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Colorado News Miner 103

Bills on housing, guns, suicide, and social media; Christian nationalism; censoring lies; Republican corruption; and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
February 2, 2024

Legislative Bills

Legislative Bills: As of this writing, the Colorado legislature has introduced 176 House bills and 105 Senate bills. I cannot possibly track all of them. The conservative sometimes-free-market group Liberty Scorecard lists this session's bills and offers a brief description of many of them. I don't agree with all their positions! Below I discuss only a smattering of this year's bills, and I haven't carefully tracked possible changes.

Housing: Bill 1152 preempts local controls and allows most home owners to add on an "accessory dwelling unit." Good! Of course various conservatives favor land-use socialism and so oppose the bill. Bill 1007 "prohibits local governments from enacting or enforcing residential occupancy limits," with exceptions. See also John Frank's discussion of the Democrats' strategy on housing reform. A poll indicates most Coloradans are on board with easing housing restrictions. John Aguilar reports on a Lakewood NIMBY effort. James Pethokoukis warns of "the wrongheaded 'conservative' retreat from housing reform." Robert Greer points out, "Building more market-rate homes reduces displacement pressures since the new supply lowers the cost of homes regionally. This supply effect is so well-documented that opposing it has now become a form of . . . social-science denial." (I disagree with Greer's support for mandates on producers. Just free the housing market!)

Eviction Restrictions: The so-called "just cause" eviction bill (1098) perfectly illustrates the "Progressive" refusal to consider how legislation alters incentives and leads to harmful unintended consequences. There's already a simple way to mostly avoid being evicted: sign a long-term lease. This bill makes it harder for property owners to evict people. Obviously, this increases the risk, expense, and hassle of renting out residential housing, thereby discouraging the provision of such housing.

More Rent Controls: More absolute stupidity: Bill 1057 would, as Robert Davis describes it, "prevent landlords from using 'algorithmic devices' like RealPage's Yieldstar or Yardi's Revenue IQ" to set rent. The fundamental problem is that government drives up housing costs by restricting the construction of more housing. Further government meddling in housing contracts is the last thing we need. Steven Woodrow is the sponsor of this stinker.

Government-Paid Healthcare: Bill 1075 creates "an advisory task force for the purpose of advising the Colorado school of public health in conducting an analysis of draft model legislation concerning a statewide universal health-care payment system." It's almost as if politicians intentionally screw up the market in health care and health insurance so politicians can more fully take over. Linda Gorman critiques the proposal.

Firearms Regs: Senate Bill 66, as Liberty Scorecard describes it, "requires payment processors to keep records of firearms and firearms accessories merchants (with accessories very broadly defined, including ammunition). It imposes a $10k penalty for each violation on the payment processor. A back door gun restriction bill, this will make payment processors think twice about servicing companies having anything to do with firearms." I agree with the Firearms Coalition of Colorado that two other gun-related bills are bad. Bill 1015 would require private business to post anti-gun propaganda, a flagrant violation of free speech. This is in the name of suicide prevention. Generally, government has no proper businesses forcing businesses to post messages that government actors wish people to hear, even if those messages are good ones. Bill 3 creates a special division within the Colorado Bureau of Investigation specifically to go after gun crimes. There's often no good reason for the state to intervene in what should be local law enforcement efforts, and if there is a good reason the CBI already can get involved. And the CBI should go after violent crimes as such, not fixate on specific sorts of violent crimes—much less nonviolent technical or paperwork "crimes."

Name Changes: I don't see what the big deal is regarding bill 1071, "Concerning permitting a name change for a person convicted of a felony to conform with the person's gender identity." It's not like the person's previous name just disappears; that's all a matter of record. But, predictably, social conservatives are freaking out. The Lobby is oh-so-concerned that a legislative committee shut down a woman's bigoted remarks. (That said, legislators signed up for the job of listening to Coloradans, so they should do that.) George Brauchler thinks the bill is "bonkers." But he incorrectly says, "Current Colorado law prohibits convicted felons from legally changing their name." The bill's summary states, "Current law specifies the conditions a person must meet in order to change the person's name if the person was convicted of a felony." This bill marks a minor change that will result in nothing bad happening. But it's trans-friendly so conservatives must pretend it's terrible.

Paying Criminals: Brauchler also is concerned about Senate Bill 12. The summary: "The bill creates the reentry workforce development cash assistance pilot program (pilot program) in the department of corrections (department) to provide cash assistance to persons who enroll and participate in workforce services or training programs after incarceration. The pilot program provides a total payment of up to $3,000 to eligible persons for basic life expenses." I don't know if this will work or not. But recidivism is a serious problem. My guess is that paying directly for reentry programs would be the better way to go.

Foster Kids: 9News summarizes bill 1017: It "provides foster children 5 years and older with an expansive list of rights and freedoms, including guaranteeing access to services and programs, timely court proceedings and effective case management and the right to be placed in a safe environment free of abuse. The legislation also [says] foster youth have the right to freedom of discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. It also says that foster children have the right to be referred to by their preferred name and pronouns and guarantees they may attend or refuse religious services." Offhand this strikes me as a good idea, but, in a context in which there's not enough foster care to meet existing needs, I worry that the requirements may further discourage some people from becoming foster parents.

