At the end of each weekend, I review the legislative calendar for the week ahead. I scan for my bills scheduled for committee hearings or floor debate to be prepared to present them. I also review the bills listed for the committees I sit on and what will be up for floor debate.
Having reviewed this week’s calendar and reflecting on the short time left in the session, only two and a half weeks, I’ve come up with two wishes for the dwindling legislative days of 2012. As you read this, though, bear in mind that I believed in the tooth fairy for a long time, too.
First, I’d note we have a large number of bills still to be dealt with. Many piled up while we worked on the budget bill, but there were many waiting to be dealt with even before the “long bill” made it to the Senate.
My wish with respect to the remaining bill load is that we start working long into the nights now, rather than waiting for the last two or three nights of the session, to do the bills justice. This comes from my experience of past ends of sessions.
Too many times, I’ve seen good and bad legislation rushed through the process in the last few days of a session. With the frenzied rush at the end of the 120th day, which is when we must adjourn according to our state’s constitution, thoughtful dialogue and debate are lost in the panic. Nasty politics and maneuvering become too prevalent. Posturing also occurs between the two chambers. Tempers flare, hurt feelings abound and the media has a field day covering the legislators’ snarling and tangles.
My sentiments are undoubtedly sharpened from having served in the minority party in the House and Senate. The pace and content of the calendar is a decision made by majority party leaders of each chamber, so the state representatives in the Democratic minority in the House will probably relate to this first wish.
My second wish recognizes this as an election year. Campaigns already began with redrawn boundary lines for many legislative districts and primaries for some legislators, on both sides of the political aisle.
With this election year backdrop in mind, added to my wish list is that legislators continue to address what we came to the Capitol in January saying our bipartisan focus was – that is, how to help Coloradans get back on their feet economically.
Can we stay mostly focused on putting Coloradans back to work and debate the ideas on how to do that on their merits and drawbacks, rather than shifting early to full-on campaign mode?
Because this isn’t a year I’m up for re-election, admittedly, this is easier for me to say than for those who are in the eye of the political hurricanes. It will take self-discipline and not just wishful thinking, but if we can keep our focus on jobs and economic recovery, we’ve got a better chance of making constructive use of these last weeks of the 2012 session to benefit Coloradans, rather than benefiting those already busy developing campaign strategies. Their time will come soon enough.
Let’s productively burn the midnight oil and not yet enter campaign-season turmoil. Public sentiment and pressure on all state legislators can help us reach that goal.
Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.