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Wondering what the Colorado Legislature is up to in the waning days of the session?

Laura Carno
May 1, 2016
By Laura Carno
As happens every year, the last few weeks of the Colorado Legislative session is jam-packed with shenanigans. There is something about the impending close of the session that makes legislators and lobbyists fight to take their final pound of flesh from Coloradans.Every year, each legislator is able to run 5 bills. With a total of 100 legislators between the two chambers, there should be 500 bills. I previously blogged about my own State Representative Paul Lundeen’s resolution to reduce the duration of the legislative session and the number of bills each legislator carries. Sadly, that resolution failed both last year and this year.

As of this writing, there have been 666 bills proposed, plus memorials and resolutions. That means that there were 166 “late bills” (a full 33% more than the 500 “normal” bills introduced) that the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate approved to be introduced late in addition to the original 500.

What are we, the taxpayers, getting in these extra late bills, and why is it a problem?

First, if the bill was important enough, why wasn’t it in a legislator’s initial 5 bills?

Second, due to the compressed time frame, the rules are often suspended to allow the late bill to make its way through the legislative process more quickly. The steps involved in typical bill passage —which can take weeks or months— include:

  • Introduction in the first chamber
  • Assignment to a committee
  • The committee hearing
  • Second reading on the floor
  • Third reading, final passage on the floor
  • Introduction in the second chamber
  • Assignment to a committee
  • The committee hearing
  • Second reading on the floor
  • Third reading, final passage on the floor

There may be additional steps depending on whether either chamber had amendments, and conference committees if both chambers didn’t agree on the final version as amended. For late bills, all of these steps can be completed in a matter of days, not weeks or months.

Out of the 166 late bills so far, there are three bills worthy of your attention.

First is Senate Bill 16-193, Concerning the Duties of the Safe2Tell Program. Sounds great on the surface. We want children to feel safe to tell a responsible person about a threat to the school. The bill aims to provide “at no charge to the school” a Safe2Tell program centrally run by the state. That state program will cost the taxpayers more than $200,000 annually, per the fiscal note for this bill.

This bill codifies a 2015 working group report that establishes the structure of Safe2Tell, including:

  • Replacing local control with a new state-level bureaucrat
  • A loss of due process as investigations would be based on whether a student poses a threat as opposed to whether a student has made a threat.
  • New student data collection to align with multi-state guidelines

With all of the data-privacy concerns on previous education bills, why rush this one through? What’s the hurry? The working group concluded its work in 2015. If this was so urgent, why didn’t any legislator carry it as one of their 5 bills, as opposed to rushing it through as a late bill, with very little opportunity for public input?

Interestingly, the Republican leadership in the Senate, and the Democrat leadership in the House are sponsoring this bill. That would indicate that they expect to get their caucuses in line and pass this bill.

Next is House Bill 16-1454, the Primary Participation Act. In the aftermath of the inaccurate national reporting on Colorado’s delegate selection process, we heard from lawmakers that something needed to be done. Although there was also significant accurate reporting from the ground in Colorado, from Mike Rosen, Ari Armstrong, and my piece in National Review, the national narrative has stuck.

Yet in Colorado, we heard that if the legislature doesn’t pass a law giving Colorado a Presidential Primary now, there would be a ballot initiative that will give us something even worse. And that ballot initiative is being led by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and is supported by the Colorado GOP Chair and the Colorado Secretary of State, among other public servants. You would be wise to ask why the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce cares how Republicans and Democrats go about electing their party’s nominee. According to the Denver Business Journal:

“….. to get more moderate individuals involved in a process of selecting candidates that ….. has become too partisan and led to stalemates rather than compromise in Congress and the Legislature, especially on business-related bills.”

Ah, I see now, the Denver Metro Chamber wants a Colorado State Legislature that is more moderate. They don’t care about the Presidential Primary. Yet the primary is the alleged emergency causing this last minute legislation.

Remember the last time a legislator told us we’d have to put up with bad legislation in order to keep something worse from befalling us? That’s when Colorado passed “AmyCare”. Our obligation is to fight the bad legislation, or ballot initiative. Not to accept something that is slightly less bad.

Whether the ballot initiative or this year’s bill are successful, either one would take effect for the 2020 Presidential Primary.

So what’s the hurry?

House Bill 16-1454 was introduced on Friday afternoon, April 22nd, and the committee hearing was Monday, April 25th. This is what it looks like to suspend the rules at the end of the legislative session. If you are a concerned citizen who doesn’t live in the Denver area, how likely was it for you to rearrange your schedule to attend the committee hearing, to make your voice heard, between Friday and Monday? The supporters of this bill say that moving to a primary gives everyone, including those registered as Unaffiliated, a chance to have a voice. I’m asking that the legislature not pass this bill and give the people of Colorado a chance to have a voice in the process.

Again, what’s the hurry?

Finally, Senate Bill 16-206, Concerning a Ban on Powdered Alcohol was introduced two days ago. Recall that in 2015, there was a similar bill to ban powdered alcohol, to which I was in strong opposition. It finally passed, but was amended down to say that powdered alcohol would be regulated like regular alcohol, which was how the inventor proposed it be handled in each state. It was not banned, nor should it have been banned.

SB 16-206 doesn’t seem to be in response to anything. Unlike the primary bill, there is no hot news story creating a sense of urgency. So, what’s the hurry?

As a reminder, this is the state where weed is legal for recreational use. And alcohol is also legal, provided there is water in it. Go figure.

Like the Safe2Tell bill, a bi-partisan leadership team also sponsors this bill. Why are the Republican Senate President and the Democrat Speaker of the House both so interested in passing a ban on powdered alcohol and rushing it through at the end of session? I’m open to theories.

