Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU panelists testify before Colorado legislative committee

Colorado’s Constitution is filled with conflicting fiscal requirements, unintended consequences and a myriad of detail, University of Denver panel members told a Colorado legislative committee Feb. 14.

“We found that the legislature’s ability to respond to changing conditions was hamstrung by provisions embedded in the constitution,” said Jim Griesemer, chairman of DU’s Colorado Constitution Panel and dean emeritus of the Daniels College of Business.

After studying Colorado’s Constitution last year, the DU panel released a report Jan. 3 that drew support from state legislative leaders and led to the formation of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Reform. Griesemer and other panel members testified before the committee.

“This is intended to be DU’s contribution to the public good,” Griesemer told the committee.

After outlining the problems the panel found with Colorado’s guiding document, Griesemer explained the group’s proposed solutions. The panel recommends promoting the statutory initiative process over the constitutional initiative process; creating a process in which the legislature reviews, but cannot block, proposed constitutional initiatives; and establishing a commission that reviews and recommends changes to the constitution each decade.

Panel members’ testimony drew praise and questions from committee members. Former House Speaker Norma Anderson, a Republican, questioned the panel’s proposed legislative review process for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, saying the public won’t pay attention to legislative deliberations and will end up listening to proponents’ sound bites instead.

“People do not trust the legislative body,” Anderson said.

Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Archuleta, said she supported the panel’s recommended review process because it would give ordinary citizens a chance to speak on proposed constitutional amendments and give legislators a chance to review the language of such initiatives.

“This is the Capitol,” Roberts said. “This is where the government resides.”

Other committee members worried about opening up the constitutional initiative process to political positioning at the legislature and some questioned the panel’s decision not to recommend raising signature requirements.

“This is absolutely excellent,” said committee Chair Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo. “This goes right to our charge.”

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