03 July 2006

Bernie Buescher's Stroke of Genius

On July 5, 2006, Bernie Buescher (D-Grand Junction), the chair of the Joint Budget Committee, will hold hearings in anticipation of Colorado's special session on the subject of certain issues that the Governor has declared emergencies. The main one is immigration. Limiting common law marriage for juveniles, and abolishing slavery in Colorado (keeping slaves, per se, is not a state law crime in Colorado, although it is under federal law which applies in Colorado, who knew?) are also on the agenda.

The JBC hopes to find out from state departments three things in

1. What services does the department currently provide for illegal
immigrants, and what are the costs?
2. Are those costs paid for out of the General Fund, cash funds or
federal funds?
3. What would it cost to screen for citizenship before departmental
services are provided? How much additional personnel would be needed?

Agenda for the hearing in the JBC room:

9:00 - 9:30 Department of Corrections
9:30 - 10:00 Department of Health Care Policy Financing
10:00 - 10:30 Department of Higher Education/Colorado Commission on Higher
10:30 - 10:45 Break
10:45 - 11:15 Department of Human Services
11:15 - 11:45 Judicial Department
11:45 - 1:30 Lunch
1:30 - 2:00 Department of Labor and Employment
2:00 - 2:30 Department of Public Health and Environment
2:30 - 3:00 Department of Revenue
3:00 - 3:30 Department of State

*This agenda is subject to change
*The meeting will be held on the 3rd Floor of the Legislative Services
Building, located on the southeast corner of 14th and Sherman, across from
the state Capitol.

In short, these hearings should ferret out whether Governor Owens is justified in pushing a ballot measure to deny state services to illegal immigrants. Obviously, it puts Republicans and Owens, in particular, in a tough spot.

If his appointees say: "Yes, I'm using tax dollars to provide services to illegal immigrants, but I don't have to do that.", the obvious follow up question is, "Why hasn't Governor Owens taken action under existing law?"

If his appointees say: "No, there are no tax dollars being used to provide non-emergency, non-federally mandated services to illegal immigrants, it is already against the law.", the obvious follow up question is, "Why is it an emergency to pass a new law to say that?"

And, if his appointees say, "I'm using tax dollars to provide services to illegal immigrants that are neither emergency services, nor federally mandated, because state law requires me to do so.", which I suspect that very few will, then the next question is, "Would it cost more tax dollars to control provision of these services based on citizenship than to provide them to everyone?" If the answer is yes, then again, there is no reason to act. If the answer is no, in some isolated instance, in a particular department, then that issue can be addressed with a targetted statute, rather than a ballot measure.

How can Governor Owens complain about such an approach when it is entirely rooted in testimony from his own appointees?

Once again, Bernie Buescher is showing Democrats the power of being reality based. His leadership on this issue, in taking a fact based approach to dealing with immigration issues facing the state should be an example to the entire Democratic party leadership.

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