Publication:Colo Spgs Gazette; Date:Jan 16, 2008; Section:Metro & State; Page Number:8


VENERABLE ‘SAFETY CLAUSE’ AN EARLY BRUCE TARGET

By ED SEALOVER THE GAZETTE



    DENVER - For three years, Douglas Bruce was often the lone dissenting voice on the El Paso County Commission.

    Now that he’s in the Colorado House of Representatives, Bruce doesn’t see that changing.

    That’s because of a provision Bruce said he will try to eliminate that is common to two-thirds of bills.

    The provision, known as the “safety clause,” states the bill is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.

    Attaching it to a bill circumvents the requirement that its implementation be delayed 90 days so citizens have a chance to collect petition signatures for a referendum to overturn the law.

    The right to referendum petition hasn’t been used since 1932, when angry Coloradans overturned a tax on margarine that had been imposed by the General Assembly, Bruce said.

    The safety clause was created shortly after that, attached to literally every bill for about 60 years and used on 67 percent of bills from 1995 to 2005.

    Bruce called the provision an unconstitutional attempt to subvert petition rights and said it is unnecessary on all bills except those involving fiscal appropriations and true emergencies.

    He will vote against any bill that contains it without good reason and will try to persuade other legislators to do the same, he said.

    “I will not vote for any false declaration of emergency,” Bruce said at a morning news conference. “Even if there was a bill to lower taxes, if there was an ‘emergency’ that took away people’s right to disagree, I would vote against it.”

    Later in the day he tried to pull the safety clause from a noncontroversial bill that clarifies the Department of Human Services’ core services.

    Though Bruce received some support, including the backing of a smattering of Democrats, his motion lost.

    “Different legislators seem to have different thoughts and attitudes about it. My thought is I take it very seriously,” Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, said later. “I think other legislators say: ‘If we as a Legislature say so, then it is so.’ ... If you’re a member of that school of thought, neither I nor any other legislator is going to persuade you otherwise.”