Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "The Colorado General Assembly"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Book Review: "The Colorado General Assembly"

“Politics is serious stuff, and the stakes are high. Why else do clients pay $50,000 to $200,000 in fees to lobbyists who represent their interests” asks a book written about a part time legislature in a state with far fewer people than Pennsylvania, and this was back during the 1980s. “The Colorado General Assembly” allows Pennsylvanians to compare their legislature with a vastly different structure yet one where similarities may be found.

Colorado prides itself as being a “citizen’s legislature” and voters in Colorado approved a Constitutional amendment limiting the Colorado legislature to a 120 day limit for sessions. Unlike the more professional full-time Pennsylvania legislature, the lower pay and limited days of sessions leads to a higher turnover rate amongst Colorado legislatures. One major difficulty this creates a lack of professional legislators with strong institutional knowledge. Thus, lobbyists are seen as being more powerful in Colorado than in many other states. In Colorado, lobbyists outnumber legislators by a 5 to 1 ratio. The lobbyists command much of the knowledge upon which legislators rely and, with a full-time professional commitment towards crafting favorable legislation, they have become very influential in Colorado. Many lobbyists are former legislators who have decided to use their legislative experiences to earn more money. The author notes circumstances where legislators have asked if lobbyists have come to agreement on legislation amongst themselves, rather than it being legislators guiding the process.

In 1986 in Colorado, political action committees accounted for 62% of all contributions to State Senate campaigns and 59% of all contributions to State House campaigns, compared to 29% of contributions to candidates for Governor and 25% of all contributions to other statewide campaigns. This helps cement the bonds between Colorado legislators and lobbyists.

The role of lobbyists takes on greater influence when it is recognized that Colorado’s budget process gives the legislature a stronger role compared to many other states. The author states Colorado has a strong legislative-centered budget and that, although the Governor submits an annual budget to the legislature, the Colorado legislature has long protected its powers over determining much of the budget. Still, the results are similar to most others states’ budgets: namely budgets that are incremental adjustments to previous budgets. Colorado, though, is known for its relatively smaller budgets and for pushing a relatively greater portion of the tax budget onto local governments.

The public can have a more direct role in creating laws in Colorado, unlike in Pennsylvania. The public is permitted to initiate legislation in addition to allowing citizens to place statutory proposals onto the general elections ballot. The author notes many political analysts, though, find this a poor way to create law as the result is often “sloppy and unrefined,” yet, as the author notes, “it does makes for fun and interesting politics.”

An interesting difference about Colorado and Pennsylvania Republicans is that Colorado Republicans appear more divisive with more bitter primaries where losers are often unsupportive of the victors. This may be because Republicans tend to dominate politically in Colorado and thus are more apt to splinter into factions while Pennsylvania Republicans need to stick together more to defeat a Pennsylvania Democrat. Interestingly, this strong but factionalized Colorado Republican has lead to Republican domination of the legislature but lead to several statewide victories for Democrats.

While Republicans are factionalized and legislative turnover is high, a legislator is fairly secure in office in Colorado. Incumbent legislators, unless involved in a scandal or financial difficulty, tend to be reelected as a very high rate. One tradition found in Colorado that is practically unheard of in Pennsylvania is that many retiring legislators resign from office in order to guide their successor choice into their vacancy.

Constituents rarely contact Colorado legislators, according to the author, and, with few staff, most representatives have slow to respond to their mail. Some observers note some Colorado legislators let the mail pile up on the desk and then just throw it all away. Colorado legislators look to other legislators and lobbyists for information on legislative issues. As such, the author notes that good testimony at a legislative hearing has been observed to make a difference as it can sometimes be the best way to inform some legislators on key matters. Still, this does not guarantee that legislators will be expert at their jobs, for as State Sen. Ralph Cole once noted “it’s really hard to legislate against the stupidity of the legislators.”

The author notes that legislative leaders and committee chairs work more cohesively in the Colorado House than in the Senate, which may be the opposite of what would be expected for the larger sized House. Yet, the House leaders and committee chairs had a greater tradition of meeting and coordinating activities more often than in the Senate, and this creates this difference.

In sum, Colorado has an interesting legislature. Yet, the lack of professionalism and reliance upon lobbying interests should allow most to conclude that Pennsylvania has a better legislature, despite there being far too many Republicans in the legislatures of both.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now why don't they make books like this one into movies? It seems far more interesting that some of the recent choices of books made into movies.

1:40 PM


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