Jerry Kopel

Imagine a legislator telling a group of school children about what the legislature does. "We pass laws, such as telling you not to cross the street when the red light says not to."
Question: Do legislators have to obey the law too?"
Response: "Of course"
Well, not always. This year, Sen. Deanna Hanna, D-Lakewood, introduced Senate Bill 167 to regulate security guards. The state does not presently regulate security guards.
There is a law, CRS 14-34-104.1 that's been on the statute books for twenty years. This law states: You want to regulate an occupation not presently regulated by the state? Submit an application to the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Sen. Hanna has chosen to ignore this twenty-year-old statutory requirement.
There is no charge for DORA to review applications seeking to regulate an occupation. You are asked to define the problem, why regulation is needed, how will the public benefit, what's the cost of regulation, how many people would be regulated, and why alternatives to regulation would not work.
Those are frankly questions you'd expect to have answered at committee hearings even before Sunrise was adopted, but I can assure you it didn't happen very often. What counted before Sunrise was "who was the lobbyist and who was the sponsor?"
DORA isn't looking to establish an empire. Wellington Webb, the director of DORA in 1984, pleaded with the legislature to set up a system to review, in advance of committee hearings, what the regulation bill was about, not just what the lobbyist "said" it was about.
According to a DORA report, in 1983, legislators sought to license 22 businesses and occupations through 24 bills. In 1984, DORA wrote that legislators sought licensing for 15 occupations and businesses through 17 bills.
After Sunrise was approved, the reports issued by DORA reduced the number of occupation bills. Some applicants decided they were not ready to answer the application questions.
And Sunrise is no dictator. Reports would say "no" or "yes" to licensing and the legislative decisions could be the opposite. The system is working. About eight Sunrise reviews will be released to the legislature in October, 2005 to be considered in 2006.
It's ok to make a mistake. Then-Rep. Ron Tupa in 1999 introduced a bill to regulate persons who  tattoo other persons for money. When Tupa learned of "Sunrise" he obeyed the law. withdrew his bill, filed his application, and got a favorable review. His bill became law in 2000.
Why did Sen. Hanna ignore the often used law? The senator claims fast action is necessary because of  the need for homeland security. But a very large number of security guards are not even regulated by the Sen.Hanna's bill. They are specifically set out as not being regulated.
We can't have a law that only applies to those citizens who actually turn their Sunrise applications in to DORA, and that allows legislators who know the law, to choose to ignore what the law requires. Legislators are NOT above the law. 
Proponents are preparing amendments. What I have seen is laughable. We have a Sunset law that deals with deciding whether a regulated occupation should continue to be regulated. But the standards used are for an occupation that has been regulated for at least six years. If SB 167 goes into effect, it won't force compliance until Jan. 1, 2006, the date picked by proponents for the Sunset review to be published (with lots of blank spaces.).
SB 167 would be repealed July 1, 2006 unless continued by the legislature under the Sunset law. But the repeal doesn't really register until July 1, 2007. That is to give an occupation regulated for six or more years an opportunity to wind down, or change the mind of legislators.
In the meantime, every occupation presently reviewed under Sunrise standards by DORA will try the SB 167 ploy in order to avoid Sunrise. Already two more occupations are planning to avoid Sunrise and one of the bills has been introduced. And why not?
 If Sen. Hanna can break the law, why can't they?
(Jerry Kopel served  22 years in the Colorado House.).

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel