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Open House



The Legislature is in session.

Five simple words, and what terrors they evoke! There are 100 elected legislators up in Denver who believe that they were put on this earth to regulate the behavior of their fellow citizens. And since they can, with the governor's assent, cause their whims to become law, we've got plenty to worry about.

To listen to the dowdy blowhards in the Legislature, you'd think they're focusing their energies on the Big Problems: Guns, Growth, Education and Taxes. They'll certainly talk endlessly about all four, but they won't actually, like, do anything meaningful. Here's why.

Guns: None of the feeble measures contemplated by the Legislature will make the slightest difference in the availability of firearms, for good or for ill. Why? Because there are 65 million handguns already out there in America, and nothing that the Legislature can or will do changes that fact.

Growth: What's the difference between smart growth and dumb growth? None.

Smart growth means small handouts for some developers; dumb growth means just what we have now. Ours is an economy addicted to growth, with bloated construction and real-estate sectors. We all want to preserve our state, but not if it means that housing starts might fall by 50 percent. Our pols may be ignorant, but they're not stupid; they know what we really want, in our dark and secret souls. Our own comfort and security comes first; everything else is a distant second.

Education: Simply put, there are a lot of Republicans who would like to close down the public schools. Why?

Not because the schools are failing in their basic educational mission. Republicans dislike public schools, because they think teachers are Democrats, busily teaching kids to become anti-corporate environmentalists, human-rights activists, and freethinkers.

Of course, given that teachers work for peanuts in oppressive, highly regulated, irrational and frustrating work environments, how could they not be Democrats? But since the GOPsters can't quite muster the votes to shut down the schools, they'll do the next best thing: Pass a bunch of laws that will make teachers spend more time jumping through bureaucratic hoops, thereby making the schools worse.

Remember, to a Republican legislator, "local control," like temperance, is something to praise, not to practice. Local school boards, and local governments in general, can't be trusted to know what's best for their own communities.

Taxes: The governor and the Legislature will certainly pass some sort of tax cut, praising themselves fulsomely for running a tight ship and lessening our fearsome tax burden. In fact, they're simply responding to the built-in mandates of Doug Bruce's TABOR amendment, which, by limiting the growth of state government, forces either a tax cut or a refund.

And speaking of the Dougster, we should be in for an amusing few months if his latest tax-cut initiative gets on the November ballot. It's an eminently democratic, wholly fair and strikingly egalitarian measure that, if it passes, will suck an astonishing amount of money out of state government. Sure, it's bad public policy, but it highlights the difference between a sluggish, do-nothing Legislature and a single fiery activist.

Will it pass? Dunno, but in a pitched battle between Doug Bruce and the entire Colorado business and political establishment, my money's on Doug. He may be crazy, but he's smart; they're not.

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