As a political science instructor, I often urge my college students to testify on bills in state legislative committees. But I do so with a grain of salt, knowing very well that many ideas for new laws are destined to die in infamous “kill committees,” making public testimony effectively pointless.

The bicameral Colorado General Assembly has two such committees, one in each chamber. The official name for the House and Senate “kill committees” is the same: the “Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs.” Packed with majority-party loyalists appointed by the House speaker or Senate president, respectively, “kill committees” are where primarily minority bills often go to die.

I know about this practice not only as a former nonpartisan legislative staffer, but also as a citizen who testified before the Senate’s “kill committee” on March 1, 2017. That day, speaking on a bill introduced by minority Democratic lawmakers, I supported the proposal to establish sister-state relationships between Colorado and foreign regions. The legislation would have democratized state sisterhood initiatives by encouraging public participation, I reasoned, since the governor would no longer unilaterally proclaim sister-state relationships. Furthermore, sister-state relationships would have enabled oversees marketing opportunities for Colorado’s tourism industry. Finally, I argued, the bill would have made Colorado more competitive with states like California and Ohio that already pursue global partnerships through similar programs.

Despite my best efforts, my Senate testimony was an exercise in futility. It was not the outcome of the predictable “no” vote that was so upsetting, but the disrespectful process. The majority Republicans of the Senate “kill committee” ignored every individual during our respective testimonies. As citizens of Colorado discussed a bill that was not particularly controversial (no one spoke against it), the majority-party lawmakers were busy playing on their phones. Their job was not to listen or pass judgment, but to kill bills prejudged as unfit for real consideration. There wasn’t even an attempt to showcase deliberation: Not a single question was posed nor an argument made against the bill before the casting of mechanical “no” votes.

To be clear, “kill committees” are bipartisan products. Democrats and Republicans have employed this undemocratic system. Such committees have been explained as an unintended consequence of the 30-year-old “Give A Vote to Every Legislator” amendment. GAVEL, as the amendment is known, did empower all lawmakers to have their bills heard. But, in order to filter out bills they consider ridiculous, legislative leaders restored their vetting leverage by creating “kill committees.”

Bill vetting isn’t without justification. Unreasonable proposals, such as obviously unconstitutional or impractical bills, can still be terminated without the iron-fisted structure of a “kill committee” that grants near-unchecked veto power to two elected officials — the House speaker and the Senate president.

If anything about politics is universally agreed upon, it is that power corrupts. This is why “kill committees” often kill above and beyond bad-faith or time-waster bills. It isn’t surprising that top lawmakers would be tempted to weaponize a well-meant committee to maximize their power. This is precisely why it would take courage and sacrifice for the incoming legislative leadership to right the unintended wrongs of the past by giving up some of their power.

The legislative session has kicked off with a single party in charge of both lawmaking chambers. This is a good opportunity for Democratic leaders to launch a merit-based method of vetting out bills, one that doesn’t discourage civic participation or enable partisan and personal abuse. Kill committees deserve to die.

Simon Maghakyan is a Denver-based educator and human rights advocate. He writes in a personal capacity.