It’s the question I find myself asking almost daily now as the Colorado legislative session roars on: What happened to the liberals who used to say the ends don’t justify the means?
I certainly understand that, as President Barack Obama once lectured, elections have consequences. Colorado is only beginning to feel the consequences of electing progressives to control the legislature and all state-wide offices, turning us into a one-party state.
Colorado’s lurch to the left isn’t surprising. What is surprising is the level of arrogance and the lack of process and respect from them as they do it. The team that once claimed principle, process and transparency as their virtues is quickly becoming power mad and belligerent.
The left once fought voter suppression. This legislature is passing a National Public Vote bill, which hasn’t any bipartisan support, without first bringing it to a popular vote of Coloradans.
The left once fought for free speech. This legislature is now passing a bill that requires sex education in public schools include how to have “healthy” transsexual relationships while the bill bans any talk of gender norms. Banning speech is the new virtue?
The left once fought for due process. This legislature is passing a “Red Flag” bill that rips away the right of due process and the right to face one’s accuser. Unlike last year’s attempt, this bill goes so far it also hasn’t gotten any bipartisan votes from lawmakers.
The left once demanded process. Our governor is limiting our vehicle purchases to whatever the governor of California dictates without first getting the required approval from our own legislature, which they would likely give him. But, just like the National Popular Vote, why chance asking for consent.
This Boulder-like arrogance is showing in an increasing lack of process as they wield their power. A perfect example is the unveiling of their complete upending of the state’s current oil and gas regulations, which are already the strictest in the nation, Senate Bill 181.
This bill was made public a few minutes before the close of business on Friday, March 1st with its committee hearing called for Tuesday, March 5th. This cleverly allowed only one business day for legislators, reporters, businesses and people affected by this massive, 27-page rewrite of how we manage a key industry to read it, figure out what it really says and how to get their voices heard.
The left used to say they valued experts and interested citizens testifying before a committee. Dropping a bill on Friday night for a Tuesday hearing was an obvious ploy to keep the thousands of people, whose lives will be destroyed under this bill, away from the proceedings. And by their own legislative procedures, it blocked bringing out-of-state expert witnesses.
The Boulderites who are sponsoring SB 181, state Sen. Stephen Fenberg and state Rep. KC Becker, and the Boulderite governor (who said he’d sign it before it was even released) don’t hide their contempt for the rubes who live in rural Colorado. Giving people only one day to figure out how to travel through snow-bound, far-flung areas of the state, the places where communities depend on oil and gas development, to get to the capitol to testify on a bill that will cripple their way of life, well, some used to call that disenfranchisement.
The Trump administration is attempting to enforce a federal rule created in 1970 that prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. Twenty states and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, are now suing the administration for attempting to enforce the nearly 50-year-old law.
Called the Protect Life Rule, it prohibits the use of federal Title X money “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.”
It specifies: “none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”
Title X was created in 1970. After Roe v. Wade and toward the end of President Ronald Reagan’s last term, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced a Title X policy to enforce the distinction between family planning and abortion. The rule was challenged in court and was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in Rust v. Sullivan during the Clinton Administration.
Despite the court’s ruling, former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not enforce Title X’s stipulations. The Trump administration’s rule change is an attempt to do so.
The rule change stipulates that recipients of Title X funds will no longer be allowed to provide abortion services in the same facilities that house their Title X family planning programs. It also removes the requirement that federally funded family planning clinics offer abortion counseling and referrals.
As a result, abortion providers could lose their Title X funding unless they financially and physically separate their abortion operations from the rest of their business operations.
California was the first state to sue, followed by 19 additional states and the District of Columbia.
Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, said he is suing to “stand up for a woman’s right to make her own health-care decision about her own body” and claimed that the policy will “result in clinics going out of business due to financial strain.”
Planned Parenthood, joined by the American Medical Association, the Oregon Medical Association, local Planned Parenthood affiliates, and two individual health-care providers, also filed suit in Oregon. Its suit alleges, “The Final Rule would radically alter and decimate the family-planning-assistance program established by Title X ... with severe and irreparable public health consequences across the United States.”
