THE WEBBCAST: LEGISLATORS NEED TO COME TO GRIPS WITH ‘AIN’T GOING TO HAPPEN’
Wasting their time and our money at the Capitol — a legislative prerogative?
With the heady issues facing the state — our revenue stream and budget being foremost — you have to wonder what’s on the mind of some lawmakers when they introduce proposed legislation that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of passage.
Are they doing it as a favor to a constituent, or do they really believe they can make a change in societal behavior? Or are they doing it over a misaligned sense of self-importance and political puffery? How can they justify the waste of resources, and time?
Here’s a litmus test that could be applied to any proposed legislation:
If the Speaker of the House or Senate President can’t find that a lawmaker’s idea meets this test, then they should flatly tell the sponsor, “This is a bad idea and I won’t allow it to be introduced.” (U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is famous for telling congresspeople, “Ain’t going to happen.”) That same standard could apply in Colorado.
The costly process to get a bill drafted in Colorado starts in the Legislative Drafting Office, where staff attorneys do the research and the wordsmithing. We’re paying them about $100 an hour for their work. Then it gets reviewed by the legislator-sponsor, perhaps re-tweaked, calendared and read into the record. Every step adds incremental cost. By the time it gets to committee, where’s it’s docketed for a hearing, the cost per bill starts adding up. Let’s hope it dies in committee, so the cost per day for staff time and legal massaging doesn’t keep rising.
We have four topical examples to illustrate this point:
As more proposals come forth, I’ll bet we can throw at least half in the nearest shredder, because they just aren’t needed. Wiser heads will find a solution, and work it out, without the need for a new law. But a lot of time, money and attention will be wasted in the meantime, all of which could have better been spent on ways to save the state from economic ruin.
Just think how efficient the legislature might be if it only dealt with those issues that made a difference in our daily lives. We’d be gratified to know that our lawmakers were paying attention to the ideas that build value in our lives, and value in our economy. And they’d go home early. I fear, as that Boehner-ism goes, “Ain’t going to happen.”
Pete Webb, former broadcast journalist and award-winning investigative reporter, owns a PR firm which bears his name. He specializes in public affairs work, often focused on the state Capitol. Appointed by Governors Dick Lamm and Roy Romer to head the one-time Colorado Film Commission, Webb is also the immediate past president of the Special District Assn. of Colorado, long-time director of two fire districts, the latest being the South Metro Fire Rescue, the fifth largest in state. He is a registered Independent voter.