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On fiscal policy, Gov. Jared Polis is often out of step with his fellow Democrats in the legislature.
While they daydreamed about a system that taxes the rich more but failed to coalesce around a 2020 ballot proposal to do just that, Polis spent two years pushing for an across-the-board income tax cut. He won that round when voters approved of a conservative group’s ballot measure.
Democratic budget officials are exploring ways to keep what could be billions in TABOR refund money, and once again may find themselves at odds with Polis, who has called the refunds “terrific news.”
It’s possible he’ll push for taxpayers, not the government, to keep the refund money. Polis typically wins stand-offs with the legislature because, after all, you can’t make a law without his signature. It’s not hard to imagine him drawing a line on this one, particularly ahead of the 2022 re-election year.
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Capitol Diary • By Erica Hunzinger
Colorado expands electronic ballot return
Most Coloradans don’t have to worry about voting access, but those who are disabled do.
Colorado had let state and local governments send disabled people an electronic copy of a ballot, but they had to print it out and return it by mail, to a drop box or in person.
State Rep. David Ortiz, a Democrat from Arapahoe County who was paralyzed from the waist down while serving in the Army, said accessing a printer was a hurdle for many people and “that’s not equity.”
It’s why he sponsored a bill this session that would let the disabled do what military members and Americans who live overseas have been able to do since 2016 — return their ballots electronically (along with a signed affidavit that helps the person’s home county identify and verify the voter). Gov. Jared Polis recently signed Ortiz’s bill — SB21-188 — into law.
Americans handle a ton of their business online, from banking to health care to keeping in touch with friends. But C. Jay Coles, a senior policy associate with Verified Voting, a nonprofit whose website said it is focused on “responsible use of technology,” cautions moving to a fully online ballot for local, state and federal elections on a broader scale.
“We shouldn’t want to vote the same way we do everything else … because while we can do those daily, routine activities safely, or reasonably safe, online, it’s not foolproof,” Coles said.
He pointed out that banks have the FDIC to protect the consumer in the event of a breach, but “there is no voting insurance.”
Paper trails allow election officials to verify what was marked, Coles said, but an electronically returned ballot takes that ability away because it could be changed from the time the voter sends it to when it’s received — perhaps through malware — and “there’s no way an election office is going to know that. So there’s no investigation that can happen.”
In the nearly five years since people overseas and military members have been able to return their Colorado ballots electronically, “there have been no instances of the system being breached,” Colorado Secretary of State spokesman Steve Hurlbert said.
“It’s important for voters to realize that, when it comes to elections, Colorado is not just an All-Star, we’re in the Hall of Fame. The Colorado election model of vote by mail for all, early voting, same-day voter registration and post-election risk-limiting audits continues to be an example for the nation,” Hurlbert told The Post in an email.
Ortiz said he wants the state to stay aware of the possible challenges that lie ahead for online voting — but not at the expense of progress.
“Let’s make sure that we’re continuing to update security and have the latest and greatest, but let’s not let fear of something that’s not concrete and unfounded keep those with a disability from equal access to voting,” he said.
More Colorado political news
- Taxpayers are due for a refund in the next three years. Democrats have a different idea.
- Senate peers of Republican Bob Gardner dismissed an ethics complaint against him.
- Check out this rundown of all the health care bills signed last week.
Federal politics • By Justin Wingerter
Boebert criticized by Auschwitz Memorial & Amache moves forward
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert was criticized last weekend by the Auschwitz Memorial for claiming that President Joe Biden is sending “Needle Nazis” to Mesa County, Colorado, to vaccinate people.
The memorial in Poland, which honors the lives of those killed at the Nazi extermination camp, tweeted that Boebert’s invocation of Nazis “to argue against vaccination that saves human lives is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”
Last Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League accused the Republican from Silt of “trivializing the Holocaust to score bogus political points. Doing so only insults and denigrates the memories of all those lost in the Shoah,” it said, using the Hebrew word for Holocaust.
Boebert’s Nazi comparisons have been condemned before. In December, she claimed Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who is Jewish, had “sent his brownshirts in to make sure everyone shuts down” their businesses during the pandemic. A local ADL branch called the analogy dangerous and demeaning to the “lives and memories of the millions who were murdered.”
A Boebert spokesman declined to comment this week.
Amache bill moves along
The House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would make Amache – a former concentration camp for Japanese Americans in southeast Colorado – a national historic site.
The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Ken Buck and Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse, passed with unanimous consent and now goes to the full House for a floor vote.
A companion bill in the Senate, introduced by Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, has not been voted on yet by a Senate committee.
Other federal politics news
- Nearly 1,800 Colorado businesses received $480 million in federal restaurant aid.
- Four days in April: How politics brought the MLB All-Star Game to Denver.
- GOP ads and Democratic rallies accompanied an unusually political All-Star Game.
- Hundreds of thousands of Colorado parents have more money in their bank accounts.
Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson
Hey now, you’re an all-STAR
As promised, Denver’s widely lauded STAR Program, which pairs mental health experts and emergency technicians with social services on certain 911 calls, is poised to grow.
The City Council approved a $1 million boost to the program Monday, though it must vote again next week to seal the deal.
The STAR Program began as a pilot in 2020 and no one who was helped by the STAR team in its first six months was arrested, Denverite reported in February.
But the program is limited to a single van with a paramedic and a clinician from the Mental Health Center of Denver in the downtown area only on weekdays, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Kelli Christensen said. Those limitations, coupled with the widely discussed potential of the program, led to a substantial funding debate late last year after which Mayor Michael Hancock promised to dedicate another $1 million in 2021.
That cash boost would raise the program’s total funding this year to $2.4 million, Christensen said.
City officials also requested another $1.4 million from the Caring for Denver Foundation, which funded the pilot, the foundation’s Executive Director Lorez Meinhold confirmed. If approved in August, the money would increase the program’s 2021 funding to $3.8 million.
The extra money will likely add another van to the program, and expand STAR’s reach beyond just the downtown corridor and maybe even into weekends, Christensen said.
More Denver and suburban political news
- Children in Denver aren’t tested enough for blood lead levels, even though federal law requires tests.
- Phil Washington took over as CEO of the Denver International Airport this week.
- Denver Water sued Boulder County in federal court, claiming commissioners are blocking a request to expand the Gross Reservoir.
- Denver Mayor Michael Hancock met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House.
- Aurora man thinks about leaving the arts and culture tax district, realizes things may have to change at state level first.
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