Jerry Kopel

Some employees of the state are going to be angry when they read HB 1282 by Rep. Pam Rhodes (R). The bill is scheduled for hearing Monday, Feb. 24th in House Local Government committee.

HB 1282 will make it easier to eliminate state jobs and veterans' preferences through personal service contracts. And at a time when budget deficits must reduce the number of state employees, this bill may be tempting to legislators.

Back in 1993, Colorado adopted a new section in the state personnel system in order to deal with the Douglas Bruce TABOR constitutional amendment of 1992.

The legislative declaration back then in CRS 24-50-502 talked about the need to encourage increased efficiency and to "balance the benefits of privatization of personal services against its impact on the state personnel system as a whole", and "it is the intent of the general assembly that privatization of government services not result in diminished quality in order to save money". All those words have been stricken from the Rhodes bill.

Of course, pay for private employees will not usually match that of state employees, nor will similar benefits be available, such as those provided through the Public Employees Retirement Association. In letting private companies perform what would be public functions, private companies will always reduce costs based on salary and benefits.

As part of the new standards to be applied, the contracts with the state will contain provisions for employment by the contractor of "potentially affected state personnel system employees to perform the services," and the training of same.

Disclosure of information from an agency to the state personnel director by way of annual reports are repealed. Procedures to implement the private employee route presently include "provisions for consideration of contractors that utilize a preference for hiring veterans of military service..." That is repealed.

At a time when Americans face possible injury or death in the Armed Forces fighting in a Middle East war, it's not exactly morale building to know they are provided veterans preference as state employees under Article 12, Section 15 of the state constitution, but not as private company employees doing state business with the state's blessing under HB 1282.

However, for state employees and for local government employees who want to jump ship, HB 1282 offers a quick transfer of information gained while employed. Former employees still can't contract with a government agency "involving matters with which he or she was directly involved during his or her employment" for six months following termination. BUT his or her new employer can.

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Rep. Debbie Stafford's new mortuary bill, HB 1305, was introduced after the House Rules "deadline" for introducing bills. While her earlier attempt this session to regulate morticians failed badly, this new measure may have more success.

Rep. Stafford is correct when she states the language protecting consumers and the public health haven't been updated for 46 years. The present law regarding morticians dates back to 1957. In 1983, the legislature repealed language regarding licensing, but kept portions of the statute protecting consumers. Stafford's new bill does modernize funeral law. Just two of the new items:

Decedent's last wishes are to be followed regarding funeral services and disposition of his or her body, regardless of whether the document used meets the standard for testamentary validity.

And there's a time limit on how long a body can be kept from being refrigerated, frozen, embalmed, interred, or cremated, despite a religious sect's customs or rites for "a longer stay". The limit is seven days after death.

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

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