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Legislative Library: Feb. 15, 2005

The legislative library is a compilation of the day's political articles appearing in Colorado publications. The clips are compiled by state employees and have been made available to 9NEWS.com.

RMN, 2/15-BILL WOULD COMPEL PREGNANCY RECORD FOR SLAIN WOMEN-BILL SCANLON Rocky Mountain News When a woman is slain in Colorado, her death certificate has no place to record whether she was pregnant or not. And considering the number of homicides of pregnant women nationwide, that's a problem, says Rep. Richard Decker, R-Fountain. Decker's bill, which would require the death certificate to show whether the woman was pregnant, was approved 7-6 Monday by the House's Health and Human Services subcommittee. Most Democrats opposed the measure. RMN, 2/15-CASH-GIFT BAN BACKED-LYNN BARTELS Rocky Mountain News Senate gives first OK to Tupa's proposal to control contributions Disgust hardly describes how Sen. Ron Tupa feels about the long-standing practice of elected officials being allowed to accept cash gifts, as they long as they report them once a year. "You could take $100,000 on the side and it's perfectly legal," the Boulder Democrat said. "We are one of the few states to allow cash given to us as a gift, with no strings attached." Tupa's proposal to join 44 other states that ban cash gifts got initial Senate approval Monday, but he wasn't happy. That's because his measure barely survived. RMN, 2/15-SMOKING OUT A FIX FOR BUDGET-JIM TANKERSLEY Rocky Mountain News Coffman, Garcia will urge use of tobacco tax money The Republican state treasurer and a leading House Democrat will unveil a plan this week to solve Colorado's immediate budget problem - the one you don't hear much about - with money from a newly approved tobacco tax. Rep. Michael Garcia, D-Aurora, and Treasurer Mike Coffman want to cover nearly all of a projected $181 million hole in the 2005-06 budget by tapping Amendment 35, a 64-cents-per- pack tax that voters passed last year. RMN, 2/15-BRYANT PROSECUTOR TESTIFIES FOR PROPOSAL-LYNN BARTELS Rocky Mountain News It was a bombshell in an already dramatic court proceeding: Superstar athlete Kobe Bryant's defense attorney asked whether the alleged rape victim's possible injuries were consistent with someone who "had sex with three different men in three days." The question on Oct. 9, 2003, in an Eagle County courtroom led outraged prosecutors and victims' advocates to push for clarification of a law that dictates how much of an accuser's past sexual conduct can be used in pretrial proceedings. Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, who eventually dropped the case against Bryant, testified RMN, 2/15-STUDENTS SPEAK OUT ON BEHALF OF THEIR UNDOCUMENTED FRIENDS-NANCY MITCHELL Rocky Mountain News Julieta Quinonez saw friends drop out of school at 15 and 16, frustrated because their illegal status meant college was not likely in their future. She watched as another friend, a smart girl in the top 10 percent of their class at Denver's North High School, gave up her dream of becoming a doctor. Instead, the girl, an undocumented student, went straight to work. DENVER POST, 2/15-BILL STRENGTHENS AG OFFICE-MARK P. COUCH Denver Post 3 investigators would focus on white-collar crimesThe Colorado attorney general would get more investigators to chase down white-collar criminals under a bill approved Monday by a Senate committee. Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Jefferson County, said state officials in charge of pursuing scam artists and corporate frauds have failed to protect the public.So, Fitz-Gerald proposed putting investigative power in hands that will use it.Senate Bill 26 moves three investigators out of the state securities division and puts them in the attorney general's office."If I were fully satisfied that there was vigorous criminal investigation going on, I wouldn't want to move them over," Fitz-Gerald said.The bill passed on a party-line vote with four Democrats in favor and three Republicans opposed. It is a watered-down version of the tougher enforcement powers Fitz-Gerald originally proposed.The earlier plan called for giving Colorado's top law-enforcement officer powers similar to those wielded by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.But Colorado Attorney General John Suthers didn't want to go that far."Colorado is not New York, and Colorado is never going to be New York," Suthers said. "I don't want to be Eliot Spitzer."But Suthers said he supported Fitz-Gerald's proposal to shift the three securities division investigators to his staff."The attorney general's office has no independent ability to investigate a securities case," Suthers said. "We should not be wholly dependent on another agency's ability."The securities division refers criminal matters to the Colorado attorney general's office, but often too late to pursue a case, Suthers