According to Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report, its facilities conducted more than 332,000 abortions last fiscal year, accounting for more than one-third of the estimated annual abortions in the U.S. It also receives a minimum of $500 million in federal funds annually through Medicaid reimbursements.
Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF), supports enforcement of the rule.
“This rule gives abortion providers a fair choice: Separate your abortion activities from your federally-funded family planning programs or stop receiving federal funds," McGuire said. "American tax dollars should not be used to support abortion.”
According to the nonprofit pro-life organization, Susan B. Anthony List [pdf], less than 500 of the roughly 4,000 Title X service locations in the U.S. are Planned Parenthood facilities. Federally qualified health-care centers that provide a variety of health-care services without performing abortions outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities by 20 to one, the nonprofit states. Planned Parenthood would stand to lose about $60 million if it no longer received Title X funds.
Colorado’s most important political football is on the tee. The state Supreme Court soon could put the future of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in play or out of reach.
Liberals and conservatives are paying close attention, because TABOR controls how the state caps spending and government growth. Critics say it also hobbles Colorado’s ability to “invest” [Quotes mine — ed.] in schools, transportation and the other spoils of population growth.
Some critics want voters to decide this year if TABOR can be undone with a ballot initiative. Opponents and the law say TABOR is so big and multilayered that a single vote would violate the state’s “single subject rule” that says ballot questions can only take up one thing at a time.
“People put it in the Constitution as one measure; it seems like people ought to have the power to take it out as one measure,” said Carol Hedges, executive director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute, which filed the request with Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office to collect signatures to get it on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Taking TABOR apart in pieces would take years, if not decades, and more campaign money than I can imagine, so real change is going to take a broad swipe. What the Colorado Supreme Court decides is a big fiscal deal.
TABOR is to Colorado government and partisan interests what John Elway is to football.
And on the political playing field, with the left in the lead, TABOR foes feel it’s the right time to take down the conservatives’ coveted constitutional block between taxing and spending.
“Now is the time because people across Colorado are frustrated because we’ve got a lot of challenges that are resulting from the growth we’re experiencing, and we don’t have many tools to deal with them,” Hedges told me. “TABOR is more than 26 years old, passed in 1992, and it locks in the taxing system we had then.”
“I think there are a lot of people today who look at that and say, ‘I don’t think that makes sense.’”
In 1992, when 23 percent of the Colorado electorate voted for Ross Perot and his anti-government economic ideas, a Donald Trump-like pitch man from Colorado Springs named Douglas Bruce wrote and led the crusade to pass TABOR.
Two years later, Colorado voters passed Referendum A, the rule that limits a ballot question to a single subject. TABOR and the single-subject rule have since survived a slew of direct and indirect court challenges [from Liberals].
Given the definition of TABOR, which requires a vote of the citizenry on tax matters, 71 percent of the 500 Coloradans who were polled liked what they heard.
“Consent matters,” Amy Oliver Cooke, executive vice president for The Independence Institute, said in a news release about the poll. “As some elected officials and special interest groups collude against taxpayers with plans to dismantle this wildly popular ... constitutional amendment, the results of this survey should give them pause. Attempts to weaken it or erode voter consent won’t be well-received by Coloradans.”
To get on the Nov. 5 ballot, proponents of any measure will need valid signatures from 124,632 Colorado voters. That represents 5 percent of the number of votes cast in the last secretary of state’s race. That’s also about 26,000 more signatures than required in the previous four years, because of the high 2018 turnout.
Getting on the ballot is one tough hurdle; selling the need is another.
There is a constant progressive squawk about voter disenfranchisement.
We can’t have voter ID laws because requiring someone to use a state photo ID at a polling place, you know like they do when that same person buys a beer, is ugly voter suppression.
The Colorado Secretary of State has over 380,000 inactive voters on our registration rolls. These are people to have chosen not to vote in the last several elections, or have chosen to move away, or have chosen to be dead.
There are many counties where the number of people registered to vote is actually higher than the population of the county. But any attempt to clean up voter rolls creates a shrieking choir of social justice warriors singing “voter suppression.”
Colorado has all mail-in ballots, which get flung in the mail like grocery store coupons to everyone who may or may not want to vote, including at least 380,000 we know don’t want them because, well, maybe they’re dead.
Colorado is the only state in the country with both all mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, just in case someone who didn’t bother to register to vote might want to vote at the very last moment. He can stroll into a polling place on election day, show a copy of a utility bill, and vote a provisional ballot.
All this to make sure we’re not disenfranchised.
So how odd that the disenfranchisement-phobic progressives in charge of the Colorado state legislature are now passing a bill to do what they say they hate — disenfranchise all Colorado voters when it comes to voting for electors to represent Colorado in the Electoral College.
And the cherry on top — they are passing this “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” without a popular vote of the people of Colorado.
Call it voter suppression.
Should the national popular vote plan become a reality, it would mean Coloradans would not decide to whom our nine (soon to be 10) electoral votes go in a presidential election. Highly populated metro areas like New York City and Los Angeles would dictate how our Colorado electoral votes are cast.
Fun fact, Los Angeles’s population alone is greater than the population of all of Colorado, by nearly double. Heck, it’s greater than the population of 41 states. And Los Angeles County voted 72 percent for Hillary Clinton.
Still wondering why the left is so nuts for the national popular vote?
Make no mistake. Under the interstate compact, it won’t matter how we as Coloradans vote.
But still, maybe you’re fuming over Trump’s win and you’re sold on the idea. Doesn’t it matter how we make this massive change?
Again, the question that haunts me: what happened to principled liberals, the ones that used to say the ends don’t justify the means. If the nation should have the popular vote, then amend the U.S. Constitution. If Congress won’t propose the amendment, the states can propose it via Article V of the Constitution.
Popular vote nuts won’t go that route because they know those pesky fly-over states would never ratify it. So, instead, the states controlled by their progressive urban centers, like Colorado now, can force it with an interstate compact.
It’s likely unconstitutional, but you never know until you try.
Just like when pro-tax liberals of both parties want to raise taxes without the consent of a public vote, they call a tax increase a “fee” to get around our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), progressives want the national popular vote to decide who is president without amending the Constitution or even asking our consent.
Fortunately, we lowly citizens do have the right to referendum. That means we can veto a law the legislature and governor pass by putting it on the fall’s ballot. And that’s what the mayor of Monument and a Western Slope county commissioner have begun the paperwork to do with the national popular vote.
It is a difficult and expensive process to gather the needed 125,000 valid signatures to get it done, which further begs a question: If the legislature and our governor love the popular vote and hate disenfranchising voters so much, why don’t they prove it and just refer it to the ballot?
If they’re going to give our electoral votes to New York and California shouldn’t they ask our consent first?
Denver Public Schools began the process this week of cutting more than 150 administrative positions from its central office, which will free up $17 million for raises for teachers and other district employees, as well as additional money for special education services.
The Denver district has far more administrators than others in Colorado, and Superintendent Susana Cordova has said repeatedly that the district needs to have fewer initiatives and focus on doing a smaller number of things well.
“We have too many priorities, too many people working on those priorities, and not enough impact coming out of that,” Cordova told union negotiators at a bargaining session before the teachers strike. “I am 100 percent committed to right-sizing what the central office looks like.”
Over the course of negotiations before and during the strike, Cordova committed to even larger cuts than she originally laid out in order to put more money into teacher compensation. She also eliminated bonuses for many administrators.
This week, Cordova released an “entry plan” laying out her priorities for the next several months, with a focus on “equity, instructional excellence, and collaborative teamwork.” The district also started notifying employees who would lose their jobs.
“This week, we are refocusing our effort
Cordova said during negotiations that the individuals who would lose their jobs care about children and are doing important work — but paying teachers more is even more important for the district’s mission.
Word that the local coal mine and power plant it served were closing went off like a bomb in Nucla — they were the community’s main employers and taxpayers in the tiny town southwest of Montrose
“It’s a big blow,” said Deana Sherriff, executive director of the West End Economic Development Corp., which is helping to develop an economic recovery plan for the town of about 700 people.
The school and fire districts are looking at a 56 percent reduction in their budgets. The mine and coal-fired power plant, which at their peak employed 170 people, are now down to 24, Sherriff said. The mine is already closed, and the plant will be shuttered in 2022.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which operated the mine and plant, set up a $50,000 block grant to aid businesses, but the town was pretty much left to fend for itself.
“We’ve had to scramble,” Sherriff said. “But this put us in a position to qualify for everything, every grant out there … These communities need funds to move forward.”
The Colorado Energy Impact Assistance Act — a bill working its way through legislature under the title of House Bill 1037 — would provide those funds and at the same time lower the financial impact of power-plant closures on utility customers, its sponsor says. The bill is awaiting a vote by the full House.
“Nucla is going to suffer tremendously from that closure,” said Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, the bill’s main sponsor. “The status quo is unacceptable. It is a lose-lose situation.”
The bill’s other lead sponsors are Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail.
A similar Hansen-sponsored bill was passed by the House in 2017, only to die in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans.
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electricity provider, is set to close the Comanche 1 and 2 units in Pueblo — 660 megawatts or about one-third of the utility’s remaining coal fleet — by 2026.
Six Xcel coal plants were closed or retrofitted to natural gas by 2017, under the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. Households are paying about $2 a month on their bills to cover the costs.
Across the U.S., coal plants continue to close under pressure of cheaper renewable and natural-gas generation. In 2018, a near-record year, 16 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity closed — the generating equivalent of almost 50 Comanche 1 units.Mark Jaffe writes on energy issues for The Denver Post. He was an energy and corporate finance reporter for Bloomberg News and covered environment and energy for The Philadelphia Inquirer. As a Knight Fellow at Stanford University and a Neiman Fellow at Harvahd, Mark studied the links between the economy, energy and the environment.
The most important vote that Denver residents cast this year may not be for mayor. A better candidate is a ballot measure most voters probably haven’t even heard of yet: Initiative 300, which would overturn the city’s ordinance that outlaws camping in parks or on sidewalks, or setting up residence in a car.
“Overturn” is in fact too mild a description. Initiative 300 would propel Denver into uncharted territory regarding the use of public spaces.
Its stated target is the ordinance that city council approved in 2012 in the wake of Occupy Denver protests, those copycat eruptions whose many acts of vandalism included defacing the stone balustrades at Civic Center. Protesters not only set up camp at various locations downtown, they turned the sidewalk along Broadway into Tarp City for the entire winter.
The new law did not go down well with activists, who have charged ever since that it “criminalizes” homelessness. Initiative 300 is their attempt to enshrine squatters’ rights across the city. They would create a “right to rest,” including lying down and sleeping, and “to shelter oneself” in “outdoor public spaces,” which include parks, sidewalks, museum grounds, the Highline Canal and much more. It would usher in the sort of squalid, quasi-permanent encampments on public property that have become a problem for cities such as Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle.
No time limit for “rest” is mentioned in the measure, nor any limiting definition of “shelter.” Tents presumably would pass muster. But what about sturdier, more permanent structures?
Proponents are insouciantly forthright about their goals. In a FAQ sheet regarding 300 that appears on the Denver Right to Survive website, proponents describe what they believe should be the proper attitude toward people who might set up residence in “cars and trucks” outside your home: “What makes someone sleeping in their vehicle by your home — because they have nowhere else TO sleep – more threatening to you and the neighborhood than someone sleeping in their home next door?” the fact sheet asks. “Get to know the people. You will likely find that there is nothing to be worried about, and even that they make the neighborhood safer by protecting your house from burglary and deterring other crime.”
A similar approach is advised if an encampment springs up in your local park, where curfews will be unenforceable. Get to “know, understand and appreciate” your new neighbors. They’re not bad folks, despite the “myth of homeless people as criminals” perpetrated by “public officials and the media.”
Well, of course homeless people are, for the most part, decent citizens. Their personal virtues hardly settle the question of whether they should be allowed to camp on public property.
