Colorado Senate GOP Gets Crafty, Then Gets Schooled

HAL reads faster than you.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports:

All work in the Colorado Senate has come to halt thanks to a procedural maneuver invoked by a ranking Republican on Monday morning.

No committee hearings, floor debates or votes can happen until House Bill 1172 — a 2,000-page bill revising Title 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes — is read in its entirety. Most people at the Capitol estimated that would take 60 hours…

The rules also say any senator can request a bill be read in its entirety on second reading. If the statehouse staff tasked with reading it work around the clock, it’s likely to be Wednesday before they finish — potentially delaying the paid family leave hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon as well as all committee hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

The GOP minority in the Colorado Senate thought they had a way to effectively gum up the works on majority Democrats today, taking advantage of the power any Senator has to order a bill read in its entirety by legislative staff when it arrives for a vote in the full chamber. The bill in question was chosen by Republicans entirely for its massive 2,000-page length, being a bill full of innocuous changes to existing dense statutory language that must all be properly referenced and explained. Presto! All business in the Colorado Senate comes to a halt.

Until Majority Senate Democrats realized they had an obvious 21st Century workaround:

That’s right! Rather than having a single longsuffering Senate staffer (or a team of staffers working in shifts, which was the original plan) take days to read the entire bill into the record, Democrats set up five computers to read the bill simultaneously at somewhere around 650 words per minute–reducing the days-long task to a couple of hours! There’s no requirement, after all, that the read-aloud bill be read aloud intelligibly. And since this is all a needless exercise in the era of digital content dissemination there’s absolutely no reason to adhere to anything more than the letter of the law.

The fact that Republicans chose this particular bill for its extreme length, entirely to achieve the maximum disruption not any legitimate policy interest, makes the Democratic majority’s technological turnabout fair play. The truth, as we’ve discussed in detail with the oil and gas drilling reform bill, is that Democrats are giving all of these pieces of legislation the full benefit of the legislative process–with multiple exhaustive hearings in both chambers. The only actual problem here is that Republicans no longer have a majority in any chamber with which to kill them.

The moral of the story? Parliamentary games are fun, but elections are what matter.

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Diogenesdemar says:

    1.  Which senator?  Credit where infamy is due, please . . . 

    2.  The optics of calling for the reading are bad. The optics on the solution are just terrible.  This is lose/lose regardless of where one gets their schooling?

    I think if it were me, I would have insisted the entire Senate, every single chucklehead, remain in session, non-stop, for the entirety of the 60-hour reading??  My guess is, there would be no recurrence?

  2. Pseudonymous says:

    Slow down the bad bills!

    I'm sorry, Chris.  I'm afraid I can't do that.

    It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it. I’d give it an 87.

  3. doremi says:

    Friday, March 1st:  Stephen Humphrey had the clerk read the 30-page Extreme Risk bill for no apparent purpose.

    But I'll note that both sides play this gambit.  Many years ago, there was a Congressional redistricting bill coursing through the last days of the 2003 legislature.  Republicans weren't satisfied with the adopted map, which had already been used in the 2002 election.   They wanted 5 or 6  safe R seats, instead of 3. It's since been referred to as the "Midnight Gerrymander." The Dems didn't want it passed.  The late Sen. Ken Gordon (D) asked Sen. John Andrews (R) if he would abide by the rules.  Sen. John Andrews said "Yes."  In order to run out the clock, the Dems asked for a lengthy bill to be read out loud.    Andrews had a bunch of aides read it simultaneously.  They got their redistricting bill through.  But Colorado's Supreme Court later ruled their action (the redistricting, not the simultaneous reading) not-legit.


  4. JohnInDenver says:

    The next questions

    — how many votes would it take to suspend the rule for this particular effort?

    — are Democrats bringing up a rules change to make this sort of time wasting illegitimate? Or at least to require a majority vote for it to happen?

    • Pseudonymous says:

      Senate Rule 11:

      Reading of Bills

      (a) Unless a member shall request the reading of a bill in full when the bill is being considered by the committee of the whole or on third and final reading, it shall be read by title only, and the unanimous consent of the members present to dispense with the reading of the bill in full shall be presumed.

      Which appears to be designed to work around the constitutional requirement…

      Art. V Sec. 22


      Every bill shall be read by title when introduced, and at length on two different days in each house; provided, however, any reading at length may be dispensed with upon unanimous consent of the members present. All substantial amendments made thereto shall be printed for the use of the members before the final vote is taken on the bill, and no bill shall become a law except by a vote of the majority of all members elected to each house taken on two separate days in each house, nor unless upon its final passage the vote be taken by ayes and noes and the names of those voting be entered on the journal.

      So, (1) all of them, (2) nope. [All emphasis mine]

  5. Pseudonymous says:

    Whoops! Moved to reply to the question.

  6. This actually seems like a major fail on the part of the person scheduling bills. A good parliamentarian, if they had any choice, would have found a non-controversial time slot. Say, after SB19-181 had been moved over to the House.

  7. Gilpin Guy says:

    This was a kick ass counter move by Democrats.  Fuckwad Republicans trying to out McConnell Dems with bullshit get schooled about the 21st century.  When you lose big, you suffer the consequences.  Republicans can't seem to wake up and realize their propaganda and lies have run out.  People want good government and elected candidates who represent their priorities.  If Republicans want a different outcome then let them persuade at the ballot box.  They failed big time and in a way that shows how behind the 8 ball they really are.  More rubbing their noses in their fetid bullshit please.

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