Colorado Democrats Refuse to Read

It seems that once a year, we hear about a bill that is well over 2,000 pages long. Assuming you are like the majority of people, you wonder how our lawmakers can read 2,000 pages of a bill while reading and voting on everything else that happens during the legislative session. This week we saw such a bill come to the State Senate for a vote. Senate Republicans asked for a full reading of the law—a practice that is required, but apparently uncommon—which was then characterized as “gamesmanship” and “Trumpian” by Rep. Leslie Herod, the vice chair of the Committee on Legal Services.

Three hours into a reading that was projected to take 60 when done by living, breathing human-beings, Democrat Senators decided that they would comply with the request for a full reading, but would have computers do the reading at a pace that was unintelligible to anyone. Even with the assistance of computers, it took several more hours to finish a full reading of the bill. This is not surprising, given that a single sentence in the bill—regulating the sale of real estate— contains over 400 words.

To her credit, Rep. Herod did also say that “Coloradans deserve better,” and we do deserve better. We deserve better than to have laws that are 2,000 pages long. We deserve to know that our elected representatives are reading and understanding the laws that they are signing. For all anyone knows, the regulations on barbers and cosmetologists—buried in the 2,000 pages of text—may have mandated a minimum number of mullets and a maximum amount of dye that can be used on hair in a given day.  

Joking aside, the bills that are voted on at the capitol do have serious implications for all of us living in the state. If our legislators aren’t reading what they are signing, we are left completely unprotected from whoever writes these laws. Thankfully, a Denver District Court judge issued a restraining order on Democratic Senator Leroy Garcia, which forbids the Senate leadership from using the same tactic if a full reading of a bill is requested. It remains to be seen what will happen with the lawsuit that Senate Republicans have against Senator Garcia, though we do know that until the 19th, our lawmakers have to physically read bills.

The Libertarian Party of Colorado firmly believes that lawmakers should be required to physically read the laws that they sign—without exception—as is outlined by the Constitution. Senator Garcia does not agree with this stance, and instead claims “Senate Republicans have decided to employ unprecedented partisan tactics, abuse taxpayer dollars, and waste time that could be spent working for the people of Colorado.” If the Senator truly believes that reading bills is a “waste of time,” especially those which regulate professions and occupations, perhaps he himself should find a different occupation.

To be fair, the Colorado Constitution does not require that elected officials be present when bills are read. This is a problem in and of itself as well, and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. We, as citizens, should demand more of our legislators. We should demand that they know what they are signing. We need to be able to hold our legislators accountable. If they are incapable or unwilling to truly represent us, then they need to be removed from office.

4 Thoughts

  1. Michael,

    I finished reading your op-ed recognizing it wasn’t being made in good faith. Laws can be complex, but they are also organized and verbose. 2000 pages wouldn’t be that many if it was dealing with re-writing and re-organizing significant portions of outdated state code, which already have thousands of pages. Dismissing a law because of the number of pages is not an argument, but instead the desperate retreat of someone with no argument.

    I wanted to know more, but your piece fails to mention the bill by name. I now think this is for a reason and your intellectual dishonesty stretches far beyond your ignorance of why laws might need a few pages. I can see now you hid the ball entirely: Either maliciously or because your research and reading skills are lacking. I started by downloading every Senate bill in the 2019 session, and eventually discovered the longest is only 110 pages (SB-088). The giant gulf between 2000 and 110 is similar to the gulf between your forced narrative and the actual truth I’d uncover.

    The reading of 2000 pages was in fact a stunt and delay tactic by Republicans so they could deny Colorado voters the rights and liberties to protect their communities as long as possible. What’s more, the bill they were trying to stop (SB-181) was only 33 pages and the bill being read (HB-1172) was unrelated, is a good bill, and is sponsored by two Republicans (and one Democrat).

    SB-181 seeks to restore Colorado voters with local control over oil/gas operations in their communities. The communities can negotiate and regulate oil/gas activities independently without having those regulations imposed on them by the state, often to the benefit of oil/gas companies. As a supposed “libertarian” you should be in favor of this type of local autonomy and liberty. Instead you ignored the underlying issue entirely.

    Colorado Republicans know Democrats have the votes to pass SB-181. They know they can’t sway public opinion on the issue because voters also want this. Republican donors don’t want this, however, so senate GOP is using every trick they can find to delay and derail senate procedures to avoid a vote.

    Senate GOP called for a reading of HB-1172 (2000+ pages) to prevent a vote on SB-181 (33 pages). HB-1172 re-organizes, re-numbers, and updates Title 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, which is huge. Most of the pages are just the existing statutes, with lines through them, and then those same statutes appearing with a new number or with slight modifications right below/above. These are easy to comprehend and it’s fairly easy to scan for any potential “hidden” changes you allude might be hiding. This appears to be a good bill that modernizes a large chunk of law. And, again, it was introduced by Republicans, is unrelated to SB-181, and was asked to be read purely as a procedural hurdle meant to undermine our democratic processes and attempts to carry out the will of voters.

    The Democrats solution, which is entirely within the bounds of the law, is far less a distortion of our legislative institution than the Republican maneuvers which precipitated it. The text of HR-1172 has been public for some time, along with the text of SB-181, and every other bill introduced. A full reading of any bill serves no real purpose, especially one that is making minor tweaks to thousands of pages of existing statutes. Automating/assisting this archaic process (like we have with the public’s access to the text of bills through the internet) is the right call and will allow the legislature to move past this obstructionism.

    Thankfully they already did move forward and SB-181 passed the Senate and moved to the House before your opinion was published. I’m glad to see that while “libertarians” pundits such as yourself are spending your time trying to distort reality into your narrative our elected Democrats are using their time to govern, and, in this case, enhance our actual liberty.

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    1. Hello carlzulauf,

      First thank you for reading and taking the time to respond. My overall point is that the constitution requires that laws be read.

      I understand that the bill was to reallocate statutes into a single section, however there were changes to the text of those statutes.

      What I found, while scanning, was that these changes appeared to be grammatical in nature, though I was unwilling to read all 2,000 pages of statutes to find substantive changes.

      This unwillingness on my part speaks to the soul of the article. Yes it’s mundane and theoretically doesn’t contain major changes, but without reading it, how would anyone know?

      I also understand that this was a “tactic” to delay a vote, but again, this is something that is required by the Colorado constitution.

      We have seen this kind of thing before at the federal level. The infamous “we have to pass it to know what’s in it” quote from Nancy Pelosi is perhaps the most egregious example of lawmakers passing laws that they have not read.

      Thank you again for taking the time to respond! I sincerely appreciate that.

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      1. Wasting floor time does nothing to ensure the bill is fully read and comprehended. No one was sticking around to hear the floor reading when done by the usual approach (a person reading at nearly unintelligible speed). I also don’t see any editorials from you decrying the most frequent outcome: members of both parties vote to skip this archaic requirement. If reading the bill fast is wrong, then wouldn’t not reading it at all be wronger?

        It seems like the only thing you are doing is celebrating undemocratic obstruction. Why?

        Thanks, at least, for not deleting my reply.

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      2. I placed a small blurb at the end of the article about the issues with not listening to the reading as well.

        Yes, this is an opinion piece, and yes it has a purpose. It was not specifically meant to be an objective report, though I do write those as well, but those are on VozWire.com

        I appreciate the conversation!

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