Seven years ago Mayor Hancock declared, “The moment we lose downtown as a place people want to go for entertainment, recreation or a place to live, we lose the heart of Denver.” That judgment still carries weight, but it isn’t just the heart of Denver that is at risk today.
It would be one thing if the city treated the homeless like medieval lepers, banishing them from public sight and denying them options of shelter, food or assistance. But the opposite is closer to the truth. The city spends literally tens of millions of dollars every year subsidizing housing and services for the homeless, from motel vouchers and transitional housing for the chronic homeless to outreach workers, specially trained police and much more. And that doesn’t count its dedicated fund for affordable housing or the impressive resources deployed by private shelters and charities.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s difficulty in carrying out her judicial duties has encouraged informal wagering about whether she can continue until President Trump leaves office. This is in bad taste and overshadows recognition of her outstanding career.
The problem of justices outliving their judicial capacity has recurred throughout U.S. history. But it may be growing more acute, as advances in health care enable physical strength to outlive mental capacity.
We do not yet have a satisfactory mechanism for addressing the issue. No statute forcing justices to leave office would be valid because the Constitution specifies that they “hold their Offices during good Behavior.” That’s a rough translation of the Anglo-Latin formula, quam diu bene gesserit. It literally means “so long has he shall have conducted himself well.” Justices serve until their death, retirement, resignation, or impeachment-and-conviction, whichever comes first.
One possible remedy is for family members or professional colleagues to pressure a failing justice into resigning or retiring. Another alternative is impeachment, conviction, and removal from office for “high . . . Misdemeanors.” In the constitutional context, this is a fiduciary standard, and is broad enough to include negligence or other breach of duty due to incapacity.
But neither pressure nor impeachment are satisfactory remedies. First, neither can be based fully on objective standards of competence. Is Justice Ginsburg better or less able to perform her duties than were Justices William O. Douglas or Hugo Black in their later years? Not only is that question often unanswerable objectively, but personal answers are likely to be colored by political preferences.
Similar political considerations may mar the decision of the justice himself. A jurist who might agree to being replaced by an Obama nominee might hang on to avoid being replaced by a Trump nominee—or vice versa. So there is no guarantee the object of pressure will yield to it.
The Constitution’s requirement that two thirds of Senators vote to convict an impeached official offers some protection against arbitrary political action. But Congress has been unwilling to terminate distinguished judicial careers that way: The impeachment-and-conviction process has never been used successfully to remove a Supreme Court justice.
We are left with the alternative of constitutional amendment. But what kind of amendment?
There also are problems of fairness with a set retirement age: A justice appointed at age 45 is still relatively unseasoned but could enjoy 30 years of service. A justice appointed at 60 would serve only 15 years.
Perhaps worst of all, a fixed retirement age would further encourage presidents to pursue the irresponsible practice of nominating jurists as young as possible to make their presidential “legacies” endure as long as possible.
A better constitutional amendment would be one permitting each justice a single long term—for example, 16 years—without possibility of re-appointment.
This would ensure judicial independence. (The Constitution’s framers also considered a single long presidential term to ensure independence.) Yet if the term is not too lengthy, justices would face the prospect of eventually returning to private life—always a helpful perspective.
A single long term would ensure regular rotation on the court and reduce presidential incentives for nominating relatively untried people. For example, a president could select a more experienced 60-year old with some confidence that he or she would serve out his or her term. Single terms also would reduce the stakes inherent in any one appointment. Lower stakes could diminish the political furor now accompanying nominations.
Finally, a fixed term would correct a growing defect in the Constitution’s system of checks and balances. When the Constitution was adopted, life expectancy was much shorter than it is now. Justices appointed during the 1790s served an average of only 8-9 years before they died or resigned. When the court erred or overreached itself, the elected branches of government could respond through regular judicial replacements. Today, however, the average service on the court exceeds 20 years. Justice Anthony Kennedy continued his course of sometimes idiosyncratic decision making for more than 30.
Thus, a single term would restore the balance of legislative, executive, and judicial powers to one more consistent with the constitutional design.Rob Natelson is senior fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver. He has published extensively on the Constitution and is the author of The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant. A version of this article originally appeared in The Daily Caller.