Thursday, January 17, 2013

Senate passes civility resolution over Republican dissent

Debate on a routine, and traditional, resolution calling for civil debate in the General Assembly got a little bit exciting Thursday as seven senators dissented.

Senate Joint Resolution 13-004 calls on members of both chambers of the General Assembly to "reflect credit" on the legislature, "inspire the confidence, respect, and trust of the public," and "conduct ourselves during all legislative proceedings in a manner that creates a professional environment."

SJR 13-004 is, in that respect, fairly similar to exhortations pushed by legislators in previous years.

The discord over the measure may be a reflection of a partisan trend. In 2012, for example, when the House of Representatives was under Republican control, the measure was ultimately approved by both chambers, but not until May. In 2011, the first year after the GOP's short-lived takeover of the chamber in the Nov. 2010 election, the resolution passed the Senate, but was never adopted by the House of Representatives.

In 2010, by contrast, the civility measure was approved by mid-February. A similar quick path to passage occurred in 2009, 2008, and 2007 - all years in which Democrats ran both chambers at the capitol.

The seven "no" votes on SJR 13-004 were Sens. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs; Greg Brophy, R-Wray; Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs; Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa; Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City; Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs; and Mark Scheffel, R-Parker.

Cadman is the Senate minority leader and Scheffel is his deputy.

Crowder said that his vote is a reflection of frustration with the extent of input the Senate's Democratic leadership will allow his caucus.

"I believe in rigorous debate," he said in an email message. "The Democrats' stand is, since they are the majority, we should sit in our seats and say nothing."

Crowder pointed especially to concerns that the Democrats would undermine constitutional rights and attempt to raise taxes.

"Defending your rights and not raising taxes is my job," he said. "In order to do this, we have to fight for you. We do this out of compassion and beliefs and will not weaken on this task, with respect and civility."

Eastern plains Sen. Greg Brophy did not invoke ideology as a reason for his vote. He said he thought the measure is unnecessary.

"Talking about it is as big of a waste of time as running it," he said.

An email request for an interview sent to the other five dissenting senators received no response by press time.

UPDATE, Jan. 23, 2013:

An email message sent by Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Sulphur Springs, this morning indicates that he opposed the civility resolution on financial grounds.

"The reason is purely a practical one," Baumgardner wrote. "I was elected to be a good steward with your money. It costs between $6,000 & $10,000 to run one piece of legislation."

Baumgardner noted that he voted for a similar resolution last year. He also implied that the resolution was unnecessary because legislators are implicitly expected to act in an appropriate manner when considering public policies.

"As adults and elected officials, I believe it is understood that we should be civil toward one
another, not just during the legislative session but all year long," Baumgardner wrote. "I try to follow the Golden Rule.'Do unto others as you would have them do to you.'"