State Rep. Claire Levy takes issue with Sky-Hi editorial
To the Editor:
I was disappointed that the Sky-Hi News editorial against repeal of the newspaper theft law being considered by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (the CCJJ) inaccurately portrayed my position on that issue and questions whether I can represent Grand County.
The CCJJ is seeking to simplify the criminal code by eliminating criminal offenses that are obsolete or covered by other provision. The theft laws are littered with specialized offenses that respond to rarely occurring events. Theft of free newspapers seemed like an offense that either did not need its own law or belonged somewhere other than under the section on theft. As a theft crime, it begs the questions, “theft from whom” and “what is the value of what was taken?” The situation is unique and might be more appropriately dealt with as a First Amendment issue than theft.
I participated in a discussion on repeal of the special law on theft as a member of the Comprehensive Sentencing Reform Task Force of the CCJJ. The Colorado Press Association contacted me for information about the recommended repeal. I summarized the discussion and provided the rationale identified by the task force members. I was not part of the subgroup that recommended repeal, although I supported the recommendation based on the information we had. My quoted comments were a summary of the discussion at that meeting. The editorial created the impression that those were my views.
After being informed of the background for the law and the strong objections of the Colorado Press Association and Matt Sandberg, I stated that I would reconsider my position in light of that information. I also stated that I would be out of town when the CCJJ voted on the issue and referred them to the commission chair so they could provide input for the meeting. I offered to talk with Mr. Sandberg to learn his perspective when I returned to Colorado on July 27. Unfortunately, he did not wait and the paper published an editorial creating the impression that my mind is made up .
The discussion on this issue will continue if the proposal is submitted as a bill during the 2013 legislative session. I hope I will have the opportunity to hear other’s views on this issue. My mind is open. I hope yours is as well.
State Rep. Claire Levy
Editor’s note: The following quote is verbatim from an email Rep. Levy sent to a representative of the Colorado Press Association who had expressed concern about the committee possibly recommending repeal of the law: “Thank you for the background. We had that information when we voted to recommend repealing the crime. Our discussion focused on the fact that the publication is free so the person isn’t taking something that has an established value. Also, from the way the offense is defined, a homeless person who empties a newspaper stand to use the contents for bedding would be guilty.”
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