Seng Center, Robert Ramirez & Kathleen Conti, 6/01/2011

Station: KRCX

Show: Seng Center

Guest: Robert Ramirez and Kathleen Conti


Date: 6/01/2011

Click Here for Audio

Sengenberger: How is life not in session?

Conti: While I would say that we’re finally getting an opportunity to do the things that we did not have an opportunity to do before the last session. And that is do a lot of research, meet with proponents and opponents of bills that you are producing, get people on board and so forth and those are the kind of things that make you write more successful legislation that we had no opportunity to do prior to last session

Sengenberger: Rep. Ramirez, what have you learned as a freshman member of the statehouse from that experience?

Ramirez: Coming into this we felt as though, alright we had a Republican majority in the House, the Democrats majority in the Senate and it was going to be just this battle of not getting anything done this whole session. What I did in realize is that if you’re willing to do the work and you are willing to work with people you can come up with some very good legislation and get something done and the realization is that not everyone is willing to do that.

Sengenberger: What did you learn Rep. Conti?

Conti: The highs are great and the lows stink but you can find a lot of joy in the journey and it is fun to work with your other colleagues and collaborate and a great spirit and there were some genuine times of bipartisan spirit.

Sengenberger: Before we jumped into some of the more particular issues like redistricting and other measures that I want to talk about, I want to give both of your chance to share with us the bills or couple of the bills that you submitted and pushed forth in the House and how they did up faring through the Legislature.

Conti: One of the bills that I was most excited about was a charter school bill. House Bill 1089 I believe it was. It allowed our charter schools to compete; to step into the arena and compete in the competitive grants at the federal level and competitive grants of the state level categories. Prior to that they had been excluded from those opportunities to step in and compete like about nine other states surrounding Colorado. So this finally allowed our charter schools to do that and that was pretty exciting

Sengenberger: And that went through the Senate as well?

Conti: Yes, signed into law by the Governor.

Ramirez: That was a really good bill.

Conti: And I also had a bill…the other two were basically unintended consequences that we were fixing. One of the things that a lot of people don’t know is that in order to fix a bill or kill previous legislation you have to write more legislation to do it. And that’s what we were doing with the window tinting law. We had police officers out there who were having their undercover surveillance equipment, if there were in detective operations and that kind of thing, that undercover surveillance equipment was being discovered because of the limited windowed tint that they were legally allowed to put on their windows. So they asked for an exemption for those vehicles only that are in those detective operations so they could tint their windows darker and conceal some of that equipment that they might need to have in their cars. And so that also did pass through the House and Senate and the signed into law as well as a disabled veterans bill. In our privacy requirements, one of the things that they have to do as soon as they verify the Social Security number when people are asking for property tax exemption, which our 100 percent disabled veterans are eligible for, that they have to strike all but the last four digits. The problem is the first people that were verifying that number were the veterans and then the county also needed to verify that.  So the county was having to verify based on the last four digits and match the last name and go on a hunt and peck. When the economy was good they probably only had about 50 of those requests a year. But when the economy turned south, all of the suddon 50 turned into 3, 4, 500 of those requests per year and it was just bogging down their office and bogging those claims being processed. So we were able to go in and get that changed so they didn’t have to strike it until after the county had an opportunity to do their verifications.

Sengenberger: Essentially boosting efficiency for them.

Conti: Exactly.

Sengenberger: Rep. Ramirez what were some of the things that you advocated?

Ramirez: I had six bills this year. The first one met an untimely death. It was to allow RTD to use more private entities in order to perform the services they want to perform; everything from drivers to mechanics and everything else. And it turned into a union bill and was really kind of a vicious battle and it in no way was intended to be against the unions. It was just trying to say, ok RTD, you have certain amount of money. In order to continue the same rate of service, you’re going to have to use more private contracts or else you are going to have to cut some services. And what is going to end up happening is they re going to have to cut some services. So that one died. It was actually jobs bill. Another one that went away was a bill to make a two-thirds majority vote for any debt accumulation by the state. Sounds like a great idea but when the get the bills drafted, you pull them and look at them and what I realized is that it was going to end up costing the state anywhere $800 million to $2 billion a year in lost revenues because the buildings they could have purchased on a lease purchase, money they could have saved on rent, money that could have made by renting out part of the buildings they were purchasing. So I killed that bill.  So it comes down to about four bills that were really good. One of them allowed the state troopers to deregulate crude oil for transport so we could have the trucks on the road for less time. They can use different routes from county to county and you don’t have the trucks going through the populated areas of town which is safety concern. It’s a good bill, is a deregulation bill and it works well. Next one is the title bill. I don’t know if you have you have but I have traded in a car and after couple months after trading in my car I get a  call from my bank saying your two months late on your payment. And it can be kind of shocking when you have a brand-new car and you don’t have the old car anymore. And then you call the bank back and ask how am I late and they say you haven’t made a payment in two months. And I say OK well it was paid off and they say let me check the other system… oh wait, we haven’t submitted title yet so it is still showing we still have the car. What that eventually does is a dealership has 30 days from the time they sell a used car to satisfy title with the county clerks. If they don’t, they can lose their licenses. Also the individual like myself has been turned over to credit bureaus because I am two months late on payments. What that does is its bad for the people, its bad for banks, its bad for the credit unions, its bad for the dealerships. Its bad all the way around. This bill said you have 15 days from the time you receive payment. In other words, when you know the check is good you have 15 days to submit that title to the dealership. The dealerships love it, the people love it, and nobody is getting caught in a mess. It’s a great bill. Both of these were signed into law. And then last Friday, what I consider one of my larger accomplishments, were two bills that require schools not hire people with very specific violent felonies. That is anything from murder, rape, felony domestic violence, most of your felony sexual type crimes. And it passed.  Also felony drug abuse. Both of those passed. One of them was 54 to 9 out of the House and unanimous out of the Senate. And the other two were unanimous. And the reason why they went through, because two years in a row this bill is been killed, but it went through this time. N­­­ot because we had a majority in the House because if that were the case it wouldn’t have gone through the Senate. It was because we sat down with all the entities involved. All the school groups, everybody, and said look, this is what we have to do. With everything going on in the news, teachers having relationships with students they shouldn’t be having. Some of them we would have not even higher had this law been in place. We need to work on this and need to protect not just the kids under our care but the employees within our schools. So they are very good bills.

Sengenberger: Very well. It seems like the two of you have really been moving and shaking already off in the beginning. And that is a good thing to have all these Republican successful bills looking at it from a political standpoint. Especially when they are good legislation. It seems like both of you Reps. Conti and Ramirez have been successful in pushing forth some good bills. One of the issues I was talking about earlier on the program with Republican National Committeemen Mark Hillman was the redistricting topic. Which is the requirements in the Colorado State Constitution that the State Legislature pass the redistricting bill. The House of Representatives passed a redistricting bill that was fairly similar to what we’ve got now is my understanding in terms of how you break up the lines. Because this follows after the Census you are supposed to rearrange congressional districts. Yet something different happened in the Senate. Want to talk a little about that?

Ramirez: In the House, our map, since 10 years ago it went to the courts, we decided we want to do like we are supposed to according to the statute in the Legislature. And the bill went round amd around and around until it finally came to us in the House. It looked very similar to what the courts designed before. We went by the rules and statute set up for the judiciary so that it would be fair and balanced. Not competitive but fair. And the districts that needed to lose people because they had grown immensely like down in the Douglas County area, the area has grown immensely. Those could be scaled back. In the districts that needed to grow could be expanded because they have lost people. So we worked very hard to make sure that was the kind of map that we did. It was fair. It was actually more fair to the Democrats then the current map is and less fair to the Republicans. So we went at it as an absolute this is a great way to work together, come up with a map that we can pass. And you would not believe some of the things that were presented. Some on them presented Grand Junction and Boulder in the same district.  Some had a big “C” like they had a big Colorado flag and laid it down on the map and drew a “C” from all the way up in Boulder all the way through Summit, Gilpin and all those and down to Park and around El Paso and Douglas County all the way around Denver. And I said this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. And then the Senate maps, both Republican and Democrat maps, they were just all over the place.

Sengenberger: And was it Rolley Heath who put forth the final bill in the Senate that ended up being filibustered by the Democrats and then they filibustered their own bill.

Ramirez: They killed our bill and filibustered their own bill. It was absolutely absurd. We did what we were supposed to do by statute and they just fell short is the best way to put it. Not fell short, they intentionally killed it. They wanted it to go to the courts and thats what they got. And hopefully the courts are smart enough to figure that out.

Sengenberger: Rep. Conti, what do you think might be the implications? Well, first off,  what is your take on this and what do you think will be the implications of it now going to court. And I know the law suit date is set for October 17th that week. What do you think?

Conti: Frankly I am optimistic. The courts obviously were the ones who drew the maps 10 years ago and we have tried to be respectors of the lines that they drew and keeping it as close to what they drew is possible. And so frankly I am optimistic that they will see that. And if they liked the work they did 10 years ago, well, this is pretty darn close to it. I am hopeful that it will get settled as soon as possible because obviously there’s a lot of work that needs to be done after that. This is what begins the process where reapportionment with the State House and Senate races, those districts need to be set. And once those are set and of course there’s a very likely court battle over those and after that we have to turn it over to the counties so they can redraw precinct lines and get those out. And of course we have had a primary date that has been moved up. We are no longer in August, now we are in the last week of June. And so all of this has to happen in less time then what they have had in previous years and so it is going to be very…. caucus meetings instead of happening in March now are happening in February. So there is less time then ever to get it all together so I am just hopeful that they will move very quickly.

Sengenberger: Regards to redistricting in particular that I think are in the Republicans favor is you have a stronger legal case to make for say keeping communities of interest together and so forth and the Democrats have saying some abstract competitiveness component which is what they have been saying they want to make these districts more competitive, whatever that means, yet there’s nothing in statute that says they have to be competitive.

Conti: Exactly. And repeatedly in the hearings the statute was read and the qualifications respecting county lines, respecting city lines, respecting community of interest and so forth. And we’ve really tried to do that. Take into account were people shop, what teams does that school play. For an example, my school and the schools in our area don’t really go into Denver to play the sports teams there. They largely play in Douglas County and around at Arapahoe County and so forth. And I commented in my testimony really nothing in my county in the city of Littleton, we really very seldom go beyond Bellevue. Everything that we need: we shop, we eat, our recreation, and everything that we do is pretty much is that South part of town. I really feel we did a very good job in respecting those communities of interest, county lines, city lines, and exactly what the statue asks us to respect.

Sengenberger: Which of course the Democrats don’t do. Shifting gears, with their proposal that’s what they didn’t do in this particular case. And I do want to say that gerrymandering or manipulating districts isn’t something that just a Democrats thing and Republicans have done the same thing. It is a party thing.

Ramirez: That is true. And we went at this time not to be a party thing. Most of us are sick and tired of party, party, party. We love our party but it is time that we start looking at what is important and that is getting Colorado back on track. And in order to do that we did things as fair and openly and balanced as we could to keep everyone working together. This map was a joke that Rep. Pabon proposed as an alternative map to the House map. They were talking about things like his communities of interests. He was so mad because the Republican map had four counties that had pieces of them cut up. Little sections of them had to be taken out to account for numbers. But yet when he showed his map there were nine counties that had been split up in different ways and cities that had been cut in half. You know they can have an argument but if you are going to argue something, stick to what you just argued about. If you are going to say that this map is black and this map is green, then don’t turn it around and say it’s pink and purple because it doesn’t work.

Sengenberger: Well put. Before we have to take a quick break with our guests Reps. Robert Ramirez and Kathleen Conti, I want to ask you and I’ll start with Rep. Conti, about this lawsuit that was just filed last week dealing with TABOR saying this violates the Federal Constitution’s Guarantee Clause we talked about earlier Mark Hillman. What is your take on this lawsuit?

Conti: I can certainly understand how they say that it limits the legislature. Although in the past five or six years we haven’t even come close to TABOR limits.  So it really has not been too much of an issue in the legislature at all. The fact of the matter is, if you want to talk about things that tie the hands of legislatures, we would also have to take a serious look at Amendments 23 and the Gallagher Amendments as well, because what that does, it is a long and drawn out thing, what that does is artificially hold individual property taxes low while business property taxes high. And what that does is limits the county’s income. And so the more the counties income is limited, the more than that they have the inability to fund their own schools, which shifts that weight onto the state. It used to be that literally the counties were coming in and they would pay for two-thirds of the school budgets and the state had to backfill one-third. Today that has absolutely flipped. Now the counties are only paying for one-third of the school tab and they’re asking the state the backfill two-thirds.

Sengenberger: Rep. Ramirez?

Ramirez: She is absolutely right. Which is one of problems with our budget. 46 percent of our budget goes to schools. 46 percent. You got a state like Wyoming where it is like 3 percent and that is just discretionary because their schools and colleges for the citizens of Wyoming is almost completely fully paid for through the oil and gas industry.  Ray Scott had a bill, 1223, which was probably the one bill that could have created massive job increases, huge revenues to the state and put our state back in order, which would reconstitute the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Had he done that, we could’ve started drilling for oil and gas on school trust lands. They would receive the severance taxes, the royalties, more money directly to the schools where they are not having to go to the legislature for it. It’s their money. And the legislature is not having to say what are we going to cut because we don’t have any money. And when you look at an $800 million increase in Medicaid in one year, what do you expect people to cut? Where do you expect it to happen? So that bill would’ve created between 50,000-100,000 jobs immediately. It would’ve created between $800 million and $1.2 billion in taxes to the state, not including income taxes, the money that people were spending in the community, the increase in other companies that would come here again and hiring more people. So that is a very conservative estimate. That bill alone would’ve turned Colorado around.

Sengenberger: It’s really striking that you have such proposals. I’m not surprised that was unsuccessful. There is this idea out there that we need to be looking in a totally fundamentally different direction when it comes to energy and how we extract that.

Ramirez: I agree with that. I agree that we need to look at green energy. I agree we have to look at that. Wind, oh what a wonderful thing. But it takes one kilowatt of gas energy per hour for every kilowatt-hour of wind production. Because wind is not dependable. Second of all, there’s no way to store the energy to use it when you don’t need it. It’s just ridiculous. So until we come up with the storage plan for wind and the way to make solar energy cost effective, we can just destroy our economy and our livelihood based on just pie-in-the-sky.

Sengenberger: I absolutely agree…I want to shift gears with you both to a few different topics that went on in this legislative session. The first one, this was music that came up out just this past Tuesday when Gov. Hickenlooper vetoed, his very first veto as governor, a bipartisan bill dealing with health-care premiums for people who are making below 250 percent of the poverty line, dealing with the Child Health Plan Plus Program. Rep. Ramirez, you want to talk a little bit about this?

Ramirez: Well first off, it is below 250 percent. Now 250 percent of poverty level is about $60,000 a year, $58,000. 205 percent is the bottom. So if you’re between 205 and 250 percent of the poverty level, which means if you are between about $47,000 and $58,000, then you are going to be required to make a small monthly payment for your insurance. Now my insurance, for me alone, is $120 a month. If we are taking about poverty levels in the state legislatures, let me tell you something, $30,000 a year, your take $115 -$120 a month, that adds up quickly. Now what were asking is a pay $20 for their first child, up to $10 per child until you hit the $50 maximum if you are within that. So if you’re making between $47,000 and $58,000 a year, almost $60,000, you have to pay $50 a month if you have four kids.

Sengenberger: Not a big deal.

