In Depth: Colorado Confidential on Amendment 41

The breaking news late Thursday afternoon on the preliminary injunction suspending the gift ban provisions of Amendment 41 underscores the complexity and controversy of this issue.

A selection of Colorado Confidential’s coverage about Amendment 41 follows as a primer on the political issues, the legal case, and the public relations campaigns that resulted. Lobbyist Gift Ban Qualifies for Ballot
Aug 03, 2006 — 9:55 AM MDT
Nancy Watzman

Look out, Jack Abramoffs of Colorado.
They’re celebrating over at Coloradans for Clean Government, where organizers for an initiative to ban lobbyist gifts to public officials yesterday turned in 108,421 signatures, enough to qualify for the November ballot.

Figuring Out Amendment 41 Not That Easy
Nov 19, 2006 — 2:16 PM MST
Erin Rosa

Amendment 41, a bill passed this month by voters and formulated in an effort to prevent lobbyists from influencing elected officials, is making headaches for various politicians, including Bill Ritter.

The Ritter camp isn’t sure about the proper way to raise money for the Governor’s inaugural party, and others vying for a job on Ritter’s cabinet are also not certain on the implications of the new law.

Grand Junction Senator Quits
Dec 04, 2006 — 3:01 PM MST
Leslie Robinson

Certainly one of many legislators who want to avoid the two year wait before they can lobby at the Capitol, State Senator Ron Teck from Mesa County announced he is resigning before his term ends to avoid ramifications from the voter-approved Amendment 41.

Lawmakers Are No-Shows at Charity Party
Dec 15, 2006 — 2:38 PM MST
Kerri Rebresh

And the fallout from Amendment 41 continues. While some legislators are stepping down early to escape its reach, Amendment 41 might be affecting something else this December – holiday parties. Take, for instance, the annual women lobbyists and legislators charity party.

Every year, female lobbyists and legislators in Colorado gather to meet, mingle and donate money and gifts to charity. In past years, there’s been a good showing of legislators, but at this year’s party on Tuesday, only three showed up. Annmarie Jenson, whose lobbying firm organized the event, thinks legislators are trying to obey the spirit of Amendment 41, which has not yet gone into effect.

“My impression is that a lot of legislators are not doing things they used to do,” said Jenson.

Nobel Prize Illegal With Amendment 41?
Dec 28, 2006 — 3:32 PM MST
Erin Rosa

One of the nation’s most coveted prizes could become obsolete to public employees under a newly passed Colorado law.

Amendment 41, which was approved by voters last November, restricts gifts government workers can accept.

Now Attorney General John Suthers is saying that it would be illegal for university professors to accept money portions from awards like the Nobel Prize.

Lawmakers In Need Of Coffee, Lunch
Jan 15, 2007 — 8:31 PM MST
Erin Rosa

In their brief meeting on the House floor Mondat, legislators took time to remember the legacy of Martin Luther King.
They also lamented the lack of coffee and food.

Lawmakers To Lobbyists
Jan 20, 2007 — 12:43 PM MST
Erin Rosa

So whatever happened to former Republican legislators Joe Stengel and Lauri Clapp?

The pair resigned from their seats early to allegedly steer clear of provisions in Amendment 41, a constitutional measure passed by voters that would require politicians to take a two-year “cooling off period” before becoming lobbyists.

Democrat Fran Coleman, another former lawmaker, also retired early from her term-limited seat. All three did so before former-Governor Bill Owens signed off on election results, thereby making Amendment 41 official.

Energy Director Tom Plant OK Under A41
Jan 23, 2007 — 10:11 AM MST
Leslie Robinson

It’s hard enough to start a new job, but when former Rep. Tom Plant was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to head the Office of Energy Management and Conservation, he also came under fire for possibly infringing on the anti-lobbying regulations under Amendment 41. However, the complaints are without warrant insists Ritter’s spokesperson Evan Dreyer.

# 41: Colorado’s Hottest Political Football
Feb 02, 2007 — 2:14 PM MST
Cara DeGette

First, the highlights of what has been, and still being, tossed around during the hottest political football game of the season.

It’s also called Amendment 41, a change to Colorado’s constitution, which voters overwhelmingly approved in November.

Or, as Andrew Romanoff, Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, puts it: “You go to the ballot, and it says ‘ethics in government,’ and Washington’s a cesspool. You figure you should do something, but maybe you don’t stop to think…”

GOP on #41: Our Hands Are Tied
Feb 02, 2007 — 6:00 PM MST
Cara DeGette

As the legislature ponders how to best install Colorado’s new ethics in government law, Republican leaders in the House and Senate gave a very clear indication of the minority party’s stance in the Amendment 41 debate during pointed references during their opening speeches the first day of the session.

Reading their comments, it’s seems pretty clear  that Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany and House Minority Leader Mike May would approach what McElhany terms “rollbacks” with daggers drawn.

27 & 41: Exact, Yet So Different
Feb 04, 2007 — 4:46 PM MST
Cara DeGette

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.

