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Watching our legislature

Published 13 Mar 2011 in The Denver Post
Copyright ©2011 by Ed Quillen. All rights reserved.

Like a good citizen, I try to follow our General Assembly, but it hasn't been a pleasant process this year.

For instance, there was H.B. 1104, which would have required the Department of Revenue to tally up state taxes that might have been collected were it not for various income-tax credits, sales-tax exemptions, federal income-tax deductions and severance-tax exemptions.

Nobody seems to know exactly how much they amount to -- one estimate is a $2.2 billion a year loss in state revenue -- but it makes sense to learn the total and find out whether these hidden subsidies are serving any useful public purpose. It especially makes sense when the state budget is pinched.

So I hoped it would pass. But a House committee voted 7-6 to table it indefinitely, which is a technical term the legislature uses for "killed it because it might offend some campaign contributors who like the sweet deals they're currently getting from the state." Or perhaps they just had a problem with transparency and fairness. Most of us will continue to pay higher state taxes to make up for the taxes not being collected from parties whose names remain hidden.

Then there was the proposal to restore the sales-tax exemption on soda, apparently on the grounds that carbonated concoctions of high-fructose corn syrup are actually nutritious "food," and struggling families shouldn't have to pay a 2.9 percent sales tax on it.

Granted, the stuff does create jobs for dentists, weight-loss specialists and diabetes caregivers, so I suppose there's a certain logic to making pop slightly more affordable. And hey, while they're at it, go ahead and eliminate those job-killing taxes on tobacco, beer and whiskey, too.

I've also been trying to follow legislation supported by our secretary of state, Scott Gessler, who wants to protect us from voting by non-citizens, even if it hasn't been much of a problem in Colorado.

He testified last week in support of House Bill 1252, which would give him the authority to request proof of citizenship from any voter who he "believes is not a citizen of the United States."

This got me to wondering. I've been voting regularly in Colorado for nearly 40 years, but how could I prove I was a citizen if the secretary of state came calling?

After all, I have brown eyes and live in a town with a Spanish name, on soil that was once part of Mexico. Certainly "reasonable" grounds for suspicion for some people these days, especially since I often vote for candidates who are not from Gessler's party.

I don't have a passport. I don't even know where my birth certificate is, and I don't know what that would prove anyway. It describes a 19-inch-long male human who weighs 7 pounds, 3 ounces. That could fit about half the people who are of my approximate age.

There''s an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in some box in our cellar, but the DD-214 doesn't describe me and besides, it proves nothing about citizenship -- back in the day, I knew a couple of resident aliens who got drafted.

I do have a photo ID, a state driver's license, but all that really proves is residence and the ability to pass a test, not citizenship.

If Geissler gets his way, I'll have to shell out $165 for a passport, just to be sure I can vote in my own country. That should cut down on the number of people voting, which is likely what Gessler really wants, despite all his expressed concerns that "thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote in Colorado."


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