Jerry Kopel

  By Jerry Kopel
Has the Colorado legislature gone bonkers?
In 2004, more "Joint Resolutions were introduced in the House and Senate than in any previous or subsequent session in 129 years of Colorado statehood. Not that 2005 was much better, with the fourth highest total.
There are situations where a joint resolution (one that needs to pass both the House and Senate) is appropriate, even necessary.
You cannot amend joint rules of the House and Senate without a joint resolution. You cannot let the governor know you are ready to begin work or convene to hear the governor's  state of the state, or make revenue estimates for the fiscal year, or employ staff while the legislature is adjourned. You cannot adjourn sine die without a joint resolution.
But there are fewer than 15 such joint resolutions introduced each year. The rest cover every possible omission, defect, delight, or tribute on the face of the earth.
Of course many joint resolutions are directed to Congress. These most often create debate and acrimony. A key objective may be to put the opposing political party in the position of having to vote against God, Country, Flag,  Motherhood, or the working man and woman as defined by the resolution's sponsors. But I have never heard of an incumbent who lost an election due to a vote on a joint resolution.
The end result wastes time. Occasionally there are lucid comments that could give an oral historian a decent comprehension of feelings and attitudes on major issues, as distilled through arguments of representatives of the people.
Once sent to Washington, the joint resolutions "lie there, they just die there" except for publication in that great garbage pit called the Congressional Record.
Only one legislator consistently wrote me after a joint resolution was sent to Congress, Sen. Bill Armstrong. He would send a three or four page letter (all of which I have kept) expounding on the theme of the resolution, thanking me for sending it, with the salutation "Dear Jerry" and signed "Bill". Of course, these were almost always Republican oriented resolutions.
In most instances, I had voted and worked against that joint resolution. While Armstrong would acknowledge my presence with a nod if we were in the same room, we were not "Bill and Jerry" buddies. I assume every member of the legislature received the same letter.
Congress doesn't get to see how the Colorado legislators actually voted on joint resolutions. They receive the end product and not the 38 to 27 and 19 to 16 vote record.
The box with this column covers two decades of joint resolutions. We had the same number of legislators (100) in 1985 that we had in 2004. In both years, Republicans controlled the legislature. The difference was in leadership.
You may not have agreed with Speaker Bev Bledsoe's or Senate President Ted Strickland's philosophy, but their ability to keep the number of joint resolutions low during their joint tenure is admirable. In 2004, under House Speaker Lola Spradley (R) and Senate President John Andrews (R), Colorado had the highest number of House or Senate joint resolutions in the state's history.
Joint Resolution numbers for 2005 did drop, but more can be done to take the numbers below absurdity.
(1) Send all joint resolutions to a special committee with a majority that understands the word "no".
(2) On the objection of 10 members, a joint resolution becomes a resolution, thus only heard in one house.
(3) After the deadline for introduction of bills, no joint resolution is introduced without the unanimous consent of that house unless the contents are procedural dealing with necessary  internal House and Senate requirements.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 year s in the Colorado House.)
Please see box numbers below
Year            House         Senate       Total
1985              33                22              55
1986              25                18              43
1987              44                31              75
1988              51                20              71
1989              35                23              58
1990              33                29              62
1991              52                32              84
1992              40                20              60
1993              44                35              79
1994              67                40            107
1995              37                36             73
1996              42                29             71
1997              51                36             87
1998              48                35             83
1999              63                52           115
2000              57                32             89
2001              56                33             89
2002              82                48           130 
2003              74                50           124
2004              94                59           153
2005              70                49           119         

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel