Many progressives want to lower the voting age to 16, yet they want to raise the age to buy a long gun to 21, all while Obamacare lets them stay on mommy’s health care plan until they’re 26.

So just when does someone become an adult anymore?

Is it any wonder young people today seem to have problems launching into adulthood? We keep moving the starting line. We’ve created a system of pseudo-adulthood by phases. We’ll tell someone they are an adult but withhold the responsibilities of adulthood until they are 26 years old.

I guess we should call that child abuse.

A 13-year-old can obtain birth control or an abortion without parental consent, but she can’t bring an aspirin to school.

With parental permission, a 16-year-old can drive a car in Colorado, but they can’t buy a rifle. By the way, there were 374 murders nationwide by rifle in 2016, yet 37,461 automobile deaths.

An 18-year-old can vote. She can get married, sign contracts like a lease, buy a car, buy a house, start a business, get a passport, file for divorce, enlist in the military and risk being killed in uniform on foreign soil. If she commits a crime, she’ll be tried as an adult. She can buy a cigarette, but she can’t buy a beer. She can’t order a Champagne at her own wedding. Let’s toast the happy couple.

She and her 18-year-old hubby can raise their baby in their happy home, but they can’t purchase a handgun to protect their family until they turn 21. Even if they are members of the military, trained on weapons including fully automatic guns, they can’t get a concealed carry permit for the handgun they can’t buy. For some reason their baby’s right to be protected isn’t as important as one whose parents are 21.

Colorado had one of the best drinking laws in the country, until the state legislature caved to Washington when our road money was held hostage. Used to be that 18 to 21-year-olds could buy 3.2 beer, an alcohol level that can still get one buzzed, but not really enough to cause alcohol poisoning. It was training wheels for drinking. And 3.2 bars gave young adults a place to meet up, you know like adults tend to do.

Now we rocket your kids over a cliff at 21 without any drinking experience to meet full-strength liquor and marijuana without a parachute. And when underage drinkers get their hands on booze (just like you and I did), they don’t opt for 3.2 beer. If you’re going to break the law, might as well get the good stuff. We shouldn’t be surprised binge drinking and alcohol poisoning soared when 3.2 was taken away.

When my parents were 26 they already had two kids of their own. I’m trying to imagine my father’s conversation with his old man, “No, really, Pop. My whole family can stay on your health care plan. Isn’t that swell?”

So back to the question: When are you an adult? As far as I can see it’s 26. That’s when the government completely separates you from your parents.

I get it. The older I get, the younger 18 seems, and the more I see them as incapable of responsible behavior. But is it their fault? How can you be a true adult when you can’t make the decisions other “adults” can make? And why take responsibility before you have to?

Our schizophrenic laws mean some adults are more equal than others. In other words, they’re not adults! So logically, they must be children.

We need to get back to one age of emancipation. One age where a person knows they will legally be without a net. If that age should be higher than 18, because we’ve dumbed-down 18-years-old to morons now, then fine.

Let’s stop turning our should-be adults into Peter Pans.

If our kids don’t have the full rights and responsibilities of adulthood, doesn’t that mean we hold their rights and are responsible, including financially, for them until they’re 21 or 26?

You ready to keep your kids at home for another three to eight years?

Jon Caldara, a Denver Post columnist, is president of the Independence Institute, a libertarian-conservative think tank in Denver, and host of “Devil’s Advocate” on Colorado Public Television.

There’s a significant split in the black community between those who wish to focus on historical injustice and those who feel that a continuing focus on victimhood does the black community no favors.

Jason Riley, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, is black, and he is determined to impart to blacks that their success is not being impeded by systemic racism. That precipitated protests from black groups at two Colorado universities where he recently spoke; the University of Denver and the University of Colorado-Boulder.

As Michael Jones reports for The College Fix, black law students at both universities were disgruntled by Riley’s speeches, which he titled, “False Black Power? The Persistence of Racial Disparities Despite Increased Black Political Clout,” and were organized by the Federalist Societies.

One description of Riley’s event at the University of Colorado-Boulder read, “So long as blacks are encouraged to neglect the cultural capital that has so successfully powered upward mobility among other minorities, no number of elected African-American officials or special treatment will help blacks catch up.”

According to the CU Independent, CU’s Black Law Students’ Association released an email in which they stated:

Mr. Riley opines that liberalism “has also succeeded, tragically, in convincing blacks to see themselves, first and foremost, as victims. Today there is no greater impediment than the self-pitying mindset that permeates black culture.”

