Soap Box

Pasternak's Artifact
05/30/2019

Near the end of pages,
after the years of yearning,
he sees her in the crowd.
His heart races!
He jumps from the tram,
running toward her.
She melds in the crowd.
He falls.
His heart shatters
like fine crystal on stone,
leaving only shards
to be swept
into the gutter of indifference.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

Donald Trump's endless IRS audit
05/30/2019

To the editor,

Thanks for all who paid taxes in 2018. After reading information on the new proposed tax change, it’s just crazy. Sen. Ted Cruz along with 29 GOP co-sponsors has called to abolish the IRS.

With the audits for the wealthy 1 percent decreasing from 8 percent in 2011 to just 2.5 percent in 2017, I guess it’s a way to make America great again.

Revenue from audits in 2010 were $5.1 billion, and audits in 2017 $1.9 billion. That is not a very good way to pay down the debt. I guess that’s why Trump says he is under audit. By law, he still can show us his taxes even under audit – an audit lasting over two years. Come on, the IRS has dedicated workers.

I hope Trump pays his taxes, and so do his grown children Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric, who are always in the limelight working for daddy in some way.

Read, read, read ... you will see for yourself.

– Bob Battani, Durango

Fruitful season at the state Capitol
05/30/2019

To the editor,

Legislators passed many great bills this session, and I am proud to add several of my own to that lineup, all of which passed with bipartisan support.

• HB19-1262: State Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten - Many districts already offer full-day kindergarten, but at a great expense to either the district or the parents. This bill frees up money for both, while also offering 5,000 more preschool slots for at-risk children.

• HB19-1113: Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts - Taxpayers will no longer have to pay when a mine files for bankruptcy. This is good for our environment and water, while keeping the mining industry moving forward.

• HB19-1006: Wildfire Mitigation Wildland-Urban Interface Areas - This bill adds funding to help homeowners prepare their property for fire suppression.

• SB19-009: Financial Incentives for Rural Educators - This bill modifies and expands a current law offering stipends of up to $6,000 to educators who agree to teach in a rural school for at least two years.

• HB19-1002: Leadership Professional Development for School Principals - This bill creates a program to identify high-quality principals who can act as mentors and provide leadership development to other principals. Many teachers leave the teaching profession because they want better leadership.

• HB19-1202: Food Systems Advisory Council - The bill matches up food producers with consumers & provides research on food & nutrition assistance, market development, farm-to-school programs & institutional procurement.

• SB19-020-Wildland Fire Airspace Patrol System: This will help ensure airspace is clear above wildfires and give our firefighters the tools they need to keep our homes, communities and themselves safe. This creates a study on methods to monitor airspace above wildfires to ensure they are clear of drones and other civilian aircraft.

• SB19-246: Public School Funding - This bill pays down state school districts’ budget stabilization factor by $100 million; funds rural schools an extra $20 million; increases funds by $20 million for Tier B special education students; and changes funding for English-learning students, focusing on those who need it most.

• SB19-190: Teacher Preparation Program Support - The bill adopts guidelines and best practices for teacher preparation programs, providing stipends for supervising teachers, extending student teaching to one year and requiring all educators be trained in how to teach reading.

• SB19-010: Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools - This bill, funded with money from the marijuana cash fund, adds mental health services to the list of grants available to educators.

• SB19-007: Prevent Sexual Misconduct at Higher Ed Campuses - Each Colorado institution of higher education is now required to adopt, review and update a policy on sexual misconduct. The bill establishes minimum requirements, including reporting options, procedures and protections. Institutions will promote the policy by posting information on their websites, distributing policy information and providing training on awareness and prevention of sexual misconduct.

• SB19-003: Educator Loan Forgiveness Program - This bill establishes a program to help principals, educators and special service providers pay their college loans. They must contract to work in a rural school or in a subject of high need, such as math, science, special education or foreign languages. Educators may receive up to $5,000 for each year of employment for up to five years.

• HB19-1051: Colorado Department of Public Safety Human Trafficking-Related Training: This bill provides human trafficking training to law enforcement, organizations that provide services to victims, school personnel and parents, and any other entity that may benefit.

• HB19-1186: School Employment Background Check Clarification – Currently in many areas, only private firms offer background checks for employment applicants in school districts. This bill allows checks to be offered by a qualified law enforcement agency, an authorized employee or any third-party vendor within 20 miles of a school.

• SB19-018: Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Age - This bill decreases the age for obtaining a commercial driver’s license from 21 to 18. This offers good-paying jobs for high school graduates and helps with the drastic truck driver shortage in Colorado.

• HB19-1254: Notice Requirements Employees Sharing Gratuities - This bill clarifies that if a business requires its employees to share gratuities, that each patron be notified of this in writing either on the menu, receipt or table. Customers will have clearer notice of where their money is going.

We stepped up and delivered real results this legislative session and it’s an honor to serve this district.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango

The conservation scorecards are in
05/30/2019

To the editor,

The League of Conservation Voters tracks the votes of our legislators and publishes a scorecard each year. It’s a way to advocate for sound environmental laws and hold elected officials accountable for their votes and actions. Zero is the lowest score possible, 100 the highest in standing up for a clean, healthy environment.

Sen. Cory Gardner’s scorecard in 2018: 7 percent of the time he was an environmental champion. (So far in 2019 his score is 0 percent.) Rep. Scott Tipton: 9 percent. Sen. Michael Bennet: 100 percent. Sen. Gardner and Rep. Tipton are both up for re-election next year.

– Jo Ann Kopke, Bayfield

Defending single-payer health care
05/23/2019

To the editor,

The corporations fighting against Medicare for All are powerful and well-funded. Drugmakers, insurance companies and private hospitals have banded together, calling themselves the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future. Spending a combined $143 million last year lobbying lawmakers to oppose Medicare for All, this rich and mighty club includes the American Medical Association, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, the Federation of American Hospitals and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

On the flip side, more doctors now support Medicare for All, even if it means slightly lower salaries. A registered Republican, working at a gene sequencing firm, says that despite growing up a conservative, he never imagined supporting potential “government largesse” like Medicare for All. But now he’s convinced that a single public payer is needed.

“Medicare is, without question, the most reliable, most predictable payer that we deal with,” he said. “And for somebody like me it would be a dream to only have to deal with them. I guess you could count me as pro-Medicare for All, a sentence I never thought I’d write 15 years ago.”

Private payers make life virtually impossible for smaller providers because they’re in the for-profit game, he said, putting up “an endless set of traps against reimbursement, contracting and other parts of the revenue life cycle that add substantial cost to services and thus increase cost to the consumer.”

Medicare for All would bring reliability and consistency to the current health care mess. Lower prices for our health care will follow.

– Dr. Lauri Costello, Durango