BREAKING: Judge Rules In Favor Of Lobato Case Plaintiffs

UPDATE #3: Ed News Colorado:

“We think it’s a great day for the children of Colorado,” said a jubilant Kathleen Gebhardt, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, who was giving a presentation on the lawsuit at the Colorado Association of School Boards convention when she got the news. “We’re calling on the legislature to step up immediately and fix the problem.”

Mike Saccone, spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, said, “We are going to consult with the governor in the coming days on this decision. However, if you read the opinion, the judge clearly invited an appeal and, at this point, an appeal is likely. The attorney general is disappointed in the ruling but not surprised. It was clearly very tempting for the judge to wade into what is a public policy debate.”

The lawsuit did not include a dollar figure or ask Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport to order the state to pay up or provide a specific amount. Instead, it asked the court to decide whether the state school finance system fails to meet constitutional requirements and if the legislature should be ordered to come up with a new one…

Studies done for the plaintiffs estimate that “full funding” of Colorado schools could cost $2 to $4 billion more a year than the state spends now. Such increases would wreck the state budget and decimate other programs say Gov. John Hickenlooper, a defendant, and Suthers, who oversaw the state’s defense.

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UPDATE #2: A meaty but by no means comprehensive excerpt from Judge Sheila Rappaport’s massive tome of a ruling follows–read the whole decision here, and get comfortable because it’s going to take awhile. Please liberally post excerpts of your own (it’s public domain after all) from any part of the decision you find noteworthy. And the bottom line on page 182:

The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. [Pols emphasis] These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”

Read it again. This really is that big.

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UPDATE: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

In a landmark case over education funding, a judge has sided with a group of parents and school districts and ruled that the state of Colorado is underfunding its schools, possibly by billions of dollars…

The decision will likely be appealed by the state, which said before the trial began that a ruling for the plaintiffs would force Colorado to direct roughly $4 billion in additional funding toward schools, leaving little money in the general fund to adequately fund other needs like transportation, corrections and health care.

The state already spends close to half its general fund on education, although per pupil funding has been in steady decline over the last decade with Colorado now spending $2,000 less per student than the national average.

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Details coming: a few minutes ago, Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the landmark Lobato vs. Colorado lawsuit filed by rural school districts–which charged that public education funding in the state of Colorado is not meeting the “thorough and uniform” test prescribed in the state constitution. Though subject to appeal, this is a major development that could well result in sweeping changes to Colorado fiscal policy.

We’ll update shortly with coverage and statements.


Page 158: The State introduced testimony from several members of the State Board of Education and other witnesses for its case-in-chief. However, the Court notes that much of the State’s testimony actually bolstered Plaintiffs’ arguments in this case, and certain other contrary testimony lacked factual support…

Page 176: The Court has found that in 1993 the General Assembly adopted HB 93-1313 that committed the State to develop and implement standards-based education as the anchor to the educational accountability system. HB 93-1313 was the foundation for the transformation of public education in Colorado. In 1994, the General Assembly adopted the Public School Finance Act of 1994 (the PSFA), the centerpiece of the school finance system. The PSFA established the basic funding mechanism for school district general fund (operating) revenues that has been in place since then. From this contemporaneous starting point, the two systems, which were not aligned to begin with, have radically diverged.

The following findings are essentially undisputed: When the PSFA was enacted, the General Assembly set the statewide base funding amount by working backwards from the total funding that it intended to appropriate and carrying forward preexisting school district expenditure levels. There was no effort to analyze the relationship to the actual costs to provide an education of any particular quality. The failure to do any cost analysis and to provide for funding based on such an analysis demonstrates the irrationality of the existing school finance system. Montoy v. State of Kansas, 102 P.3d 1160, 1164 (KS 2005).

In the past two years, the General Assembly, through the implementation of a negative factor, has actually decreased public school funding by what now totals nearly one billion dollars. The amount of the budget cuts and the method by which they were implemented are completely unrelated to the costs of providing the mandated standards-based education system. The budget cuts have aggravated the irrationality of the finance system by arbitrarily reducing funding with no educational rationale whatsoever…

Recent amendments to the standards-based education system have substantially increased the costs of public education. In 2008 the General Assembly adopted CAP4K, that mandated a complete revision of state content standards, programs of instruction, and assessments all aligned to accomplish universal student proficiency and postsecondary and workforce readiness. This was followed in 2009 by the Education Accountability Act that established accreditation standards for school districts based upon meeting the goals of CAP4K and imposed sanctions up to and including district closure for failure to meet those goals within fixed time frames. Most recently, the 2010 effective teachers amendments (SB 10-191) imposed new teacher and principal evaluation systems founded in student growth as measured by achievement on CSAP and other standardized tests…

The evidence also establishes that funding for categorical programs and for capital construction are completely unrelated to the actual costs of providing the services and facilities necessary to meet the mandate of the Education Clause. Capital construction funding in particular is now and has always been totally dependent on highly unequal local property tax wealth. For many school districts, particularly those in rural, poverty areas this method of funding capital needs has proved to be fundamentally inadequate, inequitable, and irrational. The recently adopted BEST program provides limited assistance, but is not sufficient to overcome generations of statutory underfunding. The deplorable conditions of numerous rural schools bears witness to this proposition.

The Court therefore concludes that the entire system of public school finance, including the PSFA, categorical programs, and capital construction funding, is not rationally related to the mandate of the Education Clause.

Page 177: The public school finance system falls short of providing sufficient funding to meet the mandate of the Education Clause and standards-based education.

