The Government Cannot Compel Speech

March 24, 2015
By Laura Carno

The Government Cannot Compel Speech

ConservAFA-185x117atives and civil libertarians were up in arms last year over the case of the bakery that was required by law to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The baker didn’t want to bake the cake as same-sex marriages were against his religious values.

This was largely debated as a religious liberty issue, and there is certainly a case to be made for that. There is also my preferred argument that it isn’t the government’s job to tell anyone how to run their business, or what products they must sell, and to whom.

The government should not be able to compel speech. The government compelling speech is as wrong as the government prohibiting speech. It’s not the government’s job to tell us what we must or must not say.

It is this same principle that applies to a story about four US Congressmen who are sponsoring a bill that would require cadets at the Air Force Academy to say, “So help me God” as part of their annual oath. My own Congressman, Doug Lamborn, is one of the four.

Rep. Sam Johnson from Texas is the bill’s prime sponsor. He said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015, would protect the religious freedom of American troops. Fair enough. It is currently an optional part of the oath, and cadets may say it.

But why try to compel those cadets who are not religious to say, “So help me God?” Why is it acceptable to compel this speech, when it’s not acceptable to compel the speech of the baker? And for those who were in favor of requiring the baker to bake the cake, but are against this “So help me God” bill, that is not philosophically consistent either.

Both sides need to check their premises. The government either can tell us what to say or they cannot tell us what to say. You can’t have it both ways.

See the original post here.



Denver City Council Should Back off Airbnb and Let Consumers Benefit

City CouncilCompanies such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft have been revolutionizing the way that consumers think about certain services in our economy. Unfortunately, rather than being embraced by local governments, these companies have consistently encountered bureaucrats and special interests every step of the way.

Denver politicians and hotel industry lobbyists are currently seeking to impose lodging taxes and licensing requirements on thousands of homeowners who simply offer cheap extra rooms to consumers who wish to pay less. Denver should instead encourage this new “sharing economy” and refrain from placing unenforceable regulations on Colorado property owners and tourists.

Since its inception in August of 2008, Airbnb has grown from a single apartment rental into a worldwide network of available lodging for over 9 million customers served. Rather than choose from a few cookie cutter hotel chains, consumers can shop through countless hosts based on price, amenities, reputation and whatever else they desire. The growth has been so rapid that local governments are only just beginning to comprehend how prevalent it is.

The first cities to successfully implement local taxes on Airbnb hosts were Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA in 2014. According to the company, about $5 million in taxes has been paid out to these 2 cities, encouraging the likes of San Jose, Amsterdam, Washington D.C. and Chicago to join the mix this past February.

With over 1,000 listings in Denver alone, the Denver City Council Sharing Economy Task Force (yes, this actually exists) has now begun to discuss applying their 10.75% lodger’s tax on any property owner who lists through Airbnb. This proposal predictably has the full support of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, whose clients have seen a dip in profits as Airbnb has grown elsewhere.

Cities should understand that consumers and hosts would be paying for and hurt by the tax implementation, not Airbnb CEO’s. The ability to turn a home into a source of revenue is helping property owners who are struggling to get by, along with allowing consumers and families who can’t afford normal hotel rates a greater opportunity to travel.

In fact, a recent study by a New York University professor showed that, “peer-to-peer rental marketplaces have a disproportionately positive effect on lower-income consumers across almost every measure.” It turns out that leaving more money in the pockets of low-income consumers increases their ability to afford things like food, lodging and travel. No kidding.

Beyond the implementation of the lodger’s tax, the city council and Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association president Amie Mayhew are pushing licensing and safety regulations on hosts. These regulations would align with what the hotel industry has to abide by, including carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, etc. Mayhew states that this would simply be, “to create equity”.

The city of Portland has gone a few steps beyond this and currently demands that hosts must allow health and safety inspections of their residences, in addition to requiring permits to operate. Of the over 2,000 rental properties available in Portland, only 93 (or under 5%) of properties actually had the permit and inspections to operate legally.

These types of costly and time-consuming regulations simply don’t work and arbitrarily turn good people into lawbreakers when they refuse to comply.

Additionally, Airbnb’s website has a much more effective and meaningful regulatory system. Both hosts and guests can review each other and make recommendations to the web community. If a host drops their standards, the comments section will instantly warn travelers. A city license of approval on the other hand could last for months between inspections.

