Guest Columns

SMITH: FORMER LEGISLATOR IMPARTED MANY LESSONS

Paul Sandoval — always true to his word

"One time Joe (Shoemaker) needed a vote on a workman’s compensation bill and asked me for it early in the session. I was a freshman and agreed. Soon, however, representatives from organized labor came down hard on me. They were lobbying very hard to kill this bill and wanted my vote. I told them that I had given my word to Joe but they still urged me to vote against the bill. So I went to Joe to explain my problem.

He said, ‘Paul, there’s only one thing that counts here in the Legislature. It’s your word.’

I then voted for Joe’s bill. It passed and Joe never forgot it.” — Paul Sandoval, state Senator, 1975-1982.

I’m thinking of Paul because he’s dealing with some serious health problems. We served together during 1975 and 1976 on the Joint Budget Committee, that rare two-year period when, because of the Watergate scandal, we Democrats controlled the House and the JBC, therefore, had three Democrats and three Republicans.

JBC members, from left, Rep. Sandy Arnold, R-Boulder, Sen. Paul Sandoval, D-Denver, Rep. David Gaon, D-Denver, and Sen. Joe Shoemaker, R-Denver, share a laugh during the 1975-76 session.
Photo by Morgan Smith/The Colorado Statesman
A Denver Democrat, Paul Sandoval added a sense of humor to the often intense Joint Budget Committee debates of the 1975 and ’76 sessions.
Photo by Morgan Smith/The Colorado Statesman

Photo by Morgan Smith/The Colorado Statesman

There were only two veteran JBC members, Senator Joe Shoemaker, R-Denver, and Representative Sandy Arnold, R-Boulder. David Gaon, D-Denver, was my House colleague and Ruth Stockton, R-Lakewood, was the other Republican Senate committee member.

Although Paul, D-Denver, was just a freshman, he was no newcomer in terms of how to get things done. The workman’s compensation vote he described above showed how quickly and skillfully he began working towards his goal of bilingual education.

Senator Joe Shoemaker had been running things up to our arrival. Near the end of the previous session, Wellington Webb, myself and others went to the last hearing of his Senate Appropriations Committee and sat dumbfounded as he held up a list of some forty or fifty bills, said that there wasn’t any money for them and then asked for a motion to postpone them all indefinitely.

Killing forty or fifty bills in one motion with no discussion? It sounds preposterous but that’s what Joe asked his committee to do. And, sure enough, the members — Democrats as well as Republicans — unanimously supported him.

“Are you legislators or just field mice?” we spectators wanted to ask those committee members.

So when our committee came together after the 1974 elections, our biggest concern was dealing with Joe. David Gaon and I spent much of our time scrapping with him over an FTE here and an FTE there, hoping that the others would support us. It was Paul, however, who saw the big picture. With the bilingual bill, he was committed to making a major change to the educational system and he knew from the outset of the session that he would need Joe Shoemaker’s help. He knew that keeping his word regarding the workman’s compensation bill was critical.

Paul also added a sense of humor to our often intense debates. As David Gaon said recently, “I will never forget Paul’s easy smile and laughter.” He would lean back with Sandy Arnold’s University of Colorado hat on, start tapping with his pencil and say something that would break the ice and help us move on.

With Paul’s help, we were able to keep the state solvent, build essential new programs and have a few laughs as well.

Morgan Smith served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1973-1978 and was Chairman of the Joint Budget Committee in 1976.