That Fits the Bill
Legislators like to give the impression that they are part of a sacred mission. Working in dark-paneled chambers filled with high-minded speechifying, they create the laws that drive social policy, behavior and morality, all for the greater public good.
Right. In reality, legislators can get awfully personal.
So can their legislation, which may wind up benefiting not the general public but one very, very specific party. In 1992, for example, Colorado lawmakers considered a bill later referred to as the "Anschutz Special." In short, the measure proposed that if a person--any person, really--happened to own a railroad, and if that person was considering building a shop in, say, Denver, then that person--whoever he might be--ought to receive a 3 percent sales-tax break.
Since the law passed, billionaire Phil Anschutz, who at the time was already in the process of building a repair shop in Denver for his railroad, Southern Pacific Rail, has saved millions of dollars in taxes. The list of other Denver-based billionaire railroad owners taking advantage of this legislative break is short.
On the other hand, a legislator's close, personal attention to detail can have unintended consequences; bills designed to deal with very small, specific situations have an unfortunate tendency to break into big, broad public policy.
These bills often start out as seemingly harmless "anecdotal legislation." A representative or senator gets a call from a constituent with a hard-luck story, and the lawmaker proposes a law that, had it been on the books, would have prevented the wrong. Though neighborly, such micromanagement can cause problems.
Last year, for instance, Senator Joan Johnson was approached by a 73-year-old farmer from her Adams County district who complained that his property-tax assessment recently had skyrocketed. His land had been classified as agricultural and was thus subject to lower tax rates. But the farmer hadn't worked the parcel in more than three years, so the assessor had raised his taxes.
Moved by the story, Johnson proposed a law that would have prevented former farmers from receiving higher tax bills. Unfortunately, the measure as written would have made nearly all of Larimer County--$1.2 billion of the county's entire $1.7 billion valuation--eligible for a brand-new, and completely undeserved, agricultural tax break. The bill was amended.
Colorado's 1995-1996 legislative session, which by law expires at midnight May 8, has been no less personal than previous sessions. Buried in bureaucratese, beneath debates about the Children's Code, gun-control laws, homosexual marriages and tax refunds, are bills that would affect just a small number of people--and sometimes no one at all.
What follows are some of the ways Colorado lawmakers can get personal:
Maybe someone has pissed off your constituents or publicly dissed one of your earlier pieces of legislation. It's time to get even.
SB 58: In the fall of 1994, Alex Pappas, a Congress Park businessman, applied for a liquor license for what he hoped would be a carry-out liquor store on 12th Avenue between Elizabeth and Clayton streets. Because of strong neighborhood opposition, his application was defeated.
State law prevents an applicant from reapplying for a liquor license at the same location for two years. So three months after being turned down, Pappas applied for a new license at a new location--approximately fifteen inches from the first address. Refused again, he filed a third time by making up a new address for the same location.
All of this made his neighbors--one of whom happens to be Senator Pat Pascoe--plenty angry. Soon after, Pascoe introduced SB 58, which would prevent a liquor-license applicant from reapplying within 500 feet of his previous application's location. It was signed into law by Governor Roy Romer on April 8.
HB 1344: Last year then-president of the University of Colorado Judith Albino received a well-publicized separation agreement: If she signed off on a divorce from CU, the regents would give her $500,000 worth of cash and prizes. That miffed Representative Jeanne Faatz, a Denver Republican and author of the 1993 Postemployment Compensation Act, which prevented state workers from enjoying golden parachutes--and which Albino's deal neatly skirted.
This time around, Faatz introduced HB 1344. The proposed law doesn't mention Albino, of course. But it requires any future goodbye deals to go through a review by the governor. And it specifically allows the president of the University of Colorado to be canned for any reason. That bill is currently on Romer's desk awaiting his signature.
HB 1362 et al.: The delicious Envirotest spat really deserves a category of its own. But it most closely fits under the "Payback" heading, simply because revenge and blackmail seem to be the fuel powering these legislative vehicles.
The current mess started back in January 1995, when Envirotest began its state-sanctioned monopoly on emissions testing. Supporters claim the deal has cut air pollution in the metro area. Yet the company also has logged numerous complaints about everything from wildly inaccurate results to surly employees.
Mindful of the resentment, Senator Bill Schroeder and Representative Eric Prinzler introduced HB 1362, which would have given Envirotest some competition from other tailpipe-emissions testers. The bill was killed in mid-April--which, for all intents and purposes, marked the beginning of the real fight.
Add to the legislative attack on Envirotest an ongoing effort by small-garage owners to place an initiative on the ballot that would permit them to home back in on the emissions-testing business, and Envirotest was ready to fight back. So it suggested several of its own pieces of legislation.
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.
Most legislation doesn't affect everyone directly. But these bills, given your elected representative's full weight and consideration, would affect approximately...no 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."
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.
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.
In the meantime, HB 1358 was introduced by Tim Foster, who, when he is not being a lawyer for the Clifton incorporation group is busy being an elected representative from Mesa County. The bill, which was still alive early this week, would require a majority vote prior to annexation of an area.
SB 48: This bill, bureaucratically labeled as a measure concerning "land use-1041 powers," was in fact one of several separate attempts designed to attack a single situation unpopular with a handful of Front Range cities.
For years these cities have depended on water from the Western Slope. In fact, they are entitled to it by law, although how each deal is struck is left up to individual local governments. In 1985 Colorado Springs and Aurora applied to divert water from Eagle County.
In 1987 the county held hearings on the application. The hearings, in which county officials heard the testimony of dozens of witnesses (later converted to a 4,000-page transcript), lasted four days. At the end, Eagle County decided the Front Range cities' proposed diversion plan did not do enough to protect the environment, and their application for the county's water was denied.
The two cities took the case to district court and then the Colorado State Court of Appeals, which in 1994 agreed with Eagle County. Next the cities appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. Colorado Springs and Aurora made one final attempt to get Eagle County's water through the courts, but early this year the U.S. Supreme Court, too, refused to hear their case.
What to do next if you're a jilted city? "They lost in the courts, so they said, 'Let's see what we can do in the legislature,'" says Monique Gilbert, a staff member for the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. SB 48, sponsored by Senate president Tom Norton and Colorado Springs representative Andy McElhany, would have reduced a local government's powers to regulate, among other things, water diversion.
The bill was killed, but another bill, SB 145, was quickly introduced (and postponed indefinitely soon thereafter). Although its title vaguely alluded to "water rights," Gilbert says a section was later quietly added that would have given one public entity the right to claim a takings violation against another--if, just for example, one municipality was angry at another for not giving it water.
McElhany, the Colorado Springs Republican who co-sponsored the measure, says the bill absolutely grew out of his city's dispute with Eagle County, which he still feels strongly about. Colorado Springs and Aurora "met everybody's requirement except those manufactured by Eagle County," he says.
McElhany adds that while the issue that spawned it was specific, SB 48 would have other applications, although he can't name other cities who have tangled with Western Slope water-bearers. He also says that Colorado Springs has since worked with Eagle County on another water-diversion project.
"It's all part of Colorado Springs' and Aurora's plan to win what they lost in court," Gilbert says.
This Bill's for You
It is illegal to pass a law that specifically benefits a single person or party. If written narrowly enough, however, some legislation can come pretty close.
SB 100: This measure would permit nonprofit health-insurance companies to convert to for-profit companies. It doesn't mention any companies by name, but maybe a process of elimination would be helpful:
There are three types of health-insurance companies in Colorado: HMOs (e.g., Kaiser), for-profit (Aetna, etc.) and not-for-profit. Only five companies in the state fall under the last category. Three are small and very specific--dental or vision--plans. A fourth is a slightly larger company in Fort Collins. It has expressed a tiny interest in becoming a for-profit insurer.
The fifth is the giant Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Services, also known as Blue Cross/Blue Shield. It has expressed a very big interest in converting. In fact, if the governor signs this bill--as he is expected to do this week--it will do so. (In return, the state will get a public trust whose worth will be that of the nonprofit Blue Cross when it converts to a profit-making enterprise.)
HB 1039: This bit of legislation would have authorized the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to issue a concealed-handgun permit to any retired law officer. It was introduced by Representative Jim Congrove, an Arvada Republican--and a retired law officer.
Congrove explains that he recognized the need for such legislation after bumping into a man at the Capitol whom he'd once arrested. But HB 1039 was shot down when House State Affairs Committee members said they were having a difficult time justifying legislation benefiting such a small segment of the population.
HB 1125: This piece of legislation would for the first time permit a non-physician to hold the position of Colorado state health director. Although the bill doesn't name any particular person, it's timing is nevertheless unusually helpful to one individual: the health department's current acting director. Patti Shwayder, a non-physician, was temporarily holding the job until a medical doctor could be found to replace her. Temporarily, that is, until HB 1125 was passed. (The state medical society initially opposed the bill but compromised when sponsors agreed to create a new position of chief medical officer.)
Now, by happy coincidence, Shwayder can be named to the post permanently. During initial committee hearings, sponsor Peggy Kerns, a Democrat from Aurora, was quizzed about the "Shwayder Job Security Act" aspect of HB 1125. She denied that her legislation had any specific connection to the acting health director.
HB 1209: "It's just a piece of legislation--just defines what a farm can be," explains Representative Lewis Entz, the Alamosa County Republican who introduced the bill. "I just wanted to make sure it was defined."
Um, okay. Just another boring cleanup bill--"the Labor Peace Act definition of farm." Except that the bill, which already has been signed into law, takes pains to clearly define mushroom-growing operations as farms rather than commercial operations. Entz, a former Alamosa County commissioner, is familiar with the business; he voted to help the owners of Alamosa County's largest employer, Rakhra Mushroom Farm, sell revenue bonds to build the plant back in the 1970s.
