Jerry Kopel

Tradition...out the window. For perhaps the first time in 37 years, the House minority party canceled its variety show, usually performed on the last day of the Colorado legislative session.

Democrats call their show the "Hummers". It's a biting, sometimes vicious, sometimes mocking rendition presented each year since 1967. Except for 1975-76, when minority Republicans called themselves the "Stingers", Democrats had the pleasure of working out frustrations felt by minority party members.

It was always good therapy, cleared the air, and the show was usually done very well, lasting about one hour. Democrats this year said "no", they were too exhausted and angry over treatment by Republicans during the last three days, when the House and Senate debated a new congressional redistricting plan.

"Hummer" prizes and one-liners can be very cruel. One former House member was told "come down to the front and receive your award. Everyone says you are playing with half-a-deck" claims the moderator "so to make up for it, here is the other half" (handing the legislator half a deck of giant playing cards).

Some parody lyrics sung more than a decade ago are still relevant today. State Sen. Ken Chouber (R) played a major role as the "heavy" in the redistricting plan. The new borders make it highly likely he could win a seat in Congress in 2006, assuming Rep. Scott McInnis runs for Colorado governor. These lyrics, written while Chlouber was a state representative, were sung to the tune of "My Darlin' Clementine":

Kenny Chlouber, Kenny Chlouber

Are you going down the road?

We will hear you, we'll beware you,

Cause we know how you explode.

All the miners up at Climax

When they hear a blast, they know

It's not dynamite or nitro,

It's just Chlouber lettin' go.

Kenny Chlouber, Kenny Chlouber,

You're so very volatile.

Stop your raving, start behaving!

Let the voters see you smile.

Democrats claimed Republicans abused House and Senate rules in order to pass the redistricting bill in the last three days of the session, which ended May 7th.

Legislators have to live by rules. There would be chaos without rules to determine debate and decorum. But that's where abuse of tradition (or custom) come into play.

For decades, the legislature has had two sets of rules "temporary" and "permanent". The wording of each is the same, but the ability to amend or repeal differs. The House needs 33 votes and the Senate 18 votes to change a temporary rule. But the House needs 44 votes and the Senate 24 votes to change a permanent rule.

On Jan. 7, 2003, the House and Senate passed resolutions, which allowed the rules of the 2001-2002 legislature to be made the temporary rules of 2003-2004. Until such time as permanent rules are adopted..."the temporary rules may be the majority of all members elected."

If the Senate and House operated under permanent rules, Republicans would have needed six Senate Democrats, and House would have needed seven House Democrats to change or suspend the rules.

Democrats didn't lose the redistricting battle on May 7th. They lost it on Jan. 7th when they adopted temporary rules by unanimous consent.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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