Jerry Kopel

by  Jerry Kopel
I'm 78 today. It's also my wedding anniversary, married to the same spouse for 54  years and tied to the legislature for at least 50 years either as a part-time state employee, full-time legislator, or legislative columnist.
I can only name three at, around, or over 78 still doing something at the legislature: Myself, former Rep. Wayne Knox who may still be lobbyist for the League of Women Voters, and Rep. James Sullivan.
Intellectually we are the same as when we were 40 years younger, but the body does deteriorate. I need my nap after lunch, always take my pills, find it difficult to get in and out of the driver or passenger side of a car, and probably visit my doctors more in three months than the average Statesman reader does in a year.
When Dick Lamm was governor, he was misinterpreted in speaking about the tremendous cost of medical care to keep senior citizens alive. If I remember correctly, that led one of the Denver daily papers to headline: Lamm: Drop Dead". Lamm will be 71 August 3rd, but I assume he hasn't changed his opinions.
Which brings me to the revelation that cutting back on work habits is not unfair. I plan to write for the Statesman as long as Jody wants me to, at least twice a month and more when there's something worth an extra column. Of the seven annual awards from the Colorado Press Association (CPA) for my columns, three came when I was 75, 76, and 77.
You might not be aware that the CPA does not grade  these columns. Press Associations in other states do the judging. The last three were from Washington state, Nebraska, and Missouri.
I won't be drafting any more bills to eliminate obsolete provisions from the constitution. The constitution is now 99 percent pure. I might continue to draft bills to strike obsolete statutes for the right legislator and I'll continue to point out problems I spot in the original bills for anyone who asks.
Writing about mortality brings this column to the subject of "life expectancy" tables. Our present statute CRS 13-25-103 is slightly obsolete and in one way inaccurate. "Slightly obsolete" because there are now tables available for 2003 and "our" table is from 1998.  "Inaccurate" because the legislature has been cheating women for the past 113 years.
Women, as a group, live longer than men. Always have, always will. But Colorado has  "averaged" men  and women together in life expectancy tables, making men think they are living longer than they really are and women thinking they are dying faster than they should.
These tables help determine premium costs for life insurance and are also used in litigation concerning damages. So they are used by conservative insurance companies and trial lawyers. The tables are not conclusive evidence, but a good starting point.
Colorado's table is the cohort, or generation, life table. The following is from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services National Vital Statistics System.
"The cohort life table presents the mortality experience of a particular birth cohort, all persons born in the year 1900, for example, from the moment of birth through consecutive ages in successive calendar years."
Colorado's table began in 1893 from age 10 upwards, probably because of the high number of children in the 1890's who didn't live to become 10.
It took 62 years before the Colorado table was amended in 1955, with the starting age placed at "one year". That person would live to an average of 62.76 years.
Our 2002 statute based on the 1998 life expectancy table gives a new-born an average life of 76.7 years. But to get to 76.7, the legislature added in the same averaging as in the past, more than two years to the male birth, but took away more than two years from the female baby.
The 2003 statistics give us more than the legislature may want to print: White male and female, black male and female. The overall average is 77.5 years, but it doesn't represent  the actual life expectancy of any of the four groups.
Life expectancy for someone born in 2003 is 75.3 for a white male, and 80.5 for a white female, 69 for a black male, and 76.1 for a black female.
If an interested legislator wants to make the table more current, he or she can check the National Vital Statistic Reports, Vol. 54, No. 14, published April 19, 2006 and available on your computer.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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