Cosmetic Civility Resolution Draws Criticism Once Again

January 18, 2013

Some lawmakers opposed the civility resolution as little more than a cosmetic and self-congratulatory exercise (Photo by Li Tsin Soon)

DENVER– When the typical “civility and respect” resolution hit the state Senate and the House this week – not all Republicans reveled in the peace pledge. Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) refused along with six other Republican peers while Republicans in the House voted “Aye” without a whisper of protest.

Cadman openly explained why he has continuously opposed the resolution – not because he doesn’t endorse civility and respect, but because it’s more of a self-serving, sanctimonious promise. His remarks sparked an indignant response from Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll ofDenver.

“I agree with every word, every phrase, every paragraph in this resolution,” declared Cadman, who added that he’s opposed it over his tenure in the legislature.

“I don’t agree with running a resolution on this because to me resolutions are what we send to folks when acknowledge or recognize some things,” said Cadman, describing them as memorials, recognition, tributes and statements from the General Assembly to others.

“This is kind of like a letter to us from us,” said Cadman of Senate Joint Resolution 004 introduced by Sen. John Kefalas and Rep. Randy Fischer, both Democrats from Fort Collins.

“I don’t spend much time writing to myself,” said Cadman, whose comments implied that the legislature should be more invested on representing the people of Coloradoon critical state issues.

State Senate Majority Leader Carroll said that it’s tough after a contentious campaign season to come back to the legislature and be chummy with the opposing party members.

“How do you do it when you feel so beaten up over the summer and fall?” asked Carroll of Republican or Democrat committees supporting opponents.

“I realized that it has nothing to do with me,” said Carroll, adding that her professional life as an attorney revolves around civility and conflict resolution.

“It has nothing to do with ego. It has nothing to do with personal character,” she said. “But it has everything to do with what we need to do for the state of Colorado.”

In her re-election campaign last year, Carroll said she walked precincts and constituents repeatedly thanked her for behaving in a nonpartisan and bipartisan manner in the state Senate – and implored her to continue.

“So, Minority Leader Cadman, I’ve been asked to do that by my constituents,” said Carroll. “I’ve been asked to make sure we are talking to each other, to make sure that we are civil to each other, and I have made a personal commitment to do that.”

“I don’t believe it’s a letter to ourselves – I believe it’s a commitment to ourselves,” declared Carroll.

State Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) sounded more empathetic than Carroll – and confessed his own shortcomings in being civil and courteous.

Joint Budget Committee Chairman Steadman said that it’s important to do the people’s work at the Capitol, “but it’s not always easy to be cordial and to be civil.”

The resolution is a reminder not to be uncivil or disrespectful, said Steadman, adding “I’ve been guilty of that as late and for that I very much apologize.”

Steadman told The Denver Post that his demeanor has changed since the death of his partner Dave Misner, who suddenly died from pancreatic cancer last summer.

Yet, Steadman has chaired the JBC meetings throughout the fall and into the winter with kindness and wit when warranted.

His breach with civility apparently was refusing to sit near former House Speaker Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch during Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address last week. Instead, the Democrat Senator chose to sit next to former House Majority Leader Amy Stephens of Colorado Springs.

The issue of contention arose last May when the House leadership – at that time, McNulty, Stephens and then House Assistant Majority Leader Mark Waller – encouraged a filibuster to avoid putting the same-sex civil unions bill to a vote of the body. It’s assured passage this year with Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.

Despite Steadman’s confession and Cadman’s explanation of his stance on the resolution for civility and respect in the legislature, Jason Salzman slammed Cadman and the six Republican Senators who voted against the resolution.

“You’d think a ‘no’ vote by seven Republican Senators, including Senate Minority Leader Cadman, would catch the attention of the Capitol press corps,” said Salzman of the liberal blog Colorado Pols.  “What’s up with a no vote on a bipartisan civility resolution?”

The answer was delivered by Cadman on the Senate floor – and the audio tape is available for anyone to hear on the Colorado General Assembly’s website.

The resolution passed unanimously in the House with bipartisan support, and in the Senate on a vote of 28 to 7. Voting “no” were Republican Senators Cadman, Randy Baumgardner of Cowdrey, Greg Brophy of Wray, Larry Crowder of Alamosa, Kevin Grantham of Canon City, Kent Lambert of Colorado Springsand Mark Scheffel of Parker.

Regardless of the vote, the Kumbaya is over, according to state Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), who voted for the resolution and also posted a realistic observation Thursday on her website.

“Friends from home teased about the numerous choruses of bipartisanship echoing from the Capitol and asked how long that might last,” said Roberts. “I’m guessing the singing of Kumbaya is about over as we move to the substance of why we’re here – that is to make state-level policy for Colorado.”

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