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Colorado News Miner 104

Regulatory bills, Fonda's sycophants, Suncor, transgender prisoners, bad cops, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
February 6, 2024

Legislative Bills

Social Media Bill: Alayna Alvarez picked up on something I'd missed regarding a social media bill: "The measure would also mandate social media companies show people under 18 periodic pop-up warnings after they spend an hour on their platforms." Isn't this something for, you know, parents to handle? Here's my proposed amendment: If they pass this bill, legislators have to install software on their phones warning them every hour that legislators generally are grossly ignorant of how the world works and that legislation often brings unintended harmful consequences.

Contract Driver Regs: Sam Tabachnik reports that two bills, 1129 and 75, would regulate "transparency" involving contract drivers for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc. The bills "would mandate companies provide drivers and riders with detailed information about how much of the fare goes to drivers versus the company," mandate that drivers "would also be able to see their end destination before accepting a ride," and "require companies to report various metrics to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment regarding transportation tasks completed and any driver deactivations." Generally, I regard such decisions properly as matters of private contract. If drivers want different terms, they are free to seek to negotiate them, either individually or as part of a group. Also, I suspect that the detail about destination locations clashes with other legal requirements that companies not discriminate with respect to their customers.

Dating App Regs: Here is a case where some light regulations probably are warranted. As Brian Maass reports, a man "is facing 38 felony charges for allegedly drugging 11 women he met on dating apps between 2020 and 2023, then allegedly sexually assaulting nine of them." It's reasonable to think, if you sign up for a dating app, that the service has taken reasonable precautions to prevent predators from using the site. I think a dating service should be free to have a "user beware" policy, but then it needs to clearly state that policy and probably require users to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks. I have not studied Bill 11 carefully. I worry about it forcing dating apps to provide an annual report to state government; offhand that seems like overreach. I'm not clear on current legal responsibilities: If someone reports to an app a crime that resulted from an app-facilitated interaction, is the app required to notify police? Obviously an app and its users have an interest in keeping predators off the site. At the same time, we don't want someone to be able to vindictively lie about someone just to get them blackballed. A complicated issue!

Gun Bills: A major problem with Democrats controlling all aspects of state government and having a legislative supermajority—largely because Republicans leading their party in this state have become insane—is that hard-left Democrats can basically do whatever crazy stuff they want. Nick Coltrain and Seth Klamann report: "Democratic lawmakers are set to unveil as many as 10 gun-control and -reform bills this session. The measures cover a swath of policy, from new training requirements for concealed-carry permits to mandated insurance for gun owners to a ban on purchasing so-called assault weapons, including semi-automatic rifles." At least that last proposal, of course supported by two of the legislature's "democratic socialists," is flagrantly unconstitutional. Another proposal "would require gun stores, which already are federally licensed, to obtain a state permit to sell firearms," say the reporters. That said, not all gun regulations are bad; for example, I support "red flag laws" in some form.

Extorting Insurance Companies: If someone's health insurance company goes out of business, Bill 1113 "requires the individual's new health insurance carrier to credit all of the out-of-pocket expenses" for purposes of calculating the deductible. See also Andrew Kenney's report. This is just the legislature trying to impose costs on companies that had nothing to do with the problem. If the legislature wanted to require the companies that shut down to, say, cover transition costs (or buy insurance to cover that), or even wanted to pay the transition costs out of the state budget, I could see some sort of argument for that. But this bill is just straight-up legalized extortion.

Pet Registry: The insanely stupid pet registry bill (1163) died "following intense backlash," Denver7 reports.

Sales Tax: Joshua Sharf: "SB 24-023 . . . would hold harmless companies that make errors in their sales tax calculations based solely on the state's sales GIS sales tax database." To reiterate, my proposal is to eliminate all sales (and use) taxes, as well as all property taxes, even if we have to make up the difference in higher income taxes. Each type of tax system comes with its own compliance costs, hassles, and legal risks.

Fonda's Sycophants

If you want you can read the sycophantic, entirely criticism-free "news" articles by Kelly Lyell and Angelika Albaladejo about Jane Fonda's Colorado environmental activism.

Lyell claims, paraphrasing Fonda, that "we continue to actively destroy [the planet] through the burning of fossil fuels," and one consequence is the loss of "more than 3 billion birds in North America alone." But if you actually read the Science article that Lyell cites, you will find that it blames bird loss on "ecosystems in disarray because of habitat loss and other factors that have yet to be pinned down," perhaps including climate change. Lyell might also have read something like Brian McGill's criticism of the underlying study in question.

Notice here that I am not claiming that "we" don't face serious environmental challenges or that fossil fuels don't contribute to those problems; I think we do and they do. But sensationalism does not help.

Albaladejo helpfully reports, "The Suncor Oil Refinery . . . is surrounded by mainly Latino and low-income neighborhoods exposed to high-than-average levels of air and water pollution." I'll point out that government restrictions on the construction of new housing force low-income people to live in relatively unattractive places.