Defendants contend that it is not possible to analyze the costs of meeting the mandates of the Education Clause. If that argument were accepted, the Education Clause and the directives of the Supreme Court would be meaningless. To the contrary, the standards-based education system provides a comprehensively detailed model of education standards, programs, assessments, and achievement goals. The costs of meeting those mandates can be rationally estimated.

Page 178: Due to lack of access to adequate financial resources, the Plaintiff School Districts and the school districts where Individual Plaintiffs reside (collectively, the “School Districts”) are unable to provide the educational programs, services, instructional materials, equipment, technology, and capital facilities necessary to assure all children an education that meets the mandates of the Education Clause and standards-based education.

The Court finds that due to the irrational funding system and significant underfunding, rural and urban poverty School Districts are unable to hire, compensate, and retain effective, highly qualified teachers and administrators; to provide the curriculum, technology, textbooks, and other instructional materials necessary to meet student performance expectations; and to construct, maintain, renovate school buildings and facilities. Many of these School Districts are relegated to obsolete textbooks and materials, lack of necessary computers and internet connectivity, and dilapidated and unsafe classroom and other facilities. These School Districts have been for many years and are today unable to respond effectively to the changing demands of standards-based education.

Page 182: The Court finds that the Colorado public school finance system is unconstitutional. Evidence establishes that the finance system must be revised to assure that funding is rationally related to the actual costs of providing a thorough and uniform system of public education. It is also apparent that increased funding will be required. These are appropriately legislative and executive functions in the first instance. Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that this Court shall “provide the legislature with an appropriate period of time to change the funding system so as to bring the system in compliance with the Colorado Constitution.”

Suthers wants “everybody to have health insurance” and says Romneycare-type approach is legal

(Suthers helps Romney thread the needle? – promoted by Colorado Pols)



You learn lots of little things when you listen to talk radio, and many of them you could do without knowing, like lawyer Dan Caplis’ assessment of Tim Tebow’s football skills.

But other small stuff catches your attention, like the fact that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers wants everyone to have health insurance.

You might think Suthers is the last person in Colorado who wants universal coverage, given that he’s pushing a lawsuit to stop Obamacare.

But that’s what he told KNUS morning host Steve Kelley Nov. 18:

SUTHERS: The founders never envisioned the federal government would be in the healthcare business. The individual mandate requiring every individual to buy insurance is premised, Congress said, on their Commerce Power, their power to regulate commerce among several states. In fact, the Commerce Power has been broadly construed to allow Congress to essentially regulate any economic activity that impacts interstate commerce. But therein lies the rub: this would be the first time in history that Congress will be reaching out to every individual American and saying we are going to punish you for your economic inactivity. For not engaging in commerce because your failure to do so impacts the marketplace by imposing burdens on other people who do buy insurance.

KELLEY: But aren’t they assuming [Obamacare] is for our own good though? Really, the betterment of everyone.

SUTHERS: Well, that’s right and that is kind of the typical liberal response. And that is what I get most. Gee, this is a good thing. And indeed it is. We want everybody to have insurance. [BigMedia emphasis]

So, how do we get everyone covered, like Suthers wants?

Why Steve Kelley didn’t ask him is beyond me, because it’s the most basic follow up question you can think of for anyone who trashes Obamacare in one breath and says they want the 44 million uninsured Americans to have health insurance in the next.

Now back to the little things you learn on talk radio.

Back in February, Suthers told KOA’s Mike Rosen that the states can require citizens to buy health insurance, not the feds, indicating that he thinks Romneycare is at least legal and possibly desirable, given his support for universal coverage:

SUTHERS: The state can exercise any power that the citizens don’t deprive them of in the Constitution. So unless you put a provision in the state constitution saying the state couldn’t force you to buy auto insurance or health insurance…that was one that we just voted on that in November, that’s what that was all about. Then the state can force you to do that.

You might wonder if I was mistakenly quoting Mitt Romney not John Suthers, because Romney has been saying Romneycare is well and good for Massachusetts, but Obamacare is sick and bad for America, even though Romneycare apparently was the model for Obamacare.

And if you’re thinking that Suthers must have been talking to Romney, you might be right, because Suthers backed Romney in 2008 and remains on the Romney train to this day. Suthers didn’t endorse Romneycare, as far as I know, but he seems open to it, and it’s a question Kelley should keep in mind for next time.

Judge Smacks Down Gessler Campaign Finance Rule

The joint release from Colorado Common Cause and Colorado Ethics Watch:

A Denver district court judge today agreed with Common Cause and Ethics Watch that Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his authority in changing campaign finance limits for political issue committees.

Judge Bruce A. Jones ruled that Gessler does not have the authority to raise the disclosure threshold for political issue committees from $200 to $5,000. The Secretary of State’s rule would have made it much easier for political groups to avoid disclosing financial interests behind a ballot initiative. Last year, Douglas Bruce tried to hide his involvement in three extreme initiatives that would have limited local governments from handling their own financial future.

Voters approved the $200 limit when they passed a constitutional amendment in 2002.

In his ruling, Judge Jones said that the rule “focuses on changing the contribution and expenditure amounts contained in the constitution. In doing so, the Secretary went beyond his authority.”

Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Elena Nunez said, “Voters have said time and again that they want transparency in political campaigns.  We’re pleased that the Court protected Colorado’s strong disclosure laws by rejecting the Secretary of State’s rules.”

Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro said “We expected all along that the Court would agree that the Secretary of State has no authority to change disclosure thresholds that were set by Colorado voters in a constitutional amendment. In the event the Secretary chooses to appeal, we are confident this ruling will be upheld.”

Full text of the decision here–an expected development after Judge Bruce Jones blasted Scott Gessler’s defense of his “solution” to conflicting state law on the matter of campaign finance disclosure–and also Attorney General John Suthers, saying Suthers was on the “wrong side”–“the side you should be on is defending the constitution.” Pretty harsh stuff.

We’re just keeping track–has Gessler won once in court on election law since taking office? You’d think after a certain number of judicial defeats, especially where the judge straight-up humiliates you, you should take stock of your agenda. Or, failing that, others ought to.

Opinions For Me, Not For Thee, Says John Suthers

AP reports:

Republican Attorney General John Suthers says he opposes the [upcoming 2012 ballot] proposal to make pot legal for recreational use.

Suthers has criticized the head of the state’s medical marijuana enforcement agency for appearing to take a stand on local marijuana initiatives up for a vote Tuesday. Suthers called the letter from Dan Hartman “unethical.”

Westword’s Michael Roberts supplies some background:

Suthers feels a letter by (outgoing?) Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division head Dan Hartman published in places mulling MMJ retail-sales bans was unethical, even though Suthers himself has spoken out on the subject. Which is why proponents want Suthers to sign an ethics pledge.

As we’ve reported, multiple medical marijuana industry sources say Hartman’s last day at MMED was Friday — a claim that prompted the Department of Revenue, which oversees the division, to tease changes likely to be announced this week.

Among the possible reasons cited for his departure was a Hartman letter published in newspapers like Steamboat Today that took a pro-MMJ stance in towns that will vote on prohibiting dispensaries. An excerpt reads: “If your community bans commercial medical marijuana businesses… you will only remove the regulated medical marijuana distribution model from your community.”

According to the Associated Press, Suthers reviewed the letter at the request of Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, whose jurisdiction includes Palisade, one of the burgs that will decide on an MMJ ban. Suthers determined that the letter wasn’t illegal, but it was unethical…

Now, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers claims his repeated attacks on both marijuana legalization and the state’s medical marijuana laws are somehow different from this letter from the head of the state’s (apparently outgoing) medical marijuana enforcement division head Dan Hartman, because Suthers “has given his opinion only when asked by reporters or in response to pending legislation.” This makes us wonder if Suthers simply forgot about the debate this August versus Rep. Jared Polis on marijuana legalization at the Vail Symposium?

Suthers admitted that if the choice is Colorado’s current medical marijuana industry or full legalization for those over 21, the likely 2012 ballot question may be the lesser of two evils.

“I personally would prefer legalization of marijuana to the medical marijuana regimen we currently have in Colorado,” Suthers said. “I believe the retail dispensary model in Colorado, whereby marijuana is grown in large grow operations and sold in retail dispensaries to people who allegedly have a debilitating medical condition has become a complete joke. It’s nothing more than state-sanctioned fraud on the part of thousands of patients and a few dozen doctors.”

Can somebody explain how that is more “ethical,” or different at all, than this letter from Hartman arguing against medical marijuana bans? Suthers isn’t talking about “pending legislation,” he is specifically talking about the upcoming 2012 Colorado ballot initiative. For good measure, he disparages current medical marijuana law, too. Either way we really don’t see, especially with these well-publicized comments about the 2012 initiative in his recent debate with Polis in mind, where Suthers has credibility to accuse Hartman of anything “unethical.”

In fact, it seems to us the only real problem here…is an opinion differing with Suthers.

Sen. Greg Brophy Wants Those Hippies Gone

FRIDAY UPDATE 6:30AM: After an apparent standoff most of the night, police moved in after 6AM and are, as of this writing, clearing out tents and other structures from Lincoln Park. Media reports upwards of 1,000 protesters overnight.

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UPDATE #3 10:45PM: Police appear to be preparing to enforce the order that protesters not camp in the area surrounding the Veteran’s Memorial. A sizable crowd has formed in the park.

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UPDATE #2: 9NEWS reports:



[I]n a statement Thursday morning, Governor Hickenlooper clearly stated that the protesters have until Thursday night to pack their bags and leave. He claims that although he agrees that these protesters have a right to speak their mind – their camping out overnight could be dangerous to the public.

Mark Silverstein, the ACLU legal director, felt that the posting of tents could be a “symbolic speech that’s protected by the First Amendment.”

“I’m not saying they have a legal right in court to keep those tents there,” Silverstein went on to say. “We’d ask the question: Is there a way the government can accommodate the expression without having to shut it down, without having to clear people out of the park?”

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UPDATE: In a tense press conference a few minutes ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Attorney General John Suthers say (again) that protesters can’t camp where they are, specifying an 11PM-5AM period when they are not permitted to occupy the park. No word on any specific enforcement planned, but Occupy Denver protesters are interpreting Hickenlooper’s remarks as an imminent threat–and calling for backup.

Developing…

FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

With more than 100 people now camped out in Civic Center Park between Lincoln and Broadway, about 60 yards from Hickenlooper’s office, Sen. Greg Brophy issued a statement Thursday morning calling on the governor to take action.

“All of Colorado is watching and the Governor has already set a dangerous precedent by allowing this to happen,” said Brophy, R-Wray…

Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock aren’t certain what to do about the growing tent city of protesters even after meetings on Wednesday, after which they released a joint statement.

“The Occupy Denver protesters are on State property. The State and City are working together to find a solution that balances Occupy Denver’s First Amendment rights with growing concerns around public safety and public health in violation of city ordinance and state law.”

…Arresting all the protesters on misdemeanors and expecting them to be jailed is unrealistic, leaving Hickenlooper to joke Tuesday that the best solution may just be waiting for the weather to get colder.

For one thing, supporters of the Occupy Denver encampment–far more than ever appear on the site of the protest at any given time–are all linked by social networking technology. Part of the “unrealistic” nature of forcibly dismantling their encampment is the likelihood that thousands of people would instantly descend on it the moment police began preparations to do so. And yes, if the mass arrest of 100 people is something authorities feel uprepared to carry out, the arrest of several thousand is pretty much out of the question.

We are kind of wondering, though, what Sen. Greg Brophy, notable gun-toting mountain biking GOP tough guy, thinks the mass arrest and forcible dismantling of Occupy Denver would look like. And whether he’d really like to take responsibility for such a thing.

Perry Who? Colorado GOP Brass Backs Romney

Tim Hoover of the Denver paper reports that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, recently challenged for his status as frontrunning Republican presidential candidate in this state by the surging Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, will appear in Denver next week in downtown Denver at a $500-a-plate fundraiser for his campaign.

Perry may have shaken Romney’s heretofore lead in Colorado in the most recent polling, but it’s worth noting (as Hoover does) the long list of Colorado GOP luminaries co-hosting Romney’s fundraiser next week–including Bill Owens, Hank Brown, Wayne Allard, and all three statewide Republican officeholders: Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and Attorney General John Suthers.

Lead or no lead, it’s a bit more impressive a roster than Marc Holtzman and Scott McInnis.

Too big to fail – too big to be held accountable

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.  If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”          Thomas Jefferson

“The banksters in effect issued their own currency in the form of collaterized debt obligations (CDO’s) which were ostensibly securitized by property.  As the foreclosures continue to roll, more  Americans everyday wake up with their property gone and homeless.    You can’t say we weren’t warned.”  

   allyncooper

Last fall in the wake of the “robo-signing “scandal and other egregious practices by big banks concerning foreclosure procedures, the same ones who were deemed “too big to fail” and got bailed out by the taxpayers, the attorneys generals from all 50 states and some federal agencies launched an investigation of the big mortgage servicers into the well documented faulty foreclosure procedures.  Predictably, some of the AG’s have been more aggressive than others (Colorado AG  John Suthers can be put in the “less aggressive” category, perhaps even as MIA)  in investigating and pursuing wrongdoing  in the  mortgage mess which is at the core of the countries housing meltdown.

It now looks like the Obama administration has joined ranks with those pushing for an agreement which would grant immunity and hold the big banks and servicers harmless from future liability and litigation in the mortgage mess.  And the incestuous relationship between the agencies charged with regulation and the banking industry is being exposed as well, with the agencies having clear conflict of interests in the matter.

Unfortunately, it looks like the interests of the big banks and servicers may prevail, flexing their economic and political power to stifle any accountability of their actions.

The state AG’s that have said no to any deal that gives the banks a “get out of jail” card are led by New York AG Eric T. Schneiderman and include Massachusett state AG  Martha Coakley  and some others. Schneiderman so far has held his ground saying “no deal” to a settlement that would let the five largest institutions involved –  Citigroup,  JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Ally Financial Inc., and the dirtiest of the dirty,  Bank of America – off the hook for future liability for a reported $20 billion settlement.  Sources also say the $20 billion would be structured for  loan modifications and principal reduction on existing mortgages,  so such a scenario would encompass the good, the bad, and mostly the ugly.

Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson stated “We continue to believe the best way to get the housing market going again in every state is a global settlement that addresses these issues fairly, comprehensively, and with finality ” .  What a crock.  The reality is, the housing mess isn’t going to get any better with the “settlement” B of A and the other banksters desperately want.  It’s a slap on the wrist,  and a paltry sum to pay for the real gem handed to the banksters on a silver platter -immunity from any further investigations, civil liability, and potential criminal prosecutions.

The 50 state AG investigation was prompted by the “robo signing” scandal and other foreclosure “irregularities”by the banksters, which Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal characterized as “at best careless negligence and at worst, outright fraud”.  But Schneiderman wants to enlarge the probes investigating Wall Street’s and the banksters role in the packaging and securitizing of risky mortgages, which was facilitated by the establishment of MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System) in 1995. Another issue to be investigated is the credit rating agencies issuing  AAA ratings on this junk.

State AG’s Martha Coakley  (Massachusetts.), Beau  Biden (Delaware), and recently California  AG Kamala Harris has expressed solidarity with Schneiderman’s desire to continue the investigations.  Harris has subpoenaed Citigroup, and its banking subsidiary Citibank to produce documents and answer questions about the selling and marketing of mortgage backed securities in California.

But that’s the last thing the banksters want.  Sources report  they are getting backup from the Obama administration pressuring Schneiderman ,  through HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and high level Justice Department officials  (no surprise here, Eric Holder, the top federal law enforcement official has been “invisible ” in all this) – to accept a settlement that would release the banksters from all future liability in the biggest financial scandal ever that destroyed our economy.

Even the Fed is in on the coverup, with Kathryn S. Wylde, member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and president of the Partnership for New York, a non profit organization of city business leaders stating to Schneiderman…..

“It is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our main Street – love ‘em or hate ‘em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible”

Earth to Wylde.  How would you know they did something “indefensible” in the first place , when all investigations are squelched by the deal the banksters and the Obama administration are pushing?  Even though the real fraud occurred on Wall Street (the securitized financial instruments, the CDO’s, bogus credit ratings, etc.),  just move on folks, there’s nothing to see here.

Financial analyst  Barry Ritholtz had this to say on his The Big Picture website about the obvious conflicts in play…..

Note that the Federal Reserve (and indirectly, the NY Fed) are conflicted players in this. On the one hand, they are supposed to be bank regulators (a task they have performed poorly).  They are also substantial investors in the banks, and their regulatory oversight role is obviously conflicted.

There have been all manner of criminal and civil trespasses committed, and we should find out who ordered them, who committed them and why. AG Schneiderman should continue investigating the robo-signing, bring civil and criminal charges where necessary.

Recall that the original problems came about in large part due to Alan Greenspan’s Nonfeasance – the failure to perform his professional obligations of oversight and regulation. That any member of the Federal Reserve or NY Fed wants this closed before any investigation has been undertaken is a scandal of the highest magnitude.

The Obama administration , facing a tough re election battle in an anemic economy, has cast it’s lot with the banksters and corporatists. Evidently it’s better to coverup the festering wound and give those who should be held accountable get out of jail cards than hold them responsible. Scratching that wound during an election year is only going to make for a steady stream of bad news, and since “ignorance is bliss”, it’s  better to squelch the investigations and  just stay ignorant …..until the same players bring us down the next time.

Too big to fail….too big to be held accountable.   Welcome to the new Amerika.  

Polis, Suthers Debate Marijuana Legalization

A very interesting debate held Wednesday night in Vail between Rep. Jared Polis, a leading proponent of marijuana legalization, and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers–who, as you’d expect, is not a fan of marijuana medicinal or otherwise. As reported by the Colorado Independent’s David O. Williams, whose lengthy report is worth reading in its entirety:

Congressman Jared Polis and drug-policy reform advocate Ethan Nadelmann argued Wednesday night in Vail that one of the most compelling reasons to legalize marijuana in the United States is to eliminate a major funding source for deadly Mexican drug cartels. Both Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and recently retired DEA agent Anthony Coulson sharply disagreed…

“Almost without exception, the people on these panels advocating the legalization of drugs have either been academics, paid affiliates of public policy institutes, editorialists or law enforcement officers or politicians in ski resorts and areas of great affluence,” Suthers said.

Polis, a millionaire entrepreneur whose family owns property in Vail, disputed that notion. While he says he’s never smoked marijuana himself and very rarely even drinks alcohol, Polis said he’s dealt with addiction in his own family and saw a high school friend die of a heroin overdose.

But pot is not heroin, he said, and the ease with which is can be obtained illegally makes it all the more imperative to regulate marijuana for strength and purity and to keep it away from those under the age of 21. Plus, legalization will neuter the cartels and boost the U.S. economy…

“I personally would prefer legalization of marijuana to the medical marijuana regimen we currently have in Colorado,” Suthers said. [Pols emphasis] “I believe the retail dispensary model in Colorado, whereby marijuana is grown in large grow operations and sold in retail dispensaries to people who allegedly have a debilitating medical condition has become a complete joke. It’s nothing more than state-sanctioned fraud on the part of thousands of patients and a few dozen doctors.”



Pres. Jimmy Carter calls on end to 40 Years of Failed Drug Policy

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the War on Drugs.  This war has cost us $1 Trillion dollars, the rise of cartels, rogue law enforcement attacks on the minority communities and millions of lives ruined.  And not one thing was gained!

Today in the NY Times, Presdient Jimmy Carter noted

But they probably won’t turn to the United States for advice. Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations. At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. There are 743 people in prison for every 100,000 Americans, a higher portion than in any other country and seven times as great as in Europe. Some 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole – more than 3 percent of all American adults!

America is infamous throughout the world with our focus on drugs and not on education.  We are now one of the worst educated countries on the planet, with the most people in prison!

Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that, in 1980, 10 percent of his state’s budget went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and only 7.5 percent to higher education.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06…

Rolling Stone Magazine Chimed in as well

Happy Birthday, Drug War! You’ve come a long way: a trillion dollars spent, millions of tokers and small-time pushers busted, countless jails built and crammed full (and then crammed full some more). And drugs? More plentiful than ever! Everybody wins! Or, to put it another way – the way a gold-plated panel of former world leaders recently put it – “the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” Right, then

http://www.rollingstone.com/po…

We can all disagree on MMJ or MJ.  But I have never been more convinced than what I am doing is the right thing.  It is time to legalize marijuana.  People who are believing the silliness that gets passed to us by AG Suthers and other uninformed law makers need to read up on this subject and quit acting like the world will end if we legalize a plant that has been used by people since ancient Egypt.

TIME TO GET REAL AND LOOK AT WHAT LOCKING UP PEOPLE IS COSTING US!!!!!!

El Paso County Republican Party Staw Poll Results!

(Romney by a mile, trailed by Pawlenty and the Herminator – promoted by Colorado Pols)



Earlier this week, the El Paso County Republican Party hosted Karl Rove as their Lincoln Day Dinner speaker.  Along with the event, Chairman Eli Bremer tasked me with conducting a Presidential Primary Straw Poll.  

The results are after the fold.

Methodology:

The ballot was designed to measure the current field as represented by announced candidates (including those that have formed exploratory committees) as well as any candidate that has expressed a reasonable level of interest.  People that have announced their intention to not seek the nomination were taken at their word and excluded (except for Rick Perry, who has recently opened the door).

The dinner had 622 attendees.  Of that, approximately 277 actually returned ballots.  The difference in participation could be due to various reasons, such as a limited number and placement of ballot boxes.

Declared Candidates:

Candidate Votes Percentage
Herman Cain 44 16..67%
Newt Gingrich 25 9.47%
Ron Paul 11 4.17%
Tim Pawlenty 54 20.45%
Mitt Romney 106 40.15%
Rick Santorum. 24 9.09%
Gary Johnson 0 0.00%
Roy Moore 0 0.00%
Buddy Roemer 0 0.00%
Illiegal/Blank 11 NA

All Potential Candidates:

Candidate Votes Percentage
Michele Bachman 42 16.22%
Josh R. Bolton 2 0.77%
Herman Cain 29 11.20%
Newt Gingrich 8 3.09%
Rudy Giuliani 18 6.95%
Jon Huntsman Jr. 5 1.93%
Gary Johnson 0 0.00%
Roy Moore 0 0.00%
Sarah Palin 27 10.42%
Ron Paul 4 1.54%
Tim Pawlenty 25 7.72%
Rick Perry 20 7.72%
Buddy Roemer 1 0.39%
Mitt Romney 48 18.53%
Rick Santorum 9 3.47%
Illegal/Blanks 17 NA
Write Ins:
Chris Christie 11 4.25%
Donald Trump 3 1.16%
Paul Ryan 2 0.77%
Allen West 1 0.39%
Matt Arnold 1 0.39%
John Suthers 1 0.39%
Karl Rove 1 0.39%
Bill Cadman 1 0.39%

State: TABOR’s Bruce practiced law without license

(But remember, folks, TABOR is wonderful! Never mind its author! – promoted by Colorado Pols)



Hot off the press … anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce, already facing jail time if tried and convicted of tax evasion, now faces fines for practicing law in Colorado without a license.

As Law Week Colorado reports here: http://www.lawweekonline.com/2…

The Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel on May 23 quietly filed a petition for injunction against Bruce, who lives in Colorado Springs. The petition asks the Colorado Supreme Court to enjoin him from the unauthorized practice of the law.

The regulation office seeks fines of between $250 and $1,000 for each rule violation.

Bruce has a law degree and is on inactive status as an attorney in California, but he is not licensed to practice in Colorado.

The attorney regulation office claims he drafted complaints filed by his supporters during a ballot issue dispute last year in district court in Colorado Springs. It also claims Bruce passed notes telling his supporter-litigants what to say in court.

The Supreme Court issued an order for Bruce to show cause why he should not be enjoined. He has until June 15 to respond.

Earlier today, Bruce won a short delay in the criminal case lodged against him by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.



The petition is posted at Law Week Online. Please follow our website for more as this story develops.

Former VIP backers of Romney in CO have differing views on whether to support him now

(Ouch! More war chest RomneyCare, stat! – promoted by Colorado Pols)



Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who launched his presidential exploratory committee yesterday, would be President now, if the Colorado GOP had its way in 2008.

You recall, Romney won big here in the GOP’s caucuses over Sen. John McCain, with major Republican support from people like Sen. Wayne Allard, Rep. Bob Beauprez, Sen. Hank Brown, Gov. Bill Owens, and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. GOP State Senators Andy McElhany, Shawn Mitchell, and Nancy Spence all supported him. As did, among others, CO State Rep. Kenneth Summers, Weld Country District Attorney Ken Buck, executives Bruce Benson and Alex Cranberg, and Colorado GOP chair Ryan Call.

Not to be left out, The Denver Post selected Romney in the GOP primary.

Reporters haven’t asked what these folks think of Romney now, about three years later. So I checked in with some of them.


“I’m inclined to think we need a fresh face,” McElhany told me. “I was a strong early supporter of Mitt Romney in 2008, and I think he had his chance at that time, but I’m encouraged to look other places.”

I asked McElhany about the health care law Romney signed into law in Massachusetts, mandating that state residents purchase insurance.

“I don’t think the health care thing helps him,” McElhany said. “Certainly it’s a huge issue, and his support of the Massachusetts law will weigh on him heavily.”

Attorney General Suthers and Colorado Sen. Spence are both still supportive of Romney.

Through his spokesman, Suthers said:

“America is in need of an economic turnaround. No one has the credentials he does in terms of producing an economic turnaround.”

“Of the names in the race so far, I’d still support him,” Spence told me. “Now that doesn’t mean if Superman jumped in, I wouldn’t change my mind. But that’s where I am right now.”

Asked whether the health care issue affects her view of Romney, Spence said, “I supported him last time-and there was the health-insurance and right-to-life stuff then. He did what he had to do in Massachusetts.”

Colorado Rep. Ken Summers hasn’t made up his mind. “Maybe it will be like in 2008 when it was easier to keep track of who wasn’t running than who was,” Summers told me.

Romney’s support of the Massachusetts health care law is not a deal breaker for Summers, who added that he (Summers) was “fully supportive of the health-care exchanges here in Colorado, and he told Rep. Amy Stephens that his “name would have been on that bill if it was introduced.”

“As Republicans go, Romney was doing what he had to do in Massachusetts,” Summers said. “It’s baggage that he’ll have to overcome, just like Tom Tancredo had to do with immigration. But Tom didn’t want to.”

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck is remaining neutral.

“I am staying neutral in the presidential race for a while,” Buck told me. “I am the national co-chair for the Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment. We are trying to get candidates together for a presidential debate sometime this fall, and the leadership is staying neutral until we can get that accomplished.”

Pestiferous Independence Institute President Jon Caldara, who was not listed among Romney’s supporters in 2008, gave me his opinion on Romney:

“My guess is, it’s going to be very, very difficult for him to win support in a GOP primary given his support for what is essentially Obamacare,” said Caldara. I don’t know how he dislodges himself for that. On the bright side, he’s got great hair, and for that I am most envious.”

Caldara cohort Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute added:

“I would say that Romney’s chances of winning would be much, much higher if Romneycare did not exist, especially because Obamacare will certainly be one of the biggest issues in the 2012 Presidential election, and perhaps the biggest issue,” Kopel emailed me. “The Sunday that the U.S. House voted for Obamacare, the biggest political loser in the nation was Mitt Romney.”

President Barack Obama has been praising Romney’s health care law of late, reportedly saying in a Feb. speech at the National Governors Association:

“I know that many of you have asked for flexibility for your states under this law. In fact, I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he’s proud of what he accomplished on health care in Massachusetts and supports giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. He’s right. Alabama is not going to have exactly the same needs as Massachusetts or California or North Dakota. We believe in that flexibility.”

Yesterday the DNC distributed a photo of Romney signing the health care law-with Sen. Ted Kennedy in the photo looking on approvingly. Democrats have also been eating birthday cake and pointing out that today is the five-year anniversary of the enactment of the Mass health-care bill.

Romney did not mention his health care law yesterday, when he announced the formation of his presidential exploratory committee, but he’s said previously that he supports the rights of states to craft their own health care laws.

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog

Doug Bruce, Author of TABOR, Indicted For Tax Evasion

As the AP reports, who will weep for the author of Colorado’s iconic Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights? How ironic is a charge of tax evasion against Bruce, really? How much harder will this make it for the TABOR movement in other states?

Colorado anti-tax crusader Doug Bruce has been indicted for allegedly failing to pay his taxes.

Attorney General John Suthers announced Friday that a statewide grand jury returned the indictment against Bruce on Thursday.

He’s accused of failing to pay taxes on income earned during three years by moving money into a non-profit he founded.

Something tells us we’ll be savoring this irony, and talking about what might finally be Bruce’s much-anticipated fall, for some time. Even if smart local Republicans ditched him long ago.

(Mug shot public domain, courtesy Colorado Department of Law)

Backstab: Stephens Spikes Health Care Exchange?

We’ve been following the strange case of Majority Leader Amy Stephens this session, specifically her decision to sponsor two seemingly at-odds pieces of health care legislation: Senate Bill 200, the bill to implement a health care insurance exchange pursuant to federal health reform passed last year, as well as a “Tea Party” inspired bill that would radically opt Colorado entirely out of the federal health care system in favor of an “interstate compact.”

We, like many others, found the apparent contradictions between the sponsorship of these bills to be interesting, but we were assured by people close to the debate that Stephens was participating in the health care exchange bill in good faith. Stephens herself said as much, and that the health care exchange was a “free market” component of federal health care reform she could support while trying to undermine it out of the other side of her mouth.

Well folks, if a letter we were forwarded today from Stephens to the Democratic co-sponsor of Senate Bill 200, Sen. Betty Boyd is accurate, Stephens’ true colors are revealed:

On this point let me be clear: Obamacare is unconstitutional, and it is bad public policy.  I applaud Attorney General Suthers and his colleagues around the nation for taking the fight to the courts.  I have supported legislation in the past to legislatively opt Colorado from its big government vices.

That brings us back to SB 200, and the fear that the health exchange legislation might be unwittingly used to support the implementation of Obamacare.  There is only one way to solve this problem, and that is to make absolutely sure that the healthcare exchanges are implemented only after the State of Colorado opts-out of Obamacare.  Specifically, I am requesting that the Committee add the following provision to the legislation.  

“The provisions of SB 200 shall not be implemented, nor shall they have force or effect, until the State of Colorado requests, and the federal government grants, a full waiver from all terms, restrictions, and requirements in the federal Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act of 2010, and all rules, regulations and administrative guidelines issued thereto. [Pols emphasis]  The Governor of the State of Colorado shall seek such waiver within 60 days of the enactment of this Act.”

Looks like that cynical voice in the back of our heads was right once again. It really doesn’t matter if it was always Stephens’ (or somebody else’s) plan to spike this bill with a big partisan splash, or if this is in response to the “Tea Party” ambush she experienced last week.

Either way, if we’d been asked to bet money the moment we heard she was involved, this is the outcome we would have bet on. Read the full text below, and tell us if you don’t agree.


March 31, 2011

Dear Senator Boyd:

The discussion surrounding SB 200 (the Health Benefit Exchange) is proof positive that the enactment of Obamacare has set the American debate about healthcare backward by light years.  For years, conservatives at all levels have touted the free market virtues of healthcare exchanges as a way to give private citizens greater purchasing power and greater access to private health insurance.  The concept of individuals banding together to cut the best healthcare deal possible for themselves and their family has been a staple of the House Republican platform for many, many years.

But enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare – has so thoroughly contaminated the public discourse about the nation’s healthcare system that even simple and common-sense ideas like healthcare exchanges have become toxic and fraught with public policy peril.  This is more than a symbolic concern.  Many of my constituents and a few of my colleagues have told me that, while exchanges are themselves sensible public policy, the potential linkage of this legislation to Obamacare is far more damaging than whatever benefit is derived from the bill.  Some have worried that, even though the exchanges created in my bill are totally independent of Obamacare, that future legislators or Governors (or even the federal government) could hijack this local control measure to implement Obamacare.  It is not in the plain language of the bill, but after all the over-reaches that government has engaged in of late, it is an issue that I want to settle in this legislation in the clearest possible terms.

On this point let me be clear: Obamacare is unconstitutional, and it is bad public policy.  I applaud Attorney General Suthers and his colleagues around the nation for taking the fight to the courts.  I have supported legislation in the past to legislatively opt Colorado from its big government vices.

That brings us back to SB 200, and the fear that the health exchange legislation might be unwittingly used to support the implementation of Obamacare.  There is only one way to solve this problem, and that is to make absolutely sure that the healthcare exchanges are implemented only after the State of Colorado opts-out of Obamacare.  Specifically, I am requesting that the Committee add the following provision to the legislation.  

“The provisions of SB 200 shall not be implemented, nor shall they have force or effect, until the State of Colorado requests, and the federal government grants, a full waiver from all terms, restrictions, and requirements in the federal Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act of 2010, and all rules, regulations and administrative guidelines issued thereto.  The Governor of the State of Colorado shall seek such waiver within 60 days of the enactment of this Act.”

In as much as I believe that healthcare exchanges are a good idea, in order to be a good representative of my district, I must ensure that these state exchanges are not hijacked for the unconstitutional purposes of implementing the federal healthcare legislation.

With this amendment, Colorado would become one of the first states in the nation to take-up President Obama on his recent offer to allow States to opt-out of his healthcare bill.  For his part, Governor Hickenlooper expressed openness to the idea of an opt-out.  In exchange for the bold step of opting out of Obamacare, the State of Colorado will have healthcare exchanges that help patients get and receive affordable and reliable healthcare.  It is a win-win for the State of Colorado.

I strongly encourage the Committee to accept the above language.  If the Committee chooses not to add this important provision and still forwards the bill to the House, I will work all of the votes in my caucus to ensure that the Obamacare opt-out provision is added in the House of Representatives prior to returning to the Senate.

I continue to believe that healthcare exchanges are a common sense policy, just as conservatives have advocated for many, many years.  And with the addition of the above provision, they can be implemented into law without federal intrusion, instruction or interference.

Thank you for your consideration.

House Majority Leader Amy Stephens

###

Battle Lines Forming, Suspicions Growing Over “Payday Payback”

As the Colorado Independent’s Joseph Boven reports, a curious disagreement over what happened last year with the passage, then implementation, of long-sought legislation to reform the controversial payday lending industry in this state:

The battle over payday loan fees will strain partisan loyalties at the Legislature again this year as new legislation was introduced Friday in the House. While former payday loan bill sponsor Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said the new legislation would roll back last year’s improvements, Senate sponsor of this year’s bill Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said the new bill does exactly what he meant to do last year.

“It is doing what I thought we had done a year ago,” Heath told the Colorado Independent. Heath, who says he remains interested in creating a fair marketplace for payday lenders and customers, said “the Attorney General’s office misinterpreted what I thought I had negotiated.”

Ferrendino wholeheartedly disagreed with the move made by Heath to strip what he said was the heart of his bill.

“[The new legislation] basically guts the intent of the bill. One of the main reasons that we [made origination fees refundable] is that it disincentivizes the lender to to churn the loan,” Ferrandino said…

A chart, provided by Coloradans for Payday Lending Reform, shows the cost of a $300 loan held for 30 days would increase from $21.75 under current law to $71.25 under the new legislation. When figured in terms of APR the loan jumps from 86 percent to 289 percent.

Ferrandino and others fear that allowing lenders to keep the origination fee regardless of how soon a loan is paid back will cause them to develop loan products that would lead to individuals returning time and again for loans.

With all due respect to Sen. Rollie Heath, our recollection of events here solidly backs up Rep. Mark Ferrandino. Last August, the implementation of House Bill 10-1351 became heated after Attorney General John Suthers published draft rules that would have allowed payday lenders to keep the full amount of this “origination fee,” even if the loan was paid off early. As we and many others noted at the time, this would have had the effect of making payday loans more expensive to consumers, not less, and left “reform” of the industry in a state that actually increased their profits. Ultimately, after exhaustive hearings (and contributions to Suthers’ reelection campaign from the industry became an issue), final rules were adopted that made this fee refundable on a pro rata basis. Which, as Rep. Ferrandino says above, was always the intent.

Our interest in payday lending reform legislation, as we’ve said from the outset, stems from the endless payday lending spam we battled against for years in our comment threads. This spam has mostly stopped since then, but any industry that relies on advertising methods that sleazy and irritating–not to mention the foolishness of spamming the state’s biggest political blog while reform legislation was debated–deserves what it gets.

In any event, the payday lending industry has not gone out of business in Colorado under these new rules. Consumers now have the time they need to pay off these loans without plunging back into cyclical debt, and the pro-rated origination fee gives them an incentive to pay them off early if they can. The only reason to apply this “fix” is to increase payday lenders’ bottom lines, on what remains the highest-interest financing legally available in Colorado.

And make no mistake–whatever Rollie Heath’s interest, the payday loan industry knows who they are counting on to pass this legislation. They knew a year ago, in fact. As we discussed in detail last fall, and the Independent doesn’t let the reader forget today:

ACE Cash Express, headquartered in Irving, TX, contributed $26,000 to both the Republican Senate Majority Fund, LLC and Coloradans for a Better Future (CBF), a 527 group registered under Andy Nickel who also was the registered agent of Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government (CCAG). Last year CBF received $50,000 from the Senate Majority Fund, LLC.

The majority of CBF’s money was used for two advertisement expenditures to Strategic Media Placement LLC.

As the Colorado Independent reported, CCAG sent out mailers accusing Democratic House Rep. John Soper of wanting to release sex offenders from prison and implied that Soper would turn them loose in the district’s school yards…

Here are the Democratic co-sponsors of House Bill 1290: Jim Riesberg, Ed Casso, and Sue Schafer in the House, and Heath, Mary Hodge, and Lois Tochtrop in the Senate. These are the Democrats who are joining forces with Republicans Dave Balmer, Larry Liston, Bob Gardner, Chris Holbert, Jim Kerr, Ed Massey, B.J. Nikkel, Amy Stephens, and Keith Swedfeger in the House, and Senate Republicans Greg Brophy and Mike Kopp, to give payday lenders a payback at the expense of the state’s most economically vulnerable.

The Republicans at least have an excuse. Perhaps John Soper will ask these Dems for theirs.