Caplis and Silverman Show, Frank McNulty, April 24, 2012
Station: 630 AM, KHOW
Show: Caplis and Silverman
Date: April 24, 2012
Topics: ASSET, Illegal Aliens, Undocumented Immigrants, Instate Tuition, House Education Committee, House Finance Committee, Appropriations
DAN CAPLIS: [impersonating the Sargeant at Arms] “Mr. Speaker, the Governor of the state of Colorado, John Hickenlooper!” Where is he? He’s invisible. He’s invisible! The invisible man is the Governor of the state of Colorado! [chuckling] Once again, John Hickenlooper, MIA. This time, a raging fire, brutally killing three Colorado citizens, wiping out millions of dollars of property, while the governor hangs out in Mexico, at a trade mission. Then when he comes back, won’t do a thing! Won’t do a thing to help make this right. He’s asked directly by KUSA whether he supports going beyond the state limits to help these people out — the state governmental immunity caps. The may… the governor refuses to take a position. But thank goodness for people like GOP Speaker of the House, Frank McNulty, the Colorado GOP. They step up. They want a commission to make this right. And the Speaker joins us now.
CRAIG SILVERMAN: Dan, before you go to him, you’re a little too harsh on Governor Hickenlooper. He has the capacity to bring people together. Look at this situation, he’s bringing the GOP together with trial lawyers, and that’s a beautiful thing. Formerly, only occurring in the body of Dan Caplis.
CAPLIS: Well, Frank McNulty, doing a great job as Speaker of the House in Colorado. Mr. Speaker, welcome back to KHOW!
FRANK McNULTY (Speaker of the House): What’s going on, guys?
CAPLIS: Hey, I know we were scheduled and we will, in a second, your time permitting, talk about the tuition bill for children of folks here illegally, but let’s start now with, I think, this fantastic development, you leading the way, State House Republicans, according to The Denver Post propose creating a commission to compensate victims of the Lower North Fork fire, saying that Governor Hickenlooper hasn’t moved aggressively enough to make those victims whole. What can you tell us about that?
McNULTY: Well, we certainly took our time to respect the governor’s process, reviewing what had happened in the North Fork fire, and the opportunity for him and his staff to come forward with any recommendations that they had related to it. One of the glaring deficiencies in the governor’s recommendations yesterday was a lack of support for the victims of that fire. And to us, that is simply inexcusable. And to turn a blind eye toward those who were hurt is not acceptable and for our part, we’d like to do what we can to make it right. And that’s what we talked about today.
CAPLIS: And what would this commission look like?
McNULTY: Well, those are the pieces that we’re working through. There would be legislative oversight component that would actually have members of the House and Senate Republicans and Democrats as a part of it. Perhaps members of Governor Hickenlooper’s administration. But mainly aimed at ensuring that folks who lost everything in the North Fork fire are adequately compensated for their loss, understanding that we could never compensate those who lost loved ones enough for what they lost, but hopefully doing our part to make it right, if indeed the State is liable under these circumstances.
CAPLIS: Hey, and Mr. Speaker, I’ve thrown this disclosure out several times before, including today, but I do want folks to know I have a conflict of interest here, because I’m considering taking on some of these cases. I would never take a fee, make a dime whatsoever, out of any monies that were set up by a state special commission of fund. But I want that disclosure on the table. And let me follow up briefly on your last point. Are you saying at this point that there would have to be some sort of threshold determination in some other way as to whether the State was negligent or at fault for this before this commission would go into effect? Or, would this commission,…. Has that bridge been crossed, and would this commission just step up and help these victims?
McNULTY: That bridge has not been crossed. And certainly it is one that needs to be addressed. But our goal through this process is to make sure that if the State was wrong here, that those folks are adequately compensated for their loss. And part of the challenge that we have is that our legislative session is … has two weeks left in it. And so moving quickly is really very important and putting a process in place is a piece that has to happen before the clock runs out on us. We certainly don’t intend to have the clock run out on us as we move through this process and address the issues that Governor Hickenlooper simply was unwilling or unable to handle.
SILVERMAN: Mr. Speaker, the preliminary report suggests that it was a failure to adequately patrol the area of the prescribed burn. I guess it’s preliminary and there are other studies going on. But take us behind the scenes. You said you waited for Governor Hickenlooper. You allowed him a chance to lead on this issue. Were you surprised that he refused to answer the question yesterday? What’s been going on behind the scenes?
McNULTY: Well, we were briefed yesterday on the recommendation by the governor and his staff and we will react to those specific recommendations by tomorrow. But the most glaring deficiency in his recommendations was any support for these folks that were harmed by this fire, and perhaps even more importantly, any chance for those folks to be heard. There’s …
SILVERMAN: Do you think he…
McNULTY: There’s a lot that they have to say and having the opportunity to express those feelings, to express their thoughts, and to express their views on what happened there are absolutely critical to us, and that is going to be a part of this process.
CAPLIS: You mean, there’s not unanimous consent with the governor’s belief that global warming caused this?
CAPLIS: Because I…
McNULTY: I think … I … Yeah. I mean…
CAPLIS: Yeah, it’s crazy. The Speaker of the House Frank McNulty with us.
SILVERMAN: I think that you might have surprised the governor. He might have anticipated and frankly, if I had to bet, I would bet that the Republicans would not bring this up. They’re traditionally protective of governmental immunity. Factoring the Berthoud Pass boulder incident destroying the bus incident, it was Roy Romer who stepped up and said, “We’re going to cover the losses.” And eventually the State covered a significant fraction, but it was only a fraction of the losses. Are you guys going to go all in on this? I mean, is it your feeling that, “Hey, the State was negligent. People got hurt. Three people died. A lot of people lost their property. We need to step up and make them fully whole.” Or are you just going to be okay with partial reparations?
McNULTY: Well, our goal is to make sure that those who lost their homes, lost their property, and lost their loved ones are adequately compensated. And the pieces that we’re working through now are the pieces that we need in place to address that. Unfortunately, it was not something that was addressed by Governor Hickenlooper’s recommendations, and so I hope folks understand that we’re playing a bit of catch-up on that. But…
SILVERMAN: But are you playing politics on that? Because [inaudible] said, “Hey, this could open the floodgates.” And there are a lot of terrible stories you hear, doing the kind of law that Dan and I do where the state government is negligent but there’s no adequate remedy. Is it just the scope of this disaster that gets to you? And how do you respond to the argument this is going to open the floodgates at a time when Colorado is strapped for money?
McNULTY: No, this is a unique situation, and if the State was indeed at fault here, the State has an obligation to put a process in place to make it right.
CAPLIS: And, Mr. Speaker, let me follow up on that briefly. First, I think that what you’re doing is absolutely consistent with core conservative values, and you are known as definitely one of those core conservative people. Because it is all about personal responsibility, and fundamental fairness, and the State taking that responsibility here, and acting to be fair. You know, that is consistent with those core values. In terms of the process for this first step issue of determining that the State was at fault, and frankly, from everything I’ve learned about this, I don’t think there’s going to be any problem demonstrating that—but how do you think that part of the process will work?
McNULTY: Well, that is… that will be one of the most complicated pieces of the process. And I don’t, as I sit here today, I don’t presume an outcome on that, except to say that if indeed the State was responsible and the State is liable, then people who lost their homes should have recourse. The State should be in the position to make it right.
CAPLIS: And I think that is such a responsible and humane approach to this. Now let me ask you, do you have any dollar or limit in mind in terms of making it right, or making amends as the Minority Leader Bill Cadman said today… the Senate Minority Leader.
McNULTY: The scope of this is something that we cannot put a dollar figure on right now. And I don’t even know that there’s a responsible estimate out there now as to what that number might be. And I look forward to determining what that is through this process.
CAPLIS: Well, and I think it’s great that you and the GOP are stepping up and showing this tangible, concrete concern for the victims. And it… Let me ask you this. We have to hit a break right now. Can you hang with us through one more half segment or so to talk about the immigration tuition bill?
McNULTY: Yeah! Sure, I’d be happy to.
CAPLIS: Okay. Beautiful. [I] appreciate that. Speaker of the House Frank McNulty with us. When we come back, we’ll talk about this interesting development. You know, you’ve got this bill ou there that would essentially give children of illegal immigrants, you know, that meet certain criteria .. . um, essentially in-state tuition. It’s about a grand more. I’ll give you the exact numbers when we come back. Last night, one GOP rep, Tom Massey, Chairman of the House Education Committee who just talked to us, you know, broke ranks and voted in favor of the bill. So it’s passed one House Committee. Now, Frank McNulty is the Speaker of the House, the GOP Speaker of the House. We’ll get his position on this immigration tuition bill when we come back, on KHOW.
CAPLIS: Four-nineteen. A real privilege to have the Speaker of the House in Colorado, Frank McNulty with us. Bold, tremendous leadership today, the GOP stepping in where the Governor failed, completely absent, – won’t even take a position on whether the State should compensate these victims of the Lower North Fork fire. The GOP saying they are going to set up a process. They’re going to set up a commission and they’re going to give these people a fair hearing. So great leadership by the Speaker and the GOP today. And now, Mr. Speaker, [I] want to talk to you about this separate issue that is on so many people’s minds, of course – this issue of whether to give tuition, lower than out-of-state – a lot lower than out-of-state, to children of illegal immigrants in Colorado, if they meet certain conditions. Now, as TheDenverPost reports, and you well know, Mr. Speaker, an out-of-state student shelling out about thirty grand… thirty grand, three hundred and thiry; in-state student: nine thousand one hundred and fifty—two for thirty hours of credit. And the child of the illegal immigrant would pay eleven thousand twelve dollars. And as you know, Representative Tom Massey, GOP, broke ranks last night, Chair of that House committee, and it got through that committee. What is your position on the bill, and where do you think it’s going to go from here?
McNULTY: I’m opposed to the bill, have been opposed to the bill. The Democrats attempted several years ago to tie one of my Veteran Education bills – Active Duty Military Education Bill, in with this. And that was just absolutely ridiculous. This has been an issue they have been pushing for a long time and attempting to use a wedge for the GOP. So, my perspective is a little different. And my perspective, as Speaker of the House, is to treat an issue like this in the way that is most fair, and understand that there are going to be passionate arguments both for and against, — … both for and against it, and allow those folks to be heard in committee. And that’s what you saw last night, and that’s what you’ll see in the upcoming committees that it has to go through the House because of the nature of the bill.
SILVERMAN: Mr. Speaker, why do you oppose it? What are your concerns?
McNULTY: I think it’s illegal. I think it violates federal law. I think the president … the president … two years ago, the president said he was going to take on the issue of illegal immigration – said he was going to work with Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress, take on this issue to protect our borders and fix it. And he has been M-I-A since then. Our borders are no safer today than they were when he made that announcement . The immigration problem that our country has still exists. And you know what? I get it! I get that these kids are here through no fault of their own. And I understand that that is… that that has a level of compassion that many of us share. But the bottom line is, the law is the law. And to say that we’re going to ignore the law in this one simple case, flies in the face of what our nation was founded on and is the main reason why I’m opposed to it.
SILVERMAN: Well, who gets hurt? I understand you’re saying the rule of law. Does it hurt Coloradans? Are there financial implications? Do my boys have a lesser chance of getting into CU or CSU because their spots are being taken?
McNULTY: I don’t know. Which laws do you chose to follow?
SILVERMAN: Well, I… I mean, … the argument is these kids really can’t be held criminally liable until you’re ten years old. So, I… I.. So, I understand how it incentivizes. And I suppose I understand your argument. But talk to me about money. Is this going to cost Colorado people money? And beyond that, what is the harm to the average Colorado person?
McNULTY: The fiscal note is a change in revenues of up to two million dollars, and so that implicates a more intense legislative where you simply [inaudible]… and that happens with any bill that has the public fiscal note … whatever bill has a fiscal note like that. But when we start talking about picking and chosing which laws we follow and which laws are okay to ignore, I mean, … Sure, I get pulled over for speeding. I get a ticket. I pay my ticket. I have points taken off of my license. So there are penalities there for ignoring the law.
SILVERMAN: Right. But if your kid is in the car, he doesn’t get a ticket. You do.
McNULTY: Well, that’s true…
SILVERMAN: So you’re penalizing the children who were just, in effect, in the car. So, I mean, you have your reasons to oppose the law. Frankly, I’m more concerned about how it impacts Colorado citizens, and also get the incentivizing argument. What do you do with the fact that illegal immigration is way down, owing to the economy.
McNULTY: Well, I read a report that border crossings are at their lowest point in … ten years? Fifteen years? So I understand that that’s a piece that’s out there. But fundamentally, you have to answer the question of what laws will we not follow.
CAPLIS: Well, and Mr. Speaker…
McNULTY: What laws are we going to break?
CAPLIS: You’re right. No, we have to start there. Obviously we’re a nation of laws, not men and women. We have to start there. You’re right. I want to make sure that I understand the issue well, though. Are you referring to this federal law –“ 8 USC Section 16.21: Aliens who are not qualified aliens or non-immigrants ineligible for state and local public benefits”—is that your starting point?
McNULTY: That is the starting point. And there’s also federal law that implicates tuition rates for colleges, where if you allow a non-resident to attend your colleges and universities for a lesser rate, then you have to allow that same benefit to all. So, sure. In allowing this or not allowing it to people who have their homes in Wyoming or Utah or, heaven forbid, California, sure, we are violating federal law and we’re violating state law in addition to that.
CAPLIS: And let me ask you this, if you’re willing to address it, hypothetically. Because I agree with your starting point, [chuckling] the law has to be followed and if you don’t like the law, you go through the proper steps to get it changed. I get that. When it comes to sort of the policy issues, though, the separate policy issues involved in this bill, if they crafted a bill that cut it off now, so it couldn’t serve as the magnet to future folks coming here illegally — said the kid had to be in the state as of May 1st, 2012, whatever, and if they put in a provision that said that no child here illegally could take the spot of a child here legally at universities that have capped enrollment – you know, such as CU or CSU. Would you support this concept, or would you have concerns with it?
McNULTY: Well, that still doesn’t address the issue of that same proposal violating federal law.
CAPLIS: Oh, no! And I’m with you on that. You made your point beautifully. But just assuming that that law was hypothetically changed at some point, would you otherwise, you know, conceptually, you know, support doing something to allow those kids to more feasibly get higher education?
McNULTY: Well, that question can’t be answered in the abstract, and cannot be answered in a vacuum without addressing the overall question of immigration reform and protecting our borders. And I don’t think that you can pull out any single piece of this out and let it stand by itself and pretend that they other pieces don’t matter. I certainly respect the folks who came in to testify in favor of the bill and the folks who came in to testify against it. And what you saw with many of the opponents were folks who have immigrated to this country legally, saying you’re doing those a disservice who have stood in line and followed the rules and obeyed the law and now are blessed to be here in this country. I’ve said before and I stand by it today, I don’t begrudge anybody for wanting to make a better life in this country. It’s what has made the United States great. It’s what has allowed our melting pot to create the greatest nation that has ever graced God’s green Earth. But fundamentally, we need to respect the rule of law, and we need to understand that immigration reform must take place, and that in order to do that we have to protect our borders.
McNULTY: And that is primary consideration.
SILVERMAN: Right. Mr. Speaker, what is the GOP advantage in the house? How many members?
McNULTY: We have a robust one vote majority in the State House of Representatives.
SILVERMAN: So, Tom Massey has already defected from your position. Are there going to be any Democrats coming to your side?
McNULTY: Well, I don’t suspect… I … And I don’t view it that way, either. I think that does a disservice to Representative Massey who has been a strong and motivated member of our House Republican caucus. The bill has two committees to go through. It has the House Finance Committee, because of the revenue implications. And then, the House Appropriations Committiee, because of the expenditure questions, and at that point, if it clears those two hurdles, then it’s on the House floor.
SILVERMAN: Right. So, just putting the math together, if it reaches the House floor it is going to pass. The only chance to stop it is the Republican majority in a committee.
McNULTY: On the Finance Committee and the Appropriations Committee.
SILVERMAN: And then the Senate is Democrat, and again, I’m asking you if you have any Democrats that you are aware of who are on your side of this debate.
McNULTY: I don’t know. I don’t spend a lot of time in Democratic caucus meetings.
CAPLIS: And Mr. Speaker, one of the articles I read said it’s expected this bill will die in committee. Is that what you expect?
McNULTY: Well, I know that as it moves forward in the process, the road gets tougher. But it is incumbent upon the proponents of this bill to make their case. And that’s how any bill moves through the process. That’s how all bills move through the process. And if they’re able to do that, then their work becomes easier. If they’re not able to do that, then their work becomes harder.
CAPLIS: Hmm. Well, I’m sure we’ll be having more of those folks on. It will be interesting to see how they address this starting point concern of the federal law that says that if you give that rate to somebody who’s not here legally, you have to give it to everybody. And it will be interesting to see how they address that, sir. But, sure do appreciate your time today. Now, are you going to be up at this Obama event? I know that you’re going to be commenting on it some. What do you expect to come out of all that?
McNULTY: [laughs] Oddly enough, I wasn’t invited to the Obama event. I do find it ironic that the President is requiring people to show a photo ID to get into the event….
McNULTY: … But is opposed to a photo ID to cast a ballot.
CAPLIS: Wow. Yeah. Great point.
McNULTY: So, we’ll see how that plays out.
CAPLIS: Great point. Hey, thank you, sir. Appreciate the time!
McNULTY: Guys, take care!
SILVERMAN: Thank you!
CAPLIS: Hey, you as well. Thank you. That’s Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, kind enough to join us on KHOW.