Well, we take great offense to that statement. The United States’ tainted legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, the school-to-prison pipeline has left the black population of this country in a disenfranchised, and problematic position. We do not pity ourselves, we are not bleeding hearts—but we refuse to speak about blackness and/or black power without a thorough acknowledgment of the injustice blacks have suffered in this country.

When he spoke at CU, Riley reportedly stated, “We can’t keep blaming white people for black problems. They must learn to do things for themselves.” Some students in the audience wore all black as a “silent protest.”

At the University of Denver, a number of protesters walked out when Riley spoke, bringing to fruition a warning from the Black Law Students’ Association which had emailed, “The Federalist Society is sponsoring an event called ‘False Black Power?’ This is highly problematic and BLSA has decided not to let this go unaddressed.”

Jonathan Miceli, president of the Federalist Society at the University of Denver, said Riley’s speech engendered some protesters to ask questions during the Q&A, but the protesters were simply not interested in hearing Riley’s viewpoint. He told The Fix, “I was happy about the turnout, but I don’t feel I accomplished much. The protesters didn’t seem to listen.”

Just because President Obama’s controversial and costly Clean Power Plan is dead at the federal level doesn’t mean Colorado ratepayers are out of financial danger. Nearly 1.4 million state electricity customers await a Colorado Public Utilities Commission (COPUC) decision on Xcel Energy’s legally tenuous Colorado Energy Plan (CEP).

With COPUC approval, Xcel, the state’s largest monopoly utility, plans to shift its generating portfolio from away from majority hydrocarbons (coal and natural gas) in favor of industrial wind, solar, and battery storage.

Besides building out industrial wind and solar, the $2.5 billion CEP would retire prematurely 660 megawatts (enough to power roughly 660,000 homes) of relatively young, low-cost, highly-utilized, environmentally state-of-art coal-fueled power plants.

The company makes the wild claim that the CEP will save ratepayers money or at the very least not cost anything. That claim is one of the reasons why my employer, the Independence Institute, is leading the Coalition of Ratepayers, a Colorado non-profit concerned with issues impacting small business and residential ratepayers that otherwise have no advocate and no voice.

Our coalition petitioned and was granted intervenor status in the CEP proceeding in front of the commission.

Coalition witness Charles Griffey, a nationally recognized electric utility expert, discovered Xcel has its thumb on the financial scale, titling it in the company’s favor. Among Griffey’s discoveries — $88 million worth of errors in Xcel’s modeling, which the company was forced to acknowledge; a failure to account for hundreds of millions of dollars in sunk costs and transmission costs; and a legally questionable accounting gimmick that would use funds from a renewable energy fee to pay for the coal plant retirements.

Further, Xcel is doing this without state legislative approval, something the company a year ago said should be the purview of the Colorado General Assembly.

“If we are going to fundamentally restructure the way that we do resource planning in Colorado … then that is a question for the General Assembly,” stated Xcel VP Alice Jackson in Jan. 30, 2017 written testimony to the COPUC.

Yet, the General Assembly rejected such a plan during the 2017 legislative session, which ended in May. By summer 2017, Xcel didn’t believe it needed legislative approval. Instead, the company is relying upon a Gov. John Hickenlooper executive order issued on July 11, 2017, as its authority to seek regulatory approval of the CEP. The order directs Hickenlooper’s executive branch agencies to cooperate with any company that wants to voluntarily reduce carbon emissions. 

Watch what you wish for — circumventing the General Assembly is dangerous territory.

Amy Cooke is the executive vice president and director of the energy and environmental policy center at the Independence Institute (@i2idotorg), a free market think tank in Colorado. The Independence Institute is a member of the Coalition of Ratepayers.


As part of an ongoing campaign to ‘combat’ the high cost of housing in Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock is suggesting throwing more money into the city’s affordable housing fund.

That news according to Denverite’s Andrew Kenney, who reported on Friday that Hancock has “asked city staff to look for more money soon after the city revamped its housing policy in 2016.” Created in fall 2016, Denver’s fund has promised an estimated $150 million will be dedicated to affordable housing efforts, including development and preservation, over a decade.

The fund operates on a mix of property tax revenue and a one-time fee on new development, according to the city, but the city’s Department of Finance and Office of Economic Development is exploring other avenues to generate more money, Denverite reports. The news outlet also noted new polling shows affordable housing is at the front of residents’ minds.

In fact, as the city considers more funding, the new polling shows a majority of residents would support a hike in property or sales taxes to address the issue, the Denver Business Journal reports. The poll, conducted by Strategies360 on behalf of advocacy non-profit All In Denver, surveyed 404 likely voters in Denver about the top issues in the city.

