Jerry Kopel

KOPEL: CLEANING UP THE ALCOHOL STATUTES

Referendum N would replace outdated laws

There will be a constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot dealing with intoxicating liquors, and this one has nothing to do with liquor sales at grocery stores.

House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 1008, which passed through the Legislature with only one negative vote, is now called Referendum N.

HCR 1008 was sponsored by Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. David Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs. One part repeals language dating to the state’s original constitution in 1876 dealing with “spurious poisonous and drugged liquors.”

The language required the Legislature to prohibit manufacturing and selling impure alcoholic beverages. According to Legislative Council staff research, “The federal government (now) regulates the manufacture and import of alcoholic beverages to ensure the content is safe and the labeling is accurate.”

So the Colorado language is no longer needed, as it was when a mostly male population of miners sought gold, silver, alcohol and sex.

Population makeup changed as the years passed. By 1914, Colorado was a hotbed of opposition to intoxicating liquors. Citizens put an initiative on the ballot providing for statewide prohibition. It passed 129,589 to 118,176.

The language, slightly simplified here to avoid duplication, provided:

“From and after January 1, 1916, no person, association or corporation, shall, within this state

(1) manufacture or import into this state for sale or gift any intoxicating liquors;

(2) sell or keep for sale or offer for sale, barter or trade any intoxicating liquors.

However handling of intoxicating liquors for medicinal or sacramental purposes may be provided for by statute.”

In 1919, five years after Coloradans passed statewide prohibition, the movement had reached throughout the United States with the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified by 36 states in 1919. From 1920 to 1933, it prohibited the manufacture, sale or transport of intoxicating liquor nationwide.

In 1932, Colorado citizens again went to the polls to vote on an initiative to repeal the statewide prohibition of intoxicating liquors subject to national repeal of the 18th Amendment. It was Article 22, the same article number that prohibited intoxicating liquors.

It passed 233,311 to 182,771, and was followed by national adoption of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1933, which repealed the 18th Amendment. The Colorado law read:

“On June 30, 1933, all statutory laws of the state of Colorado heretofore enacted concerning or relating to intoxicating liquors shall become void and of no effect ...

“and from and after July 1, 1933, the manufacture, sale and distribution of all intoxicating liquors wholly within the state of Colorado shall, subject to the Constitution and laws of the United States, be performed exclusively by and through such agencies and under such regulations as may hereafter be provided by statutory laws of the state of Colorado;

“but no such laws shall ever authorize the establishment or maintenance of any saloon.”

In 2000, the citizens voted to remove — among other obsolete provisions — all the words beginning “On June 30” above, and up to and including “July 1, 1933.” The vote was 1,063,345 to 422,629.

The Legislature has placed the rest of Article 22 of the state constitution on the chopping block for the 2008 election. Saloons came in for rough handling by the state Supreme Court in a 1936 decision, which stated the “(purpose of) the people in the adoption of this article ... was to completely outlaw and eradicate the old-time public saloon or barroom with its well-known obnoxious characteristics, vices and effects ...”

According to Legislative Council staff “saloons existed ... strictly for consuming alcoholic beverages. Current licensed drinking establishments are required by law to offer food or meals.”

Doing away with the prohibition of saloons means the Legislature could, if it wanted to, re-establish saloons.

As for removal of all the other language, the Legislative Council research staff held it was no longer necessary, since legislative authority to regulate continues to exist by statute.

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When Colorado was first settled, and for some decades after, our state was considered semi-arid. So when the state constitution was voted approved in 1876, there was a miscellaneous Section 7 of Article 18:

“The General Assembly may provide that the increase in the value of private lands caused by the planting of hedges, orchards and forests thereon, shall not, for a limited time to be fixed by law, be taken into account in assessing such lands for taxation.”

House Concurrent Resolution 1009, now listed as Referendum M, was sponsored by Rep. Lambert and Sen. Schultheis. It would repeal that language.

According to the Legislative Council research staff, “Amendments to the constitution since 1876 (in Article 10) limit the types of property tax exemptions that the Legislature can adopt, and an exception for planting trees or forests is not included.”

Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.