(Rep. Daniel Kagan represents Colorado House District 3 – promoted by Colorado Pols)
Having heard throughout the summer how badly Washington is broken, it made me think how much better we do things here in Denver. Maybe it’s that they have too much humidity up there in the nation’s capital to go with the heat and the combination gently poaches their brains, but, whatever the reason, we are better legislators in the Colorado General Assembly than the United States Congress will ever be.
First, we do converse and socialize across the aisle in Denver, much as I believe used to be the case some forty years ago in Washington. After Finance Committee hearings I tease Spencer Swalm about his votes, asking how such an obviously intelligent person can be always wrong and telling him that even the law of averages should put him on the correct side occasionally. He laughs and it’s all in good spirit. I’ve bowled with Bob Gardner (he’s not that bad), downed a few beers with Mark Waller, plotted taxi de-regulation strategy in his senate office with Ted Harvey and even sat at Elway’s bar one night discussing with a lobbyist, who was trying to kill my bill, why she should change her view. I did not persuade her of course (she had a board to answer to), but we were amiable and enjoyed our beer-fueled disagreement.
These kinds of interactions, I’m told, no longer occur in Washington. They should. If opposing parties socialized together they might argue more respectfully and more than occasionally find common ground.
Our bills are better in Denver than theirs in Washington. There, a bill that starts out as, say, an education bill gets all kinds of bells and whistles amended onto it that have nothing to do with education. Then, what’s an honest congressman to do if he wants more textbooks in the schools, but is much less sure that an additional runway is needed at Ithaca airport.
That doesn’t happen in Denver. A bill has a title, clearly stating what the bill is about. If any amendment strays from the title of the bill, if it is in fact not so much an amendment, but an addition on another topic, it will immediately be ruled to have run afoul of the “Single Subject Rule” and will not, therefore, be considered.
Another Washington practice that never happens here is the infuriating leadership habit of just letting a bill sit, sometimes sit for ever, with no hearing, no consideration given until finally the bill just dies, with nary a cry nor even a whimper. Here in Denver, if a lawmaker goes to the trouble of drafting a bill, it will be heard in a committee of reference and witnesses will be allowed to say why the bill is a good or bad idea. All ideas are given full consideration.
If Washington would adopt these three simple practices, a little comity among members of opposing parties, sticking to the subject of bills, and giving every bill a fair hearing, maybe Washington’s problems wouldn’t all be solved, but I guarantee you that the town would feel at least a little less broken.