With housing topping the list, Denverites also identified education, homelessness, cost of living and transportation in that order as top issues in Denver. The survey noted that 73 percent of poll respondents said they would support a sales tax increase to address affordable housing, according to the Business Journal.

The survey also suggested Denverites aren’t satisfied with the city’s affordable housing efforts, with 66 percent saying officials are doing too little to address homelessness and housing.

USA – -( When it comes to school violence, why do we expect teachers to die to protect kids, when there is a lawful option for them to protect their kids and live?

Think about football coach Aaron Feis at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Coach Feis had no choice but to put his body between bullets and kids. He died a hero to protect kids. But what if he had a choice to live and protect those same kids?

In many states, there are lawful methods to allow armed staff on K-12 campuses, which typically includes the authorization of an individual to act as a member of school security, and a contract between the school board and the employee. This is different than schools that have School Resource Officers (SROs) or other full-time, armed and uniformed security guards.

We ask a lot of teachers, but we shouldn’t ask them to face deranged killers with no chance to save their lives and the lives of their kids.

But that is exactly what we ask teachers and other school staff members to do when the law prohibits them from defending themselves, and the children whose safety is entrusted to them, when they are faced with someone armed in their school.

There are thousands of school staffers who are lawfully armed across the country in K-12 schools today. Who are these volunteers? They are teachers, janitors, principals, and superintendents. Most have had their Concealed Weapons Permit for years and have already made the decision to protect themselves and their families outside of the workplace. They have simply been —up to the point of being authorized to carry— disarmed at work.

Why should the natural right of a school staff member to choose her own self-defense and the defense of those around her, end when she walks on campus?

Many feel better about the safety of their local campus when they have an SRO or other full-time security staff. And they should. The addition of a highly visible security force can be helpful in preventing some episodes of school violence, and on-site security can be helpful with immediate response in the aftermath of an incident. But it’s not enough in the case of these sick killers who plan out their massacres carefully. Because SROs and other security officers are in uniform, the killer knows just where they are. If a school is large enough for an SRO, it has multiple doors, multiple hallways, and likely multiple buildings.

There was an SRO on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the massacre. He wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the carnage, and that may have been by the killer’s design.

In the 2013 murder of 17-year-old Claire Davis at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, CO, there was also an SRO on the campus. He heard the gunfire and sprinted at full-speed toward the sound of the guns. It took him 45-seconds to get to the scene. When the SRO arrived, the gunman shot himself, potentially saving more lives. But it wasn’t enough to save Claire.

In Colorado, school boards and charter school boards can authorize staff to carry concealed on campus. At, we train these heroes for free if the school can’t afford the tuition. We imported this 3-day, lifesaving training curriculum from in Ohio. The Ohio team is helping other states to rollout this critical training.

Consider this: the mindset of an active killer is to have as high a body count as they can manage. Most don’t fear death because that is part of their plan. What they do fear is dying without the “fame” that comes with taking a high number of innocents with them. More armed, anonymous, concealed-carriers on campus provide a better opportunity to stop the slaughter when it starts.

Armed teachers have a fighting chance to stop the killer and save their kids. We shouldn’t expect them to die to protect their kids, when there is a legal option in most states for them to protect their kids —and live.

Laura Carno is the Executive Director of, an organization that trains armed first responders in schools to stop the threat and stop the bleeding.

Congress just proved an amazing thing happens when Republicans remember to govern as Reagan Republicans.

The most substantial tax overhaul since the Reagan years has sparked our economy. Republicans in Congress gathered the courage to face down the pro-tax media, special interests, and the opposition of every single Democrat in Congress to help families keep more of what they earn. Already tax reform has resulted in at least 285 companies announcing wage increases, bonuses, and higher 401(k) matches for 3 million workers. Utility companies are reducing rates in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The decade-long economic malaise of the Obama years is finally in the rearview mirror. Apple is bringing more than a quarter-trillion dollars back to the U.S. Amgen, Goldman Sachs, and Johnson & Johnson are following suit. Companies like Walmart are giving out raises. Companies like Starbucks are giving employee bonuses.

And all Republicans had to do is what they promised to do: Get out of the way and leave us alone. Competent Republican state caucuses are following suit in states like Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. But not all Republicans at the state level are following the tried and true path of successful government: less.

Some Republican state legislators remind us that no one’s life is a complete waste — some simply serve as bad examples. One of those bad examples can be found in Colorado.