After #41: Making It “A Little Bit Harder”
Feb 07, 2007 — 12:03 PM MST
Cara DeGette

Unintended consequences.
Those two words just may grow into a rallying cry to make amending Colorado’s constitution more difficult.

Driving the debate are several recent constitutional amendments that voters have given the big thumbs up to, only to watch in horror as they morphed into unrecognizable blobs that require constant feeding by a veritable army of lawyers, lobbyists, pundits and politicians.

“Another poorly worded moment”
Feb 09, 2007 — 9:14 AM MST
Cara DeGette

The Denver dailies are filled today with the meltdown over Amendment 41.


Reports of Jared Polis going to the capitol, “wigging out” and “threatening” House Minority Leader Mike May – which he describes as “another poorly worded moment” in a clear dig at Polis’ poorly worded amendment.

And on, and on.

Live Q&A with Mark Grueskin on Amendment 41
Feb 12, 2007 — 10:54 AM MST
Wendy Norris

The overwhelming passage of Amendment 41 – Standards of Conduct in Government by 63 percent of Colorado voters last November is drawing sharp opinions on its implementation and consequences.

Mark Grueskin, chair of Isaacson Rosenbaum’s Public Law and Policy Practice Group and expert in regulatory law, will be on hand for the next 30 minutes. Please limit your questions to the issue of Amendment 41.

Dear Employees: Don’t Quit
Feb 13, 2007 — 4:50 PM MST
Cara DeGette

In the latest chapter of the ongoing Amendment 41 saga, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Attorney General John Suthers sent out the following letter to all state and local government employees this afternoon:

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: The Amendment 41 Truth Test
Feb 13, 2007 — 6:00 AM MST
Wendy Norris

The ballyhoo over the implementation of Amendment 41 – Standards of Conduct in Government has legislators, citizens, and Constitutional scholars (both real and amateur) tied up in knots.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: The Amendment 41 Truth Test (Part 2)
Feb 14, 2007 — 6:00 AM MST
Wendy Norris

The old adage “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” should probably be updated to include slinging rhetorical firebombs at political opponents at the statehouse.

Lobbying Under Amendment 41
Feb 20, 2007 — 10:55 AM MST
Erin Rosa

So how has Amendment 41 affected lobbying at the capitol?
January was the first month under the new law, which restricts lobbyists from giving gifts to public officials.

And according to recent government filings, lobbyists who have a history of giving are saving their money.

Live Q&A with Katy Atkinson
Feb 21, 2007 — 8:51 AM MST
Wendy Norris

The overwhelming passage of Amendment 41 – Standards of Conduct in Government by 63 percent of Colorado voters last November is drawing sharp opinions on its implementation and consequences.

Katy Atkinson, communications strategist and political analyst, will be on hand for the next 30 minutes. Please limit your questions to the issue of Amendment 41.

Skirting Amendment 41
Feb 21, 2007 — 11:58 AM MST
Erin Rosa

If you’re looking for alternatives to a newly passed constitutional amendment, look no further than the Internet.

A legal list is circulating on-line about Amendment 41, which bars public officials from receiving lobbyist gifts that exceed $50 in value.

Special Announcement on A41
Feb 25, 2007 — 12:27 PM MST
Leslie Robinson

A “Ceasefire” will be declared on the steps of the Colorado Capitol today–Sunday–at 1:30 p.m. when House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Amendment 41 supporter Jenny Rose Flanagan, Executive Director or Colorado Common Cause and Flodie Anderson, President of the Colorado League of Women Voters and opponent of Amendment 41 will meet to announce a proposal on how to “fix” problems in that law.

Amendment 41 Foes File Injunction
Mar 12, 2007 — 7:36 PM MDT
Wendy Norris

Deeming it a violation of free speech, equal protection and due process, opponents of Amendment 41 filed an injunction in Denver District Court today.

The First Amendment Council criticized the publicly popular but controversial constitutional amendment that bars lobbyist gifts and those valued at $50 or more to public employees in a typo-riddled press release:

New Idea: Let’s Ask The Voters
Mar 14, 2007 — 11:20 AM MDT
Cara DeGette

The debate over what to do about Amendment 41 is neverending. Here are a few of the latest snippets, from the floor of the House of Representatives today:

“Some of us have doubts about the constitutionality of 1304 but there’s only one way to find out, and that is to ask,” says House Minority Leader Mike May. “Lets use our power to ask the other branch [the Supreme Court], ‘is this constitutional?’ To not ask is not a prudent course for us, regardless of our opinion.”

“Ultimately we’re seeking the voters’ blessing,” says House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

“Today I must have gotten up with the word ‘no’ in front of me,” says Rep. Kevin Lundberg.

Lobbyists, Senate Leader Shop at the 49 Dollar Store
Mar 17, 2007 — 7:00 AM MDT
Wendy Norris

Since Colorado voters passed Amendment 41 in November to bar lobbyist gifts and those valued at $50 or more to public employees it’s been slim pickin’s for some legislators who enjoyed perks like sporting event tickets, paid junkets, and swanky dinners.

