Scholarship fund files suit over ban on gifts for state employees
DENVER ” A group that provides college scholarships to Colorado students said Monday it has filed a lawsuit in hopes a judge will clarify whether a strict new ethics law bars the families of state employees from accepting some college aid.
The Boettcher Foundation filed the suit in Denver District Court challenging Amendment 41, which voters approved last year.
The foundation, which has granted nearly 2,000 scholarships totaling about $45 million since 1952, said up to half of the 72 finalists for this year’s scholarships could be barred from getting the merit-based awards under the most restrictive reading of the law.
“If even one student is deterred from accepting our scholarship because he or she is related to a government employee, we will have seen the worst, unintended consequence of this ambiguous law,” said Tim Schultz, executive director and president of the foundation
State lawmakers are considering legislation to clarify what the law bans. House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said he wants to ask the state Supreme Court what lawmakers can do to clarify the voter-approved measure.
The attorney general’s office has said Amendment 41 bans the families of state employees from accepting scholarships unless they are tied to some future goal like keeping a certain grade-point average or graduating.
Backers of the amendment say the child of any government employee can still compete for and win a scholarship, they just can’t get one simply because they’re related to an employee.
Amendment 41 forbids lobbyists from buying lawmakers lunches or giving them other gifts, such as sports tickets. Lawmakers, state and local government employees, contractors and their families also cannot accept gifts worth more than $50 from non-lobbyists.
Employees of home rule cities that have adopted their own ethics laws are exempt.
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