Legislative Updates: January 31, 2004

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The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

Legislative Updates: January 31, 2004

by Ari Armstrong

1078 Update
Ted Harvey's bill 1078 is slightly less onerous now that it has been amended. The provision in the bill pertaining to store displays was removed by the House, though the Senate could still try to reinstate it.

Peggy Lowe writes for the January 24 Rocky, "A novice Democrat and a moderate Republican on Friday teamed up to remove a key provision from a new anti-porn bill that critics said was so over-the-top it could put bookstore owners and video retailers in jail. Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, and Rep. Mark Larson, R-Durango, offered a change just before the Colorado House adjourned that removed major portions of a bill that had been approved."

Unfortunately, the bill's broad definition of sexually explicit material would still allow unjust charges to be filed against citizens who intended and committed no harm.

Julia Martinez added January 25 in the Post, "[T]he amended bill remains worrisome to businesses with its vague definition of what is harmful. It still would prohibit the sale or distribution of harmful materials to minors. And it would punish theater officials for 'exhibiting a performance that is harmful' to people under 18." On January 23, Martinez wrote, "At Virgin Megastore on the 16th Street Mall downtown, a shelf of erotic videos was relocated last weekend to the back of the store from a more visible location near the east doors. 'Skin' magazines also were moved and placed opposite the erotic videos. The aisle now contains a warning sign in red, white and black letters: 'Erotica. Adults Only. 18 y.o. and over to enter'."

Of course, "skin" magazines were already covered before the change, and no adult video showed nudity. But the change demonstrates what I argued previously: no legislation is needed in this area. Voluntary social pressure can spur quick action in most cases, and that's far better than creating new categories of "criminal" conduct involving vaguely defined offenses.

John Sanko writes for the January 29 Rocky, "A bill to create a Colorado Venture Capital Authority to replace the CAPCO industry won Senate support Wednesday -- even though a lawmaker complained there was no guarantee that it would create a single job despite its $100 million cost. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ron Teck, R-Grand Junction, with House sponsorship by Rep. Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, was drafted with the support of the staff of the Office of Economic Development. Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, and Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, would kill CAPCO in favor of contributions to CoverColorado, which provides health insurance benefits to chronically ill Coloradans... The dueling bills attempt to end the state's Certified Capital Company program, created in 2001 to spur investment throughout Colorado. Insurance companies got $200 million in tax incentives over 10 years to finance certified capital companies, which then invested in Colorado businesses."

But there's no reason to replace CAPCO with anything. The state should have no role in business investments or health insurance. Nor should the state be in the business of assigning inequitable tax burdens. Tax policy should be applied evenly, and taxes should be as low as possible for everybody.

The Colorado Freedom to Carry Act
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners sent out the following e-mail on January 30:

Today State Rep. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) introduced "The Colorado Freedom to Carry Act", a bill to allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns without going through the burdensome and expensive process of acquiring a permit.

"The US and Colorado Constitutions ensure our right to keep and bear arms, and in our modern society bearing arms for self-defense is best envisioned by thinking of a woman with a revolver in her purse," said Brophy, a first-term lawmaker from Eastern Colorado. "Alaska and Vermont citizens aren't required to jump through the hoops and hurdles of a bureaucratic and expensive permit system. Colorado legislators need to trust citizens as much as Alaska legislators do."

The measure, House Bill 1281, doesn't get rid of the permit process that was passed in the 2003 legislative session. Instead, it merely specifies that citizens who can legally possess handguns under state and federal law -- by definition, law-abiding citizens -- can carry concealed.

"To those who already have or want a concealed handgun permit, this bill changes nothing," Brophy said. "They may want to keep their permits so they can have reciprocity with other states that recognize Colorado's permitting system. However, many citizens can't afford to pay for the expensive training, fingerprinting and bureaucratic process the 2003 law created. And frankly, they shouldn't have to."

According to Brophy, this bill -- patterned after a law passed last year in Alaska and a long-held policy in Vermont -- will cost nothing to implement and give citizens real freedom while making Colorado safer.

"Because of this long-standing policy, Vermont is always ranked as one of the safest States in the Union," Brophy said. "Criminals don't care about bans on concealed handguns because they are already committing crimes like burglary, rape and murder. This bill will allow more law-abiding citizens to carry concealed while allowing prosecutors to throw the book at those who aren't allowed to carry."

The bill has been assigned to the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, and is scheduled to be heard on Feb. 10th, 2004...

To view information about bills in the 2004 Colorado Legislative session, go to http://www.rmgo.org/billwatch04.htm.

CCW Database
If you get a CCW permit, you are self-registering with the government as a gun owner. Think carefully before you do that.

RMGO reported on January 22, "Today the Rocky Mountain News published a story about a bill RMGO prompted which gets rid of the statewide database of concealed handgun permit holders, House Bill 1205, by State Rep. Bill Crane (R - Arvada).

"Though the story isn't entirely accurate, it does set the stage: the Sheriff's association is going to fight to keep this Big Brother database.

"What RMN reporter Peggy Lowe failed to get right is that under current law (SB25) sheriff's can choose whether to forward their permit holder list to CBI (CBI is hiding the identity of sheriffs who have entered permit holders into this database, but RMGO is pushing for that list). According to the new concealed carry law passed in 2003, that database disappears in 2007 (RMGO lobbied hard to remove that database in the 2003 legislature, while NRA and CSSA lobbied to keep it in). RMGO wants it to disappear immediately.

"Crane's bill, HB 1205, will only get rid of the statewide database, not the local database (administered by a sheriff). Today's RMN article says it will erase the list from "law enforcement databases". In fact, it erases just one database: CBI's. To determine whether a permit is valid, a LE officer would be able to call the issuing sheriff's office to determine validity (much as it was usually done prior to SB25).

"To look at a history of this battle, go to http://www.rmgo.org/CCIC.html.

This year, institutional gun lobbies will have a tougher time opposing this database. In 2003, they (NRA, Colorado State Shooting Association and others) said that this issue jeopardized the passage of a "shall issue" concealed carry bill. In 2004, they don't have that excuse.

What is their dilemma? CSSA and NRA are in a tough spot: on one side is the Sheriff's Association, which wants to keep lengthy records on law-abiding citizens and place them on a database right next to murderers and rapists. And make no mistake about it, the institutional gun lobbies love to curry favor with law enforcement. On the other side is the average permit holder, who doesn't want to be placed in a statewide database with criminals. Though they are likely to sit the fight out and gripe from the sidelines (and give cover to those politicians who vote wrong), where they land on this issue could be telling."

On January 28, the Rocky's editorial board published an article, "Let cops learn who's carrying a gun." It argues, "It's not that cops believe people with concealed-carry permits are likely to be involved in crime. They simply want to know when a driver may possess a weapon -- a perfectly reasonable interest on their part given the risks of the job." So long as a permit system exists, some will argue it's "perfectly reasonable" to give government officials access to that information.

Bill 1170
Here's another report from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, this one dated January 26:

"House Bill 1170 seems like a technical bill that would only excite an attorney. But a closer look at the bill shows it addresses a very serious problem in Colorado: only under the perfect scenario does "self defense" reduce someone's sentence. In many cases, the judge isn't even allowed the latitude of sentencing you leniently because you were defending yourself or your loved ones.

"This bill aims to change that. HB1170, by Colorado Springs State Rep. Mark Cloer, supports a person's right to defend him/herself as a fundamental right and allows a sentencing judge to give full consideration of the defendant's good faith self-defense conduct. It also allows a sentencing judge to consider the initial unlawful conduct of others.

"The problem is that in Colorado, a person's right to defend him/herself is a fundamental one and should be given special consideration. Under the current 2nd Degree Assault statute, a person may act to defend him/herself against an unlawful trespasser but can still be charged and convicted of 2nd Degree Assault and receive a 5 year prison sentence. In addition, people often plead guilty to charges (even though they were defending themselves) to avoid the risk of going to prison. By doing so, they lose many rights such as the right to vote or for gun ownership...

Amend Amendment 22
Amendment 22 requires registration checks for private sales at gun shows. It should be repealed, along with the entire Brady registration system. This year's legislature has considered a mild revision of Amendment 22.

Rep. Ray Rose clarified his bill in a letter to the Denver Post published January 27: "here is a misunderstanding of not only the content of HB 1012 but also of the law resulting from Amendment 22. HB 1012 simply removes the requirement under current law to obtain a background check for attempting to transfer a firearm at a gun show even though no transfer has been completed. It also removes the confusing definition of a 'collection' as a 'trade, barter, or in-kind exchange of one or more firearms.' HB 1012 does not allow firearm transactions started at the gun show to be completed off-premise without a background check. The law clearly states, 'If any part of a firearm transaction takes place at a gun show, no firearm shall be transferred unless a background check has been obtained by a licensed gun dealer.' HB 1012 does not, and has no intent to, change this requirement. The law as currently written is being ignored for 'attempting to sell' a firearm because it is unenforceable. If we have a portion of the law that people are allowed to ignore, it breeds contempt for the law, thus diminishing peoples' confidence in the law. It also allows for 'selective enforcement' at the discretion of local, county or state enforcement agencies causing confusion among the people. We have a responsibility to clarify the language of the law without changing the intent, thus allowing full public confidence in the law and the enforcement thereof."

Rep. Bill Sinclair added his comments the next day in the Rocky: "The [January 16] article cited Eileen McCarron's and Tom Mauser's assertions that by deleting a certain unclear phrase, the bill might make it legal for sellers and buyers to agree to meet later to sell a gun without a check. But the report failed to note how Reps. Shawn Mitchell and Bill Cadman pointed out in the same hearing that another part of the law already covers such concerns. It states: 'If any part of a firearm transaction takes place at a gun show, no firearm shall be transferred unless a background check has been obtained by a licensed gun dealer.' Plainly, sellers and buyers can't start the conversation at the gun show and go someplace else to finish the sale. Mauser even admitted that the quoted section prohibits the 'wink-wink' arrangements he seeks to prevent, but he argued the other unclear phrase should stay on the books as well because 'redundancy in the law is a good thing.' It seems Mauser really argued against the bill not for fear it would make it legal to skip background checks but because he wants to send 'redundant' messages. In my experience, redundancy only would serve to confuse and therefore undermine the very law Mauser wants to see enforced."

Spit or Swallow?
Most legislation ranges from the absurd to the ridiculous. John Sanko reports for the January 24 Rocky, "Ken Kester... got... a voice vote favoring his bill that would allow students under the age of 21 to 'sip and spit' alcoholic beverages if they're taking a culinary or food marketing course... Senate Bill 82 was introduced at the urging of Johnson & Wales University in Denver, which said training the palate is a vital part in the training of a culinary student. Under the bill, younger students can sip, but they can't swallow."

How about a bill to recognize the right of all legal adults to consume beverages of their choice? An 18-year-old can fight in Iraq, get married, sign contracts, and be punished criminally as an adult. To deny legal adults the right to consume alcoholic beverages is grossly unjust.

Academic Freedom
Academic Freedom can only be hurt by legislative action, not helped. Of course, the real answer is to get the state totally out of the higher education business, but neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to state the obvious solution.

Martinez reports for the January 27 Post, "Under an academic bill of rights expected to be introduced at the Capitol on Wednesday, students also would have the right to be graded for their classes based on 'reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects' rather than political beliefs. They would have a right to be free of a 'hostile environment' created by professors. And they would have the right to expect that their student fees would be restricted to 'viewpoint neutral' programs, according to a draft of the measure, sponsored by Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield.

Mitchell, usually concerned with properly limited government, in this case further entrenches state financing of colleges and adds to it measures that can only stifle genuine academic freedom.

LPCO Fears No-Call Change
Norm Olsen, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, issued the following comments in a January 29 press release: "Should SB04-085 ever make it to the statute books, most everyone in Colorado will soon be guilty of deceptive trade practices. Suppose, for example, after watching a candidate on TV, you call your neighbor and inform him or her that George Bush is a jerk. If your neighbor is on the No-Call list, that would be Strike One! If your spouse calls a fellow church member, and requests them to bring their pledge card to church on Sunday and that person is on the No-Call list, Strike Two! Then if your daughter calls grandma asking her to buy some Girl Scout cookies and grandma is on the No-Call list: Strike Three!!! Three strikes in any given month and you're guilty of deceptive trade practices."

State Senator Dan Grossman was asked via e-mail for his comments about the bill, but he has not replied.

End Mandatory Minimums
The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition sent out the following message on January 29:

"HB 1106 (Rep. Plant). This bill would have eliminated mandatory minimum sentencing for several nonviolent crimes and removed the so-called "two prior felony rule" for drug offenders (the rule bars defendants with two prior felonies from being sentenced to probation without permission from the district attorney). An amended version of the bill was voted on in the House Information and Technology Committee on Wednesday. The vote was tied, 5-5, but after a two minute recess, the committee reconvened and voted 6-4 to kill the bill. On both votes Rep. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) voted in favor of HB 1106, citing a belief that mandatory minimum sentences have gone too far. If you are so moved, you might want to email Rep. Brophy (greg@gregbrophy.net) and thank him for his vote."

New Mexico Contemplates Grocery Tax Repeal
Barry Massey of the Associated Press reports January 29, "The tax imposed on food by the state and local governments would be eliminated under a proposal approved by a Senate panel Wednesday. The Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee unanimously endorsed the measure despite opposition from a business group and social-services advocates. Under the proposal, the gross-receipts tax would be removed from sales of groceries and cold prepared foods for home consumption."

Perhaps this is something Colorado could look into as well.

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