Freedom flickers in recall of senators

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

After the stunning recall of two Democrat state senators who led the legislature’s lurch to the loony left, maybe there’s still hope for freedom in Colorado after all – but only if more Coloradans become fierce defenders of their freedoms.

The ouster of Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) was remarkable on many fronts. Never before has a sitting Colorado legislator been recalled. Even more impressive were overwhelming odds that recall proponents faced.

With very little outside help and ample skepticism from observers, two motivated groups of local citizens – Basic Freedom Defense Fund in Colorado Springs and Pueblo Freedom and Rights – worked their tails off on a shoestring budget to collect enough signatures to force two incumbents to justify why they should remain in office.

Those citizens later received substantial support from gun rights groups and others but were outspent 7-to-1 by backers of Morse and Giron. The incumbents’ machine unleashed a torrent of frivolous lawsuits to try to derail the election and raked in more than $3 million, including a personal check of $350,000 from gun-grabbing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Dethroning the senate president is satisfying mostly due to Morse’s unbounded arrogance, but the Pueblo result was refreshing because it re-affirms that Democrats in some locales still value core freedoms – unlike the Denver-Boulder variety who so often behave as if the only freedoms worth fighting for involve sex and drugs.Read More

Hickenlooper: the governor that might have been

In Notes by Mark Hillman

John Hickenlooper had a chance to bring a breath of fresh air to the governor’s office.

Imminently likable and with a charmed political career, he could have been the rare maverick moderate Democrat – strong enough and bold enough to be a governor for all Colorado.  He could have been the adult in the room when liberal legislators ran amok on the lunatic fringe.

For two years, he largely fit the bill.  With a Republican majority in the state House offset by Democrats controlling the Senate, playing the centrist required little effort.

This year, however, he has been all too reminiscent of his feckless predecessor, signing virtually any bill on the wacky wish list of the loony Left.Read More

Democrats keep sticking it to rural Colorado

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Now that they have regained total control of the State Capitol, Democrat leaders in the legislature just cannot resist kicking rural Colorado every time they get a chance.

It was necessary, they told us, for rural Coloradans – and gun owners everywhere – to compromise our lifestyle and our freedom as part of their irrational quest to make us safer by passing laws that will continue to be ignored by cold-blooded killers like James Holmes, Adam Lanza and the Boston bombers.

Now, Democrats are feeding their green-energy fetish by imposing drastically higher energy costs – 15 to 20 percent higher – on rural families, schools and the farms and ranches that put food on their dining room tables.

This is the price, they have determined, that we must pay to “save the planet” from global warming.Read More

Students, teachers short changed by PERA bailout

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

As Colorado lawmakers consider an overhaul of the way the state funds K-12 education, more people are noticing that schools are increasingly forced to pay for the past rather than to invest in the future.

Our public schools must take money out of the classroom in order to pay for investment losses and unaffordable promises that have created a $25 billion shortfall in the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).

In August 2012, Adams 12 School District teachers protested a 2 percent salary reduction enacted explicitly to offset the rising cost of PERA’s bailout plan.  For 2012-13, Adams 12 will pay $190 million in salaries, plus $36 million for PERA and Medicaid.

In 2010-11, Colorado Springs School District 11 paid $21 million to PERA, according to the Colorado Springs Independent.  Those payments, combined with funding reductions by the state legislature, led the district to close schools and make cuts that affected everything from textbooks to class size to suspending pay increases.

District 11 CFO Glenn Gustafson told the Independent: “To improve student achievement, it’s more important than ever to attract qualified and talented teachers. But we’re shifting a disproportionate amount of compensation to retirement benefits and health care.”

For 2011-12, my hometown Burlington School District RE-6J, with just 738 pupils, faced a $300,000 budget deficit – half of that amount caused by the cost of PERA’s bailout.  For 2012-13, the district decreased salaries by $54,399 but the mandatory PERA contribution increased by $38,594.Read More

Republicans are right to draw line on taxes

In Notes by Mark Hillman

The culture of Washington is one of compromise.  Go along.  Get along.  Get something done – good, bad or otherwise.

Sometimes compromise is necessary.  When the levers of power are divided, reality dictates two choices: live with the status quo or do some “horse trading” in order to make changes that are marginally better.

When Republicans in Congress compromised on the so-called fiscal cliff, they acknowledged that Barack Obama won re-election, in part, by campaigning on the idea of raising taxes on “the rich.”

Republicans fared remarkably well on that compromise.  By conceding a tax increase on those who make more than $400,000 a year, Republicans secured most of the 2003 income tax cuts that otherwise would have expired.

That brings us to the dreaded “sequester,” which President Obama’s White House concocted but now wants to disavow.  As president, Obama presides over annual deficits of more than $1 trillion – borrowing 30 cents of every dollar spent – but suggests that to cut a mere $85 billion (just over two percent) from a $3.7 trillion budget would result in calamity.Read More

The President who cares mostly about himself

In Blog by Mark Hillman

Richard Cohen, a reliably liberal columnist for the Washington Post, unloaded on Barack Obama in today’s op-ed. Not that he’s going to vote for Romney, but Cohen certainly hits the nail on the head about our Narcissist in Chief:

“Obama never espoused a cause bigger than his own political survival.”

“Bobby Kennedy showed his anger, his impatience, his stunned incredulity at the state of black America. Obama shows nothing.”

