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Colorado News Miner 107

Transgender issues, gun bills, transparency, child welfare, homeschooling law, scooters, gender pay gap, butterflies, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
March 19, 2024

Transgender Issues

Prison Accommodations

"Colorado is poised to become the first state in the country with segregated holding cells for transgender women in prison, if a judge signs off on it," reports Fox News. Good. Putting transgender women in regular prison housing is demonstrably dangerous for them. And, if the state is going to lock people up, it has a moral and legal responsibility to keep them safe.

Might special accommodations for transgender inmates encourage some prisoners to declare themselves transgender, even if they would not otherwise have done so? Probably. If so, that points to the need to make all prisons safe and supportive for all inmates. Prisons are supposed to rehabilitative, not a form of mental or physical torture.

Chosen Names

Some conservatives, of course, are making themselves insane over a bill that requires schools to recognize a child's chosen name pertaining to gender expression.

True, the bill as originally drafted is terrible. It says a student can choose "any name," and a public school "shall address a student by the student's preferred name." So, literally, this bill says that if a student wishes to be referred to as "Ted of the Giant Penis," school teachers and officials are required to call him "Ted of the Giant Penis." The original drafting is just shockingly bad. I have to admit that I thought Jon Caldara probably was exaggerating about this, but he wasn't.

But, as you might expect, the revised bill is considerably cleaned up. It delimits a "chosen name" to one that "reflect[s an] individual's gender identity." So "Sam" choosing "Sally" would be okay; Sam choosing "Thor Lord of Asgard" would be out.

Clever students still could think of ways to game the system. Could Sam announce he wishes to be known instead as "Jord Goddess of Nature"? Probably. I suppose the bill allows schools to set policies limiting use of a "chosen name" to a certain number of syllables. Could someone born as Jill announce that he wishes to be known as "Jim of the Giant Penis" or "Jim Testicles"? It seems to me that, under the bill, the student could push a lawsuit, and a judge would have to decide. But these are pretty unlikely scenarios.

The clear intent and obvious effect of the bill is to allow a student born Jill to instead choose the name Jim or the like. The obvious issue, and the reason conservatives don't like the bill, is that a student could choose a gender-oriented name even if the student's parents are totally against it. As I continually say, it's so surprising that government-run schools become so political.

The bill's invocation of the "safety clause" is ludicrous.

Hillman on Speech Codes

Mark Hillman wrote a March 15 article titled, "Progressive speech codes have no place in legislative debate."

Hillman starts off by complaining about the "chosen name" bill, 1039, which has nothing to do with legislative debate. Instead, he is worried that a teacher "calling a student by the name used by his or her parents could land a teacher in court." Then Hillman mocks (without argument) another bill (1071) pertaining to name changes for convicted felons (I see no problem with this).

Here is Hillman's main complaint: "During public hearings and in debate, opponents were forbidden by Democratic leadership from using certain words deemed offensive by Progressives, such as: 'Deadnaming,' using the former name of someone who later changed their gender and name[; and] 'Misgendering,' referring to someone by actual biological sex or former gender rather than by present gender identification or preferred pronouns."

So . . . what's the problem here? Would legislative leadership allow legislators to refer to Black legislators using the "n-word"? To refer to Jewish legislators using the "k-word" or as "Oppressors of Gaza"? To refer to women legislators as "sweetheart" or "babe"? To refer to other legislators as "sons of b's"? No. It is perfectly acceptable, indeed morally necessary, for legislators to bar such offensive speech during official proceedings. (Legislators can say whatever they want on their own platforms.) For Hillman to suggest that such restrictions violate the First Amendment is ludicrous.

Obviously part of the context here, which Hillman in his article ignores, is that Colorado has a transgender legislator, whom her Republican "colleagues" often have treated horribly.

