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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 21, 20174min398
The Colorado Civil Justice League cited breakthrough tort-reform legislation this year as it honored 55 of the legislature’s 100 members Friday at the Four Seasons hotel in Denver. “Common sense in the courtroom requires justice for those who have been wronged, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” CCJL executive director Mark […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 20, 20173min572

Tort-reforming Colorado Civil Justice League has announced a lengthy list of state lawmakers who will be feted at a league luncheon Oct. 20 for their efforts in the statehouse to curb excessive litigation. A press release from the league Tuesday said the legislators will receive the “Common Sense in the Courtroom Award,” along with a satisfying meal, at the annual luncheon at the Denver Four Seasons downtown. (Tickets are available at www.CCJL.org.)

Here’s more from the announcement:

“Common Sense in the Courtroom requires justice for those who have been wronged, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman.
A highlight of the 2017 legislative session was the passage of House Bill 1279 which addressed construction litigation by ensuring that homeowners are fully informed of costs and risks of litigation and given a formal voice in determining whether to initiate a lawsuit to resolve alleged defective construction.
“The most encouraging development this year is the growing coalition of legislators who value economic growth for all Coloradans above the narrow interests of personal injury lawyers and a handful of plaintiffs,” Hillman added.
The league notes it’s the “only organization in Colorado exclusively dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates legitimate victims.”
For a full list of the lawmakers who’ll receive the award, check out the full press release; here’s the link again.

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Mark HillmanMark HillmanSeptember 5, 20175min370
Mark Hillman
Mark Hillman

Ideas inspire both philosophers and legislators, but the two jobs differ considerably thereafter.

That distinction is critical to understanding the current dust-up between the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara and several Republican lawmakers.

A thoughtful, assertive voice for liberty, Caldara is a friend and an ally.  He and the Institute advocate tirelessly for personal freedom and limited government – principles that are as dear to me now as they were when I served in the Colorado Senate.

Caldara’s job is to turn up the heat on lawmakers when they are being cajoled to compromise.  His job is not, however, to consider those same lawmakers’ prospects for re-election or to balance the competing interests that lawmakers face back home.

So, when Caldara calls for the Republican Party to purge lawmakers who, in his view, don’t sufficiently toe the line, it’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and assess the realities that lawmakers must face – or ignore at their own peril.

Legislators have a responsibility to the people they represent.  They are responsible for governing, particularly when their party is empowered with a majority.

In Colorado, Republicans hold a one-vote majority in the state Senate.  Democrats hold a nine-vote margin in the state House, and they’ve held the Governor’s Mansion for more than a decade.

The reality is that Republicans cannot pass legislation without some cooperation from Democrats – and vice versa.

Two such bipartisan bills considered by the Legislature earlier this year draw Caldara’s ire because they represented compromise on existing taxpayer protections.

House Bill 1242, sponsored by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran, proposed to ask voters for a sales tax increase to boost transportation funding, which has flat-lined for the past 17 years.

Grantham is a straight shooter.  He didn’t break any arms, buy any votes or employ dirty tricks.  He asked his caucus to give the bill a fair hearing, and ultimately, it died in a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 267 – which became law – moved the controversial Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) outside the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) spending limit, allowing government spending to increase.  On the other hand, it lowered the TABOR spending cap by $200 million.

Caldara skewers Sens. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), along with Reps. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) and Polly Lawrence (R-Castle Rock), for advancing the bill.

If Republicans had their way, the spending cap would have been reduced by more than $500 million.  Conversely, Democrats wouldn’t have reduced the cap whatsoever, except that they had to placate Republicans.

Important to rural lawmakers, the bill threw a lifeline to several smalltown hospitals that were faced with shutdown.  That may not mean much to residents of the Front Range where hospitals are ubiquitous.  However, closing the only hospital in an entire county is the difference between life and death for some victims of severe accidents or acute illness.  Worse still, a community that loses its hospital faces a bleak future, with closure of businesses and schools looming.

Sonnenberg and Becker cut the best deal they could to protect the interests of the rural communities they represent and to prevent taxpayers from being fleeced.

With perfect hindsight, let’s compare this compromise to a missed opportunity several years ago when Republicans considered a bill expanding rights for gays and lesbians while protecting freedom of conscience of individuals and organizations whose faith holds that marriage is the domain of opposite-sex couples.

Republicans killed that bill and, in the next election, lost their majority in the state House.  The next year, Democrats passed the same bill minus protections for religious liberty.

Like it or not, progress in a split legislature involves give-and-take.  That doesn’t sell well in a white paper, but it’s the reality that our lawmakers must confront.  After all, what good is a pristine voting record if you’ve done nothing to make life better for the people who elected you


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 9, 20176min310

The Colorado Civil Justice League long has served as the state’s standard bearer for tort reform. Working with prominent business groups, the league has taken the lead in advocating policies that rein in what it sees as runaway litigation and unwarranted damages awards that can cripple the economy.

Up against those efforts? The proverbial plaintiffs’ bar — the state’s personal-injury lawyers, who contend “tort reform” is a euphemism for curtailing basic civil rights — but not much in the way of organized opposition.