While the implementation of some degree of taxation may be difficult to avoid, bureaucrats should refrain from placing absurd licensing and safety regulations on people’s homes. There is simply no way to enforce such a policy without placing onerous obligations on the part of Airbnb, or by deploying lodging police to kick down the doors of Airbnb hosts.

Denver City Council should instead celebrate the growth of this “sharing economy” and not let arbitrary regulations hurt entrepreneurial property owners and lower income tourists.



Repeal Of CO Magazine Limitation Law Has Bi-Partisan Support

Repeal Of CO Magazine Limitation Law Has Bi-Partisan Support

Senate Bill 15-175 would repeal the 2013 law that limited the size of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. The unusual characteristic of this bill is that there are 4 Democrat co-sponsors, 3 in the Senate and 1 in the House.  This is an attribute of the Colorado General Assembly that many other states don’t have: We have pro-gun Democrats.

In the Colorado State Senate, Kerry Donovan (D-Vail), Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge), and Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) all signed on as Senate co-sponsors. In the Colorado State House, Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland) is the sole   Democrat co-sponsor.

None of these are Johnnies-come-lately on this issue. Senators Jahn, and Garcia (when he was in the House) and Representative Vigil all voted against the 2013 ban bill. Senator Donovan, a freshman from Vail, said on her campaign website, “You have my word that I will work to defend your ability to purchase and use guns. The current law passed by Denver limiting high-capacity magazines is unenforceable and I would not have supported it.” It bears repeating that Senator Donovan is from Vail, CO.

Senator Jahn said in 2013 that she voted against the magazine limit, the ban on concealed weapons and the gun liability measures because she believed they cannot be enforced and will not stop gun violence.

The County Sheriffs in 2013 came to the conclusion that the ban on magazines over 15 rounds was unenforceable. Their lawsuit is weaving its way through the legal process and is currently in the appeal stage.

During gun control vs. gun rights debates, it is a commonly held belief that Republicans support gun rights, and Democrats support gun control. That is not the case everywhere as more Americans are supporting gun rights over gun control. This shift is beginning to be reflected in an increased number of pro-gun Democrats.

Senate Bill 15-175 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee but not yet scheduled for a hearing. It is sure to pass in the Senate, but in the House, Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst told the New York Times that all of the gun rights bills that pass the Senate will have “absolutely no chance” when they reach the House.

Given the 4 Democrat co-sponsors on the magazine limitation repeal bill, it will be interesting to see if the Speaker will send the bill directly to House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee to die, or if she will allow it to have a full public hearing on the House floor.


Analysis of the 2013 Recall of Colorado State Senate President John Morse


Recall Analysis

Click on the above link to view the PDF


Moving Toward A Free-Market In Education

Moving Toward A Free-Market In EducationLaura CarnoDecember 9, 2014


Imagine if you could shop for your child’s education just like you’d shop for a new laptop.

If you were shopping for a new laptop, you would look online at the features to see if they match your needs. You would look at reviews and at what Consumer Reports has to say about the specs, the durability and the overall performance. You might ask your friends what brand laptop they have and how they like it. You also might visit Best Buy and the Apple Store to get the look and feel of various models.

We are all very accustomed to shopping this way for most consumer products in our lives. How would we respond if we simply had to accept the taxpayer-funded laptop that our state government determined was best for us? One store, one salesperson, take it or leave it.

In Colorado where I live, we are luckier than some other states because we have some choices in schools. It is true that some districts have highly rated traditional public schools, but that is          neither universal nor the norm. Consistently, the schools that rank the highest in performance and college preparation are charter and private schools.

Take for example Liberty Common High School, a public charter school in Fort Collins, CO. They focus on a classical liberal-arts curriculum accentuating math, science and engineering. Every student is required to take 4 years of math and a foreign language. They have high expectations and achieve high results. Although Liberty doesn’t teach to any standardized tests, their students consistently out-perform students in other schools who are teaching to the standardized tests. Liberty consistently achieves the highest test scores in Colorado, and even broke the ACT record this year.

