Guests coming for the legislative swearing in ceremonies at the state capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 12th might be a little disappointed. There is nothing "new" in plain sight following the capitol construction that took place after the 2004 session.
Almost all construction was to eliminate the "firetraps" that the capitol building was suffering from by providing safety features within the walls.
The state capitol is already filled with historical memorabilia, but there is a way to show visiting guests at the state capitol someting new, and it won't cost very much.
While doing research some years ago on Colorado's decision not to give our citizens the right to vote in the presidential election of 1876, I visited the state archives anbd held in my hands the original of the first bill ever passed by the state legislature in November, 1876.
There is a "schedule" in the statute books, immediately following the language of the state constitution. Section 19 describes what the first bill would do and Section 20 states what would happen in the future.
Section 19. "The general assembly shall, at their first session, immediately after the organization of the two houses and after the canvass of the votes for officers of the executive department, and before proceeding to other business, provide by act or joint resolution for the appointment by said general assembly of electors in the electoral college,
"and such joint resolution or the bill for such enactment may be passed without being printed or referred to any committee, or read more than one day in either house, and shall take effect immediately after the concurrence of the two houses therein, and the approval of the governor thereto shall not be necessary."
Section 20. "The general assembly shall provide that after the year 1876 the electors of the electoral college shall be chosen by direct vote of the people."
State elections were held Oct. 3rd, 1876. Both the House and Senate had Republican majorities.
The Colorado legislature convened Nov. 1, 1876. On Nov. 2 and 3rd, the House and Senate passed House Bill One. The very first bill passed by the new state legislature was to call for the House and Senate to meet in "Joint Convention" at 10 a.m. November 7th and appoint the three presidential electors.
It was frankly awesome to hold House Bill One in my hands, probably something that had not happened in the past 100 years. There are three beautiful handwritten pages. The thick paper is in exellent condition and the penmanship is still readable, although beginning to fade somewhat on pages two and three.
The measure is folded twice and "1877" is written on an otherwise blank side showing. That is because the session continued into 1877.
As everyone knows, Republican Rutherford Hayes was elected president over Democrat Samuel Tilden by one electoral vote, and it is safe to state the three Republican electors picked by the Colorado legislature on Nov. 7th, 1876 provided that margin of victory.
Now the state archives isn't going to allow the original document to leave the archives to be placed elsewhere, nor should it be run through a copy machine. But it can be photographed and the photos placed in three frames in the House (and possibly the Senate) along with another frame explaining what the bill is and why it was so important.
Such an historic display would not be costly and could be financed by donations.
In case anyone is curious, the three electors chosen were Herman Beckurts, William Hadly and Otto Mears.
Railroad magnate Mears, according to an ancient news article "spent 17 years lobbying for a golden dome on the capitol building. He got his golden idea accepted in 1907 and gilding the dome was completed in 1908." It has since been regilded.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel