Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
May 16, 2003
We can all take a deep breath and relax. The Lege has gone home. The
Colorado Legislature is not nearly as much fun as the one in Texas, but
it has its moments. Molly Ivins has the classic description of state
government: "The Legislature is among other things the finest free
entertainment in Texas. Better than the zoo. Better than the circus."
This year there wasn't much in the way of entertainment in the Colorado
Lege. They were so busy cutting humanitarian programs to balance the
budget that it was hard to find something to laugh at. I do realize
that they had a major budget crisis. Bob Ewegen summarized it well in
the Post. "Three Pillars of Folly hold up this absurd constitutional
edifice: the 1982 GALLAGHER amendment, the 1992 TABOR amendment and
2000's Amendment 23." Unless there are some changes in the Three
Pillars of Folly the state may well go bankrupt eventually, according
to many experts.
But meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have been trying to pick the annual
Most Ridiculous Piece of Legislation award for 2003. There were so
There have been some interesting winners since I started the tradition
in 1994. The first year the Trout bill blew the rainbow out of the
water and made the Greenback Cutthroat Trout the state fish.
This year I think the award goes to the Pledge of Allegiance Bill.
Somebody decided that patriotism can be legislated. The bill requires a
daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in all public schools.
People can be exempted, though, for almost any reason, religious,
political or a by note from their parents. That does make it difficult
to enforce. You can be patriotic one day and not the next. Somewhat to
the surprise of both of us, I agree wholeheartedly with Ron Teck on this
one. He was one of the two Republicans who courageously voted against
it. He said, "I wrestle with the fact that compelled speech, in my
mind, probably does not accomplish what we want to accomplish."
But the Lege really hit a low point in their last three days when they
rammed through a redistricting bill. I defer to Gail Schoettler, who
described it far more colorfully than I could. "This is scumbag
behavior, not principled action. And it appears to be instigated by the
White House, which wants to make sure that President Bush maintains a
majority in Congress." Fortunately there is one amusing sideline to
this battle. When Karl Rove called Senate Majority Leader, Norma
Anderson, presumably to tell her to steamroll the bill through, she
didn't take the call. "I didn't know who he was," she laughed. "D. C.
doesn't mean a thing to me. The only thing I get from Washington are
bad things -- like mandates." I regret to report that she later
apologized to him.
Practically everybody in the state had something to gripe about as the
Lege tried to balance the budget. My special gripe was the elimination
of library systems. Many others involved loss of services to people,
jobs lost and damage to cultural activities in the state. On the other
hand, Rep. Gayle Berry pushed through a bill dissolving the Board of
Trustees of state colleges and giving an independent governing Board to
Mesa, Adams and Western State Colleges.
As always, there are a few interesting quotes.
"We should have done a bill requiring it to rain more often because
that would have been more effective than 236 (Water Board Revenue
Bonds," said Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus.
"Which God?" Mohammed Jodeh, Interfaith Alliance.
"Not to be redundant again." Sen. Steve Johnson, Ft. Collins.
"State Affairs has lived up to its harsh reputation of pushing the needy
out into the snow." Rep. Shawn Mitchell, Broomfield.
"It cheapens patriotism. It perpetuates the myth that the only way to
compel patriotism is through legal compulsion," Sen. Dan Grossman,
There is always another year!