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– FALL 2021 –

Sniffing Out the Smell of Tyranny


Tax reform has always been a core issue for Independence Institute. It was our work, and the great work of our economist Barry Poulson, that brought Colorado’s flat tax into existence.

JON CALDARA President, Independence Institute

A couple weeks ago, we delivered over 216,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to place an income tax cut question on next year’s ballot. It would lower Colorado’s income tax rate from the current 4.55% to 4.40%.

Keep in mind, when it passes, it’s additional to the tax cut we passed last year which lowered your income tax from 4.63% to 4.55%. Combined, that’s a 5% reduction in state income tax in two years and we will have whittled it down by nearly half since 1987 (8% to 4.40%). And we fully intend to keep driving it lower. However, I’m not nearly so certain that our taxpayer-loathing legislature will let it count.

Some background here: Colorado has the initiative and referendum processes which are a crucial safety valve to the abuses of politicians who don’t want their power limited. Without the citizens’ initiative, we couldn’t have passed term limits, tax cuts, open meeting laws, or the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Colorado lawmakers have always attacked our initiative process. Several years ago, we brought forward a successful federal lawsuit over a new law that banned paying petition gatherers by the signature. The law was meant to make sure people like you and me wouldn’t be able to afford to get reforms on the ballot.

But in the last year, Jared Polis and the Democrat-controlled legislature have gone full nuclear on the people’s will.

What am I talking about? Well, the legislature has bathed themselves in billions of dollars in tax increases without going to a vote of the people. They do this by calling a tax increase a “fee” increase and use euphemisms like “faster fee,” “mill levy freeze” and “hospital provider fee.”

So ugly is this practice that the voters of Colorado passed Prop 117 in 2020 to stop it, requiring that any sizable “fee” increase must be voted on by the people.

To spit in the face of the people and ignore their expressed will, instead of passing one large “fee” that would’ve been subject to a vote under Prop 117, the legislature broke it into several “fees” that equate to one massive tax increase. This includes an $0.08/gallon gas tax you didn’t get to vote on.

The message from Polis and his legislature is clear enough: screw you. No matter how often you demand consent, we will find a way to avoid your consent. Outside of government, don’t private individuals, like Bill Cosby, go to jail for similar behavior?

This “win at any cost” operating system from Polis and his progressives makes Richard Nixon look like a Girl Scout.

Now, to impede the power of the citizen’s initiative and prevent future tax cuts, the legislature has passed a bill (HB21-1321) to put an ugly, scary, and inaccurate preamble on any tax cut ballot question declaring all sorts of doom and gloom if it passes. Think of it as the equivalent of a Surgeon General’s warning on your ballot—“if you vote for this tax cut, it will cause birth defects in unborn babies.”

Fortunately, our recent income tax initiative cut just made it under the wire. But here’s my fear. What does the legislature have up its sleeve to subvert the will of the people and invalidate an income tax cut they know voters will pass? It’s something citizens who brought forward initiatives have never had to think about before in Colorado history.

Something has the scent of tyranny down at the Capitol.

Think Freedom,

Jon Caldara

Tours, Columns and Speaking Engagements


As II’s Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, I’ve been giving a series of lectures in Montana about the Constitution’s amendment process.

ROB NATELSON Constitutional Jurisprudence

Why Montana? Although I became an Independence Institute senior fellow in 1994, I did so while serving as professor of law at the University of Montana (1987-2010). While in that state, I championed smaller state government, lower taxes, privatization, and school choice. In 2000, I ran for Governor, coming in second in a field of five Republicans and Democrats in the open party primaries.

By 2010, I had become thoroughly disillusioned with the corruption and far-left bigotry of academia and decided to flee. So with my wife I moved back to Colorado to work with Independence Institute full time.

I’m currently the nation’s most published active scholar on the amendment process described in Article V of the Constitution, and I moderate our Article V Information Center. Montanans are now actively considering whether to join the growing movement pushing for a “convention of the states” to formally propose one or more amendments checking federal overreach. Any proposed amendments still would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38).

Because of my Montana reputation, I’m well positioned to help the state’s citizens decide whether to promote a convention to check federal excess.

The first branch of my tour was in September, when, in conjunction with state senator Tom McGillvray (R.-Billings), I spoke to large and enthusiastic audiences in Helena and Billings. In October, Senator McGillvray and I addressed similar groups in Bozeman, Kalispell, and Great Falls. There will be a third tour in late January and early February.

Meanwhile, I continue to contribute a weekly column for The Epoch Times, a conservative international newspaper. I’ve covered such issues as vaccination mandates, the possibility of removing Joe Biden from office for incapacity, the amendment process, the constitutionality of federal lands holdings, and the history and meaning of the Constitution. In addition, The Epoch Times has issued a special edition called “Defending the Constitution,” containing ten of my writings on the Constitution. You may have received a copy of that edition in the mail.

I’ve also contributed two essays to the latest special edition of The Epoch Times as well.

Finally, I appear regularly on radio programs across the nation, and occasionally on television. Jon Caldara recently interviewed me for Devil’s Advocate on PBS, where we discussed vaccination mandates.

I am very grateful for your support for the Independence Institute—the best policy center on the planet.

You can read my work HERE.

Polis’ COVID Policies Weighed Most Heavily on Small Businesses


Independence Institute recently released a study on the economic consequences of Polis’ COVID-19 mandates. It shows that the number of open small businesses in Colorado has declined by a staggering 40% from before the pandemic. State mandates and economic lockdowns are largely to blame.

Fiscal Policy Center Director

Independence Institute recently released a study on the economic consequences of Polis’ COVID-19 mandates. It shows that the number of open small businesses in Colorado has declined by a staggering 40% from before the pandemic. State mandates and economic lockdowns are largely to blame.

“[T]he number of open small businesses in Colorado declined by over 40% from pre-pandemic levels,” the study found. “During the same period, stock prices increased by an average of 61.4% among the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Colorado.”

On March 16, 2020, Polis closed bars, in-restaurant dining, theaters, gyms, and casinos. He restricted the workforce of all non-essential businesses to 50% of staff, and by the end of March, he ordered all non-essential businesses to close. Only in mid-May did he allow them all to start reopening, but with capacity limits and additional restrictions.

Those policies weighed especially heavily on Colorado’s small businesses.

The Independence Institute study highlights a minority couple who poured years of work and their life savings into their small business. They attempted to stay open during the pandemic but faced fines of $15,000 per day for violating lockdowns. They eventually had to file bankruptcy, and they lost everything.

“Our American dream was dead, because of government policies,” the couple said.

Now, after wreaking havoc on the Colorado economy and causing the closure of thousands of small businesses across the state, Polis is posturing as the savior of small business. The governor’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget released in early November proposes over $700 million in spending to help businesses recover from the pandemic.

Do not be fooled. Governor Polis and the Democrat-controlled legislature had a large hand in the struggles Coloradans now face, particularly small business owners.

When the federal government granted tax relief for small businesses in the CARES Act, Democrat legislators in Colorado took away those provisions at the state level with HB20-1420.

Now, after denying these businesses tax relief at the height of the pandemic when they most needed it, Polis’ budget proposes to fund government programs to help businesses “recover faster and stronger.” That includes $2.5 million for the Colorado Equity Office, a new state agency created to further “equity, diversity and inclusion efforts throughout the state.”

The budget also proposes “$104 million in fee relief for individuals and businesses.” The paltry sum will hardly make a dent in the nearly $4 billion dollars in new government fees created this year without voter consent.

A large portion of this “fee relief” is slated to reduce payroll taxes. But Colorado had no state payroll taxes until the Democrat-backed payroll tax to fund mandated family and medical leave passed last year. It will cost businesses $1.3 billion dollars per year by 2025, according to analysts.

Policies from Governor Polis and other Colorado Democrats have devastated the state’s small businesses, and now they want to start and fund new government programs to solve the problems they created—or at a minimum exacerbated.

Businesses do not need more government intervention; they need government to get out of the way.

Click here to read the complete study.

Stay Informed Daily About the 2nd Amendment, Free Speech and Sports!


You already know that Complete Colorado is the best online newspaper for state and local news. What about national and international news?

Research Director and Second Amendment Project Director

Let me suggest Kopel’s Law and Liberty News. The paper is published twice daily, at 8:38 a.m. and 8:38 p.m., Mountain Time. Subscriptions are free. Just go to paper.li/davekopel, and enter your email address to receive notification when an edition is published.

Kopel’s Law and Liberty News doesn’t duplicate the kind of coverage you could find in the front section of the Denver Post, or on CNN. Instead, I collect stories and sources you probably haven’t seen via the usual old media.

Of course, there’s a lot of coverage of right-to-arms issues, nationally and internationally. Even the sports section is focused on hunting tips, gear reviews, sports shooting competitions, and wild game recipes.

On other topics, you’ll find great stories from sources like The Federalist, Reason, the Washington Examiner, Quillette, National Review, and the Jerusalem Post. My parents were liberal John F. Kennedy Democrats, and since I come from a very anti-communist family, you’ll find plenty of articles about the modern threats of communism—including Taiwan’s struggle for independence, the Tibetan government in exile, and the Cuban resistance.

As you might expect from a Kennedy Democrat, you’ll find pro-free speech and very anti-racism content. So nearly every issue of the newspaper covers attacks on free thought at home and abroad, and also tells the stories of people fighting back against the modern-day racists attempting to indoctrinate schoolchildren with so-called “critical race theory.”

As an experienced U.S. Supreme Court attorney, you’ll also find coverage of major legal cases, especially those involving constitutional law.

Candidate Policy Briefings Influence School Board Election Outcomes


I find speaking to a group of people in southern Colorado invigorating because they tend to be happy and full of energy.

Education Policy Center Director

On a September evening in Colorado Springs, the bipartisan gathering of 20 school board candidates from nine different school districts did not disappoint. One candidate drove two-and-a-half hours for our 90-minute K-12 policy briefing. The most energized of the candidates were five women from Huerfano School District who came up from Walsenburg. Now, all five of them are school board directors-elect. Of the 20 candidates in attendance at my Colorado Springs briefing, 19 won (including two Democrats and several who are unaffiliated).

For the ninth consecutive election cycle, the Education Policy Center hosted five school board candidate policy briefings in three cities, plus one virtual event. Topics included open enrollment, charter schools, collective bargaining reform, teacher evaluations, compensation reform, school finance, literacy, and critical race theory.

63 candidates from 37 different school districts attended one of the policy briefings. It was an opportunity for us to share our perspective on important educational topics and to offer our services for future policy decisions. Based on unofficial results, 48 of those 63 candidates won their election, including 11 Democrats. I am always glad when Democrats attend because they have the opportunity to learn about how their party supported or initiated reforms, such as charter schools, the Innovation Act, and tenure reform. All attendees received copies of our numerous issue papers, including the history of Colorado’s charter school law. Additionally, all candidates statewide received an electronic version of our 2021 School Board Member Handbook.

Generally, school district board member elections receive very little attention unless there is enough controversy in a particular school district to stir up voters other than school district employees. This year was an exception.

Fury has been stirred up statewide and nationally. In Colorado alone, conservatives flipped eight school boards. Parents are upset about the debacle in the spring of 2020 when school buildings were closed and students were taught (or not taught) via the internet. For many it was an awakening when they heard terms like “white privilege” coming through their computer speakers. For others, they discovered the modest amount of work actually required to pass a class. And now, parents are divided over student mask mandates for attending class in person.

The education of most of Colorado’s children is in the hands of elected school district board members, and few parents have historically paid enough attention to what is being taught, but that is now changing.

Once COVID-19 is no longer the main focus, I hope the current interest and momentum will shift to parental demand for curricula transparency. Parents should oust school board members who are not focused on student achievement but allow the public education establishment free rein to indoctrinate students with harmful political ideologies. And you can trust that Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center will be there to help and support Colorado’s parents.

Election Coverage by Complete Colorado


There’s little doubt that Colorado’s November election ended up being a mixed bag, with both major parties and competing non-partisan ideologies seeing electoral gains in some areas and losses in others, and Complete Colorado was hip deep in the action.


Editor-in-Chief of Complete Colorado

 Our Page Two election coverage and commentary leading up to election day, and our post-election look at the aftermath, drew just under 60,000 readers combined. From early September, Complete published dozens of journalistic articles and opinion pieces on the statewide ballot measures as well highly localized coverage of election issues; taking a look at various municipal races, as well as local ballot measures across the state. Complete Colorado appears to have been the only media outlet to cover the far-left Working Families Party endorsing city council candidates in non-partisan municipal races all over the metro-Denver area.

We also covered multiple school board races, as well as shenanigans within those races.  Complete was the first to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of independent expenditure committee (IEC) spending by a collection of teachers’ unions and union-backed groups, using the exact same language to both praise union-backed candidates and attack their opponents in multiple school districts.

Complete also ran opinion content on statewide and local measures from a variety of high-profile Coloradans, including former Colorado Governor Bill Owens and State Senator Bob Gardner, among others.

Our post-election work looked at the impact an unprecedented effort by the legislature to meddle in the citizens’ initiative process had on the outcome of Proposition 120 as well as post-mortems on the failed Amendment 78 and the jam-packed Denver ballot. We also took a look at outcomes in nominally non-partisan municipal races where the state Republican Party endorsed candidates for the first time in recent memory.

Both the Complete Colorado aggregator and Page Two original content sites continue to be regular go-to sources of news and information for many thousands of politically engaged Coloradans, and it wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of Independence Institute donors.  So as always, thank you and please tell a friend or two about Complete Colorado.

Click to read the full newsletter in pdf format.

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