On Monday March 4th, 2013 the legislative branch of the Colorado House and Senate set a terrible, terrible precedent for how the citizens of Colorado and their concerns can be overridden and ignored in favor of politicians and party agendas. On a single day, Monday the fourth of March, five seperate gun control bills were set for public hearings by the state Senate. One day only was set aside for some of the most controversial bills that have been proposed in years. The next closest would probably be the Civil Unions bill that was passed without much, if any, fan fare this morning. While individual bills are scheduled for only one day of hearings, bills like these would normally be set on different days so that citizens have greater opportunities to make it these hearings and testify. Not everyone gets to, but usually it is a first-come, first-served deal. If you get there early enough, you’ll most likely be able to testify. Again, that was hot how these hearings were run.
Sheriff Maketa, a man who has reason to be very concerned about these bills and the legislative process, described what he saw on Monday. “…On numerous occasions, bills similar in nature were set for hearing on different days to ensure opportunity for anyone to participate in the deliberative process. On Monday, this didn’t occur. Instead, gun bills were simultaneously scheduled and of 25 plus sheriffs, only one could testify per bill. Hearings were split so bills heard simultaneously were on different floors, even though all were heard by senate committees. Rules for testimony changed three times from Thursday afternoon through Monday at 10:30 am, when hearings began. … Minutes after I signed up to testify, I learned a different process would be utilized and testimony was based on three categories: experts, preferred witnesses, and public witnesses.” (Emphasis added by me.) It seems to me that all these changes were specifically implemented to prevent citizens from voicing their opinions. They were blocked from representing themselves before their legislators. I would go so far as to say that the multiple changes in procedure, holding the hearings on the same day, and even creating different categories of speakers where committee members designated “expert” speakers were all designed specifically to prevent testimony against these bills.
“Later, I phoned a member of our legislature and expressed concern for what I had witnessed; changing of rules, time limits, new classification of speakers to establish priority and most of all the number of citizens who made the journey to the Capitol in hopes of being heard. I was told the rules did change several times and that this was very unusual. These changes were driven by the majority leadership, Senator John Morse, and the chairperson of the involved hearing committee.” I am appalled and ashamed at what the Colorado Democratic party, the current Senate and House majority, has done. I am a registered member of the Democratic party but am seriously considering severing my ties with them because of how they are treating the voters that elected them to office.
Maketa continued, voicing concerns that I truly believe we all should take a very close look at. “…I recognized the injustice that was unfolding before my eyes. Citizens of Colorado were prevented from participating in the legislative process. Their rights had been overridden by the agenda of a few members of the State Senate.”
I think what disturbs me the most of this entire process is that this is a new precedent that is being established by a party that I voted for. I helped to elect some of them into office and now am watching the government take large steps towards ignoring me and fellow citizens entirely, unless we agree with them. Did I go to the hearings on Monday? No, but it wasn’t due to lack of desire. I had classes that I could not miss and am now under the impression that it would not have mattered. My voice would have been silenced with the other estimated one thousand people that attended Monday’s testimony hearings.
Are there other methods for making my voice heard? Yes, I can email or call my representatives. I can attend town hall meetings. Would that have really made a difference here? No, because the representatives for the district(s) I live in are both Republican and voted against all five bills. I could have contacted other representatives, those I did vote for in previous elections for example, but they do not have to listen to me any more than other state representatives at the national Senate and House have to listen to me. I am not part of the slice of their state that they represent and therefore am not as important to them, at least not when we are talking about an issue that is so decisive and split down party lines like this.
Will I be making my concerns knows to all of the state representatives currently serving? Yes, I will. Again, the precedent that they have set is one which has the potential to lead to a government ruling class which is above the citizens they “represent.” I am aware that I am possibly using a slippery slope argument here, but I also believe that I am justified in being so concerned. I hope I’m not the only one. If you also believe that what has occurred here is wrong, please add your voice to mine and speak out against what has happened. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the gun control bills themselves. They are but minor players in this particular concern. I am much more concerned about my rights and my voice being ignored and silenced. I believe you should be too.