A Reporter Catches a West-Slope Lawmaker's Flip Flop

You hope that the weakening of journalism doesn't translate into politicians thinking they can flip flop to their hearts content, without being asked to explain themselves in proverbial print. But you fear fewer reporters means more politicians getting off the hook.

So you're gratified when reporters, in our diminished media environment, continue to hold politicians accountable, for example, when they vote the opposite way this year than they did last year.

The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus noticed that J. Paul Bown (R-Ignacio) had voted last year for a program offering contraception to low-income women and teens, but this year he voted against it.

Last week, Marcus asked Brown the question everyone wants journalists to ask, even though not enough of us want to pay for reporters like Marcus to ask it. Why?

Brown: "I still feel that it prevents abortions, but there's a difference of opinion, and I just felt like I ought to stick with the caucus today with that amendment. There's a lot of money needed in a lot of different places, it's tough making those priorities. It's a tough decision. We have to make some tough priority decisions up here."

To his credit, Marcus reported that "supporters" of the program, which is credited with reducing teen abortions and pregnancies by over 35 percent, point out that "for every $1 invested in low-cost contraception, Colorado taxpayers save about $5.85 in Medicaid costs."

Those are actually state government figures, from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

The next time he interviews Brown, Marcus might as him -- or others who've opposed Colorado's Family Planning Initiative on budget grounds -- if they believe the state figures.

Despite Brown's opposition, Colorado's House and Senate passed a budget bill last week with $2.5 million for the Family Planning Initiative, marking the first year Colorado has funded the program, assuming the budget bill is signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The initiative was funded the past six years with private dollars.