Jerry Kopel


I keep reading in the newspapers about how Sen. Tom Norton claims to be the moderate candidate for governor and labels Bill Owens as the far-right conservative. Having served with both of them in the legislature, I always believed they were two peas in the same pod.

Was I was having false recall? I went to the l992 Senate Journal, because in 1992 I was still in the legislature and could remember some of the bills considered, and because the names "Norton" and "Owens" followed each other in the third column of the Senate recorded vote tabulations. That made comparisons easier in the 1570 pages of two Senate Journals.

For this survey, I did not count any votes that were unanimous, or in which one of them was absent or excused.

There were 240 measures or votes which were NOT unanimous and where Tom Norton and Bill Owens voted the SAME WAY, either for or against the proposition being offered. The following are the votes on which they differed. I only list the "No" vote.

SB 28 by Sen. Bird. Removal of Caps on Fees charged for Certain Agriculture Related Activities. Norton voted "No". SB 49 By Sen. Hopper on Driver Stop for Safety Belt Violations Even If No Other Motor Vehicle Law Violation. Norton voted against it on three separate occasions. In fact Norton's vote, on Hopper's attempt to reconsider (page 347 of Journal) was the deciding vote that killed the measure.

SB 38 by Sen. Martinez, Homeless Prevention Activities Program. Norton was one of only two "No" votes. SB 119 by Sen. Bishop, Formation of Scientific and Cultural Facilities Districts in Counties Outside the Denver Metropolitan Area. Owens voted "No". HB 1058 by Rep. Moellenberg, Square Dance as State Folk Dance. Norton voted "No." SB 1 by Sen. Strickland, Printed Disclosures About Lobbyists and Clients and Prohibiting Certain Activities of Lobbyists. Norton voted "No".

HB 1249 by Rep. Schauer, Concerning Exemption from Sales and Use Taxes on Certain Items Used or Purchased For Use By Railroads. Owens voted "No" on amendment by Sen. Pascoe. SB 181 by Sen. Wells, Limiting Amount of Attorney Fees in Class Action Litigation Brought Against Public Entities. Norton voted "No". HB 1184, by Rep. Arveschoug, Educational Accountability. Norton and Owens differed on three amendments offered. On the bill itself, Norton voted "No", and also against immediate reconsideration.

SB 3 by Sen. Wham, Concerning Patient Autonomy in Regard to the Making of Medical Treatment Decisions. Owens voted "No". SB 4 by Sen. Hopper, Study of a Colorado Care Program to Provide Health Insurance Converage for All Colorado Residents. Norton voted "No". SB 72 by Sen. Pastore, Intoxicating Beverages. Norton voted against an Owens amendment.

SB 22 by Sen. Pastore, Concerning Study to Empower the State Automobile Insurance Division to Provide Minimum Insurance Coverage For Motor Vehicles in Colorado. Norton voted "No".

HB 1195 by Rep. Agler, Access to Government Records. Norton voted "No" on adhering to the Senate position and also on motion for a new conference committee. Both voted for the bill. HB 1121 by Rep. Entz, Expand Search and Rescue Fund. Owens voted "No". HB 1191 by Rep. Pankey, Increasing the Tax Credits Available to Individuals and Corporations Related To Vehicles Using Alternative Fuels and Child Care Center Investments. Norton voted "No".

SCR 9 by Sen. Bird, Reorganization of State Government Agencies by Governor to be Effective Unless Disapproved by General Assembly Acting By Joint Resolution. Owens voted "No". HB 1340 by Rep. Anderson, Access to Workers Comp. Claim Files. Norton voted "No" twice. HB 1327 by Rep. Tucker, Prevention of Pollution Caused By Hazardous Substances. Owens voted "No".

HB 1272 by Rep. Fish, Nursing Scholarship Program. Norton voted "No". HB 1213 by Rep. Faatz, Limitation on Payment of Post-Employment Compensation to Government-Supported Employees. Norton voted "No".

SCR 3 by Sen.Tebedo, Requiring Affirmative Vote of Area to be Added to Limited Gaming. Motion to reject the first conference committee, Owens voted "No". HB 1232 by Rep. Swenson, Establishment and Enforcement of Support Obligations. Norton voted "No" twice. He was one of only two Senators who voted against the bill's passage.

On appointments, Norton voted "No" on Dr. Ratano to the Water Quality Control Commission and "No" on Jeffrey Goldstein to the Workmens Comp. Medical Care Accreditation Commission. Norton and Owens also differed on two amendments to the Long Appropriations Bill, and on a procedural vote to lay a bill over.

On some of these votes, Norton was the conservative, and on others Owens was the conservative. Based on actual voting records, Norton's allegations that he is "different" from Owens appear weak.

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

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