Jerry Kopel

There's good and bad environmental news from the paper-eating Colorado legislature.

Whether its recycled or original, paper is what the legislature is all about. The GOOD news is the General Assembly has reduced the number of bills on first printing from 800 copies to 550 copies. That's a 31 percent reduction.

Former Rep. Judy Ford, who runs the House-Senate bill room, confirms there was a lot of waste when 800 copies were printed. And if 550 copies aren't sufficient to meet demand, copying a few extra isn't difficult. The 550 first-print bills are done under contract and off the statehouse premises. But if a bill passes second reading, the state's print shop takes over and produces 350 copies.

The BAD news is the proliferation of non-appropriation "late bills" each of which also has 550 copies, in what could aptly be called "bill diarrhea". The so-called five bill limit for each legislator is supposedly imposed against all, but enforced only against the 24 House Democrats.

Last Sunday was the 96th day of the 1997 session. The General Assembly was 80 percent of the way through. At that point, the House had allowed 38 late bills, all by Republicans and the Senate had 34 late bills, of which 28 were by Republicans.

When the legislature was 80 percent through in 1996, the House had 29 late bills and the Senate, 29. For ALL of 1996, the House had 37 late bills, or one less than the 38 ALREADY introduced in 1997, and the Senate had 41 for the entire 1996 session.

Who has the late-bill diarrhea symptoms? In the House, 24 of the 41 Republicans have introduced 38 late bills and 13 of those measures have already died. Reps. Joyce Lawrence and Phil Pankey have three bills each, including three of the dead bills.

In the Senate, three of 15 Democrats have six late bills, and 13 of 20 Republicans have 28. Bill diarrhea has mostly affected Sen. Dick Mutzebaugh, four times, and Sens. Tom Blickensderfer, Tilman Bishop, Mike Feeley, Tom Norton and Dave Wattenberg, three each. But we haven't heard yet from Sen. Jeff Wells who produced eight late bills in 1996.

Late bills do clog the system, resulting in many errors occurring in the final weeks of the session. In 1996, 24 of the 41 Senate late bills required major floor and conference committee action in the final ten days of the session, as did 20 of the 37 House late bills. Without those additional bills, the legislature could easily have finished its work early.

* * *

The truth is finally out. The state appropriations bill was just a front for the REAL bill being sponsored by all six members of the Joint Budget Committee, SB 216. Chief sponsors are Sen. Tom Blickensderfer (R) and Rep. Tony Grampsas (R).

SB 216 repeals "unnecessary provisions of law resulting from the law's obsolescence or redundancy", but SB 216, which has already passed the Senate, barely scratches the surface.

Here are more obsolete statutes that could and should be removed by the legislature. The list, prepared by myself and David Kopel, was presented to the legislature by the Independence Institute early this year and could be offered in House State Affairs committee.

l. Neither race nor sex should disqualify anyone from a license to practice law. That remains true even if CRS 12-5-102, originally enacted in 1897, is repealed. Today, NO Colorado licensing law includes such language because other state and federal statutes prohibit such discrimination.

2. In the 19th century, Denver was part of Arapahoe County. When Denver became a separate county a 1901 statute, CRS 30-11-202, allowed references to "Arapahoe County" or "Denver" to be applicable to each other if "nothing in the context...make them inapplicable". It is time to repeal.

3. Readers my age might remember when mom or pop, exasperated over some financial event, said you were "going to drive them into the poorhouse." There are no poorhouses presently in existence but this 19th century law, presently CRS 30-17-106, still lets commissioners in each county establish them. Take it off the books.

4. Article 51 of Title 12 REQUIRES county commissioners to license anyone selling, vending, or retailing at private sale, or public auction any goods, wares or merchandise except persons "selling produce, provisions, or mining tools." The "mining tools" listing gives you a flavor for the statute's age (1877 and amended in 1887). Specifically included are theatres, circuses and shows where admissions are charged.

If you repeal Article 51, county commissioners can decide what needs to be licensed and what fee should be charged.

5. CRS 30-10-604 and 30-10-505 are in conflict. One should be repealed to determine who runs the show when the sheriff's office is vacant. If you pick 30-10-604, the county coroner is the sheriff. If you pick 30-10-505, the undersheriff executes the office.

6. CRS 29-4-401 allows cities and towns to create veterans' housing authorities. But sections 402 and 403 were written to provide preferences to veterans of World War II, the youngest of who would now be 69. Colorado did honor its WWII veterans, and these two sections are now obsolete.

7. Sometimes minutiae dealing with allocations of state funds has to be added to our statutes, but when the funding and the dates have long past, it is time to remove the wording. Repeal CRS 24-75-211 and 214.

8. According to CRS 8-2-120, governments cannot determine where public employees live. But the Colorado Supreme Court declared this statute unconstitutional in 1990, and it should be repealed.

9. Ninety-nine years ago, when Article 10 of Title 6 was passed, assignments through a state court process may have been a smart way to disburse assets of an insolvent debtor to creditors. But since Colorado state courts cannot discharge the debtor (that's the role of the federal bankruptcy court) the statute has no real use. Its quaintness is shown in giving priority to wages earned within the past six months of less than $50.

10. The grasshopper infestation of 1965 is over. The last sentence of CRS 24-32-2111 (6) is no longer needed.

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel