Hatch Act resolution aided by Moffat County residents passes in state Senate | CraigDailyPress.com

Hatch Act resolution aided by Moffat County residents passes in state Senate

Brian Smith

Tom Mathers

A resolution aimed at limiting the federal Hatch Act's reach into small, rural communities, such as Craig, passed the Colorado Senate on May 12.

News of its passing, however, did little to surprise Craig resident K.C. Hume.

"My belief was that it would (pass) with the feedback that we received when we were at the capitol and speaking with the committee just because of the unanimous, bipartisan support it received that day," Hume said.

Hume testified April 27 before a Colorado House committee alongside local residents Lila Herod, Moffat County's former chief deputy clerk and elections supervisor, and John Ponikvar, Moffat County Republican Central Committee chairman.

They joined Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and Secretary of State Bernie Buescher at the capitol to speak in favor of House Joint Resolution 10-1022.

The resolution, which urges Congress to amend the Hatch Act to allow exceptions for candidates in rural areas, will be sent to Gov. Bill Ritter's desk for signing within the next few weeks.

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The Hatch Act was enacted in 1939 to cover federal employees and was amended in 1940, adding state and local employees.

It restricts the political activity of people employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.

Hume, chief investigator for the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, dropped out of the race for Moffat County coroner Feb. 27 because of a possible Hatch Act violation.

Herod resigned April 2 from her job with the county so she could remain eligible to run for clerk and recorder after the Office of Special Counsel determined she was in violation of the Hatch Act.

The resolution met little resistance during its trip through the legislature. The House, Senate and the committees it was sent to approved the resolution unanimously.

If signed by Ritter, the resolution will be sent to Congress for consideration.

Baumgardner, who drafted the resolution with Tipton, said he was proud to see the resolution pass and hopes it will spur discussions and review of the Hatch Act on the federal level.

As part of that review, Baumgardner hopes to get previous federal bills that have addressed the Hatch Act, like HR 2154, out of committee and back into discussion.

HR 2154 was introduced in April 2009 and is in the committee on oversight and government reform. It seeks to amend the Hatch Act to not affect communities smaller than 100,000 people.

But Baumgardner isn't calling the resolution a success just yet.

"There has been other legislation that I have had the support of all the committees and both houses and (Ritter) vetoed it so there is no certainty that he won't veto this one," he said.

But, the Senate passing the resolution was enough to excite Herod.

"It is overwhelming," she said. "You never dream that you will be a part of any kind of state or federal legislation, but if my experience and (my) testimony will help change the law, or at least modernize it, I'm happy to be a part of that."

Herod said working with Baumgardner and Tipton was "an honor" and she has "respect (for) them and their leadership."

"They took a personal interest in their constituents and didn't say, 'Well, that is just too bad,'" she said. "They stepped forward and they wrote some legislation that will help some other people."

Hume said he was proud to see the resolution pass and that it gave him a "sense of accomplishment."

"I truly hope that this is the catalyst to get the legislation at the federal level moving forward again," he said.

Hume said he doesn't think the Hatch Act should be completely abolished, but rather re-examined.

"It is time, just like with any other piece of legislation, law or rule that it is reviewed on some sort of frequency," he said. "It is past time for the Hatch Act for that review to happen so that it is more applicable to the world we live in today."

Ponikvar said he hopes the resolution will pave the way for other states to address the Hatch Act. He plans to send the resolution to other states, such as Utah and Indiana, which have had Hatch Act complications arise, he said.

"I'm still sad that the whole issue came up in Moffat County," he said. "I still feel that it never should have come up … but at the same, I think it is great we are making something positive out of what really looked to be a negative."

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