As Colorado Christian University’s think tank, we draw on the expertise of CCU Faculty, Centennial Institute Fellows, and other skilled policy analysts to provide background and recommendations on current issues facing policymakers in Colorado and the nation. We do not lobby on specific bills or take sides in elections for candidates and ballot questions.
The Centennial Institute Policy Briefs are distributed online and on paper, free of charge, to a wide audience of citizens, public officials, journalists, and thought-leaders – Americans who can make a difference.
The Policy Brief series is one more way in which we pursue the CCU strategic objective of seeking to “impact our culture in support of traditional family values, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, a Biblical view of human nature, limited government, personal freedom, free markets, natural law, original intent of the Constitution and Western civilization.”
By Christian Thurstone, MDEditor: When Coloradans in 2012 approved Amendment 64, a constitutional provision legalizing marijuana for optional (miscalled “recreational”) use by people 21 and older, they moved the state into uncharted waters for medical and social impacts from this high-potency chemical. The experiment set in motion new and very serious challenges to the protection of public health and safety – specifically that of children and youth. Here are the cold facts, medically documented, about those dangers, along with a six-point damage control agenda for policymakers. It all starts with the oft-invoked but in this case overlooked axiom: Put children first.
By Kent HolsingerEditor: The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the world’s most powerful environmental law. Bureaucratically complex, beset with litigation, gamed by activists, the ESA’s mandate for species protection “whatever the cost” abounds with adverse unintended consequences. Americans have wakened to realize that under ESA some of our own cherished values such as private property and economic growth are as endangered as any bug, bird, mouse, or minnow. Energy resources, agricultural productivity, and access to public lands are hindered by ESA, with untold billions in costs. Colorado case studies of the Preble’s mouse and the greater sage grouse illustrate these impacts. Kent Holsinger, a leading authority on the intricacies and burdens of ESA, argues for rethinking the law’s operation from a cost-benefit standpoint. Practical solutions such as programmatic compliance and market-based mitigation offer an exit from endless expensive regulation at undetermined benefit.
Editor: Following upon widespread discontent among rural Coloradans in 2013, leading to talk of secession and heightened interest in political decentralization, Weld County's board of commissioners engaged a Centennial Institute research team to compile and analyze comparative data on Weld's governance and public administration, economic and fiscal condition, and citizen attitudes, relative to those in five other Colorado counties similarly situated: Larimer, Boulder, El Paso, Pueblo, and Mesa. Findings and recommendations are spelled out in this 100-page study. Our charge was to give Weld commissioners an assessment of how well they are performing, why performance is good or not, what steps they might take to improve where needed, and whether their model may be transferable to other counties. The research team concluded that Weld County's performance of its governmental mission compares very favorably with peer counties on most objective measurements, and that Weld residents subjectively register more satisfaction with life in the county than Coloradans in other locales. As for transferability, the team judged the Weld model as one that "local governments everywhere would do well to replicate."
By Centennial Institute StaffEditor: Here is a factual counterweight to the waves of unfavorable media and advocacy stirring up fear about the process of extracting oil and gas from the ground through the method known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Waves of propaganda have fostered a broad negative perception of fracking. Voters in four Colorado cities have banned fracking as a result, with a statewide ban projected in 2014. To remedy the dearth of factual information reaching the public, this policy brief details the history, methods, and chemistry involved in fracking. There is authoritative information about the drilling, amounts and composition of water used, the depths of wells away from water tables, and the safeguards in place. The primer compiles solid evidence to help allay Americans’ widespread but utterly misplaced concerns about water and air pollution risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.
By Frank D. FranconeEditor: Despite gridlock on health care nationally, states can take one immediate step to address the cost and quality of care for everyone. Arizona showed the way when it passed an innovative medical “direct pay” law. Direct pay means that a patient pays the doctor or hospital directly. The provider need not claim reimbursement by a third party. The patient, if insured, is responsible for collection of reimbursement. The Arizona law fully legalizes direct pay and requires health care providers and facilities to make available to the public, their direct pay prices for their top 25 or 50 services. Anticipated benefits, in Arizona as the law took effect this year and in Colorado or other states that may follow suit next year, include placing downward pressure on medical prices, assisting those who become victims of the ACA (Obamacare) when their insurance is cancelled, and pointing the way beyond ACA to a better health care system in the future.
By Kelly SloanEditor: The fading fad for state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) has accomplished little but the transfer of vast sums of money from consumers to favored industries. Average electric rates in the 30 states with enforceable mandates for wind and solar are 21% higher than in the states without such mandates. Higher unemployment in a state appears to be correlated with higher electric rates, which in turn are often correlated with enforceable mandates. Between 2003 and 2012, residential electric rates rose nationally by 36%, half again as fast as the inflation rate at 24.8%, hurting poor people the most. Despite all the mandates, subsidies, tax breaks, and loan guarantees, wind and solar accounted for barely 4% of total U.S. electrical generation in 2012. Electricity generated by wind and solar will always cost more because of intermittent availability, geographic limitations, and impracticality of storage.
By Dr. Jill Q. Vecchio, MDEditor: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s prescription for reforming American health care, could not be more misleadingly named. As the public is beginning to realize, with its full implementation now upon us, the PPACA law neither protects patients – who face rationing, shortages, and delays – nor guarantees affordable care. It only guarantees higher premiums, higher taxes, and worst of all, degradation of care for many in the most vulnerable groups – older people under Medicare and lower-income people under Medicaid. And now Colorado is about to further overburden its already dysfunctional Medicaid system by massively expanding the rolls with what is perceived as “free money” under PPACA. This policy brief is an attempt to step back and see the big picture on what has made health care unaffordable to so many, and how we can start making it more affordable once again – especially for America’s poor.
By Kelly SloanEditor: The militant environmental lobby has developed a successful playbook for using legal strategies to deny, delay, and deter energy production on public lands in Colorado. Known as “the Colorado Model," it is now being applied across the country. Its impact is to curtail domestic energy production, slow the onset of American energy independence, block job creation and economic growth, and drive up costs for both consumers and taxpayers. This policy brief looks three case studies of the model at work in western Colorado, illustrating how the environmental lobby deploys its "weapons of mass obstruction." We conclude with a menu of recommended policy solutions.
By William J. MoloneyEditor: Colorado public education is the most important communal undertaking for our state’s future. It is also the most expensive obligation for taxpayers. But as we enter 2011, education faces both a budget crisis and an identity crisis. Legislators will take up another round of unwelcome spending reductions come January. At the same time, school districts from the gritty urban neigh-borhoods of Montbello to the affluent greenbelts of Douglas County are mired in controversy over the very meaning of education. Centennial Institute asked former Education Commissioner William Moloney, who was Colorado’s chief state school officer under Democratic and Republican administrations from 1997 to 2007 and has worked on education policy in a number of other states and nations, to think outside the box about realistic solutions. Here are his analysis and recommendations.
By Krista KaferAbstract: Should private colleges and universities be subjected to adversarial oversight by politicians in 50 state capitals? The Education Department is set to mandate more government control over a private-sector accreditation process that has served higher education well. To what purpose? The new regulations offer little benefit to these institutions, their students, or the taxpayers. Abuses by a few unethical, for-profit colleges do not justify a power grab against 6,000 nonprofit schools. If states politicize their authorization process, colleges may face the choice of compromising their mission or closing their doors. In a nation founded on the free exchange of ideas, that’s wrong. Policymakers should withdraw the proposed regulations.