Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

University of Denver panel to take on state constitution

man at podium

Jim Griesemer. PHOTO BY: Wayne Armstrong.

University of Denver Chancellor Robert Coombe announced today the formation of a Strategic Issues Panel to study the Colorado Constitution, a document some say hamstrings the state legislature and has the potential to wreak havoc with state budgets.  

Colorado’s Constitution contains conflicting provisions and is one of the easiest-to-amend constitutions in the country, having been amended some 47 times since 1980 alone while the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 27 times in more than 217 years.

With this year’s panel, DU begins an annual process of studying critical state issues. The Chancellor will choose a new issue to study each year, based on its strategic significance, criticality and timeliness. These will be “daunting issues,” Coombe says, but it’s the role of a university to examine such issues, inform the public and leave it up to them to make up their minds.

“If we are to find solutions to the key issues that we face as Coloradans, we’ve got to have inclusive, transparent, informed public debate about those issues in a manner that avoids the pushes and pulls of partisan politics,” Coombe says.

The independent, non-partisan panel studying the constitution is made up of citizens from across Colorado. The 13-member panel, with help from nine local and national experts on the field, will begin work in September and conclude in early January with a report to the public and to the newly convened state legislature. 

The panel will take an in-depth look at Colorado’s Constitution, analyze its inherent problems, compare it to constitutions of other states and develop a process, if necessary, to change it.

“Our constitution often reads more like a statute book than a blueprint for governance,” says panel chair Jim Griesemer, dean emeritus of DU’s Daniels College of Business. 

“We want to thoroughly understand any problems with Colorado’s Constitution, look at what other states are doing and then recommend appropriate actions. Essentially, everything is on the table, including the possibility of major revisions to the document if that proves necessary.”

This year’s panel follows the 2005 University of Denver Colorado Economic Futures Panel, which issued a report describing the economic challenges and opportunities facing Colorado during the next two decades. Panelists testified before the legislature and informed the public through statewide meetings and media.

In 2006–07, the DU Water Futures Panel studied the state’s water supply. The water panel’s report — which recommends eight key proposals for a fair, sustainable water future — will be released to the public in September.

To watch video of the announcement, click here:

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