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Colorado Editorial Roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 10, 2015 at 1:44 pm •  Published: June 10, 2015

The Daily Camera, June 1, on bringing new drugs to the market:

A key House committee's unanimous approval of a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., could herald a long-awaited breakthrough for U.S. medicine.

A regulatory breakthrough, admittedly, but an important one nonetheless.

The 21st Century Cures Act seeks to streamline the Food and Drug Administration's approval process for new drugs, among other things.

The current process of bringing new drugs and medical devices to market in the United States remains sluggish despite recent advances in biomedical science and previous attempts by Congress to streamline the process.

It is no exaggeration to say the world is enjoying a biotech and biomedical revolution, which first exploded with the mapping of the human genome and other significant discoveries. Yet, despite such breakthroughs, the average cost of bringing a new prescription drug to the market in 2014 topped $2.6 billion, while the process itself took more than 10 years, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.

One key question about the legislation is whether it will continue to ensure safety while providing reforms to speed up the development and approval process.

And will the breakthrough drugs that are eventually green-lighted for the market be affordable?

The Wall Street Journal has reported that some public safety advocates worry that the legislation goes too far and is "too generous with the industry." But a large number of important public health groups, including the Infectious Society of America, have endorsed the measure.

Besides streamlining drug approvals, the bill would provide an additional $10 billion over five years to the National Institutes of Health. The measure adopts several strategies to pay for this funding, including selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

It is commendable that lawmakers recognize that government's policies and procedures have been blocking access to new medicine. Kudos to DeGette and fellow sponsor Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who worked on the legislation for more than a year and built rare bipartisan support.



The Gazette, June 7, on fracking and water contamination:

It seemed like common sense to say fracking posed no substantial threat to lakes, rivers, streams and underground water. After all, no major water contamination catastrophes had occurred in more than four decades of the practice. Besides, fracking fluid is 99.5 percent water and sand. The remaining 0.5 percent consists of scary-sounding chemicals mostly found on food labels. The stuff is so nontoxic, Colorado's Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper drank a glass of it for show.

We no longer ask readers to trust us on this topic. Instead, we ask them to trust President Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency - an organization that has been a thorn in the side of so-called "Big Oil."

The Obama administration released results of an exhaustive five-year study Thursday that determined fracking poses no direct threat to drinking water supplies. The multimillion-dollar report is contained in more than 1,000 pages. Nothing in the report indicates a direct threat to water posed by fracking.

"It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports," said Thomas A. Burke, an EPA science adviser and the top official in the agency's research office.

Fracking injects a mostly sand-and-water concoction into rock formations to break them apart and release trapped fuel. As the process has become efficient and affordable, the United States has become less dependent on foreign oil. Some economists credit the fracking boom with keeping our country from sliding into another recession. In Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and other fracking states the industry has provided needed revenues for schools and transportation while elevating young, unskilled workers into the middle class.

Fracking has been particularly contentious in Colorado, where U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and a variety of activist groups have threatened constitutional amendments that would enable cities and counties to ban fracking. Several communities have voted for fracking bans, though courts have said voters cannot violate the Colorado Constitution's private property and mining protections.

Anti-fracking forces should trust the Obama administration, which doesn't have a reputation for favoring oil and gas. This is the same administration that continues to block completion of the Keystone XL pipeline because of environmental concerns.

"EPA's draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources," Burke said.

A small percentage of anti-fracking activists don't want abundant and reliable fossil fuels produced in the United States, no matter what. But most skeptics of the industry simply want to keep their families and communities safe. For that group, the EPA's new report should eliminate a major concern.



The Denver Post, June 9, on a Denver Police Department shooting policy:

The Denver Police Department should be commended for changing its policy regarding shooting at cars, forbidding officers from shooting at a moving vehicle unless deadly force is being used against them.

This change comes a few days after District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said no criminal charges would be filed against officers in the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez.

The new policy falls in line with best practices for police work and recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum.

Shooting at a car can result in too many problems. For one, it won't stop the car. It could put the officer or others in further danger, and could inadvertently harm people other than the driver.

New York has not allowed shooting at moving vehicles for years, and there have not been any problems, said Denver Police Chief Robert White, citing a study by his department.

The first reaction for officers should be to get out of the way rather than pull a firearm, White said.

The tactic has been employed at departments around the country, and could have helped Denver police avoid a tragedy.



The Daily Sentinel, June 9, on marijuana revenue:

Only in Colorado could "marijuana voter fatigue" enter the common lexicon and be understood without explanation.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, authorizing the sale of recreational marijuana, in 2012. Then they approved Proposition AA — a measure to tax it — in 2013. Now they're about to be asked to restate their intentions for how to spend the revenue.

This should be a no-brainer. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that voters were clear about what the state should do with retail marijuana tax money — fund school construction and other programs.

Thanks to quirks in the state Constitution restricting spending, however, lawmakers need to get permission to keep the money voters have already authorized the state to collect.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1367 on Thursday, placing a measure on the Nov. 3 ballot asking voters to make an exception to a refund mechanism constitutionally built into the first year of a new tax.

Otherwise the $58 million generated under Proposition AA must be refunded. Colorado taxpayers, even those who've never purchased pot, could expect refunds in the form of a sales tax holiday. But $33 million would be returned to pot growers and users through tax breaks on production and sales, according to The Denver Post's John Frank.

That alone should be reason enough for voters to approve the measure. Lawmakers and Hickenlooper plan to stump for the ballot measure by starkly contrasting the difference between a yes and no vote.

Proposition AA called for spending the first $40 million from marijuana sales to go toward fixing crumbling schools across the state. Anything over that goes to the state and local governments to regulate the pot industry and address impacts caused by retail sales.

As The Sentinel's Charles Ashby reported, this year's ballot measure would continue that allocation, but HB1367 also creates a grant program that widens access to pot money — regardless of whether the measure passes.

There was strong bipartisan support for HB1367. Not surprising, said bill sponsor Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, "since it's pure common sense. Our students need better school facilities, and we're already collecting the money.

"Our voters in 2013 expected retail marijuana money would be used for schools, and passing this ballot measure would make that a reality," Steadman said.

We hope voters agree. Turnout is likely to be far under what it would be during a presidential election, but the issue is an important one and we'll remind readers what's at stake as the ballot question draws near.


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