This is disappointing and surprising, as Colorado is home to the best tax and expenditure limitation in the country, called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. TABOR provides an exoskeleton for those elected officials that lack an endoskeleton (backbone). It should be easiest to fight taxes in Colorado.

TABOR puts taxpayers in charge of tax and debt increases. Any government in Colorado can jack up taxes as high as they like, and it’s all fine. All they have to do is ask first by putting the question on the ballot.

The word you’re looking for is “consent.” Colorado has a higher level of consent over government growth put right in their state constitution. Consent is good. Harvey Weinstein is bad.

But weak politicians don’t like asking voters if they want higher taxes because they know the answer is going to be “no.” So Colorado lawmakers found ways around asking for consent. They devised a Clintonesque way to change the meaning of simple words. They renamed taxes as “fees,” and label debt as “certificates of participation.” Clever, huh?

For years Democrats in the Colorado legislature have been drooling over a scheme to get around TABOR by raising a tax on Coloradans’ hospital stays and calling it a “fee.” Fortunately, until now the Republican-controlled State Senate has consistently stood up for taxpayers and blocked the Democrat-controlled State House of Representatives from raising taxes and debt without consent.

But in the last legislative session, Democrats found their pro-tax collaborators inside the Republican Senate caucus. Spearheaded by Senate President Kevin Grantham (a bad Republican) and the Senate Majority Leader Jerry Sonnenberg (another bad Republican), who sponsored the effort, they successfully raised taxes by $600 million a year and raised debt by $2 billion.

That alone is a cardinal fiscal sin, but blowing a hole through TABOR by refusing to bring it to a public vote makes this the largest Republican betrayal in Colorado political history.

Grover Glenn Norquist is an American political advocate who is founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, an organization that opposes all tax increases.


MYTH: “In CO, energy from renewable energy projects w/ storage is cheaper than existing coal plants,” Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith tweeted at me, citing a Vox column as his source.

The column covered Xcel Energy’s “Colorado Energy Plan” (CEP) and renewable energy bids to replace 660 megawatts of coal-fired power from Comanche 1 and 2 in Pueblo. The subhead reads: “Even with storage, new renewables beat existing coal.”

Writer David Roberts provides some numbers:

The median bid for a wind project was $18.10/MWh; the median for wind+storage was $21, just three dollars higher. The median bid for a solar PV project was $29.50/MWh; the median bid for solar+storage was $36, just seven dollars higher. (Keep in mind what median means: Half the projects bid cheaper than this.)

So, the median bid price for wind with storage is $21 and the median price for solar with storage is $36.

What Roberts, Maysmith, Xcel and everyone else who desperately want you to believe the CEP is going to be cheap is that those bids don’t include ratepayers’ sunk cost into Comanche 1 and 2; we don’t know if transmission costs are included, and they aren’t comparing those bids to the actual costs of generating electricity at Comanche.

FACT: “In 2016, Comanche’s total cost of generation is $15.90/MWh, which is the lowest in Colorado (among FERC-reporting utilities) and one of the lowest in the nation,” according to FERC Form 1 data. When all costs are considered, keeping Comanche open is cheaper than building new projects of any kind.

MYTH: “We [Xcel Energy] believe that we can achieve this clean energy transition without increasing costs to Colorado customers, and even saving them money.”

FACT: The CEP will cost ratepayers money – a lot of money, likely hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • The CEP is likely to cost ratepayers at least somewhere between $250 and $390 million.
  • Xcel failed to account for $173 million in sunk costs for Comanche Units 1 and 2 in its calculation of the CEP.
  • Ignoring generally accepted accounting practices, Xcel also “falsely inflates the Baseline Portfolio costs by including a $40 million annual book value amount for Comanche 1 and 2 while excluding these book value costs from the wind/solar/gas case. This is improper because PSCO intends to recover its sunk capital investments in the plants in either portfolio case.”
  • To make the CEP appear to be cost effective, Xcel didn’t include the cost of transmission in the CEP Portfolio but did include transmission costs in units that would replace Comanche 1 and 2 after their planned retirement dates. In other words, according to Xcel, it’s cheaper to close Comanche 1 and 2 ahead of schedule because the company doesn’t include transmission costs.

MYTH: “Coal is market driven, or as you would say free-market driven…”  twitter response to me.

FACT: There is no “free market” in Colorado electricity generation. In fact, we aren’t even governed by a “least cost” principle.  Over the last decade Colorado has politicized electricity generation. Legislative mandates have forced fuel switching and massive rate increases.