The distinction is crucial, because if mushroom-growing is defined as a farming activity, it is exempt from most union-organizing protections. Not coincidentally, Rakhra's workers have been talking seriously about union organization and a strike since last year.
So what was HB 1209 about again? "I think it was an attempt to define a mushroom operation as a farm so the labor unions couldn't come in, hopefully," says Alamosa County Commissioner Tim Gallagher.
HB 1217: This bill has an innocuous-enough title: "School District Boundaries." But don't be fooled--HB 1217 is personal legislation at its best.
In 1993 the Fellowship Bible Church of Colorado Springs, a charitable organization entitled to a tax break, applied for a property-tax exemption on seventeen parcels of land. According to Susan Whitfield, manager of exemptions for the state Division of Property Taxation, the state instructed the church to consolidate the parcels so that they matched the assessor's maps in El Paso County. The church apparently got caught up in other business, though, and didn't complete the job until early 1996.
But the state can't grant a tax break more than two years after the fact, and the church appeared to be out of luck. So church officials did what any outraged citizens would do: They went to their legislator.
Fortunately, they didn't have to go very far. Representative Doug Dean, a Colorado Springs Republican, is a member of the congregation. He introduced a bill that would permit school districts (used for property-taxing purposes) to move portions of one property into the tax district of another. It passed. The church gets its tax break.
Individual property-tax quagmires offer some of the most fertile ground for raising personal legislation. Whitfield says at least one bill every year is so narrowly written that it clearly applies to a single individual or group.
Last year that group was a Fort Morgan church. Although the church had previously earned a property-tax exemption, it failed to file in 1992. When it finally got around to it, the two-year deadline had passed. Not to worry, though. Fort Morgan's representative and senator sponsored a bill that would permit the state to waive the deadline if "the interest of justice and equity would be served thereby." It passed, and the Fort Morgan church applied for the 1992 exemption in 1995 and received it.
HB 1245: On the surface, this is a public-safety bill; it permits counties with fewer than 15,000 residents--by far the majority of Colorado's counties--to adopt fire-safety codes. A second provision, however, directly ensures the continued business of a specific industry.
"Fireworks," explains Don Reichel, a lobbyist for the Colorado State Fire Fighters Association, "start a lot of fires." As a result, firefighters have always butted heads with the state's fireworks manufacturers, primarily Stonebraker (aka Rocky Mountain Fireworks) and Fire-King Fireworks. So HB 1245, sponsored by Martha Kreutz, an Arapahoe County Republican, and already signed into law, offered a compromise.
The first part of the law--the firefighters' portion--encourages small counties to adopt fire-safety standards. The second part says that the same counties are prevented from prohibiting the sale of permissible fireworks--thus protecting fireworks manufacturers from being eliminated by, just for example, new county fire-safety codes.
HB 1283: Introduced by Ken Chlouber, a Leadville Republican, this bill affects exactly two businesses, say state tax officials. The largest of them is in Chlouber's district: Asarco, which in a joint venture runs the Black Cloud Mine as well as the California Gulch Superfund cleanup site next door in Lake County.
Part of Asarco's business in Leadville is cleaning up the pollution mess left behind in the Yak Tunnel, which once was used to de-water active mines. In 1993 the company asked state lawmakers to make the water-treatment facility portion of its operation free from property taxes. Asarco contended that the plant was not part of its actual business--mining--but rather part of a federal requirement. The request, recalls Mary Huddleston, of the state's Division of Property Taxation, "was very unusual."
But the legislature declined to designate the water-cleanup part of Asarco's operation a charitable organization--just like churches and the Red Cross--and thus tax-free.
HB 1283, signed into law in March, aimed to clear the throats of those who had a hard time choking down the notion of Asarco as a charity but who wanted to give the company a tax break anyway. The new law allows the local assessor to value the water-cleanup part of a Superfund site (although the legislation doesn't offer any specific examples, Huddleston says only two businesses qualify--Asarco and Eagle Mine, in Eagle County) as separate from a company's for-profit operations and thus not subject to property taxes.
"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.
HJR 1006: Aimed to immortalize Jack Swigert, late Apollo 13 pilot. Looked promising until opponents testified the airman was a womanizer.
SJR 5: Hoped to install Wayne Aspinall, longtime U.S. representative, as the final Coloradan with a Capitol bust.
HJR 1008: This bill, which would've swung Brush's big-band leader Glenn Miller into the Capitol, was killed.
SJR 7: Trade school matriarch Emily Griffith didn't make it, either.
HJR 1011: Nor did Barney Lancelot Ford, emancipated slave and civil-rights leader in the late 1800s.
SCR 9: Time-out. Senator Gloria Tanner suggested this measure, which would have set up a special commission to oversee the statue selection process. It was killed in early March.
SB 227: Punt. Senator Tilman Bishop's bill would have let voters decide by referendum which Coloradan is notable enough to represent the state in Statuary Hall. But it was killed late last week.
Better luck next year.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.