Denver Post, October 10, 2002

Decision 2002: Referendum D Yes: Get Rid of Outdated Laws

By Jerry Kopel Almost everyone agrees: Get rid of dead and obsolete laws. For the past 14 years, I’ve taken on the Herculean task of cleaning out the Colorado stables.

And I’ve been successful in spearheading the removal of many dead and obsolete statutes and constitutional sections.

This year, Referendum D, sponsored by Sen. Dave Owen and Rep. Tambor Williams, both Republicans, removes 12 obsolete constitutional sections. No one minds removing 11 of the 12 sections. David Ottke and Dennis Polhill of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition object to repealing their 1996 term-limits amendment.

Their amendment required federal and state legislators to vote exactly as they were told to place a term-limit amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

Raise your hand when you’re not supposed to, or be in the restroom when a vote is taken, and you would be branded on the ballot as having “disregarded voter instruction on term limits.”

“No way,” wrote the Colorado Supreme Court, seven to zip. “No way” wrote the. U.S. Supreme Court, nine to zip on the same boilerplate language from Missouri. Both ruled the language violated Article 5 dea1ing with amending the U.S. Constitution. Freedom to debate and voting your conscience are essential in a republic, wrote the courts. The coalition doesn’t deny the court decisions. They argue “we wuz robbed” when the legislature voted on Referendum D.

They explain, “The term-limit repeal wasn’t in the bill title,” but they fail to mention that none of the 12 repealed sections appear in the title. The legislative drafting office drafts the title. They concentrate on the word “obsolete” and tie it to constitutional articles where the sections appear.

After the bill title, a one-page bill summary describes the repealed sections. In this case, “A congressional term limit amendment held unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court in 1998.” Some legislators don’t read bills. Almost everyone reads a one-page bill summary. Probably everyone read this bill summary except the Colorado Term Limits Coalition. The legislature voted 100 to zip for Referendum D.

The coalition complains, “It was introduced near the end of the session.” The constitution only allows the legislature to amend six articles every two years. Dumping obsolete sections had to wait until 16 substantive amendment bills were decided. Then Referendum D was introduced.

The coalition claims, “It wasn’t discussed in committee,” How would they know? They weren’t there. I testified in the House and Senate committees and discussed the term-limit repeal. All legislators there voted for Referendum D.

The coalition whines, “Why pick on us and not other unconstitutional amendments?” We repeal six pages, of which the term-limit language is one and a half.

The coalition argues, “Some court in the future might rule in our favor.” Well, the word “obsolete” has legal meaning: “That which is no’ longer used, disused, neglected, not observed.” The term-limit amendment fits each of those definitions.

The coalition claims, “The proposal eliminates the will of the people (on term limits).” Repeal of every constitutional amendment since 1876 does that, whether it’s refusing persons who engage in duels to be legislators, or ending civil service bonus points to Spanish-American War veterans.

Jerry Kopel is a retired state representative. He lives in Denver.

NO: Term limits not obsolete

By Dennis Polhill

Politicians eagerly assert that term limits are obsolete. They aren’t. The zeal of these tricksters illustrates bias and underscores the merits of term limits.

Haven’t the people said repeatedly (1990, 1994 1998 and 1998 in Colorado and in 23 other states) that they want term limits for politicians — especially Congress? Subversive and dishonest Referendum D seeks to delete the people’s directive that elected officials implement congressional term limits. Both the ballot title and the Blue Book are controlled by legislators and add to the deception by failing to properly inform voters.

When the U.S. rejected monarchy, we embraced the idea that we the people, are sovereign. Doesn’t this mean that government is created by and for the people? Neither politicians nor courts are superior. Those who view things differently undermine the foundation of self-government.

The term-limits issue is neither left nor right; it is the people versus the rulers. Americans intuitively grasp the inconsistency of lifelong officeholders. Though politicians don’t get it, the people do. We reject both monarchy and near-monarchy.

Polls show overwhelming support for term limits. The movement wanes only in that the political establishment is neither responsive nor accountable.

Citizens of 26 states are denied the right to petition their governments. Just as the move for women’s suffrage motivated the expansion of initiatives and referendums, the clamor for term limits is likely to do the same. The notion that the political establishment can frustrate the people’s will in a free and open society is absurd and cannot be allowed to prevail.

The contempt politicians hold for term limits influences their judgment of “obsolete provisions.” Obsolete items should be deleted. The list waiting a turn for deletion raises priority questions. Why the rush to delete a comparatively new law initiated by grueling statewide citizen petition drive in 1996? Their urgency to delete suggests that term limits are NOT obsolete after all. There is NO harm in retaining obsolete items; however, deleting non-obsolete items causes substantial harm. The cautious and informed vote on D is ”NO!”

The tricksters’ desperate and hostile actions provide compelling evidence of the effectiveness and importance of term limits for positive political change. For what other reason would politicians object so strongly?

Politicians control the ballot. If term limits have waned and men deletion, why not an honest ballot title saying “Delete Term Limits?” Why not use the Blue Book as a means of presenting pro and can arguments to help inform voters? Their success depends upon trickery. Voters would never agree, if told the truth.

Just like the unfaithful spouse, once the General Assembly has lowered itself to the use of misleading tactics, can we never trust them again? Must we the people forever doubt their integrity and sincerity? The Colorado General Assembly has proven itself cowardly and dishonest.

The deception and dishonesty of D demands that even those few people who still doubt the benefits of term limits must vote “NO.” Don’t allow Halloween trickster to play games.

More information about term limits is available at or 303-278-3636.

Don’t be duped by a deceptive title. Vote NO on D.

Dennis Polhill is co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition.