Jerry Kopel

Sen. Jim Dyer, D-Durango, had the right idea. His SB 129, "Concerning Economic Deregulation of Intrastate Railroads" jumped from a five line bill that exempted intrastate railroads from rate-setting authority of the Public Utilities Commission to 13 pages of repeal of obsolete and semi-obsolete sections of the state railroad statutes. The bill has passed the legislature and by the time this column is printed, SB 129 will have been acted on by Gov. Bill Owens.

Some of what is contained in SB 129 is beyond the bill's title. But if it's truly obsolete, no one is going to raise a fuss. Sen. Dyer does away in CRS 40-32-106 with ejecting "any passenger...who plays any game of cards or other games of chance for money or other valuable thing". Kicking the passenger off the train passed in 1913 and the language hasn't been amended in 87 years.

There are two other obsolete "gambling" state statutes and if either of them was enforced, many of our legislators and probably most of the lobbyists would be in the hoosegow.

One is CRS 1-13-110 which makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a year in county jail and a fine of $1,000 to make a bet with an elector on an election. Does that means it's okay to bet with someone who's NOT an elector? This law goes back to the 19th century. The same law applies to municipal elections under CRS 31-10-1531.

Social gambling is NOT a crime under CRS 18-10-102(2)(d). If it is not social gambling, it's already a crime without the need of the two election statutes and the railroad statute.

There are other obsolete statutes still in existence. Sens. Dottie Wham, Dave Owen, Ray Powers, Dorothy Rupert and Reps. Ben Clarke, Bill Sinclair, and I can recall the time of the Great Depression. If a child exasperated a parent over money, you would likely hear the rebuke "you're going to drive me to the poorhouse!"

We still have a "poorhouse" law on the books dating back more than 100 years. It's CRS 30-17-106 which allows county commissioners to obtain no more than 640 acres for a "poorhouse", employ such persons as may be necessary to operate it and "appoint a physician to attend to those who may become sick." The 640 acres were likely intended to allow a farm on the premises, to give the poor some "honest work".

I don't know of any county that has a "poorhouse". We do have homeless shelters and a lot of them have people who are not poor, just unable to meet the high costs of renting an apartment or buying a home.

Here are other obsolete statutes. In the 19th century, Denver was part of Arapahoe County. When Denver became a separate county, the 1901 legislature passed CRS 30-11-202 providing if there are any statutes relating to Arapahoe County "and there is nothing in the context or in the constitutional amendment creating the city and county of Denver to make them inapplicable, the same (statutes) shall be held to apply to ...Denver."

Well, Arapahoe is Arapahoe and Denver is Denver, and we really don't need CRS 30-11-202.

CRS 12-5-102 states "No person shall be denied a license to practice (law) on account of race or sex." That statute from 1897 was commendable for its early existence. But state and federal civil rights and anti-discrimination laws make it no longer necessary. No other statute regulating professions or occupations contains such language. And could the argument be made that someone can be barred from the practice of law because of ancestry or disability, since neither is included in the statute?


Meanwhile, Sen. Dave Owen, R-Greeley, and Rep. Penn Pfiffner, R-Lakewood, are carrying Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 5, which repeals more outdated provisions of the state constitution. Sen. Owen asked for my assistance, which I gladly provided.

This is the fourth time I have worked on measures repealing obsolete constitutional provisions. The first items, in 1988, were added by Rep. Scott McInnis to a constitutional amendment relating to eight-hour workday exceptions that was sponsored by Sen. Tillie Bishop.

The second, in 1990, was carried by House Speaker Bev Bledsoe. It was probably the most interesting, since it dealt with dueling by legislators, allowing educational qualifications for voters, denying appropriations for the 1976 Winter Olympics, publishing laws in Spanish and German, and ending the possibility of veterans from the 1898 Spanish American War receiving preference in state employment.

The third one I carried myself in 1992 with Sen. Wham as Senate sponsor. One provision struck the term "unremarried widow" and substituted "surviving spouse" in the veteran's preference portion, recognizing that female veterans have the same legal status as male veterans, and the surviving spouse of either has the same right to additional points on tests to become a state employee. (Also, there is no such word as "unremarried" in the English language.)

SCR 5 may be more mundane, but it does wipe out a number of pages now being printed. The major portion deals with procedures for special elections to approve the original Denver charter convention and to approve or reject the proposed charter. If voters rejected the charter, the process would continue until a charter was finally approved. (You don't have to hold your breath. The Denver charter was approved.)

Some of the other portions: The original constitution provided "a qualified elector under the territorial laws (shall) be eligible to the first general assembly." Those legislators were elected and were sworn in, in 1876.

Justices of the peace and constables no longer exist, those offices having been repealed in 1965, and SCR 5 removes them from Section 25 of Article 5.

Sen. Dyer's railroad bill couldn't deal with obsolete railroad provisions in the state constitution, but SCR 5 can. Two sections, referring to acts that needed to be done in 1876, are removed.

Prohibition was repealed in 1932. Colorado passed a constitutional provision which wiped out statutes enforcing prohibition as of July 1, 1933. SCR 5 removes that language.

Only six articles of the state constitution can be repealed in any general election. SCR 5 will be held in the House until early May.

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel