Jerry Kopel

Some observations about the recent election:

Doug Bruce's Amendment 12 deserved to die, as it did, in a humiliating fashion. But let's not overlook the fact that several issues raised in Amendment 12 do deserve attention. One concerns overuse of the "safety clause".

The safety clause is automatically attached to every bill that moves through the legislature. It reads: The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety."

The language is based on Article V, Section l (3) of the Colorado constitution which states: "...the referendum...may be ordered, except as to laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety....Referendum petitions...shall be filed...not more than ninety days after the final adjournment of the session of the general assembly that passed the bill on which the referendum is demanded."

Bruce's Amendment 12 "solution" was an abusive constitutional amendment limiting the safety clause to six bills per year.

Here is another, less abusive solution: Give each legislator a choice. Legislative Drafting Office has a form that legislators fill out to request a bill. If legislative leadership orders it, the form can be altered to include the following question: "Do you want a safety clause at the end of the bill?"

If it is a bill that should be put into effect as soon as possible, the answer would be "yes". But if there isn't any reason why the bill can't wait until August 10th, then some legislators with a conservative bent may well answer "no safety clause needed".

Perhaps ten to twenty bills would pass in 1995 without a safety clause. If no referendum petitions are filed to contest their passage, the number of bills without safety clauses in future years would likely increase. All this could occur without a rules change, or passage of legislation.

What I'm suggesting isn't new. Bill Flanery of Colorado Springs, a Democratic freshman legislator in 1975 introduced bills without safety clauses. Instead of commending him, legislative leaders attempted to dissuade Flanery, and criticized his efforts. Was Flanery just twenty years ahead of his time?


With another defeat at the polls, Democrats in the Colorado legislature have to look for "signs and omens" to predict the future. How about this one?

The last time there were 24 Democrats elected to the House was 1962 (and there were fifteen elected to the Senate), and after 1962 was the Goldwater - Johnson Presidential race in 1964, which in turn resulted in 42 Democrats in the Colorado House in 1965.

On the other hand: After the 1976 election, there were 47 Democrats in the legislature (17 Senators, 30 Representatives) which was followed by 40 elected in 1978 (13 Senators, 27 Representatives) which numbers equal 47 in 1992, and 40 in 1994. In the 1980 election, the number of Democrats fell to 39 (actually 38 after the defection of David Bath).

* * *

With the switch in control of the U.S. Senate, there is going to be intense pressure on Governor Romer from national Democratic headquarters to take on Hank Brown for the U.S. Senate in 1996. There aren't going to be many open seats available in 1996 and the only way the Democrats can hope to overcome a deficit of three is to contest Republican incumbents everywhere with the best challengers available. The last time Republicans controlled the Senate, they held on for six straight years.

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Who says you can't go home again? All the Colorado congressional delegation except Congresswoman Schroeder served in the Colorado legislature. Five of the eight, all Republican, served only in the majority during their Colorado legislative experience, with both houses under Republican control, except for 1975-76. Congressman Skaggs and Senator Campbell served only in the minority in the Colorado legislature.

When the new Congress convenes in January, it will be deja vu for the seven. In fact, I expect the four House Republicans to be called upon to explain to other Republicans the nuances of control.

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Did you see enough lawn signs this past election? Certainly number and variety were far greater than in the past. I only noticed two candidates who went the ultimate route, which is to use "name only". Pat Schroeder signs had her name and there was an extremely tiny verification at the bottom as to who paid for them. Only Superman or Superwoman could have read the small print at ANY distance.

Roy Romer signs read "Romer". That is the ultimate in self-confidence. All other candidate signs I saw felt obligated to tell you what elected position the candidate held or was seeking. If I missed other "name only" signs, please let me know.

I like to think my 1978 lawn signs were the first to do "name only". The sign was 23 inches high and 8 1/2 inches wide, black letters on light yellow background, with orange borders, and read "Jerry Kopel"

My campaign workers urged me to identify the position sought, but my reaction was that those who already knew me from past campaigns didn't need identification. Those who didn't know me were now going to ask someone "who is that?".

Once a voter makes an effort to get additional information about a candidate, you have made a connection. Every time new voters saw the sign in the future, it would click "Kopel?"...."State Representative". Did it work? Well, I NEVER lost an election while using those name-only lawn signs.

All of which reminds me of a story. In one campaign, we leased some clunkers and placed them on streets intersecting with Monaco Parkway in Denver. Each clunker had a large sign which read "Jerry Kopel Cares".

Shortly after, an acquaintance stopped me and asked where my automobile dealership was. "What are you talking about?" I asked. "Well" he said, "I was driving down Monaco and saw your sign: Jerry Kopel Cars."


Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

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