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Governor whips out the ol veto pen

Of the 225 new laws piled up on his desk, so far Bill Owens has vetoed 11.

The Republican governor has vetoed emergency contraception for rape victims, more stringent air standards, rights for renters and caps on gifts that legislators can accept.

Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, who wrote the latter two bills, is outraged.

"To veto emergency contraception was so unreasoned and hypocritical," he said. "[The governor] used his religious beliefs to justify the vetoes. Then he vetoes my bill that would have helped poor tenants ... the greatest message in the Bible is helping the poor."

Democrats, who for the first time in 44 years control the Legislature and whose session ended last week, should expect more of the same of in the weeks to come, said Owens spokesman Mark Salley.

"He's said he's probably going to surpass his all-time high," he said.

The most vetoes by Owens numbered 14 in 2001.

Salley added that the governor had issued a warning to legislators in his January State of the State address that he'd veto if he disagreed with a bill on principle. That was the case with Merrifield's renter's bill, he added.

"It didn't address the interests of private property owners," Salley said.

This was the first year Merrifield got any bills on the governor's desk. In the 2004 and 2003 sessions, Republicans blocked Merrifield's bills.

He thanked mostly fellow Democrats for his success so far, but held hope for the passage of a bill he co-sponsored with Republican Sen. Mark Hillman that would reduce student loans for teachers who take their skills to rural or poor school districts.

Salley couldn't comment on what the governor would sign and wasn't sure how many more vetoes would come. Instead, he pointed out that former Gov. Roy Romer had a record of 27 vetoes in one year. Owens, he noted, wasn't even halfway to hitting that number.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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