How lawmakers break their own rules in last days of legislative session

Wednesday is the last day of session, and that means the legislature let itself out of the rule of giving every bill a public hearing Tuesday.

DENVER - Wednesday's the last day of the state legislative session, which means we're in the middle of what I call their "Calvinball" time.

For the uninitiated, that's the game in the cartoon Calvin & Hobbes— a game in which the rules are never the same as before.

via GIPHY

It's funny on the funny pages.

It's a little less humorous when lawmakers do it.

They have a bunch of rules they normally have to follow-- like giving every bill a public hearing where any member of the public can show up to tell lawmakers what they think of the bill. But in crunch time, the legislature lets itself out of that rule!

You saw an example if you watched the House floor on TV Tuesday morning. The House education committee met “in the well,” which means they followed the rule of giving SB 61 a hearing. But not in a meeting open to the public. You can watch a condensed, annotated version of this happening in the video above.

Viewers at home heard classical music. Viewers at the Capitol heard nothing.

News reporters can’t even keep tabs on the debates lawmakers have like this at the end of every legislative session, because they aren’t allowed to be in the part of the chamber where these meetings take place. They have to try to scramble to learn what happened.

RELATED: 1 Republican, 1 Democrat, and 2 similar goals for Colorado in final days of legislative session

Later, we learned that committee killed SB 61. But we couldn’t hear the actual debate. Who was on which side? What was said? Did anyone propose a compromise?

Those are questions we can only attempt to answer by asking the people involved after the fact.

They do this because these rules designed to make the legislature open and transparent are rules the legislature has the power to change.

They can't change their final deadline: it's in the state constitution.

This is an old practice, used by both parties, that ends up cutting people out of big issues-- because a lot of time, the big issues are hardest ones to reach a compromise on and get saved for last.

The legislature is proud it's done things to open itself up, like allowing people to testify remotely from across Colorado on certain bills.

They can be less proud of this.

But it's how the sausage gets made every year in crunch time.
 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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