Three Strikes and you are in! - Opinion Submission
The 73rd Colorado General Assembly is in session. Well maybe, on January 13th at 10.00 session was called to order, roll call was taken, the usual opening day speeches from the majority and minority leaders and bills were introduced. It sounded like an opening day. The audio was normal, but perhaps a little muffled, visual was different. Members wore masks, a little more separation and of course plastic shields between desks.
Opening day was far more like a special session rather than the beginning of the 120 day normal session. The object was to start session as required by the Constitution, pass the half dozen or so bills then recess to February 16th or a date to be determined. A bill dealing with financial relief for small businesses, allowing political parties to meet remotely and legislative procedures during a disaster were the bulk of the time.
Spirited debates on Joint Rule 44 was the only contested discussion. With one party control of both chambers, minority members felt left out in the process. This significant rule was done without any input from the minority party. In my 10 years in the General Assembly, I have never heard of such. The minority party only had about 36 hours prior to introduction, as to what the changes are in the rules. We have operated under temporary rules in all the time I have been in the General Assembly. I have been told that this may have been happening since the 1980’s. This was a prime example of the moving of the goal posts. I would hope this never happens again. Minority party, whether Republican or Democrat should be at the table. I understand that the minority gets it’s say and the majority gets it’s way. At least the minority is on the record. Rule 44 passed on a party line vote. This was not a good tone to set for a new session. I hope lesson learned and the General Assembly can do the peoples business and refrain from party politics.
The hard luck bill of the 72nd General Assembly was finally resolved. As you recall the 2nd half of the 72nd General Assembly was an abbreviated session, just as the beginning of the 73rd. A sunset bill in regards the licensure of Occupational Therapists was introduced in the previous session. This was the beginning of three strikes. From drafting, introduction and final passage a lot of time had passed. Problem was the bill had a petition clause rather than a safety clause. A safety clause bill becomes law on the signature of the Governor. A petition clause gives 90 days for the general public to petition it to go to the ballot before it becomes law. If no petition is filed, it becomes law on the 90th day. Problem was the election was to close to allow the 90 days for the public to exercise this right. Legal services said that is probably ok, but the revisor of statutes said no it is not. I will not be going into statute.
On November 30th the Governor called use back to Special Session to deal with Covid-19 issues. The Occupational Therapists was again introduced. Sorry the Senate Finance Committee kills the bill because it does not meet the requirements of the call of the Governor. Low and behold on the third try the Occupational Therapists Act passes, is signed by the Governor. Folks you just can’t make this up. Government at its best.
On the opening day, I found a black mask on my desk with the insignia of the State Capitol. I chose to wear it upside down. A ship a sea when in distress flies the flag up-side down. I am writing this article on the day of a new administration. Our State and our Nation are in distress. A House divided cannot stand. We are the United States of America, not the Divided States of America. We have allowed the divisive factors from both political parties to nearly destroyed the Greatest Nation in the World. We are better than that.
Senator Don Coram