Heath: “Grand Bargain” K-12 Tax Hike “Beginning to Take a Bite” from Elephant

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" … [Read more...]

Long-Term Union Membership Trends: Give Colo. Teachers Greater Choice

Last week the U.S. Department of Labor released new numbers showing that nationally union membership is on the decline. And not only in the private sector, which has been on a decades-long downward trajectory. Three years ago the nation crossed a historic threshold, as union members in private industry were outnumbered by their public sector counterparts for the first time ever. The 2012 decline also hit government, where budgetary and labor reforms in places like Wisconsin and Tennessee have taken hold. The inimitable Mike Antonucci, writing at the Education Intelligence Agency, picked apart the numbers to unravel 10 interesting observations, including this pair of gems:9) If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will … [Read more...]

Jeffco School Board’s Paula Noonan Drives Into Unwelcome Spotlight… Again

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 … [Read more...]

How Bad Was the Fiscal Cliff Deal? Michael Bennet May Have Teed One Up for the Teetering GOP

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. … [Read more...]

Rubio’s Bold Call for Scholarship Tax Credits Should Fuel Choice in Colorado

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 … [Read more...]

Going Further than Right-to-Work to Relieve Labor Leaders’ Burdens

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 … [Read more...]

Dougco 2013 Showdown Could Lead to Wisconsin-Like Vindication, Or….

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 … [Read more...]

Despite Minor Flaws, Spielberg’s Lincoln Worthwhile Viewing for History Geeks

Finding enjoyable movie fare for American history geeks typically presents a challenge. The nature of the genre leaves diehard purists perpetually frustrated. Yet even those of us willing to allow some minor transgressions of fact or character to pass too often are disappointed by the shallow Hollywood luster that insults its audience and kicks a compelling true story to the curb. Now and again, though, one can leave the theater with a contented smile. On Friday evening my wife and I took in Lincoln at the local multiplex. The usher at Arvada's Olde Town Stadium Theatre entered the nearly packed auditorium and gave some introductory remarks about the movie's production and casting. The movie, already a long time in director Steven … [Read more...]

Sen. Michael Bennet Dissing Sesame Street? Grover Fuzzy & PURPLE?

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 … [Read more...]

One-Two Punch: Ads Leave a Mark on Democrat Ed Perlmutter’s Campaign

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" … [Read more...]