Jerry Kopel

They called it the "Ribbon of Death", the road linking Denver to Pueblo and points south. Both the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News wanted an expanded highway and would run stories about how bad the road was and how many people were killed every year. The "ribbon" described the yellow line running down the middle of the blacktop road.

It was a two lane highway, one lane going south and one lane going north, and in 1951-52, I drove it every weekend from work in Walsenburg or Colorado Springs to Denver to see my wife-to-be, and never had an accident. Sometimes the State Patrol would stop me for speeding, telling me I could go see the justice of the peace or pay him (the trooper) the fine. Paying the state trooper without a hearing was just part of the price for traveling the road.

The only frightening time was one blizzardy day driving south. Suddenly there were no cars in front of me. Then I saw them off in the distance to my right in a line going south. I stopped. I had driven straight instead of to the right, and was about 50 feet from the edge of a cliff. There were no guardrails.

Colorado took the two lane highway and replaced it with I-25, and this past election voters agreed to spend $700 million to add more lanes. A Denver Post front page story in November alleges we'll save three minutes going from Belleview to Colorado Blvd. each working day, when improvements are completed, compared to the time spent if additional lanes were not built.

But the story doesn't reveal how much road time will be lost while additional lanes are being built. Why wasn't this story published in the Post and News BEFORE the November election? It takes me three minutes to brush my teeth, and another three minutes to pick out and put on my pants and shirt. I don't eat three minute eggs, they have to be nine minutes. People who were talked into buying or building south of Denver along I-25 will hopefully find good use for their three minutes a day going north and three minutes going south.

There were tragic injuries and fatalities on the "Ribbon of Death" but not so out of proportion as to justify the newspaper hype. There was open space all the way from Denver to Castle Rock, to Colorado Springs, to Pueblo and then to Walsenburg. We didn't know how much that meant to us back in 1951, and no one else will ever see it again. * * *

Hopefully, by the time this column is read, the former Gov. Roy Romer's portrait fiasco will have been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. According to the Denver Post, $10,000 in tax revenues was paid for the official state portrait of Gov. Romer. I assume the $10,000 came from the governor's "discretionary" fund.

The Post reported Romer didn't enjoy the way he looked in the portrait, had it removed from the walls of the state capitol, took personal possession and "hid it in his house for almost a year." Romer's remorse as to the "likeness" portrayed is no excuse for what he did, and I am personally angry at someone with whom I worked in public life for 26 years.

The Denver Post news story and editorial danced all around the major issue. CRS 18-4-401 states: "A person commits theft when he knowingly obtains or exercises control over anything of value of another without authorization ...and knowingly uses, conceals or abandons the thing of value in such manner as to deprive the other person permanently of its use or benefit." If it's $10,000 in value, that's a class 4 felony. A "person" from whom property can be unlawfully taken is defined in CRS 2-4-401 to include "government"

Did someone in authority give Gov. Romer permission to take custody of the painting, have it retouched and then returned to state government? If so, there would be no problem. But we don't have one set of laws for the powerless, and another set of laws for the powerful. * * *

This column rarely has kind words for the Colorado Bar Assn. (CBA), but the CBA deserves high praise for providing a balanced article regarding the latest proposed "uniform" law in the December issue of the Colorado Lawyer. The article was written by attorneys David Mayhan and Patricia Fennelly. This "law-to-be" was born at the Commissioners On Uniform State Laws (CUSL) national meeting in Denver in July. It's called the "Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act" and will affect consumers and businesses, possibly in unfortunate ways.

At least, that's the position of the movie and publishing industry, plus 24 attorneys general (AGs) representing: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

This proposed law deals with electronic commerce and the sale of computer information. According to the article's authors, the CUSL defends its adoption as necessary because the Uniform Commercial Code (another CUSL product) cannot handle the intangible subject matter and licenses of computer information transactions such as: "Contracts to license or buy software; create a computer program; distribute information on the Internet; contracts for multimedia products, computer games and online databases."

One of the concerns of the AGs, according to the article's authors, is the loss of present consumer protections in state laws, where a "mouse click onto a box during installation of software" could manifest assent without reading the "take it or leave it form contracts." Section 105 of the proposed law preempts present state laws that provide contract protections for consumers. If a state wants to keep those protections, the article authors quote a legislative footnote to the effect that a "state should exclude consumer protection statutes the state does not wish to be preempted."

It would certainly make more sense for the proposed law to INCLUDE only those consumer protection statute references the state will ALLOW to be preempted. Will Colorado see this suggested uniform law in 2000? Colorado was the state where the group met, two past presidents of CUSL live in the Denver area, there have been numerous past attempts to make our state one of the first to enact a uniform law, and Attorney General Ken Salazar was NOT one of the AGs listed in opposition to the law.

There are many areas too numerous to comment on (besides consumer protection) with conflicts between supporters and opponents. The CBA would do a service by making copies of the Mayhan/Fennelly article available to all legislators. Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

 Money, Money, Money. If you stack it, don't flaunt it. If you lack it, you want it. Money, Money, Money. At last, some honest greed. Nearly 1,200 Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, also known as "certified addiction counselors" want to be licensed. "Third party insurance" states the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) Sunrise review, "is a primary theme in this Sunrise application."

These mind probers are under DORA regulation in the same section as the psychologists, social workers, professional counselors, family and marriage therapists, and unlicensed psychotherapists. Four of the five regulated groups are licensed and, states DORA: "The applicant argues that the state should establish a licensure program because `addiction professionals deserve, and should be granted, parity with other licensed mental health professionals.'" And besides, applicant argues, licensure is the only accepted "credential" of the health care industry to provide reimbursable services.

The 1,200 addiction counselors who want to be licensed are part of nearly 1,800 under DORA jurisdiction. They are at Level 3, which means they can perform clinical supervision. DORA also points out they "can at times receive third party payments provided ... claims are verified and processed by a licensed health care professional."

Before seeking licensure and more money, the addiction counselors ought to first protect their "certification". According to DORA: "..the hallmark of certification -- title protection -- is absent in (this) Colorado's regulatory scheme (which) more closely resembles a system of registration." That's a loophole that can easily be closed in the 2000 legislature. * * *

Money, money, money! The Certified Public Accountants (CPA) Board shouldn't reduce competition by requiring higher standards for incoming graduates. That's the recommendation by DORA in its Sunset review of CPAs. Beginning Jan. 1, 2002, the CPA board will require college graduates with a bachelor's degree to have 150 semester hours instead of 120 semester hours to qualify as a CPA. The present 120 semester hours program is for a four year bachelor's degree with a concentration in accounting. The increase from 120 semester hours is "an overly restrictive entry barrier into the accounting profession with no demonstrable public protection function" according to DORA. Colorado, with about 9,100 CPAs, has one CPA per 240 population compared to the total U.S. ratio of one CPA per 278 population.

The board states it adopted the 150 hours by rule, in accordance with the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) requirements, which are not mandatory for Colorado. DORA's Sunset review lists arguments for and against the 150 hour standard, and comes down against. DORA quotes from several studies. "CPA's should continue to enjoy a wide range of job opportunities, especially as more states enact the 150 hour requirement making it more difficult to obtain this certification" claims one study. "By setting entry requirements at unnecessarily high levels, ostensibly to protect the public, a group may limit the number of individuals who can qualify. This, in turn, may create an artificial scarcity and enable those who are licensed to charge higher prices for their services than they might otherwise command" states a second study.

DORA includes a letter by the Director of Accounting Programs at CU-Denver, also signed by the Accounting Dept. Chair at UNC which claims the additional cost for 30 semester hours for a CU-Denver student will be about $25,000, and "because of the restricted supply of CPAs ...consumers will experience an increase in fees paid to CPAs."

CPAs have lots of money to hire good lobbyists to fight DORA, but this recommendation deserves careful attention. If Sunset is about anything, it's about fostering competition. * * *

Donna Lohmeyer died Nov. 22, just short of her 68th birthdate of Dec. 5th. Donna served in the Colorado House beginning in 1977 as an assignable clerk. She was heavily involved in all three House campaigns by deceased Rep. Paul Swalm, R-Denver, one successful and two unsuccessful against me. In 1982, Judy Ford, Chief Assignable Clerk in the House, was appointed a member of the Colorado House and Donna became chief assignable clerk through 1989. That year some House staff sought unemployment insurance for the time when their state salaries ended. Then-Speaker Bev Bledsoe terminated Donna's employment as well as that of Asst. Sgt. of Arms Bill Purcell. Jan Duckworth, who recently died in the Egyptian Airline disaster, replaced Donna as chief assignable clerk in 1990. When Rep. Swalm became a Denver city councilman, Donna remained on the House staff. Donna and I became friends and kept in touch after she left the House position. She was a good soul, a hard worker, and will be missed.

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

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