However, as the days of bread and roses wound down last year, one lobbying firm found an ingenuous way to gear up for life under the Amendment 41 ban.

Grueskin Ups 41 Ante: Sets Wednesday Deadline
Mar 21, 2007 — 2:52 PM MDT
Cara DeGette

The lawyer working to implement Colorado’s new ethics in government law is vowing to take Amendment 41 back to the voters this November if the state Senate refuses to quickly move forward with a bill that clarifies its broad language and a request that the Colorado Supreme Court weigh in on its constitutionality.

That’s right, this November. ’07, not ’08.

Denver attorney Mark Grueskin’s upped ante would also request voters to install an occupational tax on lobbyists to pay for a commission overseeing ethics in government. The cost for such a commission, which is required under Amendment 41, is estimated at $200,000 per year. The voter-approved tax would be between $25 and $75 per lobbyist, Grueskin said.

Compromise Reached On Ethics Law
Mar 22, 2007 — 9:16 AM MDT
Cara DeGette

State House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders, bickering for months over an ethics in government amendment, on Wednesday reached a compromise over implementing the new law.

The conciliation came just two hours after Denver attorney Mark Grueskin leveled a deadline of next Wednesday for lawmakers to seek clarification from the Supreme Court over whether the legislature can more clearly define the voter-approved Amendment 41.

Other States Warned About Gift Bans
Apr 12, 2007 — 3:18 PM MDT
Kerri Rebresh

A front-page story on today describes Colorado’s Amendment 41 as a cautionary tale:

Battle Anew Brewing Over Amendment 41
Apr 12, 2007 — 5:02 PM MDT
Cara DeGette

The off-again, mostly on-again battle over implementing Amendment 41 is back on again, with proponents renewing calls on the state Senate to quit “dragging their feet” – or risk a statewide ballot amendment this year that would clarify the muddied language, as well as impose a $50 occupational tax on lobbyists.

The renewed warning comes three weeks after the state House of Representatives and the state Senate reached a compromise and announced that lawmakers who had been at odds over implementing Colorado’s voter-passed ethics in government amendment had agreed to work toward implementing it into law.

No Time Left For 41, Lawyer Warns
Apr 18, 2007 — 11:00 AM MDT
Cara DeGette

UPDATE: Click here for the outcome of the Senate committee hearing.

It’s been four weeks to the day that majority and minority leaders in Colorado’s House and Senate announced a “compromise” over how to proceed with implementing Amendment 41.

But, even as House Joint Resolution 1029 is scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee this afternoon, a group behind the so-called Ethics in Government amendment that voters passed in November is also today planning to file the paperwork to set in motion an amendment that calls for clarifying language on this year’s statewide ballot – along with installing a $50 annual tax on lobbyists.

The reason? There simply is no time left, proponents say, to expect the Colorado Supreme Court to have enough time to weigh in.

Down To The Wire With 41
Apr 18, 2007 — 5:00 PM MDT
Cara DeGette

A resolution to request the Colorado Supreme Court review the constitutionality of a bill to install Amendment 41 has sailed through a Senate committee. But, with three weeks remaining until the end of the legislative session, it is unclear whether the Supreme Court – if it accepts the interrogatory – will have time to review it.

Supremes Say No To 41 Opinion
Apr 26, 2007 — 4:31 PM MDT
Cara DeGette

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) released the following official statement after the Colorado Supreme Court today rejected a request to consider the constitutionality of Senate Bill 210, which Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law.

Jared Polis on Iraq, Amendment 41, Gay Rights: Interview II
May 30, 2007 — 7:04 AM MDT
Dan Whipple

Jared Polis worked on his first political campaign when he was 13 years old, his maturing voice cracking over the phone as he attempted to convince voters to support Michael Dukakis for president. Now Polis speaks for his own campaign, to be the Democratic nominee for Congress from the 2nd Congressional District.

Injunction Granted In Amendment 41 Case
May 31, 2007 — 4:22 PM MDT
Andrew Oh-Willeke

Denver District Court Judge Christina Habas has granted a preliminary injunction to Plaintiffs that suspends the gift bans created by Sections 2 and 3 of Amendment 41, during the pendency of the case.  Amendment 41 was enacted by voters in the November 2006 election, and was a political hot potato in the 2007 legislative session of Colorado’s General Assembly.

41 Ruling Raises More Questions
May 31, 2007 — 8:22 PM MDT
Cara DeGette

Like most of the issues surrounding Colorado’s new Ethics in Government law, Thursday’s injunction blocking the gift ban to elected officials and government employees elicited cheers, claims of “disappointment” – and questions over what happens next.
Will the state Attorney General’s office appeal the decision? When might a trial be set? What will the role of the Amendment 41-mandated ethics commission be, now that the gift-ban portion of the law has been blocked? And, does the order apply just to the plaintiffs, or can every government employee and elected official now accept gifts again?