27 & 41: Exact, Yet So Different

Funny, isn’t it, how sometimes words and phrases can come together and sound so much alike – OK, almost exactly alike?

And funny, isn’t it, how some people can come to think those phrases have such different meanings that they may as well be separated by something as vast as the Grand Canyon?

Let’s consider the language that details how the Colorado Legislature can implement Amendment 27, the campaign finance reform act that voters approved back in 2002. And then let’s look at the language from Amendment 41, the ethics in government act that voters passed last year.

And then let’s all ponder awhile, over how some politicos are expressing such markedly different opinions over implementing the new law, compared to years past…From Amendment 27

Section 13.  APPLICABILITY AND EFFECTIVE DATE. THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE SHALL TAKE EFFECT ON DECEMBER 6, 2002 AND BE APPLICABLE FOR ALL ELECTIONS THEREAFTER. LEGISLATION MAY BE ENACTED TO FACILITATE ITS OPERATIONS, BUT IN NO WAY LIMITING OR RESTRICTING THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE OR THE POWERS HEREIN GRANTED.

And from Amendment 41

Section 9. Legislation to facilitate article.  LEGISLATION MAY BE ENACTED TO FACILITATE THE OPERATION OF THIS ARTICLE, BUT IN NO WAY SHALL SUCH LEGISLATION LIMIT OR RESTRICT THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE OR THE POWERS HEREIN GRANTED.

Back in 2003, there wasn’t much outcry about codifying Amendment 27 into law. Yet by comparison, this year Amendment 41 is riding a rutted road.

In several duplicate columns that have appeared recently in the Fort Collins Weekly, the Cherry Creek News and on the Independence Institute’s website, former state Senator Mark Hillman has asserted that “when implementing a constitutional amendment, the legislature can only clarify matters that aren’t already defined.”

“Amendment 41’s chief proponents, Colorado Common Cause, opted to put the text in the state constitution where the legislature couldn’t monkey around with it,” wrote Hillman, also last year’s unsuccessful Republican candidate for state treasurer. “Common Cause also made sure that key terms were specifically defined to remove even the slightest temptation for those scoundrels at the state capitol to create loopholes for their own advantage.”

Former state Rep. Rob Fairbank cast a similarly jaundiced eye on talk about clarifying the language of 41 at his blog at politicallydirect.com.

Muses Fairbank: “My question is: Which legislators will have the temerity to support the creation of loopholes in a voter-passed government ethics law?”

Um.

Actually, while serving in the state House of Representatives and Senate, Fairbank and Hillman were the primary sponsors of the 2003 legislation to modify Amendment 27. And Rep. Mike May signed on as a co-sponsor.

The following year, Fairbank, along with – you guessed it, May and Hillman, sponsored another successful bill to expand their Amendment 27 legislation of the year before.

May, of course, is now the House Minority Leader. During his opening floor speech this session, he included this assertion: “Republicans are committed to respecting Amendment 41 as approved by the voters…”

(In case you were wondering, the other co-sponsors of the 2003 and 2004 legislation who are still in the House and Senate include: Reps. Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) and Debbie Stafford (R-Aurora); then-Rep. (and now senator) Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs); and Senator Ron May (R-Colorado Springs).)

This is part of an ongoing series on Amendment 41.

Click here to read the first installment: Colorado’s Hottest Political Football.
Click here see see what GOP leaders said about 41 on the opening day of the legislature.

And click here for the editorial positions of Denver’s dueling dailies.

Cara DeGette is a longtime Colorado journalist and a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com.

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Cara Degette

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