Ramirez: For full coverage insurance. Better than anything you or I have. It was bipartisan. I didn’t think it was unreasonable. It was really a low cost. And if you’re below that $47,000 level, you have to pay anything at all. You just have to pay the $25 or $50 annual fee. But I will let Kathleen talk.

Sengenberger: Rep. Conti, it seems to me that this bill, had become law, would simply have had these people get some skin in the game so that they would just be taking advantage of state run entitlement.

Conti: Absolutely. It’s my experience, especially as a parent, that if people don’t have any investment, they don’t appreciate what they have. Bottom line, I can point to numerous examples of that and I think we have all seen that. When someone is simply handed something and they have to pay nothing into it, they will have a tendency not to treat with respect that its do.

Sengenberger: Now Gov. Hickenlooper said in his veto statement that the focus of his administration in evaluating premiums and making changes will be to implement a change that is minimally disruptive, administratively efficient, effective and elegant, and supports the goal of insuring that kids have access to coverage. What you make a Gov. Hickenlooper statement and do you think that or why do you think that he vetoed a bipartisan bill like this?

Conti: I would also encourage him to look at the disruption that it’s going to be if this has an effect on maintaining a balanced budget. The budget was in a balanced status and I believe that is taking that bill into effect. If he is going to veto that it, is going to have a budget impact and what disruption is that going to have? So I would encourage him to really factor that an as well.

Sengenberger: Rep. Ramirez?

Ramirez: I don’t know, does he want to pull another $360,000 out of K-12? Because that is what is going to happen. Medicaid, which is what we are talking about here, its actually the child care program but it’s still Medicaid. Its government funded health insurance, which is 100 percent free to everyone, really, with the exemption of $25 a year. That’s free when one office visit is $150. It’s basically free. When we had an $800 million increases this year, which is why we had to cut money to schools, why we had to cut money to prisons, why we had a cut so many different programs that are beneficial and productive, now we are going to have to cut more because he has taken the budget out of balance. And he has said he knows better. Well if he knows better, then he should better come up with a way to come up with another $360,000 to put back into the budget.

Sengenberger: Now his administration is saying that this doesn’t change anything with the budget agreement that came up before. So essentially they are just spinning with this is, saying we’re going to deal with this in other ways.

Ramirez: That is exactly right.

Sengenberger: Now lets just stay on this topic of the budget. Rep. Conti, what do you make of what was approved, what was done in regards to trying to bring down the shortfall that we face in the state addressing the these budgetary concerns? What were some of the things that were done and some of the stuff that you take away from it?

Conti: This year’s budget was called one of the most responsible that has been put forth in about a decade. And that is by some legislators that have been there longer than that time period.  It spends less than the 2010-2011 budget and we felt that that was very important. sState spending had been on a rapid increase for the past four years. I think we went from 17.1 to 19.6 over a four-year stint and during that time, every year they were cutting more and more from our K-12 school system. So if were going to be cutting and we are not going to be fully funding K-12, we better be spending and cutting somewhere. We better not be spending and increasing yet cutting K-12. So I thought it was a responsible thing that we were able to cut the budget by hundreds of millions of dollars. It also contained 750 fewer full-time employees than what had previously been there. That’s because our Joint Budget Committee went on a good research stint and were able to find 750 of them that were unstaffed and they were able to eliminate. If you figure an average, I think its $62,000 a year salary, you can start to do the math on that. And again, that wasn’t cutting anyone’s job. It was unstaffed positions that money was still being allocated to those departments for. So great research work on behalf of our Joint Budget Committee.

Sengenberger: Rep. Ramirez, what do you make of the budget actions that were taken?

Ramirez: I lost track there, I know we cut 750 FTEs, full-time equivalent positions. There were a couple of those that actually had people in them. Not very many. But a lot of people people say we actually didn’t cut anything. You heard about the 5,000 increase in jobs during the recession that the Ritter administration and Democrats hired. That’s because those full-time equivalent positions were out there and they said hey they are out there, lets just hire somebody and put them in there. Then they have a permanent job, they’re good. We get rid of 750 of those that we found. In the different entities they are actually hiding these positions when they go to their budget review. So our JVC did a phenomenal job at finding these and cutting them. We cut the budget like Rep. Conti said, by over $250 million less than what it was last year. I had one gentleman, Im not going to bring up his name, but he ran for offices last time and he’s listing he will know who I’m talking about, he confronted me at CRBC and asked where’s this $1.1 billion your talking about? It’s a myth number. You’re still going to spend about the same amount. There is not $1 billion you have to cut the budget. Well, when you look at $800 million increase in Medicaid, there you go.  Now I got to come up with $200 million more. I got to cut the budget because we are not going to spend as much because that’s what we promised we would you do. We would be responsible in what we were spending and be responsible with the taxpayers’ money. It’s not my money.  It’s not your money. It’s not the state’s money. It’s the taxpayers’ money and we were responsible. We cut another $250 million. There is your $1 billion right there. So I think we did a phenomenal job. And it’s really strange because the Republicans in the House voted for it, the Democrats in the Senate voted for it and the opposite in each house didn’t. So we worked very hard to make things happen. We actually found an extra $90 million for K-12. So it wasn’t such a horrible cut. And going into next year with possibly a $700 million shortfall for K-12 because of the federal funding that we are going to lose. I’m actually petrified of what we are doing. So I think we went the right way in cutting the debt.

Sengenberger: Looking at it, tough decisions have to be made. And more decisions will have to be made. The legislature, and to Gov. Hickenlooper’s credit for the most part, he offered more expansive cuts to K-12 and certain things than anyone had ever anticipated. At least that’s that’s my understanding.

Ramirez: Yea he did but he knew that what it would never come to fruition. His party is so mad at him but he knew that he would never have to do it and it would be able to be blamed on the legislature. Lets put it where it really stands,  he came out and said this so now we can say we’re trying to do what the Governor said and we are trying to work with the Governor. But in essence it was pomp and circumstances, it was a dog and pony show so that he could get out there and say we are going to do this and I am a great guy and you like me. So now I’m going to leave it up to the legislature and whoever messes that up look bad. We’re trying to get a rainy day fund. Well its poring.  It’s poring right now and we can’t spend every dime because something is going to happen halfway through where we need to fund it. We come up with this giant budget in the beginning and make everybody happy then halfway through the year we have to do midyear cuts, supplemental bills. And all the entities are going hey wait I thought I had this money. Now you have to lay people off in the middle of the year. Wouldn’t it be better if we gave less at the beginning? They know its coming and in the midyear say you know what we have a little extra to give. Which is what this one kind of does but we were not able to cut back as far.   But I’m happy about the work that we all did together. Rep. Conti was constantly throwing things at me, saying hey you know what you are doing, do it right. And that I am appreciating of. But we worked hard and it is a good budget.

Sengenberger: Well I want to shift gears before we let our guests Rep. Kathleen Conti and Robert Ramirez go, Senate Bill 200,  which has spurred controversy in conservative circles. This has been pejoratively named AmyCare for those of you listeners out there who want to put two and two together. I’ve stated on this program that I have serious issues with that legislation. I oppose it personally. But I want to get your take. I’ll start first with Rep. Conti as to why you voted, I understand you both voted in favor of it, and why you voted in favor of it?

Conti: Thank you Jimmy. I can certainly understand peoples angst over it after all that we have heard about healthcare exchanges and the likes of the federal act commonly called ObamaCare. However, not all healthcare exchanges are created equal and there was a very definite… the business community work very hard in the off-season to ensure that they were very tight guidelines that the board that is going to be put together as a stay within as they created this healthcare exchange. Some of those requirements were: that it had to be competitive; they could not disallow any insurance company to get into it; they could not set rates or dictate any rates that they would choose to set; it had to increase competition; it had to reduced cost; it had to increase availability. And so with these and then we have legislative oversight so if it does not accomplish these goals the legislature can go in and abolish it so if it does not meet these goals. And then we have the simultaneous knowledge that if the legislature failed to pass something that Gov. Hickenlooper was well on record saying that he would do it by executive order and he would take either the federal plan or some type of more morph of it. So you had your choices; you either had legislative control or the governor was going to do the federal plan or some kind of morph of it, which would most assuredly left us single-payer.

Sengenberger: So essentially the idea that Republicans would have at least had their footprint on whatever would end up happening.

Conti: And we had some type of oversight over it and our bill mandated that there would not be any single-payer option that would go into it.

Sengenberger: Rep. Ramirez, what is your take?

Ramirez: There are a lot of people that are up in the air about this. It was actually a very difficult vote but when I looked at it and you look at what the governor was going to do, he was going to put it under the Department of Health. Which means that the Department of Health was going to work directly with the insurance companies. Which means that the government now knows why you are going to the doctor, who you are going to the doctor to see, what’s going on with you, all your problems and that is precisely what the liberty groups and myself and most conservatives don’t like. That is what ObamaCare is. The healthcare exchanges it not. Pretend you work for a company that has 40,000 people and you go buy this bulk group insurance plan. And you can get it cheap. Now you have a company that has seven people.  You go buy that same plan and it costs you ten times as much. What the exchange does is it pools all of these companies together. It pools brokers and agents together. Private entities that can pool the risks of larger claims so that the smaller companies can get almost the same deal as these larger companies and the insurance companies aren’t hit with the full risk. Now, poor insurance companies, we hear that. But when you look at a company of 40,000 people and you have ten people that have claims of $400,000 or more because of major major medical problems, it’s not as big a deal as when you have got a company of ten people where you have two people that have $400,000 bill. Much higher percentage, so the risk is higher. This exchange sets up, into private entities, a way for these smaller companies and individuals who own their own companies to buy the insurance at a lower cost that is run through the free market through businesses that are running it, not the government. There’s a board and oversight. The reason that it has oversight is because it is a regulated industry.  So the people have to have a voice in it and the legislature has to know what’s going on. Now the governor’s plan or the federal plan doesn’t include the brokers and agents. So they are out of jobs. It also goes directly to the insurance companies so they know what you are doing. This is something that if we have done it 10 or 15 years ago, everyone would’ve been, yea, this is a great thing, but because in the summary it talks about the federal plan and some other things, people think its federal healthcare. It is not federal healthcare. It’s nothing like federal healthcare. All it does is offer an opportunity. Not a mandate, not you have to buy it here.  You can still go pay ten times more if you want and it is not actually government run.