My message to legislators on both sides of the aisle: Passing bills in a rushed manner, without ample notice and the without the ability for public input is not what we expect from you. Kill these bills as a matter of principle. The sponsors can bring them back during the next legislative session if they are that important.

This is why so many are saying that Government Ruins Nearly Everything.

Check out LauraCarno.com

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Colorado’s Results Were a Victory for the Conservative Grassroots

Was the Colorado election stolen from grassroots activists by the party elites?

Put simply, no. Plenty has already been written about the organizational advantage that Ted Cruz has demonstrated in the race for national delegates — smartly, the Cruz campaign had been on the ground in Colorado for eight months, whereas the Trump campaign hired its first ground operative last week — but few have noted that the rules in Colorado yielded a broader win for the grassroots over the elites.

On Friday, April 8, I attended the Fifth Congressional District Assembly, to which I was elected as a delegate after I attended my neighborhood caucus in March. Typically, these assemblies are boring and predictable. But not this year. In a surprise nomination from the floor, 32-year old Calandra Vargas was nominated to challenge sitting congressman Doug Lamborn (who had been unanimously nominated for re-election). Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Vargas gave the speech of her life.

When delegate balloting was completed, it was revealed that Vargas had won 58 percent of the vote. Representative Doug Lamborn, by contrast, was left with only 35 percent. (The balance of the votes went to another floor nomination.) Had Lamborn received less than 30 percent, he would have been kept off the ballot completely, left with no other way to run for re-election.

Bottom line: The establishment almost lost its congressman because of Colorado’s grassroots-caucus process. Moreover, because of the delegate vote results, Vargas will be listed first on the ballot — a huge advantage for any candidate. If the party elite were in fact pulling the strings, an upset like this wouldn’t have been possible.

The following day at the state assembly — to which I had also been elected a delegate — we heard speeches from ten U.S. Senate candidates who chose to go through the caucus and assembly process. An additional four candidates for Senate chose to bypass the assembly, and petition directly on to the ballot. Of those who attended the state assembly, state senator Tim Neville was the clear favorite. Without question, Neville had the best delegate outreach, fundraising, and assembly presence. Walking in, the delegates were sure of one thing: Neville would make the ballot.

At least they were sure of that until El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn made his unexpectedly fiery nominating speech. Glenn hadn’t been successful in the traditional measures of candidate strength, such as fundraising. But, within Colorado’s assembly process, that didn’t matter. During his speech, Glenn received seven standing ovations — more than even Ted Cruz received later that day. Even better, Glenn received a remarkable 70 percent of the delegate votes, while Neville received just 18 percent. Because they were kept below the 30 percent threshold, Neville and the others were kept off the ballot. Glenn will now appear first on the US Senate ballot, above the four candidates who bypassed the assembly process.

Twice in two days in Colorado, grassroots Republican activists upended party expectations. None of us who were there were surprised by that. In Colorado, that’s just the way it works. Stealing? Not at all. That’s democracy.

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Explaining the Objections to Background Checks

DOL Press

March 27, 2016

Guest post by Keith Coniglio, Good friend and fellow 2A advocate

Gun owners’ opposition to background checks is probably the most difficult position for non-owners (and even some owners) to fathom.  They’re supposed to prevent “people who shouldn’t have them” from getting their hands on guns – or at least that’s what we’re told.  But the objection isn’t about what they’re supposed to do, it’s the fact that they have been used to deny an increasing number of people their second amendment rights, long after the headlines over their passages fade.  They’ve not only been used to deny purchases, they’ve been used to force the surrender of arms that had  been legal for decades, only to be reclassified long after the purchase and with no wrongdoing by the owners.

Often, this devolves into pro-gun rights activists chanting “registration is confiscation” while anti-rights activists respond with cries of, “Paranoid gun nuts!”  What we hope to accomplish in this piece is to explain the mechanics of how a background check works, what becomes of that information, and how it has come back to harm those who go through the process.

The Cliff Notes version is that, to an extent, both sides are right.


Understanding the Process

To understand the distrust and objections, you must first understand how the process works.  Since November of 1993, any commercial purchase – and, in many states, any private transaction – requires a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check to be performed by a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL).

[NOTE: The “internet loophole” is a deliberate misstatement.  All communication regarding gun sales can absolutely be made online, just as with any communication about any subject.  But, unless the seller is deliberately seeking to violate federal law, any gun crossing state lines must then be shipped to an FFL in the buyer’s state.  The FFL then performs a background check.  If both buyer and seller are in the same state and that state does not require background checks for private sales, then no FFL involvement is legally required and no law has been broken.]

This background check process begins with the purchaser filling out a federal form known as a “4473.” The 4473 requires the buyer to provide personally identifying information such as full name, address, and state-issued driver’s license number.  There is a field for social security number, which is currently optional.   The seller then fills out the remainder of the form (viewable here), which includes the make, model, and serial number of the firearm(s) being purchased.

The information from the 4473 is provided by phone or computer (where online submission is an option) and a NICS check is run.  If approved, a unique authorization code is generated for the transaction and provided to the FFL for their records.

Federal law requires the FFL to retain the 4473s for completed transactions for twenty years, and 4473s for potential buyers who decided not to complete the transaction for five years.  There is no retention requirement beyond these periods.  However, the National Shooting Sports Foundation states in its FFL information sheet that the “ATF prefers that these records be retained.”

During the twenty years that the records are required to be stored, they can be inspected annually by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE or, more commonly, the ATF).  By law (27 CFR 478.23(d)), agents are not legally allowed to copy/scan/photograph records unless it is part of an active criminal investigation.

