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State Assembly goes after smut

State Assembly goes after smut

Two legislative bills designed to shield minors from sexually explicit materials, backed by a conservative Colorado Springs lawmaker, moved closer to becoming law this week.

On Monday, the state Senate voted unanimously to approve House Bill 1004, sponsored by Sen. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, which would require public libraries in Colorado to install Internet "filters" to block sexually explicit material.

The bill previously passed in the House, by a 53-12 vote.

The measure would require filters only if a library has the funds to acquire the technology. In addition, filters would be disabled upon request for adult library patrons, and for minors engaged in research that makes it necessary to access certain types of materials -- such as, for instance, information about sexually transmitted diseases.

Also on Monday, another bill sponsored by Lamborn, which would restrict certain public displays of sexually explicit materials, won approval from a Senate committee.

The measure, House Bill 1078, would ban the display and distribution of certain sexually explicit materials to minors. It would also bar minors from viewing sexually explicit performances. The bill would require establishments offering such materials and performances to ask for identification from all patrons. The House previously passed the bill by a 49-15 vote.

The measure has drawn the ire of the Colorado Libertarian Party, which denounced the bill in a news release last week.

"Libertarians believe this bill is an obscene measure by legislators to curb free speech and other First Amendment rights in Colorado," the release stated.

Norm Olsen, chairman of the state Libertarian Party, said the law threatens to "make criminals out of businesses and individuals for doing nothing more than leaving a bare breast in plain view, even if it's in a museum."

"There are sexually explicit materials all around us," added Olsen. "Will museums now require identification before allowing individuals to view Da Vinci's [sic] 'David'?"

-- Terje Langeland

Lawmakers call on Congress to solve roads controversy

Prompted by reports of bitter fights between private-property owners and local governments, the state Senate last week called on Congress to straighten out confusion over a 138-year-old federal law pertaining to public rights-of-way in the West.

Senators voted 34-1 in favor of a resolution proposed by Senate President John Andrews, which asks Congress to address the matter.

The federal statute in question, RS 2477, allows local governments -- typically boards of county commissioners -- to claim rights-of-way across public lands where roads have historically existed.

Considered open to many different interpretations due to its vague language, the 1866 law has sparked a growing number of legal battles in recent years. Environmental groups say governments are making spurious claims under the law to open up unnecessary roads across wilderness areas. Meanwhile, many owners of "inholdings" -- private land parcels that were formerly public and that are often surrounded by public lands -- are fighting efforts by local governments to force open roads across their properties.

Andrews proposed the resolution, which asks Congress to clarify the intent and application of RS 2477, at the urging of Property Owners for Sensible Roads Policy, a Boulder-based group of landowners who have battled local governments over the issue.

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat, has already introduced a proposal in Congress to reform RS 2477.

A. J. Chamberlin, director of Property Owners for Sensible Roads Policy, said her group hopes to persuade other state legislatures across the West to also pass resolutions calling for congressional action.

-- Terje Langeland

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