By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado Senate Republicans yesterday issued a plan that seeks to support Colorado families by in part ending Gov. Bill Ritter’s early release program for “violent criminals” and eliminating all taxpayer-funded abortions.
The GOP plan to support Colorado families is the fourth part of the Senate Republicans’ 2011 agenda. The agendas seek to provide specifics on GOP core values, such as limiting government and helping the economy grow, that will be pursued in the upcoming legislative session.
But Pat Waak, chair of the Colorado Democrat Party, said the Senate Republicans’ agendas seem to be either misunderstanding or misconstruing the facts.
“This is more like a five-point plan to maintain the status quo,” she said.
The “Five Point Plan to Ensure Coloradans’ Protection and Prosperity” looks to crack down on illegal immigration. Senate Republicans want to require E-Verify for all Colorado licensed companies, have “meaningful” audits and enforcement of state laws and “strengthen” Colorado laws prohibiting sanctuary cities.
“The costs of illegal immigration in terms of taxpayer-funded programs and public safety is immense in our state,” said a statement from Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch. “The Senate Republicans have authored a meaningful plan to stem the tide of illegal immigration in Colorado.”
Waak, however, argued that Colorado already has some of the toughest immigration laws in the country. No state or local government benefits are available to anyone without showing proof of status and Denver has referred 7,000 criminals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she said.
Early release for prisoners
The GOP’s new agenda specifically seeks to end Gov. Bill Ritter’s early release program for select prisoners.
The early release program allows prisoners who have successfully been on parole for a minimum of six months, or half their parole sentence, to qualify for an expedited trip out of jail. Additionally, the parolees must have met their parole goals and be free of write-ups for at least six months.
Although the early release initiative was based on recommendations made by the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, a bipartisan committee comprised of people across the Colorado criminal justice system, and was supported by Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, Republicans believe the measure is putting the public at risk and want it to be eliminated.
“The governor’s plan to release violent prisoners early is ill-conceived and reckless,” said a statement from Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, last year. “There’s no way to dress this one up.”
But Waak pointed out that the Department of Corrections “daily makes determinations about how to best utilize prison bed space made available to it by the general assembly so as to best ensure public safety.” Appropriations to the Department of Corrections have increased by hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade.
“Coloradans need leaders who will engage in an honest discussion about how public safety and other top priorities can be met in a tough fiscal climate,” she said.
The GOP’s agenda released yesterday also looks to provide choices in education by:
» Providing education tax credits for private and home schools;
» Enacting a scholarship plan for special needs children;
» Offering mobility and flexibility for children in failing schools through school vouchers;
» Promoting innovative schools and charter expansion.
“One of the greatest challenges we face is how to improve our education system in Colorado,” said a statement from Sen. Nancy Spence, the ranking Republican on the Senate Education Committee. “We should be promoting innovative schools and charter expansion throughout the state.”