Jerry Kopel


If Sharon Magness is successful in obtaining up to 50 percent of the estate (after taxes) of husband Bob Magness, she should immediately sit down and write a thank you note (and perhaps a large campaign contribution) to former state senator and present Denver City Auditor Don Mares.

Under the Bob Magness will, the $500 million after-tax estate would have gone primarily to his two adult sons from his previous marriage to Betsy Magness, who died in 1985. The will probably left less than $100 million in assets to present widow Sharon Magness, who, according to an Associated Press story, married Bob Magness "ten years ago". Bob Magness died Nov. 15, 1996.

In 1994, the Colorado Bar Association was instrumental in getting the state legislature to adopt SB 43, which was a complete rewrite of Colorado's law on inheritance from the estate of the decedent.

The most startling (and perhaps repulsive) revision dealt with the surviving spouse. While the bill recognized that a surviving spouse left less than half the estate by will should be able to get that amount, it decided to temper prior law by requiring longevity of marriage.

The Bar Association was supposedly concerned with preventing "gold-diggers" from profiting. In dime store novels, "the decrepit 90-year-old millionaire weds the chorus girl, and he dies of a heart attack soon after with a smile on his face. She gets half of his estate, to the dismay of the ne'er-do-well playboy son."

The original bill presented by the Bar Association required a fifteen year period of marriage before the surviving spouse could mathematically reach the ceiling of 50 percent. But then-Sen. Don Mares, who carried the bill for the Bar Association, forced a one-third reduction in the time frame to ten years.

The difference for Mrs. Magness is substantial. Under the scrooge-like Bar Association proposal, she could receive no more than $167 million. Depending on whether Bob and Sharon Magness were married (a) nine years, but less than ten years, or (b) ten years or more, she could receive $237.5 million or $250 million.

That substantial difference affects not only Mrs. Magness, but probably many other widows, and Don Mares deserves credit for being stubborn on the issue.

* * *

Whether the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate is Sen. Ben Campbell or Rep. Scott McInnis, both KNOW they'll face a Democratic opponent with lots of imagination and an ability to turn defeat into victory: Rep. David Skaggs, the only announced candidate.

They "know" because both Republicans were in the Colorado House when Skaggs' HB 1248 came before the House committee of the whole (second reading) in 1986.

Rep. Skaggs' bill would make it unlawful to harvest and remove any forest product from the land of another without first securing written permission from the owner of the land or the forest. You had to produce proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale or permit.

The bill was heard on Feb. 28, 1986. Skaggs pointed out the bill was supported by the timber industry and the tree farmers as a way to halt products obtained criminally by tree thieves.

The committee of the whole voted to kill the bill. Since the vote came early in the committee schedule, I suggested that along with the usual vote-counting to reverse the decision, David should treat us to some doggerel.

David has, over the years, memorized most of Gilbert and Sullivan and can recite the lyrics in a fashion that makes them easily understood. Perhaps that is why he can produce original doggerel when needed. Doggerel is "a kind of verse devoid of sense or rhythm" although David's doggerel usually makes sense.

Several hours after the defeat, Skaggs came forward with his amendment to the committee of the whole to show that HB 1248 did pass.

After the usual reasons why the bill was needed, Rep. Skaggs said "It's been a couple of years since I subjected you to my doggerel". He then recited the following:

We recognize the theft of trees

is not something at which to sneeze

But in a Body such as this is

Law and Order comes in twitches

Let's end the crime of Forest Bleeding

Reverse the vote on Second Reading

The House applauded in appreciation. The vote to reverse the committe of the whole was 46 to 11, Campbell voting "yes" and McInnis voting "no". On third reading, and on adoption of the House-Senate Conference Committee report, and repassage of HB 1248, both Campbell and McInnis voted "yes".

* * *

Speaking of Sen. Campbell, Denver Post reporter Adriel Bettelheim had an interesting column in the July 13th Denver Post on a luncheon U.S. Sen. Campbell had with Energy Secretary Federico Pena. But then, Bettelheim wrote:

"The two know each other from their days in the Colorado legislature and remain friendly."

Sorry. That would have been helpful to the Democrat minority numbers, but it never happened. Pena served in the 1981-82 session as minority leader, but he and then-Rep. Miller Hudson were put in the same district under 1982 reapportionment. They both agreed not to run for the House and Pena then ran successfully in 1983 for Denver mayor.

Campbell came into the House in 1983. I'll never forget the first words Campbell ever spoke to me, after arriving for the leadership caucus at the state capitol in late 1982:

"Where's the bathroom?"


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

Home  Full archive  Biographies  Colorado history  Colorado legislature  Colorado politics   Colo. & U.S. Constitutions  Ballot issues  Consumer issues  Criminal law  Gambling  Sunrise/sunset (prof. licensing)


Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel