That Fits the Bill

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

But HB 1033, which was still pending early this week, could be misguided. If DOT must erect a sign along I-25, directing drivers several miles east to the scenic route through Aurora, why not through Commerce City? "You can imagine what a signboard would start to look like," Vaad points out. "Especially for drivers going by at 65 miles an hour."

HB 1127: This was intended to force Colorado counties rolling in tourism dough to share some of the spoils with their poorer neighbors. It was introduced by Representative Russell George, a Republican from Rifle, in Garfield County. He suggested that the state might want to hand over about $10 million to, oh, say, Garfield County, which doesn't earn as many tourism dollars as next-door Eagle County, home of Beaver Creek and Vail.

"The bill's a swell idea if you're the one that's going to benefit," noted Local Government Committee member Vi June, a Westminster Democrat who voted against the measure. "But we can't start pulling money out of the general fund simply because you're involved with tourism. What if every area asked for $10 million?" The bill died in committee early in the session.

Local Problem, State Solution
One way to end a small, isolated tiff is to...pass a law that applies to everyone in the state?

HB 1272: To most people, this bill seemed like a measure that would have made the state, not local governments, responsible for controlling pollution. Most people except Sue Ellen Harrison, that is, a city attorney for Boulder, who dubbed HB 1272 the "lawyer employment act."

Harrison says the piece of legislation--sponsored by Parker and Morrison Republicans Jeanne Adkins and Bill Schroeder--popped out of a dispute over air-quality permits between the City of Boulder and Syntex, a local pharmaceutical company. Boulder contended it should be able to police its own air; Syntex disagreed. Harrison testified that, if passed, the law would present a legal nightmare for Colorado's cities as they tried to enforce their own pollution regulations.

The pharmaceutical company later minimized its role in pushing for the new law--but only after one of its officials was quoted in the Boulder Camera as saying the company actually helped write the legislation. Harrison also says that one of Syntex's administrators admitted to her that the company was behind the bill.

What's worse, Harrison adds, is that the legislation appeared after the city and Syntex seemed to have struck a deal. "You feel like you're cooperating with someone, and then they go off running to the legislature," she says. "It kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

The bill was killed in late March.

HB 1274: This began as a spat between Lakewood and a junkyard. Not just any junkyard, either, but Bill and Al York's Salvage Yard.

According to Lakewood City Manager Mike Rock, the city needed to build a new road that cut through the Yorks' salvage yard. After negotiating unsuccessfully with the Yorks, who didn't want to sell, Lakewood acquired the land through its eminent-domain powers. Rock says the process went according to law: "We followed the rules--we paid a fair price, and it was for a public purpose." Bill and Al York eventually received about $1.2 million for the land.

Nevertheless, after hearing the story, Representative Eric Prinzler, a Thornton Republican who describes the Yorks as "friends of mine for a long time," introduced HB 1274, which he said was necessary to keep governments from taking a businessperson's land and giving it to another private business. Only one problem: Nobody was able to ascertain that this had ever actually happened.

Nor, says Rock, did it happen in the Yorks' case. "The current body of [eminent domain] law has served the public and government well," he adds. "You shouldn't change a body of law just to remedy what one person perceived as an abuse."

Despite the bill's death in a Senate committee, Prinzler still insists it was worthwhile. "The City of Lakewood has had an abuse of power for a long time," he says.

Others remain unconvinced. "We got a controversy between the City of Lakewood and a salvage yard, and we need a statewide solution?" asks Sam Mamet, a lobbyist for the Colorado Municipal League, which opposed the bill.

HB 1358: The background on this one comes from Mark Achen, Grand Junction's city manager. Mesa County's largest city has been trying to annex some of its surrounding communities for about a decade. One suburb the city was particularly interested in was the fast-growing Fruitvale/Clifton area, and last year the Grand Junction City Council approved annexing a commercial strip that ran through the center of Clifton as a first step.

This was viewed as a bad idea by a group of Clifton citizens who wanted to incorporate Clifton into its own city. Unfortunately, they hadn't had much luck historically, having put the idea to a vote twice and losing each time. Still, the citizens' group persuaded Grand Junction's city council to postpone the annexation until one more Clifton vote, in November 1995. The group's legal counsel was a local lawyer named Tim Foster.

The Clifton incorporation attempt failed again at the polls, though, and soon after, the Grand Junction City Council voted again to annex the commercial strip. Not surprisingly, the move created a hubbub, with the Clifton group threatening lawsuits and their lawyer threatening legislation. The Grand Junction City Council backed down, deciding to put the annexation issue to a public vote in November 1996.

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