Vail Daily, March 3, on the tire bill:
Given the political tone of the times, it can be something of a surprise when people of different parties can actually share an idea.
That seems to be the case with House Bill 1173. That bill would clarify the state's snow tire and chain law requirements for winter travel on Interstate 70 between Dotsero and the Morrison exit. What the bill does, in essence, is impose the same requirements on both passenger cars and trucks between Nov. 1 and May 15. The current rules require trucks to carry usable tire chains during those months. For passenger cars, the requirement applies to "adequate" tires, chains or traction devices such as the Auto Sock, an easy-to-use cloth alternative to chains.
The bill's sponsors are Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, of Steamboat Springs, who represents Eagle and Routt counties, and Republican Bob Rankin, whose district includes Carbondale.
The two representatives seem to occupy pretty distinct areas of the political spectrum. Mitsch Bush describes herself as a centrist, but in fact tends to favor government-first solutions to many issues.
Rankin has been described by our sister paper, the Glenwood Post Independent, as a Republican with libertarian tendencies, which means he tends to favor limited government intervention in most things.
The fact these two found common ground when it comes to keeping I-70 open speaks volumes about the need to take action to keep the highway open as much as possible.
While the bill is making its way through the Colorado House of Representatives, both Mitsch Bush and Rankin have said they've had to talk about misconceptions or misinformation about the bill.
The main one, worth noting here, is this: This bill doesn't establish checkpoints to look at people's tires or in their trunks. Even if the bill called for it, the costs of checkpoints would be much, much more than the state could afford. Instead, this bill puts the onus where it should be — on motorists. Put simply, if your car closes I-70 during the winter because it doesn't have the right equipment, you're going to pay fines over and above the costs of insurance deductibles and tow trucks.
A recent story from Glenwood noted that Rankin has had to address his more libertarian-leaning constituents who decry the government telling them what they need for their cars. This one's almost too ridiculous to address, but the government already requires all kinds of equipment to use a vehicle on public roads. Decent tires doesn't seem an onerous a demand.
We hope this bill passes. It certainly can't hurt, and given that I-70 closures cost the state millions every year in lost economic activity and a drain on precious taxpayer dollars to state agencies, we're certainly willing to see if this not-terribly-intrusive law could have a positive effect. And we're grateful that a pair of politicians has put good public policy above partisan haggling.
Cortez Journal, March 2, on felonies, DUIs and overcoming mistakes:
While some Coloradans urge the state to follow the lead of other states and designate the third drunken-driving conviction a felony rather than a misdemeanor as is currently, others are considering just how harmful that label can be - sometimes almost forever - to a successful job search or to an education or a choice in living arrangements.
The arguments for the felony category for drunken drivers - getting tough on repeaters of a crime that can cause death - are offset by the uncertainty as to whether that criminal label is actually a deterrent, and to the added costs to the state it brings.
What is beginning to receive some attention is that many Americans with a criminal record - a felony or some misdemeanors - are being precluded from gainful employment in most occupations for years, if not forever. Misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies that are tied to drug use and sales, or perhaps theft and forgeries, which might have happened years ago, are preventing otherwise prepared job-seekers from being able to move past the initial stage of an employment application. Check the box if you have a criminal record, and the possibility of being hired is usually gone.
That box also exists on a college application, a loan application and, in some cases, on apartment and rental agreements. What it means is that after time is served and penalties are paid, offenders continue to have their education, employment and living options severely limited. Employment that corresponds to abilities and goals can be impossible.
A partial solution: Several states with their statutes, and a few of the major big-box retailers with their human-resources policies, have modified job-search procedures to consider only past involvement with the law near the end of the interview and hiring process. That allows a candidate with a record to have his education and experience, and whatever else it is that might make him a good fit for the position, be considered first. Then, with the pool reduced to a handful of possible candidates, does the employer decide whether a particular criminal record should be disqualifying.
This shift in hiring procedures does not come solely from the heart. Employers are wanting to cast the largest net possible in their hiring, seeking the best possible workforce. They recognize that many crimes, especially having taken place some time ago, have no bearing on successfully filling the job at hand.
There is a limit, of course. Someone who has embezzled from their place of work should not expect to be looked favorably on by a bank that is looking for a teller, or a former drug user as a pharmacist.
But in many prospective employee-employer matches, postponing consideration of a past criminal record makes good sense.
The United States has too many of its citizens in prison, and for too long a time, and is not giving them the opportunity to learn the skills they need to return to the workforce. What can be done to partially offset those shortcomings is to make an effort to consider the suitability of a job prospect before weighing whether a criminal record should be disqualifying. That is the right thing to do, and it is good business policy.