Colorado Standards of Conduct in Government, Initiative 41 (2006)

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The Colorado Standards of Conduct in Government, Amendment 41 was on the November 7, 2006 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

Amendment 41 prohibits elected officials or their immediate family members from accepting gifts and restricts former elected officials from working as a paid lobbyist for two years after leaving office.

Election results

Amendment 41
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 938,888 62.57%
No561,64637.43%

Ballot language

Title (short)

The short ballot title was:

Standards of Conduct in Government.

Title (expanded)

The expanded ballot title provided to describe proposed Amendment 41 said:

"An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning standards of conduct by persons who are professionally involved with governmental activities, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting a public officer, member of the general assembly, local government official, or government employee from soliciting or accepting certain monetary or in-kind gifts; prohibiting a professional lobbyist from giving anything of value to a public officer, member of the general assembly, local government official, government employee, or such person's immediate family member; prohibiting a statewide elected officeholder or member of the general assembly from personally representing another person or entity for compensation before any other such officeholder or member for a period of two years following departure from office; establishing penalties for a breach of public trust or inducement of such a breach; creating a five-member independent ethics commission to hear ethics complaints, to assess penalties, and to issue advisory opinions on ethics issues; and specifying that the measure shall not apply to home rule jurisdictions that have adopted laws concerning matters covered by the measure."

Summary and analysis

The Colorado Legislative Council is charged with providing a summary and analysis of each measure on the Colorado ballot. ("The state constitution requires that the nonpartisan research staff of the General Assembly prepare these analyses and distribute them in a ballot information booklet to registered voter households.")

To describe Amendment 41, they said:


Acceptance of gifts by public officials. Current law prohibits an elected state official from accepting the following gifts in connection with the person’s public service:

  • any money; or
  • any equipment, supplies, or services worth more than $50, such as a fax machine, an office computer, a newspaper subscription, or donated office space.

Other gifts are allowed, but some must be reported quarterly to the Secretary of State. The prohibitions and reporting requirements apply to the following elected state officials, as well as candidates for these offices: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, state legislators, district attorneys, members of the State Board of Education, and regents of the University of Colorado.

Amendment 41 expands the current prohibitions to cover other gifts and things of value, such as favors or services, travel, meals, entertainment, and honoraria, as well as promises of future employment. Amendment 41 also extends the ban to apply to heads of departments of state government, salaried members of state boards and commissions, county and municipal officials, and most government employees, including independent contractors.

Gifts from lobbyists and lobbying by former elected state officials. Amendment 41 prohibits professional lobbyists from giving gifts of any kind, including meals, to public officials and government employees or their family members. It also prohibits statewide elected officeholders and state legislators from lobbying professionally for two years after leaving office. This restriction applies only to lobbying a state legislator or a statewide elected officeholder. Professional lobbying is when a person is paid to advocate an interest or position to policymakers.

Ethics commission. Under current law, public officials and government employees are subject to a code of ethics. Ethics complaints against statewide elected officeholders, governor appointees, and employees of state departments are reviewed by a board of ethics upon request of the governor. Complaints filed against legislators are heard by a committee made up of legislators at the discretion of legislative leadership. Many local governments also have procedures in place to handle ethics complaints.

Amendment 41 creates an ethics commission with jurisdiction over all state, county, and municipal officials and employees. The commission's purpose is to hear complaints, issue findings, assess penalties, and issue advisory opinions. Any person can file a complaint with the commission alleging a violation of the proposal, or any other standard of conduct or reporting requirement specified in law. The commission must investigate the complaint, hold a public hearing, and issue findings, unless the complaint is found to be frivolous. The commission has the power to subpoena documents or witnesses. It can also assess penalties if it finds an ethics violation occurred. In addition to investigating complaints, the commission can issue advisory opinions in response to a written request from a public official or government employee.

The commission consists of five people. The state senate, the state house of representatives, the governor, and the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court each appoint one person to the commission. The fifth person is a local government official or local government employee selected by the other members. No more than two members may be from the same political party, and members must have been continuously registered with the same political party, or continuously unaffiliated, for at least two years before their appointment. Amendment 41 is silent on holding individual commission members accountable for any malfeasance committed while acting in their official capacity as members of the independent ethics commission.

Supporters

Coloradans for Clean Government was the group supporting the amendment.

Supporters argued that the credibility and integrity of the political process is damaged when public officials accept gifts from lobbyists. Amendment 41 strengthens public confidence by reducing actual or perceived conflicts of interest that arise when public officials accept gifts such as tickets to sporting events, meals, and lodging.

Proponents also stated that Amendment 41 eliminates the temptation for elected officials to make decisions based on the potential of future employment.

Supporters argued that an independent forum was needed where citizens can file legitimate concerns about possible ethics violations by their elected representatives. The ethics commission created by Amendment 41 is charged with enforcing standards of conduct for state and local public officials and employees and provides a central venue for filing ethics complaints from across the state.[1]


Opponents

Groups opposing the amendment included Hospitality Issue Pac and NO on 41.

Oppoents said that Amendment 41 does not belong in Colorado's constitution and may have unintended and undesirable consequences. Elected officials can already be investigated for ethics violations, recalled, or removed from office when they run for re-election. They argued that current law already prohibited state elected officials from receiving money in connection with their public service, and many other gifts worth more than $50 must already be publicly disclosed.

Amendment 41 would make gifts, even between any family members of most public employees, potentially subject to a politically motivated investigation that would include subpoena powers. They warned that it would prohibit most government employees, including entry-level local and county government employees from accepting or receiving educational scholarships for themselves or their dependent children.

Opponents also argued that private companies should be allowed to hire the person they believe will best represent their interests, even if it is a former legislator.

Opponents further argued that the commission may not be able to objectively judge the ethics of government officials since its members are appointed by—and may actually include—government officials. They added that procedures already existed to address ethics complaints at every level of government in Colorado. Establishing a new commission adds unnecessary bureaucracy.[1]

Campaign finance

Donors to the campaign for the measure:[2]

  • Coloradans for Clean Government: $277,998
  • Total: $277,998

Donors to the campaign against the measure:

  • Hospitality Issue PAC: $1,056,800
  • No on 41: $190,213
  • Total: $1,247,014
  • Overall Total: $1,525,012

See also

Colorado
LawsHistory
List of measures

External links

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