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Colorado Editorial Roundup

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News,Science and Technology

A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:

NATIONAL:

The Pueblo Chieftain, Dec. 28, on Republicans needing to reach out to Hispanics:

Republicans need to reach out to minority voters if they want to compete in future national elections. Largely on the strength of an overwhelming minority vote for Democrats, the GOP took a drubbing on Nov. 6.

Republicans have the opportunity, if they are wise enough to take it, to make a concerted appeal in particular to Hispanics, now the dominant minority population in the United States, particularly strong in the Southwest.

Right here in Pueblo, Hispanics share many fundamental conservative moral and family values with Republicans. Most of them are Roman Catholics or members of equally conservative Protestant faiths who hold traditional beliefs on such issues as abortion and marriage, hard work and saving for the future.

So what can Republicans do to convert conservative minorities into conservative voters?

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a conservative Republican, communicates effectively with her fellow Latinos and others in her state. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is a rising star in national GOP politics.

In Congress, Republicans show signs of getting the message about reaching out to Hispanics, most recently on immigration. On Nov. 30, the Republican House passed a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) bill offering foreigners with U.S. advanced degrees in these high-skilled fields an opportunity for permanent U.S. residence.

More to the point, the bill also allows spouses and children of legal immigrants to live in the United States while waiting for their green cards. This is no small provision.

Currently, some 80,000 of family-based green cards are allocated every year, yet there are about 322,000 spouses and children waiting, typically more than two years, to be reunited with their families, The Associated Press reported. Mexico has the most, according to the State Department, with more than 138,000 family members on the waiting list. Next are other Spanish-speaking immigrants, 31,000 from the Dominican Republic and 16,000 from Cuba.

Despite the appeal of reuniting immigrant families, the Democratic-controlled Senate have blocked the Republican bill from consideration. Democrats reportedly opposed the bill because it eliminated another visa program benefiting less-educated people, particularly from Africa.

"I am disappointed that President (Barack) Obama and Senate Democrats oppose the STEM Jobs Act," said Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who sponsored the bill in the House. "This important bill will help us create jobs, increase our competitiveness, spur our innovation and keep families together."

The Republicans need to get the word out to Hispanics about this good immigration reform bill and then force the Democrats to confront the issues openly in Washington.

Editorial: http://www.chieftain.com/opinion/editorials/hispanic-appeal/article_43970b1a-509e-11e2-836f-0019bb2963f4.html

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Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, Dec. 30, on need for tougher penalties for drunken driving:

Too many people think they're invincible on New Year's Eve. The worst can't happen to them.

But it can and too often does.

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent thought that way when he got behind the wheel of his car with a blood-alcohol level of .189. He crashed, and his passenger — teammate and friend Jerry Brown — was killed. Brent has to live with that decision for the rest of his life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents in the U.S. in 2010, and 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. The organization drinkinganddriving.org gives Colorado a D grade because of its arrest rate of 76 per 10,000 population each year. Only one state, Delaware, received an A.

The rates for the northern Front Range are even higher. Larimer County has 85 arrests per 10,000 people, Boulder has 92 and Weld has 83. Gilpin County topped the list with 339 arrests per 10,000 residents — but it should be noted the draw of its casinos skews its numbers.

There is no excuse for anyone to drive drunk.

With advancements in technology and ways to get a sober driver, it is the most selfish person who gets behind the wheel of a car drunk. Each person on the road with that driver has the potential to have his life changed forever or ended.

What will it take to say, "Enough is enough?"

Penalties could be toughened: After a first offense, a person should lose the privilege to drive for much longer, and fines need to climb significantly.

The time has come for our society to start following the words of W.C. Fields: "I never worry about being driven to drink, I only worry about being driven home."

Editorial: http://www.reporterherald.com/opinion/editorial/ci_22285132/only-tougher-penalties-fines-will-reduce-drunken-driving

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STATE:

The Denver Post, Dec. 27, on why Colorado should end the death penalty:

Boulder state Rep. Claire Levy is reportedly testing the waters for a possible bill to end the death penalty in Colorado. We hope she takes the plunge. You can't pass legislation unless you try, and the stars may finally be aligned for success on this difficult issue.

As The Denver Post's Jessica Fender pointed out in a recent article, several factors could work in favor of death-penalty opponents. Not only do Democrats control both the House and Senate, but Gov. John Hickenlooper has indicated he might be open to the idea. Although Hickenlooper did not support abolishing the death penalty when he ran for office in 2010, he now says that "capital punishment is another one of those things where I haven't come to rest on a position."

From our perspective, it would be better if the governor favored banning capital punishment outright, but maybe that's not far in the wings. In the meantime, if he's looking for reasons to embrace abolition, we'd be happy to help out.

Start with the fact that capital punishment is nearly extinct in Colorado already as a practical matter, with only one execution occurring in the past 45 years. Admittedly, part of the reason for this long dry spell has to do with court decisions at various times that pushed some inmates off death row. However, the bigger reason is that prosecutors don't often seek the death penalty and juries are reluctant to embrace it when they do.

But that in turn means that the penalty is unevenly applied — that there are many instances when prosecutors could have sought the death penalty but didn't as well as instances when criminals committing similarly brutal murders end up being punished in significantly different ways. That shouldn't be.

There's a moral case to be made against the death penalty, too: It's irrevocable even though the legal system has been known to make mistakes. In addition, securing the death penalty and then fighting the numerous appeals sucks up a great deal of prosecutorial energy and resources.

Attorney General John Suthers argues that there are certain cases when the death penalty is especially needed: such as for murderers who kill witnesses as well as prisoners who already face life imprisonment.

Those are serious arguments, but we don't think they undermine the overall case against capital punishment or the inconvenient fact that the death penalty is extraordinarily rare already.

Editorial: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_22263173/why-colorado-should-end-death-penalty

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The Daily Sentinel, Jan. 2, on why marijuana DUI legislation should be passed:

Now that marijuana has been legalized in Colorado for recreational as well as medicinal use — and the key legislative sponsors of a bill to set legal limits for driving while under the influence of the drug have agreed to a somewhat less potent version of their bill — there can be little excuse for the Colorado Legislature not to adopt the measure this year.

Grand Junction state Sen. Steve King has been the primary sponsor of legislation the past two years that would have set a definite limit for how much THC — the substance in marijuana that makes one high — a driver may legally have in the bloodstream before being determined to be driving under the influence of marijuana.

His bill nearly passed in the waning days of the legislative session last year. It died, along with a handful of other bills, in a last-minute fight over legislation to allow civil unions for gay couples.

But that was before Colorado voters in November approved a constitutional amendment to legalize small amounts of marijuana for individuals" recreational use. King argues, reasonably enough, that the bill is even more important now.

It will no longer be just a relatively small number of medical marijuana users who will have legal access to marijuana, but many more recreational users, King noted. And substantial numbers of those recreational users may drive while under the influence.

Even so, King and his co-sponsor, new House Minority Leader Mark Waller, have watered down last year's bill in an effort to win more legislative support this year.

Last year's bill said that if one had 5 nanograms or more of active THC per milliliter of blood while driving a vehicle, he or she would be legally presumed to be driving under the influence of marijuana.

Although some studies have suggested that amount of THC in the bloodstream affects most people's ability to function normally, critics of King's bill said there wasn't enough scientific evidence to support that limit.

So this year's version of the bill would still use the 5 nanograms standard, but it wouldn't be a hard-and-fast presumption of driving under the influence, as the blood-alcohol limit is for driving under the influence of alcohol. Instead, expert witnesses could be called during a trial to challenge whether the driver was truly under the influence of pot at the time of his or her arrest.

Like King, we would prefer to see a per se limit such as is used for alcohol. But we also understand that the science related to measuring marijuana intoxication is relatively new, compared to that for alcohol.

Even in its watered-down version, the King-Waller bill would put recreational marijuana users on notice that the state is serious about stopping people from driving while high.

The Legislature should pass the marijuana DUI bill quickly in the upcoming legislative session.

Editorial: http://www.gjsentinel.com/S=ee7371ce1e516af01ad1e62ca4cbd8511f454370/opinion/articles/marijuana-dui-bill-8232should-be-passed-now/

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