Jerry Kopel

KOPEL: BINGO AND EGG REGULATION UP FOR REFORM IN 2009

What’s that smell? An egg law loophole

Do you eat eggs at restaurants? Of course you do, even if only as an ingredient in one dish. But did you know the eggs in that dish might not have been inspected because of how they were delivered?

There’s a big loophole in the present Colorado Egg Law, which was researched by the Department of Regulatory Agency’s Sunset review staff in preparation for a bill to be introduced in 2009.

DORA found virtually no regulation concerning the transportation of eggs from the wholesaler to the retailer. It recommended expansion of “the sanitation and temperature requirements for vehicles used to transport eggs in all stages of the delivery process.”

Presently, there is little the commissioner of agriculture can do to improve transportation conditions for eggs being moved from dealers to restaurants, institutions, other dealers or elsewhere.

This compromises public safety, DORA notes, “because eggs can be contaminated, causing illness among consumers.”

Nor is there any requirement that eggs be kept at a safe temperature during transportation.

DORA also wants the commissioner to have control over rule-making authority for transportation and processing of eggs and statutory authority to inspect vehicles used to transport eggs, in order to discover and halt conditions that could harm consumers.

According to DORA, Colorado poultry egg producers provided 1.8 billion eggs in 2006, exporting 540 million. We imported 15 percent of the 125 million eggs eaten by Coloradans annually. And how did those nearly 19 million eggs get here? Via interstate transportation.

In 1933, Colorado enacted its first egg law to (1) prevent the sale of eggs unfit for human consumption (2) prevent fraud and deception in egg sales, and (3) promote and develop the egg industry. The egg law has been revised since 1933, but its goals remain constant.

Are bad eggs being found by present inspections either at the wholesale or retail level? Yes. Stop sale notices have more than tripled in the past two years. And that is without inspecting transportation.

According to DORA:

Initial inspection: “The inspector selects random samples of eggs from the same lot.... If a lot contains 30 dozen eggs, 100 eggs will be inspected. Seventy-two of the 100 eggs must meet grade AA quality standards.”

Full inspection: “The number of eggs inspected is expanded. If the lot does not pass a full inspection, a stop sale notice is issued to the lot.”

Stop sale notices have jumped from 109 in fiscal 2004-05 to 379 in 2006-07, following implementation of a risk basis management system based on previous violations.

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By the time you read this, Gov. Bill Ritter may have chosen the new secretary of state from among 20 applicants.

There’s a lot more than elections and election reform programs on the plate for the incoming secretary. Also under the secretary’s purview are: the Colorado Corporations Code, the Uniform Commercial Code, the Bingo and Raffles Law, the Uniform Limited Partnership Act, limited liability companies, the commissioning of notaries public and the Charitable Solicitations Act.

In my opinion, the new secretary ought to consider moving regulation of notaries public and of bingo and raffles out of his or her department.

The new secretary’s first reading priority should be the May 2008 performance audit, which was out-sourced by the state auditor to Clifton Gunderson Certified Public Accountants and Consultants. In that report, the new secretary will find promises made by outgoing Secretary of State Mike Coffman.

Notaries public were assigned to the secretary of state long before DORA was established. And expansion of state government has made teams of skilled investigators available under DORA. The present location of regulation for notaries in the Department of State is obsolete. Notaries fit in nicely with real estate brokers under DORA, because statutes require real estate documents to be notarized.

On Nov 4, 1958, Colorado voters adopted amendments to Section 2 of Article 18 of the state Constitution by 244,929 to 235,482 votes, establishing bingo and raffles as legitimate gambling operations.

From then until now, the Department of State has had both licensing and enforcement duties over bingo operations. However, supervision of all other state-permitted gambling is now in the Department of Revenue.

Article 18, Section 2 would have to be amended in 2010 to take licensing out of the Department of State and instead allow the Legislature to determine the best location. But enforcement duties could be moved in the 2009 legislative session.

House Bill 1273, sponsored in 2008 by Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D-Antonito, and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, was signed by Ritter on April 3. It provides for the secretary of state and the executive director of the Department of Revenue to meet in order to consider, “the desirability and practicability of transferring the responsibility for enforcement, licensing, or both ... from the secretary of state to the Department of Revenue.”

Their report is supposed to be completed on or before Dec. 31, 2008, and will be provided to House and Senate members of the State Affairs and Finance committees.

Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.