Jerry Kopel

Election will Remove Obsolete Constitutional Provisions


By Jerry Kopel

After the November election results, the state constitution will be almost as clean as Ivory Soap (for those who remember the old ad).

By "clean" I refer only to obsolete provisions that have cluttered the constitution, some for more than a hundred years. Referendums were put to the voters in 1988, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 to remove obsolete language. Why the spread?

The constitution doesn't allow more than six articles referred by the legislature to be voted on at any election. Obsolete provision language has to await legislative decisions on other articles of the constitution that need revision. Then we add the obsolete cleanup bill at the end of the legislative session, keeping within the six article limitation.

Some of the seven measures removed starting dates of laws, terms of board members, bonding funds already paid off, obsolete occupations such as justice of the peace and constable, and superintendent of schools.

In 1988, Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 8, by Sen. Tilman Bishop (R) and Rep,. Scott McInnis (R) concerned exceptions to the constitutional requirement on eight-hour employment days. The change allows the legislature to decide "appropriate exceptions to the eight hour workday".

Before the Senate bill came to the House, I gave House Speaker Bev Bledsoe (R) the compilation of obsolete provisions to place before the voters with him as chief sponsor. Bledsoe instead gave them to McInnis who added them to SCR 8. Here they are:

In 1971, voters of enough states ratified Article 26 of the U.S. Constitution giving persons at least 18 years old the right to vote. But our 1876 language continued to refer to eligible persons 21 or older. That was repealed.

Colorado women received the right to vote by a state election in 1893, but our state constitution still referred to the need for such election. This 1876 requirement was repealed.

Denver became the state capitol in 1881. But language from 1876 was still in the constitution setting up the vote as well as when money could be used to build a state capitol. That was repealed.

In 1972, Colorado voters stated "the state government shall not levy any taxes for the purpose of aiding or furthering the 1976 Olympic Games." That was repealed. SCR 8, on the ballot as Amendment 4, passed 799,250 to 389,506.

In 1990, I again gave Speaker Bledsoe a bill (HCR 1006) removing more obsolete provisions. This time he sponsored the bill and my name appeared next as the co-sponsor.

The following repeals were to parts of the original constitution of 1876:

The right of legislators to "prescribe educational qualifications for voters beginning in 1890."

Anyone engaged in a duel either as fighting or acting as a second, or agreeing to go out of state to fight a duel, shall not hold any Colorado state office.

The territorial seal was still held to be the state seal.

The laws of the state were published also in Spanish and German until 1900 for the "inhabitants who speak those languages and who may be unable to read and understand the English language."

In addition to the 1876 language, we removed another reference to the 1976 Olympics which appeared in an Article other than the one removed in 1988 (remember the six Article rule?); took away veteran's preference in obtaining state employment specifically for persons who served in the military from the Spanish-American War as of April 21, 1898; removed county judges and justices of the peace from the office subject to impeachment. HCR 1006, on the ballot as Amendment 3, passed 717,544 to 204,294.

As a retirement present to myself I introduced HCR 1003 as chief sponsor in 1992.

HCR 3 removed: Reference to the first state election of October 1876, plus providing legislative ability to set dates for the 1877 and 1878 general elections.

Changed: "qualified" to "registered" electors for election to the state board of education; changed veteran's preference for state employment from "unremarried widow" to "surviving spouse". There is no such word in the dictionary as "unremarried". HCR 1003, on the ballot as Referendum B, passed 1,081,463 to 304,718.

In 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006, Sen. Dave Owen carried the obsolete constitutional provision bills drafted by me. Some provisions removed worth mentioning:

In 2000 under SCR 5: Colorado adopted liquor prohibition in 1917. In 1919, the U.S. Constitution was amended by Article 18 to provide national prohibition. The 18th Amendment was reversed by the 21st Amendment as of July 1, 1933. Colorado's constitution provided for repeal of state laws that prohibited intoxicating liquor as of July 1, 1933.

To be elected to the first state legislature in 1876 you had to be a qualified elector in the Colorado Territory. Certain corporations had to file acceptance of the state constitution, and unused corporation charters were defunct as of 1876.

The constitution told Denver how to conduct the city charter election of 1881 and also required officials of Denver to be paid on a monthly basis. The 2000 vote on SCR 5, known as Referendum D, was 1,063,345 "yes" and 422,629 "no".

In 2002, under SCR 6: Colorado's 1961 judicial reform took effect in 1965. It included language transferring court jurisdictions and provided limited court county court simplified procedures. Outdated portions were removed.

A 1996 term limit amendment required federal and state legislators to vote exactly as the section required, to place a term limit amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Otherwise legislators would be branded on subsequent ballots as having "disregarded voter instructions on term limits." The Colorado and U.S. Supreme Court ruled such language violated Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution dealing with amending that constitution. SCR 6, on the ballot as Referendum D, passed 899,912 to 351,886.

In 2004, under SCR 5 :Colorado still contained two articles providing different residential dates for eligibility to vote. One went back to 1876 requiring a year's residence. The later one provided a three month residency. In 1972, the Colorado Supreme Court found such long waiting periods unconstitutional , violating the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Present law requires a 30 day residency period.

Living in a "poorhouse" is neither a detriment nor a help in voting for or running for office. Why? Because Colorado no longer has or runs a "poorhouse". SCR 5, on the ballot as Referendum B, passed 1,247,993 to 560,811.

In 2006 SCR 2 on the ballot as Referendum G, repeals an 1876 requirement that a person with a moral objection to militia duty during peacetime pay a fee to exempt from duty. This was originally written in an earlier version while the Civil War era provided for a federal $300 draft exemption. Another section repeals the 1901 consolidation of multiple school districts in Denver into one district which happened 105 years ago.

The Old Age Pension Fund sources of income are updated and specific gender reference is changed from "he" to "person".

* * *

Anything left to do? Article 2, Section 30b, determined as discriminatory to homosexuals and which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 1996 has not been repealed.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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