DENVER–In a hurried hearing Wednesday cut short by the “mini bomb-cyclone” blizzard and Governor Polis’ declaration of a state of emergency, the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee voted along party-lines in passing a bill to automatically register people to vote when they interact with state DMV or Medicaid departments.
Senate Bill 19-235 would set up links with various state and federal databases so that whenever a Colorado resident gets or renews a driver’s license, the state would automatically register them to vote if they are not already registered, and update their residence address if changed.
The stated intent of the primary sponsors, Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, Sen. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge and Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, is to facilitate and improve voter registration, but concerns about security and privacy were expressed during the hearing.
The system requires the transfer of driver’s license data to the Secretary of State’s office for any issuance, renewal or correction. From there it is distributed to the county clerk of the person’s place of residence.
The bill also requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to transfer electronic records of people who apply for Medicaid to the Secretary of State.
A representative from that department said that it is not currently legal to use Medicaid records in this way, but that other states are trying to get federal approval to do so.
The bill specifies that Medicaid data will not be used unless and until the federal government has approved it.
The person’s county clerk reviews the information sent by the Secretary of State and sends out a card to the person telling them they have been registered to vote, giving them 20 days to decline registration or party affiliation by returning the opt-out card.
If the card is not returned the voter is automatically registered, and their personal information is entered into the public voter registration database.
A question not addressed in the bill or hearing is how a person automatically registered would be affiliated with a party. During the hearing Sen. Danielson admitted that the person would have to return the card to decline registration and go to the county clerk’s office to un-register.
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, voicing concerns with the opt-out nature of the bill, data security and privacy said, “Why would we force someone to return the card?”
Having grown up in this once liberty-loving state I am struggling with the speed at which our lawmakers are turning us into Venezuela. But I am encouraged by the organic battles that are springing up around Colorado to fight back. And Independence is helping.
The passage of SB-181 is a direct attack on the oil and gas industry in Colorado. To be more specific, it is a direct attack on the working people of Weld County, which produces 90% of Colorado’s oil and gas. And the people of Weld County are now recalling their State House Representative. If successful, the recall would not change control of our Socialist legislature, but it would show we can fight back and win. In my Denver Post column republished here on Complete Colorado’s Page Two, I compared it to the Doolittle Raid against Japan in World War II.
Our crowd-funding platform freedomfy.com helped kick off their effort. They were looking for $2,500 to kick-start their recall effort. Within two days they raised $3,000 thanks to average folks giving via freeedomfy.
Colorado is now part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, leading us to the point where California now tells our presidential electors which way to vote for US President. And the grassroots is rising up against this one too. There is a citizen’s effort to refer the new law directly to the people for an up-or-down vote.
These folks wanted to raise $15,000 to pay for the printing of the needed petition forms. Within a week, freedomfy helped them raise over $23,000.
And now some super-ambitious folks want to recall Governor Polis (perhaps a goal too far?). They launched a freedomfy campaign and have raised $16,000 in just a few days.
We created freedomfy because conservatives and libertarians needed a safe space of their own in an increasingly hostile online world. Unlike other platforms, freedomfy users won’t be silenced by the arbiters of speech that run so many online sites. Think of it as GoFundMe for those who want to amplify freedom – thus freedomfy.
None of these organic uprisings can happen without funding, obviously, but they also can’t happen without people. freedomfy.com connects grassroots activists together. The anti-National Popular Vote and recall folks were able to connect with hundreds of potential petition volunteers when they came out of the woodwork to donate some cash.
Let me steal from the left’s squishy vocabulary. Thanks to freedomfy we are building community through activism. I hope you’ll check it out and help some of your favorite causes – or start your own brush fire by launching your own campaign.
And finally, do not forget about Founders’ Night! If you want to attend the party of the year, don’t forget to RSVP online or email Shari Hanrahan at Shari@i2i.org. This year’s keynote is Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report and member of the “Intellectual Dark Web.” Join us as we hear all about the 21st century battle raging online.
The progressive onslaught continues at the state Capitol, thrilling social justice junkies while terrifying those of us who remember when Colorado kept government somewhat constrained.
A red flag bill which puts the burden of proof on the accused to get guns back that have been confiscated. Statewide oil and gas regulations that would make crazed Boulder City Council members climax. Teaching kids how to have healthy transsexual relationships. Changing genders on birth certificates like changing your mailing address. National Popular Vote so Los Angeles can control our electors. Forfeiting our automobile regulations to the governor of California.
