Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Stupid amendment screws up everything

In another strange but boring Colorado politics story, an amendment pushed by liberal rich guy Jared Polis to limit gifts to public employees to a value of $50 was so poorly worded it may prohibit scholarships to the children of those employees:

Wealthy entrepreneur Jared Polis is the legislature's favorite whipping boy these days because of problems with Amendment 41, even though a number of politicians last year supported the measure.

Polis didn't write the ethics bill, but he helped get the measure on the ballot and passed. He now admits it is poorly worded, and lawmakers are trying to figure out how to address the unintended consequences, such as a provision that may make children of public employees ineligible for certain college scholarships.

Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, now calls Amendment 41 "Jared's Law."

"If he's trying to make my name synonymous with clean government, that's certainly a cross that I can bear," Polis said Tuesday.

He's not, Jared. The Rocky's Lynn Bartels was amusingly tough on Polis in an interview Tuesday:

Do you think you sold something to the voters that wasn't so good?

I've observed the state governmental process up close for several years. It constantly frustrated me how lobbyists with resources have special access to legislators compared to regular citizens and nonprofits' lobbyists who don't have the deep pockets to take people to sporting events or expensive dinners.
But surely you've heard the criticism that you're someone with deep pockets to implement legislation the way you want it. Very few people can hire the dream team that you've hired.

One of my core values is that I support campaign finance reform and ethics reform.

But you spent a fortune to help Democrats take the state House in 2004 . . .

Absolutely I did. . . . but I'm willing to be part of the mix in terms of reducing the influence of special interests . . . .
You talk about the coalition (to fix the amendment). Who is in the coalition besides yourself?
There are a number of nonprofit groups and advocacy groups that are members of Coloradans for Sensible Ethics, including the Colorado Association for Public Employees, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Medical Society and such.
But on a percentage breakdown, how much are you paying for the dream team and how much are they paying?

This really isn't about Jared Polis [a classic!--ed.]. . . . For the life of me, I don't know why legislators are more interested in taking shots at me than helping a kid depending on a scholarship to continue her university studies.

I think the unintended consequences are what neither I nor the other proponents of Amendment 41 nor the voters wanted or expected.

But those "unintended consequences" were pointed out last year by critics. Voters were told scholarships could be in jeopardy. It's like saying, "We didn't mean to tell everyone they must wear a red coat" when the authors wrote "Everyone must wear a red coat."
Amendment 41 is poorly worded, but it's not awfully worded. Scholarships are earned by students . . . .
Some legislators supported the concept of stopping lawmakers from getting expensive sports tickets and trips. Why didn't Amendment 41 target them only? Why did it include most government employees, such as the snowplow operator who works for some government entity?
How it affects snowplow drivers is you can't give them gifts to do your driveway or do your street first. In terms of how it affects their everyday lives, not at all. Unless there's a gift being given to them to breach the public trust, Amendment 41 has no application.
Are you still planning on running for a congressional seat?
Oh, I don't have any comment on that at this time.
Update: The Post: "Ritter sued over Amendment 41":
A group of Colorado citizens and nonprofit corporations filed a lawsuit today against Gov. Bill Ritter, claiming Amendment 41 is violating their First Amendment rights.
That goddamn First Amendment is a pain in the ass, too.

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