Jerry Kopel


Has it happened before? House Republicans in 1997 did just a trifle better than House Democrats in pass-fail percentages for bills introduced. And they did it to themselves, with a lot of help from Senate Republicans.

If you exclude appropriation bills and don't consider whether or not a bill was later vetoed, House Republicans had 140 bills pass and 127 killed for a 52.4 passing percent. That compares to a 51.6 passing percentage for the House Democrats who had 48 bills pass, and 45 killed.

These are the worst House Republican percentage numbers over the past five years and among the lowest numbers for a majority party in the past 20 years.

In looking back, Republicans can blame their plethora of "late" bills (bills introduced after the deadline set by legislative rules and which deadline apparently only applies to House Democrats) for their poor percentage showing. There were 48 "late" House bills, all by Republicans. Of the 48, only 19 passed the legislature and 29 were killed.

Also Senate Republicans were not kind to their House compatriots. They killed better than one out of five of the House Republican bills sent over (39 of 179) while House Republicans killed less than one out of ten Senate Republican bills sent to them (9 of 104). House Democrats sent 53 bills to the Senate and Senate Republicans only killed five of the 53, or less than one out of ten.

Perhaps subconsciously it was "payback" by senators for House Republicans making a longer session with the number of late bills introduced in 1997 along with revulsion at some of the House Republican social issue measures.

Best passing percentage was delivered by freshman Rep. Steve Johnson of Ft. Collins, with a 5-zip record. Other good numbers for five or more bills were scored by Rep. Jeanne Adkins of Parker, 9 passed, one killed; Rep. Joyce Lawrence of Pueblo, 7 and 1; Reps. Shirleen Tucker of Lakewood and Marcy Morrison of Manitou Springs, each 5 and 1, and Rep. Dorothy Gotlieb of Denver, 4 and 1.

Reps. Adkins, Doug Dean of Colorado Springs and Paul Schauer of Littleton tied for most bills introduced, ten each, but Adkins had nine pass, Schauer had four, and Dean, three. Four House Republicans introduced nine bills each, but having a lot of bills wasn't a guarantee of good percentages, at least in 1997. Of their 36 bill total, only 15 passed the legislature.

Worst House Republican numbers were provided by Reps. Berry Arrington of Arvada, zip and five; Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, zip and four; Penn Pfiffner of Lakewood, one and six; and Phil Pankey of Littleton, two pass, seven killed.

A good indication of how badly House Republicans did this year compared to past years is that 18 of their 41 members had passing percentages below 50 percent. That is very unusual.

Meanwhile the 20 Senate Republicans treated themselves much better in 1997 than they did the 15 Senate Democrats. In percentage of bills passed, Senate Republicans were almost twice as productive as the Senate Democrats, and far above House Republican percentages.

If you exclude appropriation bills and don't consider whether bills were later vetoed, the 20 Senate Republicans had 94 of their bills passed and 38 killed, for a 71.2 passing percentage. That compared to 36.6 percent for Senate Democrats, 52.3 for House Republicans and 51.6 for House Democrats. The 71.2 percent was exceeded in the past five years only in 1994 when 19 Senate Republicans passed 101 and lost 38 for a 72.7 passing percentage.

Only two Senate Republicans showed restraint in introducing bills, Ken Arnold of Westminster with four, and Charles Duke of Monument with three. Arnold had two out of four pass, and Duke had one of three pass. Duke was the only one of 20 Senate Republicans not to have a 50 percent or better passing percentage compared to 19 of 41 House Republicans below 50 percent.

Senate Republicans know better than to mess with bills sponsored by their leaders. Senate President Ken Norton of Greeley, Majority Leader Jeff Wells and Assistant Majority Leader Ray Powers, both of Colorado Springs introduced 19 bills. All 19 passed the Senate, but one Norton bill was killed in the House. The totals were Norton, eight of nine, Wells, five of five, and Powers, five of five.

Sen. Dick Mutzebaugh of Highlands Ranch introduced 12 bills, the most in the Senate, but only seven of them passed. Hitting 100 percent along with Wells and Powers was Sen. Jim Congrove of Arvada with five of five.

For 1997, Gov. Romer showed himself to be an equal opportunity vetoer, treating 16 House Republicans to veto messages, but giving Sen. President Tom Norton of Greeley a large portion of the Senate vetoes. No bills by Democrats were vetoed.


Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator

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