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
TWO DECADES OF JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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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