Debate Rages in Colorado State Senate Over Patriotism Bill

A bill that would require Colorado public schools to teach patriotism has Democrats and Republicans bickering in a very unpatriotic manner.

Republican state Sen. John Andrews attempted but failed to force a floor vote on a bill that would require public schools to teach patriotism Friday. Democrats accused the GOP of campaigning antics.

Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, said Andrews tried to force the floor vote out of committee to get state Democrats on the record, even though they were not voting on the actual bill.

"You're trying to characterize one party as more patriotic than another. I think that's demagoguery," Gordon told Andrews.

The state Senate Education Committee took testimony Thursday on Andrews' Senate Bill 136, then postponed a vote until next week after raising questions about how patriotism would be graded and whether teaching patriotism would even be proper.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee killed another bill by Andrews that would have required students to recite the pledge of allegiance in public schools, after he tried and failed in a procedural move to force a floor vote on that issue.

Democrats on the committee said forcing students to recite the pledge could be counterproductive, making older students jaded about their country by forcing them to recite it by rote instead of from the heart.

On Friday, Democrats said their constituents had received voice mail phone calls accusing them of being unpatriotic, even though their votes were against pulling the bills out of committee for a floor vote and not on the bills themselves.

The attempt Friday for a floor vote failed 16-17 along party lines.

The Senate would have to approve the procedure on a two-thirds vote before it could debate the bill. Opponents said pulling a bill out of committee deprives members of the public of a chance to air their views.

"It was conveyed to me that I oppose the pledge of allegiance. It's upsetting to know your vote on a procedural issue is turned into something else," said Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus.

Isgar said he voted in favor of Andrews' request for a floor vote Friday, even though he opposed it, because he did not want that vote used against him.

Andrews said he did not know who was making the phone calls and was not responsible. He declined to say whether he would use the votes in campaign literature later this year, saying he does not know what the mood of the voters will be next August.

Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, said the proper procedure is for a bill first to be approved by the education committee. She said members of the committee have some amendments to the bill that should be decided before other senators vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.