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Colorado Editorial Roundup

April 10, 2019

The Durango Herald, April 10, on Colorado understanding net neutrality:

There was a Depression-era sign we saw once, in a photograph of a gas station. It said: “Free air — It’s your country, don’t let the big boys take it away from you.”

We admired the simplicity, with its dash of Woody Guthrie. We feel the same way about net neutrality. Does the internet belong to the service providers?

Net neutrality is a simple concept, even if the Federal Communications Commission cannot get its hands around it. It means that ISPs — the service providers, such as CenturyLink, Charter and AT&T — cannot discriminate or charge differently based on the user, content or provider. They can’t throttle your speed because you or the content provider did not pay them a little something extra.

In lieu of the FCC seeing it that way, the state Legislature and its Democratic majorities stepped in like Underdog to save the day. Senate Bill 19-078, “Open Internet Customer Protections In Colorado,” passed both houses on party-line votes and will be signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis.

Can Colorado really regulate the internet?

Yes and no. The bill “disqualifies an internet service provider ... from receiving money through a grant from the broadband deployment board ... or through any state fund established to help finance broadband deployment,” if it engages in non-neutral practices that can hurt consumers and enrich providers. The state is cinching its purse strings as much as asserting its authority.

“A lot of the bills we saw getting in trouble in other states, or bills that were facing a lot of opposition, were more about sending a message of net neutrality instead of looking for a fulcrum point for state action,” Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail and the bill’s sponsor, told the Colorado Sun. “This bill says that if you’re going to ask to be funded by the people in Colorado directly out of their paycheck, then you need to adhere to these principles.”

Industry representatives said the bill would create an unnavigable patchwork of state-by-state regulation, which is about what you would expect if states are forced to do the work of the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission.

They are saying it would be easier if they could do what they wanted, where they wanted, when they wanted. Well, yes.

It was also opposed by the Colorado Competitive Council, whose director, Nicholas J. Colglazier, told the Sun the bill would confuse “the regulatory certainty that exists in Colorado today.” The Colorado Competitive Council was formed as an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Its website lists its investors, which include AT&T, CenturyLink and Comcast Cable Communications.

Lest we leave you with the impression that there are always wise stewards of policy in the statehouse, in the House debate on the net neutrality bill last week, an amendment was introduced to exempt ISPs from net neutrality if they filter out sexually explicit or graphic violent content. It failed on a tied vote, 32-32.

Half the members of the state House voted to censor the internet. These are adults who have been to school and have some familiarity with civics, history and the Bill of Rights. Yet, they assumed Colorado could arrogate and grant that majestic power on their say-so. And just when they were doing so well looking out for the little guy.

Sometimes we forget ourselves.

The legislative session ends May 9. We implore senators and representatives to use their powers only for good over the next 30 days.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2IaNBb0

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Aurora Sentinel, April 8, on starting over with FAMLI paid-leave measure:

Colorado businesses and employees alike would greatly benefit from a state-run program allowing workers to take time off to care for newborns or loved ones in medical crises — but not Senate Bill 188.

This convoluted and unworkable plan continues to devolve as bill sponsors now try to appease business-lobby critics who will likely never sign onto any kind of family leave legislation.

We applaud the sentiment and goals of the bill’s proponents, but prime sponsors need to scrap this well-meaning but doomed effort and start over.

The measure would create a new employee tax — which sponsors say is a fee. Whatever it is, it’s split among workers and businesses to create a new insurance program. The program would pay part of a worker’s wages for up to 12 weeks so employees could care for a new-born or an ailing friend or family member.

It’s a badly needed effort that would be a great boon to not only workers, but their employers, too. Insured employees would get partial-paid time off from work, but benefit checks for up to 12 weeks come from the insurance system, not the employer. That allows business to hire temporary workers or pay overtime to other workers to help pick up the slack.

Most important, it would provide much needed financial relief to the working and middle class who desperately need time off from work to care for a new baby or someone they’re close to who is seriously ill or dying.