said.Fred Joseph, the state's securities commissioner, said he opposed the effort to move investigators out of his office.During the past five years, the securities division has pursued 420 legal actions and has obtained 38 criminal convictions, Joseph said.Fitz-Gerald said Joseph's division has failed to protect the public from stock swindlers.She cited last year's conviction of Cherry Creek financial advisor Will Hoover as an example of how delays in criminal investigations hurt the public.In one case, she said, a Michigan family lost $140,000 it invested with Hoover even though he was already under investigation and "should have been shut down."Fitz-Gerald also cited Spitzer's high-profile investigations of Colorado mutual fund companies Invesco Funds Group and Janus Capital Group. In those cases, regulators alleged that the companies allowed certain investors to make rapid trades at the expense of other investors.In those cases, the New York attorney general collected more than $677 million in fines.DENVER POST, 2/15-STATUS REPORT-STAFF Denver Post Senate OKs bill to let parents get time offEmployers would be required to give workers up to five hours a month of unpaid leave to attend their children's school events under a bill that passed the Senate on Monday.Senate Bill 21, which would apply to employers with 10 or more workers, stirred a partisan battle, with 18 Democrats voting for it and 17 Republicans against it.Senate Minority Leader Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, said other states with similar laws do not report higher participation by parents in student activities. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Groff, D-Denver, said the measure promotes family values.The bill now heads to the House for its review.Unions rally to keep contract work in U.S.Union workers rallied on the west steps of the state Capitol to support Senate Bill 23, which would prohibit the state from hiring contractors that send work out of the U.S.John Coffey, who worked for IBM Corp. for more than 11 years until he was laid off eight months ago, said he trained the Canadian worker who took his job."It's unacceptable to me that after paying Colorado taxes for years that this money is being used by this government to send state jobs overseas," Coffey said.Neither lawmakers nor union officials offered an analysis that says how much money Colorado government is spending on contractors hiring workers overseas.The bill is scheduled to be considered by a Senate committee next week.Office-funding limit passes after amendedSen. Ron Tupa's effort to limit private funding for lawmaker's office accounts met resistance Monday.The Boulder Democrat settled for a heavily amended version of his proposal, Senate Bill 40, that allows senators to collect up to $20,000 in private contributions to manage their offices.Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, said his amendment allowing the private contributions helps lawmakers to better serve their constituents. Lawmakers would not be allowed to accept money from political parties. But private individuals, corporations and unions all could give.Tupa said the debate was worthwhile because it forced lawmakers to acknowledge that poorly funded offices restrict the quality of service they can give constituents."The state doesn't even pay for our Internet connection," Tupa said. "Our constituents deserve better. They deserve having us work for them 24/7."The bill now heads to the House, where opponents of the private funding are expected to continue the fight, said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Colorado Common Cause.DENVER POST, 2/15-STANDOFF IN AUDIT OF CU GROUP-JIM HUGHES Denver Post Legislators are expected today to discuss the nonprofit fundraiser's withholding of certain data. The foundation says it won't release personnel or donor information.The University of Colorado Foundation and state auditors have reached an impasse over the state's access to the group's financial records. The stalemate comes in the midst of an audit of the University of Colorado spurred by concerns over athletic department spending last fall.Foundation president Michael Byram accused state Auditor Joanne Hill on Monday of an "arbitrary abuse of power" for requesting personnel and donor information in addition to financial records.The foundation is willing to cooperate with an audit that is limited to tracking donations, Byram said in a statement."It is apparent the state auditor now wants to assert the power beyond her authority to audit private, not-for-profit corporations in Colorado," he said. "The foundation is adamant that it would set a dangerous precedent to allow a government agency to perform such an unprecedented act."Hill could not be reached for comment Monday evening.The dispute is set for discussion at a hearing of the Legislative Audit Committee this morning, committee chairman Rep. Val Vigil, D-Thornton, said Monday after meeting with foundation officials.Hill announced the review of CU's finances in November after it was revealed that a football camp operated by head football coach Gary Barnett used money from donor funds that CU officials didn't know about.How CU spent donated funds also drew criticism.At the time, Hill said her office had the authority to review the books of CU and its nonprofit fundraising arm. University officials said they fully expected the audit to include the foundation.Lawmakers today will talk to Hill about the standoff and discuss their options, Vigil said.Vigil and Sen. Norma Anderson of Lakewood, a senior Republican member of the audit committee, said that the state has used subpoenas to force state agencies to cooperate with audits before, but that they didn't want to go that route with the foundation.One complaint that emerged this winter was that money given to an athletic scholarship fund at the foundation was used to pay for coaches' country club memberships. After voluntarily disclosing those expenditures in December, Byram said the scholarship fund had been poorly named.University spokeswoman Michele McKinney said that CU is cooperating fully with Hill's inquiry."The university is doing everything in its power to comply with the state auditor," she said.Vigil believes the state has jurisdiction over money that goes to CU, he said."I think we have the authority to follow the money, to see where it came in and where it went," Vigil said. "They do fundraising ... then they hold it on behalf of CU. When CU needs it, they send it to them. (Auditors) just want to go in there and see" how the money gets spent.Lawmakers also may consider the possibility of establishing state access to the foundation's financial records through a bill already making its way through the legislature, Anderson said.Currently, the bill seeks only to make the CU foundation and groups like it subject to state open records law. But an amendment adding jurisdiction for state auditors might address the standoff, she said.But information such as donor identities should be protected from public review, Anderson said.Vigil said he left his meeting with foundation officials Monday believing that a compromise could be struck."I think everything's going to work out," he said.9NEWS, 2/15-I-TEAM: EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT SECRET HOMELAND SECURITY RECORDS-DEBORAH SHERMANDENVER - The I-Team has obtained secret homeland security records that show how federal grant money is being spent to protect Coloradans against terrorism. - The Regional Transportation District wants to improve the possibility that bus riders survive a terrorist attack by installing security cameras in all of its mall and transit buses, costing taxpayers $4 million. - Kit Carson and Cheyenne Counties want to spend more than $10,000 each using terrorism money to buy wand metal detectors and install alarm systems in their courthouses. - Jefferson County hopes to buy a Nikon Coolpix digital camera for $1,112 to photograph suspicious individuals.These are just a few details taken from secret 2004 grant applications for homeland security money leaked to 9News."This is the type of information that we need to get more information on," said State Senator Dan Grossman (D-Denver), who was shown the secret records for the first time Tuesday. "That may be inappropriate use of homeland security dollars. What we don't want to see happen is local governments just using homeland security dollars to backfill ordinary needs for these local governments." All records involving homeland security spending in Colorado for training, planning and equipment are not public under a two-year-old state law which said releasing the information might tell terrorists how the state is vulnerable. Recently, lawmakers like Sen. Grossman have been fighting to see the documents in order to learn if the more than $137 million that the federal government has given Colorado since Sept. 11, 2001, is being spent appropriately. Sen. Grossman's bill, SB 131, would allow public scrutiny of most of the records for equipment purchases but would keep secret information about terrorism plans and high target areas. "What we don't want to have is a complete cloak of secrecy over all security related documents," said Sen. Grossman. The Colorado Press Association is working with lawmakers, police and fire chiefs and the governor's office to also make some of the spending records public. "People need to know where their taxpayer money is being spent," said Greg Romberg, lobbyist for the CPA.Grant application records obtained by 9News show that most counties have made communication their number one priority. Several counties have also requested mobile command vehicles which can cost $350,000 each, according to grant records. The northeast region, which includes 11 counties, including Larimer, Weld, and Logan, requested terrorism money to develop plans to fight terrorism and assess critical infrastructure. Denver International Airport is the number one terrorist target in the North central region, according to the state's vulnerability assessment, which prompted the region to request hazardous material equipment. Records also show RTD wants to purchase an SUV 'mobile response vehicle'.The 2004 applications obtained by the news agency are for State Homeland Security Program or SHSP funds. It is not known if the applications were approved or if the agencies purchased the equipment or spent money on training and planning because those records are also not public.The person who leaked the documents to KUSA-TV broke the law, according to the executive director in charge of the federal grant money. "The person who clearly broke the law is endangering the people who work in those buildings potentially and really makes our jobs more difficult," said Mike Beasley, Executive Director of the Dept. of Local Affairs. "While I want some of these records to be open to the public, we have to strike a balance between giving our records in a meaningful and responsible way."Beasley said Colorado's homeland security program complies with federal requirements to better protect our homeland and to respond to any disaster. He said that video cameras in RTD buses meet the federal government's plan to strengthen the transportation system and make it safer for passengers.9NEWS, 2/15-SENATE PASSES PARENTAL LEAVE BILL IN PARTY-LINE VOTE-PAOLA FARERDENVER - Democrats in the state Senate used their new majority to push through a bill Monday that would give workers unpaid time-off to attend school-related events for their children. Senate Bill 21 passed 18 to 17 along party lines. Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald cast the deciding vote.The bill allows a worker at any company that employs at least 10 people to take unpaid time-off to attend a child's school-related events. It's limited to five hours a month -- a total of 40 hours a year. Employees would get no more than two-and-a-half hours to attend the function.Republican opponents of the bill argue it would hurt small businesses, while Democrats say it gives power to those employees who have very little. The bill faces another partisan debate in the state House and it would still have to be approved by Republican Gov. Bill Owens to become law.DAILY CAMERA, 2/15-BILL SEEKS TO KEEP JOBS IN COLO.-ALICIA WALLACE Boulder Daily Camera Lawmakers propose banning companies with state contracts from outsourcing DENVER - John Coffey has been out of work about eight months. While the 52-year-old computer programmer has looked for jobs in Colorado, around the nation and overseas, the search has been to no avail. Coffey, who worked at Boulder's IBM site for the majority of his 111/2-year tenure with the company, said he lost his job eight months ago because it was outsourced overseas. The Colorado AFL-CIO invited Coffey and some Colorado legislators to speak Monday at the Capitol in support of Senate Bill 23, which would ban recipients of state service contracts from offshoring jobs. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Deanna Hanna, D-Westminster, and co-sponsored by Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs. At the "Have a Heart" news conference, about 30 supporters stood outside of the Capitol, some holding signs reading: "Happy Valentine's Day. Have a heart and keep our jobs in Colorado." Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, said legislators need to put the needs of their constituents ahead of special interests. "We value labor as well as capital," Fitz-Gerald said. "We value the sweat of your brow, as well as someone's investment." Keeping jobs here should become a priority, especially considering the state is 49th in job creation, Hanna said. About 130,000 residents are currently unemployed, she said. Paul Mendrick, the secretary-treasurer of the Colorado AFL-CIO, agreed. "Our good manufacturing jobs have been exported overseas, and now they're being followed by our white-collar jobs," he said. Coffey said he looked to the Colorado Legislature to stop that practice. "It's not good for myself, my family, my community in Longmont, this state and this country," he said. However, opponents of the bill point to potential negative impacts on the economy, education, research and taxpayers' wallets. Because the state has more than 10,000 contracts, the cost will be high to reassess each one when they come up for renewal, said Heidi Heltzel, vice president of government affairs for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, which is lobbying against the bill. Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, which employs about 4,700 people in Boulder, is one of those contracted businesses. The company makes the state's main central processing unit, according to SB 23's state fiscal impact report. The bill might not only cut ties with businesses, institutions and higher education facilities here, but also hurt attracting companies, Heltzel said. "It also has a chilling effect on those businesses that do want to come and do business here and hire Colorado citizens," Heltzel said. After the news conference ended and while a handful of children headed into the Capitol to deliver "Have a Heart" Valentines to legislators, Coffey stood on the steps and said the local school district is looking for bus drivers, so that might pan out. "I'll find something eventually," Coffey said. "But I'd prefer to find it in my line of work, which is computers." DAILY CAMERA, 2/15-REPUBLICANS LINE UP AGAINST DONATION BILL-AP Boulder Daily Camera DENVER - Months after blaming a campaign finance loophole for losses in some key legislative races, Republicans lined up Monday against a measure to limit the amount of money state lawmakers can raise to help cover office expenses. Sen. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, said last fall's elections, both in Colorado and nationally, showed that clever lawyers will always find a way around laws intended to regulate how much money flows into politics. In Colorado, Democrats benefited last year from big donations to private groups known as 527s, which can provide election help as long as they don't coordinate with a candidate's campaign. Democrats won enough seats in November to take control of both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in over 40 years. "We have less accountability, more big money and shadowy groups out there doing hit pieces on politicians," Lamborn said. He said there was no organized attempt by Republicans to fight the donation limits proposed by Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder. Tupa's amended measure, which passed its first vote in the full Senate with just one Republican voting in favor, would limit state representatives to collecting $10,000 a year to cover expenses such as an aide's salary and mileage to and from meetings out of their district. Senators would be limited to $20,000 a year. The donations would be reported once a year. Currently, there are no limits on the amount of money state lawmakers can take as cash gifts. Only five other states have no such limits - Indiana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina and South Dakota - according to a list Tupa compiled from National Conference of State Legislatures data. Last year, a similar bill from Tupa passed the Senate with bipartisan support before being killed in the House. He said he was stunned by the strong opposition from the GOP this year. "I didn't think it would be so difficult to turn off the spigot of cash gifts," he said. The bill faces a second vote before being sent to the House.GJ SENTINEL, 2/15-MORE THAN 150 HEAR TESTIMONY ABOUT DRILLING WELLS-MIKE MCKIBBIN Grand Junction Sentinel GLENWOOD SPRINGS - A bill to address natural gas-related issues between the industry and property owners is either a "starting point" toward more equal footing, or it would "shut down the industry as we know it," according to testimony Monday before a state House committee.Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, brought the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee she leads to Glenwood Springs so people in western Garfield County and elsewhere who could be most affected by her bill would have a chance to testify and avoid a three-hour drive to Denver. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 attended, while more people watched on closed-circuit TV across the street in City Hall. Some wore buttons that said "Mineral Rights Are Property Rights."Curry's bill, House Bill 1219, would require oil and gas operators and surface owners to negotiate compensation for property damages that are "reasonably anticipated" to result from proposed drilling operations.If an agreement cannot be reached, the bill would call for a 60-day appraisal process to identify the value associated with surface damages. The bill would also establish a binding arbitration procedure to resolve conflicts while the operator proceeds with the drilling permit application.Currently, if a surface use agreement cannot be reached, the operator can post a $2,000 bond and apply for a drilling permit from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Curry's bill would increase the bond amount to $10,000 per well.Kathryn Bedell owns a 400-acre ranch along Roan Creek, north of De Beque, but does not own the mineral rights."All we want is the right to negotiate a surface use agreement before they drill," she said. "The industry has gross profits in the billions, and I think they can afford to wait. They may have to learn to plan ahead a little more, like all of us out here have to do."Williams Production Parachute District Manager Steve Soychak said his company has drilled more than 1,000 wells in the last six years, mostly between Rulison and Parachute."Many mineral owners call me up to develop their land," he said. "We have signed surface use agreements on all the wells we've drilled since 1999, and I'd say from 95 percent of the surface owners before that. This bill would take away the right to negotiate and completely halt wells on split estates; it would threaten jobs and job creation."John Moore, a Delta County property owner, said Curry's bill "would not take food off the tables of any industry employee's family; it won't shut down the industry. It simply provides a greater balance between mineral and property owners."Larry Kent, Western Slope franchise leader for Halliburton Energy Services of Grand Junction, said he wants to see his 355-member work force grow to 400."I have to explain the stability of the industry when they ask what it's like living in this area," he said. "This bill threatens the existence of the industry as we know it. In some areas, we can only operate from May through October, so if you force us to wait 60 days, it could delay all drilling" in those areas.Industry workers and officials said a new oil and gas commission policy that takes effect today should be allowed a chance to address the issue. The policy allows surface owners who cannot reach an agreement with an operator to request a site visit by state and local officials, the mineral owners and the operator.After an inspection, the commission director can apply specific permit conditions to mitigate potential property damage or loss, as well as address health, safety, welfare and environmental concerns such as noise, dust, visual, groundwater and wildlife impacts.The committee will hold another hearing Wednesday at the Capitol in Denver to hear from those in other gas-producing counties, such as Weld, La Plata and Las Animas, Curry said."This bill has changed about five times already, and I'm sure it will change again," she said.GJ SENTINEL, 2/15-A POOR PRESCRIPTION FOR MEDICAL COMPETITION-EDITORIAL Grand Junction Sentinel A heated dispute is under way in Colorado's medical community over legislation introduced last week in the state Legislature. Proponents of the bill say it is designed to ensure competition and keep surgical costs low while opponents argue it is actually anti-competitive and could have devastating impacts on Colorado's community hospitals.The opponents have the better arguments in this case.Senate Bill 184, sponsored by Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, is called the economic credentialing bill. It would prohibit hospitals from denying clinical privileges to physicians because they have an interest in a competing hospital or clinic, such as an outpatient hospital that performs many of the same surgical procedures as the hospital.There is no question that outpatient facilities can significantly reduce the cost of some procedures. For instance, according to data from the Colorado Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery in a Denver area full-service hospital would cost just under $19,000. At an ambulatory surgery center, the estimated cost was $5,200.Certainly the state should encourage such alternatives. However, federal regulations make clear - in something commonly known as the Stark Rule - that hospital physicians are prohibited from referring people to outpatient facilities in which they or their families have a financial interest.This year's legislation is unnecessary. First, it amounts to unconscionable government meddling in how private hospitals determine which physicians serve on their staffs.Imagine if a car mechanic worked for a major auto dealer and decided to open his own garage to do tune-ups and other repairs in direct competition with his former employer. But he also wanted the right to go back to the big shop and use the high-tech equipment available there to do repair work he couldn't handle at his own garage. Few people would argue the Legislature should mandate to the car dealer that it keep its repair bays and equipment available to competing mechanics. But that's what SB 184 would do with hospitals and doctors.Beyond that, however, hospitals like St. Mary's in Grand Junction and others around the state have valid concerns that the bill threatens their long-term financial stability. If doctors who are part owners of out-patient surgery centers are able to select only the most profitable procedures to perform in their facilities, but take the more costly, even money-losing procedures at the larger hospital, the hospital's ability to perform a wide range of services from the surgeries in question to maternity care to emergency treatment suffer. And that hurts the whole community, not just the hospital's bottom line.Hospitals and physicians must work together to find ways to provide medical care as economically as possible for their patients. But legislative dictates on who must be allowed on staff only complicate that effort. The Legislature should