Legislative Updates

Kopel on Gun Bills: On "assault" guns: "HB24-1292 is self-refuting. Its stated purpose is to prevent 'ease of use,' making firearms use difficult for non-experts. The stated purpose is obviously unconstitutional and disdainful of lawful self-defense. . . . The bill falsely asserts that features which improve accuracy are 'not suitable for self defense . . . or any purpose other than mass killing.' Then the bill irrationally puts those same 'mass killing' weapons, 'not suitable for self-defense' in the hands of Colorado peace officers." Note that the bill is sponsored by self-pronounced socialists Tim Hernández and Elisabeth Epps. Epps also sometimes claims to advocate "abolition" of police and of incarceration for criminals. The legislature killed another "assault" gun ban, bill 1230. On "safe" zones: "Because 5 out of 6 mass public shooters prefer 'gun-free zones,' it is almost inevitable that the drastic expansion of 'gun-free zones' in SB24-131 will result in more mass public shootings."

Housing Bills: Hat tip to YIMBY Denver for references to three housing bills. Bill 1007 would limit local residential occupancy limits. Bill 1152 would limit local restrictions on accessory dwelling units. Bill 1313 would limit local housing controls around transit hubs. Good ideas all.

Transparency: The Gazette, Kyle Clark, and the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition agree that Democrats acted horribly by passing bill 157, excluding various informal communications among legislators from the open meeting laws. But the argument against the bill is pretty weak. The argument for it is straightforward: Overly strict application of open-meeting laws discourages the sort of communications necessary for a functional legislature. Yes, when the legislature is in session, when any subset of the legislature is in formal proceedings, all that properly is open to the public. But if legislators can't even text each other without huge open-meeting compliance costs, often instead they will not communicate at all, which obviously is a ridiculous outcome. In a representative system of government, at a certain point we have to trust the people we elect to do their jobs.

HVAC Bill: Cory Gaines suggests that, according to bill 1352, you can get a heat pump only with electrical-resistance backup, not gas backup. But the language he screen-captures is from a definitions section for an "eligible cold-climate heat pump or ground-source heat pump," as distinguished from a regular "heat pump." To see what that language means you have to read deeper into the bill. (This bill is a daunting 42 pages of legalese.) The language in question is from a section on tax credits. Electrical-resistance backup is absurdly inefficient, and at this point it is usually powered by natural gas anyway (at the power station). So I do question the wisdom of incentivizing specifically electrical-resistance backup.

Job Killers: The Colorado Chamber of Commerce criticized "job killer" bills in the legislature. At issue are bills cutting back on oil and gas, regulating driving for work, moving toward "single payer" (government controlled) health care, and more.

Quick Takes

Child Welfare: A damning ProPublica article by Eli Hager (also published by the Denver Post) paints a picture of a foster care system badly biased against the parents (especially poor parents) and in favor of foster parents seeking custody. One woman in particular, hired by foster families to provide expert testimony, consistently sided with her paying clients, based her reviews on short periods of observation, and cut-and-pasted text from case to case. This is a tough problem, though. The state can err either by removing a child from a loving family or by failing to remove a child from an abusive family. It wasn't too long ago that local papers ran stories about the second type of problem. Bluntly, there is very little institutional incentive to make the right calls, although I do not doubt that individual actors typically (or at least often) have the best interests of the child at heart.

Oltmann: Kyle Clark: Joe Oltmann, who previously called for Governor Polis to be executed, now says that Joe Biden should be executed for treason. Why anyone empowers this dangerous fanatic is beyond me.

Blocking Trump: Quentin Young has out a really interesting article about how Colorado still could block Trump from the ballot. Colorado should do this but won't. As a practical matter, no one thinks Trump will take Colorado anyway. Still, it's an interesting idea, the thrust of which is that the legislature could pass a statute barring insurrectionists.

Polis on Housing: Jared Polis takes an admirable pro-property-rights position with respect to housing in a recent interview with Reason.

