Jerry Kopel

Legislative Rustling

By Jerry Kopel

July 4, 2009

Recent news stories centered on claims by state Republican legislators that Democrats are stealing their bills or amendments. That usually happens when one political party controls both the House and Senate. Nothing in the articles printed referred to the name this was known as to retired legislators: Rustling.

Rustling applies to theft of cattle or horses, but it also described taking a bill or amendment offered by another legislator, usually of the other political party. Rustling actually can be beneficial if the bill's author is no longer a legislator, or it can be detrimental if another legislator has a title broad enough to swallow your work. As here:

State Sen. Barbara Holme, D-Denver, soon after being sworn in, began working on creating an independent Office of Consumer Counsel to protect consumers on issues being decided before the Public Utilities Commission. None of her bills, and she tried many times, even got to the Senate floor for debate. But her constant persistence and growing public support for the concept culminated in a successful bill by Sen. Cliff Dodge, R-Denver and Rep Bill Artist, R-Greeley in 1984, the final year of legislative incumbency by Sen. Holme.

It was not be an independent agency, but one with less power, placed under the state Attorney General Duane Woodard. He, in turn, delegated more power to the newly created OCC, such having the OCC report directly to him.

Every one in the legislature knew whose efforts created the OCC. Dodge and Artist, according to one newspaper "let Sen. Holme host the brief signing ceremony at the Capitol. Gov Dick Lamm praised Holme for keeping the faith through the years and the crowd gave her a standing ovation."

In 1991, Attorney General Gale Norton had reversed the Woodard approach and had the OCC report to deputy AG Garth Lucero, who headed the section related to consumer issues. But under SB 3, carried by Sen. MaryAnne Tebedo, R-Colorado Springs and Rep David Owen, R-Greeley (both members of the oversight Sunrise-Sunset Committee) the OCC was taken our from the AG's office and placed in the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies In 1993 as an independent agency. DORA reported that from 1987 to June of 1992, the OCC had been involved in saving consumers several hundred million dollars.


State Rep Rennie Fagan, D-Colorado Springs, in 1992 was carrying HB 1146. Fagan did not write the bill. It was produced after an enormous amount of work by Securities Commissioner Phil Feigin in cooperation with the Colorado Bar Assn. and the securities industry, and it was going to pass.'''

Securities dealers had finally realized they could not function in Colorado anymore because the securities law produced by the CBA Business Section in 1989 had turned Colorado into the "garbage pit" of the industry. Banks across the nation would not finance Colorado offerings because of uncorrected loopholes that allowed crooks to operate with immunity in Colorado. Since their pocketbooks were now hurting, securities dealers were willing to allow changes in the law.

In the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, the 87-page Fagan bill was amended into HB 1222, a bill carried by Majority Leader Chris Paulson, R-Arapahoe, at Paulson's request. The Fagan bill then died he next day in the House Finance Committee.

HB 1222, the revised Colorado securities bill, did become law in what must have been a bittersweet moment for Fagan, who did add his name as co-sponsor of HB 1222 after third reading in the House.

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It really is not rustling to add your bill that did not get out of committee, as a floor amendment to another's bill which had a broad title (A Bill Concerning Criminal Law) which in the opinion of the original sponsor would allow him or her to pick up support.

I used such an approach in 1988 by having Senate co-sponsor Jim Rizzuto, D-Las Animas, add HB 1143 "Protection of employees of businesses under contract with state agencies who disclose information relating to state government" to a bill HB 1009 by Rep. Pat Grant , R-Denver "Concerning government competition with private enterprise."

The point of my amendment was to provide a shelter for whistleblower's jobs. But Grant refused a possible payment to the whistleblower for government money saved.

A good government amendment for CRS 24-114-103 in 2010? Provide a financial incentive for a whistleblower who saves Colorado money not otherwise restored.

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

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