set forth in the state and federal Constitutions), she had attacked our right to keep and bear arms. Because of this, she deserved to be gone, just as much as if she had attacked our right of free speech or our state constitutional right to vote on tax increases.

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Colorado’s Billion-Dollar Tax Hike Proposal: Really Bad Constitution-Writing

Posted by on Sep 24 2013 | Amendment 66, Constitutional Amendments, Economics, Economy, education, Initiative 22, Politics, Taxes

Hear Justin Longo’s interview with Rob on Amendment 66 here.

Colorado’s Amendment 66—the billion dollar tax hike—is a constitutional monstrosity.

Amendment 66 is, technically, not entirely a constitutional amendment. It is an unusual hybrid of constitutional amendment and change in the state tax law. The secretary of state refers to it as Initiative 22, and it is on the ballot this fall.

The constitutional change would lock in a hugely-disproportionate share of state spending for a single program at the expense of every other Colorado service, public or private. The statutory change would impose a big hike in the state income tax.

As explained below, the costs across a wide range of areas—including public health and safety—could be immense.

But before we get to that, just think of how unfair this measure is:

Under its rules, everything else would take a back seat to the demands of the school bureaucracy. Law enforcement would suffer. So would disaster relief, parks, the environment, services for the elderly, health care, our universities, not to mention economic investment and the taxpayers’ own needs.

Why? Because Amendment 66/Initiative 22 says that (with a sinister refinement explained below) the state school bureaucracy “shall, at a minimum, receive forty-three percent of sales, excise, and income tax revenue collected in the general fund.” In other words, it requires that we spend nearly half our state general fund for a single service before funding anything else!

And that 43% is only a floor. Amendment 66 demands even more. Here’s why:

* The 43% is in addition to what we pay in property taxes.

* The statutory part adds a steep income tax hike on top of that and gives all he revenue to the school bureaucracy.

* The 43% is calculated on what the older, lower tax rates would have brought in. But an income tax of, say, 20% yields less than 20% more revenue, because of disincentives and tax avoidance. So the 43% is calculated on the older, richer system, not on the newer, poorer one.

Now consider some of the other consequences:

* Because of the 43% strait jacket, the legislature couldn’t freely reallocate existing revenue to new needs. For example, the Denver Post has reported that due in part to funding limitations for supervision, inmates released on parole often commit new crimes, including murder. Yet Amendment 66 would make re-allocating funds to parole supervisions that much harder, thereby endangering the lives and safety of Colorado citizens.

* That means a primary way of allocating revenue would become more tax increases.

* We would be crippled in adjusting school costs to reflect changes in technology or to promote educational accountability. Even if schools don’t do the job or are using money wastefully, they still get their guaranteed cut. This violates a basic principle of Anglo-American constitutionalism: agencies are responsible to the legislature for what they do with appropriated funds.

* State income taxes would jump for everyone—by over 27% for everyone with a taxable income of more than $75,000, and 8% for everyone else.

* And the cost of living would rise for every family in the state—including and especially the poor. This is because tax increases–even they seem to hit only the “rich”—have a way of seeping through an economy like venom. Almost everyone pays in the form of higher prices, lower incomes, and fewer jobs. A tax hike, like water, runs downhill.

* Higher taxes also weaken the entire economy. Don’t be misled on this score: The studies show that the additional spending mandated by Amendment 66 is likely to harm much more than it helps.

* The state income tax hike could wound Colorado’s economic competitiveness and kill Colorado jobs—a serious concern right now. Remember that we are in economic competition with other states and other countries, and several of our neighbors either don’t have an income tax or are cutting, reducing, or phasing out the income taxes they have.

* Colorado’s current tax may look like a flat rate, but because of the base on which it is calculated it is actually somewhat punitive as to income. Amendment 66 would make it much more so. Tax hikes like that have been shown to be particularly damaging to prosperity.

* Because the 43% guarantee is based on revenue from former, lower tax rates, the Amendment 66 insulates the school bureaucracy from the economic damage imposed by the tax hike.

A good constitution protects individual rights and structures government to serve the interests of all. But Amendment 66 mutilates our state constitution to privilege the greedy few. It transfers more money to the bureaucracy to do things that will hurt the general welfare, including the welfare of our children.

This violates every principle of good constitution-writing.

* * * *
P.S.: Here’s the ultimate irony: For years advocates of this money-grab have attacked Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), claiming it unduly restricts the legislature. Yet now they want to constrict the legislature far more than TABOR does. Hypocrisy, anyone?

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Political Off Season? What’s That?

Posted by on Jul 23 2013 | Idiot Box (TV Show), Politics

The legislative session ended and we’re supposed to be in the political off season. But in reality, there is no political off season. Especially on my TV show, Devils Advocate. In case you missed this recent episode where I discuss political happenings during the “downtime” with Fox31′s Eli Stokols and Tim Hoover of the Denver Post, check it out here:

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Do You Know Why Coolidge Matters?

Posted by on Jun 20 2013 | Events, Political Ignorance, Politics

Calvin Coolidge is just now getting the recognition he deserves some 18 years after the end of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” Go figure. The reason might be that America in the 1920s has real similarities to America today. Unlike our current President, Coolidge stood up to the left and shrank the size of government.

