Jerry Kopel

Denver City Attorney Dan Muse will be leaving his office in seven months. Muse has done a credible job over eight plus years as city attorney, based on an intelligent, pragmatic approach. But, as with all intelligent people, sometimes goofy things happen, especially if one thinks out loud in the presence of a reporter.

Muse was quoted by Denver Rocky Mountain News columnist Peter Blake as suggesting term-limited Councilwoman-at-large Cathy Reynolds could run in 2003 for the council district seat No. 11 presently held by Happy Haynes, who is also term-limited.

"If you are already serving at-large" asked Blake, "could you not run from the district in which you live?" Muse replied that "he hadn't researched the issue, but his first impression is that it would be legal."

"After all", he said, "you'd be running for a different office and representing a a different constituency." The Denver Post even followed up with an editorial to the effect that "Muse believes that...Reynolds could run for (the) district seat while term-limited district incumbents would be free to run for at-large seats." The Post editorial appeared to accept Muse's "suggestion" as doctrine.

Now that Muse is leaving public office, he OWES it to the members of city council to give them a report detailing his research on the issue, after which he should apologize to them for raising false hopes. However, he may have difficulty in finding adequate case law on the subject.

As reported by the Legislative Council analysis of 1994 ballot proposals (when local term limits were enacted): "At the present time, no states have constitutional limits on the number of consecutive terms local officials may serve. This issue will be on the ballot in five states in 1994 with each state providing a two consecutive term limit. The states voting on the issue in 1994 are Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Nebraska, and Utah." No state will reach the final year (and possible controversy) of a local two-term limit until 2000.

How to resolve the issue? First let's deal with "representing a different constituency." When the legislature is reapportioned every ten years, many legislators are left with only ten percent of their previous constituency as I was in 1972 and 1982. Does that mean an eight year term limit would have started all over again? Of course not.

It doesn't matter how you got there. What matters is where you go. The constitutional provision, Article 18, Section 11 governing officials of a "county, city and county, city, town, school district, service authority, or any other political subdivision..", etc. does not spell out the titles of officials covered, such as mayor, auditor, council, county commissioner, treasurer, clerk and recorder, coroner, and on and on.

"Official" is meant to be generic, since there are so many possible types of local offices all subject to a two consecutive term limit.

If you are elected from a council-at-large seat, is it a different office from other council seats? In the Denver city council, there is one chamber. All 13 members sit at the same table and vote on the same bills.

Unlike a Colorado House bill being killed in a Colorado Senate committee, the two council at-large members can't kill a bill approved by the other eleven council members. They are part of the same voting process. The purpose of term limits is to stop someone from holding on more than eight consecutive years in an office, or voting more than eight consecutive years in one chamber. The same rule that applies to city council applies to the Denver school board where there are also two at-large seats.

Muse simply can't leave this hanging. If Councilwoman Cathy Reynolds was to run from the District 11 council seat in 2003 and be certified by the Denver Election Commission based on Dan Muse's "first impression", there would be a quick court battle brought by the other District 11 candidates and the decision would be easy ...."6,7,8, and you're out."

It would be the worst thing that could happen to the 2003 election and the worst kind of scar on Muse's otherwise good reputation.

* * *

Dr. Joe Butterfield died June 1, 1999. He had been lobbying for the care of newborn babies and other health issues at the Colorado legislature for as long as I can remember.

Joe was always the robust picture of health until this year when he showed up at the state capitol very gaunt. I didn't ask him what was the matter. If he wanted me to know, he would have told me.

Our friendship goes back to at least 1975. In late 1973, Joe and Dr. Don Schiff and Dr. Fred Battaglia began a battle to have Colorado join seven other states that had forbidden the exclusion of newborn children (from the time of birth), from health insurance policies. In many policies, coverage began a week or longer after birth and excluded pre-existing conditions.

When nothing happened during the 1974 legislative session, I made it a campaign issue in that year's election to the House. HB 1085, the 1975 bill sponsored by myself and Sen. Les Fowler, R-Boulder had the support of the medical society and the Health Insurance Assn. of America. It passed largely because of the active lobbying by Dr. Butterfield and Insurance Commissioner Dick Barnes.

The photo in the Denver Rocky Mountain News obituary shows a robust handsome Butterfield, as most of us remember him. But the Denver Post obituary had a picture of him at the age when he was still in medical school, about 45 years ago.

Attesting to Dr. Butterfield's national reputation, the New York Times obituary page for June 6 gave him four columns, including a terrific two column picture showing Dr. Butterfield examining a newborn infant in 1989.

None of the obituaries mentioned the great love Joe Butterfield had for jazz. He not only loved the music, he was very knowledgeable about it. So when he showed up at the annual piano parties I used to give with my jazz trio at the then-Senate Lounge, and STAYED, I knew I had to be doing something right.

I and many thousands of others in Colorado and elsewhere will miss Joe and his decades-long dedication to the causes of children. Perhaps our congressional members could push for a postage stamp to memorialize the father of the practice of neonatology.

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

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