In this previous legislative session, Senate Bill 187 was passed to create a health care commission for the purpose of discovering what drives health care expenditures in Colorado. Health Care Policy Center Director Linda Gorman was appointed as the sole health economist. Tune in to discover what the commission’s stated goals are and how Linda expects to contribute.
My 15-year-old Toyota Camry just broke 200,000 miles! You’d think all the mileage, rust, and cracks in the windshield would be a turn-off to the women I try to date. Well, I can say the ladies love my car as much as they did when I first bought it. Sadly.
Oh, and other important stuff that’s going on:
The single most important task of an elected school board is negotiating the collective bargaining agreements with employee unions. Not only do the agreements cover about 85% of a district’s budget, they also determine how our children will be taught, how our teachers will be treated, and how taxpayers’ money will be spent. Unfortunately, school boards across the state hold this key process in closed-door back rooms, even though sunshine is crucial for democracy to work.
Our Proposition 104 on this fall’s ballot changes that. It does just one tiny, little thing. It says that school board work must be done in public, like other government work under the state’s open meetings law.
Who in the world could be against opening the doors to the smoky back room? Well, you know, those who are in that room – unions and school districts.
The teachers union challenged our ballot initiative as it was going through the process (all the way to the Supreme Court) and lost. But not to worry, they haven’t given up. They fear sunshine that much. Their likely next step is to take legal action to try to pull Prop 104 off the ballot. Their lawyer, skilled at costly nuisance lawsuits, will soon challenge the validity of the signatures we got to get Prop 104 on the ballot.
In the end they’ll lose that challenge, and they know it. But it will cost us large amounts of legal fees, time and energy. It’s a brilliant tactic, you’ve got to admit.
We are readying for the legal fight, but I need your help. Could you invest in our work to get sunshine on school boards and fight off the legal attacks by giving us $100 today?
We also go on the legal offense here at Independence. Partnering with our friends at the Center for Competitive Politics, we have just filed two lawsuits asserting that state and federal campaign finance disclosure laws are unconstitutional under the First Amendment. To learn more, go here.
We are asking the courts for permission to run two ads – one asking Democratic Colorado U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to support a federal sentencing reform bill, and one asking citizens to urge Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to initiate an audit of the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange. Yes, we live in an age where we need to go to court to enjoy our First Amendment rights.
Our latest IITV episode:
Education Policy Center director Pam Benigno talks with Ben DeGrow about good news for educational freedom. The New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling limiting families’ choices by saying they could only use tax credit scholarships to help pay for a certain kind of private school. Another favorable judicial ruling in one of the 14 states with scholarship tax credit programs gives momentum to support for a similar program that could expand choice in Colorado.
In this second edition of Independence Institute Television, I sit down with host Justin Longo to discuss Proposition 104 – the new Independence Institute ballot measure that seeks to make school board meetings transparent and open to the public. Why shouldn’t these meetings, where school boards and unions flesh out their contracts, be open to the public? After all, even the teachers themselves who must live under the rules of the contract can’t see what’s going on behind closed doors.
You may or may not have known that the Independence Institute has had a podcast for years called Independent Voices (iVoices for short). Over the past 6 or so years we have amassed almost 700 podcasts ranging from transportation to education to gun rights to women’s issues. You can visit our iVoices webpage here for a full archive.
However it is now 2014 and if you hadn’t noticed yet, videos on the Internet are kind of a big deal. (Just peruse your Facebook feed for 5 seconds and you’ll come across 10 cat videos and 3 guys hitting themselves in the junk with a Wiffle ball bat).
In order to get with the times, we built a video cast studio in our building and will start doing video casts rather than podcasts – meaning you’ll be forced to both hear AND see us. That’s great news when one of our ladies is in the studio. That’s bad news when it’s yours truly in high definition.
We figured we’d announce the launching of IITV with none other than our leading constitutional scholar Rob Natelson. In this first edition of IITV, Rob introduces himself, his work, and discusses his approach to researching the Founding era.
