State Rep. Dave Owen (R) hopes to continue his successful streak in deleting obsolete provisions from the Colorado constitution with the introduction of Senate Concurrent Resolution 5. In 2000 and 2002, Rep. Owen's concurrent resolutions removed obsolete language from many of the constitution's 38 Articles.
This is the sixth year I've worked on removing such obsolete language. Three of those concurrent resolutions, including this one, were coordinated with Sen. Owen.
Many obsolete provisions that delighted the press were struck in 1988 and 1990. The 1990 version struck (1) giving the legislature power to determine educational qualifications for voting, (2) prohibiting anyone involved in a duel from serving in any public office, (3) providing veterans of the Spanish American War of 1898 with preference points in seeking state employment, and (4) publishing Colorado's laws in Spanish and German until the year 1900.
This year's provisions offered for removal, as well as those for 2000 and 2002 are more mundane, but strike many pages from the constitution. Among the language deleted under two Owen's Senate Concurrent Resolutions in 2000 and 2002 were:
(1) Procedures for a 1902 special election to approve Denver's early charter convention. (2) A provision that "a qualified elector under the territorial laws (shall) be eligible to the first general assembly." Those legislators were elected and sworn in, in 1876.
(3) Justices of the peace and constables who no longer exist, since those offices were repealed in 1965. (4) Prohibition was repealed nationally in 1933, but Colorado didn't get around to wiping out language regarding the effect of ending prohibition until 2000.
(5) Denying railroads the benefits from future state legislation unless they filed a paper accepting the 1876 state constitution with the Secretary of State.
(6) A 1902 provision regarding temporary offices for the newly established City and County of Denver. (7) A 1962 provision giving the state legislature authority to provide simplified procedures in county courts for claims not exceeding $500.
(8) A term limit provision already declared unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court which had required state and congressional legislators to follow specific steps to amend the federal constitution to implement congressional term limits. Prohibitions on similar language were also enacted by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding other states.
SCR 5 by Sen. Owen and Rep. Tambor Williams (R) in 2004 will come "close" to cleaning out the remaining obsolete provisions still existing in the constitution. Which ones make it to the November ballot depends on how many substantive constitutional amendments are placed on the ballot by the legislature this year, since the legislature is forbidden to put more than six Articles on the ballot in any general election.
One repeal in SCR 5 deals with ancient election provisions that denied citizens who resided in Colorado for less than a year the right to vote in presidential elections unless the legislature decided otherwise, and another provision which reduced that wait to three months residence. The language was held unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court in 1972 as violating the 14th amendment to the federal constitution.
Another part deals with conscientious objectors and the state militia. Present language provides conscientious objectors are required to serve in the state militia in times of peace unless they pay an unspecified sum for an exemption. That language from the original 1876 constitution was probably a carryover from the civil war draft exemptions.
There are many more "mundane" amendments already removed or to be removed by SCR 5. All of them help clean out stale language. Unfortunately, our present constitution now contains a number of issues that should be statutes rather than constitutional provisions. The Owen amendments at least make some space for them.
Our 2004 state constitution (which includes references to cases) is 705 pages long. Forty years ago (with similar case references) we got by with 230 pages.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel