Imagine sitting down to write a term paper or thesis, then releasing the first draft of the paper not only to your professor but to a worldwide audience. Now imagine your paper contains instructions for allocating billions of tax dollars to a bunch of different groups. You can start to understand what Colorado state senator Michael Johnston (D-Denver) feels like after releasing a draft of legislation to rewrite the state’s 19-year-old School Finance Act.
In the funny game of democratic politics, is it better to make a bold push in one direction, or to try to bring diverse interests together around a “Grand Bargain”? When it comes to Johnston’s monumental effort, the question is being played out before our eyes. The idea is to tie “bold” school finance reform to a “bold” $1 billion tax increase proposal on November’s ballot.
Ed News Colorado reported on last Thursday’s feedback session Johnston’s office sponsored, where he heard lots of questions and lots of concerns. Former State Board of Education member Randy DeHoff stressed a reasonable point that the overall effort really isn’t so bold on reform. He described it fairly as “a lot more money going into a 19th century system.”
At the same time, some supporters of “revenue enhancements” or “increased investments” to K-12 education expressed doubts, insisting that the $1 billion target wasn’t high enough. Johnston talked about internal poll results that showed asking for more money would be fatal to the whole proposition. He framed 2013′s “Grand Bargain” as the vanguard of a longer-term effort.
“What I want to do is make that initial investment and then get a chance for us to track our results and see how we’ve done, and then help us inform the next investment,” the senator assured the crowd of 150 or more. (more…)
Three of the five Board seats for Colorado’s largest school district are up for grabs in 2013. One of them is just inviting a challenge. Jeffco school board director Paula Noonan made local headlines for displaying a serious bout of bad judgment:
Jeffco school board member Paula Noonan was arrested during a traffic stop Jan. 8 when Denver police officers became aware of an outstanding warrant from a 2011 traffic ticket.
Noonan’s arrest was not the first occasion during the term of the school board’s First Vice President in which she has drawn media scrutiny for irresponsible behavior. Local TV news covered her controversial 2010 Dakota Ridge High School commencement speech, with one parent describing it as “a rambling, self-absorbed discourse that confused and embarrassed graduates and their families.” (more…)
Conservatives have plenty of reason to mope in the fiscal gloom these days, maybe even enough to indulge in a bit of dark humor. That brings us to the Colorado political junkie joke of the week, the first of 2013: “How bad was the fiscal cliff deal Congress approved?”
“I don’t know. How bad was it?”
“The fiscal cliff deal was so bad that Michael Bennet couldn’t even vote for it.”
The serious question, though, that follows Congress’ pathetic kicking-the-can-down-the-road exercise — which strangely divided Colorado’s Democratic tag-team duo in the U.S. Senate — is whether Colorado Senator Michael Bennet‘s dissent may have set the stage for Republicans to start taking a necessary hard line on the next tough issue around the bend. And to win back some respect from freedom fighters on the Right. (more…)
The 19th century American individualist Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously declared, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This coming legislative session might just give teachers union leaders a chance to confront their own hobgoblin — choosing whether to embrace it or banish it far away.
Rumors persist that the American Federation of Teachers wants to inflict legislative revenge on the bold Douglas County school board. In exchange for having their monopoly bargaining status and political dues collection revoked, they apparently are tempted to advance a bill that would impose some sort of bargaining requirement on local school boards. To succumb to the temptation would place their Colorado Education Association (CEA) union counterparts in a bind: How would they look having so stridently defended the principle of local control in the recent past?
The frequent and widespread invocation of “local control” under the Golden Dome has grown into a running gag among education lobbyists and committees. Article IX, Section 15 of the Colorado Constitution grants local school boards “control of instruction of the public schools of their respective districts.” But the clause often grows larger than life, with advocates either clinging to or resisting the argument based on the bill before them. (more…)
Last week, as the honored recipient of the 2012 Kemp Leadership Award, Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio laid out a vision for parent-empowered education reform. On one point especially, Coloradans should take heed.
When a Republican politician speaks competently, compassionately and courageously about real education reform, my ears perk up. When that politician happens to be hailed as one of the GOP’s top contenders for the national ticket in 2016, I also smile optimistically.