We invite you to learn about the president grade school teachers barely mention in history class. Charles C. Johnson has just authored Why Coolidge Matters and he’ll be visiting us on June 26 at 5:30PM at the Independence Institute offices. Please come listen to the Coolidge story, which might, might make you place him slightly higher than Reagan on your list of great presidents. And find out why he is the only one that sees that tiger come to life. RSVP here: http://coolidge.eventbrite.com/

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Welcome To Colorado, 26th In State And Local Tax Burden

Posted by on May 22 2013 | Economy, Politics, Taxes

You might think that a self-proclaimed “economic development expert” would have a solid grasp of the levels of taxation in Colorado. You might be wrong.

In a recent Denver Post guest opinion column making a case for a two-tiered state income-tax rate, former state representative and executive director of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade Don Marostica makes the claim that Colorado ranks 45th in combined state and local taxation. Mr. Marostica did not cite any source for this claim. Here is the what he wrote:

For state taxes paid per $1,000 of income, Colorado ranks 48th. When state and local taxes are combined, Colorado is still near the bottom at 45th, below Texas and all our other neighboring states.

But according to the the meticulously sourced and cited 2012 Independence Institute study, “How Colorado’s Tax Burdens Rank Nationally,” Colorado is 26th in the nation for combined state and local tax burdens…hardly “near the bottom” in terms of paying taxes. From the study:

Colorado ranks 26th nationally, compared to all other states for the combined state and local tax burden, on a per capita basis.

You can read the study here.

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Another Second Amendment Success

Posted by on Apr 19 2013 | Constitutional Law, Gun shows, guns, Kopelization, Politics, PPC, Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution

The media correctly portrayed Wednesday’s Senate vote against broad background checks as an enormous defeat for the anti-gun movement, and for President Obama, as he put so much of his political capital into it. His decisive defeat significantly weakens him on every other issue.

What might not be as well known is that the Independence Institute was a key player in this success.

We were the only organization to put out a detailed explanation of how Senator Schumer’s background check bill would’ve turned almost every American gun owner into a felon, because it applies not only to gun sales, but also temporary transfers, like lending your shotgun to a friend or family member.

When the gun control lobby realized they couldn’t pass Schumer’s background check, they then proposed the Manchin-Toomey substitute. It was drafted secretly and hastily, and the plan was to rush it through the Senate. Our Second Amendment scholar, David Kopel, spent long & late nights writing articles on Volokh.com and National Review Online explaining how poorly written it was, making it full of unintended consequences. For example, it supposedly outlawed federal gun registration, but when you look carefully at the statutory language, it actually legalized one form of federal gun registration which is currently illegal.

Kopel’s work helped the Senate see that these bills, which were supposedly just about background checks on sales, were actually laden with many other anti gun provisions.

We were there from the very beginning of this fight. According to Senate aides, Kopel’s testimony before the Judicial Committee on January 30 was crucial in stopping a federal ban on so-called “assault weapons.” And from the very moment President Obama began using the horrible murders in Newtown as pretext to crack down on law abiding gun owners, Kopel was in the national media providing the facts and promoting genuine reforms which would actually help public safety.

Joe Biden lobbied hard here in Colorado to pass a litany of anti gun bills on the state level, which were intended to set the stage for a national ban. Kopel’s expert testimony in the state legislature, along with our broad outreach in social media and on YouTube, helped lead to the defeat of two of the worst bills: the ban on licensed carry on college campuses and the bill allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Our work also helped make the bills that did pass significantly less bad than they were to start with.

For the anti-gun movement, Colorado was supposed to be an easy victory leading them to victories elsewhere. Instead they paid a HUGE price for their limited victories in Colorado, and that price will escalate significantly as we provide pro bono representation to Colorado Sheriffs as we lead the legal fight to declare these bills unconstitutional.

Join us for a book signing with our Second Amendment scholar Dave Kopel on Tuesday, May 14th. He will be giving a presentation on his new book, “The Truth About Gun Control,” and signing copies following the Q and A. For more details and to RSVP, please go here.

We fight for Freedom with a long-term battle plan that works. These victories are even more proof. Thank you for being a part of it.

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A Question For Colorado State Senator Lucia Guzman

Posted by on Feb 27 2013 | guns, Politics, PPC

Dear Senator Guzman,

A recent piece in the Denver Post quotes you as supporting Colorado House Bill 1224, which recently passed out of the House of Representatives and which says, in part, that it is okay to manufacture magazines that hold more than 15 bullets in Colorado and sell them out of state, but not here in Colorado. In other words, a magazine that holds more then 15 bullets is bad (and soon to be criminal) when purchased and owned by a Coloradan, but okay when manufactured in Colorado but purchased and owned by someone outside the borders of our state. As one of your constituents, I am curious how you reconcile that glaring inconsistency to the point you are willing to see the bill made into law?

Regards,

Mike Krause
Constituent, Colorado Senate District 34

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Fox 31, Denver Post Reporters On Devil’s Advocate Tonight

Posted by on Feb 01 2013 | Idiot Box (TV Show), Politics, PPC

Friday night means public affairs with the Independence Institute on Colorado Public Television 12. First catch research director Dave Kopel at 8:00 on the round table show Colorado Inside Out. Then stay tuned for Devil’s Advocate at 8:30 as Independence Institute president Jon Caldara is joined by Fox 31 political reporter Eli Stokols and Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels to look at the new legislative session thus far, and what big issues are coming down the line. That’s tonight starting at 8:00 on CPT 12.

You can find your local CPT12 channel by zip code here.

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