Jerry Kopel

Maybe next year....

Here are four unusual bills that met early deaths. Will they be back in 2001?

Do divorce attorneys squeeze the last drop of blood out of hapless husbands? Sen. Jim Dyer, D-Durango, seems to think so. His SB 40 is an example of cold fury, the gritting of teeth, the clenching of fists. This legislative declaration explores feelings as no other declaration has done in years.

"The General Assembly hereby finds and determines that persons from all walks of life are impacted daily by divorce. The General Assembly further finds that thousands of citizens within the state have been divorced or are parties to pending dissolution of marriage actions.

"Many citizens who have experienced or are experiencing the divorce process have all too frequently experienced the astronomically high cost associated with hiring an attorney to represent and preserve their interests in the dissolution of marriage action.

"Although many attorneys charge reasonable fees for such services, many others burden their clients with exorbitant fees. Such fees are frequently the result of attorneys billing their clients for many aspects of their domestic relations cases that should not require professional legal services or (are) the result of unnecessary acrimony all too often attributable to the inability of the parties' respective attorneys to cooperate.

"The result is that many Colorado citizens simply cannot afford legal advice and therefore are forced either to forego the benefit of legal counsel relative to their domestic relations case or to dissipate marital assets in order to hire legal counsel, which assets may otherwise have been used to fund therapy, college expenses, or other critical family expenses."

The bill goes on to set maximum fees based on the issues involved. SB 40 was killed in Senate Judiciary Committee.

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House Bill 1341 by Rep. Matt Smith, R-Grand Junction, would allow permanent memorials to be placed at roadsides along various highways dedicated to persons "who have lost their lives on such highways". It would be up to those who erected the memorials to keep them in repair or replace them.

Nothing in the bill made it apply only to future deaths, so there was the possibility of memorials being erected for many thousands of past accident victims. Families or friends of the deceased would have been responsible for design and placement, subject to criteria of the highway department.

The Legislative Council fiscal note estimated 300 requests for memorials each year, but it didn't consider memorials for prior highway tragedies. The bill would have created a new bureaucracy: Filing out an application, receiving a permit, constructing a memorial, with the department denying or revoking a permit, inspecting the memorial and removing a memorial for noncompliance.

Would drivers on the highways have been distracted by so many memorials? When the highway department realized that its need for widening a road was greater than originally anticipated, how much would it cost to remove and replace memorials? HB 1341 was killed in House Transportation Committee.

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House Bill 1344 was by Rep. Gary McPherson, R-Arapahoe County. It would have given the Department of Corrections authority to enter into contracts with private entities operating private prisons in foreign countries in order to house undocumented alien inmates from Colorado.

This might have solved a problem presently vexing the federal immigration service. They have the unpleasant task of picking up and confining undocumented aliens who have completed criminal sentences in a state facility. If the country of return won't take back the aliens, they often spend much more time in federal confinement. But under HB 1344, with the alien already in a jail in his or her own country, he or she could walk out the jail door and already be home.

The bill actually passed out of Judiciary and was killed on second reading in the House.

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House Bill 1387 by Reps. Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, Kay Alexander, R-Montrose and Sen. Ken Chlouber, R-Leadville, could have become known as the Free But Limited Alcohol Imbibement Law.

A local retail liquor store licensee would have been able to become an "alcohol beverage tasting licensee". Hosts at the beverage tastings were to be the manufacturers of "malt, vinous or spirituous liquors" or those with a "limited winery" license.

Samples provided to the consuming public at the events were not to exceed one ounce of wine and one-quarter of one ounce of spirituous liquors and "no patron shall be served more than four individual samples during any alcohol beverage tasting."

The tasting could last as long as eight hours of the time the retail liquor store was lawfully open. Patrons would be prohibited "from leaving the licensed premises with an unconsumed alcohol beverage sample."

I assume "patrons" would have the back of a hand stamped after receiving each "sample" to ensure no one received more than four samples. However someone determined to get drunk without charge would simply need a list of all the "beverage tasting" events going on in the area and stagger from one to another with hands blackened with ink.

And there was nothing in the proposed law to deny one friendly adult patron from offering a sip to another friendly adult patron.

House Bill 1387 was killed in House Business Affairs Committee.

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

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