“Robert F. Kennedy’s appeal is obvious: authenticity. He cared. He showed it. People saw that and cared about him in return. With Obama, the process is reversed. It’s hard to care about someone who seems not to care in return.”

Ouch!  Any wonder the Left is depressed?  Even though they will still vote for him, they know Obama is an empty suit who only takes risks to try to ensure his own political survival.

2012 Ballot Recommendations

In Notes by Mark Hillman

As many have requested my recommendations regarding amendments and judges on the 2012 Colorado General Election ballot, I am posting them for readers’ information.

Amendment S – State Personnel System

Recommendation: YES

Explanation: Makes modest changes to the state personnel system (written into the constitution in 1918) in order to give the Governor greater flexibility in hiring and firing one percent of all state employees (or 325 jobs out of 32,500).  Changes to the state personnel system are long overdue.  This is a small step, but at least it is a step in the right direction.


Amendment 64 – Marijuana Legalization and Regulation

Recommendation: NO

Explanation: A few years ago, I was warming to the idea of legalization of some drugs due to the vast amount of money governments spent prosecuting drug users whose only crime may be drug use, which is largely a crime against oneself.  I will concede that some people may use marijuana recreationally and responsibly with few adverse side effects.

However, after Colorado legalized “medical marijuana,” legalization became a reality I could see with my own eyes and not just a hypothetical discussion.  I witnessed the criminal element of drug dealers coming out of the shadows and into our streets, parks and buses where they are closer to our kids.  The fact that “medical marijuana” is now legal hasn’t changed the type of people who are drug dealers and who want to see more young people “experiment” with a drug that is harmful to them in so many ways.  Making marijuana more readily available to adults obviously makes it more available to kids under 18.

Frankly, I don’t want to make it easier for drug dealers to do business or to lead our kids down a path that steals their potential and ruins their lives.


Amendment 65 – Instructing Colorado Lawmakers to Restrict Free Speech in Elections

Recommendation: NO

Explanation: This measure would instruct Colorado’s legislative representatives to support a federal constitutional amendment to limit personal campaign contributions.  Translation: a vote for Amendment 65 is a vote to restrict your First Amendment freedom of speech in elections.  The U.S. Supreme Court has correctly said that political speech is the heart of the First Amendment and that obviously includes the right of every American citizen to freely choose to spend his or her own hard-earned money to elect or defeat the candidate or issue of their choice.

The way to get big money out of politics is not to restrict the freedom of citizens.  The way to get big money out of politics is to take power and money away from government.  Without government control of power and money, few people or corporations would be motivated to spend vast sums of money to influence elections.

Finally, our elected representatives should be accountable to the voters, not bound by some silly amendment passed by a self-serving special interest that, ironically, spent a lot of money to get this amendment on the ballot.



My recommendations regarding the retention of judges is based upon whether they generally apply the law as written in the Colorado Constitution and Colorado Revised Statutes.  I recommend voting YES/RETAIN on those who adhere to the law as written and NO/DO NOT RETAIN on those who seem inclined to substitute their own policy preferences for those of the people and their elected representatives.

• Nathan B. COATS, Supreme Court, YES/RETAIN.

• Laurie A. BOORAS, Court of Appeals, NO/DO NOT RETAIN

• James S. CASEBOLT, Court of Appeals, YES/RETAIN

• Dennis A. GRAHAM, Court of Appeals, YES/RETAIN

• Gale T. MILLER, Court of Appeals, NO/DO NOT RETAIN

• Daniel Marc TAUBMAN, Court of Appeals, NO/DO NOT RETAIN

• John R. WEBB, Court of Appeals, YES/RETAIN

Obama on business: ignorance or arrogance

In Capitol Review, Notes by Mark Hillman

What’s more frustrating about President Obama – his ignorance of how difficult it is to make a profit in business or his arrogance that there’s so little he doesn’t know?

Here’s a man with less business experience than a third-grader with a lemonade stand and who has said that during his one, brief private-sector job he felt “like a spy behind enemy lines.”

You need not connect many dots to conclude that his attitude toward America’s businessmen and women is “dismissive, even derisive,” to quote from Obama’s 2009 Apologizing for America Tour.

Obama treats America’s job creators like inconsequential punching bags. His recent comment that government is more responsible for a business’ success than hard work, ingenuity or intelligence smacks of someone who – unlike, say, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs – achieved his success not because he’s especially talented or works harder than anyone else but because he’s a smooth talker and knows the right people.Read More

ObamaCare ruling is a mess with a message

In Notes by Mark Hillman

For anyone who naively thought the Supreme Court would render a clean and tidy decision on ObamaCare, Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority-of-one opinion should be instructive.

Rarely does the high court render an opinion that draws bright lines by simply applying the constitution as written. More often, the court’s opinion is sufficiently muddled that a future court in a similar case can arrive at any decision it desires simply by selectively quoting only the passages that support its desired outcome and ignoring those that do not.

Roberts did exactly that in finding ObamaCare’s insurance mandate unconstitutional under the constitution’s Commerce Clause: “[T]o permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.”

But next Roberts ignored the court’s precedent that distinguishes a “tax” from a “penalty,” as the dissenting conservative justices noted: “We have never held that any action imposed for the violation of the law is an exercise of Congress’ taxing power – even when the statute calls it a tax, much less when (as here) the statute repeatedly calls it a penalty.”Read More