Furthermore, unlike many other states, Colorado electricity consumers have no choice in their provider. “Colorado is one of 21 states across the country stuck in a regulated market dominated by monopoly utilities.” And elected officials with their own agendas regarding electricity production and consumption.

If Colorado wants to go all in on industrial wind and solar, then, as we have been saying, the state should do so with its eyes wide open to cost. Otherwise, Coloradans will be disappointed when they find out their magic fairy dust doesn’t pay their Xcel bills.


All over the country, states are spending tens of millions of dollars preparing plans to build high-speed rail lines. Among the many routes under consideration are Ft. Collins to Pueblo, Colorado; Richmond, Virginia to Raleigh, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Seattle to Spokane, Washington, which would probably require an 80-mile-long tunnel under the Cascade Mountains.

None of these projects make sense because — in case you haven’t noticed — we have this new-fangled technology called airplanes that go twice as fast as the fastest trains in the world and require almost no infrastructure, which means their costs are much lower than trains. So why are Americans so bedazzled by trains?

In 2017, fares on Amtrak’s high-speed Acela trains between Boston and Washington averaged 92 cents a passenger mile. Although Amtrak claims these trains cover their operating costs, Amtrak is also desperately lobbying Congress for $35 billion to rehabilitate the infrastructure required to keep the trains running. By comparison, airline fares average around 15 cents a passenger mile, and while the airlines receive subsidies averaging about a penny per passenger mile, most of those subsidies go to tiny, out-of-the-way airports that most travelers never see.

California is now reporting even greater cost overruns for its San Francisco-Los Angeles high-speed rail line. Originally projected to cost $45 billion inflation-adjusted dollars, it is now expected to cost well over twice that much. Before any of the estimates were made, a University of California, Berkeley transportation engineer calculated that, even if the rail line cost only $15 billion to build, it would still cost less to fly or drive than to take the train.

Rail advocates claim that high-speed rail has a competitive advantage over flying or driving on trips of about 200 to 600 miles. In fact, no such advantage exists. Consider the Northeast Corridor, which is really two corridors — Boston to New York and New York to Washington — of about 225 miles each. Amtrak claims that it carries more passengers than the airlines in these corridors. What it doesn’t mention is that nearly 90 percent of intercity travel in these corridors uses the highway and that low-cost carriers such as Megabus and Bolt Bus carry more travelers than Amtrak.

Rail advocates also like to claim that downtown-to-downtown times on some high-speed rail trips will be faster than by plane, since most airports aren’t located near downtowns and air travelers have to go through time-consuming airport security. But this is irrelevant, as fewer than 8 percent of Americans live or work near big-city downtowns, and many major urban areas have more than one airport, giving travelers a choice of using the one that is most convenient for them. 

If airport security is a problem, it would be a lot less expensive to streamline security than to build multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail lines. In fact, the Transportation Security Administration’s known traveler identification program already allows anyone who signs up to speed through security without long lines.

Randal O’Toole is a Cato Institute Senior Fellow working on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues. O’Toole’s research on national forest management, culminating in his 1988 book, Reforming the Forest Service, has had a major influence on Forest Service policy and on-the-ground management. His analysis of urban land-use and transportation issues, brought together in his 2001 book, The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths, has influenced decisions in cities across the country.


President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress just gave us a large tax cut. But Colorado’s Republican-controlled state Senate had already taken it away.

To comprehend how that’s possible, we need to understand the largest betrayal of Republican values in Colorado political history: the tax-hiking, debt-raising, TABOR-busting Senate Bill 267, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and enabled by the schizophrenic leadership of Senate President Kevin Grantham.

The beauty of our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is that taxes and debt can grow as high as any communist would like, all you have to do is ask the voters first. But elected officials, doing their best Bernie Madoff, don’t want to ask for consent when they know the answer is going to be “no.” They re-label taxes as “fees” and debt as “certificates of participation,” so the Colorado Supreme Court lets them take our money without our voter consent.

In 2009, without asking, the state forced an extra tax on us when we’re sick and have to go to the hospital. In their best George Orwell, the legislature named this tax “The Hospital Provider Fee,” as if hospitals, not patients, pay it. The new “fee” generated more than $650 million in 2016, pushing Colorado’s revenue over it’s TABOR cap.

See, TABOR also limits the state budget’s growth to population growth and inflation. But, all the government has to do to keep anything in excess of that is, well, just ask us first (see
Madoff comment above.)