Rubio framed the education message in his D.C. award acceptance speech around the goal of opening wide the doors to America’s middle class. A linchpin is his bold proposal to expand educational choice at the federal level in a way that has not really been pursued before: (more…)
Earlier this week I told you that it looked like Right-to-Work legislation was coming to the Big Labor stronghold of Michigan. And has it ever come quickly!
Some of Wisconsin’s early 2011 scenes played out yesterday at the State Capitol, as protestors thronged and chanted favorites like, “A people united will never be defeated!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Right-to-Work has got to go!”
News outlets report that Michigan State Police arrested eight people trying to break into legislative chambers as the state senate gave preliminary approval to send the workplace freedom measure on to supportive Governor Rick Snyder. (When similar legislation is introduced here in Colorado in 2013, the reaction almost certainly will be much more quiet… and lethal.)
As the legislative process unfolds in Lansing at a rapid pace, Left-leaning media organs like Think Progress repeat one of Big Labor’s favorite anti-Right-to-Work talking points, descriptively suggesting the measure “effectively undermines union activities by allowing non-union workers to free-ride on union-negotiated contracts.” (more…)
When it comes to freedom of association, Colorado workers soon may have good reason to envy their Michigan counterparts. The Washington Times recently reported some developing momentum for a Right-to-Work law in the Great Lakes State:
The possible push in the state Legislature’s lame-duck session has already sparked a battle, as a coalition of about 300 AFL-CIO members as well as a contingent from the state police descended on the Statehouse in Lansing on Thursday to lobby lawmakers against a measure they fear could dramatically limit their influence.
Big Labor is trying to nip the effort to empower non-union workers in the bud, organizing vocal pressure before a bill even has been introduced. Before the recent elections, there was no imminent sign of workplace freedom moving forward.
As the Detroit Free Press notes, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder “has repeatedly said right-to-work is not on his agenda.” But union-backed Proposition 2, a failed statewide initiative that sought to enshrine collective bargaining guarantees in the state constitution, clearly antagonized a reluctant Snyder. (more…)
For the past couple years, Wisconsin has been the locus of the political battle to weaken public-sector union power. After Gov. Scott Walker not only survived but thrived amid a failed recall election, conservatives breathed a sigh of relief. Most prominently, the costly but decisive victory revived hopes that fiscal sanity and a sense of fairness could be restored.
Modest cuts to lavish benefits for government employees, along with some of the accompanying tools approved in Walker’s controversial Budget Repair Bill, put the Badger State back on a healthy fiscal setting and brought compensation more back in line with private sector workers.
But a new video from the Association of American Educators reminds us that the Wisconsin reforms also promoted professionalism and individual empowerment for teachers. Walker’s state left the ranks of those where union monopoly power feeds off teacher tribute payments. (more…)
It’s funny how so many of those Colorado teachers union deadlines fall at inconvenient times. Want to sign up for one of the Colorado education Association’s local affiliates? You can do it any time. Want to opt out of union membership, perhaps to choose a different membership option? Well, finding the exact dates you can opt out depends on which school district you work in.
For so many, though, it comes at the beginning of the school year as classrooms are being decorated, lesson plans developed, routines established, and so much more. But September 15 passes before you can get down to the local union office — say, in Jeffco, Commerce City, Englewood, Longmont, or Canon City — and you have to wait another 350 days to stop the automatic union dues deduction. That’s about what happened to Denver Public Schools teacher Ronda Reinhardt, who finally was able to take advantage of the two-week November opt-out window after waiting nearly a full year.
But what about the teacher who wants to stick with the $750 or more in NEA/CEA dues per year but maybe doesn’t like the union’s sometimes unseemly political spending habits? Getting the $39, or even $63 (in some locations), back from the Every Member Option means submitting the request just before the
Christmas er, winter break at the December 15 deadline. (more…)
We’ve all seen how the waning days of the 2012 national campaign have fixed President Obama and the Democrats on the alliterative petty themes of Big Bird, Bayonets and Binders. It didn’t take long after the first debate for the incumbent’s campaign to pile on the Republican challenger’s mention of the large, lovable Sesame Street character. Team Obama unleashed a laughable commercial and a “four-Pinocchio” fundraising appeal.
Say what you will, but at least the Obama team didn’t tell America that Big Bird was, say, green. For that they might have had to hire the staff of Colorado junior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. This morning Bennet’s office sent out a fundraising appeal for Congressional candidate Sal Pace. The email message (with the subject line “Grover”) began, well, like this: (more…)
It’s election time. So why write multiple blog posts, when I can condense my state and local endorsements, recommendations, analyses and predictions into one? Exactly.