When the FFL eventually goes out of business or has its license revoked, all records – including all 4473s in their log book – must be surrendered to the ATF.

Objection One: Abuse of the System

The unique identifying record that ties a specific firearm to a specific individual is required by federal law to be destroyed after 24 hours.  However, not long after the system was implemented, it was found that the Department of Justice under then-Attorney General Janet Reno had been keeping such records for several months for “audit purposes.”  Since then, there has been a persistent, recurring effort to remove the retention limit from existing law.  In 2009, Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced SB 2820, which would allow the DoJ to keep those records “indefinitely.”  In 2013, Representative Barbara Lee introduced HR 661, which would also remove the requirement.

Of course, even when that transactional record is deleted, the information is available for twenty years – or longer – through ATF inspections and surrendered records.  While ATF agents are not legally allowed to copy or remove records unrelated to a specific investigation, incidents of this taking place are not uncommon.  In fact, a consulting group created to help FFLs stay in compliance with regulations specifically offers advice regarding how to behave when it occurs.  The advice, essentially, is that the agents should be allowed to do what they will, and the matter will be taken up in the courts later – after the records have been copied or removed.

The only thing preventing the existence of a decades-long (assuming laws are not amended to allow indefinite retention) federal record of individual and specific firearm ownership is private transactions taking place in states that do not require background checks.

This is what is meant by “background checks are registration.”

Defining the Terms

A frequent counter to concerns about registration is simply, “So what?  If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”  That sounds logical but ignores some important things.  The first is that it’s completely irrelevant – a Constitutional right should not have a scrutiny clause for its exercise.  The second is that it’s a frankly offensive and insulting stance, implying that opposition could only mean that you are in the wrong or somehow “up to something.”  And, finally, it’s factually incorrect.  Because, while we shouldn’t have anything to fear, the history of gun law implementation shows that innocence is a relative term that can be redefined at the whim of a legislator (or sometimes even just a police administrator).

For well over a century, firearm laws “for the common good” have been used to reduce who is eligible to exercise their Constitutional right.  In some cases, new regulations were implemented, requiring permitting criteria to be met – and often prohibitive fees to be paid – for continued legal possession of already-owned guns.  In others, the class of “prohibited persons” was expanded to include people that were previously considered legal gun owners (Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently had something to say about this), requiring the immediate transfer of ownership or surrender to authorities of all firearms.  In still others, classes of firearms were redefined – a person could still own a gun… just not one they’d owned for years because it was now banned.  In each case, the only way to determine that you, personally, needed to be brought into compliance with the new law was by consulting registration rolls – local, if available, or through federal 4473 records.

The dictionary definition of “confiscate” is to seize private property by public authority, and this is the scene envisioned when people mention confiscation.  But it would be dangerous, expensive, and inefficient to literally send officers to the homes of thousands of gun owners to physically do so.  What actually happens is that registration records are consulted by state or municipal authorities to identify affected owners.  A letter from government attorneys is then sent, advising the registered owner of the change in law, and ordering them to either prove that the firearm was sold outside of the jurisdiction or to surrender it to the local police.  It is made clear that failure to do one or the other will result in arrest and prosecution.

Being law-abiding, most gun owners begrudgingly comply rather than ruin their lives with a criminal charge (which would preclude them from owning other firearms in the future).  The pool of holdouts is usually small enough that sending law enforcement becomes less dangerous, and the expense is well worth the psychological effect of using overwhelming force to make an example of the scofflaw.  There is also the added advantage of making the firearm seizure incidental to an arrest rather than the whole point, avoiding the textbook definition of “confiscation.”

Despite semantics, forced disarmament under threat of confiscation is confiscation, and the existence of registration rolls has been instrumental in these actions.

Objection Two: Abuse of the System… Again

New York City has witnessed just about every form of abuse, and will make for a good case study.

Prior to 1911, residents of NYC could own a pistol and carry it concealed, if they so chose – and many did so, given the pervasive violence and crime perpetrated by various ethnic gangs.  However, those same gangs also served as bodyguards and enforcers for the corrupt leadership of the Tammany Hall political machine.  One such Tammany Hall politician was Timothy Daniel Sullivan.

Involved in everything from prostitution and gambling to extortion and election fraud, “Big Tim” Sullivan found a clever way to give himself an edge over his political opponents.  Under the guise of “public safety,” he was able to lobby state lawmakers into passing the Sullivan Act, which required New Yorkers to obtain a police-issued permit for handguns (along with any other weapon that could be concealed in a pocket).

In theory, anyone in New York City could still own a pistol and carry it.  In practice, such permits became the nearly exclusive perk of Sullivan and his cronies, who all but owned the NYPD.  The “right” criminals got permits.  The “wrong” criminals found ways around the law.  Truly law-abiding citizens who relied on carrying a gun for self-defense were disarmed or faced a felony conviction.

Today, New York City pistol permits – permits simply to own, not carry, a handgun – cost approximately $450.  The fees are non-refundable, and denial rates can run over thirty percent, depending on the county.  You must provide photographs, proof of citizenship (this is apparently only racism when applied to voting), proof of residence, an Affidavit of Familiarity with Rules and Law, and an Affidavit of Cohabitation to be filled out by anyone over the age of eighteen who lives with you.  These must be notarized and turned in, in person, at One Police Plaza in Manhattan (you cannot merely go to your local police precinct) between 8:30am and 3:00pm, Monday through Friday.

