Jerry Kopel

Doug Bruce Comes to Town

Dec. 8, 2007

By Jerry Kopel

"Every nation has the government it deserves"

-- Joseph Marie de Maistre (1753-1821)

Douglas Bruce will ascend to the Colorado House of Representatives and by the time the legislative session begins, I assume the media stories will have picked and reused every possible nasty cliché: Perfect storm, egotistical buffoon, great foil for the Democrats, wonderful filler for the press.

What the stories may overlook is that Bruce is smart, and because he is smart, he is also very dangerous.

I trace that comment back to Bruce's initiative Amendment 12 in 1994. Bruce's ability to cloud true intent by artful use of words is amazing. I spent hours in 1994 reading and re-reading the wording of Amendment 12 as if I was engaged in a chess tournament, looking for all possible options arising from a sentence.

Former legislative council staffer, Stan Elofson, summarized the content as "Election Reform: Places limitations on elected official compensation and on campaign contributions, restricts use of funds by government entities, changes recall and petition provisions and places limits on governing bodies." Soft words until you read the actual sentences. The voting public did kill Amendment 12 easily, 246,723 to 848,140.

Legislators may want to read my columns dissecting Amendment 12 which are available at

From my column on Amendment 12 published in the Colorado Statesman June 3, 1994:

"Legislators, especially at the state level will have even less reason to seek re-election. Those who live a distance from Denver will pay out of their base salaries the costs of traveling, residing, and eating away from home. For many, it could mean a net deficit at the end of the year. To add insult to injury, they won't even be able to protect their families through health insurance policies offered to state employees. These punishments won't discomfort the wealthy and comfortably retired."

I think Bruce is experienced enough not to take advantage of the new and untested televised discussion at the front of the House, at least early on. But I think Bruce will make himself, if not already, knowledgeable in the House Rules and Joint Rules, enabling him to lawfully create clogs in the system.

Rep. Bruce, like any other member of the House, has the right to offer amendments to a bill on second reading debate. I think the question other legislators should ask, not only of a Bruce amendment, but of any amendment, is "do I really understand what this amendment will do?" especially tracking each possible definition of a word.

* * *

Some old laws that make you wonder. What on earth were they thinking ?:

(1) This law was made in hell. If the husband beats the wife and the wife beats the husband ...

If both husband and wife "be found guilty of injuries or offenses which would entitle the opposite party to a degree of divorce, then no divorce shall be granted to either party." Laws of 1893.

(2) A law for the lazy in Denver.

"In every city of this state having a population of 100,000 or over, every Saturday during the months of June, July, and August, from noon until midnight shall be treated as other holidays under the laws of this state." Laws of 1893.

(3) Time to go to church on Sunday. You need to pick up your suit from the cleaners and get a haircut. Sorry, you might just stay at home.

"No cleaning (and/or) dyeing establishment shall remain open or operate on Sundays," Laws of 1937.

"It shall be a misdemeanor for any person to carry on the business of barbering in any city of the first or second class on Sunday." Laws of 1893.

(4) All right. Instead of going to church, I'm going to take in a musical." Sorry.

"No person shall be allowed to open any place of public amusement such as a theatre, circus, or show on the Sabbath or Lord's day." Laws of 1876.

Most of the above contained money penalties. At least one put you in county jail.

(5) And heard on a TV documentary about Tibet Oct. 30, 2007 by yours truly.

"The Chinese have passed a law forbidding reincarnation without permission. This will be a difficult law to enforce."

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

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