Please check back to our YouTube channel to catch the latest from the Independence Institute… in full high definition video!
Open school board meetings are one step closer to being the law.
Yesterday I was informed by the Colorado Secretary of State that we submitted more than 110% of the valid signatures required to place our question on this fall’s ballot.
Colorado voters will get the chance to do what the State Legislature failed to do: throw sunshine on the most important work of a school board, negotiating its contract with the teachers union. Over 80% of a district’s budget is spent on this agreement, yet parents and teachers are usually shut out of these smoky back-room meetings. How our children will be taught, how they interact with the people with whom we entrust them, and how those people will be treated and paid should NOT be decided in darkness.
We will now have a chance to change that.
I can’t wait to hear the reasons those in the smoky back room will give us to vote against sunshine. How are unions going to say, “We don’t want our members to see how we are really representing them”? How will school boards say, “We don’t want parents and taxpayers to see what we really value”? How will school staff say that a little sunshine will destroy negotiations?
This proposed law would not change the ability for a district and a union to agree on any contract terms they like. Just like the state legislature arguing over the budget, they will just have to do it in public. Stay tuned.
Need a little video entertainment?
KUSA news anchor Kyle Clark joined me for a taping of Devil’s Advocate to talk news coverage. Watch it here.
Can a little person make a big case for Freedom? Justin Longo and I chat about Boulder County shutting down a carnival sideshow because it felt “icky” on this videocast of IITV.
Mark your calendar
What other think tank does firearm trainings? Learn about “The Practical Approach to Colorado Laws on Concealed Carry and the use of Deadly Force” with Dave Byassee on the evening of Wednesday, August 20. To learn more, visit our events page here.
For a list of several other gun safety classes being held at the Independence Institute offices, visit the Shooting With a Purpose page here.
And our friends at American Majority are putting on an incredible event starring Carly Fiorina (former Hewlett-Packard CEO and former U.S. Senate candidate) and radio host Hugh Hewitt on unlocking your political strength. And get this: it’s free! Saturday, August 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Check it out now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/unlocking-potential-all-star-workshop-with-carly-fiorina-and-hugh-hewitt-tickets-12476117403
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.
Like most parents, I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about my children. Unlike most parents, I worry about how to care for my 10-year-old son with Down syndrome, since he’ll never grow to be a fully independent adult. His mental and physical limitations prevent him.
And many nights, I lay awake thinking of my daughter, Parker. She’d be 13 years old now, and it’s been over 12 years since I’ve seen her. She died just days before her first birthday. An incurable and vicious cancer ate threw her little body. The site of the old Children’s Hospital building, dingy, cramped and uncomfortable, is where we got her death sentence.
With perfect clarity I remember asking Parker, while she was strapped down by wires and punctured by tubes to her head and torso, “Why do you have to die?” She looked at me and with her tiny hand tapped her head where a tumor was growing out of control.
I never really understood what being powerless was until then.
I like to think of myself as a brave guy, more than happy to take on powerful politicians, governments, and Leftists in ballot boxes, courtrooms, and the court of opinion. But when it comes to facing the suffering and death of my sweet little girl, I am still a coward. I haven’t even the strength to visit her at her gravesite. I, I just can’t, even now, all these years later. People give me flowers to decorate her grave. I graciously thank them for remembering her. When they’re gone, I throw away their flowers rather than face that brutal tombstone. That’s how brave I am.
For months after Parker’s death I fought off a maudlin desire to go to her grave to dig and dig until I reached her, just so I could hold her again. In the madness of the time it made all the sense in the world.
I also had deep thoughts of suicide, and not for the reason most think. It wasn’t because I wanted to end my pain, though I certainly did. There was a more important reason – to care for my daughter. I didn’t know if my daughter’s spirit lived on after her death, but if she did live on then she was without her Daddy. This thought destroyed me. My duty was to be beside her, no matter what. And I couldn’t do that from this side of reality.
It might be difficult to understand this, but I wanted to kill myself to be a good parent. And why not, I had no other children tying me to this world.
Then all that changed. In perhaps the most optimistic decision in my life, we tried for another child. A little girl, Piper, came to save my life. She filled me with purpose again.
She deserved a little brother or sister; so in no time at all one was on its way.
Then the horror hit all over again. The ultrasounds showed something was very wrong with our little unborn boy: a sizable hole in his heart, likely completely deaf, and a myriad of ugly prognoses, Down syndrome being the most charitable.
And here’s an odd thing to say: my son Chance was lucky. He only had Down syndrome.
So, back I went, to the most horrific place on earth – Children’s Hospital, the place I could only associate with terror. To save his life at three weeks old, Chance had open-heart surgery. Since then, this little 10-year-old man has had 12 surgeries, all at Children’s. He is the brave one.
I’ve come to see Children’s in a different light over the last decade. The hospital moved from its torture chamber-like location in the old part of Denver to a bright, cheery, and friendly new home in the Anschutz Medical Center in Aurora. And through my son I have experienced what Children’s has always really been: a child’s greatest hope for a good life.
The courageous people at Children’s couldn’t stop Parker’s suffering. No one could. But they cared for her with tenderness, humanity, and dignity. And because of Children’s Hospital her little brother is still alive, saving me from the horror of losing another child.
Children’s Hospital connects the daughter I lost with the son I hope not to lose. I love and hate this place. I need this place.
I’m asking you to invest in this place before someone you love is in the same need.
Folks at Independence, spurred on by our graphic artist Tracy Smith, celebrate Parker’s memory and Chance’s, well, chance for life by raising money in the Courage Classic. Every year “Team Parker” cycles through the Colorado Rockies raising money to give other children the hope for a good life.
Last year we raised $14,000 to help little people at Children’s. Would you please help us raise just one penny more this year? Don’t give because of what I went through. Give so little ones like Parker can be comforted as she was, and little ones like Chance get a shot at life. You can donate through our official Team Parker page here.
Please do it right now.
Thank you for remembering Parker and helping Chance.
Have you noticed that the sun is coming up earlier and staying out later? Well there’s a scientific reason – the Colorado legislative session is drawing to a close. There’s only one day left.
And you can tell it’s an election year because the Democratic controlled legislature did not attack our gun rights, massively increase our power costs with renewable mandates, open our voting system to even more mischief, or put a massive tax increase on the ballot. And hell, Governor Hickenlooper actually vetoed something this year! So, time to celebrate!
Well, around here we’ll use just about anything as an excuse to celebrate (read: “drink”). So next Wednesday, May 14th, the ladies of II are hosting another one of their “Wining with Women” parties (read: “drinking without men around to kill their buzz”). And the ladies’ very special guest speaker (read: “person to make this look like a legit event instead of a bunch of women chugging red wine like Slurpees”) is Julie Gunlock from the Independent Women’s Forum in DC.
Julie runs their Culture of Alarmism Project and is the author of From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back. She’ll talk about how this culture of alarmism is weaving its way into nearly every aspect of our daily lives, making parents worry about common everyday products, food, and healthy activities. Her book encourages all Americans to have some perspective, use common sense, enjoy life, and to reject the culture of alarmism.
And Julie Gunlock’s last name should remind everyone to lock up their firearms before going to any alcohol-fueled event (read: “last time the women around here attacked the liquor cabinet they forced the male interns to do table dances at gun-point”).
RSVP online here or call Su at 303-279-6536, ext. 117.
In other news, we’re looking for some new male interns. To learn about our Future Leader’s Program contact Kait@i2i.org.
The Institute for Justice (IJ) fights for the little guy. IJ has a great track record of standing up to government when they refuse the right to earn a living here in the land of opportunity. Clark Neily is a senior attorney for IJ and has been on the front lines fighting for basic economic freedoms that Americans are promised in our constitution. As a result, he’s seen how our courts have failed in protecting our freedoms. In this speech given at the Independence Institute offices on April 16th, Clark discusses his new book, Terms of Engagement: How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution’s Promise of Limited Government.