Colorado Editorial Roundup


A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:

The Denver Post, April 20, on the weakening of a modest bill on child vaccination:

Score one for vaccine skeptics.

In a disappointing move, a legislative committee last week gutted a modest bill designed to make sure parents were fully informed before deciding to invoke "personal beliefs" in opting out of vaccinating their children.

Colorado requires children to be vaccinated against preventable diseases before they can attend public schools.

They should be, with exemptions for kids who cannot be vaccinated for important medical reasons, such as having compromised immune systems.

But that's not the case in Colorado, which allows parents to evade that requirement with no explanation, which in turn has led to one of the lower vaccination rates in the country. It's no coincidence that the state also has had dangerous outbreaks of whooping cough.

In an effort to improve safety, particularly for children who cannot be vaccinated, lawmakers took a tentative step toward tightening up the exemption policy by proposing that parents first obtain medical information about the pros and cons of vaccination before being able to opt out.

Yet even that element died in committee. What's left in House Bill 1288 is a requirement that schools report vaccination rates.

Parents of children who cannot be immunized will want to know those statistics, and could find themselves in the position of having to pull their children from a school with high opt-out rates.

That puts the burden on the wrong party.

The bill should be restored to its original form, and if Colorado's vaccine opt-out rates don't improve, lawmakers should tighten the screws further on the loose personal belief exemption.



The Aurora Sentinel, Aug. 18, on raises for the City Council:

We're pretty sure that if you got a chance to vote on whether Aurora City Council members should raise their own salaries by paying themselves to attend city council meetings, you would vote, "no."

We would. But a slim majority of sly city lawmakers have made it so you won't get the opportunity to vote on the issue of city council pay.

In one of the sorriest and most insulting end runs around city law we've seen in a long time, city council voted this week to bypass the law and raise their own pay.

The measure passed 6-5, with council members Debi Hunter-Holen, Molly Markert, Bob Broom, Renie Peterson and Bob LeGare voting no. Mayor Steve Hogan made a rare tie-breaking vote in favor of the move.

For the past few months, city council members have been talking about raising the salary of city lawmakers and the mayor. Under Aurora's charter, lawmakers must ask voters for raises.

Council decided last week they would not ask voters in November to increase council pay from around $13,000 a year to $40,000 a year, and the mayor's pay from $56,000 a year to $80,000 a year, Aurora Sentinel reporter Rachel Sapin wrote this week.

Instead, they gave themselves an approximate $2,000-a-year pay hike, and more for the mayor, by approving a measure that would pay council members $100 to attend city council committee meetings, about two each per month. The mayor or his designee gets $100 for each meeting he or she has an official presence at, creating a pool of about $25,000 to split up.

While the sham may not technically violate Aurora's laws, it absolutely was created to bypass them.

It could well be that most Aurora residents would support increasing the pay of city council, and especially the full-time mayor. We would.

It's impractical and inequitable to tie city lawmakers' pay to the number of meetings they attend. And the contrivance here is blatant. Clearly, if the question were asked, "How can we shun city law that requires matters of city council pay to be decided only by voters and still give ourselves a raise?" this was the answer. And for a couple hundred bucks a month, six city council members sullied their reputation and that of the other opposing five who see this for what it is: shameful.

Our objection doesn't stem from begrudging city leaders well-deserved money for what is often a thankless, tedious and difficult job. We and others object because the stunt is dishonest and only serves to undermine the credibility of individual lawmakers and the city government as a whole. The scam is made worse with the logic that six city lawmakers think voters would turn a raise request down, but they want it anyway.



The Coloradoan, April 17, on the Humane Society and tail-docking:

The Humane Society of the United States probably has better things to do with its time and money than to push ballot measures in Colorado aimed at eradicating a little-used procedure from the state's dairy operations.

Since 2008, the Humane Society has asked Colorado lawmakers to ban a practice known as tail docking — the partial amputation of animals' tails to keep manure, mud and other debris off the animals' tails.

Having failed at the Legislature, however, the animal-rights group has drafted six ballot measures that would ban the procedure and make a few other changes to the way Colorado's ranchers and dairy operators handle their livestock.

In addition to the tail docking ban, the ballot initiatives — 97, 98, 99, 100, 101 and 102 — would mandate that, for livestock being tethered, those animals have enough room to turn around and stretch their limbs and that sick livestock not be sold into the market.

Additionally, the measures, some of which overlap, would change the state's animal husbandry laws.

As Colorado's laws are now, anything recognized as "accepted animal husbandry practices" isn't considered animal cruelty. But the measures would take that exemption out of the state's statute and constitution.

The ballot measures would make three changes to the state's constitution, and there are three "mirror" initiatives that would change state statute.

While we're sure the changes are well-meaning, we find it hard to believe they're really necessary. First, Colorado already ranks highly on the Humane Society's own 2013 Humane State Ranking, coming in at No. 7 in the country.

"By their own measures and rankings, we're doing the right things here," said Weld County rancher and Colorado Cattlemen's Association President Terry Fankhauser. "So why is it coming to this?"

We think it's likely that the Humane Society's effort has as much to do with raising the group's profile — and giving its fundraising efforts a boost — as it does with anything else.



The Daily Sentinel, April 17, on hard lessons learned in advocating an official state fruit:

Leave it to a 10-year-old to expose how pernicious the legislative process can be, even when dealing with the most benign subject matter imaginable — peaches.

Who doesn't love a peach? Especially one from Palisade. Nick Babiak, a fourth-grader from Denver, is a big fan of the succulent fruit. So much so that he set out on a mission to make Palisade peaches the state's official fruit.

Sounds like a delicious idea. But in the political arena, nothing is ever simple. The youngster has learned as much about how a bill becomes a law — or doesn't — as your average freshman lawmaker.

Babiak's measure, sponsored by Sen. Steve King, has drawn opposition from farmers who question whether it's smart or fair to confer official state status on one Colorado agricultural product at the expense of others — namely Rocky Ford melons.

Babiak impressed a House committee last month "when he offered a salient argument for why the Palisade peach should be the state fruit, presenting factual data that shows the produce far outsells any other in the state, generates thousands of jobs and is known throughout the nation," the Sentinel's Charles Ashby reported in Wednesday's edition.

When melon producers objected, Babiak countered with the most astute argument possible: "The cantaloupe isn't a fruit," he said — so it shouldn't be part of a discussion to block the peach from consideration.

He points to U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado Department of Agriculture reports that both list cantaloupe as a vegetable because it's in the squash family.

Nevertheless, Babiak — not wanting to trigger a fruit fight — offered to amend his bill to make the Palisade peach the state's official stone-fruit, leaving open the door for other fruit and vegetable growers to promote their own measures in the Legislature. But that still may not work. Opponents appear dead-set against any measure that highlights any form of produce over another.


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