Upon Adjournment

Long session makes for short fuses

Column by Vic Vela
Posted

The most uttered words during any legislative session could be “bill” and “vote.”

But, lately, one could make the case for other four-letter words that have bounced around the Capitol — ones that would make Quentin Tarantino blush.

The session is winding down, but some lawmakers seem to be wound awfully tight.

Over the last couple of weeks, tempers have flared and emotions have gotten the better of our grown men and women who create our laws.

Here are a few recent examples:

Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, hurled an expletive toward fellow Republican Rep. Kevin Priola of Henderson on the House floor over his role in a vote on an education bill. That confrontation preceded a vote by Republicans to oust Priola as party whip, a position from which he would resign days later.

Rep. Mark Waller, a Colorado Springs Republican who is running for attorney general, barked the same expletive toward Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, after Pabon made a joke on the House floor about Waller's delegate vote count at the recent GOP state assembly — Waller barely earned a spot on the Republican primary ballot that day.

And it's not just “Men Behaving Badly.” Reps. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, have been on each other's throats more than their Adam's apples.

Clearly, something's in the water at the Capitol these days.

“It is unfortunate. I wish we could all get along,” said House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, doing his best Rodney King impersonation. “I think that sometimes there's a joke that this is high school at the Capitol. Sometimes, it feels like junior high.”

Junior high? It's been more like watching the best of “The Jerry Springer Show,” sans a hooting audience egging on the behavior — well, except for the press of course.

Holbert acknowledged that his comments made to Priola on the House floor recently were made out of frustration. He was upset that Priola, who was House minority whip at the time, did not support a Republican amendment to the Student Success Act, a K-12 funding measure. The amendment had to do with how schools provide transparency over financial figures.

Instead, Priola voted for a competing and prevailing Democratic amendment and, seeing as how he didn't vote for the GOP version, he did not whip up votes for the failed effort.

Holbert expressed his displeasure by walking up to Priola and hurling a comment that begins with the sixth letter in the alphabet.

“Tensions were probably running a little higher than normal,” Holbert said.

But high tensions are the norm when it comes to the epic Duran and Gerou rivalry.

Duran is the chairwoman of the all-important Joint Budget Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. Gerou serves on the same committees.

Those committee hearings really should have been held inside steel cages this year. The two really got into it during an April 2 hearing, where you could have played a drinking game based on the number of times that Duran used her chairwoman's gavel.

Things got ugly after Gerou suggested to a lawmaker that they “make a deal” over funding for bills they were carrying. Gerou later said she was kidding.

Duran took Gerou as suggesting “quid pro quo” over legislation, which is a no-no. Gerou was not happy with Duran's interpretation of her comments and let her know it.

“There's nothing that I said that was quid pro quo,” Gerou said angrily. “And if you are imputing my nature, my ethics, madam chair, I object!”

Later that day, Duran said Gerou “hasn't acted like a state representative” this legislative session and said her conduct has been unprofessional all year.

Not to be outdone, Gerou said Duran is “young enough to be my daughter” and that she doesn't quite understand the rules involved with chairing a committee.

Mr. Speaker, what's up with your members getting all Rowdy Roddy Piper on one another?

“I think during the end of session, nerves and tempers get short,” Ferrandino said. “There's no secret that there's no love lost between Rep. Duran and Rep Gerou.”

I suggested to Ferrandino that it would be quite entertaining to see the creation of a reality TV show called “Crisanta and Cheri” — two women who can't stand each other, forced to live together in a city apartment, or a deserted island.

The speaker said he would “neither confirm or deny that has been kicked around” as a possible skit that is part of the legislature's end-of-the-year “Hummers” event, where lawmakers roast one another.

Look, far be it from me to criticize bad behavior — after all, my cross streets are Sodom Avenue and Gomorrah Boulevard. Believe it or not, politicians are humans who sometimes say or do things they regret.

It'll be interesting to see if things settle down the rest of the session — although, I won't be holding my breath.

Gotta run, now. “Crisanta and Cheri” is on TV.