Repair Regs: Brianna Titone is sponsoring yet another so-called "right to repair" bill, 1121, this time pertaining to digital electronic equipment. Such bills are bad. They interfere with the contract rights between producer and consumer. I'd address this issue by a) relieving producers of liability when unauthorized third-parties make repairs and b) not punishing consumers for "hacking" products in most cases.

Deepfakes: Bill 1147 would regulate AI-generated "communications about candidates for elective office." Offhand requiring disclosure seems reasonable to me, depending on details. Portraying a candidate to say something the candidate did not say, for example, is a sort of fraud. Obviously such regulations quickly could tip into infringements of free speech, so details matter a lot.

Sodium Nitrite Regs: It turns out that some people use sodium nitrite, a sort of salt used as a preservative, to commit suicide. Bill 1081 "would ban the sale of high-potency sodium nitrite . . . to Coloradans, except approved commercial businesses," Seth Klamann reports. I think most people would consider this bill a slam-dunk. It's morally horrible to sell something to someone whom you reasonably think will use the product to commit suicide for bad reasons. But I want to raise a bit of skepticism. Do some people not covered by the bill buy the product for legitimate uses? If so, they should have a way to continue to buy the product. People can kill themselves with lots of things, including ropes and plastic bags. Suffocation, mostly by hanging, is the second-most common method to commit suicide. If someone goes to the effort to order a salt to commit suicide, the fundamental problem is not the salt. Is the legislature going to regulate the sale of ropes too? There's definitely room for civil liability if a company recklessly sells dangerous substances. Criminal penalties for sellers who know their product will be used criminally in a specific case make sense; consider someone who sells a gun to a person who tells the seller they plan to commit murder with it. But attempting suicide should not be considered a crime, so that rationale does not apply. Criminal penalties for people who knowingly or recklessly sell dangerous substances to minors are okay. Back in October, legislators Dylan Roberts and Judy Amabile said they wanted to "outlaw encouraging someone to commit suicide." That's definitely straight-up censorship and a violation of the First Amendment. (I don't think they ended up introducing such a bill.)

Aid in Dying: Bill 68 would "allow out-of-state residents to receive medical aid in dying," "shrink the waiting period to 48 hours from 15 days and also let advanced practice registered nurses, in addition to doctors, prescribe aid-in-dying medication," reports Jesse Paul. Notice here that the legislature is getting into the business of deciding which suicides are government-approved and which are not.

Climate Literacy: Bill 14 concerns "authorization for granting a high school diploma endorsement related to climate literacy." Does anyone seriously think the educational establishment is not already giving enough attention to this issue? How about an "endorsement" related to just plain literacy, with which far too many Colorado students struggle?

Social Media: Sentinel: "New polling from Healthier Colorado shows voters think social media is harmful to young people. A majority of the poll's respondents would support a law regulating social media companies and platforms." Generally, government controls of media are far more dangerous than media. CPR profiles a woman who blames social media for her daughter's suicide. Bill 1136 "requires the department of education (department) to create and maintain a resource bank of evidence-based, research-based, and promising program materials and curricula pertaining to the mental health impacts of social media use by children and teens (youth)."

Quick Takes

Davis on Christian Nationalism: Logan Davis writes, "I was raised to take over the world for God. . . . As a pastor's kid from Nashville, Tennessee, I was steeped in religious conservatism from birth. The impetus towards a highly political, far-right version of Christianity which seeks to conquer the world for Christ, though, didn't come from my family so much as it came from my classical Christian school. We were taught that we were special, that the world was fallen and we could redeem it. We were taught that America was a Christian nation which had drifted off course, but that a faithful generation could restore it." He goes on to discuss the threat that Christian Nationalism poses to the American liberal order (with "liberal" broadly conceived).

Zansberg Calls for Censorship: I really like Steve Zansberg, and his work with the Freedom of Information Coalition is very important. But his new article calling for censorship is just nuts. He opens, "Can the government, consistent with the First Amendment, make it a crime to knowingly publicize lies that cause people to die?" The answer is no! But Zansberg doesn't want to take "no" for an answer. He has in mind specifically lies about the vaccines. He writes, "I believe the government has the power to impose penalties on those who knowingly misrepresent facts in an effort to prevent use of the COVID vaccine." One problem immediately jumps out: The requirement of "knowingly" requires government agents to become mind readers. Even if someone one day said "vaccines work" and the next day said "vaccines don't work," how would the government know the person did not simply change his mind? As I have pointed out, a century ago you could have found prominent Colorado doctors and scientists lined up behind the eugenics movement, who would have sworn under oath that a eugenics program was necessary to save lives. The difference, of course, is that the eugenicists were wrong and the vaccine advocates are right. But making government the final authority on such matters, with the power to punish dissenters, is dangerous foolishness.

