Thursday, February 28, 2008

Legislative Update February 28th, 2008

Gift Ban Reinstated-- For Now

The Colorado Supreme Court overturned an injunction preventing the
implementation of Amendment 41 this week. The Amendment bans
lobbyists from buying legislators gifts or meals valued at more than
$50. The court was not ruling on the constitutionality of the ethics
law and gift ban, which will be a matter of certain controversy, but
rather that the amendment could not yet be challenged because it had
not yet been implemented. An ethics commission was supposed to have
implemented the provisions of the new law, but was never created. The
ethics commission will have to establish rules that foresee loopholes
and close them without creating unwanted consequences, like the loss
of college scholarships to the children of state employees. Sorting
out these issues will require time and deliberation. The National
Conference of State Legislatures has called Amendment 41 "the toughest
ethics rule in the nation." It passed by a margin of 330,000 votes in
2006. Now that the injunction has been lifted and the law instated,
we will witness firsthand a cutting-edge battle for clean government.

Moving Forward on Sunday Sales

The decades-old ban on Sunday liquor sales is one step closer to
eradication. My bill, SB 82, passed the Senate in a 23-8 vote. It
now heads to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. If
approved, it will head to the Finance Committee. Although I expect
the bill will be met with greater resistance in the House, I am
hopeful it will go through. "At the end of the day I think we'll be
able to get it out of there," said Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge. If
her predictions are correct, we will see if Governor Ritter will add
Colorado to the 34 states that permit Sunday liquor sales. Evan
Dreyer, spokesman for Mr. Ritter, said: "We are watching the bill as
it proceeds through the legislative process. If it gets to the
governor's desk we will meet with both sides before deciding whether
to sign it."

Payday Lenders Might Get Capped

Representative Mark Ferrandino's bill capping the annual interest
rates for payday loans at 45 percent narrowly passed the House earlier
this week. Proponents argue that current law allows payday lenders to
enjoy three-digit interest rates annually on short-term loans
available to those who need immediate cash to pay their bills. This
can potentially trap the poor in a cycle of debt as they try for years
to pay off a loan of a few hundred dollars. Opponents-satisfied
customers who say they need the service and of course the lenders
themselves-argue that while current interest rates seem high because
they are compared to traditional annual bank-loan rates, they are
reasonable considering the small amounts of money borrowed and the
short duration. Many payday lenders, whose entire business is based
on mathematical calculations, say it's a no-brainer equation. They'll
be out of business. HB 1310 passed 33-30 and now heads to the Senate.

Can't Watch the Broncos Win? You May Not Have to Lose

A bill allowing ticket holders to resell their tickets with impunity
passed both the House and Senate. Currently, after a ticket is
purchased, your only legal option for a refund is to sell it back to
the institutional ticket seller. If SB 24 is signed into law,
consumers will have the ability to re-sell those tickets if they can't
make the game. The Broncos have lobbied and testified against the
measure, declaring that state lawmakers are interfering with their
personal scalping policy. Proponents say the bill protects consumers'
rights and simply allows them to regain the losses from schedule
changes or traveling difficulties. Governor Ritter has 10 days from
Tuesday to make a decision.