Legislators’ Report Card: So Many Days, So Few Bills

A team report by Kerri Rebresh, Sandra Fish and Wendy Norris.

The 2007 state legislative session ran exactly 115 days yet four lawmakers only saw fit to introduce a grand total of six bills amongst them and co-sponsored exactly zero.

Are they libertarian-inspired legislative minimalists or is there something else afoot?

When Rep. Stella Hicks (R-Colorado Springs) was appointed by the House District 17 vacancy committee to fill the seat of Rep. Mark Cloer, following his surprise retirement after winning re-election just weeks earlier, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported:

The committee quickly accepted the nomination and appointed Hicks unanimously to represent the district that covers Fort Carson and southeastern Colorado Springs.

Hicks spoke briefly after she was selected, saying she hoped to continue providing residents in the district with the same quality of representation they had during the six years Cloer was in office.

“I plan to do the best I can for everyone,” Hicks said.

As has been noted in the comments of our Least Effective Representatives post and A Bill of Her Own, Rep. Hicks was not precluded from introducing and/or co-sponsoring bills though she was appointed to the seat well after the December deadline for freshmen to submit their proposed legislation to Speaker Andrew Romanoff. It’s also curious that her predecessor offically announced his retirement on December 29, 2006 weeks after presumably meeting the returning lawmakers’ deadline for submitting proposed bills for the forthcoming session, yet she didn’t sign-on to them as the succeeding representative.

In April, she shepherded HB 1365 [PDF] through the House to add the Colorado Consortium for Earth and Space Science Education as an eligible employer to offer retirement benefits under PERA. The bill was introduced exactly two weeks after it was first noted in a news story by Colorado Confidential that Rep. Hicks had no sponsored legislation.

Rep. Hicks shares the dubious distinction of fewest bills with another freshmen legislator, Rep. Victor Mitchell (R-Castle Rock). He, too, sponsored one bill and co-sponsored none.

His constituent web site list endorsements, including this one that notes his work ethic:

“Victor Mitchell will be an outstanding addition to the Colorado House of Representatives. His election from House District 45 will bring a common-sense, business-oriented approach to lawmaking. Victor will be one of the few members of the legislature who has ever created a job and met a payroll. You simply cannot underestimate the importance of his experience to the legislative process. Victor’s business activities have always been of the highest integrity, and he will bring his value of an “honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” to the General Assembly.”

– Steve Durham, former State Senator and Representative
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Rep. Mitchell’s sole bill, HB 1064 [PDF], encourages counties to implement Lifesaver Programs to allow law enforcement agencies to use signal-emitting technology to track and locate persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other medical conditions which cause cognitive impairment.

Coming in at number two in our ranking is Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan). In a post-election an interview with Colorado Confidential, she said:

I’m very focused on property rights and transportation rights. I’m hoping to run private toll road bills to reverse what has happened in the corridor. What’s happened has really been the cart before the horse – there has to be a road, but it has to be part of a plan, not just a developer who wants it at his whim. I’m also planning property rights legislation where eminent domain can’t be taken for private use.

I’m a gal who’s very concerned about our water rights, and there is currently a lot of concern about development, and how much water that is going to go into new development before we see agriculture completely compromised. I’m also working on trying to revive getting a VA cemetery in El Paso County.

During the session, Rep. Looper sponsored two bills, one of which she herself had killed in committee because of strong citizen opposition to its poor crafting that actually weakened its intended purpose of protecting property owners from unscrupulous toll road developers.

Hailing from a tiny and quickly vanishing farming community that is in the cross-hairs of developers, freshman lawmaker Rep. Glenn Vaad (R-Mead) was cited in The Yellow Scene’s post-session wrap-up story:

Conservatives even left feeling like their voices were heard and things went well: “I shook hands with everyone I ran into (on the last day); with Republicans, Democrats, everyone,” says Rep. Glenn Vaad, R-Mead, who represents Weld County. “I’m not concerned about loading my guns (for next session). You…feel good about it.”

Considering that Vaad introduced only two bills – both minor statute revisions regarding county employee salary disclosures [PDF]  and an uninsured motorist database [PDF] – he didn’t appear to load up his guns this session either.

One fascinating near miss on this list was the Speaker himself, Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver).

Perhaps leading by example, he sponsored a mere two bills after imploring his House colleagues to refrain from introducing more than five bills in the session.

However, with three co-sponsored bills, which all naturally passed committee, he earned enough points to redeem himself – at least as far as our scoring methodology goes.

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Wendy Norris

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