Measure would give state judges training in business matters

DENVER — House Democrats reached an agreement with a Colorado Springs Republican lawmaker Thursday over what to do with a portion of Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s money.

Democrats criticized the Republican secretary of state earlier this year for withholding about $4 million in surplus business fees that his Democratic predecessor, former Grand Junction Rep. Bernie Buescher, had planned to turn over to the Legislature.

Gessler said he withheld the money because it came from businesses and should be spent on businesses. That’s why he came up with the idea to use part of it to train the state’s judges on commercial matters to help them better decide cases related to businesses.

Although the Democrats said they didn’t have a problem with that idea, they didn’t care for allowing Gessler to have control over that training, saying it was a violation of constitutional separation of powers.

As a result, Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, who is carrying a bill to create the training program, agreed with a compromise offered by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder.

That compromise calls on Gessler to share training oversight with Michael Bender, the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

“My concern was having the secretary of state mucking around with judicial training,” Levy said.

The measure to allow $500,000 of Gessler’s money to pay for the training over the next two years won preliminary House approval. It is expected to receive a final House vote today before heading to the Senate.

In other business, the Senate approved a measure that softens state regulations on where home-produced foods bound for the open market can be prepared.

Under current state regulations, such foods as homemade jams and baked products must be prepared in state-certified kitchens.

But under SB258, introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, those foods can be prepared in home kitchens that are registered and certified by state or local health inspectors.

“The bill supports farmers, local markets, local communities and local jobs,” Schwartz said. “By making adjustments to state regulations, we can support our economy, continue to protect our food supply and provide our communities and visitors with more healthy food.”

The measure heads to the House, where Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, will have only a few days to shepherd it through the rest of the Legislature before the 2011 session ends Wednesday.


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