Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Will session end on a blue note?
Written by Jimmy at the Crossroads on February 16, 2021
It was Dec. 6, 1983. Blues/rock guitar god Stevie Ray Vaughan, then just 29 and not yet a blip on the music radar screen, was set to join blues legend Albert King, then twice his age, for a televised jam session in Hamilton Ontario, Canada. The performance was recorded live for a TV show called In Session.
At first, King’s ego was unenthused and unimpressed. “Who the hell was this guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and why was he supposed to play with me?” was his attitude. They almost scrubbed the session until King realized Vaughan was “little Stevie,” the “skinny kid” who “stood up just like a popsicle” and sat in with King at a few of his Texas concerts years before.
The duo cut 1.5 hours of music in one of the most memorable jams ever, predominantly playing King’s repertoire but adding in arguably the best version of Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy” you’ll find. It was fun. It was exciting. It was downright incredible. It’s even available on YouTube, DVD and CD!
But why am I bringing this story up in a Colorado Politics column, you ask? Well, today the Colorado legislature is back in session, which made me think of the show. While it’s about time they got back to the People’s business, it is almost certainly not going to be fun, exciting or incredible. (Also, I’m literally a lifelong SRV fan, and I finally found an excuse to write about him and one of the Three Kings of the Blues!)
The General Assembly has an ambitious agenda: COVID-19 “relief,” a so-called “public option” to “reduce health-care costs,” to remedy conflicts between the census and redistricting commission deadlines, reform the judicial branch, fix our horrid roads and more. They even want to pass a resolution insisting — insisting! — that the U.S. Congress does what Speaker Pelosi has already said she’ll do and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
They’ve got 117 calendar days left to take care of it all, but I’m wary of this agenda. Let’s ponder a few things for a moment.
First, judicial branch reform is critical and a good priority. In particular, the House and Senate must come together and place the judiciary under the Colorado Open Records Act. The startling scandal of a former judicial employee getting a $2.75 million hush payment from that branch underscores this need, but it’s not the only example of judicial malfeasance.
Jon Caldara wrote a great CoPo piece early last month exposing the troublesome truth about the state’s judiciary. He exposed the danger of Denver District Judge Ross Buchanan, his unethical handling of a case against College America and the rank inability of anyone to get answers about how the Commission on Judicial Discipline reprimanded Judge Buchanan. The reason: because CORA doesn’t apply to the judicial branch.
While the legislature does its due diligence trying to rein in one of the other three branches of government, it really needs to do the same sort of thing with the third: the executive branch. As I’ve argued for months and months and months, the power to make the laws lies with the legislative branch. It is not incumbent upon the governor – whether Democrat Polis or Republican Owens – to write and change his own laws on a unilateral whim.
Coloradans of all stripes are fed up with the inconsistency, the arbitrariness and the confusion that has gone on for nearly a year. As Aaron McCallister, owner of T-Bird Roadhouse in Wheat Ridge, put it to me on the radio, “I’ve lost track of what each color means at this point.” Polis has changed the COVID dial and changed the vaccine plans three or four times each. He created the Five Star program for restaurants, which then spent money to reach the standard, only to have it rendered irrelevant. The list goes on and on.
The legislature ought to put together its own Plan to Reopen Colorado, divert resources to this objective and set clear and consistent rules and guidelines for the governor and local health officials as well as individuals and businesses. They must emphasize getting kids back in school for 100% in-person learning, where they need to be for their own well-being.
It’s great that the Democrats want to fix up the judicial branch. Truly. But will they ever wrest back their own constitutional authority from the executive branch? As Colorado’s General Assembly gets back in session, let’s hope they get on it.
Alas, I suspect the legislature will be more like the woman Albert King pined for with SRV in “Blues at Sunrise” while In Session.
“Well, I’m gonna call up China
An’ see if my woman’s over there
You know, I’ve searched the whole world over, Lord
I can’t find my lover, nowhere.”