Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandJanuary 24, 20185min419
The correction to a 2017 bill that has inadvertently taken marijuana tax revenues from a handful of special taxing districts won split approval from a Senate committee Tuesday. Senate Bill 88 seeks to remedy the problem of a drafting error in last year’s omnibus bill for rural Colorado, SB 17-267. The error was one of […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirDecember 28, 20175min709

Wednesday’s announcement by the Denver-based Independence Institute that rural Republican rancher, farmer and state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling had won the institute’s tongue-in-cheek “Californian of the Year” award landed with thud on the right.

The libertarian-leaning think tank — a sometimes-rogue fellow traveler of GOP causes — cooked up the dubious distinction to mock creeping big government. But Sonnenberg’s selection from among five finalists — the other four qualified as usual suspects, including Boulder Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis — caught some conservatives off guard.

Judging by at least one barometer of Colorado conservative sentiment — the right-of-center blog Colorado Peak Politics — the response was more “Huh?” than “Ha!” Wrote Peak’s anonymous blogger:

Usually, we’re on the same page as the Independence Institute … We even chuckled at the Californian of the Year contest the think tank sponsored, but when one of the nominees was Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg we scratched our heads. We thought to ourselves, “well, maybe he just needed to throw a Republican in there to look bipartisan-y.” Then, today, the Independence Institute named Sonnenberg “Californian of the Year.”

Puzzling. As liberal Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry noted, “Only accidentally funny because (Sonnenberg) is so reliably conservative.”

So, what was Independence thinking? As our Marianne Goodland reported Wednesday:

Institute President Jon Caldara said nothing (better) exemplifies the California value of making decisions for others than the “massive tax increase” put forward by Sonnenberg and three other lawmakers during the 2017 session, in Senate Bill 17-267, also known as “Sustainability of Rural Colorado.”

The measure was, to say the least, complicated, the product of much legislative wrangling. (Read Goodland’s full report for a recap of its provisions.) Suffice it to say, not everyone, even among Republicans, saw it as a tax hike.

Caldara, on the other hand, takes a less nuanced view, having railed against the policy since its inception in the legislature last spring. Independence’s annoncement thundered:

“This immense Colorado tax increase takes place in the shadow of the historic tax cut from the Republican-led U.S. Congress. We find it telling, yet sad, that Republicans in Washington have more respect for Colorado taxpayers than the state Republican Senate leadership who turned Sonnenberg’s Californian idea into law…”

Peak Politics wasn’t buying it:

We thought for sure that Polis would get the nod. He’s certainly our favorite Californian. Hell, he may even have a vacation house in California for all we know. But Sonnenberg? Nah. No offense to our buddies at Independence Institute, but this had the potential to be super fun and took a very strange turn today.

Go home Independence Institute, you’re drunk.

A fissure opening up on the right? Or, just Independence going rogue again?

Meanwhile, over on the left, Colorado Pols — which delights in dissing Caldara, of course — waved off the entire episode:

Caldara and his ilk are so far from the political mainstream that both sides should just ignore them. Much like the fringe fanatics at the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the tax-cheat felon who authored TABOR to begin with, giving Caldara’s ongoing nonsense the time of day debases us all.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanAugust 8, 20175min445
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Farmers and urbanites can be friends, despite their different residential environments.  While many rural Coloradans are Republicans and a majority of Front Range urban Coloradans are Democrats, rural Coloradans do get considerable legislative support from all Democrats, including urban lawmakers living in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.

The 2017 session passed quite a few bills to mitigate the particular problems that come with living in rural Colorado.  The Rural Veterinary Education Loan Repayment Program is a good example.  Rural Colorado doesn’t have enough veterinarians, so the bill helps four young veterinarians per year repay up to $70,000 of their school loans if they practice in rural Colorado for four years.

The modest bill, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins in the House and Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg from Sterling in the Senate, received a YES vote from every Democratic legislator.  Twenty-five House Republicans and 12 Senate GOPers voted NO, including several living in rural areas.

Sustainability of Rural Colorado, a grab bag of a bill, passed with every Democrat in both chambers supporting it and 16 House Republicans and 10 Senate Republicans against it.  Republicans voting NO included some suburban, western slope and eastern Colorado legislators.  The bill became necessary when Republicans voted down legislation to support rural hospitals that serve Medicaid patients.

The Sustainability bill also helps with transportation infrastructure.  An earlier bill to set up a sales tax to provide money for rural roads and bridge repair as well as improvements for urban transportation went down in a Senate committee when three suburban Republican legislators, Jack Tate from Arapahoe County, Tim Neville from South Jeffco, and Owen Hill serving eastern El Paso County, voted NO.  The Sustainability bill puts off a tax increase and provides substantially fewer dollars for rural road improvements.

A recent article in the Denver Post on the “Colorado Divide” talked about the difficulty of providing affordable child care in rural Colorado.  The Child Care Expenses Income Tax Credit Extension  that allows individuals with up to $25,000 adjusted gross income to get a child care credit passed with all Democrats voting YES and 45 Republicans in the House and Senate voting NO.

Another bill to address teacher shortages especially in rural Colorado passed with all YES votes from Democrats and 40 NO votes from Republicans. Only three Senate Republicans, Senate President Kevin Grantham, Larry Crowder from Alamosa, and Don Coram from southwestern Colorado voted YES.  GOP representative Marc Catlin from western Colorado is the only House Republican who voted YES.

The BEST Building Excellent Schools Technology Grant Funding bill using marijuana taxes to boost technology in rural Colorado schools received 51 YES votes from Democrats, 15 YES votes from Republicans, and 31 NO votes from Republicans.  Rural Republicans in the House who voted YES were Bob Rankin, Catlin, and Dan Thurlow.  The bill was more popular with rural Senate Republicans including Crowder, Coram and Senate President Grantham.

The bipartisan mill-levy override bill that equalizes funding between charter schools and traditional public schools passed with help from Democrats.  Some rural schools see the bill as further degrading their ability to provide enough money for regular school students.  Of 23 NO votes, all but one, from Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida, came from Democrats.

The 2017 General Assembly record shows that rural Coloradans do get solid help from many urban Colorado legislators.  It also shows that sometimes the “Colorado Divide” happens when rural lawmakers don’t get behind legislation designed to give rural Coloradans a boost.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 31, 20173min346

As we mentioned in passing just a day ago when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the wide-ranging Senate Bill 267 into law, “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” (the measure’s title) can mean a whole bunch of things. It’s all very complicated.

In other words, Tuesday’s signing was about more than Hick and Senate President Kevin Grantham shooting hoops in the Fowler High School gym. (That was fun though, wasn’t it?) So, you probably could use more detail on the bill itself even after all the coverage you’ve already seen on this big-picture legislation.

In light of this week’s bill-signing ceremony in tiny Fowler just east of Pueblo, Denverite this morning promoted a solid overview by politics and goverment go-to Erica Meltzer. It was published when the bill passed the legislature on the 2017 session’s final day and serves as a great primer now that SB 267 is law. … Just in case you missed the coverage the first time around.

Noting that, ‘Most called it a compromise, one lawmaker called it a casserole,” Meltzer aptly observes the bill, “… does a whole bunch of things that are very hard to fit into a headline.” Indeed.

You’d do well to read it; here’s the link again . The bill ended up with so many stakeholders, you could be one of them.