It would be helpful for a reporter to look at the timeline of when Suncor and the neighborhoods in question were built. My guess is that the subdivisions in question went up around Suncor, not the other way around. If that's the case, don't we also have to assign some blame to the people who built and sold those houses and to the government officials who authorized such land use?

Obviously, the people who are against Suncor on the grounds that it pollutes local neighborhoods would be against Suncor even if there were no local neighborhoods. One need merely read Lyell's account of Fonda's demonization of oil and gas producers to glean that.

Nevertheless, this issue does bring up some thorny matters of property rights and use. Obviously we don't want people to have to live around dangerous pollution, regardless of how that came about.

Here are some questions that come to mind for me. Just how bad is the local pollution for people's health? Is there a way to incentivize Suncor to move further away from the city? How much would that cost? Short of that, are there reasonable mitigation efforts that either Suncor or the state can and should pursue? These are difficult questions on which serious news reporting would shed some light.

Related News (more): "Colorado hits Suncor with historic $10.5 million penalty over Commerce City refinery’s pollution."

Quick Takes

Norma Anderson: Diane Carman has a nice profile of Norma Anderson, who will go down in history for (among other things) challenging Trump's ballot access. A courageous woman.

Weiser on Abortion: Jessica Crawford: "Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and 23 other attorneys general filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn medication abortion restrictions. . . . Although abortion is legal in Colorado, Weiser told Denver7 that [federal] restrictions on mifepristone would make it almost impossible to receive a medication abortion in the state."

Transgender People in Prison: If the state locks up someone in jail or prison, the state has a moral and properly a legal responsibility to ensure the person is safe and well-cared for. Anything short of that blatantly violates the Bill of Rights. As Moe Clark writes, transgender women put in mens' prisons routinely are abused. Some years ago, Sam Tabachnik writes, a transgender women was "violently raped" in a mens' prison and "hospitalized because of her injuries." Clark writes, "There were 148 trans women housed in Colorado prisons as of December 2023, according to a Department of Corrections spokesperson, with nine trans women residing in women's facilities. Before 2018, trans women were housed exclusively with men." We also don't want a system that encourages male (not transgender) prisoners to pretend to be women to get more-favorable treatment or even to put them in a position to potentially assault women. Here's my suggestion: We need to totally revamp prisons such that every prisoner confidently feels safe. I see no reason why genuinely humane prisons couldn't safely house people of all sorts. Future generations will look back on our prisons and justifiably regard us as barbarians.

Housing Costs: John Frank reviews a poll on Colorado voters' concerns. Notably, the top-four concerns all pertain directly or indirectly to housing costs: homelessness, housing costs, immigration (insofar as immigrants can't find places to live), and cost of living.

White Supremacy: According to CBS, a man sentenced "to 27 months in federal prison for possessing firearms after previously being convicted of a felony" also was "an alleged white supremacist who purportedly wanted to start a school at his property in south-central Colorado to teach high schoolers about weapons and white supremacy."

Bad Cops: It's shocking when police engage in (alleged) criminal activity. In a couple of recent cases, at least an officer plausibly accused of a crime was arrested and charged. Max Levy: "A Denver police officer has been charged with harassment after allegedly punching a child who was arrested near Colfax Avenue and Interstate 225 in Aurora last year." Austen Erblat: "A sheriff's deputy in southern Colorado has been arrested and charged with several felonies related to an alleged domestic violence incident."

Aurora Police Settlement: David Lane strikes again. Someone should do a documentary about that guy. Colleen Slevin: "The four Black girls lay facedown in a parking lot, crying 'no' and 'mommy' as a police officer who had pointed her gun at them then bent down to handcuff two of their wrists. . . . Over three years later, the Denver suburb of Aurora has agreed to a $1.9 million settlement with [the family] . . . a lawyer for the family, David Lane, announced." Police did have some reason to think, based on a records error, that the woman in question was driving a stolen vehicle, but forcing little girls at gunpoint onto Summer-hot blacktop obviously was not reasonable.

Dog Sanctuary: The state shut down an unlicensed dog sanctuary in northern Colorado. I wonder how many of those dogs will now be killed.

Brauchler: Apparently George Brauchler is running for District Attorney (again).

Immigration Misinformation: Jefferson County Republican Party Chair Nancy Pallozzi apparently is spreading misinformation about immigration. Shocker. Follow-up: Kyle Clark reports that the county party put out new information correcting errors.

Shunning Israelis: The Gazette is not happy that House Speaker Julie McCluskie initially turned away "a delegation of Israeli officials and family members of attack victims."

Republicans Speak Out: Numerous "current and former Republican election officials in Colorado" submitted an op-ed that begins, "It's with great dismay that we read the Colorado Republican Party leadership's recent call to all Colorado Republicans to support disgraced former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters."

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