Jerry Kopel

Has the legislature gone bonkers?

In l994, more "Joint Resolutions" were introduced in the House and Senate than in any previous year in the ll8 years of Colorado statehood.

There are certainly situations where a joint resolution (one that needs to pass both the House and Senate) is appropriate, even necessary.

You cannot amend the 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, or adjourn sine die, without a joint resolution.

But there are fewer than fifteen joint resolutions usually introduced each year that deal with these items and the rest cover every possible omission, defect, delight, or tribute on the face of the earth.

Of course, some joint resolutions serve as reminders of past traumas, or as tools to educate the newest legislators. Holocaust Awareness Week presently, and Anti-Apartheid resolutions in past years, are two examples.

A number of joint resolutions are directed to Congress and these are the ones that 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, and Motherhood, as defined by the resolution's sponsors.

The end result is a waste of a great deal of time, although occasionally there are lucid comments which could give an oral historian a decent comprehension of feelings and attitudes on major issues, as distilled through the arguments of representatives of the people.

Once sent to Washington, the resolutions "lie there, they just die there", except for possible publication in that great garbage pit called the Congressional Record.

Only one legislator would religiously (no pun intended) write me after a resolution was sent to Congress....Sen. Bill Armstrong. I would receive a three or four page letter expounding on the theme of the resolution, thanking me for sending it, with the salutation "Dear Jerry" and signed "Bill".

In most instances, I had voted against the resolution, and while Sen. Armstrong would acknowledge my presence by a nod if we were in the same room, we were not "Bill and Jerry" buddies. I assume every member of the Colorado legislature received the same type letter.


Congress doesn't get to see how the Colorado legislature actually voted on the resolutions...they just get the end product and not the 38 to 27 and l9 to l6 record vote.

Perhaps the joint resolutions of l994 reflect the thin majority in the House and Senate and the need to build up debating points, but I have never heard of an incumbent who lost an election due to a wrong vote on a joint resolution.

There were l00 joint resolutions in l994. I have removed those resolutions that were procedural, retained employees, or were to amend the joint rules. What follows is a list of legislators who introduced the most of the rest of the joint resolutions:

House: Ratteree, 7; Entz, Schauer, Tucker, Pankey, Hagedorn, 3 each; Reeser, Epps, Chlouber, Keller, Sullivan, Foster, Duke, Gordon, 2 each.

Senate: Bishop, 8; Ament, Gallagher, 3 each; Wham, Schaffer, Cassidy, Roberts, L. Powers, 2 each.

At least one legislator, Rep. Dan Prinster, is also concerned about joint resolutions. He introduced HJR l046 to try to curb abuse of the system, but his resolution went to State Affairs, where it was killed. While I don't agree with his solutions ( one J.R. per legislator, l5 minute debates) he merits applause for recognizing the problem.

If legislative leadership is interested in ways to reduce the number of joint resolutions in l995, here are some suggestions:

l. Count a joint resolution as a bill for purposes of the number of bills a legislator can introduce, except for those resolutions dealing with procedure, hiring or retaining employees, or legislative rules.

2. Do not allow a joint resolution after the deadline for bills unless all three leaders in the house of introduction sign off.

3. Limit the number of times a legislator (except the sponsor or mover of the motion) can speak on a resolution to once.


A Decade of House-Senate Joint Resolutions

Year Senate House Total

l985 22 33 55

l986 l8 25 43

l987 3l 44 75

l988 20 5l 7l

l989 23 35 58

l990 33 33 66

l99l 32 52 84

l992 20 40 60

l993 35 44 79

l994 35 63 98

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