Sengenberger: Here my two of my difficulties that I have with this and I would love both of your responses to this. First of all, its that any regulation that Kathleen Sibelius, current Secretary of Health and Human Services, makes concerning exchanges, even the bill here says that it has to follow and oblige by federal  laws and that is what the statute in Obamacare says. so anything that Kathleen Sibelius says exchanges must do this board that the bill set some or rather the law because it was signed by Gov. Hickenlooper will still have to follow. That’s the first concern of mine, that I don’t really see exactly how it’s too different from the Obamacare setup.  Second, the way that the board to set up you still have a majority controll by the Democrats. Only two Republican appointees and then the Democrats Gov. Hickenlooper and Democrat leaders in the Legislature get to pick a total of seven people. Which I understand is consistently how boards are appointed but nevertheless if you have predominant Democrat control of who gets put on that board you can have things set up in ways that maybe not that great. My third issue here is that the idea of calling healthcare exchanges a free market, I don’t really agree with that because to me a free market is where you don’t have the government artificially setting up a market. Where it is actually businesses come in and they can compete on their own terms, yes with some regulations and so forth, but by and large it’s not that they are jumping into a market that is set up by the government.

Ramirez: On your last point on why it is a free market. It’s because those entities are coming together to pool the risk and they couldn’t do that own their own before. Legally they could not do it before.

Sengenberger: So why not just illuminate the previous statute? Allowing them to that if they wanted to.

Ramirez: I do not know why and I cannot answer that question.

Conti: I can tell you the business community has been trying to get that to happen for better than a decade in and they have been unsuccessful. They thought they had done it several times before and each time its evaded them, the ability to pool together. And the fact of the matter is Obamacare is the law. We don’t like that it’s the law. We are working to overturn that law. But in the meantime, if they enact a new speed limit on I-25 at 50 miles per hour instead of 65 in some places, I don’t like it I might work to change it but in the meantime I still have to abide by it. The same issue here, we are mandated that we have to set up an exchange, that is the law. As legislators we don’t have a choice in that. The exchange had to be set up by January of 2013.

Ramirez: Exactly. And had we not done it, would’ve had a bigger bureaucracy created that is actually under a department within the government and that is hugely expensive.

Conti: Exactly this bill expressly prohibits the board from creating rules, mandates, regulating insurance, soliciting bids, price-fixing, purchasing insurance or using state funds to do it. It establishes an oversight board and there is also a five-year review process allowing for the repeal if the model fails to meet the strict guidelines established by the bill.

Ramirez: Every way this bill couldn’t possibly been put together and still pass, to both follow what we have to do by federal mandate which I don’t like any more than you do, I can tell you I like it worse, we did. Because regardless of whether the lawsuit passes this is not going to make a difference. We still have to follow by the law. I hope the lawsuit…what is the right word…I hope we win the lawsuit because, to be honest with you, I think it is a bunch of nonsense. But this exchange is the best way we can do it. We’ve been quoted as saying we’re following the Utah model but the Utah model did not include brokers or agents and that is why it is not successful. These agents still go to their customers and they go find the best deals for them and that’s the way it works.

Sengenberger: But it is still going to have to follow any federal regulations that are laid down by the Secretary Health and Human Services.

Ramirez: To a point. If some of those end up violating the rules that were set forth in our exchange, the legislature has to abolish the law. Has to abolish the exchange. If anything comes down that is contradictory to what was set forth in this law for the rules that the board has to abide by, that was one of your concerns, then the legislature in five years has to get rid of it.

Sengenberger: You mean that it comes up for a vote in five years again to see if you want to renew it or not?

Ramirez: It comes up for review in five years.

Sengenberger: Either way though, if Obamacare says that you have to implement this exchange and here are the certain regulations thar you have to abide by. Federal law trumps state law no matter how you slice it. If Obamacare is ruled constitutional, whether they abolish this or not, you were still them and up a something that has to comply with the law. Right?

Conti: But which would you rather do Jimmy? Would you rather go to an empty piece of property and build a new House or would you rather have to rip one down first and then start?

Sengenberger: I would rather not do it at all.

Ramirez: In this case, what we set forth was the most positive bill we could get out there that keeps us in compliance with federal law. And what most people don’t understand is there are strings that are attached to the federal government. Over the past five years we have taken so much money that we have no choice on where we are spending our money or how we’re spending it on a lot of things. This was the best way to do it, to where when the federal government, if they win and God forbid that they do, I am praying every day that they don’t, then the government has said you have to have an exchange and we will let you do your exchange.

Conti: It is proactively defensive and that is about the best summary you can give it.

Ramirez: I would rather not have one at all. I would rather not have Obamacare. Lets just say that, I would rather have Ferrari. But I’m driving a Suzuki.

Sengenberger: I have to say, I do respect the position that you guys have come to. This is a respectful disagreement of course.

Ramirez: You’re not allowed to do that.

Sengenberger: What I do when asked though, and I will throw this to Rep. Conti, is you had every Republican in the Senate vote against it, every Democrats in the Senate vote for it, you had only 13 Republicans in the State House, still a majority, not vote for it and you even had one Democrat vote against it. What are we to make of the fact that it has got Majority Democrat support.

Conti: In the Senate?

Sengenberger: In both.

Conti: Ehh…

Sengenberger: In both the Senate and the House.

Ramirez: Ha ha, we tricked them.

