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Hick cool to Heath plan

Gov. John Hickenlooper was doing his best to be diplomatic, but it sure sounded like he doesn’t necessarily support Sen. Rollie Heath’s proposal to raise income and sales taxes to support education.

“It’s hard for me to imagine supporting a tax increase until we get our arms around all the complexities of the budget,” the governor said Tuesday.

Hickenlooper discussed the issue with reporters following his first bill-signing ceremony (no education measures were involved).

Heath, a Boulder Democrat, on Monday proposed modest increases in state income and sales taxes for three years, with the additional revenue devoted to K-12 and higher education (see story).

“Sen. Heath’s proposal is the beginning of a discussion,” Hickenlooper said, adding he hopes it sparks a statewide debate.

Asked if he thought voters would approve such a plan, the governor said, “I’m not a good enough prognosticator” to say. He repeated the comment he’s made many times since his campaign last year – that voters have “no appetite” for increased taxes right now.

“Certainly we’re all concerned about the cuts,” adding his 2011-12 budget proposal was designed to “cause as little disruption as humanly possible” and was intended to “start the conversation” about next year’s budget. He has proposed a $332 million cut in school support and a $36 million reduction for higher education. (See our database for information about districts of interest to you.)

He repeated his support for a 4 percent general fund reserve, instead of the 2 percent often used in tight years. The governor noted 2 percent covers just one week of state expenses. Some legislative Democrats want a 2 percent reserve because it would free up about $100 million for education.

Campus threat info sharing bill moves ahead

A bill intended to make it easier for campus police to share threat information with administrators and threat-assessment teams got easy preliminary approval in the House Tuesday, but not without a lively little debate about civil liberties.

In some cases campus police forces can’t now share information with deans, student life offices or threat assessment teams about people who may pose threats to others on campus or to themselves. (Threat assessment teams have become common on many campuses since the shootings at Virginia Tech.) House Bill 11-1169 would give authorization for such sharing and set rules for it, such as victim confidentiality and immunity for some people who make reports.

Freshman Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, argued that the bill should cover only information about people who have committed crimes and that the measure could impinge on the free speech rights of people who express strong or unpopular political views and who are perceived as threatening by others. A couple of other Republicans sounded the same theme.

Sponsor Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said the bill didn’t do that, commenting, “We’re really getting off track about what this bill is.”

The bill passed on a voice vote, as did House Bill 11-1205, the controversial proposal to allow legal gun owners to carry concealed handguns even they don’t have the specific permit for concealed weapons. (There’s been some confusion about how the bill might apply to schools, but current prohibitions on carrying weapons at schools would remain.)

The House and Senate delayed scheduled debate on two high-profile education bills, the charter schools facilities measure (House Bill 11-1055) and resident tuition for undocumented students (Senate Bill 11-126).

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