Jerry Kopel

Sorry JoAnn Groff, but you are NOT the youngest representative in Colorado history.

Keen research (and luck) has uncovered Thomas W. Nevin, a Democrat elected to the Colorado House from Denver on November 6, 1934. He was one of fifteen Denver legislators elected that year.

The constitutional age requirements for service in the legislature in 1934 were the same as today. Under Article 5, Section 4 " No person shall be a representative or senator who shall not have attained the age of twenty-five years".

Rep. Nevin, however, was born Feb. 11, 1910 in Leadville, Colo. In 1934, the terms for state representatives BEGAN Nov. 7,1934 and expired Nov. 9, 1936. (Senate terms ran from Nov. 7, 1934 until Nov. 9,1938.) When Rep. Nevin took office, he was 24 years, eight months and 26 days old. Apparently no one questioned whether he met the age requirement.

Thomas Nevin was no slouch as a political contestant. His 54,836 votes placed him eighth among the 15 Denver legislators elected. Some of his fellow legislators that year in the House are familiar names: Dominic Coloroso, who served in the House in the 1960s and 70s with me and other legislators who are still in office, Bert Keating of district attorney fame, and Gerald McAuliffe who also served on Denver District Court.

Rep. Nevin did get a bill passed in 1935, one of 225 laws enacted out of 1,743 introduced (1,046 in the House and 697 in the Senate). His measure, HB 263, increased coverage and payments under the Firemens Pension Fund.

A review of his other titles shows Rep. Nevin would have been right at home in the 1990s:

To Establish a State Retirement for Teachers and Other Employees in Public Schools; Providing for State Control of Alcohol and Alcoholic Liquors; Providing for Administration, Government and Control of All State Institutions of Higher Learning by Regents of the University of Colorado; and Providing for Special Audit of Receipts and Expenditures of the University of Colorado by the State Auditor.

The legislature did not meet in 1936 except for 14 days of special session. Rep. Nevin did not seek re-election in 1936. For his service to the state of Colorado, he received a salary of $1000 per term, or $500 per year.

Rep. Nevin died March 25 at age 85. He was an attorney, graduating from Westminster Law School. Among his credits were service as an assistant attorney general, and as co-chair of the Head Start Program in Denver. Hopefully, Rep. Nevin will receive a House Memorial this year, in which his record as the youngest legislator will be mentioned.

The board of Academy of Charter Schools in Northglenn asked for a clause in its contract allowing it to fire teachers who engage in sex outside of marriage, and the Adams 12 school board refused, according to several recent news articles.

Controversy centered on whether such sex was "lawful activity ...during non-working hours." One Rocky Mountain News article stated " There is no law against engaging in sex outside of marriage, according to Denver police."

Actually there is such a law, although the "U" word (unlawful) is artfully omitted. The statute is CRS 18-6-501. "Any sexual intercourse by a married person other than with that person's spouse is adultery, which is prohibited."

"Prohibited" is a legal word as in "trespassing prohibited." According to Black's Law Dictionary, prohibited means "to forbid by law".

Here is the story behind CRS 18-6-501. In 1971, the law in Colorado read: "Any man or woman who shall an open state of adultery or fornication....every such man or woman...on conviction shall be...imprisoned in the county jail not exceeding six months."

The penalty doubled for each subsequent offense,but the parties could avoid prosecution if they (legally) married.

In 1971, the legislature became deeply involved in a massive rewrite of the state's criminal laws, sponsored by Sen. Birmingham (R) and Rep. Cole (R). I remember distinctly when we discussed this particular section in House Judiciary committee. The witness was O.Otto Moore, who had been chief justice of the State Supreme Court, but in 1971 he was retired from the court.

"Justice Moore," I asked, "can you explain to this committee the difference between adultery and fornication?" Former Justice Moore responded "Well, I have tried both, and I honestly cannot tell the difference."

The change in law was the legislature's attempt to not condone adultery while de-criminalizing fornication. But we would halt imprisonment or a fine for adultery by using the term "prohibited". Since we did not call it a felony, misdemeanor, or petty offense, we avoided triggering the penalties in 18-1-108 and 109.

There was opposition. One witness did tell the Judiciary Committee her (inaccurate) prediction for Colorado's future tourist: If we struck fornication from the statute, Colorado would see the opening of "stud" ranches instead of "dude" ranches.

* * *

Which state medical licensing boards are at the top in disciplinary actions against physicians? Legislators should be pleased to hear that out of fifty states, (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) Colorado ranks seventh according to the Federation of State Medical Boards.

The best states are Arizona, West Virginia, Wyoming, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado.



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

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