Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ethics Schmethics

A poll was published recently showing that most people in Colorado didn't intend to punish regular people when they voted for Amendment 41, our new pseudo-ethics law. Backers of the law are claiming that banning children of state employees from accepting scholarships and banning professors from accepting cash awards are just unintended consequences.

The people who wrote this law are either very stupid or they intended exactly what the new law says. It's not ambiguous. Anybody who actually read the amendment before voting on it knows that. The law bans every government employee in the state at every level (and their immediate families) from accepting any cash gifts over $50, and from accepting almost any other significant gift as well.

This points out something that may get me in trouble. Direct democracy is bad. Ordinary people can't write laws. The founders of our country never intended for there to be an initiative process.

In our recent election, there were seven citizen initiatives on the statewide ballot, as well as two on the city ballot. Every single one of them was fatally flawed. The people who write these proposed laws always come at it from a single point of view. There is no incentive for them to consider any consequences. In fact, the incentive in writing an initiative is to be as extreme as possible because they know that if it passes they won't get another chance to change it for a good long time.

The backers argue not for the law but for some abstract concept which they claim the law supports. For example, in the case of Amendment 41, the backers argued for ethics, which was a high-profile cause at the time. A large majority of the voters never actually read the items they are voting on -- they just read other people's opinions about the abstract concept behind the proposal.

There's almost always a hidden agenda behind the law. For example, I suspect the backers of Amendment 41 are secretly trying to cripple government by scaring people away from it. As I've said before, if I was a government employee after Amendment 41 passed, I would have quit.

And then, in Colorado, the backers of these supposed good ideas almost always draft them as constitutional amendments, so that it will take another vote of the people to fix any flaws that may become apparent (as has happened with 41).

Well, now the state legislature is considering a law that would "clarify" Amendment 41. I have news for them. The state legislature cannot change our constitution without a vote of the people. Amendment 41 is also clear:
Legislation may be enacted to facilitate the operation of this article, but in no way shall such legislation limit or restrict the provisions of this article or the powers granted therein.
That's very clear to me. The legislature can fund the new ethics commission, and it can appoint members to that commission. But it cannot change the fact that the state constitution bans the child of the receptionist at the county courthouse from accepting a scholarship. A court will no doubt agree with that, and then we will have to vote on another law the fix this one.

Maybe there should be a special class you have to attend if you want to initiate a change to state law. Or maybe there should be a special commission that reads all the proposed changes and tells us why they are all stupid.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to keep voting against all citizen initiatives on principle. Or maybe I should come up with one myself. ... Hmmm, I think I have a couple of ideas.

I'll let you know November after next.

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