Jerry Kopel


It seems the House-Senate Republican leadership in 1996 did get the message. In 1995 the majority party outrageously abused their power in handing out "late" bills to majority members (as reported in the Statesman May 5, 1995). But in 1996 the number of late bills provided to majority party members did decline.

For the uninitiated, late bills are bills permitted by the majority leadership to be introduced AFTER the self-imposed deadline written into the House-Senate Joint Rules. The bills "supposedly" deal with issues that arise after the deadlines occur.

Excluding the major budget bill, the legislative appropriation and supplemental appropriation measures, there were 95 late bills introduced in the 1995 session, 85 by Republicans and 10 by Democrats. In 1996, the number of late bills declined to 77, of which 67 were by Republicans and 10 by Democrats.

The 77 late bills included seven which this column will exclude from the total: Three were by Rep. Jeanne Faatz, who had been injured in an automobile accident and who was not able to return to the legislature in time to meet the bill deadline. One was by Rep. Brad Young, who joined the legislature following the death of Rep. Bud Moellenberg.

Three were by Sens. Dottie Wham, Sally Hopper and Gloria Tanner, and were duplicates of House bills dealing with children and juvenile justice issues. Those three bills enabled the Senate Judiciary to begin work before the House bills arrived.

In the House that left 32 late bills, 29 shared by 20 Republicans and three granted Democrats Peggy Kerns, Gil Romero and Jim Dyer. One House Republican, Norma Anderson, had three late bills. Seven others had two late bills each: Lou Entz, Tony Grampsas, Bill Jerke, David Owen, Paul Schauer, Steve Tool, and Shirleen Tucker. One late bill each went to Republicans Vickie Agler, Doug Dean, Tim Foster, Bill Kaufman, Martha Kreutz, Bill Martin, Marcy Morrison, Phil Pankey, Eric Prinzler, Mike Salaz, Larry Schwarz, and Bill Swenson.

The 32 late bills compare favorably with the 49 allowed in 1995.

In the Senate, that left 38 late bills, which translates to at least one late bill for each member, but don't hold your breath. Republicans received 32, and Democrats, 6. Biggest "user" of late bills was Majority leader Jeff Wells, who signed off on eight late bills for himself. Sen. Don Ament (R) had five (he also had five late bills in 1995).

Other Republicans with plural numbers were Tom Blickenderfer, four, Bill Schroeder, three, Ben Alexander and Dottie Wham, two each. Sen. Ed Perlmutter (D) also had two late bills.

Senate Republicans and Democrats with one late bill each were Tilman Bishop, Sally Hopper, Elsie Lacy, Al Meiklejohn, Dick Mutzebaugh, Tom Norton, MaryAnne Tebedo, Dave Wattenberg, Mike Feeley, Stan Matsunaka, Jim Rizzuto and Bill Thiebaut.

The 38 late bills in the Senate compared with the 46 allowed in 1995, shows a decline not nearly as good as in the House.

As usual, the end of the session saw a number of those 70 late bills hopping about, contributing to the pressure which in turn bred carelessness in checking out what was actually passing.

You want to end the 120 day session in a state other than punch drunk? When it comes to late bills in 1997, take Nancy Reagan's advice. Just say "no".

* * *

Former and deceased State Rep. Mildred Creswell was properly honored this month with a House memorial for her services in 1967 and 1968. Many of us also knew her as a long-time state Senate employee who rose to the position of Secretary of the Senate before becoming a member of the House. And a few of us can still recall what was then known as the "Cresswell Amendment".

In 1967, Sen. Woody Hewett and Rep. Tom Farley sponsored SB 155 to allow legislators who served from 1967 on, to be members of the Public Employees Credit Association (PERA). The original bill also allowed legislators to add prior or future services as a state employee to their legislative years for figuring retirement benefits. But one group was not included.

When the bill reached the House, Majority Leader John Mackie successfully amended it to add "an employee of the general assembly" onto the list of prior or future services that could count towards a legislator's retirement benefits. This enabled Rep. Cresswell to deservedly be the first legislator/employee to retire under PERA.

It almost didn't happen. The House wasn't really enthused about adding legislators to PERA, and the vote on third reading was 34 to 27. The Cresswell Amendment was likely the deciding factor. It took additional years before legislative employees (who did not end up as state legislators) were also covered under PERA.

Two other deceased legislators who were subjects of House memorials this year were Greg Rogers and Thomas Nevin. Greg lost his House seat in southeast Denver to Charlie Brown in 1982. What I distinctly remember about that contest was Charlie really jumping on Greg's literature, criticizing grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Charlie won by 155 votes, and I never realized until then there were that many grammarians in southeast Denver.

Thomas Nevin's memorial failed to mention a record that will never be broken. The state constitution requires a legislator to be at least 25 years of age upon taking office. Nevin was born Feb. 11, 1910. Owing to a peculiar Colorado law in effect in 1934, Nevin took the oath of office Nov. 7, 1934, when he was 24 years, eight months and 26 days old. For his service in the legislature, Rep. Nevin received a salary of $500 per year.

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

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