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Colorado Editorial Roundup

January 2, 2019

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Jan. 2, on fixing the Gallagher Amendment:

When the Colorado General Assembly convenes for the 72nd legislative session on Friday, expect to see a resurgence of bills that died in committee along party lines in 2018.

Several bills could see new life now that Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature. Interestingly, one proposal voted down by Republicans on the Legislative Council Committee in 2018 will be revived by a Republican House member precisely because it has a better chance of passing with Democrats in control.

No one understands how the Gallagher Amendment hurts rural Colorado more than Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale. He served on a special legislative panel called Alternatives to the Gallagher Amendment Interim Study Committee.

That committee came up proposals that were rejected by the Legislative Council Committee, including an effort to place a measure on the ballot to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. As the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported last week, Rankin — who pushed for the repeal measure and a proposed replacement — plans to introduce the idea in 2019.

Hopefully, Rankin’s influence as a member of the Joint Budget Committee, which drafts the state’s spending plan, will persuade urban lawmakers to see a problem that has reached near-crisis proportions.

Last November, Colorado Mountain College became the largest special district in the history of the state to successfully “de-Gallagherize” its revenue. Gallagher is the 1982 voter-approved constitutional amendment that sets residential and commercial property tax rates statewide. But the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights interferes with the way Gallagher is supposed to work to fund special districts.

Outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the state Supreme Court to review whether the two amendments constitutionally conflict with each other. But the high court declined.

Without legislative intervention, special districts — fire districts, water districts, sanitation districts, school districts and numerous others — share the same predicament. Their revenues go down. Growth in the number and value of homes on the Front Ranges forces a downward adjustment in how much revenue can be collected statewide to stay within Gallagher’s prescribed split between residential and commercial property tax collections. It hurts rural Colorado the most.

This shouldn’t be a partisan issue and Rankin is doing what he can to bring a sense of urgency to the issue on behalf of rural Colorado. Former Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow said his biggest disappointment was not changing enough minds about the distortions TABOR and Gallagher create.

We’ve often suggested that lawmakers representing rural Colorado must see past partisanship and work together to solve rural challenges. Rankin has the right idea and the rest of the Legislature seems to be catching on. The House’s Agricultural, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee will now be known as the Rural Affairs Committee. Their first order of business should be lining up behind Rankin and demanding a statutory fix for the mess Gallagher has made.

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

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(Colorado Springs) The Gazette, Jan. 1, on Colorado shorting mental illness while subsidizing sports cars:

Taking control of all facets of Colorado state government, Democrats should immediately address the state’s mental health care crisis.

This should not be a difficult task for leaders of a party that advocates compassion. It should fall in line with priorities of a party that talks boldly of government improving everything, including the global climate.

All odds favor good Democratic outcomes in 2019, if party leaders pursue meaningful priorities.

The controlling party, headed by incoming Gov. Jared Polis, will govern a state with the country’s hottest economy. The governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting expects a surplus of $1.22 billion, and the number could go higher.

Despite Colorado’s good fortunes, and our consistent high ranking on lists of best places to live, our state can be a nightmare for mental health patients and those who love them. We typically rank among the bottom half of states regarding per capita prevalence of mental illness, and access to care.

Our consistent ranking among 10 states with the highest suicide rates probably relates to our stingy approach to mental health care. It might play a role in our growing rate of domestic abuse, homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and the general despair of people with psychological illnesses who have almost no access to help.

The state’s shameful lack of mental health resources hit a new low this month when the Colorado Department of Human Services dropped to zero — yes, zero — the number of state psychiatric beds available to adults who are not in jail.

The department’s decision addresses the problem of criminal defendants languishing for months in jails while awaiting state-provided treatments for psychiatric conditions associated with their charges. The lack of mental health resources for inmates has become so severe the federal government is suing the Department of Human Services.

In trying to appease federal litigators, the state merely exacerbates problems for uninsured and financially challenged patients who have not been arrested. It reduces one problem by increasing another. We cannot resolve a shortage by redistributing burdens from one group to another. This is a microcosm of the general health care crisis. We must innovate and grow our way out of this dilemma by producing adequate resources of care — publicly, privately and both.

As explained by Gazette reporter Jakob Rodgers, the admission ban primarily affects the state’s 90-plus-bed Fort Logan hospital in Denver. The state’s only other psychiatric hospital — Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo — largely stopped accepting noninmates a few years ago for the same reasons.

Mental health patients do not comprise a bloc constituency politicians care about. Too many with mental illnesses live in confines of an irrational stigma that does not belong in the 21st century. Their disabilities typically impede any ability to organizes and fight for support.

Polis and his majority in the Legislature can change this in 2019.

A state that subsidizes high-wage professionals to commute in “Bustang” limo-busses can afford more help for the mentally ill. A state aggressively pursuing “renewables” can afford to address this problem. A state with the country’s highest subsidy for $84,000 Teslas should not turn away the mentally ill until they get arrested. A state that gives an $81 million subsidy to wealthy for-profit developers of the Gaylord Rockies Resort can afford more psychiatric beds.

Politicians awash in a $1.22 billion revenue surplus cannot claim poverty, helplessly accepting the rise in suicide and homelessness.

We have a new governor with a proven record of private-sector problem solving. He and his party should address this issue quickly, without demanding new taxes. It won’t serve a massive constituency, but it is the right thing to do.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2LKKgP0

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Greeley Tribune, Dec. 28, on new rules about full-strength beer sales being good for Colorado:

Answering the question is almost an inevitability for native Coloradans. And for those who ended up here from somewhere else, a certain rite of passage exists when you go from the person asking it to the person answering it.

What is 3.2 beer?

The long answer describes it as a holdover from another time, when it was thought giving 18-year-olds beer with lower alcohol by volume would be a nice transition to drinking full-strength beer at 21. Since then, through the strange workings of our legal system, 3.2 beer — as in 3.2 percent alcohol by volume — remained the only beer grocery and convenience stores in Colorado can legally sell.

As of Tuesday, the short answer for explaining 3.2 beer: extinct.

With the arrival of 2019 comes the enactment of new rules a long time in the making, and one given a hearty seal of approval by voters. Full-strength beer will be available for purchase at grocery and convenience stores in Colorado.

Now, like with most issues, there are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue as to whether this is a good move for our state.

Those opposed to the move point out how hard it will be on small, locally owned liquor stores, many of which have staked a big part of their business on the fact full-strength beer wasn’t available at places like King Soopers and 7-Eleven.

And they’re right. It’s hard to imagine those stores not taking some kind of a hit sales-wise when consumers have more options for price, as well as variety.

Like with most things, we would encourage consumers in Weld County to continue to support locally owned stores when looking to purchase full-strength beer in 2019 and beyond, but there are a couple reasons in support of the new law that have us convinced sales of full-strength beer at grocery and convenience stores in Colorado is the right move.

First, it has the support of voters. That factor carries a great deal of weight with us.

Second, it promotes the tenants of consumer-friendly free enterprise. Beer is big business in Colorado. We think it’s time to cut away some of the red tape keeping the industry from connecting fully with consumers, especially when there doesn’t seem to be anything truly vital keeping those restrictions in place.

In fact, if the craft beer industry here has already peaked as some estimate it has, this move is probably a few years overdue.

In any event, while we do support the new rules, we do have one concern. We hope the grocery and convenience stores that gain the ability to sell full-strength beer Tuesday take the process of checking IDs and mandate of not selling alcohol to minors as seriously as most liquor stores do, and we encourage liquor enforcement officers to hold them accountable to that standard.

If that happens, we see the new rules regarding the sale of full-strength beer as a positive for Colorado.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2F5UJUs

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