The next lurch towards the promise of “democratic socialism” is Senate Bill 188, warmly titled “FAMLI.” Get it? “Family.” If Focus on the Family titled a bill that, the left would be nauseated. But this “family” is a massive tax increase for a government-run family leave program.
We can talk about why this particular scheme is reckless later, but for the sake of argument let‘s assume it‘s just peachy. Then there‘s only one teensy issue. It violates our state constitution.
It raises your payroll tax by about a billion dollars a year without first asking you as required by our Taxpayer‘s Bill of Rights.
This bill will say much more about the Colorado Supreme Court than it will the legislature, which has already proven they‘ll transform us into Venezuela when given half the chance. Over the last 25 years our Court hasn‘t missed an opportunity to weaken TABOR to the point where it is an emaciated weakling of what it once was. [Emphasis mine — ed.]
Our Taxpayer‘s Bill of Rights says a government can keep excess tax revenue, above the limit of population growth and inflation, without refunding it. All it has to do is ask for our consent. TABOR says it can do that for four years. Our Supreme Court ruled that “four years” shall read as “forever,” I guess because it sounds kind of the same. Now 80 percent of all Colorado cities, since they asked just once, will never refund your excess taxes back to you, ever.
Our Taxpayer‘s Bill of Rights says our elected representatives can raise all the debt they desire. All they have to do is ask our consent first. But our Supreme Court ruled that if they call debt a “Certificate of Participation” (COP) they need never ask. Instead of a debt package with say a 20-year term, a COP is 20 one-year loans in a row. In other words, the same thing.
Our Taxpayer‘s Bill of Rights says they can raise taxes as much as they crave. All they have to do is ask our consent first. But our Supreme Court ruled that if they call it a “fee,” well you get the idea.
Should SB 188 become law it will be challenged in court as a violation of our Taxpayer‘s Bill of Rights. If history is any indication our Supreme Court should rule it‘s dandy to call it a “fee.”
Every employed Coloradan will comprehend that their payroll tax just went up by 0.32 percent (for the first two years, and then who knows after that). And they‘ll be reminded it‘s a tax every payday. It will be right there on their pay stub next to their income tax withholding, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, etc.
There is little transparency in most of the tax increases the Supreme Court allowed to be called a “fee.” Your car registration tax happens only once a year. Bag taxes get lost in your grocery receipt. Your property taxes get mixed in with house payment, and those who rent get mad at landlords for raising the rent, not the legislature for causing it. And, get this insult, the law prohibits the Hospital Tax from being listed on your hospital bill. Classy, huh? [Emphasis mine — ed.]
If the court actually reads the Constitution instead of rewriting it, they‘ll declare FAMLI a tax, then great. If not, it might be the spark needed for voters to rebuild our Taxpayer‘s Bill of Right back to what they voted for in the first place.
Why does asking voters for tax increases repulse so many inside government? They don‘t want to risk being told “no.”
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
Colorado address outside the retailer’s jurisdiction. This includes any applicable state-administered local and special district taxes. For example, if a retailer delivers taxable goods to a customer’s address, sales tax must now be collected at the rate effective for the customer’s address, not the taxes that are in common between the customer’s address and the seller’s location.
A business has to collect sales taxes based on where the good is shipped. The problem is that there are so many different governments that collect sales taxes that complying is a bureaucratic nightmare.
The United States Supreme Court, on June 21, 2018, decided South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., et al., overruling two previous Supreme Court cases that upheld the rule that a state could not require an out-of-state retailer to collect sales tax if the retailer lacked a physical presence in the state. Because of the Wayfair decision, states can require retailers without a physical presence in a state to collect sales tax on purchases made by in-state customers so long as the sales tax system in the state is not too burdensome for the out-of-state retailer.
Two bills have been proposed in the state legislature to ease the burden of sales tax rules on Colorado retailers.
SB19-006 (A. Williams (D) | Kraft-Tharp (D) & Van Winkle (R) – Electronic Sales and Use Tax Simplification System: This bill directs the Department of Revenue to source a searchable online database of state and local sales and use tax rates and definitions and to process returns and payments through the system. Home rule cities are encouraged to participate in the system.
SB19-130 (Gardner (R) | Rich (R) & Larson (R) – Sales Tax Administration: This bill aims to simplify the state sales tax system for those retailers without a physical Colorado presence by requiring that out-of-state retailers be responsible for paying only the state sales tax rate on products shipped into Colorado. It also requires the Department of Revenue to be responsible for all state and local sales tax administration and return
The state collects taxes for 151 cities, and another 71 home-rule cities collect their own taxes. Retail businesses now have to deal with dozens of bureaucracies. If you work out all the possible combinations of overlapping tax regions, you get more than 700 possibilities.
We need to find a way to simplify the sales tax system for the retail business community and realizing the business community’s desire for a statewide database that includes reliable GIS information and a single point of remittance and licensure that eases some of the burden on business due to the extreme complexity of the sales tax system.
Both of these bills look unlikely to pass; we encourage businesses to reach out to elected officials to support SB006 and SB130.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at Vail Valley Partnership.
DENVER — House and Senate Democrats — along with one Republican — are preparing to introduce a bill that would ask Colorado voters to do away with their own potential tax refunds.
The bill — which has not been released to the public yet — would dismantle a significant element of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) by permanently eliminating the tax refunds that are automatic if the state exceeds a preset cap on revenue.
In addition to requiring voter consent on new taxes and debt, TABOR limits the growth of a portion of the state budget to a formula of population growth plus inflation. The bill would remove that limit by allowing the state to keep and spend revenue that would otherwise be refunded back to taxpayers.
TABOR, a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1992, has been widely popular among Coloradans. Recent polling shows 71 percent support for TABOR among Colorado voters.
The bill would need to be sent to the voters for approval.
There is also a citizen-led effort to take a complete repeal of TABOR to the voters that was recently shot down by the Title Board.
“It’s clear what is happening here,” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, said in a news release. “Democrats can’t pay for all of their empty promises made in the last election, so now they want to permanently eliminate your tax refunds to pay for their expensive programs. It is egregious that the Democrats want to forever take away your consent on what is done with your tax dollars.”
Assistant House Minority Leader Kevin Van Winkle, R-Douglas County agreed: “Our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is an important safeguard against government overreach,” Van Winkle said in the news release. The Democrats say they need more money to fund their projects, yet we had a billion-dollar surplus last year and another $1.2 billion-dollar surplus this year. Apparently, more is never enough.”
The bill is expected to be sponsored in the House by KC Becker, R-Boulder and Lois Court, D-Denver in the Senate, with one Republican expected to co-sponsor in the Senate, Kevin Priola, R-Adams County.
The reading courses at Colorado’s largest educator preparation program don’t match up with research on literacy instruction, and many of the professors have philosophies that contradict state standards, according to a scathing new critique by state evaluators.
The Greeley-based University of Northern Colorado, which enrolls about 2,800 teachers-in-training, is the first institution to face new scrutiny from state education officials over how it prepares students to teach reading. The literacy appraisal was part of the prep program’s reauthorization review and comes amid widespread concern about reading instruction and mounting pressure from state lawmakers to find solutions.
Even as more than half of Colorado children read below grade level and millions of dollars spent on interventions have yielded disappointing results, many teachers report that their own training programs did not equip them to help children learn to read.
In a 15-page reauthorization report, state officials detail a number of specific problems with the university’s core literacy courses, including that they emphasize prospective teachers’ beliefs about reading rather than forcing them to draw science-based conclusions.
“A lower bar for education prep [candidates] versus the students they’ll be teaching is concerning,” the report states.
Obtained by Chalkbeat through an open records request, the report grants the usual five-year reauthorization term, but requires the prep program to meet five conditions by February 2020. They include aligning course syllabi to state standards and increasing science-based reading instruction. (Read the full report at the end of this story.)
Officials at the University of Northern Colorado, the first institution to undergo reauthorization since the state doubled down on reviewing reading instruction in 2018, said many of the report’s critiques are unfair — stemming from poor communication by state officials about what they expected and hastily planned meetings during a campus visit. They also said officials portrayed the new focus on reading instruction during the reauthorization process as a low-stakes pilot program.
In coming months and years, state officials plan to evaluate other teacher preparation programs using the same approach that was used at the University of Northern Colorado. Those programs could also have to accept new conditions to keep their state authorization.
“I think this is one important lever,” said Amy Pitlik, government affairs director at Stand For Children Colorado, an education advocacy group.
She said the state’s rigorous review of the University of Northern Colorado’s prep program will put other universities on notice that the Education Department is taking its role in reauthorization seriously when it comes to literacy instruction.
Metro State University in Denver and Colorado State University in Fort Collins are among the institutions that will undergo reauthorization of their teacher preparation programs next.