Buck: Ken Buck announced he was leaving his Congressional seat early, apparently to screw with Lauren Boebert (he denies that's his motivation). Which is delightful. Boebert would have had to resign her seat to run in the special election. But she's still running for the seat this Fall, opening the possibility that someone else will represent the Fourth Congressional for mere months.

Recycling: Ed Sealover: "The long-anticipated price tag for Colorado to establish a statewide recycling system is in—as much as $310 million to implement a recommended 'medium' option among three choices, all to be paid by consumer-product manufacturers who use paper and packaging."

Homeschooling Law: Bill Kottenstette works for the Department of Education and advises the state Board of Education. As I noted in a recent article for Complete Colorado, the board aimed to cut off tax-backed reimbursements for homeschool families. In a March 12 email, I asked Kottenstette, "You and others claimed in the mid-February meeting that My Tech High reimbursement funds are the equivalent of education savings accounts. But there are substantial differences between an educational savings account and what MTH offers. I heard multiple times during the meeting that such reimbursements are 'illegal,' but I did not see any concrete evidence of that. (The fact that the legislature has not acted to implement educational savings accounts or vouchers does not constitute evidence that the sort of reimbursements at hand are illegal.) Can you please provide me with the relevant statutes, if any, indicating that parental reimbursements are illegal?" Rather than respond with a relevant statute, Kottenstette claimed that the board is acting according to alleged "legislative intent." In other words, rather than take responsibility for its actions, the board is trying to hide behind the legislature by imagining the "intent" of the legislature, even if not stated in law.

Licensing of Subs: If you read the Colorado Times Recorder, the efforts of the Elizabeth School District to recruit unlicensed substitute teachers is part of some nefarious plot. But the superintendent of the district, Dan Snowberger, points out that his district simply has not been able to recruit enough licensed substitutes to fill the slots. And is there any evidence that licensed substitutes are more effective than unlicensed ones? I doubt it!

Scooters: Electric scooters are energy efficient, writes Michael Booth. No doubt, but they're also an efficient way to put yourself in the hospital, and they suck to ride if you have a load or if the weather is bad. Here is the more-important news: "Buses are great—when full. But the average bus trip only has seven or eight passengers, making a commuting journey on a diesel-powered bus one of the least efficient per-passenger-mile methods when greenhouse gases are accounted for, according to CSU engineering researcher Noah Horesh."

USPS: There's a big political fight over whether the United States Postal Service should send Western Slope mail to Denver for processing before returning it to the Western Slope. Maybe that would be more efficient. The real issue is the USPS should be privatized.

Herod: Bente Birkeland: "Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod has secured a year-long protection order against a woman who has publicly accused her of sexual assault, after a judge found the woman's claims to be 'wholly unsubstantiated.'"

EpiPen Price Controls: Surprise, surprise: Price controls, this time on epipens, tend to be a disaster.

Gender Pay Gap: I was pleasantly surprised that Tamara Chuang included relevant context in her article on the gender pay gap, consisting of a quote from "Julie Percival, regional economist for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics": "As a woman, I would love to see perfect parity. But you've got to keep in mind that women and men tend to go into different occupations. That's what we see in the population at large (and) we do tend to see that women in occupations that they trade off pay for either benefits, flexibility or other things and that men focus on higher incomes." Now, you could argue that, with better support systems, women would not have to disproportionately make those trade-offs. On the other side, it's possible that some women prefer to make such trade-offs.

Real Estate Rules: It's no secret that generally I oppose antitrust laws. But here's something peculiar about Sarah Mulholland's article on a huge antitrust case involving realtors: It doesn't mention that realtors are licensed by government. So here is a case of government creating a monopoly only so it can act against the monopoly.

Butterflies: The Butterfly Pavilion is teaming up with CSU "to increase research, conservation and management of invertebrate species, engage and provide opportunities for aspiring biologists, ecologists, agriculturalists and conservationists working globally, and connect that work to the public, creating more awareness and support for invertebrates."

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