Or so we’d thought until we stumbled across Caps HarmColorado on Twitter:

The campaign is part of a nationwide project by the New York Law School’s Center for Justice & Democracy and aims to push back at industry-backed tort reform groups. Colorado’s iteration of the effort also has a Facebook page as well as a rudimentary website, which argues the case for a very different kind of reform in Colorado — one that would make it easier to sue for negligence in the Centennial State:

If you or a family member are badly hurt because a big company acted recklessly, you should be able to take that company to court and be fully compensated.  But in Colorado, you can’t.  That’s because Colorado lawmakers have enacted some of the harshest laws in the nation limiting the rights of everyday Coloradans.  And if you or your child is a patient injured in an unsafe hospital, the restrictions on your rights are even more severe.

In addition, when it comes to the personal responsibility of corporations and health care providers that cause injury or death, Colorado’s laws relieve these wrongdoers of accountability for their misconduct.

The website elaborates on how caps, or statutory limits, that have been placed on various kinds of jury awards — for non-economic damages, for punitive damages, for medical-malpractice cases and the like — shortchange victims of negligence.

True confessions: While both the group’s Twitter account and its Facebook page show a 2012 startup, we’d never heard of them until the other day. Don’t we feel silly! Perhaps one reason for Caps Harm Colorado’s low-profile is the evident lack of a local presence; no in-state contacts are apparent on any of the group’s media, which loop visitors and followers back to the Center for Justice & Democracy.

So, is it a worthy, if not-so-new adversary for the Colorado Civil Justice League? The league’s longtime executive director, former Colorado Senate Majority and Minority Leader Mark Hillman of Burlington, didn’t hold back when asked for his reaction via email:

” ‘Caps Harm’ is a project driven by a lawsuit-loving faction at the New York Law School.  It attempts to discredit lawsuit limits across the country, claiming to want to be sure people get a ‘fair shake’ in court.  This is a one-sided approach that ignores that most people never file a lawsuit, yet they still need good jobs and affordable goods and services.  Lawsuit limits ensure that legitimate victims can be properly compensated without turning our courts into a litigation lottery in which a handful of trial lawyers and plaintiffs strike it rich at the expense of everyone else.  Frivolous lawsuits make everything we buy more expensive and reduce our choices as consumers.”

That said, we look forward to further input from both sides.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 11, 20174min1009

When the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly today to approve President Trump’s nominee to be the next U.S. trade representative — with majorities of both parties, for a change, backing the president’s pick — Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner wasn’t among them.

Gardner was one of only three Republicans to vote no. His reason for stiff-arming his own party’s president? The nomination, he says, is bad for Colorado agriculture.

The Senate voted 82-14 to confirm Robert Lighthizer — a trade lawyer, Washington veteran, onetime member of the Reagan administration and vocal critic of free trade — to the post that is instrumental in mapping out U.S. trade policy. The lopsided support for Lighthizer in the Senate — despite bitter Democratic opposition to the president who nominated him — is said to reflect Lighthizer’s crossover appeal. Though he is a conservative Republican, his support for protectionist policies has endeared him to populist, liberal Democrats in the labor movement and elsewhere who long have denounced free trade as a job killer that only serves fat-cat shareholders in multinational corporations.

Gardner couldn’t disagree more, and he issued this statement:

“I could not support Robert Lighthizer’s nomination to become the United States Trade Representative because I’m afraid his policies could hurt Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. In light of the current agricultural crisis facing much of rural America, if we are not open to new trade opportunities, farmers and ranchers in Colorado and across the country will continue to struggle to make ends meet. We have to allow our agricultural products to flow to markets around the world and negotiate fair deals that will boost agriculture exports. Although I did not support Lighthizer’s nomination today, I am committed to working with him to advance the interests of Colorado’s agriculture community.”

Gardner was born and raised in the northeastern Colorado farm town of Yuma, and before his election to the U.S. Senate, he represented Colorado’s heavily agricultural 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

He joined Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska along with 11 Democrats in opposing LIghthizer’s nomination.

However Gardner’s vote affects his standing with the Trump team — he no doubt got a wink from the Senate GOP leadership considering the confirmation was a shoo-in — his stance arguably squares with the sensibilities of heavily Republican Colorado farmers and ranchers ever on the hunt for new markets.

Like Mark Hillman, the Republican former Colorado Senate majority and minority leader — and wheat farmer — from Burlington. Reached for comment, Hillman saw eye-to-eye with Gardner:

“As someone who grew up in a farming community, Senator Gardner well understands that limiting potential buyers for grain and livestock would be devastating to Colorado farmers and ranchers, who are already struggling to make ends meet with depressed prices,” Hillman told us.

We thought we’d also check with the Colorado Farm Bureau for its take on the development. We’ll let you know when we hear back; we’ll guess the farm bureau, too, likes to see wide-open markets for Colorado’s wide-ranging agricultural products.

 


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 24, 20175min249
Legislation to bar employers from inquiring about the criminal history of job applicants underwent nips and tucks last week to soften its impact before being approved by majority Democrats in the state House today on a party-line vote. Among the tweaks amended into House Bill 1305 was the removal of provisions that some critics said set up a […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 14, 20174min211
Even amid the ever-shifting alliances of hardball politics, there are some loyalties you generally can rely on. You know, like how the environmentalists, the abortion-rights advocates and the trial lawyers are generally in the Democrats’ corner. And the gun owners, the right-to-lifers and the fossil fuelers — to say nothing of the tort reformers — will line up with the GOP. […]

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