Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
October / November 1999

 

The CAPITOL Report

Lawmakers whose days are numbered

by Sandra Eid, Legislative Coordinator

The November 1998 election was the first in which a substantial number of lawmakers were prohibited from running for reelection. The November 2000 election will continue the process of jettisoning legislative knowledge and experience, due to term limits. 

Last year, the House of Representatives suffered the greater impact. Twenty-three lawmakers, including all three leaders, were forced to “retire.” (Several ran successfully for seats in the Senate.) In the opposite chamber, ten senators, including two of three leaders, were “term-limited” out of office. (One senator ran successfully for a seat in the House.)

Next year, the impacts on the respective chambers will be switched. Only ten House members will be prohibited from running for reelection, whereas eleven senators will face “retirement.” Once again, the leadership positions will be emptied. Two of three House leaders, and all three Senate leaders will have to be changed. The revolving door of Colorado politics is beginning to spin! 

When the term limitation amendment was presented to Colorado voters in 1990, proponents argued that it would allow more individuals “to serve the public.” Officeholders would “be more productive, devote more time to their duties…and be more bold in decision-making without fearing the potential impact of such decisions on future reelection efforts.” 

It may be too early to tell whether these predictions will come true; however, it is not too early to observe that seasoned lawmakers are being summarily discarded, novice lawmakers are scrambling to gain expertise in complex issues, and continuity in leadership is a thing of the past. 

In the long term, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations may benefit from such rapid turn-over. In the short term, we (like novice lawmakers) may be scrambling to find our way. Undoubtedly, there are many anti-environmental legislators on the list below whom we would like to see replaced. However, there are also many whose accomplishments have furthered our cause. 

Senator Mike Feeley (D-Lakewood) and Representative Ken Gordon (D-Denver) (minority leaders in their respective chambers) have been consistently-strong champions of good environmental measures. Speaker of the House Russell George (R-Rifle) brokered a compromise that saved our instream-flow program in 1996.

Representative Bill Kaufman (R-Loveland) worked to protect visibility in Rocky Mountain National Park. Representatives Moe Keller (D-Wheatridge) and Marcy Morrison (R-Manitou Springs) won endorsements from the Sierra Club in previous elections. Senator Dorothy Rupert (D-Boulder) has compiled an outstanding environmental record during her tenure in both the House and Senate. (This is not an exhaustive list of accomplishments, but merely a sample of what some experienced lawmakers have done.) 

In most occupations, knowledge and experience are considered to be assets. For Colorado legislators, knowledge and experience are being sacrificed to an arbitrary measure of time. The challenge for the Sierra Club is to adapt quickly to “the new way of doing things”: 

(1) Be informed early about the legislative seats that will be open (see list below); 

(2) Identify good environmental candidates and work to get them elected; and 

(3) Build reliable relationships with legislators who will work to advance environmental goals. 

Now, as never before in Colorado politics, “time is of the essence!” 

COLORADO LEGISLATORS WHO WILL BE PROHIBITED FROM RUNNING FOR REELECTION IN 2000

 
COLORADO SENATE
Ray Powers (R-Colorado Springs)  President of the Senate SD10
Tom Blickensderfer (R-Englewood) Majority Leader  SD 26
Mike Feeley (D-Lakewood) Minority Leader  SD 21
Elsie Lacy (R-Aurora)  SD 28
Bob Martinez (D-Commerce City)  SD 25
Dorothy Rupert (D-Boulder)  SD 18
Gloria Tanner (D-Denver)  SD 33
MaryAnne Tebedo (R-Colorado Springs)  SD 12

Dave Wattenberg (R-Walden) 

SD 8
Frank Weddig (D-Aurora)  SD 29
Dottie Wham (R-Denver} SD 33
 
COLORADO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Russell George (R-Rifle) Speaker of the House  HD 9
Ken Gordon (D-Denver) Minority Leader  HD 9
Debbie Allen (R-Aurora)  HD 43
Bob Hagedorn (D-Aurora)  HD 42
Bill Kaufman (R-Loveland) HD 51
Moe Keller (D-Wheat Ridge)  HD 24
Ron May (R-Colorado Springs)  HD 15
Marcy Morrison (R-Manitou Springs)  HD 22
Penn Pfiffner (R-Lakewood)  HD 23

Jack Taylor (R-Steamboat Springs)

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