Legislators’ Report Card: Record Success for Bills Passed

When it comes to quantity, Colorado’s 2007 General Assembly set at least one record for recent years: The House and Senate saw the highest proportion of introduced bills signed into law for the past 10 years.

Almost 70 percent of the 379 House bills introduced and almost 77 percent of the 263 Senate bills introduced (including 27 bills from the Joint Budget Committee) became law. It’s probably to be expected with the first Democratic-majority legislature and Democratic governor in 45 years.

In fact, Democrats were the prime sponsors in both houses for most of bills that became law.

Click for the details…. As part of this week’s legislative scorecard, Colorado Confidential examined the overall numbers from 1998 through 2007, along with the sponsorship of bills – excluding JBC bills – in 2007. Here’s a look at some of the findings:

Big success rate. 2007 is tops in the last 10 years. In 2003, when the GOP took back the Senate from the Democrats, 67 percent of Senate bills introduced became law. That contrasts with a low of 43 percent in 2002, the second year of the first Democratic-controlled Senate in 40 years. In a session marked by election-year politics, Senate Democrats saw their bills die in House committees, on the House floor and even on the Senate floor when 14 Democratic-sponsored Senate bills were left on the table when the clock struck midnight.

Fewer than average House bills introduced. From 1998 through 2007, an average of 417.5 bills were introduced in the House, with a high of 493 in 2000. But in 2007, only 379 bills were introduced in the House. Apparently, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s desire that lawmakers show a little restraint in proposing new laws had an impact. And the fact that JBC bills were introduced in the Senate helped too.

Wait ’til next year. The number of bills introduced typically spikes in election years, as is evidenced from the stability in the number of Senate bills introduced from year to year – the Senate fields appropriations bills in off years such as this one, the House in election years, and those bills are included in this graphic.

Good to have Dem friends. Only 5 percent (23 total) of the non-budget bills that became law were sponsored by Republicans in both Houses. Serving a rare stint in the minority, the GOP lawmakers found more success teaming up with Democratic sponsors in the opposite house: 27 Republican Senators teamed with House Dems to get their bills passed, while 57 House GOPers teamed with Senate Dems to get it done.

Kinder Dems? Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer took a look at the sponsorship numbers in 1999, the first year of all-GOP rule for some time. That year,  76 percent of the bills signed into law by new GOP Gov. Bill Owens were sponsored solely by Republicans, with only 4.5 percent of the bills sponsored solely by Democrats.

“Either the Dems are much kinder to the Republicans than the GOP is to the Dems, or the Republicans are smarter by going (successfully) much more frequently to the majority party for second-chamber sponsorship,” Straayer says in an e-mail.