Lawmakers trying to limit gifts for politicians
DENVER – Two state legislators are trying to change a law that allowed Gov. Bill Owens to accept gifts and money for speeches that nearly doubled his salary and another that allows lawmakers to accept unlimited cash gifts.Their plans ran into opposition Thursday from colleagues who feared they would lose their free tickets to Nuggets basketball and Avalanche hockey games, and from the governor, who indicated through a spokesman that lawmakers should disclose their outside sources of income.Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, is sponsoring a bill (Senate Bill 40) that would set a cap of $400 on a law that currently allows lawmakers to accept unlimited cash gifts. Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, introduced a measure (House Bill 1176) that would limit the amount of gifts that lawmakers could accept.The two lawmakers acknowledged they will have an uphill battle trying to change the law, with all the gifts that pile up on lawmakers’ desks each morning, ranging from flowers and candy to free tickets to sporting events.”There are some representatives who are worried about their Nuggets tickets,” said Merrifield.Tupa said if Merrifield’s bill had been law, he could not have accepted money from a lobbyist to act as a consultant last year on Amendment 36. The plan to divide Colorado’s electoral votes was defeated in the November election.
Tupa refused to say how much he was paid by a lobbyist, but said the practice should not be allowed and he would support Merrifield’s bill.”I made some money. I don’t think that’s public. We’re trying to close some of these loopholes,” Tupa said.Merrifield said his bill would limit the amount of gifts a politician could receive. He it was wrong for Owens to get thousands of dollars last year along with free movie and ski passes.”If his salary is not enough, we need to look at what we’re paying the governor,” Merrifield said.Owens’ spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said lawmakers are being hypocritical by exempting their salaries and outside jobs from disclosure.”The governor certainly would consider such a bill, but only if it was a level playing field. If legislators had to report their outside salaries, that would let the public judge if they have any conflicts,” Hopkins said.Lawmakers also gave initial approval to a measure that would make it easier to prosecute lies in political campaigns. Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, said her bill (Senate Bill 31) is a bipartisan effort to curb negative campaigns that got out of hand last year.
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