By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
Members of a legislative panel briefly locked horns last week over proposed language in a ballot initiative defining the word “person”– constitutionally speaking–as it applies to the unborn. In dispute was wording prepared by legislative staff in drafting the proposal’s pros and cons as they will appear in this year’s “Blue Book,” to be mailed to voters in advance of the November election.
The arguments for and against Amendment 62, dubbed the “personhood amendment,” were reviewed by the 18-member Legislative Council Committee, chaired by Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, and vice-chaired by Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, after public testimony and input from staffers. The proposal, placed on the ballot by a citizens group after it gathered sufficient signatures, seeks to expand the constitutional definition of “person” as a human being to include “from the beginning of biological development.” The draft may be amended by the legislative committee if a two-thirds majority agrees.
At issue was the use of the term “human life” versus “human being.” The term that will appear on the ballot and in the constitution should the amendment be approved by voters, is “human being.” The use of the term “human life” was chosen by council staff in articulating the arguments supporting the measure. Proponents of the measure told the panel that the terms are not interchangeable in this instance. Opponents said they prefer the term “human life” be left in.
Minority Republicans on the committee were vocal about their concern that the proponents’ arguments may have been compromised in the publication, but the GOP members were unsuccessful in amending the language, with the vote counts falling primarily along party and ideological lines.
Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, challenged the committee to consider amending the draft language to preserve the integrity of the proponents’ argument in favor of the amendment.
“If the ballot, the thing they got signatures for, and people signed onto, says ‘being,’ then the language should reflect ‘being,’ ” said Stephens. She said currently the constitution says, “the term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being.”
House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, concurred.
“These are the proponents and they brought forth the proposed amendment, and then we change their words in the arguments ‘for.’ Why not include their exact words as opposed to somebody else’s words?” asked May.
Legislative staff said that the term human life was used because they borrowed analysis language from a similar initiative in 2008 and because they felt that using the term human life is more inclusive. It was also stated that as they prepared the drafts, they didn’t know the weight that proponents gave to the term since it was not brought up earlier by the proponents.
Before voting the modified language down, Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, offered her take on the issue.
“I think that the legislative council staff did a fair job of representing arguments. I didn’t see the same kind of urgency to change the language,” Boyd.
In other business the committee looked at the eight other measures on this November’s ballot and made only minor changes. Those proposals are:
1. Amendment P – Regulation of Games of Chance
2. Amendment Q – Temporary Location for the State Seat of Government
3. Amendment R – Exempt Possessory Interests in Real Property
4. Initiative 92 – Criteria for Release to Pretrial Services Programs
5. Proposition 101 – Income, Vehicle, and Telecommunication Taxes and Fees
6. Amendment 60 – Property Taxes
7. Amendment 61 – Limits on State and Local Government Borrowing
8. Amendment 62 – Application of the Term Person
9. Amendment 63 – Health Care Choice