By Tessa Cheek on Mar 24, 2015 02:59 pm
Private education tax credit launches a flurry of education amendments
For years, Senate Republicans have been trying to pass a tax credit for private K-12 education. Now that they’re in the majority, they have brought the tax credit to the floor. Democrats used the opportunity to discuss a slew of education issues, many of which had already died in committee this session.
The Democrats proposed to make student loans tax deductible, to create a state-run tuition plan, to make private schools subject to the same standardized tests and evaluations as public schools, and to postpone funding private education until public kindergarten and preschool have full funding.
In the end, one amendment did pass with unanimous support. Carried by President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, the amendment made the tax credit refundable. That means families too poor to pay income tax could still get a check from the state to fund their children’s private education.
Cadman said he supported the move because it would help kids who need it the most.
Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, who sponsored the amendment earlier in the debate, rallied his caucus to support it for a different reason.
“Make a Duck a Duck” amendment on SB45 just passed unanimously. State tax dollars will now be used as vouchers for private schools #coleg
— Jessie Ulibarri (@jessie4CO) March 24, 2015
Gun debate: What we talk about when we talk about “success”
On the surface, lawmakers were fighting over a repeal of universal criminal-background checks for all gun purchases. In practice, they were debating how to measure the success of the existing universal background-check law.
Democrats in favor of retaining universal background checks for all firearms purchases — including private, or peer-to-peer sales — said the policy’s success should be measured by how many people were prevented from legally buying guns because they couldn’t pass a criminal background check. That’s nearly 6,000 would-be gun buyers since the law went on the books in 2013.
Republicans advocating a repeal of universal background checks focused on the peer-to-peer sales the bill was intended to cover, pointing out that only three people have been caught and convicted for privately buying a gun without a background check.
This disagreement about how to measure or even talk about the law’s success was never settled. The ships-passing-in-the-night debate lasted several hours. In the end, everyone voted as expected: 18 Republicans shouted “yes” to repealing the background-check law, and 17 Democrats shouted “no”.
Salazar still mulling the mascot debate
Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton spoke with us about his provocative bill to make American Indian school mascots subject to approval by a board of tribal members. The debate hasn’t left his mind, specifically the arguments of GOP lawmakers.
“That is the essence of institutionalized racism right there, that we don’t trust American Indians enough to allow them to make decisions about themselves,” said Salazar. “Anything that you do, we still have to approve like you’re a bunch of children.’ That’s what really got to me, and I wish I had said so more clearly yesterday.”
As for his controversial introduction of the bill, which deployed other racial stereotypes and slurs to demonstrate how Indian students feel when confronted by names like “redskins,” Salazar said he has no regrets.
“This bill challenges social mores and norms, and we meant for that to happen,” he said. “We’re watching a sociology experiment take place with this bill … this is what our republic was set up for.”
“Debating Society” by Isaac Cruikshank, public domain.
Newsmaker Q&A: Rep. Dan Thurlow, voting his conscience and taking the heat
By Tessa Cheek on Mar 24, 2015 09:12 am
Freshman lawmaker Rep. Dan Thurlow, a Republican from Grand Junction, has been making a lot of headlines lately for voting with Democrats. He ran afoul of hard-charging, far-right-politics group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners for voting against a bill that would have made it easier for Coloradans to buy machine guns and hand grenades. He also became the subject of digital recall rumblings after he voted to ban psuedo-science “conversion therapy” for gay people and against so-called religious freedom measures that he thought were too broad and might lead to discrimination. Who is Dan Thurlow? We caught up with him last Friday.
So, there’s a “Recall Dan Thurlow” Facebook page?
Here’s the whole background on me: I came [to the Capitol] with the idea that I’m a guy who’s at retirement age and I wanted to just do something different. One advantage I have is that I don’t have much worry about whether I’m reelected or not. What I think that does is free me up to vote the way I think I should vote.
As you know, the issues down here are not simple. There’s always a complication and usually a good argument on each side. So I try to read the bills before committee, to listen in committee and then I try to make a rational decision based on what I read and what I hear. That’s the only way I know how to do it. That’s what I promised my constituents when I ran for office. That’s what I’m doing. I absolutely understand they have the right to disagree with me and they have the right to vote against me if they want and to vote for me if they agree.
As far as the whole recall thing, I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t think it’s a very big groundswell. It’s a free country. They have the right to do what they want to do.
Have you been hearing good things from constituents about your votes?
Oh, absolutely. On the votes I’m taking, nine-to-one the response is positive. And what’s funny about it, it’s not just the positive of “I agree with you” … it’s positive as in “That’s how you should go about the process.”
As you know, constituents can’t read every bill — that’s not what a normal person with a life has time to do. If you go and look at the gun bills for instance, there were five of them and they were complicated. There was one I didn’t agree with and I’d be glad to sit down with anybody and explain that vote. So far, everybody that I talk to and explain it to goes, “Oh, I understand why that wasn’t a good bill,” even if you’re Second Amendment proponent, which I am.
This was the machine gun…
Machine guns and hand grenades. The bill wouldn’t have done anything to ban them, it was to make them easier to buy. Machine guns and hand grenades.
So that was the vote that put you afoul of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, right?
I really didn’t hear much right after that vote. The stuff started after the vote on conversion therapy and on [the religious freedom bills] 1161 and 1171. Those are bills that I’m glad to talk over with anybody. I understand the feelings people have. They were premised as being about religious freedom. Believe me, I support religious freedom, and think we have a lot of it. But the other side of the argument is that we have to allow people to live their lives the way they want to live them.
I believe the conservative position is for government to stay out of our life in a regulatory manner, in a tax manner, and for government to stay out of our bedrooms. That’s what I’ve supported. To me that’s the conservative position.
What’s the feedback you’re getting from your colleagues down at the Capitol?
Literally every legislator that I’ve talked to that has any experience here has said, “Vote your convictions and, over time, that’s how you’ll be successful.”
So, last weekend state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call was ousted i a tough election. He was seen as too establishment, too moderate. But he ushered in a big win for the party with Cory Gardner, who won his U.S. Senate seat by pitching himself as a ‘new kind of Republican’ who would lay off social issues. Is the pressure you’re drawing rising from the same fault-line in the party?
I guess I really don’t. I didn’t attend [the party] elections. I was in Grand Junction that weekend. I haven’t been tuned into the intricacies of those politics. I guess I don’t have a viewpoint on that.