Charter schools are public schools. They require no tuition to be paid by the parents. They are part of traditional school districts and are funded by tax dollars. They actually have less money to work with since they do not receive any tax money for facilities as their non-charter counterparts do. They need to use a portion of the per-pupil student funding for facilities, yet they are still achieving superior results. Charter Schools are far from rare. Twelve percent of Colorado’s K-12 students are now in Charter Schools. With charter schools achieving such wonderful results with more efficient spending of taxpayer dollars, it’s no surprise that responsible and active parents are choosing charter schools for their children.

Private schools require parents to pay separate tuition in order for their child to attend. Does that mean that all private schools are only for the wealthy and elite? Look at the example of Arrupe Jesuit High School in North Denver. The average family income among the students’ families is $31,000 per year. Over 50% of these students will be the first in their family to graduate high school. So how do these families afford private school tuition? The Arrupe students work for a portion of their tuition through the school’s Corporate Work Study Program. There is a longer school day and school year to allow students to work 5 days per month at area partner companies. They earn valuable work experience and are able to work for a portion of their own tuition. The parents pay a small portion of the tuition, which may be as little as $100 per month. In addition, Arrupe partners with the Ace Scholarships Program, which provides families with the remainder of the tuition costs, through money raised from individuals and businesses.

The performance at Arrupe is astounding as 100% of graduates are accepted to college. This busts the myth that kids from poorer families are destined to squander their potential in poor achieving traditional schools. They have a better chance to succeed when their parents take an active role, and when their community invests in their opportunity to attend a high performing private school. Who wouldn’t want to send their kids to the best schools available?

If traditional public schools do not work to improve and keep the remaining parents happy, students will continue to leave and so will the public funds received per pupil. This competition improves the performance of all schools.

Although Colorado has more choice in education than some other states, we still face roadblocks from some in government who want to preserve the public school paradigm. State Senator-elect, Michael Merrifield was a previous State House member who served as the chair of the House Education Committee. During a discussion about charter schools, Merrifield famously quipped “there is a special place in hell for supporters of charter schools.” Why would a former educator denigrate parents who simply want the best for their kids, especially when the performance of these schools is better than traditional public schools?

It’s time to remove any bias against school choice, or against parents who are looking for better schools for their kids. It is not the fault of these parents or children who are left to deal with the sub-par schools in their communities. It is the fault of the obstructionists to progress and a better future for our kids. All we ask is to have a choice. After all, it is the way we shop for everything else.

Laura Carno

Founder, I Am Created Equal

Visit Laura Carno’s personal site here.


Post-Election Analysis – Udall Lied Campaign

In the few weeks since the election, we have been working to answer the question: “What was the impact of the ‘Udall Lied’ campaign on sending Mark Udall home?”

With so many media players in any election, it is always difficult to prove who was responsible for which election results.  The attached document makes the case that ‘Udall Lied’ demonstrates the wisdom of defining a candidate early in the minds of voters, changing the culture in which the election happens and impacting the language that becomes the norm.

Please let me know if you have questions about our analysis or would like to look more deeply at any of our numbers.

We thank you sincerely for taking a risk on our unconventional campaign.  It worked, and we are grateful for your support.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Thank you,


IACE Post-Election Analysis PDF Attatchment

(Click above to view the PDF)



On October 28, 2014, the Independence Institute held a debate at the Denver Post building on whether there is a war on women in Colorado. On the “no” side we had Kelly Maher and Laura Carno. For the “yes” side we had Susan Greene and Laura Chapin.


NRA Magazine- Election Issues

NRA Magazine

October 30, 2014
The 2013 Colorado recalls were all about politicians overreaching on gun control. It was a response to just one more example of people like Michael Bloomberg using their vast fortunes to tell the rest of us how we must behave. When Bloomberg forces restrictions on salt, sodas and trans-fats, it’s annoying. But when he proposes gun restrictions that make me less safe, it is incredibly disrespectful to all women. A billionaire who hires armed security to protect him dares to tell me how many rounds I can have in my magazine! Ordinary Colorado citizens organized the recalls, knocked on doors, called their neighbors and flocked to the polls. Despite $350,000 of Bloomberg money being spent against the recall efforts, we successfully recalled two sitting state Senators and forced another to resign, showing Bloomberg that the voters couldn’t be bought.

Bloomberg Can Be Beat Because Our Votes Can’t Be Bought.

This is a direct excerpt from the full NRA  Magazine, click here to see the magazine.