Every session of the Colorado Legislature has its winners and losers, but sorting them out is an “eye of the beholder thing” to borrow a phrase from Grand Junction’s GOP Sen. Ray Scott.

For example, House Bill 1242 would have given Coloradans a chance to vote on a state sales-tax increase dedicated to improving transportation infrastructure, but it died in a Senate committee. Anti-tax groups in the state cheered it as a win, while we felt it made losers of anyone who thinks good roads are an important investment in the state’s economic future.

That bill’s demise, however, paved the way for the session’s biggest accomplishment — Senate Bill 267, which turned the state’s hospital provider fee into a standalone government enterprise, freeing up money for other programs and averting a crisis over funding for rural hospitals. Among other things, this “kitchen sink” spending measure provides $2 billion in bonds to pay for road projects. It also directs money to rural schools.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



Three Republican senators broke with their party Wednesday to block consideration of a resolution to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s new methane rule.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner wasn’t one of them. We’re disappointed Gardner didn’t embrace a common-sense measure that protects air quality, gives taxpayers a fair return on oil and gas resources and protects Colorado from unfair competition.

The way things played out, Gardner dodged absolute accountability on the matter due to the procedural nature of the vote. His office released a statement that didn’t specify whether he’d hoped to be able to vote for repeal of the rule had it been allowed to go forward for debate.

But by not rejecting the repeal effort outright, the senator inflamed environmentalists who wasted no time accusing him of promoting oil and gas interests over representing Colorado values.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



For years, economists and local business leaders have been searching for the bottom of the economic trough — the point at which there’s nowhere to go but up.

By most indicators, it was in 2012, the year Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder Leeds School of Business, said Grand Junction appeared to have “weathered the worst” of a national recession that lingered in western Colorado far longer than the rest of the state.

Wobbekind is an annual visitor to Grand Junction, sharing results of economic data compiled for the Colorado Business Economic Outlook. But even if 2012 was the worst, succeeding years have been uneven. Some economic indicators look worse than others. Business filings, real estate transactions, rate of foreclosures, property values, capital investment, hotel occupancy, unemployment and sales tax and severance tax receipts haven’t trended in a positive direction at the same time.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



Back in November, voters agreed to unshackle unaffiliated voters and give them unfettered access to vote in publicly financed primary elections.

Before Proposition 108 passed, independent voters had been required to affiliate with a party before voting. Proposition 108 changed that by dropping the affiliation requirement.

It passed despite last-minute tinkering with Blue Book language by state lawmakers from both parties that included some false and misleading claims minimizing the “pros” and overstating the “cons” of the measure.

Let’s consider why. In a closed primary, voter participation is typically low and the candidates selected often appeal to a small number of their party’s more active members — often called “the base.” Voters agreed that opening the primary could result in more moderate candidates. But this disruption of the status quo apparently frightens some lawmakers who have found success by pandering to political extremes.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



Back in November, voters agreed to unshackle unaffiliated voters and give them unfettered access to vote in publicly financed primary elections.

Before Proposition 108 passed, independent voters had been required to affiliate with a party before voting. Proposition 108 changed that by dropping the affiliation requirement.

It passed despite last-minute tinkering with Blue Book language by state lawmakers from both parties that included some false and misleading claims minimizing the “pros” and overstating the “cons” of the measure.

Let’s consider why. In a closed primary, voter participation is typically low and the candidates selected often appeal to a small number of their party’s more active members — often called “the base.” Voters agreed that opening the primary could result in more moderate candidates. But this disruption of the status quo apparently frightens some lawmakers who have found success by pandering to political extremes.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



The House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation Thursday to repeal and replace Obamacare with hardly any debate on the matter and with no data on the bill’s fiscal impact or how it affects people’s health-care coverage.

Talk about flying blind. It’s reminiscent of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s infamous quote about Obamacare: “… we have to pass the (health care) bill so that you can find out what’s in it….”

Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote. Republicans who angrily contended that legislation was rammed through Congress — unilaterally and in the dark — are on that very path.

Why do congressional lawmakers persist with hasty bills that make a bad health-care situation even worse?

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



We know now that last month’s deadly house explosion in Firestone was caused by a leak in an old gas line that was believed to be out of service but, for unknown reasons, was still connected to a producing gas well.

And the response has been what we would expect in the aftermath of a catastrophe. The governor ordered inspections of all similar gas lines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings and Anadarko Petroleum, which owns the well, shut down 3,000 similar wells out of an abundance of caution.

That hasn’t stopped organizations opposed to drilling and fracking from calling for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to impose tougher restrictions or beef up enforcement of existing rules.

But Colorado’s regulatory framework is already extensive. It’s questionable that adding safeguards will change anything because the existing rules seems to be working fine when producers follow them. Mistakes and human error happen in every enterprise. When people die, those mistakes invariably lead to calls for government intervention to ensure public safety.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



If local builders hadn’t expressly supported a Mesa County proposal to raise the cost of obtaining building permits, would commissioners have raised fees anyway?

It’s an important question because it gets to the heart of our elected leaders’ feelings about the value of government services. There comes a point where undermanned government offices can’t meet demand for the services they’re supposed to provide.

Such is the case with the county’s building department. When the local economy took a nosedive in 2010, the department was cut in half. Reductions made sense at the time because building activity had dropped off. But now that construction is showing signs of a rebound, the department can’t process permits in a timely manner. Government inefficiency is a drag on growth.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



Two recent developments should have Mesa County commissioners looking at some aspect of “de-Brucing,” or asking voters to allow the county to retain revenue in excess of limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

The first is that the county is preparing to ask voters to approve a sales tax increase to help fund law enforcement. The second is that the county had to forgo a $5 million grant that it would have allocated toward construction of a psychiatric hospital expansion project.

As the Sentinel’s Gary Harmon reported Tuesday, even though the county would simply pass along the grant to Mind Springs, the money would count as revenue to the county, which would then be included in TABOR calculations.

If the county were to accept such a grant, it would likely force a refund to county taxpayers — an ironic twist given that the county asked department heads and elected officials earlier this year to limit spending to 95 percent of what was included in the $57 million general fund for 2017.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.



Why are three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee afraid to let the people of Colorado decide whether they want a half-cent sales-tax hike to fund better roads?

It’s an infuriating development. House Bill 1242 had the votes to pass the full Senate. It was a bipartisan measure representing a hard-fought compromise between Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran that would have let voters have a voice in the debate about transportation funding.

But it didn’t have the votes to get out of committee Tuesday, despite hours of testimony from a diverse set of supporters, including Club 20’s director, Christian Reece, who noted that Mesa County and Boulder County were united on the issue.

Read more at The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.