Jerry Kopel

Sunrise, sunset. As the song goes: "You can't have one without the other." The forces of nature now have a legislative meaning as to occupational licensing and regulation. When you review any present occupational law to see if it needs revision or repeal, it's called a "Sunset" review. If you review an unregulated occupation to see if it needs to be regulated, it's called a "Sunrise" review.

Colorado has had a Sunset law since 1976 (the first in the nation), and a Sunrise law since 1985. And yet in 1999 (as in previous years) legislators continue to introduce regulations for new occupations without knowledge that CRS 24-34-104.1 exists. The opening language of the statute is fairly clear:

"The general assembly finds that regulation should be imposed on an occupation or profession only when necessary for the protection of the public interest. The general assembly further finds that establishing a system for reviewing the necessity of regulating an occupation or profession prior to enacting laws for such regulation will better enable it to evaluate the need for the regulation and to determine the least restrictive regulatory alternative consistent with public interest."

What is that all about? Prior to 1985, the legislature had to consider new occupational licensing that was nothing more than some legislator's sop to a constituent. But it did take time and effort on the part of committees to debate and usually kill most of such measures introduced each year.

Beginning in 1985, the Sunrise-Sunset committee (now defunct) kept a number of unneeded regulatory bills from being introduced. In 1993, the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) issued a report dealing with Sunrise committee review of license applications. It stated:

"As a result of Sunrise reviews...the legislature has either delayed or prevented creation of some thirty new regulatory programs. An estimate of savings (by averting unnecessary regulation) suggests the public has benefited in the amount of at least $6.3 million."

Not included in the DORA estimate was the cost of printing 30 bills and committee time spent.

The Sunrise statute sets out a procedure for persons or groups who want regulation. The applicant really has to be serious and provide a great deal of information which would obviously discourage the "wouldn't it be great if" crowd. The 1999 naturopathic physician bill carried by Rep. Russ George, R-Rifle, is one that went through the Sunrise process. But three other bills that are presently before the legislature did not.

One is HB 1302 by Rep. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, regulating the practice of body piercing. The bill came to him by way of the Dept. of Health whose members NEVER checked with DORA. Once Tupa learned his bill violated 24-34-104.1, he dropped it.

The second bill is HB 1270 by Rep. Lola Spradley, R-Beulah, concerning registration of sellers of manufactured homes. Actually manufactured housing sellers were regulated by Colorado until July l, 1992, when the law was repealed, mostly because of the inability of various real estate interests to agree on the bill's content.

DORA is actually and coincidentally reviewing regulation of manufactured housing. But the Spradley bill was introduced without knowledge of that review and contrary to 24-34-104.1. It may be possible that DORA will complete its review in time to provide "legality" to the Spradley bill.

The third measure is HB 1132 concerning regulation of commercial feed by Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar. Under present law, distributors of commercial feed have to be registered with the Agriculture Dept. HB 1132 expands that to include manufacturers, and guarantors. While calling them "registered" by amending the original bill that labeled them licensees, the other statutory language setting a licensing standard was NOT amended. "Guarantor" is not defined in the bill but would likely have the normal dictionary meaning.

While adding manufacturers and guarantors might not seem to be a major change, it would be the same as if a law for registered nurses was expanded to include practical nurses.

The last sentence in 24-34-104.1 states: "The general assembly shall (Note: SHALL not MAY) not consider the regulation of more than five occupations or professions in any one session of the general assembly."

I frankly don't know what "consider" means, but if it means vote on a bill in committee, then we now have reached five occupations or professions: Naturopaths, body piercers, manufactured housing, commercial feed manufacturers and commercial feed guarantors.

There is a way to avoid violating 24-34-104.1 in the future. Every bill has to go through the legislative drafting office. That office should require every drafter to be aware of the statute and to ask a very simple question when a new occupational regulation request is made: "Has this gone through review by the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies?"

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

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