Jerry Kopel

Forty-five additional Colorado laws will be triggered into operation on Wednesday, August 6th, and that is a feat that was unthinkable just three years ago. August 6th is the threshold because all 45 bills do NOT include "safety clauses".

Words in the safety clause at the end of most bills state: "The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, healthy, and safety."

The Colorado constitution in Article V, Section 1 (3) provides that no law passed by the legislature becomes effective until ninety-one days after final adjournment of the legislature (the ninety-first date this year is August 6th) except as to laws containing a safety clause.

That gives "the people" power to gather a required number of signatures within a ninety-day period to put the law on the election ballot in November. The constitutional right to a referendum doesn't apply to appropriation bills.

How many of the 45 bills ended up on the election ballot for November? None. No one gathered signatures to put any bill on the ballot. In 1997 the Colorado legislature passed 325 bills which Governor Romer DIDN'T veto, including 20 appropriation bills. Of the other 305 bills passed, the 45 bills without a safety clause equaled slightly under fifteen percent of the total.

For many years, the Colorado legislature abused the "safety clause" exemption by putting the clause on ALL bills, instead of just those bills that really needed to go into effect immediately to overcome some problem, or by a certain date in order to continue funding for a task.

Douglas Bruce of Colorado Springs, who thinks of himself as the legislature's nightmare, in a rare moment of insightfulness, made abuse of the safety clause an issue in unsuccessful constitutional amendments. But the Bruce solution was to limit the safety clause to very few measures, a result that would have been just as bad as the overuse of the clause.

The legislature got the message, and by 1997 ended automatic inclusion of the safety clause in bills prepared by the legislative drafting office. There were MORE than 45 bills without safety clauses introduced. Some died during debate. Nine were vetoed by Gov. Romer. Other bills were amended to add a safety clause. That usually happened in the state senate.

Forty of the 45 bills become law August 6th. Four other measures will take effect August 15, Sept. l, and Jan. Ist. One bill, HB 1012, will take effect retroactively on July Ist. It turns Summit County from a Class D to a Class B county, meaning more county judges will be able to be appointed. For some reason beyond my comprehension, ten of the 45 bills dealt with motor vehicles and drivers' licenses.

Eleven of the 45 were Senate bills, and 34 were by House members. Republicans carried nine of the 11 Senate bills and 23 of the House measures. Most successful producers of bills without safety clauses were Sen. Jim Congrove (R) of Arvada, and Rep. Bryan Sullivant (R) of Breckenridge, three measures each. Those with two bills each were Sen. Ben Alexander (R) of Montrose, Reps. Doug Dean (R) and Andy McElhany (R) of Colorado Springs, and Rep. Ron Tupa (D) of Boulder.

Now that legislators are aware the voting public is indifferent about putting legislative-passed measures on the ballot, expect the 14 to 15 percent total for 1997 to rise in 1998 and in future years.

* * *

Many years ago, I was a copy editor at the Rocky Mountain News. One rule hammered into us was "Get the name right!" That rule must have been ditched in 1997.

James Meadow wrote a terrific article appearing in the News June 15th (Father's Day) about State Sen. Bill Thiebaut and his 15 children, except that the Thiebaut name was misspelled Thiebault, 58 times.

Adding insult to injury, the News published a letter to the editor on July 6th from a reader complaining about the News giving celebrity status to someone having 15 children, and misspelling Sen. Thiebaut's name three more times as Thiebault.

Again on July 20th, another letter to the editor at the News this time praising the paper for the Father's Day article, and again misspelling Sen. Thiebaut as Thiebault.

Hey, News copy editors, it's THIEBAUT.

* * *

Having criticized the News, I shouldn't leave out information problems at the Denver Post by staff writers who should know better. First, Kevin Simpson writes about two sporting competitors:

"They (the competitors) fear that a new federal law requiring promoters to operate under a boxing commission could effectively keep them apart from now on. Because Colorado is one of only five states in the country that doesn't have a commission, the new law could kill their chances of cultivating any kind of career in their home state."

And later in the story: "Promoter Andy Lee...gets commissioners from other states to oversee his events, But the new law presents liability issues that could cause those states to quit that practice."

And Woody Paige writes, following the Holyfield-Tyson biting incident, "Oddly enough, because of the Colorado state legislature's stupid refusal to reinstate a boxing commission, Tyson could fight here during his suspension."

Again, on July 10th, a combination of Post staff and wire services: "To box outside Nevada would require that Tyson find a state that would buck the confederation of 45 communities that generally honor each others' suspensions and revocations. Only Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming lack commissions."

All three stories are incorrect. The five states without boxing commissions cannot hold fights unless those involved in the fight get licensing approval from one of their neighboring states that does have a boxing commission.

Under the federal law, the states with boxing commissions don't have a choice. Their tax dollars MUST be spent to provide the regulations, requirements, review and licensing for fights which would also apply in states without boxing commissions. That saves Colorado $262,00 needed to initially set up a commission, and $240,00 annually in subsequent years.

IN ADDITION, the federal law provides that the five states without a boxing commission are also "subject to the most recent version of the recommended regulatory guidelines certified and published by the Association of Boxing Commissions .." That means regulations for boxing in Colorado are even more stringent than those set out in the federal law for states with boxing commissions.

Of course this new federal law isn't constitutional for several reasons. It violates the 10th Amendment which protects states against federal interference. It forbids Colorado from outlawing boxing.

It also violates the republican form of government clause, since Coloradans in this state are being regulated by legislators making laws in a sister state not accountable to Colorado voters. The Assn. of Boxing Commissions is a non-government association not subject to Colorado law regarding regulation making.

But until overturned in the courts, the law will be enforced. The Denver Post editorial page and editorial writer Bob Ewegen understand the new law and how it works. Perhaps the Post should require non-editorial page writers to clear their stories on boxing with Ewegen.


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






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