You will now wait up to three months for the next phase, at which point you will be advised of the officer who will interview you for suitability.  You will schedule that face to face interview and find out if any additional documentation is required.  You will need to provide personal reference letters from at least three people who have known you at least two years.  During the interview, you will be asked a battery of questions regarding why you want a gun, what you plan on doing with it, if you’ll be transporting it, and if you’ve ever been the victim of a crime.  After another one to three months, you will get a letter with the interviewer’s determination.

If you are approved, you will then be required to travel once again to One Police Plaza and pick up your license in person, along with your Purchase Authorization – which is good for 30 days.  The one gun you purchase – you will not be able to get another for a minimum of 90 days – must be NYC compliant, and the FFL selling it must fill out the authorization form.  Once you purchase the gun, you must again return to One Police Plaza to have it inspected and the serial number recorded on your license (check it carefully, as any typo or mismatch between the gun and your paperwork can lead to your arrest).  You may now purchase ammunition for that caliber.

In contrast, Colorado’s process for purchasing a pistol is… go to the store when the whim strikes you, have a background check performed by the FFL, then leave with your gun.  Local law enforcement doesn’t care about the transaction, unless it’s a particularly cool gun, in which case they might ask permission to shoot it with you.  You may buy as many as you can afford, as often as you wish, and can buy any ammunition at any time for any caliber that strikes your fancy, in as large a quantity as you desire.

But, Wait – There’s More (Abuse)!

Returning to our New York case study, in 1967, then-mayor John Lindsay signed into law a long gun (rifle or shotgun) registration ordinance passed by the New York City Council.  From that point forward, anyone seeking to possess any rifle or shotgun within the city limits merely had to register it by make, model and serial number to obtain a permit for legal ownership. The fee was set at very “reasonable and common sense” $3.  Gun owners were promised that registration rolls would never be used to confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens.  Bill sponsor City Councilman Theodore Weiss vowed that that the fee would never be raised, and that “the city would always bear the brunt of the real costs of administering the law.”

Immediately after passage of the law, Mayor Lindsay proposed amendments to increase the fee to $25.  As of this writing, the cost is approximately $230 ($140 for the application fee and $90 to process fingerprints).  So much for a politician’s promise.

Then, in 1991, Mayor David Dinkins signed a City Council bill banning the possession of many semi-automatic rifles, claiming they were a now considered “assault weapons,” a term recently defined but now codified in NYC Administrative code, S 10-303.1. The registration rolls established in 1967 – the same rolls that “would not be used to confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens” – were used to identify the owners of such arms, which had been legal just the day before.  Another promise broken.

2,340 citizens received letters demanding the forced sale or surrender of the guns.  A Staten Island man who announced his refusal to comply was the subject of a police raid. He was arrested, and his guns were seized.

In 2006, NYC Administrative code S 10-306 was added, outlawing any “ammunition feeding device greater than five rounds.”  This further reduced the number of formerly-legal rifles that could continue to be possessed, but no real enforcement effort was attempted until the passage of the statewide “SAFE Act” law in 2013.  Then, once again, the records that “would not be used to confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens” were consulted and “sell or surrender the guns we know you own” were sent out to New York City residents.

Guns were being confiscated – again – even if doors weren’t being kicked in.

Objection Three:  It’s All For Nothing

We’ve shown precisely how universal background checks are used as a direct form of registration, and have illustrated how, in the lifetime of anyone old enough to read these words, registration rolls have been used to disarm citizens – people just like you, who have committed no crime and done no wrong – under threat of legal action.

This sort of codified abuse would be unacceptable even if background checks achieved what they promise.  But, adding insult to injury, they do not.

Background checks are sold to the public as a means of ensuring that “folks who shouldn’t have guns can’t get them.”  But that doesn’t happen.  According to the Department of Justice, 2010 saw 72,659 denials… out of 6,037,394 NICS checks.  That means only 1.2% of all attempted commercial purchases were denied.

Of those 72,659 denials, 47% (or 34,459 people) were under felony indictment or had a felony conviction, 19% (or 13,862) were fugitives, and 11% (or 7,666) were prohibited by their state law.  However, only 13 of them were ever successful prosecuted.

That’s not a typo; there’s no missing percent sign.  13 people out of 55,987 faced justice for violating the background check laws – translating to 55,974 felons, fugitives, and other denied parties simply going about their business that year.  This hardly seems like an effective public safety tool.

Now consider the people who did pass their background check:

  • Colin Ferguson, perpetrator of the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre in which six were killed and nineteen were wounded;
  • Seung Hui Cho, the 2007 Virginia Tech shooter who killed thirty-two and wounded seventeen;
  • Nidal Hasan, who murdered thirteen fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009;
  • Jared Loughner, who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffordsin 2011, killing six and wounding thirteen others in the process;
  • James Holmes, who killed a dozen Aurora Theater moviegoers in 2012;
  • Aaron Alexis, who murdered a dozen people at Washington Navy Yard in 2013;
  • Karl Pierson, who murdered a fellow student at Arapahoe High School in 2013;
  • Elliot Rodger, who fatally shot, stabbed, and ran over six victims, injuring another fourteen during his Isla Vista spree in 2014;
  • Dylann Roof, who killed nine church goers in Charleston in 2015.

And before you ask, there are others.  Background checks don’t “stop” anything.  All they do is create a record that can be exploited to disarm citizens years after the promises are forgotten.

The Bottom Line

As we said at the start, both sides of the argument are right, to an extent.

Background checks create a record of which specific firearms are owned by which specific citizens.  Those records have been used – repeatedly, recently, and not just in New York – to force such citizens to surrender or sell their firearms.  This isn’t opinion, propaganda, ignorance, or delusion – it’s all verifiable and part of our legal and historical record.

And when a segment of society is repeatedly targeted and abused by a system, it is natural for that segment to be suspicious and distrustful – paranoid, even – of any attempt to expand that same system.  We gun owners are somewhat paranoid about the matter.  But it is perfectly justifiable paranoia, given our irrefutable treatment.

We hope all of this has provided you with food for thought and that you’ll join us in opposing the use – especially the mandated use – of background checks.  But if you need any further persuasion, we’d like to offer one more thing.

Go re-read the section on the process required to purchase a single pistol in New York City.  Now imagine it all – the months of waiting, the documentation required, the travel back and forth from your home borough to Manhattan, the subjective interview, the time limit if permission is granted by some bureaucrat – applied to any other Constitutionally-protected right we enjoy as Americans.

You don’t need to have something to hide to have much to fear.

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Laura Carno on Gun Freedom Radio: Gun Policy, Politics, and CCL

Laura Carno talking about gun policy, politics and CCL on Gun Freedom Radio in Arizona with Cheryl Todd.

Gun Freedom Radio

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Terrorism at forefront of Democratic debate

USA Today

November 14, 2015

KUSA – In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton was forced Saturday to defend her record in the Obama administration and as an original supporter of the Iraq War.

Standing between her two opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination during the party’s second debate, Clinton said the United States is not responsible for the latest spate of terrorist attacks but must “bring people together” to defeat the Islamic State.

All three candidates — Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley — stressed the need to take the fight to Islamic jihadists in a rallying cry that made them sound more like the larger number of Republicans vying for the White House.

“It cannot be contained. It must be defeated,” Clinton said of the terrorist threat. She promised to outline a plan to work with European and Middle East allies against “the scourge of terrorism” because “all the other issues we want to deal with depend on our being secure and strong.”

At the same time, Clinton said, “I don’t think we’re at war with Islam. I don’t think we’re at war with all Muslims. I think we’re at war with jihadists.”

The Paris attacks dominated the early part of the Democratic debate in Iowa, where voters will kick off the 2016 voting in February.

Although Sanders and O’Malley have taken stands more dovish than Clinton in the past, they jumped at the opportunity to point out her support for President Obama’s cautious approach in Syria and elsewhere, as well as her 2003 vote for the war in Iraq.

“The disastrous invasion of Iraq … has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS,” Sanders said. “The invasion of Iraq led to the massive instability we are seeing right now.”

But like Clinton, Sanders said the United States can’t dominate the battle. Middle East allies, he said. “are going to have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They’re going to have to take on ISIS.”

O’Malley said the growth of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks has been caused by a lack of “human intelligence” on the ground. As a result, he said, Afghanistan, Iraq,Libya and Syria are all “a mess.”

While the Paris attacks dominated the first part of the debate, the candidates also quarreled over wages and Wall Street, immigration and education, health care, guns and race.

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Who Is Buying Colorado Springs Issue 2C?

By Laura Carno

http://lauracarno.com

Do voters deserve to be educated on who is funding Issue 2C?

I have previously written about Colorado Springs Issue 2C and have been running a small campaign against it. My position is that government at any level should never come to the voters asking for more money until they have turned over every stone looking for alternatives. I don’t think Colorado Springs politicians have done that. There are some people who think that the politicians have done everything they could before putting 2C on the ballot. Reasonable people can disagree.

The pro-2C advocates have waged a high-dollar campaign to convince the voters that this sales tax increase is necessary —that it’s the only way to fix the roads. They have done this through TV and radio ads, mailers, robocalls from the Mayor, and paid canvassers to knock on doors. The Gazette also tried to help the 2C advocates by running a hit piece against me personally, digging through my past employment in an attempt to discredit me. I have also had numerous social media posts and profanity-laden emails accusing me of being funded by the Koch Brothers. I am not funded by the Koch Brothers. And community members, including at least one city council person, attacked me on social media, calling me an “out of town special-interest,” because I live in Black Forest.

Let me address that accusation. I live in Black Forest, just outside of Colorado Springs. The money I spend in Black Forest is limited to buying my coffee beans at R and R Coffee Café. If you haven’t been to Black Forest, CO, its business district is pretty small. Nearly all of my shopping is done in Colorado Springs. Nearly all of my sales taxes are paid in Colorado Springs, so the passage of 2C does affect me. In addition, I don’t get to vote against 2C, as I don’t live in the city limits. Even if the sales tax increase didn’t affect me personally, I have a First Amendment right to speak out against government action when I think it lacks integrity, thus my little campaign.

And I do mean little campaign. I spent less than $8,000 on radio ads, Facebook ads and banner ads on the Drudge Report.

So on to the punch line —who is funding the Yes on 2C campaign? And what might they hope to gain from their contributions?

To start, as of the most recent campaign finance report filed October 30th, the primary group funding the Yes campaign —Springs Citizens Building the Future— had raised over $387,000. To be clear, they have outspent me by almost 50-1. I’m not complaining about this. Part of our First Amendment right to speak out politically is our right to raise more than the other side, and get our persuasive argument out there. I have almost always been outspent in campaigns I’ve run. That’s the way it goes.

But let’s look at who comprises that $387,000.

There are your average citizen donors. Great, they are participating in their local government, just like I am.

Would it surprise you to know that 76% of the dollars donated came from developers, construction industry companies, and other large companies? Issue 2C is slated to fix the roads in Colorado Springs. I wonder what road construction companies could possibly hope to gain from their big donations? I’m hoping they aren’t expecting preferential treatment in bidding on the roadwork. If 2C passes, we expect to see a transparent, competitive bidding process.

The construction industry alone contributed over $168,000. A quick look at just those over $5,000:

Schmidt Construction 50,000.00
Associated General Contractors of Colorado 15,000.00
Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association 10,000.00
Martin Marietta Aggregates 10,000.00
Pikes Peak Electrical Partnership 10,000.00
Transit Mix Concrete Co 10,000.00
Kiewit Infrastructure Co   5,000.00
Colorado Construction Industry Coalition   5,000.00
Rocky Mountain District Council No. 5   5,000.00
CAMPC Opportunity Fund   5,000.00
Frazee Construction   5,000.00
Rocky Mountain Materials & Asphalt, Inc.   5,000.00

 

Remember those people who wrongly attacked me for being funded by the Koch Brothers? Are they OK with these donations?

And remember those people, including a city council person, who attacked me for being an out of town special-interest? Three of the above organizations are in the Denver–Metro area and one is in Raleigh, NC. There are even more out of town companies who donated amounts below $5,000. And we haven’t heard a peep from my critics.

I don’t blame these companies for their donations. The proponents of 2C are actively seeking these donations. They and the city leaders are also responsible.

If you are voting for 2C, make sure you have all the facts. Road construction companies and developers really want 2C to pass, and are putting significant amounts of money behind it to make sure it passes. If this kind of cronyism is OK with you, please vote yes on 2C.

If you are as concerned as I am that big companies are trying to buy this election, thereby enhancing their chances of personally profiting from your increased taxes, then vote no on 2C.

Don’t trust me on these astounding numbers. If you’d like to see more information about donors on both sides of the issue, all of the detail is available at the City of Colorado Springs website.

I challenge the Colorado Springs media to educate voters on who exactly is trying to buy this election to pass Issue 2C. Don’t you think voters deserve to know this?

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Turn over every stone before asking for more taxes

9/28/2015

By Laura Carno

Colorado Springs voters will have a decision to make this November. Will they approve yet one more tax increase, or will they ask the city leaders to sharpen their pencils and tighten their belts?

Politicians — both Republicans and Democrats — like to grow government. And the only way they can grow government is to require taxpayers to foot the bill. We are lucky in Colorado that we have the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which requires the politicians to put the tax hike to a vote of the people. And when they ask us for more money, we need to be very skeptical about whether they need it or not. The voters are in the driver’s seat. The politicians need our permission to raise taxes.

In Colorado Springs, Issue 2C will be on the Nov. 3 ballot, and would increase the sales tax on purchases made within the city limits. If passed, this increase of 0.62 percent would take the sales tax in the city of Colorado Springs to 8.25 percent, far above the average in Colorado of 7.39 percent. This $50 million annual tax increase would be in effect for five years and would be dedicated to road repairs and improvements. No one disputes the need for road repairs. The dispute arises over how best to pay for them.

One interesting twist: Republican Mayor John Suthers actually campaigned on raising taxes.

A Colorado Springs group — Colorado Springs Forward — is hoping to raise $100,000 to support the tax increase. According to the Colorado Springs Independent: “The campaign will be funded by donations from nonprofits, community leaders and professional organizations, such as the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, the Regional Business Alliance and auto dealers, among others.”

But not all business interests are supporting the tax increase. In fact, the Colorado Springs Business Journal called the tax hike “unethical and imprudent.” Their concern, in part, is that a sales tax is regressive, and hurts the poor and elderly the most.

Americans For Prosperity Colorado hired Steve Anderson, a CPA with experience in municipal budgets, to review the city’s budgets and audits and propose options within the existing city budget to find an annual $50 million for road repairs — without raising taxes. Anderson came up with many ideas and Americans for Prosperity Colorado detailed these ideas for the mayor and the City Council.

But the mayor and the City Council aren’t interested in Anderson’s proposals. They want the tax increase. It might seem like an easier path for city leaders to raise taxes than to make difficult decisions in city government. But it’s their job to make difficult decisions.

Before any government — whether state or local — asks its citizens for more money, it needs to look at its own books, just like we do in our family budgets. The government needs to remember that every dollar it spends is a dollar you and I earned. If any politician supports a tax increase, it needs to be only after they have turned over every stone looking for another way.

I have started a grassroots ad campaign to educate citizens on this proposed sales tax increase. You can see my first ad at IACEaction.com.

Occasionally, there might be a legitimate reason for a tax increase. But when elected officials refuse to look for another way, when they just want to dig deeper into our pockets, we have an obligation to stop them.

See the original post

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You Can Help Colorado Kids

Bethany Drosendahl
Guest Blogger

Here in Colorado, we have a constitutional educational structure that promotes local control. Unfortunately, we also have a 400-person bureaucracy called Colorado Department of Education (CDE.) Over 6 billion dollars of taxpayer money is flowing through CDE. In theory, CDE has a fiduciary responsibility to students, parents, and taxpayers. However, all too often, the inner workings of CDE have been co-opted by special interest groups who do not share the same responsibilities.

The CDE reports to the State Board of Education which is comprised of a seven member elected board. The head of Colorado’s CDE is called the Commissioner of Education. In July of this year, CDE Commissioner of Education, Robert Hammond, retired. An interim Commissioner, Elliott Asp, was appointed by the State Board in August. Now the State Board and CDE have retained the search firm of Ray and Associates to help find and vet a new Commissioner of Education for Colorado. CDE has set up two avenues to obtain public input.

First, you can provide input through an online survey. If you go to http://www.cde.state.co.us/ there is a link for ‘Complete the Commissioner Search Survey’, which will be open for input until Monday, September 14.  Second, beginning Thursday, September 10, there will be a series of Public Input Meetings. Please see list of dates, times, and locations below. If you cannot attend in person, there is an opportunity to attend by phone.

