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Let the games begin 

To be sure, the next few months will be filled with heady discussions of transportation and health care and higher education and how to fix Colorado's constitution so it doesn't resemble a pile of garbage heaped into the kitchen sink.

But before all that, let's get to a few of the more creative proposals coming down the pike during this year's General Assembly session, which started this week.

Possibly topping the list of downright novel notions (at least so far) this year is one sure to make the state Republican Party almost happy that Rep. Debbie Stafford went turncoat on them. Stafford, a three-term Republican representative from Aurora, announced last summer that the GOP had treated her so poorly that she was becoming a Democrat.

This year, Stafford reportedly plans to bring forth a proposal that her colleagues have already nicknamed the "Arm the Bears" bill.

Essentially, the bill would outlaw people from hunting animals such as elk and deer and bears and birds without giving them the opportunity for a "fair chase." Maybe it sounds a bit kooky to many, but "canned" hunts do happen and many serious hunters, as well as animal-rights activists, don't take kindly to them, for a number of reasons.

Remember, for example, when Dick Cheney shot his pal in the face a couple years ago? Well, that was allegedly during such a canned hunt the group was taken to a spot where the flying fowl was easy pickins. In that case, our vice president just happened to shoot the wrong living thing.

Meanwhile, another Aurora Democrat, Rep. Nancy Todd, wants to let some of Colorado's more squeamish schoolchildren dissect animals in science class on a computer instead of with a real blade.

Republicans, meanwhile, have warmed up to a downright generous proposal in which a week would be set aside every year when parents could buy school supplies without paying sales tax.

Co-sponsored by El Paso County's own Amy Stephens, Republican officeholders around the state are being encouraged to rally around the "Cheaper Big Chief Tablet" bill. Who says Republicans don't have a heart?

But wait, here comes the newest kid on the playground, and he's already causing trouble. Yup, it's Rep. Douglas Bruce, sure to be El Paso County's most attention-grabbing export this year. In a recent letter to GOP leadership, Bruce expressed his feelings quite clearly about Stephens' school-supplies proposal:

"There is no constitutional basis to lower taxes for a week for some vague, politically correct products, then raise tax rates without voter approval," Bruce wrote, in a letter to GOP Minority Whip Cory Gardner, R-Yuma. "That is a clear TABOR violation ... Why are we telling parents when to buy stuff for their children?"

Also, some GOP lawmakers are still clearly hung up on a topic that has yet to be proven to be a problem "illegals" trying to vote (and probably for the Democrats, at that!).

For the past couple years, some Republicans have become nearly paranoid in their conviction that non-citizens must be OK, might be flocking to polling places. There is no evidence that this is a problem, though there are plenty of people who wonder just why anyone in the country illegally would take a further risk by trying to vote.

Alongside that contention is another reality: Requiring proof of citizenship is most often a hardship on poor people and others who don't have the resources to easily retrieve their birth certificates or obtain passports.

But this year, several Republicans plan to introduce not one, but two, related bills. One would require people to provide government-approved photo IDs (not simply utility bills) to vote at the polls. The other, co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany of Colorado Springs, would require proof of citizenship to register to vote.

As mentioned earlier, many lawmakers, and the governor, would really, really prefer to hunker down on the hardcore problems facing Colorado. But in between, expect some antics.

They're elected officials. Apparently, they can't help themselves.

degette@csindy.com

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