Conti: I would say that I think they were making a statement at the time. There were some amendments that they tried to put on that were consistently shot down, shot down, shot down, and I think that they were more making a statement about that then really looking at it. When I talked to some senators and asked them specifically and pointedly why did you not support it? Why did you vote no? The answer was because we could.

Ramirez: And I will give you an example. The budget. It’s not bad. What do you think?

Sengenberger: Decent. It could be a lot better.

Ramirez: I agree. But it is heading in the right direction. But when you’re fighting with things, trying to get things past and you realize you have a job to do, sometimes you’re not going to get perfect but it’s heading in the right direction. Do I have your agreement on that?

Sengenberger: with the budget?

Ramirez: Yes, the budget.

Sengenberger: Yes, ok.

Ramirez: OK, no Democrats in the House voted for it. No Republicans in the Senate voted for it. So similar thing here. What it is, that is a game of majority minority and that is a politically game that I absolutely despise and I will tell you right now you’ll not find many votes at all…any votes that I played that game on. But what you will find it is it was used just immensely by the minority parties in both houses.

Sengenberger: So just to repeat what you just said, no Democrats voted for it in the House, no Republicans voted for it in the Senate, it was just the majority parties in each. Well that is not the case though with this bill.

Ramirez: Well, no its not. But you asked why did all the Republicans in the House voted for it, because it is a majority party thing.  Now in the House, the Democrats, they’re thinking Obamacare. Obamacare- great. But I asked a lot of them and a lot of them did not read it. Didn’t read it at all. I read through it and I sat through meetings on it. I had individual meetings about it. I talked to many people about this bill. It is what we needed to do and hopefully, if Obamacare fails, legislation is legislation and we can change things.

Sengenberger: I just find it interesting though that the Democrats would vote for this bill when they could’ve then…using this argument chosen the alternative, which is Gov. Hickenlooper or President Obama coming in and doing it.

Ramirez: I cant answer that for you. I can tell you what they think it is. When I heard a lot of people, they were shocked when they found out that agents and brokers were allowed to be involved. They were shocked that wasn’t single-payer. After the voted for it. I started talking, we need to single-payer and I said it wasn’t in there. What? I think that is was really a…what do you call it…a shell game. And the Republicans were playing it and so were the Democrats.

Conti: And I know that there were some Democrats who did read it who did’nt like it. As a matter-of-fact,  we heard a lot of Sen. Boyd was the Senate sponsor was taking a lot of heat from her party that it was to free market. So there was anger on both sides of the fence but there’s a reason that NFIB, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, did endorse the Colorado health care plan but is not endorsing the California health care exchange.

Ramirez: So did CACI, basically the state chamber of commerce for large companies, they did it. CRBC, the Colorado Republican Business Coalition endorsed it. These are small one owner companies and they did a lot of research on it and they were late to the party. But they said you know what,  this is the best bill that I have seen. It’s a good bill and a whole lot better than what we’re going to get stuck with and we have to something, so please do it.

Sengenberger: What I would like to see would’ve been an effort to repeal the legislation which prevented these coming up naturally and attempts to…I think the legislature would be able to try to do something when Gov. Hickenlooper would implement whatever he implements that there would be some check or something along those lines that down the road the legislature would be able to have.

Ramirez: An executive orders is an executive order. You get no choice in the matter. You cannot do anything with it. That is why all Obama loves them so much.

Conti: That is why we have state employee unions-executive order.

Ramirez: I’ll give an example. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Ridder change it by executive order two years ago to include almost nothing but environmentalists and a couple of engineers. They used to have business industry experts, oil experts, engineers, and environmentalists. It was equal. The new proposal just added a couple of industry experts and a couple of oil and gas experts to it. It didn’t even take away from what was and yet he wants that power by executive order to say I’ll do whatever I want to do.

Sengenberger: In the case of what he would set up if he decided to fund that, the legislature would have to fund whatever it is or not fund. Right?

Conti: The health care exchange?

Sengenberger: If Gov. Hickenlooper \ set up an exchange in his own vision and their need to be some state money for it, the Legislature could conceivably say no, we’re not going to give you the money.

Conti: The federal government had alrerady given the state $1 million that was earmarked for the purpose of setting it up.

Sengenberger: That is true. The federal government does give some money in that regard.

Ramirez: To your point, to give you an example, right now, like I have said, we have Republicans majority in the House, Democrats majority in the Senate and the Democrat governor, who thank goodness that he didn’t have a Republican House because he doesn’t have to pass all that crazy liberal stuff he was going to have to pass. He didn’t have to deal with what Ridder had to deal with. So what is going on now is, if he does that, great in the House we’re going to change it, where going to do all this legislation and it dies in the Senate. We’re going to change it, do all this legislation to defund it and it’s going to die in the Senate. It’s a lost cause.

Sengenberger: At the same time though, some would say it is worth putting up the fight. Look, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana has said in Louisiana, and yes he is the Governor and in the position to make this decree and I understand Republicans only control the House, but nevertheless it is very much symbolic because then the federal government, Obama will just come in and set someone up in Louisiana anyways in accordance with the federal law. Hut he still felt that was worth taking a stand and saying we’re going to do as much as possible to resist here because it hurts. It helps the federal case against Obamacare that Attorney General John Suthors is involved. If the state of Colorado has said we’re going to implement an exchange with the Legislature supporting it.

Ramirez: It doesn’t. And what you are saying about Jindal, I agree. But Jindal, like you said, is the Governor so he can say I am not going to sign it in.  Now if we have a Governor that was Republican and then even a Democrat Senate, we could have said to the heck with it, we’re not doing because he would have fought it.  The difference is we don’t have that and what Hickenlooper was going to sign into law anyway by executive order was just a huge bureaucracy that we do not have the money for.

Sengenberger: I  do not disagree with that now.

Ramirez: I do understand your points. I do very much and those were things I was thinking about when I was like OK and I was one of the last people to push the button. I was reading, I was researching and we did a lot of work on this. But when it comes down to it, there are some things that you can just make a point. We could’ve spent the entire 120 days just trying to make a point or we could legislate and we could govern and we chose to govern and look after the people Colorado and look after our budget and look after what’s right try to bring liberty and what we need back to the state.

Sengenberger: I don’t doubt. I know that there were some critics of the 13 Republicans who voted for the bill, as well as Majority Leader Amy Stevens who of course sponsored it in the House, that have really gone and done some really strong-willed attacks again you guys and I disagree with that. I think this is on the merits that I think this is a principle that is worth standing up for in this particular case. And I think that it is not a free market that was set u. It is a government controlled artificial market and that either way you’re going to end up with whatever Obama wants in the legislation. That’s my take from this bill in what it does.

Conti: There is the instruction in the bill that it must be free market. So if it fails or lives up to your expectation, which is that it’s not going to be, the Legislature in the five year review can come back in and abolish it to does little up to what it has to do.

Ramirez: They actually have to do it.

Sengenberger: And what I’m saying is that they have to replace it with something that complies with the federal regulations no matter what.

Ramirez: In essence this is better and we did have a governor that was going to sign one in. So we didn’t get the play like Louisiana did. We didn’t get to hold out. I know we would have. I know we would’ve never sign onto it if we had a Republican Governor. If the Hassan family had not played games with Scott McInnis we would have a Republican governor.

Sengenberger: That’s an argument that has gotten more credence in recent weeks, that’s for sure.

Ramirez: Everything that we’ve done up there… I’ve been, Kathleen as well… we have been beat up for yes votes and no votes. I was a horrible Republican because I voted against Republican in committee on a vote I felt was a bad bill.  It was a good idea. Bad time, bad bill. I was praised by everyone for voting against state tuition for undocumented students or illegals. But in essence there’s something we have to do but that bill did not do it. It was only part of what needed to be done. And now I’m being killed and yelled at because SB 200. And that is just from Republicans. Now the other side is totally different. It’s kind of one of those things, you are darned if you do. But I’m here to serve. I’m not here to be a politician and I am not here to…yea I’m the guy. Because that is not it. I listen to people. I talk to people. I e-mail people and sometimes I can be persuaded that it’s not the right thing.

Conti: The difficult thing about SB 200 was you could read the bill from cover the cover, all 10-12 pages, whatever it was with amendments and all. Highlight the whole thing and still not have a good grasp of what was possible. Because all it talked about was really the creation of the board. So you don’t really… you had to do a lot of digging, a lot of research, a lot of looking at other states and what these exchanges end up looking like. But it was likened to me by people in the healthcare industry as being like a Travelocity or one of those entities where you can go online and you could shop multiple different companies. Or you can not shop there at all and you can go directly to the airline and shop there. And you have the same freedoms in the health-care exchange. We will see what they come up with. All we know of what they cant do and the restrictions that that legislation put on them. Which it did exclude the option to consider a single-payer and it did exclude the ability for them to set rates. And so those are obviously very good things.

Sengenberger: Strong top-down controls that are contained in this and that is a good component to the bill I will most certainly concede. I just have differences of opinion when it comes to particularly the free market because it is like cap-and-trade to me. In the sense that cap-and-trade is the government creating a market for carbon emissions were you can then trade within the cap-and-trade system. One company that is putting out emissions can trade a certain amount that they don’t put out with another company. And that is created by the government in an artificial market. It is very similar to what this is doing is a sense that this creates an artificial market where then the businesses come in and can pool together as you’re explaining it to compete. But still with supervision in a certain way by the government.

Ramirez: They have supervision anyway. There’s an Insurance Board. There is legislative oversight on the Insurance Board. So its not but I can see what you are saying though.

Conti: To call our current health care system free market is a joke.

Sengenberger: I would not. But I would also say that this does not create a free market.

Conti: But it tries to in light of the federal mandates that have been handed down to us to keep it as free market is possible.

Ramirez: It is about 100 percent different than anything else that we could’ve had. I do agree with you on so many of your points but it one of those things that you just kind of have to bite down and say that I’m doing the best for the state that we can.

Sengenberger: I just want to say that I respect you both Reps. Robert Ramirez and Kathleen Conti for coming in here to talk about these different issues and standing by your vote. Like I have said in the past this is one issue where we disagree. Reagan said that you are 80 percent allies is not your 20 percent enemy. So their maybe a lot of conservatives who say that the 13 in the legislature who voted for it should not be supported in the future. We should have primaries against them and so on and so forth. I think that his is something that I firmly disagree with but I would not go that far to say they you’re now an enemy of our movement.

Ramirez: Hey, I was number 12 on the liberty watch list. I’m good.

Sengenberger: Well that is a plus. Well thank you so much for joining us.