The state was going to hit its budget limit, triggering either a refund back to us taxpayers, or an act of respect, asking voters for consent to keep our cash.

But, led by Sonnenberg, the legislature put the hospital “fee” into a different state-run checking account, thus technically, and laughably, “out” of the state budget. Not only did this mean we won’t get our excess revenue refunds now, it means the state budget now has lots of room to balloon before they’d ever have to write a refund check to we urchin taxpayers.

By contrast, Republicans in D.C. were acting like Republicans and actually reducing our tax load. But by an odd twist of accounting, the Trump cuts means Colorado, on the state level, will be taking even more of our money.

Colorado income taxes are based off of federal income tax forms. You take your “Federal Taxable Income” off your federal tax form (line 43 on your IRS 1040 form) to calculate your Colorado taxes. Under the Trump tax cuts, the calculation of your “Federal Taxable Income” goes up. Don’t worry, since tax rates go down, you still save a lot of money on Federal taxes.

Jon Caldara, a Denver Post columnist, is president of the Independence Institute, a libertarian-conservative think tank in Denver.


California billionaire and [big-time] Democrat donor Tom Steyer has made an early entrance into Colorado’s 2018 election battleground, a Western Wire review of Colorado’s campaign finance reports reveals.

Contribution reports from the 4th quarter of 2017 show Steyer jumping into five Colorado House and Senate races in competitive Colorado districts much earlier than in 2016. Democrats hold the state House, while Republicans retain a narrow majority in the state Senate.

Steyer gave $400, the state maximum per individual, on December 20, 2017 to each of five Colorado candidates, all Democrats. In the state House, Steyer backed Rep. Tony Exum (HD-17), who holds a competitive seat in El Paso County. border: 0px solid black; padding-left: 3.4em; width: 90%;
He also donated to Rep. Barbara McLachlan (HD-59) in Southwest Colorado, and Rep. Jeff Bridges (HD-3) in Denver’s southern suburbs. Steyer’s wife, Kathryn, also gave a matching $400 donation to Exum.

The description of McLachlan’s donation includes “Democracy Engine – Give Green.” While none of the remaining candidates include that description, all five are listed on the “Give Green In the States” campaign website. Colorado’s candidates are listed alongside state candidates from Nevada, as well as Gov. Kate Brown (D) of Oregon and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York.

On the Senate side, Steyer targeted two highly competitive districts in Denver’s northeast suburbs and west and nearby foothills. Republican Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik eked out a narrow victory in Senate District 24 in 2014, capturing the seat by fewer than one thousand votes in a Republican pick-up that cycle. Faith Winter, a Democratic representative in HD-35, is challenging Humenik.

Senate District 16, held by Republican Sen. Tim Neville, is a top-tier target given the district’s voter makeup and Neville’s profile. Neville’s 2014 race was hotly contested and the GOP legislator ran unsuccessfully in 2016 for the party nomination to unseat incumbent liberal U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. Steyer’s preferred candidate, Tammy Story, has the endorsement of U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Polis is running for the Democratic nomination for Colorado governor.

“Our focus has always been on equal opportunity for all Coloradans, and that doesn’t fit with what Tom Steyer wants to do,” Neville told Western Wire. “He’s very concerned about making sure government picks and chooses winners and losers and makes decisions for Coloradans.”

“Heaven forbid they are allowed to make their own decisions,” Neville quipped.


The regulatory space at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is the playground of corporate lawyers, unelected bureaucrats, and well-funded special interest groups. They have “stakeholder” meetings that include only themselves. Then they issue press statements slapping each other on the back for their hard work securing a “settlement” that forces Colorado working families and small businesses to pay more while a monopoly utility lines its pockets and special interest groups claim victory. ~ Amy Cooke, October 2017

Xcel Energy’s recently proposed Colorado Energy Plan (CEP) is the best example of it. It’s why our Coalition of Ratepayers,* a Colorado nonprofit concerned about the impact of rising electric rates on residential and small business consumers, petitioned to intervene. With legal fees and expert testimony, the cost is well into six figures. That’s what it takes to get an official seat at the regulatory table. No wonder it’s an exclusive club.

When Xcel failed to get its carbon reduction, fuel switching plan passed at the State Capitol, Governor John Hickenlooper came to the monopoly utility’s rescue. On July 11, Hickenlooper signed an executive order essentially granting Xcel permission to prematurely close nearly 700 megawatts of coal and replace it with renewables, predominantly industrial wind.

The next day, July 12, I wrote the following:

According to sources at the EO press conference and signing ceremony, Xcel Energy was in attendance while others in the electricity generation industry didn’t even know about it. I don’t think that was by accident because Xcel was behind both increased industrial wind and ratebasing EV infrastructure bills that failed, with industrial wind being the most pressing for the monopoly utility as I have explained here and here.

This begs the questions, was the EO really just an Xcel Energy corporate welfare program masquerading as a climate change initiative? What Xcel couldn’t get in in the state legislature, did get through an EO? In which case, no wonder the Governor kept everyone in the dark.

Little did I know, how close to the mark those questions were.

Several weeks later, a source close to the situation revealed the Governor’s office was putting “major pressure” on state agencies including the Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA), the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) to reach a “grand settlement” with Xcel Energy to close prematurely two coal-fired power plants in Pueblo that supply nearly 700 megawatts of affordable, reliable electricity.

The source also suggested that Xcel’s David Eves was probably “in the loop.”

A Colorado Open Records Act request of OCC director Cindy Schonhaut’s calendar seems to confirm that.  Schonhaut met with Eves on July 13, two days after the Governor announced his executive order. According to her calendar, the very next day, July 14, Schonhaut spent three hours at Xcel’s Denver headquarters at 1800 Larimer Street.

Schonhaut met with Xcel a total of seven times between July 13 and August 18. Calendar notes include “meeting ERP [Energy Resource Plan] and CEP [Colorado Energy Plan] stipulation.” On August 29, Xcel announced an agreement with 14 groups including the Office of Consumer Counsel.

Xcel doesn’t just have a monopoly on providing electric and gas service, it also has a monopoly on the process.

Why does this matter? Because the OCC is supposed to represent ratepayers. According to its Web site, “The OCC is the sole voice charged with advocating for consumers when utilities seek to raise their rates.”

The state legislature created the OCC in 1984, “to represent the public interest and the specific interest of residential, small business and agricultural consumers in electric, natural gas, and telecommunications rate and rulemaking cases..”

In other words, those who can’t afford to represent themselves in highly complex proceedings would have an advocate as the OCC explains,

…Utility regulatory proceedings are very technical, complex, and complicated, requiring specialized analyses and modeling tools, resources not readily available to the average citizen or small business owner….

The OCC employs financial, economic, engineering, and policy analysts and other professionals to analyze utility rate and service information and intervene in proceedings that involve rate changes, rulemaking, service modifications, and certificates of public convenience and necessity.

The OCC is correct. Proceedings are exceedingly complicated and very expensive. That keeps residential and small businesses customers from intervening in proceedings that impact their rates.  That reality is why Colorado and many other states created some type of consumer protection. In Colorado, ratepayers chip in just under 50 cents per year to fund the OCC.

Given its mission and funding structure, why is the OCC signing on to agreements with a monopoly utility when the plan hasn’t been fully vetted? What is it doing with the “financial, economic, engineering, and policy analysts” it employs?

They couldn’t have actually analyzed Xcel’s plan. If they had, then surely the OCC would have found Xcel’s obvious and egregious assumptions that tilt the CEP in Xcel’s favor. If the OCC was [sic] true to its mission, then our Coalition wouldn’t need to intervene in the CEP.

The truth is the Office of Consumer Counsel has abdicated its role as a ratepayer advocate. Governor Hickenlooper appoints the OCC director. Schonhaut’s boss is the Governor’s office, not ratepayers. If the Governor’s office is lobbying the OCC to get on board with Xcel against ratepayers, then, judging by what happened with the CEP “grand settlement,” the OCC will do what it’s told. Ratepayers be damned.

And damned we will be. The Coalition of Ratepayers expert testimony found that Xcel’s profit scheme will cost between $250 million and $390 million – a far cry from Eves’ claim that it could “save customers money.”

From a ratepayer perspective the process is broken and so is OCC.

The OCC brags on its Web site about saving ratepayers money. But consider that since 2001 electric rates have skyrocketed more than 62 percent, nearly two times the rate of inflation and massively outpacing median income in Colorado.

It gets worse as we showed in our September study of two monopoly utilities:

Even with nearly flat revenue, Xcel’s profits have increased 93.89 percent and profit margins have increased from 12 percent in 2006 to nearly 22 percent in 2016.

…profit per ratepayer increased a staggering 76.7 percent from $178.09 in 2006 to $314.75 in 2016. How? Because the real money is in Xcel’s assets where the monopoly gets a roughly 10 percent rate of return. In 2006 assets per ratepayer were $3,246.24. By 2016 that number increased 61 percent to $5,238.47.