So what are we looking for in a new Commissioner? Our new Colorado Commissioner of Education must take a strong stand to eliminate the connection between the Colorado Department of Education and special interest groups, as well as begin to eliminate unnecessary and redundant functions in the educational process at the state level.

The Colorado State Board of Education, via the CDE, has a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the implementation of the laws written by the General Assembly, and to provide guidance to the 178 local school districts that represent approximately 800,000 students and their families. In the past, CDE has employed foundation-funded, ideologically and politically driven organizations to advise and implement policies that bypass the local control process and do not show fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and voters.

One example of this was highlighted in the December 18, 2014, Colorado Joint Budget Committee Hearing. Legislators questioned the ethics and legality of having privately funded, non-profit entities, acting as government employees in our Department of Education. These “employees on loan” come from the Gates Foundation funded Colorado Education Initiative, (or better known as Colorado Legacy Foundation, before changing their name to CEI). There were 5 such CEI employees in our Colorado Department of Education overseeing the implementation of the new Common Core aligned standards and assessments.

We must demand a Colorado Commissioner of Education who is committed to:

  • Minimizing state level bureaucratic control and oversight
  • Restoring local control
  •  Promoting transparency in CDE finances, transactions, contracts, lobbying, and business partnerships
  •  Taking a strong stand to eliminate the connection between the Colorado Department of Education and special interest money and its influence on education policy. An example is CDE’s relationship with the Colorado Education Initiative as noted above

One avenue that the new Commissioner can take to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness would be to call for a complete and thorough audit of our Colorado Department of Education.

Our ability to participate in our own government process is one of the greatest aspects of America, but we only have rights if we exercise them. Please don’t miss this opportunity to be heard. Our kids deserve no less.

List of Public Meetings and Call-In Participation. RSVP Requested: RSVP to Jennifer Lee,  Temp_Lee_J@cde.state.co.us  or 303-866-6817

  • Grand Junction – Location TBD Thursday, September 10 8:15 – 9:15
  • Glenwood Springs – Roaring Fork SD, RM TBD Thursday, September 10 11:45 – 12:45
  • Denver – 201 E. Colfax Ave., 4th Floor Atrium Thursday, September 10 9:45 – 10:45
  • Denver – 201 E. Colfax Ave., State Board RM 101 Thursday, September 10 6:15 – 8:45
  • Denver – 6000 E. Evans Building #2 Suite 100 Friday, September 11 10:30 – 11:30
  • By Phone ** Thursday, September 10 4:45 – 5:45

**Call-in number provided when attendance is confirmed.

Bethany Drosendahl
Parent Advocate
youropengate@gmail.com

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Is The RNC Afraid Of Carly Fiorina?

Lauracarno.com

August 31, 2015

Here’s how the free market works: If you have a product people like, they buy it. If you have a product people don’t like, they don’t buy it.

In the free market of presidential politics, if people like a candidate, they can send them a donation, attend their rallies, post positive messages about them on social media, and express their preference in a poll.

In the real free market, those candidates who are most appealing to prospective voters would be on the main debate stage at the upcoming September 16th CNN debates. But that isn’t what’s happening. CNN and the Republican National Committee (RNC) are making sure that Carly Fiorina won’t be on the main stage. Why might that be?

By means of disclosure, I haven’t decided yet on a candidate for President. I have a pretty good idea of whom I don’t want, but there is certainly a pool of acceptable candidates I’d consider voting for.

Christopher Rants of the Des Moines Register published a column entitled “Why Are Republicans Letting CNN Pick Our President?” He explains in detail how the process for selecting debate participants was developed. At a high level, CNN and the RNC agreed on the criteria by which presidential candidates would be determined eligible to be on the main stage. The main stage is the prime time debate of the 10 highest polling candidates. Those that don’t make the cut are relegated to the non-prime time debate.

In the August 6th Fox News Channel debate, Carly Fiorina was appropriately placed in the non-prime time debate, based on the most current polls just before that debate. By many accounts, she won the debate, although she wasn’t on the main debate stage. I agree that she won. If you haven’t seen Fiorina speak, take a minute to watch her closing from the Fox News Channel debate.

The criteria for the CNN debate —agreed upon by the RNC— includes 9 polls from before the Fox News Channel debate and only two polls conducted after that. The Fox News Channel debate put Fiorina on the map. In current polls, she is coming in at 7th place, a showing that would easily put her on the main stage.

If Fiorina is bumped up to the main stage that means someone else is bumped down —as it should be. If a candidate is polling worse now as a result of his August 6th debate performance, and that puts him in position #11 or lower, he doesn’t deserve to be on the main debate stage. In a true free market of presidential politics, if people stop supporting a candidate, he has earned his way off the big stage.

Back to the question of why the RNC would have accepted —much less promoted— this methodology of determining the make up of the main stage. You can be assured that the RNC supports someone other than Carly Fiorina for President. Fiorina has been very persuasive and very effective on the campaign trail. That could certainly hurt someone like Jeb Bush, likely the RNC favorite. And in a 2014 article, the RNC admitted that it wanted to keep out candidates whom they didn’t sanction. Is the RNC afraid of Carly Fiorina?

Having Fiorina on the main stage would also hurt front-runner Donald Trump. Voters are hungering for someone who is not a career politician. Like Trump, Fiorina is also an outsider to politics. But she says what needs to be said in a style that is far less abrasive than Donald Trump’s style. Trump’s manner of insulting people, either individually or as a group is beneath the dignity of the office he seeks. A candidate calling a reporter a bimbo, at minimum, is terrible professional manners.

I like candidates who don’t sound like career politicians. As the former proprietor of the Udall Lied campaign, I love that Fiorina speaks the truth plainly and clearly: Hillary Clinton Lied. There is plenty of evidence that Clinton lied, and Fiorina isn’t afraid to say it. She uses words that most people use in their daily lives and they can actually relate to what she says.

Fiorina should be on the main debate stage. The debate will be more interesting and more informative for her being there. Republicans say they believe in people earning their own way. Carly Fiorina has earned her way on to the main debate stage.

What can we do about this?

1. The RNC has the power to say to CNN: Change The Rules. They are each private organizations that set the rules for the debate. They can change them. Call the RNC at 202-863-8500 and let them know you want more recent polls used in determining who is on the main stage at the September 16th If you are active on Twitter, send a tweet to @Reince to let the chairman know your opinion.

2. If you are one of the rare people called for a presidential preference poll, take the time to answer and express your preference for Carly Fiorina, even if she is not your current choice. The debates will be better for her inclusion.

2. If you have a few extra dollars, consider sending her a donation to express your support of her being in the debate.

3. Sign the petition at: https://carlyforamerica.com/cnn-rnc-do-the-right-thing-for-america

4. Share this blog on your own social media accounts and ask your friends to take the above steps.

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Your Secret Ballot is in Jeopardy

Lauracarno.com

August 3, 2015

There are few things more sacred to Americans than a secure and secret ballot.
On August 1, 2015, Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post wrote a column entitled: The high risk of e-voting pointing out some concerns with electronic transmission of military and overseas balloting. This overview should cause us all concern about both the security and the secrecy of ballots that are cast in this manner.
The Heritage Foundation also published a column with similar concerns on July 14, 2015.
The extent to which Internet–based voting allows our deployed military members —who have no access to mail ballots— to vote is a good practice. No one wants to get in the way of their right to vote. The question is: Is Internet and email balloting being used only as a rare exception, or is that method of voting expanding?
A 2011 Colorado State law (HB 11-1219) ensures that overseas military members get their ballots in order to vote and return their ballot through the mail in a timely fashion. They have 53 days from when the ballot leaves their County Clerk and Recorder’s office to when their ballot must be returned in order to be counted for that election. In most situations, this is sufficient time. Service members may also request an electronic ballot be automatically sent to them, so that they can print it out, vote, and mail it back to their county office. All of this is important and necessary.
Senator Kevin Lundberg, was a member of the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee during 2006 when this bill’s predecessor was passed. Senator Lundberg has spoken out against the use of the electronic transmission of voted ballots in all but the most rare of circumstances. He can be heard discussing this on a May 29, 2015 podcast with radio host Ken Clark, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. The relevant portion of the conversation starts around 25 minutes in.
Consider a submariner who is underwater for months. Consider a service person deployed to a place in the world where mail isn’t an option. The law makes it clear that the overseas or military voter may, “return the ballot by electronic transmission in circumstance where another more secure method, such as returning the ballot by mail, is not available or feasible.” Note that the law acknowledges that electronic transmission is less secure than returning the ballot by mail.
In the May 29th podcast above, and a separate May 14, 2015 podcast, Secretary Williams says that this option for overseas and military voters to transmit their completed ballots electronically also applies to additional overseas voters, such as missionaries and students doing a semester abroad. The relevant portion of the podcast begins at about 1 hour and 21 minutes in. Senator Lundberg expresses concern in both of these podcasts about electronic transmission of completed ballots becoming a common practice as opposed to a “rare exception.” According to Secretary Williams, there were over 3,000 military members who used the electronic transmission method of voting in the 2014 general election. That is over 50% of the number of military and overseas voters who voted. Not all of these 3,000 were in areas where mail services were neither available nor feasible. Some may have been right here at home.
How safe is electronic transmission of a completed ballot? The language in the 2011 legislation admits it is not as safe as mailing in a ballot. New headlines every day like this and this show how vulnerable data is to being hacked. Here is a quick demonstration of how ballot data, using a 3rd party vendor, might be hacked and how a vote can be changed.
As for the 3rd party vendor, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office has contracted with Everyone Counts to be the technology link between the military or overseas voter and the County Clerk and Recorder’s offices throughout the state. When a military or overseas voter marks their ballot online, it doesn’t go directly to their County Clerk and Recorder. It goes first to Everyone Counts, along with the voters’ verified identity. After a copy of the electronic ballot is saved, the voter emails it to the clerk. Although Everyone Counts boasts about “secure and reliable voting options,” according to Secretary Williams in the May 14th podcast, the voter has to acknowledge that they are “voluntarily waiving their right to a secret ballot.”
It disrupts a voter’s access to a secret ballot when a commercial vendor collects the voter’s choices. If Everyone Counts were to be hacked, what would happen to a voter’s privacy? Would Everyone Counts be able to sell voter data?
The public was offered an opportunity to attend a July 7, 2015 Secretary of State hearing on the rules surrounding electronic transmission of ballots, and the opportunity to weigh in online if they were unable to attend the meeting. Most of the public comments were against electronic transmission of ballots.
While listening to the podcasts above, I heard an interesting question raised. The final caller on the May 14th podcast asked Secretary Williams about the family relationship between an employee of the Secretary of State’s office and an employee of the vendor, Everyone Counts. The Secretary didn’t answer the question, but if true, the Colorado Secretary of State should —at minimum—publicly disclose that fact, and ensure that there is an arms length relationship between the two entities, so that there is no appearance of impropriety.
If these issues are as concerning to you as they are to me, please contact the Colorado Secretary of State’s office immediately to express that concern.

You can send your comments to:
SoS.Rulemaking@sos.state.co.us and wayne.williams@sos.state.co.us.