2019 Leg Session, Columnists, Jon Caldara, Local, Uncategorized

Caldara: Progressive version of ‘local control’ goes only one way

The legislature and our governor gave us new laws to expand “local control.”

The only problem is, it’s a complete lie. They’re trying to sell us an illusion of control when it’s the opposite.

The term “local control” is a dog whistle for us in Colorado. We like to keep government close to us, where we can keep an eye on it. Unlike many states, we keep the bulk of government on the local level with well over 4,000 local governments and special districts.

The basic core functions of government are often better supervised when kept closer to the people who are paying for it. The pothole in front of your house is more likely to get fixed sooner when you call city hall than if you had to go to the state capitol.

Our trust of local over state government is shown in how often voters say yes to tax and debt increases for local governments, contrasted to almost never for the state.

The last legislative session gave municipalities power over policy areas previously reserved for the state alone — oil and gas regulations, minimum wage and tobacco regs. Or better said, power to go in only one direction.

Cities can now raise the minimum wage, but they can’t lower it. That’s not local control. That’s a one-way ratchet.

If a community cares about protecting relationships, they’d lower the minimum wage because it is immoral for government to prohibit consensual relationships. The city of Boulder, where some are toying with the idea of raising the wage, has a proud history of fighting the hateful ban on gay marriage. It would be sad indeed if Boulder forgot that history and took the role of hater, banning consensual employer-employee relationships.

So, the city defends the right of one woman to marry another woman, but not to employ her? If they were consistent, they’d end the ban of those consensual relationships too. Cities now can raise taxes on tobacco and vape products. They can add extra regulations, even raise the age to buy them or ban them altogether. A city can’t ban vanilla-infused vodka, but now can ban vanilla-infused e-cigarettes. It also can’t lower regulations or taxes on tobacco. So, that’s not local control either. That’s just another one-way ratchet against smokers.

Oil and gas “local control” is by far the most insulting misuse of the term. Under Senate Bill 181, not only did the state come up with much more restrictive state regulations on oil and gas development, but it empowered municipalities to create even stricter regs, all the way to all-out bans. Weld County is testing the law to see if it really gives them local control, or if again it is only a one-way ratchet.

The progressives now in control of the state don’t want local control. If they did, they wouldn’t have passed the exact opposite when it came to LGBT issues. Sex education is no longer controlled by your local school district. It’s an all-or-nothing deal mandated by the state. Promote the transgender agenda or teach nothing at all.

The truth is plain. The state will permit local control only if it moves policy towards the goal of more regulation, higher taxes, fewer property rights, higher minimum wages and transsexual indoctrination. To use the word “control” is just Orwellian.

Our progressive overlords are working for the opposite of local control. They are using their one-way ratchet “local control” as a political stepping stone to get state control over their passion issues. They know full well that their new laws will create a patchwork of regulations and tax rates.

Employers can’t do business if they’re dealing with hundreds of different minimum wages across the state. Retailers can’t manage stores with thousands of different laws of what they can sell and to whom. Oil and gas are already leaving the state.

In a decade or so it will only make sense to “fix the patchwork of confusing regulations and give our friends in the business community one set of common-sense rules.” So, they will take the highest minimum wage and make that the state law, the strictest smoking regs will become the state standard, and the most restrictive oil and gas setbacks the state law.

Nobody said progressives were stupid.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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