Time for Republicans to suck it up and produce

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

The repeal-and-replace debacle ought to be a cold shower for every Republican in Washington. It demonstrated that with so many Republicans advancing their own agenda, the party’s lawmakers can’t shoot straight – except at each other.

Republicans of all stripes now face the urgent task of proving that they can actually deliver on their promises. Stop racing to the TV cameras and start governing.

Republicans must produce results well before the 2018 election or they will deserve to be thrown out.

This isn’t as difficult as it might appear. President Trump is no policy wonk. With few exceptions, he cares more about “winning” than about details. Help him win, and he’ll be your ally. Embarrass him, and he’ll bargain with Democrats – including for future Supreme Court appointments.Read More

Restoring market forces isn’t as simple as repealing old laws

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

As a believer that market forces are better at serving consumers than are government regulators, I found de-regulation one of the most challenging issues while I served in the Colorado Senate.

When government intervenes, it always tilts the playing field.  Sometimes it does this for ostensibly good reasons – most notably to provide all Coloradans with electricity and telephone service as was done predominately in the first half of the 20th century.

But decades later, de-regulating those areas in order to promote competition turned out to be more complicated than just repealing old statutes.  Technology ultimately made local telephone monopolies obsolete, but before that happened, fights over bills to allow local competition were cutthroat.Read More

What are GOP leaders thinking?

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

As rank-and-file Republicans, we have a tendency to tear down the people we’ve long known and trusted about five minutes after they are elevated into “leadership.” It’s easy to forget that the “burden of leadership,” truly is a burden. Most notably, it’s burdened by the reality of the way things are, as opposed to the idealism of the way we wish them to be.

So, as a conservative who once carried that burden in a relatively minor way and who for the last decade has been quite content to rejoin the grassroots, I encourage my fellow Republicans to take time to consider why our party’s elected leaders sometimes make decisions that run counter to our first instincts.

After all, these are conscientious people who earned the trust of their constituents and their fellow lawmakers. They don’t grow horns the moment they are elected to leadership.Read More

Hard to blame Trump for fighting back vs. media

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Donald Trump’s congenital belligerence may not wear well with the public over the next four years, but it’s been certainly central to a persona that has regularly defied “normal” expectations and won an ardent corps of loyalists.

Trump’s irreverence for political correctness, the media, and the “establishment” resonates with a large swath of the public that’s sick and tired of being told what to think by people who consider themselves better, smarter and more sophisticated than the rest of us.

Trump’s shut down of CNN reporter Jim Acosta (“Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news.”), during an inaugural week press conference, was a satisfying display of Trump’s punch-back style. He was particularly incensed that CNN had promoted a dubious Buzzfeed posting of an unsubstantiated “intelligence memo” that claimed Russia had compromising information about him.

Most politicians “play nice” to seek favorable – or, at least, fair –treatment from the dominant liberal media. For Democrats, that’s easy because the overwhelming share of reporters supports the Democrat agenda.

Trump’s approach is more confrontational. If the press is out to get him (which, by and large, it is), then why not drop the pretense of mutual respect?Read More

Hard to sympathize with higher ed budget ballad

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

The spending lobby at the State Capitol is shameless in its clamoring for higher taxes on Colorado’s families and businesses.  The latest chorus of woe comes from the ivory tower of academia.

Colorado’s public four-year institutions enroll some 175,000 students and employee about 25,000 staff.  Yet during the past seven years, these same schools have added nearly as many employees (3,537) as students (3,664).  That’s right: enrollment grew by just 2% but the number of employees increased by 17% during a period of supposed budget austerity.

Lumping K-12 schools into the same complaint merely employs the tired tactic of using school children as a ploy to bolster spending elsewhere.  Arguments that K-12 schools are shortchanged carry far more weight than cries of poverty from denizens of the ivory tower who supplement taxpayer funds with students’ tuition.

Consider some key figures measuring growth in Colorado’s economy and state budget since 2010:

  • Population, up 10%.
  • Personal income, up 33%.
  • General fund spending, up 49%.
  • Total state spending, up 35%.
  • K-12 general fund spending, up just 16%.
  • Higher education general fund, up 103%; total spending, up 55%.

Read More

Here’s why I’m voting YES on Amendment 71 – Raise the Bar

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

Let’s face facts:  In 2016, new amendments to Colorado’s state constitution are more likely to diminish our rights than to protect them.

So the more I hear arguments about Amendment 71, the more I’m convinced that we need to vote yes to “Raise the Bar” to make it harder to amend our state constitution.

Colorado’s bill of rights covers the essentials: inalienable rights to life, property and pursuit of happiness; free exercise of religion; freedom of speech and of the press; right to bear arms; no taking of private property without just compensation; security from unreasonable search and seizure.

However, the Colorado constitution lacks the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution, which can be amended only by supermajorities — a two-thirds vote of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and ratification by three-fourths of the States.

The U.S. Constitution purposefully requires consensus and deliberation and discourages impulsiveness in order to protect our rights.

Colorado’s constitutional process is a product of the Progressive Era, which viewed the U.S. Constitution as outdated, so Colorado voters in 1910 approved a new process of citizen-initiated amendments: one vote, one time.  This is a tool for impulsiveness.Read More

Embracing ObamaCare caused Colorado budget crunch

In Blog, Capitol Review, Notes by Mark Hillman

The newest dubious justification for weakening Colorado’s limits on government spending is “our aging population.”

The spending lobby seeks to frighten senior citizens by telling them that the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) in our state constitution “hampers the ability to fund key programs.”

Parents are told that public schools are in a squeeze because state government needs more money.  But ask why social welfare spending is growing three times as fast as spending on education, and you’re told it’s because Medicaid has enrolled more children and senior citizens – as if that happened merely by chance.

Those explanations ignore some inconvenient facts.Read More

Colorado’s budget problem is spending on entitlements

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

So much chatter at the State Capitol is that Colorado’s government doesn’t have enough money to spend on programs that politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists want to pay for with our tax dollars.

Any discussion of government spending should begin with the basics:

• Government’s job is to work for us – not vice versa.

• Colorado is a collection of working families and business owners who comprise an economy.  We happen to have a government, which we elect. Colorado is not a government that happens to have an economy and five million citizens.

• We expect those we elect to make tough decisions with limited resources – just like we do everyday.

The problem with Colorado’s state budget is not that taxpayers are paying too little or that the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) is too restrictive.  The problem is that, over the last 10 years, the ruling Democrats have over-promised social welfare entitlements which are now devouring everything else.Read More

Our schools are strangled by data-collection overload

In Notes by Mark Hillman

When discussion of K-12 education focuses on partisan funding battles, we sometimes ignore measures to improve our schools that ought to receive bipartisan support.

Over the past two decades, lawmakers, as well as state and federal bureaucrats, have handed down overwhelming mandates for collection of information about students and teachers. (No doubt, I voted for some of these mandates during my years in the Colorado Senate.)Read More

Prosecution, Persecution & Government Intimidation

In Blog, Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

“I love my country, but I fear my government” once struck me as a bit paranoid.  However, recent accounts of citizens who’ve fallen into bureaucrats’ crosshairs is a reminder that “just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after me.”

Consider these examples of government run amok:

Oregan ranchers Steven and Dwight Hammond face five years in a federal prison after two controlled burns drifted past their property boundary and onto federal property.  Judges ruled that one fire might have caused $100 in damage to federal land while another “burned about an acre.”

Still, the Hammonds who, even prosecutors admit, “have done wonderful things in their community,” were prosecuted under a federal anti-terorrism law that mandates a five-year minimum sentence.Read More