You can let the children out now.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature shut down a record five days early this year saving taxpayers some $75,000. But not before considering nearly 700 proposed laws from the strange to the sensible to the here-we-go-again.
A few random moments
The last time the lawmakers' $99-per-day allowance was raised was in 1989, and certainly, the cost of living has gone up. But 15 bucks for breakfast? This year, lawmakers upped their per diem to $149, but not before the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, absurdly claimed, as reported in a Denver Post article: "You can't get a decent breakfast unless you pay $12 to $15. Lunch is another $15, and dinner is $20."
Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, got a lot of guff for her bill to outlaw microchip implants in humans. While 17 other states have considered similar measures, Hodge was teased by fellow politicos, and she ultimately abandoned the bill. Former Republican Rep.-turned-political-consultant Rob Fairbank, for one, sent out an e-mail asking: "Is this a problem? Do we have gangs of post-apocalyptic Terminator-style cyborgs roaming the streets of Colorado implanting citizens with microchips?"
And there was, of course, the adoption of John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" as the state's second official song. Lawmakers adopted it after much discussion about how the song with lyrics including "Friends around the campfire and everybody's high" "in no way reflects or encourages drug use."
Sound science and superminorities
The Democratic majority, as well as Gov. Bill Ritter, has declared the session a success with a huge emphasis on new laws that promote the use of renewable energy in Colorado.
Other Democratic-driven bills that passed all of which enraged social conservatives establish protections for gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination; require sex education to be based on sound science; allow gays and lesbians to adopt; and require hospitals to provide information about emergency contraception to rape victims.
For lawmakers from El Paso County, the session was a mixed bag. The two Democrats in the 13-member delegation, Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, and newly elected Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, had their share of victories, and also some defeats. Merrifield, especially, had a rough session, spending much of it undergoing chemotherapy for throat cancer and being attacked for a December e-mail comment that surfaced, in which he opined that there "must be a special place in hell" for recalled D-11 school board members Sandy Shakes and Eric Christen.
El Paso County Republicans, meanwhile, found themselves in the superminority not just in the minority party, but also representing a place that is perceived by many as far more radically conservative than other parts of the state.
So how'd they do?
Former Rep. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, now in the state Senate, has in the past been known for such failed proposals as attempting to require divorcing couples to first undergo a year of counseling.
This session, Schultheis did not disappoint. First up was his so-called "Religious Bill of Rights," a mandate to post a screed inside every public school in Colorado that would have specified that everyone could sing about religion, display religious stuff, wear religious clothes, wear religious jewelry, exchange religious cards and write reports about religion.
In his presentation, Schultheis warned that public schools are swarming with heathens and that religion, especially Christianity, is under heavy attack.
"Religious liberties are crucial to the future of our country," Schultheis said, offering quotes from Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. "In order to have morals you have to have virtue, and to have virtue you have to have religion."
But it didn't matter how many founding fathers Schultheis could quote at one sitting. His Religious Bill of Rights didn't have a prayer.
Try, try again
Another of Schultheis' proposals, allowing prosecutors to charge people who kill pregnant women with two murders, failed. The bill was postponed indefinitely after another lawmaker pointed out that the wording would also have allowed doctors who perform abortions to be charged with murder.
Meanwhile, over in the House of Representatives, freshman Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, watched his own abortion-related proposal to make it a Class 3 felony to perform an abortion get the ax.
But don't put Schultheis and Lambert down for the count. The two white men have already announced plans to present a statewide amendment in 2008 calling to dismantle affirmative action in Colorado.
Leading the way ... in fashion
Yes, being a Republican from El Paso County in today's Legislature can be trying. But Amy Stephens, R-Monument, took a leadership role this year in proving herself a fashion maven. While others were debating such heady stuff as divesting money from genocidal Sudan, Stephens was featured in a Feb. 22 Rocky Mountain News spread describing her "power wardrobe."
Rocky: Who's your fashion role model in politics?
Stephens: My former predecessor to this seat Rep. Lynn Hefley. It is generally agreed upon at the Capitol that Lynn has a great sense of style and fashion.
Rocky: Describe your sense of style.
Stephens: Color I love color! I'm not afraid of bright colors and I enjoy [them] paired with black. ...
Rocky: What is it about the way you dress that makes you feel confident and powerful?
Stephens: About seven years ago, I looked at my wardrobe and decided that I would only wear or buy things I truly enjoyed and felt good in even if an item was on sale and a great bargain. If I only "liked" the outfit, I made a promise not to buy it. I've also invested in getting my clothes tailored to fit well, which builds confidence.
Liston: Not the father
At the beginning of the session, Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, joked that he was going to introduce a bill he would nickname after Anna Nicole Smith. Sure, his proposed law had absolutely nothing to do with the Playboy centerfold, but with a snappy name, he reasoned, even the most boring or mundane bill gets good play. Unfortunately, halfway through the session, Anna Nicole Smith overdosed in a hotel room in Florida.
And it turns out that Liston's "biggest achievement" of the session or at least the stunt that got him the most recognition was his failed effort to quash free speech by trying to get a reporter kicked off the floor of the House of Representatives.
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