Denver police stopped Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, near the Capitol on the night of Jan. 25 for a traffic violation. The officer smelled alcohol and administered a roadside sobriety test, said Denver police Lt. Matt Murray. Bradford initially said she had only one glass of wine but later said she consumed three.

A roadside test does not indicate how impaired a driver is but whether an additional, official blood or breath test is needed. But police did not take Bradford downtown for that test because they say their interpretation of a little-known constitutional provision prevents them from arresting a legislator when the legislature is in session. Officer did call a cab for her, which they would not have done if they thought she was sober.
Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, has convened an ethics committee to look into the incident, a move that has outraged Bradford. So much so, she has threatened to leave the party, which could throw the Republicans’ 33-32 House majority into chaos. The committee’s first meeting is Monday.
In some legislative circles, the reaction to the Mesa County lawmaker’s traffic stop is more of a yawn than a gasp, highlighting the degree to which drinking is part of Capitol culture. There are stories about drunken lawmakers crawling out on the building’s ledge the last night of the session only to be rescued by state troopers. Though veteran observers describe the attitude as much improved because of the rising influence of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the tougher drunken-driving laws. Population shifts have played a role too, with fewer rural lawmakers who tend to rent close to the Capitol and more urban lawmakers who have to drive home after events. And interestingly, Amendment 41 also had an effect. The 2006 ballot measure prohibits lobbyists from wining and dining lawmakers, eliminating a major source of much of the legislators’ libations.

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