Getting some progress with the 2col.colors.beta layout. The column background colors are CSS-based and the height of the columns’ content has no impact on the columns.
Also, thanks to Aine for posting a comment. It’s nice to know that someone’s out there.
TODO: try fixing the color mask inside of the pageFrame. lack of height:100% definitions to parent objects may screw up rendering in some browsers, but it’s worth a look as a possible solution for footer placement and open space below the footer.