Next year, claim the legislative insiders, will be the "Doug and Dan" show in the Colorado House.
Doug is Douglas Allen Dean, representing El Paso county in his third term. He is 39 years old, born on Dec. 31, the last day possible to get a full tax deduction for his parents. Dan is Daniel Grossman, 32 year old Denver attorney serving his second term in the House, and son of a past and present power in the Democratic party, Arnie Grossman.
Doug is a Republican and House Majority Leader. Dan is a Democrat and House Minority Caucus Chairman. Doug is supposed to become House Speaker and Dan is expected to become House Minority Leader in 2001. Both are intelligent and aggressive and their mixture will be like pouring gasoline on a campfire.
On Monday, April 10th, at 9 a.m., Rep. Dean paid an unusual call on the House Democrats who meet every Monday at 8:30 a.m. in the Minority Leader's office to discuss bills on the calendar for the coming week. The 18 House Democrats present knew Doug would be calling. They had been notified very late the night before.
Word was that Doug Dean was taking a beating in the press for his ill treatment of the House Democrats. His visit was aimed to calm the turbulent waters. He began by repeating his apology to Bob Bacon, House assistant minority leader, ("No personal affront intended, I'm just obsessed about photo radar") which apology had already been reported in the press.
That tempest began when Doug placed his measure dealing with photo radar on a motor vehicle bill sponsored by Bob Bacon. Using House-Senate rules that require the chief sponsor name a sponsor in the other house before the bill could move over, Bob stayed mute. So the bill, with the Doug Dean amendment attached, sat in the House like a dead horse in a bathtub.
Doug Dean threatened Bob Bacon: If Bob didn't name a Senate sponsor for his bill, two other Bob Bacon bills still alive would die. Bob eventually named Sen. Dottie Wham as his Senate sponsor, and the bill moved over to the Senate.
Turning from Bob and addressing the other Monday morning Democrats, Doug Dean asked: "Do you really perceive that I'm not giving you a fair shake?"
The House majority leader typically runs the show on second reading of bills in what is called the Committee of the Whole. While there is a chairman of the Committee of the Whole, he or she typically does what the majority leader wants, or else he or she is removed in a very easy-to-do parliamentary procedure.
If there is a question regarding whether an amendment offered by a legislator fits under the title of a bill (as one major issue) or whether the House, in second reading, is obeying the House Rules, that is determined by the "chairman". There is no appeal from the decision of the chairman.
Rep. Jennifer Viega responded to Doug Dean's "fair shake question" with "there is no fairness in the rulings on second reading". Rep. Bob Hagedorn pointed out that even when Legal Services (attorneys for the legislature) indicated the propriety or illegality of an amendment, the decisions of the chairman were the opposite.
Doug Dean responded sharply: "It doesn't matter what Doug Brown (head of Legal Services) says. It is up to the chair to make the final decision." That is absolutely correct, but during my tenure as a House member, when a decision was quite outlandish, past majority leaders have replaced one chairman with another.
Dean tried to play on the sympathy of the listeners. "...I'm carrying 18 bills..." Bad comment, like telling a panhandler "I can't give you anything. No change, and I don't have any bills under $100."
Rep. Penn Tate responded: "We are frustrated with our few bills, and they die in committee." Faces of the other House Democrats hardened.
Rep. Doug Dean's bills are HB 1061, 1125, 1141, 1176, 1260, 1274, 1275, 1276, 1277, 1293, 1310, 1352, 1447, 1454, 1458, 1462, 1476, 1478.
Dean changed the subject. "I have a responsibility to my caucus, but a greater responsibility to the process. The set asides (moneys set aside) in appropriations (the budget bill) are not working the way it is supposed to work, just for new programs."
In a final comment, Dean stated "I'll try to be fair and open. Last year we gave every bill a hearing." Of course, that is required under the 1988 GAVEL amendment to the state constitution.
Dean talked and listened for about ten minutes seated at the round table in Rep. Gordon's office. Two seats down, staring straight ahead, never looking at Dean, saying a word, or moving a muscle, was Dan Grossman. All of which makes me suggest that Rep. Dean read or reread this summer a book recommended by a prior House Speaker from his perch high above the legislators below. It is "The Prince", by Niccolo Machiavelli:
"...a Prince should inspire fear in such a fashion that if he does not win love he may escape hate. For a man may very well be feared and yet not hated, and this will be the case so long as he does not meddle with the property or with the women of his citizens and subjects.
"And if constrained to put any to death, he should do so only when there is manifest cause or reasonable justification. But above all, he must abstain from the property of others. For men will sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony, Moreover, pretexts for confiscation are never wanting, and he who has once begun to live by rapine always finds reasons for taking what is not his..."
Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.
Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel