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New West Daily Roundup for May 28, 2013

Making news in the New West today: Colorado lawmakers face recall elections over gun-control support; the power of federal tax credits to spur small-town economic development; and a rejection of a legal challenge to Colorado’s school-funding system.

Gun control — or the lack thereof — is probably the most divisive political topic in the West today, as the gun-slinging traditions of the Wild West (always a little romanticized and overstated, of course) clash with a modern world where tragedies like mass killings in Columbine and Aurora still resonate. The response to gun violence by elected officials in Colorado: enact

That, of course, did not make gun advocates very happy, with the response being the launching of recall petition drives, with local groups reportedly teaming up with the National Rifle Association to target what they consider vulnerable targets. From the Associated Press:

In Colorado, gun-rights activists wasted no time seeking recalls to oust state Senate President John Morse and three other Democratic lawmakers. The targeted lawmakers weren’t necessarily the main advocates for ratcheting back gun rights, but all come from districts with enough Republicans to give opponents hope they can boot out the Democrats and replace them with lawmakers friendlier to guns. Colorado is the only state outside the East Coast to have adopted significant statewide gun controls this year.

“Colorado seems to be the testing ground for some of the gun measures, so this has national implications,” said Victor Head, a plumber from Pueblo who is organizing a recall attempt against a Democratic senator.

Two of four recall efforts in Colorado already have evaporated from lack of support. But in Colorado Springs, Morse opponents are piling up signatures in gun shops and outside libraries and grocery stores. The National Rifle Association sent a political mailer saying it was coordinating the recall effort with local groups, though the local recall petitioners have denied that. The NRA did not return calls for comment on their involvement in the Colorado Springs effort.

If the petitioners succeed in forcing an election, an election would be held at the end of the summer.

A landmark legal case in Colorado has reached a conclusion, with the state Supreme Court deciding that the state’s current method of funding schools may not be perfect, but it is constitutional. In the so-called Lobato case, a lower court had ruled that school funding wasn’t equally implemented and applied across the state, leading to inequities across school districts. The Colorado Supreme Court overruled that decision this morning, ruling that the current system is acceptable: From the Denver Post:

The 2005 lawsuit, filed by individuals from the San Luis Valley and later joined by districts across the state, contended that Colorado doesn’t provide a constitutionally mandated “thorough and uniform” system of public education.

In its opinion, the court defined that standard as “of a quality marked by completeness, is comprehensive, and is consistent across the state.” But it also concluded that such a standard does not demand “absolute equality in the state’s provision of educational services, supplies, or expenditures.”

“While we sympathize with the Plaintiffs and recognize that the public school financing system might not provide an optimal amount of money to the public schools,” said the majority opinion, “the statutory public school financing system itself is constitutional.”

Colorado legislators had been working on a finance-reform plan to address some of the issues presented in the case. What form those reform efforts take now in the face of the court decision remains to be seen.

A continuous debate in Washington, D.C., concerns simplification of the tax code: if only we have a simpler tax system with pork for all, we’d have a fairer tax system. Just ask the folks who decry the tax shenanigans pulled by the likes of Apple in placing money in “offshore” accounts actually tied to domestic banking.

Of course, one person’s tax dodge is another person’s economic stimulus. The federal tax credit for historic preservation has been singled out by some as an unnecessary gift to developers, but a report from Montana Historic Preservation Alliance and the National Trust for Historic Preservation argues that these credits spur investment in rural properties that might otherwise be left to decay. According to a report from the pair, $12 million in federal and state tax breaks has led to almost $60 million in building renovations, reports the Billings Gazette:

The preservation alliance said that the credit has been instrumental in helping building owners keep and restore historic structures. Montana also has a state tax credit that combines with the federal credit.

The report found that $59 million worth of remodels on 60 historic buildings came from about $12 million in state and federal tax credits.

“Quite simply, preservation tax credits have helped to transform communities across Montana, catalyzing building projects, breathing new life into struggling downtowns and creating well-paying construction jobs in the process,” Chere Jiusto, executive director at the Montana Preservation Alliance, wrote in the report.

Economic-development is always a tricky issue: no one likes to subsidize a developer, but everyone loves the proceeds of a well-renovated historic landmark.

Ballot-box image from Bigstock.

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