Black Hills Energy customers have suffered even more:

Revenue per ratepayer has increased 165.55 percent from $984.68 in 2008 to $2614.78 in 2016. Assets per ratepayer have increased 173 percent from $5,264.74 in 2008 to $14,368.21 in 2016. And profits? They’ve increased an astounding 780 percent to $451.54 per ratepayer in 2016 from $51.30 in 2008.

Unfortunately for ratepayers, utilities have co-opted the Office of Consumer Counsel and political agendas have corrupted the OCC’s role as an independent advocate for utility consumers. The state legislature should respond by doing away with the OCC or demanding institutional reform. At the very least, request an audit of OCC’s mission and its adherence to it.

Fix it or end it. Just stop pretending the OCC’s actions match its mission.

Editor’s Note: The Independence Institute is a member of the Ratepayer Coalition opposing Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan.

Like most states, Colorado has a bureaucracy dedicated to doling out taxpayer-subsidized “incentives” to politically favored private businesses that don’t actually need a subsidy in the first place. The most recent example is a “consolidated” corporate welfare pitch to Amazon to bring its coveted HQ 2 to the Denver area.

Several years ago, the New York Times put Colorado’s corporate welfare spending at just under a billion dollars per year. But putting taxpayers on the hook for corporate favoritism isn’t just a state government problem. More and more, such cronyism is being practiced at the municipal level as well.

You might reasonably think that when fees and taxes are paid to a city government, that money is going to pay for city services.  But in some Colorado cities, the fees and taxes paid by privileged businesses along with citizen-paid sales taxes actually get “rebated” to those very same privileged businesses for a specified period of time. In other words, the government collects the money, and then gives it to the business.

Last year Westminster, Colorado, (population around 114,000, in northwest Metro Denver) doled out $700,000 to an Alamo Draft House Theater. The giveaway included, among other things, a 100 percent rebate of sales taxes, as well as rebates of permitting fees and construction materials use taxes, for three years.

Westminster politicians couldn’t wait to hand over the tax dollars; the scheme passed 5-1 on first reading. This wasn’t Westminster’s first time ladling taxpayer gravy on private business through a rebate scheme, nor is the city alone in this practice.

Also in 2017, the City of Longmont (population around 93,000, in northern Colorado) handed over a $6.5 million welfare package for a new Smuckers manufacturing plant. As the Longmont Times-Call newspaper describes, this sweet deal included, among other things, rebates for building permits and plan review fees, rebates for city sales and use taxes on construction materials, and partial rebates of the business personal property taxes the city expects to collect.

Earlier this year Thornton, Colorado (population around 137, 000 in north Metro Denver) gave a 50 percent rebate of sales and property taxes for 10 years as part of a $3.75 million give-away to a company called Top Golf to open up a new facility.

This is where capitalism gets twisted into cronyism, with planners and politicians picking economic winners and losers by granting special privileges in the form of public subsidy to a few privileged businesses, while everyone else pays full freight.

Susan Kochevar owns a drive-in movie theater in Commerce City, Colorado, (around 55,000 people), which borders Westminster. Writing in Complete Colorado (a project of my employer, the Independence Institute), she explains how this corporate favoritism disadvantages other businesses:

My drive-in theatre has one location. I would like to expand.  When I approached Commerce City, I received a four page Excel spreadsheet listing expected licenses, fees and permits that would cost $80,000!  Like Westminster, Commerce City also offers tax incentives to large businesses.  I have been a stable small business operating for 40 years. Is it really necessary to charge an existing, small business $80,000, but give breaks to big corporations to build something new?

Sweetheart deals like this also almost certainly violate the Colorado Constitution, which specifically bans giving away public dollars to private companies. Article XI, section 2 is quite clear: “Neither the state, nor any county, city, town, township, or school district shall make any donation or grant to, or in aid of … any corporation or company.”

Mike Krause is Director of Public Affairs, a position created to help keep a lid on the many indiscretions of the Institute’s president, Jon Caldara. In addition, he edits the Institute’s state-wide editorial syndicate and is executive producer of the the Institute’s weekly public affairs television show, Devil’s Advocate (airs Friday nights at 8:30 and re-broadcasts Mondays at 12:30 PM on Colorado Public Television). Mike is also Director of the Local Colorado Project, the Institute’s local government policy effort.
He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska, and served in the United States Coast Guard from 1987-1991, which included search and rescue operations in the North Atlantic Ocean and joint agency drug and immigration patrols in the Caribbean Sea.