‘Kumbaya’ stuff is over, real work can now begin

The legislative session has started with the obligatory formal ceremonies. The initial speeches laying out agendas have been given, and now, having had my first flight home canceled because of a combination of bad weather and flight crew issues, all is back to normal here in Denver. Patience and flexibility are two key personality traits to work on as a legislator.

Friends from home teased about the numerous choruses of bipartisanship echoing from the Capitol and asked me how long that might last. I’m guessing the singing of “Kumbaya” is about over as we move to the substance of why we’re here – that is, to make state-level policy for Colorado for the next year.

We do have lots to work on, and I was pleased to hear Gov. John Hickenlooper put front and center, in his State of the State Address, his priority of improving Colorado’s economy. I wholeheartedly agree that is where our focus should be, and I will support him in that effort.

Until people have good jobs, a sense of purpose in their daily lives and the feeling that their government is working for them, not against them, we’ll continue to have significant tension and understandable angst.

Jobs in all areas of energy development, whether traditional sources such as oil, natural gas and coal, and the renewable-energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass, are some of Colorado’s strengths to capitalize on. These are well-paying jobs and help our country move toward energy self-sufficiency.

Huge challenges that legislators will face this year are the simultaneous and very ambitious efforts to revamp our health-care and K-12 educational systems. The budget strains of both these areas already is present, and the new directions in reform will be costly and are yet unproven.

This doesn’t mean I think we shouldn’t attempt any reforms because, if we did, we’d soon be left with no state services other than health care and education.

But it is folly to ignore the budgetary competition these two policy areas present to each other in trying to arrive at new approaches, seeking better results at an affordable cost.

Difficult choices need to be made as to direction and timing, and an appreciation for incremental progress based on proven results is what will guide me in voting on the choices presented this session.

I’ve already received lots of email from constituents regarding possible gun-control and gun-safety legislation. I appreciate hearing from all of you, but it’s not clear yet what will be proposed.

Like many of you, I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and have been since elected to office. The question I’ll be asking as bills are introduced is: Would the passage of the proposed bill have made a real difference in the tragedies we’ve seen and want to prevent in the future?

I’m not a supporter of passing legislation based on an emotional response, even to tragic circumstances, and the “just do something” approach doesn’t make sense to me.

However, improving public safety, and especially the safety of our schoolchildren, is common ground that most people can agree on. The devil will be in the details, and I’ll give each proposal careful consideration.

Again, I welcome your input as bills get introduced in the state Legislature.

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 ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.