Colorado Republican state lawmakers convinced a judge Tuesday that he’s within his rights to decide whether Senate Democrats violated the state Constitution when they had multiple computers read a bill so fast no one could understand the words.
Denver District Judge David Goldberg ruled that his initial order stands, prohibiting speed-reading by computers when a lawmaker requests a bill be read.
“The Court was unable to discern a single word from the tape played during the court proceeding,” Goldberg wrote in his ruling. “To ‘read’ the bill, which is a constitutional requisite, in such a manner renders it a nullity.”
Goldberg’s decision could hinder Democratic efforts to accomplish everything they’d hoped this year on education, tax reform and other major issues because the ruling arms Senate Republicans with a tactic to slow down debate.
From this point forward any Republican senator can ask for a bill, no matter how long, to be read in its entirety on the floor. Major legislation, such as the state budget that is expected to be introduced next week in the Senate, spans hundreds of pages.
Senate President Leroy Garcia, who was named in the lawsuit, called the decision a loss for Colorado.
“I respect my Republican colleagues, but I will not stoop to using obstructionist tactics and will continue to keep my caucus above the political gamesmanship demonstrated by those on the other side of the aisle,” Garcia said in a statement. “The people of Colorado elected us to work hard, and I remain committed to working with anyone, regardless of party, who has a solution to the problems Coloradans face.”
The 2,023-page bill that Republican Sen. John Cooke requested be read last week isn’t controversial. It’s just long. The bill makes a series of updates to Title 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Mark Grueskin, the Democrats’ lawyer, argued in court that Republicans asked for it to be read for purely political purposes and not because they were concerned about its contents.
But Sen. Bob Gardner, the Republican who brought the lawsuit, said he’s concerned about bills that purport to be “cleanup” bills getting sped through without an understanding of what they’re about. He also conceded that delaying debate on a bill is one of the only options the minority party has to slow down the process at the Colorado Capitol.
The preliminary injunction extended by Goldberg on Tuesday leaves Garcia with two options for House Bill 1172. He can have the bill re-read in a manner that is “comprehensible” or he can table it.
The top Republican in the Senate, Chris Holbert, said in a statement he hopes Tuesday’s decision would mark a new start, calling Garcia “a good man and a thoughtful leader.”
“We’ve heard from constituents — from Pueblo to Greeley and from Sterling to Montrose — who are disappointed in the hasty speed in which legislation has been driven through the process, and Colorado’s Republican Senators will continue to be their voice and utilize our Constitutionally-derived powers to ensure those voices are heard loud and clear,” Holbert said.
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