perform a mercy killing on SB 184. FT. COLLINS COLORADOAN, 2/15-LEGISLATORS MIGHT LIMIT CASH GIFTS-MATTHEW BENSON Fort Collins Coloradoan Law puts caps on money for elected officialsDENVER - State lawmakers took a step Monday to rein in cash gifts they and other Colorado elected officials receive. Even if the bill passes, don't expect the money to dry up. Lawmakers included a loophole that would allow such gifts to continue on a limited basis. Colorado is one of six states with no rules limiting or barring outright the money given to elected officials such as the governor, secretary of state or legislators. "Right now, there are no limits at all," said Sen. Ron Tupa, a Boulder Democrat. "You can take any amount of money, from anybody, at any time." Such donations must be reported, but the deadline comes after the November general election, noted Republican Sen. Steve Johnson, of Fort Collins. "The system now is not adequate," he said. "The system now could be abused." While Tupa didn't charge outright corruption, he did suggest that unlimited cash gifts foster a public perception that elected officials are on the take. He plans to change that with Senate Bill 40, which the Senate gave preliminary approval Monday. The bill would prohibit elected officials from accepting gifts of money. It was amended, however, to allow limited donations to officials' so-called "office accounts." Such accounts are designed to cover work expenses such as travel or printing costs for educational materials. Under the proposal, office-account gifts would have to be reported. They could be contributed by any individual but no political parties. And no individual could give more than $500 to any single representative in a two-year cycle or $1,000 to any senator during four years. The measure would establish office-account limits of $10,000 a year for House members and $20,000 for senators. Some rural legislators argued they need to accept cash gifts to fund their travel expenses, especially for conferences in other districts or outside the state. A reduction in Colorado's national influence would be the cost of forgoing those conferences, said Sen. Ron Teck, a Grand Junction Republican. Rather than banning or imposing limits, he argued for full disclosure of cash gifts. "If voters see us taking money from some corporation and we seem to be in bed with that corporation, they ought to vote us out of office," Teck said. But Tupa said he's uncomfortable with the notion of lawmakers going around with a "tin cup" as they seek donations to carry out their jobs. Democratic Sen. Bob Bacon, of Fort Collins, said he's never had an office account - he served in the House from 1997 to 2002 - but is sympathetic to the concerns of lawmakers from larger, rural districts. Bacon supported Tupa's proposal, though he believes its cash limits are too lenient. "I'm really uncomfortable with almost unlimited amounts coming into an office account from PACs and special interest groups," Bacon said. "I am uncomfortable with such large amounts of money." The bill could face a final Senate vote as early as today. If approved, it would head to the House for consideration. FORT MORGAN TIMES, 2/14-LINCOLN DAY WILL FEATURE MITCHELL-STAFF Fort Morgan Times State Sen. Shawn Mitchell will be the featured speaker of the Morgan County Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner Monday, Feb. 21, President's Day. The annual event will be held at the Country Steak-Out in Fort Morgan with registration and a social time at 6 p.m. and dinner at 6:45. The traditional dinner is held to honor President Abraham Lincoln. Mitchell represents Broomfield and parts of Weld and Adams Counties. He served three terms in the House of Representatives and was elected last year to the State Senate. He served as special counsel to then-Attorney General Gale Norton and is past president of the Colorado Chapter of the Federalist Society, a national organization of scholars, judges and lawyers that promotes limited government and legal reform. He served three years on the Denver Rocky Mountain News Board of Editorial Contributors and writes and speaks frequently on public policy isses. Among elected officials expected to be present are Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo.; State Senate Minority Leader Mark Hillman, R-Burlington; State Rep. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and State Treasurer Mike Coffman. State Board of Education member Clair Orr will honor Lincoln with a presentation of the Gettysburg Address. Newly elected officers of the Morgan County Republican Central Committee will also be presented. Elected to serve the next two years are Pam Arndt, chairman; Anita Cornwell, vice-chairman; Heidi Linker, secretary, and Vivianne Lorenzini, treasurer. Tickets for the event are $20 per person and $15 for students. All committee persons have tickets or call Gertie, 645-2316; Charlene, 867-9424, or Linda, 867-7636.