Among the duties of a governor in Colorado: appointing hundreds of Coloradans every year to a myriad of boards and commissions.
In the past two years, however, some of those appointments from Gov. Jared Polis have run into controversy, largely from accusations that he has excluded Republicans (such as on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) or Eastern Plains residents (such as on the State Fair Board of Authority).
A bill that cleared the House State, Civics, Military & Veterans Committee on Monday would require the governor and his successors to take a more balanced look at appointment to boards and commissions.
House Bill 1212 is sponsored by Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta. It requires the governor to appoint more "diverse" representation to the hundreds of boards and commissions established in state law.
Diversity, as spelled out by HB 1212, includes geographic and demographic diversity, to include residents of both rural and urban Colorado, as well as diversity among political, racial and cultural groups, sexual orientation and gender.
That could also open to the door to representation from people with disabilities, according to Julie Reiskin of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, who testified in favor of the bill Monday. She noted that only three of the hundreds of boards and commissions require someone with a disability.
The bill was watered down a bit to give the governor a little more leeway in appointments. Under the amendment, the person seeking the position would have to meet basic criteria, which is sometimes but not always set in statute, and then the governor would look over the entire makeup of the board to ensure a balance with the criteria outlined in the bill.
Soper said the amendment was worked out with the governor's office, which until then had been a firm "no" on the bill.
The issue of Polis' boards and commissions appointments came to a head last year, when he appointed three members to the State Fair board, none of whom lived east of Interstate 25. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle objected to the lack of geographic representation, especially for a board tied to the fair, one of the top agricultural events in the state.
The three state fair board members were never voted on by the state Senate last year. All three continue to serve on the state fair board, and that's raising legal questions.
In the 1975 Colorado Supreme Court ruling on Lamm v. Banta, the Court ruled that if commission appointments are not confirmed by the state Senate, those individuals are no longer eligible to continue serving on the commission once the General Assembly has adjourned, and that incumbent commissioners should continue to serve until replacements are confirmed by the state Senate.
Polis committed to appointing more Eastern Plains residents after a closed-door meeting with state senators last year, and in January appointed Nikki Weathers of Yuma to the state fair board.
HB 1212 won an 8-1 vote from the state affairs committee and now goes to the full House.