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Intense reactions on both sides of the aisle

With the signing of the federal health care bill, the beginning of the week at the state Capitol started with intense reactions from both sides of the aisle. The emotions matched the full range of those of citizens across the state.

The Colorado Republican state legislators asked Attorney General Suthers to join the lawsuit with a dozen other attorneys general from across the country to address the parts of the federal bill that force states to develop and pay for Medicaid programs that traditionally have been determined by each state.

The main concern as expressed in the lawsuit is the cost to the states of complying with the bill. This concern is all the greater because, unlike the federal government, the states have constitutional requirements to balance their budgets.

Compliance with the federal bill will mean greater growth in each state’s Medicaid program without new funding to pay for that growth. This in turn means that more budget cuts need to be made in other state agencies and programs to make up the difference or the states need to raise taxes to pay for the additional costs.

The lawsuit is principally focused on the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and questions the constitutionality of a bill that removes from the states the authority to design their own public health insurance programs. Some have called Suthers’ decision to join the suit partisan politics. Others applaud him for calling into question the federal government’s reach into traditionally state matters.

As a state legislator serving at a time when we face the unpleasant task of cutting the budget almost daily and in so many ways, I see the need to resolve this question sooner rather than later.

Citizens are passionate on both sides of the debate and the political process is incapable of resolving that discord. It’s time to call upon the third branch of government to apply reason and legal precedent to the conversation.

Personally, I’m very concerned that, on many policy fronts, we are losing the battle for a decentralized government as envisioned by those who founded our country.

I’m pleased to report that the House Joint Resolution that I sponsored this year regarding getting access to Denver television for all of southwest Colorado passed the House with full support from all of the legislators. The resolution is waiting to be heard in the Senate and once it passes there, it’ll be delivered to Colorado’s congressional delegation to hopefully help move along their efforts to prod the FCC into action on this.

It’s important to note that some residents in our region already get access to Denver television, but many do not. My bill asks the FCC to allow the customer to choose which stations he or she wants to get and doesn’t ask to eliminate the Albuquerque connections.

The bill’s similar to the one I carried two years ago, but, unfortunately, our congressional delegation was unable to make things move any further in Washington, D.C. with the Federal Communications Commission. I, like many of you, look forward to the day when I can have full access to programs from my own state, rather than from New Mexico.

Here’s hoping that the second time is the charm.

Springtime in the Rockies means sudden storms that can start in a furious rain that turns into snow, followed by sunshine. Midweek at the Capitol in Denver, we had the full range of Rocky Mountain spring weather and, for the first time in the four years that I’ve been there, we had a snow day along with Denver school children.

Closing the legislature for a heavy wet snowstorm seemed a bit wimpy to me, but Denver drivers are pretty scary in snowy conditions, so it probably was a safer way to go that day. I enjoyed the peace and near solitude of the Capitol and got a lot of desk work done.