Jerry Kopel

"So long, it's been good to know you" goes the lyric as we now bid farewell to the following lame ducks who begin their last two years in the House and Senate in January.

In the House, 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats are in that category. Republicans are Jeanne Adkins, Vickie Agler, Norma Anderson, Chuck Berry, Lewis Entz, Mary Ellen Epps, Jeanne Faatz, Tony Grampsas, David Owen, Phil Pankey, Mike Salaz, Paul Schauer, and Shirleen Tucker. Democrats are Jim Dyer, Vi June, Jeannie Reeser, Gil Romero, and Carol Snyder.

In the Senate, 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats cannot seek re-election. Republicans are Don Ament, Tilman Bishop, Sally Hopper, Dick Mutzebaugh, Tom Norton, Bill Schroeder, and Jeff Wells. Democrats are Joan Johnson and Jim Rizzuto.

Of course, some House members may run for the Senate and some Senate members may run for the House, but there will only be a handful of legislators around for the 1999 session who can tell new members "first hand" what happened during the 1989 and 1990 sessions.

If you believed the pro-term limit scare stories, there should be 65 incumbent House seats instead of 18, and 17 incumbent Senate seats instead of nine up for grabs in 1998. Reason for the low number is the normal attrition that always occurs, with or without term limits.

For Democrats, seven open seats presently held by Republicans in the Senate spell good news for the Democrats. Assuming every present state senator eligible to run does so in 1998, here is how Democrats could succeed in gaining control:

Democratic holdovers: Eight. Sens. Feeley, Linkhart, Martinez, Phillips, Reeves, Rupert, Tanner, Weddig.

Republicans holdovers: Ten. Sens. Arnold, Blickensderfer, Coffman, Chlouber, Congrove, Lacy, Powers, Tebedo, Wattenberg, Wham.

Democrats up for re-election: Five. Sens. Hernandez, Matsunaka, Pascoe, Perlmutter, Thiebaut.

Republicans up for re-election: Three. Sens. Alexander, Dennis, Duke.

If every incumbent wins, there are 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans. Of the nine open seats, the Johnson seat in Adams County will go to a Democrat, and the Wells seat in Colorado Springs will go to a Republican. That leaves seven open seats. Whoever wins four of the seven controls the senate.

Democrats will need to pick their state senate candidates early in 1997, and spend an enormous amount of time and money to get them ready. "Potluck" won't work.

Republicans have controlled the state senate from the 1962 election

to the end of 1998, thirty-six years for the longest stretch by any party going back to statehood in 1876. There are legislators now serving in the General Assembly who were not born when Democrats last controlled the Senate.

With 18 seats needed for control, here are Senate Republican statistics for 1962-1998: Lowest number was 18 in 1976. Four terms were veto-proof, 1968, 84, 86, and 88. Seven terms had numbers of 19 or 20. Five terms had 21 or 22, and one term, 1990, had 23.


Colorado had the second highest percentage increase in the nation over the past ten years (1985 through 1995) for state and federal prisoners serving a sentence of more than one year. That little gem was gleaned from the national Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) for 1995, released several months ago.

Our state has gone from 3,386 prisoners in 1985 to 11,063 in 1995, a 226.7 percent incease, or 7,677 inmates in 10 years. Colorado was topped only by Texas with a 228.7 percent increase.

Were those numbers extraordinary? Of the 45 states reporting, 23 had less than a 100 percent increase and no other state was in the 200 percent category with Colorado and Texas.

Even more astonishing was the Rocky Mountain News story of Nov.8th which alleged that Colorado's total STATE prison population for 1996 was 12,002. The 11,063 figure quoted above from the Bureau of Justice Statistics document was for state AND federal prisoners.

In 1985, for every 100,000 Coloradans, 103 were in state or federal prisons serving sentences of more than one year. By 1995, our prison population had spurted way up. We now have 292 in prison for every 100,000 population. Remember "population" includes many who can't commit crimes: Day old babies, first graders and the infirm elderly.

Does that mean a larger percentage of our population is turning to crime? Not necessarily so. A big factor in more than tripling the actual long-term prison population was a successful bill by then Rep. Don Mielke (R) in 1985 that doubled maximum sentences for new state prisoners.

While some sentencing has been adjusted downward since 1985, and while Colorado's prison population might some day climb at a less frenzied pace, prisoners are still serving longer terms compared to pre-1985. For the future, we will need more prisons, more state prisoners held in local jails, and more prisoners sent out of state.

In 1995, Colorado held 1,563 state prisoners in local jails, the seventh highest NUMBER (not percent) in the U.S. and the fourth highest percent nationally of all state inmates held in local jails.

Here is one more depressing statistic to consider. I don't have the larger 1995 numbers yet, but at the end of 1994, there were 5.l million adults in the U.S. who were under correctional supervision.

The breakdown was 992,000 in state and federal prisons, 484,000 in county and city jails, 2,964,000 on probation and 690,000 on parole.

Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

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