That Fits the Bill

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

"We had some trouble with it," concedes Huddleston. But, she adds, "it's a narrowly defined bill," so her department didn't offer a lot of resistance.

HB 1308: Think of this horseracing bill, sponsored by Senator Jim Rizzuto and Representative Ken Chlouber, as the equivalent of legislators giving a zoning variance to a single business. HB 1308, which could end up costing the state tens of thousands of dollars, is a gift to Arapahoe Park Racetrack.

Here's how it came about, according to Larry Huls, director of racing events for the Colorado State Racing Comission: In 1992 the legislature passed a law saying that racetracks had to have one day of live horseracing for every three that they showed on television. One reason for the requirement was to support Colorado's horse industry. Another was to make sure that Arapahoe Park didn't turn into just another off-track-betting parlor. But finally, it was about money: The state earns more tax revenue off live racing--a minimum of $2,500 per day--than it does from simulcasts, because it collects money only on bets originating in Colorado.

This year, however, it became clear that Arapahoe Park wasn't making enough money. One reason was the high cost of live racing. So, together with the Colorado Horsemen's Association, the track asked for a variance: Could it have as many days of simulcasts as before (about 200 a year) but cut the number of days of live racing in half, from 62 to 30?

Yes, said legislators. So did the governor, who signed the bill on March 25. Which means the track can continue earning money on the broadcasts and at the same time cut the costs of live racing. The only loser, of course, is the state, which collects less in tax revenue on simulcast days than on live-racing days.

HB 1359: This bill, introduced by Steve Tool, a Fort Collins Republican, addresses telecommunications. If passed, it would primarily benefit US West and AT&T Wireless, which split the cellular-phone business in Colorado and which also lobbied for this bill.

In an effort to increase sales of cellular air time, phone companies have begun almost giving away phones--such as the $10 cell-phone deals you see at King Soopers. The idea behind the bargains is that the phone company will more than make up its money selling air time. According to Phil Spencer, a state revenue investigator, it's like a CD company giving away compact disc players so it can sell more discs.

The deal works for almost everyone: The retailer sells a phone cheaply (and generally gets compensated in a side agreement with the phone company); the customer gets an inexpensive phone; and the phone company gets to sell more air time. The one loser is the state.

Put another way, how does a state tax a $150 phone that's sold for $10? Colorado tried to tax the phone's actual worth, contending that the marketing scheme was a new way to get around just such a tax. But HB 1359, which was still pending early this week, would prevent retailers from having to pay sales tax on the full value of the phone--and give the phone companies more customers in the process.

HB 1374: Talk about your personal legislation: You're a guy who wants to build a new quarter-billion-dollar house in the middle of Denver, which you will live in approximately eight days--or 2 percent--of every year. Can the taxpayers pay for it, please?

Representative Vickie Agler, a Littleton Republican, carried this bill, which will let voters decide whether they want to pay for Pat Bowlen's new Denver Broncos stadium through a Metropolitan Football Stadium District. The referendum would permit a one-cent-per-ten-dollar sales tax to raise 75 percent of the $250 million cost of the new playground.

HJR 1014: "Well," begins Jean Casson, a spokeswoman for the St. Andrew Society of Colorado, "one of our members, who is worldwide president of the Clan Baird, got it in his head to do it."

"My trips around the United States showed me that people have been wanting a little bit more encouragement to wear the tartan," confirms Dale Baird. "I also learned that Canada already has designated June 6 as Tartan Day. And then I found out that Tennessee just named June 24 as Scottish, Scot-Irish Heritage Day. So after finding out that Canada and Tennessee had taken some action, I decided to see what I could do."

What Baird did was call his representative, Jeanne Faatz. Unfortunately, she'd recently had some health problems and was unable to help, so she agreed to scan the legislative roster and find someone of Scottish descent. Gary McPherson, an Aurora Republican, fit the bill. Baird was elated. "The McPhersons and the Bairds fought together at the battle of Culloden, in 1746, I'll have you know," he says.

On the day of the legislative hearing, "we had four dancers, four bagpipers and a couple of drummers there," Baird recalls. "We really put on a dog and pony show for them. They seemed to enjoy it." According to HJR 1014, adopted March 22, Colorado will join Canada and Tennessee with its own Scottish Tartan Day, July 1.

The Statue Statute
As part of our federalist form of government, every state in the union is permitted to place two statues representing famous sons (or daughters) in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. Colorado already has one likeness there--Dr. Florence Sabin, a medical pioneer. That means the state has but a single opportunity to select its best remaining representative. Who it will be has inspired hours of debate and much heated legislative activity, including the purest of personal legislation.

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