This was a busy week for news media covering education and health care. Each were highlighted both locally and nationally. Personalities on all sides were vocal and available to reporters. The most quoted of the week were Sen. Cory Gardner and Gov. Hickenlooper.
Several of the other topics that generated news this week included possible new taxes, laws and court challenges:
While not the most covered, the idea put forth by Sen. Ray Scott that Colorado bicycle riders should pay a tax to use Colorado roads received the most passionate reporting. We’ll take a look at the idea but first, a controversial speaker who was met with both cheers and jeers during her visit to Denver this week.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos, booed recently at a college commencement and often reviled by teacher groups, found a cozier audience Thursday in Denver at a gathering of conservative thinkers and policy advocates.
DeVos garnered two standing ovations from members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, according to the Denver Post. She spoke roughly for 30 minutes, attacking teacher unions and education policies of the Obama administration and pledging her support for ensuring the most important educational decisions be left up to local schools and families, according to the Colorado Independent.
Her remarks followed a day of protests – according to the reporting of Colorado Politics - during which public school proponents, led by teacher unions, held a rally and marched against DeVos’ policies.
“Our opponents, defenders of the status quo, only protest those capable of implementing real change,” DeVos said at the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, annual meeting, which included mostly Republican lawmakers and policy leaders from around the country.
In addition to protesting DeVos at Thursday’s event, demonstrators also spoke Wednesday at the State Capitol. According to Colorado Public Radio, they rallied against everything from school vouchers and teacher evaluations, to charter schools and high stakes testing.
"Don't be fooled by so-called reformers who claim to be doing this for the sake of the children,” said Democratic State Sen. Mike Merrifield at the rally. “Their true intention is the voucher-ization, the privatization, the corporatization and the profitization of public education."
Other stories this week focusing on Secretary Betsy DeVos’s visit include:
Former Vice President Joe Biden will be making a stop in Denver on his upcoming tour in support of his memoir, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose,” the Colorado Democratic Party announced Monday.
Biden is scheduled to appear at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Paramount Theater in downtown Denver. Tickets go on sale July 28.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and a host committee will greet Fox when he arrives in Denver, and the committee and Gov. John Hickenlooper are planning a formal dinner for him that evening at the governor’s mansion.
A state lawmaker this week floated a proposal to tax bicycles to help pay for the state’s infrastructure needs, an idea that would make Colorado only the second state in the country to do so.
State Sen. Ray Scott, the assistant majority leader from Grand Junction, wrote on Facebook that he plans to introduce some sort of bicycle tax in the wake of the Oregon legislature voting this month to levy a flat $15 sales tax on bikes worth more than $200.
The suggestion floated on social media, inflame long-standing tensions between motorists and cyclists, with cycling advocates – according to the Denver Post - already promising to fight the proposal.
Not all were against the idea of a proposed bike tax. In a Gazette editorial, it’s noted that “every other vehicle in Colorado has a tax sticker, including boats, ATVs and snowmobiles.”
“To make a more bike-friendly state, we need bicyclists to help pay the cost, the Gazette editorial states. “If they don't, we will continue building bike lanes with money desperately needed for our crumbling and dangerous roads, bridges and highways.”
Other media this week focusing on the proposed bike tax include:
Health Care Reform
As Washington lawmakers grapple with the nation’s healthcare system, a new poll this week suggests the country may be shifting left on this core issue, with 62 percent saying it’s the federal government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage, while 37 percent say it is not.
These new poll numbers would not surprise U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, according to an interview with 9News. Confusing some, Sen. Gardner never hinted to how he planned to vote on the Senate’s healthcare bill before it died -- even though he was on a small group of senators working on it.
As it became clear Republicans would not be able to replace Obamacare Tuesday, Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet offered another suggestion: work together to fix healthcare. Colorado Politics reporting that Bennet said, “We should turn our attention to competition, transparency, and affordability so that we can create a system that serves all Coloradans.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper joined his Republican counterparts Tuesday in urging the U.S. Senate not to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, as reported by the Denver Post.
“Congress should work to make health insurance more affordable by controlling costs and stabilizing the market, and we are pleased to see a growing number of senators stand up for this approach… The Senate should immediately reject efforts to ‘repeal’ the current system and replace sometime later.”
Other media this week focusing health care reform include:
Gardner laments people 'spiking the football' after latest GOP failure
Hickenlooper urges Congress to stop trying to repeal Obamacare
Hickenlooper, Coffman push for bi-partisan effort
Colorado grapples with increasing health care costs
EDITORIAL: Obamacare lives on, warts and all. Thanks, Republicans
Colorado on Monday said it will become the first state to regularly conduct a sophisticated post-election audit that cybersecurity experts have long called necessary for ensuring hackers aren't meddling with vote tallies.
The procedure — known as a “risk-limiting” audit — allows officials to double-check a sample of paper ballots against digital tallies to determine whether results were tabulated correctly, according to Politico.
The move comes as election officials around the country scramble to strengthen their digital defenses ahead of the 2018 elections, the first time most Americans will cast ballots for state and federal offices since 2016 — a year filled with a series of alleged Russian cyberattacks that rattled people’s confidence in the security of the country’s electoral process.
This of course happening as a back drop as hundreds of Republican and unaffiliated voters in Colorado are among the nearly 4,000 people who have canceled their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration’s request for voter information.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office telling the Denver Post Monday that of the 3,738 people who withdrew their registrations between June 28 and Friday, 367 are Republicans and 1,255 are unaffiliated voters. Just over 2,000 Democrats have also canceled their registrations.
President Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity lists its mission as study the voting process and its vulnerabilities.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams told 9News, he will provide names, addresses, years of birth, voter affiliations for each voter, and how often those people have voted, all of which is already public information.
Under Colorado law, the Secretary of State is obligated to provide that information to anyone, including private citizens, who requests it. Colorado will not provide social security numbers. Colorado has a total of 3,726,504 registered voters.
Other media this week focusing on Colorado elections include:
The courts made headlines this week that received some national and local attention. Decisions by higher courts effected Colorado’s prisons, small business fees and higher education claims of rape.
Colorado prisoners with deadliest infectious disease in U.S. denied treatment, lawsuit alleges - Of the 2,280 prisoners diagnosed with the virus, the Colorado Department of Corrections treats fewer than 70 per year, leaving the rest to suffer as victims of a “cruel and arbitrary” system, ACLU Colorado accused in a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday against the department. (READ MORE)
Small-biz lawsuit: A tax by any other name still smells like a tax - If the courts side with a lawsuit by the National Federation of Independent Business, which contends fees leved by the Colorado Secretary of State are taxes in disguise, it would mean the SoS was breaking the law any time it had raised its fees since TABOR was enacted by voters in 1992. (READ MORE)
Lawsuit claims Uber discriminates against wheelchair riders - A nonprofit disability rights organization filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber, claiming the ride-hailing service discriminates against riders with disabilities by not providing enough access to vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs. (READ MORE)
Deal reached in former athlete's lawsuit against CSU-Pueblo - Colorado State University-Pueblo, which suspended a student athlete, recently agreed to pay him to settle his lawsuit that alleges the university falsely accused him of raping his girlfriend. (READ MORE)
Lawsuit cites comments made at Broomfield council meeting - Lafayette resident Andrew O'Connor has filed a lawsuit connected to public comment at a Broomfield City Council meeting and to articles published by Western Wire, a project of the Western Energy Alliance. O'Connor claims defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. (READ MORE)
ArapCo judge sides with city of Aurora in flap over racetrack ballot question - An Arapahoe County judge Monday ruled in favor of the city as he shot down a challenge to a ballot measure that, if voters approve it, would allow for a massive racetrack development. (READ MORE)
Court ruling sets new precedent for drug sniffing dogs in Colorado - A ruling last week by the Colorado Court of Appeals sets a new precedent for drug cases. The three-judge panel ruled that if a drug-sniffing dog is trained to alert officers to marijuana and other drugs, cops need more cause to search a vehicle without permission. (READ MORE)
In Other Judicial News
Judges and attorneys for Colorado also making national news for their work on the national stage.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch couldn’t escape discussion of the president’s travel ban — and even the president — during an appearance Monday at a judicial conference, where a student essay winner compared the ban to Japanese internment, according to the Associated Press.
According to the Denver Business Journal, Cobb will help Trump's legal team coordinate its response to various investigations into whether the president's campaign team colluded with representatives of Russia in efforts to sway the 2016 U.S. election.
The Rest of the Field
As the week closed out, several media reports stood out as either impactful or interesting. We have shared a few of the most notable.
Rep. Ken Buck says he might run for Colorado attorney general
Colorado has raised more than half a billion dollars in cannabis-related revenue
Why are federal officials seeking out anti-pot opinions in Colorado Springs?
Limiting Cooperation With ICE: Denver Considers Bill to Protect Immigrants
CIA director at Aspen Security Forum: Moscow loves to “stick it to America”
OPINION: “Trump’s America” in rural Colorado is bleak but not hopeless
Coffman bill extending mental health services to vets without honorable discharge
Judge sanctions radio host for destroying evidence in Taylor Swift lawsuit
From Wolverine to Gary Hart: Hugh Jackman cast in movie about Colorado senator’s derailed presidential run
These issues will have a profound impact on the Colorado and many areas of law. The Legislative Policy Team of the Colorado Bar Association is your resource and connection to the State Legislature. As we work on the issues and bills these coming 6 months we are working to improve Colorado Law and the practice of law. Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have a question or comment on a bill, or issue under the dome.