That Fits the Bill

Need some special-interest legislation? Here's how this year's session measures up

One was the recommendation that consumers be permitted to return new cars to the dealer within three days of purchase "for any reason." On the surface, the move has little to do with tailpipe-emissions testing--except that such a law would be understandably unpopular with the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

Why would Envirotest want to be so mean to car dealers? Simple: Before 1995, new-car dealers had a healthy chunk of the emissions-testing business. One method they've been using to retrieve it is--that's right--funding the anti-Envirotest ballot initiative. No longer, though: After the Envirotest offensive last week, the dealers' association pulled its support.

Envirotest has also mounted a legislative attack on the small-garage owners who hope to resume tailpipe testing if the ballot initiative passes. One of the company's proposed bills would limit to $5 the amount a garage could charge for the test, making it virtually impossible for a garage to earn a profit. A third Envirotest proposal would make small-garage owners liable for required repairs if a car passed the garage test but then failed the Envirotest test.

Complete Misses
Most legislation doesn't affect everyone directly. But these bills, given your elected representative's full weight and consideration, would affect one.

SB 31: Inspired by her attendance at the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing last September, Senator Dorothy Rupert, a Boulder Democrat, introduced this bill, which died late in the session. It would have made it a crime for an adult to circumcise a female, which involves removing a girl's clitoris. Although the bloody procedure is performed in other countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, it is uncommon, to say the least, in this country. There have been no documented cases of it happening in Colorado--ever.

HB 1046: Bob Shoates is a member of Omega Si Phi, a mostly black fraternity founded at Howard University. When the local alumni chapter of the organization applied to host a bingo game in Denver, it was turned down.

Omega Si Phi's application was refused because, although the group had been in existence many years, it had no local bylaws, says Carol Pool. As deputy secretary of state, Pool oversees bingo licensing requests. Colorado law prohibits any fraternal organizations from holding bingo games if they have been in operation less than five years or if they have no bylaws. The reason for this, she says, is to prevent some fly-by-night frat from popping up overnight, raking in bingo receipts and then blowing town.

Rather than come up with local bylaws, Shoates went to Representative Benjamin Clarke, who, along with Senator Gloria Tanner, agreed to carry a bill permitting alumni frat organizations to hold bingo games. (According to their biographies, both legislators are members of a fraternity or sorority).

The problem with the bill, says Pool, is that it does nothing: Fraternal alumni organizations will still be required to be in existence for five years and have bylaws. In fact, HB 1046 "doesn't change the law, it just explains it," she says after reviewing the legislation. "The only thing we can figure is that they missed the point."

Romer signed the bill anyway on March 25.

SJR 13: Occasionally, state legislators like to dabble in foreign policy. "In the past there's been all sorts of things, having to do with the Mideast and Africa," says Stan Elofson, assistant director of the Legislative Council. Among this year's offerings was a recognition of the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster.

Even further afield was SJR 13, which was sponsored by Senator Ray Powers, a Colorado Springs Republican, and Representative Martha Kreutz, a Littleton Republican, and adopted on March 22. It extends the hearty recognition of the Colorado General Assembly to the government of the Republic of China on Taiwan for its "record... concerning democracy at home and humanitarian service abroad."

"It has no effect on us," concedes Morgan Smith, who, as director of the governor's International Trade Office, is no doubt painfully aware that Colorado sends far more of one its most crucial cash crops, wheat, to mainland China than to Taiwan. But, he adds encouragingly, "it's a good way for people to say, 'I'm an elected official; I don't control foreign policy, but I support this government.' And we've had some good times with Taiwan."

hometown heroes
Part of a lawmaker's job, of course, is to keep the local folks happy. No matter how silly it seems.

HB 1033: Introduced by Representative Gary McPherson--of Aurora--at the request of city officials--from Aurora--this bill would have required that the Department of Transportation erect more signs along state highways directing drivers to Aurora. Although McPherson first asked that the signs be placed along I-225 and I-70, which actually go through Aurora, the bill was later amended to include 1-25, which does not.

"We're not insensitive to Aurora's situation," says DOT legislative liaison Glenn Vaad. But, he adds, the bill has its problems. For example, the state currently lists only specific exits and compass-point cities on highways. Thus, in Denver, drivers along I-25 and I-70 see signs to Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Limon and Pueblo, but nothing in between. DOT has been working to revise that, although apparently not quickly enough for Aurora, which pushed for the introduction of its own bill.

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