New lawmaker Douglas Bruce brought a Bible to the Legislature on Monday and kicked a photographer for taking his picture during the morning prayer, but he didn't get the swearing-in ceremony he demanded, with the full House in attendance.
Before he was even sworn in, he was already the center of attention as he attended the opening of the day's session.
Bruce went to the House floor Monday as a guest of Rep. Kent Lambert, a fellow Republican from Colorado Springs. He got upset when a photographer from the Rocky Mountain News snapped his picture during the traditional prayer to open Monday's brief session.
"Don't do that again," Bruce warned, and then brought down the sole of his shoe on the photographer's bent knee. Bruce offered no explanation or apology as the photographer left the chamber. Click here
to see video of the incident.
Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple said the photographer had a right to take Bruce's picture. Temple said he would discuss the incident with House leadership.
"The House floor is a place where journalists are allowed to operate. It's outrageous for Mr. Bruce in a public place to assault a photographer," Temple said.
House leadership of both parties said they are looking into the Monday incident.
"This is the House of Representatives. It is not the House of Bruce," said House Minority Leader Mike May.
"Violence towards anyone, on the House floor or on the street, anywhere -- it's atrocious, it's inappropriate, I don't know how many negative words I can say towards that," he said. "This isn't over. We're exploring what the appropriate response is as a body."
Bruce said the photographer was a fault for snapping his picture during a prayer. He characterized his contact with the photographer as a "tap, nudge or poke." He said it wasn't a kick.
"Why dont you ask the photographer if his making noises and blocking the aisle at the time of a prayer was the most intelligent thing to do?" said Bruce. "He ought to be ashamed of himself."
Bruce, the anti-tax crusader who was chosen by El Paso County Republicans to fill a vacant seat, finally agreed to take the oath of office later, when the House wasn't in session -- standard practice for midterm appointees.
He wanted the House to be in session because he said Democrats accused him of wrongdoing for delaying his swearing-in until five days after the session started.
Bruce said last week he had done nothing wrong and vowed, "It will not be a proceeding in secret."
House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, a Denver Democrat, refused. "I'm not willing to delay the business of the House to indulge anyone's vanity," he said Friday.
Fellow Republicans threatened to give the open seat to someone else if Bruce didn't take the oath by the end of the day Monday.
He can take the oath or take a hike, said Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton.
It wasn't clear whether the replacement threat was a factor in Bruce's decision to back down.
Romanoff originally scheduled the swearing in at 8 a.m. But Bruce said he wanted to wait until 10 a.m., when the House began its 2008 session.
"I already have plans for the morning of Jan. 14 before 10 a.m.," Bruce wrote in an e-mail to House Chief Clerk Marilyn Eddins, a copy of which was obtained by the Pueblo Chieftain. "I also think it is unreasonable to expect me to get up at 5 a.m. and leave my house in Colorado Springs before 6 a.m. in order to sit in rush hour traffic and unknown weather, in the hopes of arriving before 8 a.m. to rush onto the House floor to take an oath two hours earlier than the start of the day's session, for no good reason, and in a near-empty chamber."
That e-mail, obtained by the Chieftain from the House Republican office through a Colorado Open Records Act request, continues for four more pages.
Other lawmakers who live much farther away from Denver than Bruce and who get up much earlier felt little sympathy for the freshman lawmaker.
Romanoff suggested three other times, and Bruce finally agreed to 1:30 p.m.
Midterm appointees typically are sworn in shortly after their appointments during private ceremonies usually presided over by the chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. A swearing-in while the House is in session would cause a delay of about 15 minutes.
Bruce was chosen last month to fill a vacant House seat but waited to take the oath until Monday -- when the unexpired term will be more than half over -- so he will be eligible to serve eight more years under term limits, instead of six.
Bruce said the delay was recommended by a judge during a previous court challenge to term limits.
Romanoff has said Bruce should have taken the oath within 10 days of his appointment.
Bruce also wanted to address the entire House, a privilege that no new lawmaker is afforded during a swearing-in ceremony.
"I regret that this simple ministerial act is the latest focus of political consternation and unneeded tension," he wrote. "These publicized pressures are added reason I asked the speaker to allow me 90 seconds right after my oath to speak to my new colleagues (not to an empty chamber) and apply mostly self-deprecating humor to ease this minor, yet lamentable, public confrontation."
Bruce is well known for writing the revenue-limiting Taxpayer's Bill Of Rights in 1992. He most recently served as an El Paso county commissioner.
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