Jerry Kopel

SB 24 will affect one in eight Coloradoans, but nothing about it has been printed in newspapers, viewed on TV, or discussed on the radio.

The bill by Sen. Ron Teck (R) and Rep. Andrew Romanoff (D) is, in the overall picture, a "good government" bill that came out of a legislative interim committee and was designed to make laws governing 36 professions and occupations regulated under the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) more uniform.

But one House amendment (not approved by the interim committee) gives major OUT-SOURCE power to DORA's executive director to "develop, implement, and administer the licensing and examination functions" when the director determines that DORA "is without sufficient technical expertise to perform such licensing and examination functions." The decision is made by the DORA director independently and, at least to me, appears subjective.

Most of the 36 professions and occupations affected are Type 1.

That is a code word which means they have a great deal of independence (rule making, regulation, licensing and registration), and the out-sourcing could result in a major shift in power from the 36 regulatory boards to the DORA director.

Other parts of SB 24 are probably less controversial. It makes sense to avoid different disciplinary criteria for regulatory boards when that could lead to conflicting court decisions. If you subpoena a witness for a hearing to discipline an electrician, the statute should contain the same language if an optometrist is being disciplined.

Presently complainants, witnesses, or members of the board dealing with disciplinary actions are immune from civil liability if they are acting in good faith. The bill expands that to include the board's staff and makes them all immune from criminal as well as civil liability if acting in good faith.

All boards listed can turn disciplinary proceedings over to an administrative judge rather than have the hearing before the particular board. That is a big help when the board only meets once a month. The board would then act on the decision rendered by the administrative judge.

If a witness fails to comply with a subpoena issued by either the board or the administrative judge, the Denver District Court can issue a subpoena. The penalty for failure to obey THAT order would be contempt of court, and could result in some jail time or fine.

Plea bargaining is out. When the complaint or investigation discloses misconduct that the board feels warrants formal action, the issue will not be resolved by "deferred settlement, action, judgment or prosecution."

If you fail to get your registration or license renewed on time, you have a 60 day grace period to do so, although it may cost you a fine. The period for how long the license or registration is renewed is decided by the DORA director of registrations. It can be anytime between one to three years.

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It might be time to end the farce known as Joint Rule 24 (b) (1) (A) which provides legislators may not introduce more than five bills in a regular session except for appropriation or interim committee bills. The House and Senate committees on delayed bills may expand the number allowed for a legislator, but the rule doesn't indicate the need for a reason given. These are termed "late" bills. When the rule change was first adopted (and I was there) the discussion was about emergency situations that might arise after the deadline date.

There is a three day period after the deadline date when bills in leadership hands have not yet been assigned to committee. After that period ends, late bills begin.

This year, through April 9th, the House majority leadership approved 78 late bills, 68 for Republicans and 10 for Democrats. The Senate majority leadership approved 62 late bills, 49 for Republicans and 13 for Democrats.

So what is the point of a five bill limit when the leadership approves (with still more coming) 140 late bills, of which 23 went to the minority party?

This isn't to place blame. What has happened has gone on for many years. But there is time to introduce another joint resolution before the session ends since the deadline for resolutions doesn't apply to the conduct of legislative business. Why not tighten the joint rules? Don't allow any legislator more than one late bill, and base it on an emergency situation that has occurred after the deadline.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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