Surrogacy: The Pope wants to ban surrogacy, which is crazy, authoritarian, and anti-life. Thankfully, "Gestational Surrogacy is permitted in Colorado under the Colorado Surrogacy Agreement Act (C.R.S. 19-4.5-101 et seq), effective May 6, 2021." Robert Klitzman reasonably argues, "Paying gestational carriers should be legal in all states." See also his direct response to the Pope.

School Funding: Jenny Brundin reviews the Public School Finance Task Force Report. The report found that more money doesn't really do much to improve education; the problem is fad teaching, bureaucratized classrooms, and bloated administration costs. Ha! "Per Senate Bill 23-287, the Public School Finance Task Force responsibility is to examine and make recommendations concerning making the school finance formula simpler, less regressive, and more adequate, understandable, transparent, equitable and student-centered." Another line from the report: "[D]evelopments over the subsequent 30 years [since 1994] require continual improvement and adjustments to the funding formula. Primarily, the need to align resources more directly in areas the current public school education system struggles with today: educating students who are growing up in poverty, learning English as a second language, and students with special needs."

Preschool Regs: Wow, how surprising that government funding for "private" preschools has brought new government regulations of them. Here is an indicative line from the CPR report: "There was also a last-minute save for hot chocolate on special occasions. In the interest of preventing childhood obesity and cavities, there is a ban on hot chocolate and chocolate milk in preschools."

Anti-Trans Ballot Measure: James O'Rourke quotes a social media post from Darcy Schoening, of the El Paso County Moms for Liberty, who announces she is "working as Director of Special Initiatives for the State GOP. First up will be 'Let kids be Kids,' a ballot initiative to BAN CHILD GENDER REASSIGNMENT MEDICAL PROCEDURES IN THE STATE OF COLORADO . . . with the support of the amazing Matt Walsh." By "child" I assume she means anyone under 18; by "procedure" I assume she means surgery as well as hormonal treatments (but I'm not sure). I have my own misgivings about such medical interventions at least in some cases, but what happened to "trust parents"? Parents, their children, and their doctors are perfectly capable of working these things out without political "help." If something goes badly wrong there's civil liability. This measure won't pass in Colorado; I doubt it even makes the ballot.

Windsor: Standard Duong does not like this town!

Gideon 300: Heidi Beedle and James O'Rourke have out an unnerving story: "During a Spunky Patriots meeting on Oct. 17, 2023, members of the conservative activist group practiced resisting arrest at Brave Church, formerly Fervent Church, in Colorado Springs. 'They are coming to arrest your brothers and sisters,' said podcast host, election conspiracist, and defamation defendant Joe Oltmann." Oltmann, you may recall, suggested that the governor be hanged. Oltmann continued to conspiracy monger about "terrorists"—officials who help oversee elections—"stealing the election." Oltmann is a dangerous madman, and, shamefully, many Republicans are too cowardly to say as much.

Alex Jones Targets Colorado: That Alex Jones is a demonstrated habitual liar and conspiracy monger apparently does not prevent a lot of people from listening to him. As 9News reports, Jones now is claiming that Colorado hosts a "secret ebola testing project." The reality, as 9News reported November 28, is that "a few medical employees at Denver Health [were] some of the first people to receive the live Ebola vaccine for preventative measures, the hospital said. . . as a way to be prepared in the event of a future outbreak."

Bad Republicans: Who'd have thought we'd reach the stage where Republicans cheer their candidates' arrest records?

Crazy Republicans: Erik Maulbetsch: "Several well-known Colorado conservatives including the chair of the Jefferson County Republicans [Nancy Pallozzi] signed a U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief submitted by a QAnon-promoting conspiracy theorist," Terpsehore Maras.

Plastic Bag Ban: Whether you think the plastic bag ban is a good idea, it does seem to have drastically reduced the use of plastic shopping bags, as 9News reports.

Butterflies: Apparently if you have "climate anxiety" you can pretend to be a butterfly and somehow that's supposed to help. I guess this is not a parody?

Subsidies for Government Failure: Alayna Alvarez: "69 Denver businesses are getting money to offset the negative consequences of nearby homeless encampments." Or, you know, government could just do its job and free up the housing market and preserve public spaces for public uses.

Scams for Jesus: Justin Wingerter: "State regulators can continue freezing the bank accounts of an online pastor from Denver and his wife who have admitted selling millions of dollars in worthless cryptocurrency."

Doxxing Truck: Nicky Andrews: Accuracy in Media has a truck in Boulder "showing headshots of [University of Colorado] faculty members under the headline 'Boulder's Leading Antisemites.'" "The campaign's stop in Boulder comes after CU's Ethnic Studies Department released a controversial statement in October expressing support for Palestinians during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war." Both the statement and the truck were bad ideas.

Insurrection: Katie Langford: Jonathan David Grace of Colorado Springs "was sentenced to [two years in] prison . . . for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia."

Light Trespass: Aspen now defines "light trespass." I see two potential problems off the top: The rules conflict with well-established property use, and the rules seem to push against very sensible uses of light, such as to deter crime. But I'm not prepared to say no restrictions on light emissions are warranted.

Home Equity Theft: Michael Fields calls on the legislature to stop local governments from taking a home at full value when taxes on the home are due. That's good, but I like my plan better: just eliminate property taxes.

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