Jerry Kopel

August 1, 2006

By Jerry Kopel

Dissonance: Discordant, harsh-toned, incongruous.
(From the Oxford Illustrated Dictionary)
In music, discordant is want of harmony between notes sounded together; chord which by itself is unsatisfactory or unpleasing to the ear, and requires resolving by some other chord following.
In legislation, discordant is to disagree, be different, strife, inconsistent, variance.
The legislature and music are not strange bedfellows. Each follows a pattern , a formation, a ritual.
I spent the legislative special session week in Montreal, attending the annual International Festival of Jazz. Unfortunately, dissonance without harmony following has taken over some, but not all, of jazz. Sitting through it was like sitting in the front row of the 2006 special session. 
The highlight of the jazz sessions was pianist Dave Brubeck, who is 85 years old. The other members of his quartet are nearly the same age. Four senior citizens on the stage who looked as though they had escaped from a home for the elderly, but who performed as if they were 25. I'm glad music doesn't have term limits.
But to hear the Brubeck quartet, my wife and I had to sit through a 30 minute composition by another very talented amateur quartet who played all dissonance (the "latest" thing) and no harmony. It was terrible to hear, but at least the 3,000 symphony hall seats were comfortable.
So "my report" on the special session is based on newspaper accounts, which is where most Colorado voters get their information.
Here is the special session as an opera:
The prima donna enters and by solo called the other 100 voices onto the stage. All were dressed in 13th century costumes from France and Spain ( 53 in blue capes, 47 in red capes), armed with flashing swords. The prima donna next sang an aria about the Mongols of Genghis Kahn approaching the borders of Europe.
This was followed by duets regarding strategy from the swordsmen who incessantly brawled improvised roulades on a few vowels. The music turned dissonant. The red and blue cape swordsmen began to duel each other. Many were slain.
Finally the prima donna came back on stage to halt the infighting, chose a virtuoso as commander of the good, and then led the survivors off the stage to the harmony and din of battle music.
Did I get the libretto right?
In a more serious vein, I think former Gov. Dick Lamm was right in calling HB 1917 "flawed". The legislature can pass all the bills it wants to, but it is the bureaucrats who decide to put it in effect. The bill puts the onus on employers who fail to follow through on an "examination of the legal work status of such newly-hired employees."
The bill does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2007. There will be a new governor and a new legislature except for holdover senators. Early in the session legislators should put in a whistle blower immunity with sharing of the "fine" for a proven violation and a harsh penalty for a frivolous accusation. You might get some action.
I think newspapers failed to note the vote count that killed SB 2, which would have, in its original form, established a timetable for the state Supreme Court to act on an appeal from a title  board ruling on the validity of an initiative. House sponsor Rep. Bob McCluskey lost 32 to 31, with two representatives excused. Under the state constitution, he needed 33 votes.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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