Every politician flaps his gums about the need for transparency in government. And then nearly every politician votes to keep what they do opaque.
This reality gives us two lessons. One, nearly every politician is two-faced. We must judge actions, not words. And two, if we want transparency in government, we’ll have to make it happen ourselves — yet again.
Even though the Legislature consistently makes the right of petition harder and more expensive here in Colorado, our citizen’s-initiative process is the only real check-and-balance to smoke-filled backroom government.
Coloradans clearly wanted term limits. So of course, legislators never pass them. Why shorten their own reigns? It only happened here because of the citizen-initiative process.
We wanted to vote on tax and debt increases. But why would legislators ask your consent before pilfering more of your money. Our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) only exists because of the citizen’s-initiative process.
And when the Legislature continued raising taxes without consent by labeling them “fees,” citizens had to initiate and pass Prop 117, requiring large “fee” increases go to the people. (They’re weaseling around that too by breaking big “fees” into smaller ones.)
A bill to allow, not even require, hospitals to show the mandatory Hospital Provider “Fee,” a bed tax, on your hospital invoice was killed by transparency-loving Democrats in its first and only committee hearing.
Colorado’s Open Meetings laws wouldn’t be what they are if just left to legislators. Yep, thank citizen’s initiatives. Same for our open records laws, and on and on.
Simple transparency is loathed by those in government. Here’s a case in point.
For about a decade, every other year or so, a bill would be introduced to require that a school district’s negotiations with a school union be open to the public.
After all, it is the most important decision a school board makes, and those negotiations greatly impact parents, their kids, teachers and (as if they mattered) taxpayers.
Each time the bill was introduced to change that, it was killed in committee, never to get even a full floor vote.
So, in 2014 we at Independence Institute brought forward a citizen’s initiative to open those negotiations up to the public and media.
Colorado voters passed it by a shattering 70% to 30%.
The people of Colorado overwhelmingly wanted this simple transparency, so the Legislature overwhelmingly killed it every time it came to them. Government for the people, indeed.
We want transparency in government-run education. This sentiment has only grown stronger since the COVID lockdowns. Why? Parents got to hear what their kids were really being taught!
Many of us suspected the political editorializing, propagandizing and questionable subject matter being thrown at our kids in school, but when we heard it for ourselves coming out of our kid’s computers, it became real, no longer rumor.
This session State Rep. Tim Geitner (R-Falcon) brought forward a bill for simple curriculum transparency so that parents could see the educational materials and guest speakers before their kids went to school. I can’t imagine a more harmless bill.
Parents have the right to pull their kid from a lesson they find objectionable. But how can you judge a lesson if you can’t see the educational tools first?
Parents shouldn’t have to wait until their kids come home with handouts and reading materials before they get even a hint of what’s already been taught.
This will shock you, but the bill was killed in committee like a death-row inmate, if we had those anymore.
So back to the people we go… again.
Last week, I filed a new citizens initiative, and I’m honored to have Tim Geitner as my co-sponsor, that expands Colorado’s Open Records Act (CORA) to allow parents to access the teaching materials to be used in their kid’s public school.
It doesn’t give parents power to cancel or alter a curriculum. Assuming we can get enough signatures to get it on the ballot, and voters pass it this fall, it just gives parents the power to see the educational materials their kids are going to see, if they want.
For a group of people who love pushing solar power on people, our state legislators really hate sunshine.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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