Let’s start with the obvious. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to drive by our Arvada yard full of signs, here are most of the candidates we’re supporting in 2012:
For those who have questions about state and local ballot issues, as well as nonpartisan candidates and offices, check out my guide to the Colorado ballot 2012.
I’ll tackle predictions of the Presidential and Congressional races later on. For now I will offer up my humble prognostications for the Colorado state house and state senate. I have had neither the time nor the inclination to create the in-depth legislative election analysis that I put forward in 2010.
But I have done some footwork this time around. Good sources cited include takes on 2012′s top races to watch from both the Colorado Statesman and Ed News Colorado. Also helpful are data on the new legislative districts after reapportionment and candidate campaign finance reports.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts: (more…)
Colorado’s 7th Congressional district, where I live, covers some of the swingin’-est swing state political geography in the nation. But only recently has incumbent Democrat Ed Perlmutter‘s vulnerability become truly apparent. Just this week the national experts at the Rothenberg Political Report upgraded the chances of Perlmutter’s opponent and neighbor, likeable Republican businessman Joe Coors.
And that was before a pair of devastating ads dropped this week on the incumbent. The first came directly from the Coors campaign, truthfully exposing a pair of disturbing Perlmutter legislative votes, including opposing a bill “that would have allowed children to testify via closed-circuit television when testifying against their abusers” despite knowing it was constitutional: (more…)
Yes, it’s been several months since I’ve posted here. Life is busy, and the political season has been slow in these parts. Last time I checked in it was to report that conservative state house candidate Justin Everett had taken top line on the ballot at the Jefferson County GOP Assembly. His race against Loren Bauman turns out to be the county’s only primary race on the June 26 mail-in ballot.
If you needed more reason to see the clear difference between the two Republican candidates in HD 22, this 13-second clip (MP3) from a May 29 debate of Bauman summarizing his assessment of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) should raise some eyebrows: (more…)
This past Saturday many Colorado county political parties held their biennial assemblies for the purpose of approving resolutions and nominating candidates for the primary ballot. For the fifth consecutive time, I attended the Jefferson County Republican Assembly as a voting delegate. The new and spacious Lakewood church venue was needed, with more than 1,200 certified delegates in attendance.
The strong turnout was most impressive in terms of first-time delegates, which an impromptu show of hands revealed made up somewhere around two-thirds of those attending north Jeffco’s Senate District 19 assembly. Similar anecdotes and reports from other districts suggest the large-scale infusion of fresh grassroots political blood was a countywide phenomenon. Not a good sign for the Obama administration from a major swing county in a major swing state.
How that translates to the local county and state legislative races remains to be seen. But the fact that so many showed up to participate in the process on a beautiful Colorado weekend when virtually every race to be determined was uncontested (though getting to hear of County Commissioner John Odom‘s rock-solid fiscally conservative principles and his lighthearted “The Bald Truth” campaign theme idea were a highlight) — well, it speaks volumes.
The only exception of a contested race was House District 22 in south Jeffco, where my conservative friend Justin Everett bested Loren Bauman 58 to 42 percent. The rules of the game state that a candidate must earn at least 30 percent to win a spot on the June 26 primary ballot, or else try to collect signatures to petition on. As a result of the assembly outcome, Everett’s name will appear on the ballot’s top line. From the campaign press release: (more…)
I’m back. This time I mean it. With Colorado’s legislative session in gear and both chambers of the General Assembly up for grabs in this fall’s election, there is no time to dive into the fray like the present. While Mount Virtus may never be as prolific a place as it’s ever been. You can follow some of my other writings as follows:
Nevertheless, this year you can count on this space for more coverage of events at the legislature and analysis of the upcoming state legislative elections — much like these 2010 posts on the state house and senate.
That sort of in-depth analysis will wait ’till later. For now, to whet the appetite, a quick look at House District 27 — 2010′s correctly called #1 pickup for Republicans. Democrats want it back, naturally. But given the recent reapportionment that added to the district’s GOP registration advantage, it’s an uphill climb. A month ago the liberal blog Jeffco Pols reported that Big Labor’s Tim Allport was stepping up to challenge Republican freshman Rep. Libby Szabo: (more…)