Students working for the university may be at risk of losing their scholarships unless legislators clarify the language of a recently approved amendment to the state constitution.
Amendment 41, which was passed in November by 63 percent of voters and went into effect Jan. 1, was intended to ensure a high standard of ethics by banning lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers. But those critical of the amendment say there may be some unintended consequences of passing the legislation.
The amendment also bans non-lobbyists from giving gifts exceeding $50 to state and local employees or their families – which includes university employees.
“An overly strict reading of the amendment by some has led to the closing of certain scholarship funds,” Mark Grueskin, a Denver attorney who helped draft the legislation, said Tuesday.
Both students working on campus and students whose parents are government workers are affected by the amendment and may be at risk of losing scholarships that have afforded them an education at CSU.
And some students aren’t happy about the potential loss of funding.
“It seems pretty ridiculous,” said Kezia Grenda, an open-option sophomore who works at the Lory Student Center’s information desk.
The Boettcher Foundation, which awards 40 scholarships a year, was first to react. They filed a lawsuit against the state Feb. 5. By Friday, the court had ruled in Boettcher’s favor, exempting them from the amendment. But the ruling has not yet been extended to other scholarship organizations.
“We were fortunate,” Tim Schultz, president of the Boettcher Foundation, said Friday. “We hope the actions taken today help other organizations.”
Hank Brown, president of the University of Colorado-Boulder, said Monday that he thinks lawmakers could help make sure everyone from college students to professors aren’t hurt by the strict new ethics law.
And CSU officials say students on scholarships will not be threatened by the legislation just yet.
“At this time, I’m not aware of any CSU student who could be negatively impacted by this amendment,” said Sandy Calhoun, director of Student Financial Services. “We are hopeful a resolution will be found that will enable all students to keep their scholarships that they receive from private entities.”
State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Larimer, said state legislators are taking a two-prong approach to the issue in an effort to get it resolved within the 120-day session.
“We are asking courts for clarification while at the same time drafting legislation to put into statute laws that would limit Amendment 41,” Fischer said. “We haven’t seen a bill yet coming to implement statutes to the amendment.(but) expect to see one soon.”
A group of legislators including Rep. Steve Ward, R-Littleton, Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, and Rep. Rosemary Marshal, D-Denver, are supporting a move to introduce legislation addressing Amendment 41.
“Today, they are introducing some bills to address the amendment,” said John Straayer, a political science professor at CSU. “I’m pretty optimistic.”
But Straayer and others warn the outcome is still uncertain.
“It’s legislation,” Grueskin said. “Anything can happen.”
Staff writer James Holt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.