Jerry Kopel


Senate President John Andrews recently indicated he would like to see issues on the 2004 statewide ballot dealing with recall of judges and providing for senate confirmations. Deja vu John.

The same issues were fought in the 1984 legislature. Then-Rep. Chris Paulson introduced House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 1006 in response to, as Berny Morson wrote in the Rocky Mountain News, "recent incidents in which convicted child molesters and murderers have been given lenient sentences."

Under HCR 1006, the governor would have appointed the judges as has been done since the state constitution was changed in 1966 by the voters to allow appointment (rather than a vote) on the first term of the judge's (and Supreme Court) justice's tenure. Paulson's bill would have let the governor choose and then the senate confirm. The bill died in the House on third reading (which required 44 votes) 38 to 25, with two excused. Among those voting for the HCR was now-Governor Bill Owens. At least three Republicans voted against the measure.

The measure to recall judges and justices, HCR 1007, was sponsored by then-Rep. Don Mielke and then-Sen. Don MacManus, which gave it a bi-partisan flavor. There was a slew of co-sponsors including present Sen. Ben Campbell and Gov. Bill Owens. However, Campbell did vote against the bill on third reading in the House and withdrew his name as co-sponsor.

Mielke argued that Colorado's law had been copied from a law in another state which included recall of judges, and that the Colorado Bar Assn. in promoting the 1966 measure, had left out the portion relating to recall. He was more successful than Paulson. HCR 1007 passed the House 45 to 17. Thirteen Democrats and four Republicans voted "no".

In the Senate the bill was assigned to State Affairs and killed on a 4 to 3 vote. Two Republicans, Sen. Kathy Arnold and Sen. John Donley joined two Democrats, Mike Callihan and Jim Rizzuto to vote down the measure.

Then-Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court Bill Erickson led the Senate State Affairs fight to kill HCR 1007. In an Associated Press story "The law handed down by judges could become tainted if they constantly had to be looking over their shoulders, worrying about being yanked off the bench for unpopular decisions. Is this the kind of vigilante justice we want to have in Colorado?" The bill, he said, would subject judges to "trial by public opinion".

Meilke didn't give up. He tried to get 46,377 signatures to put the recall proposal on the November ballot, but didn't succeed.

* * * *

Do I have this correct? HB 1021, the son of HB 1343 from the 2003 session will change the law for driving under influence of alcohol from 0.10 grams of alcohol per hundred milliliters of blood (or per 210 liters of breath) to 0.08 grams.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Briggs, who also sponsored HB 1343 last year, the Transportation Legislation Review Committee approved the bill WITHOUT adding what was in the original HB 1343 of 2003, the approval of liquor "tastings" at places that sell liquor for taking home.

So someone in a car could drive to various liquor tastings being held, subject to restrictions as to how many times a free sample is offered a patron. If that patron drank enough or perhaps finished the day with a paid drink at a nearby bar, he could reach the 0.08 level, which wouldn't have happened with just one drink at the bar.

So the government would allow free "tastings" and then put you in the pokey for over-indulging.

Rep. Briggs bill of 2003 was constitutional because driving under the influence and "tastings" were in the original bill. However, HB 1021 was strictly a law enforcement measure for drunk drivers, and the "tastings" amendment added in committee violates the single subject requirement. But not to worry. Colorado has a severability clause. The original purpose is still legitimate if the court finds "tastings" violated the single subject law.

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

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