Copyright © 1999 Henrietta W. Hay
Colorado Legislature 99
May 13, 1999
We can all take a deep breath and relax. The Lege has gone home. The
Colorado Legislature isn't nearly as exciting as the one in Texas, but I
still like Molly Ivins' description of state government. "The
Legislature is, among other things, the finest free entertainment in
Texas. Better than the zoo. Better than the circus."
I guess we're going to get a few bucks back on our taxes, but in
exchange we get to vote on whether to go in debt $2.3 billion in bonds
for highways. Somebody missed Logic I in college. It's kind of sad
that Doug Bruce's family didn't settle in Texas.
This year the legislators did very well in the food department. Nearly
every meal was furnished by some lobbying group or other. But not to
worry. My friend the philosopher commented that if the Lege can be
bought by a piece of catered lasagna courtesy of the Colorado Library
Association, well, that's democracy in action.
Back in 1994 I started choosing the annual Most Ridiculous Piece of
Legislation Award. The first year there were three in contention: the
official fish bill, the flag in every classroom bill and the son of
veggie bill. Things have been going downhill (or uphill, depending on
your point of view) ever since and we have never had anything quite that
But this year they came close as they suddenly decided to take on the
duties of the U. S. State Department. So I think the award this year
goes, not to a piece of legislation, but to Senate Resolution 10, which
instructed the Governor to chastise the Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji when
he visited in Denver. That took arrogance to a new high.
The Senate resolution criticizes the Chinese government in general for
its human rights policies, and then gets specific. It criticizes them
for persecuting those who worship outside the official church (as though
some people don't try to do the same thing here in America), and while
they were at it, they took a whack at "coercive family planning."
Never want to miss a chance to wave the abortion flag.
Governor Owens' spokesman, Dick Wadhams said, "He's not going to berate
the Chinese Premier." I never thought that he would. Senator Terry
Phillips, D-Lousiville commented, "I thought that Boulder was the only
city with a foreign policy."
But this year's Lege did some good things for women. Finally after
three years of rejecting it, they passed the law outlawing female
genital mutilation. This most vicious of anti-female practices is
practiced routinely in some cultures, and does exist in Colorado. It is
now specifically against the law.
The threatened veto of $430,000 designed for family planning and
reproductive health services for thousands of women in rural Colorado
nearly shot down the budget. Owens threatened the veto because "one of
the clinics, in Boulder, that provide cancer screening and birth control
also provides abortion services." Our own Rep. Gayle Berry and eight
other women legislators promptly took action and signed a letter of
protest to the Governor. Berry said it would be a travesty, taking away
money for the entire program for political reasons. Losing the state
money would have cost the additional loss of $778,000 in matching
federal funds. That could have meant 35,000 Colorado women would have
been denied health service. A compromise was reached denying funding
only for the Boulder Planned Parenthood program. Ah, politics.
I do want to acknowledge the sensitivity the Lege showed in backing off
the gun bills after the Littleton tragedy.
As always, there were some classic comments made during the session.
Our own Ron Teck commented, "I hate to talk in simplistic terms, but
that's the way I think."
The Lege does not limit itself to legislation. Rep. Ron Tupa of Boulder
wore a denim shirt to work one day (along with jacket and tie). He
received a note from Doug Dean, Colorado Springs of course, saying, "No
denim for men." Rep. Bob Hagedorn, Aurora, commented, "We have a dress
code and not a code of ethics. Isn't that interesting?"
"Has everyone voted correctly?" asked House Speaker George at one
point. We would hope so.
Gayle Berry spoke for all of us. "For those of you who are new, you'll
notice that the session gets longer the longer it goes."