Monday, March 4, 2013, was unlike any day I’ve experienced in my 12 years testifying at the Colorado State Capitol. During my tenure, I’ve had numerous opportunities to participate in legislative processes from draft proposal to signature of a bill making it law.
I’ve witnessed many hearings and observed citizens, law enforcement, and special interest groups share opinions on a variety of proposed laws. I’ve witnessed very controversial bills set in a process to allow full access from supporters, opponents, and citizens to be heard by their legislators. 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.
Historically, any citizen would be allowed to speak if they arrived at the Capitol early and signed up on testimony records. Although sign up sheets were in place and citizens including myself signed up, we were completely disregarded. 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.