05 July 2006

Governor Owens Suffering Short Term Memory Loss

Governor Owens called a special session of the legislature in Colorado. In fact, his call set the date of that special session for July 6, 2006. It had to be held swiftly because it was an emergency, he said. When did he issue this call?

He called the special session on June 29, 2006. This left, count them, three business days, between the date of his call, the first day of the special session.

So, what does he say when committees start holding hearings on two of the immigrations bills he's asked the legislature to urgently consider, one day before the special session begins?

Owens told the JBC this morning that he understood lawmakers need information before Thursday’s special session, but he was frustrated that it was called on such late notice and didn’t include local government officials, who feel the brunt of illegal immigration.

Governor Owens, maybe the late notice has something to do with your own actions. You have had seven and a half years to figure out what illegal immigration costs in Colorado. You didn't have to call a special session at all if you don't have your shit together, and don't know what your proposals would cost. The General Assembly routinely requires fiscal notes estimating expenses and revenues for all bill which are proposed. Given TABOR and Colorado's balanced budget requirements, it is the only way to legally pass bills. How can anybody be surprised?

The JBC chairman, Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, said he thought it was important for the legislature to have an idea of costs before voting on immigration bills.

He has asked directors from eight state agencies and the court system to testify.

"To make good decisions, we should have good data," Buescher said. "I'm puzzled as to why anyone thinks this is about Republicans or Democrats." . . .

Said Buescher: "I'm not the one who set the date of the special session. The governor did."

The Republicans like Governor Owens, JBC member, Rep. Dale Hall, R-Greeley, and Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, all seem to think that reality based, data based legislation is a horrible thing.

As a Rocky Mountain News editorial explains, the questions being asked are reasonable ones that proponents of sweeping new restrictions on providing services to illegal immigrants aren't prepared to answer. The Rocky has looked at the issue of government funding for illegal immigrant services and there isn't much to it. Their list of services available to illegal immigrants from public funds, after culling from it the services that are emergency services or federally mandated isn't a long one:

• Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program: Agency workers do not ask for a client's immigration status.

• Immunizations: Health departments and clinics generally do not ask for immigration status. They prefer to vaccinate as many people as possible to prevent disease outbreaks.

• Business license: The state does not ask for proof of immigration status.

• Public garbage pickup

• Public park use

Public garbage pickup and immunizations, of course, must be universal to protect us from disease. Business licenses are generally paid for from fees paid by applicants. Public park use costs almost nothing to provide to additional people, and would be expensive to regulate. Also, many non-citizens who use services like public parks and public garbage pickup are legal immigrants or legal visitors ot the United States that state and local governments may not legally discriminate against.

WIC and certain other public health functions are federally funded and that comes with strings attached. And, programs like WIC are typically serving very young children, born in the United States who are U.S. citizens.

The Colorado Department of Human Services said in a 2005 report on a proposed bill similar to Initiative 55 that it served 88 illegal immigrant children through protective services in fiscal 2003-04. That represents a fraction of 1 percent of the agency's total clients and budget.

Reyther-Miranda of the Denver Center for Crime Victims said most of the 80 women her agency helps every year are illegal immigrants. Among then, she estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent access some form of public benefit for their U.S. citizen children.

The Governor's proposal to ban state services to illegal immigrants, followed by surprise that it requires a fiscal note to show how much we are really spending on these purposes, illustrates nothing more than his ignorance of how state government functions and how the legislative process works.

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