Compelling stories about people having to be at work while their loved ones die alone — or face financial ruin because they choose to do the humane thing — are widespread and real. The need for this bill speaks to a state where the cost of living and the lack of livable wages make luxuries like caring for a dying loved one something reserved only for the state’s wealthiest residents.

The problems with Senate Bill 188 are numerous, however.

Business lobbies are demanding that the measure limit who qualifies as someone worthy of taking time away from work to care for. That’s wrong. Allowing the government or insurance companies to define relationships detracts from many who need measures like this for “family” members who aren’t defined like that by law.

The bill was also made worse by allowing for a growing number of businesses, as well as cities and counties, to opt out of the measure, certainly undermining its financial viability. With a weakened financial foundation, actuaries will be hard pressed to sign off on the system.

As far as being a financial burden on businesses or employees, that’s an overblown argument. The cost of the insurance, split among employers and employees, is reasonable if financial projections pan out.

And bill sponsors quickly addressed early criticisms about the measure not capping premiums feeding the new insurance plan.

The biggest problem, however, is the funding mechanism for this insurance. Proponents have dubbed regularly docked wages to fund this program “fees.” Clearly, under the eyes of Colorado law, it’s a tax.

Bill sponsors are calling it a fee in an effort to get around the insufferable, so-called Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Doing that, however, dooms the measure to being tied up in courts, possibly for years, before it is inevitably ruled that it is indeed a tax.

Pull Senate Bill 188 and create a reasonable measure that reduces pay benefits to a more affordable and sustainable eight-week limit. Allow employees to decide whom they need to miss work to care for, and call the funding mechanism what it really is, a tax. Then ask voters to enact the measure, ensuring that it can take effect immediately and without the threat of being stalled in courts.

But don’t doom this important issue by drawing inevitable and damaging opposition to a measure that has no hope for success.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2WXl7Vv

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Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, April 7, on banning conversion therapy for gay minors in Colorado:

Banning conversion therapy for gay minors in Colorado — what took so long?

This is the fifth consecutive year that backers of a ban tried to pass it. But the Republican-controlled Senate always stood in the way. With Democrats capturing a Senate majority in the 2018 election, the legislation finally had a real chance this session.

It should have passed sooner for the simple reason that conversion therapy doesn’t work and it often inflicts long-term damage. Once the American Psychiatric Association stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973, gay conversion therapies were readily reduced to psuedo-science. Mainstream psychologists say the therapy is ineffective, unethical and often harmful, stoking anxiety and self-hatred among those treated to overcome same-sex attraction.

It’s one thing to be an adult and opt in to a conversion therapy program. It’s another to be a child or a teen forced to undergo state-sanctioned “therapy” that tacitly enforces the notion that something is wrong with them and needs to be fixed.

House Bill 1129 would ban a state-licensed mental health care provider from engaging in conversion therapy on a patient under 18 years of age in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. A physician or mental health care provider who violates this provision engages in unprofessional conduct under the applicable professional licensing board.

That’s as much as the state can do. It can regulate the work of state-licensed professionals. The law doesn’t apply to ministers and clergy. So, while young Coloradans may be spared being shamed by a mental health professional, the ban can only protect them so much. But it’s a start to the norm-bending that helps achieve full equality.

HB1129 passed the Senate 21-13, and passed the House of Representatives 42-20 with some Republicans, including Sen. Don Coram of Montrose, supporting it. The bill now just needs to be signed into effect by Gov. Jared Polis. Polis made history last year when he was elected as America’s first-ever openly gay governor.

Once Polis signs the bill, Colorado will be the 16th state to ban conversion therapy for minors. Currently, 17 other states are considering bans on the practice, indicating a creeping acceptance that being gay isn’t a lifestyle choice but a biological orientation.

“This bill is about allowing Coloradans to be their authentic selves,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a House sponsor of the bill. “We will finally put an end to a practice that makes these youths six times more likely to have depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide.”

We applaud the House and Senate for their bipartisan support of the measure because protecting kids — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity — should never be a partisan issue.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2Ur4hBE