March 24, 2006
By Jerry Kopel
Obesity is all the rage, especially when it refers to American citizens. Not only diets, but also television shows "The Biggest Loser", exercise equipment, various pills, and operations. If people were not obese, it could seriously affect our gross national product.
Colorado statutes are also obese. A 1963 set of statute books measured 18 inches in length. The type was reasonably large. There was a good amount of white space around the print and between the lines.
For 2005, the Colorado Revised Statutes are 31 inches in length even though the print is small, and the white space is almost gone around the type and between the lines. Figuring in the different kind of print per page, the 2005 statutes are twice the size of 1963.
We have more population, but the same number of legislators (100), so why have we grown so top heavy?
According to Colorado Yearbook, a 1964 publication of the-then State Planning Commission, back in 1961, the last prior time Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, the legislature (general and special sessions) met for 91 days.
There were 761 bills introduced, but only 217 became law. Lesson Number 1: The 1961 legislators had the ability to say "no". However the bad part is not every bill received a hearing.
In 1962, the legislature met for 44 days. There were 154 bills introduced and 94 became law. Why so few days and so few bills? Lesson No. 2: The even-numbered years were devoted to the "governor's call". He would put issues on the table and that was all the issues that could be considered. So legislators had to figure out how to make their bills conform to the governor's call.
We have already reached 599 bills as of the close of March 23, 2006, 383 House bills and 216 Senate bills. How many more will we see and how many more will pass? How many resolutions and memorials will also be heard and voted upon?
In the 2005 session, there were 602 bills introduced before final adjournment in May, 353 in the House and 249 in the Senate. The total in 2006 should easily top 2005, since more supplemental appropriation bills may have to be introduced in the House.
There have already been suggestions (in the past possibly by a bill or two) to require that for every bill a legislator introduces that adds language, he or she has to introduce another bill to remove the same amount of pages of statutes.
There is another alternative which has been successful each time it has been introduced. Among those providing bills to repeal statutes in the past are myself, former Sen. Bill Thiebaut (D), Sen. Doug Lamborn (R) and Sen. Dave Owen (R). In the present are Sen. Dave Owen and Sen. Suzanne Williams (D). This year the two have introduced bills to remove obsolete statutes plus those which have outlived the usefulness (infrequency of use.)
House sponsor of Owen's SB 33 is Rep. Fran Coleman (D). The bill passed the Senate 33 to 0 and the House 60 to 4.
Part of Sen. Owen's bill deletes a fund enacted 112 years ago to pay $1 for a coyote scalped and $2 for a wolf scalped. The scalps have to include the entire ears.
The scalps are brought to the treasurer of the county where the coyote or wolf was killed and the scalper swears an oath apparently witnessed by a notary public that they didn't do the scalping in another state (such as Wyoming). If they did, they commit a misdemeanor and have to pay a fine. The county treasurer keeps the scalp record in a separate book with a great deal of information on each scalping.
The county treasurer is reimbursed by the state treasurer, whose office provides for the sale of the furs, skins, and specimens. I am sure state treasurer Mike Coffman (on his return from Iraq) would be "delighted to sell carcasses of dead animals. The money collected is then put into the predatory animal fund.
The predatory animal fund is under the Agriculture Dept. and presently contains $10. Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament will be very pleased to see it removed from the statute books and the $10 transferred to the general fund.
The Owen's bill also eliminates a 97-year-old statute regulating sugar beet crops. We know from the industry, and retired sugar beet farmers that the statute has been ignored, perhaps forever.
Back in 1926, the "History of Agriculture in Colorado" was published. Twenty-eight pages dealt with the sugar beet industry. In discussing the year 1913, the book ignores the sugar beet statute. Commissioner Ament also asked that this statute be repealed.
Sen. Williams 79 page bill, SB 137, is strictly limited to schools. The second section does away with a 1919 law concerning census of school children.. If the parent refuses to take an oath as to the truthfulness of the census, he or she commits a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of $1 to $10. There are now three other separate modern sections dealing with collection of school census.
A vast number of ancient budget items are removed, as well as some unfunded, never used Articles, such as Educational Clinics for Public School Dropouts Program. SB 137 passed the Senate 30 to 4. House sponsor is Rep. Tom Massey (R)
In Senate committee hearings, I was asked how many pages Sen. Williams bill would remove from the statute books. I guessed 20, but then went home and did the actual counting. It was 28 pages. Every page in Colorado Revised Statutes is printed on both sides. So the actual sheets of paper is 14.
However, if every legislator introduced a similar bill to that of Sen. Williams, we could remove 2,800 pages. That is actually 1,400 sheets of paper with writing on both sides. One-half inch of statutes equals 210 sheets of paper written on both sides.
If we eliminated 1,400 sheets of paper, we could cut out three and one half inches (equal to Titles 1 through 6) from the Colorado Revised Statutes.
This year Rep. Jim Kerr (R) and Sen. Ed Jones (R) sponsored HB 1042 (which has already been signed into law by Governor Owens, repealing almost all of the Bank Electronic Act, a total of six bill pages which remove three sheets of paper from CRS. That may not appear to be a lot, but it is more than most legislators contribute to stop statute obesity.
Hopefully a future governor will call a special session (where the governor still does control the agenda) and have everyone find obsolete or unused statutes to repeal. That would really make my day.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
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