King puts himself in political crosshairs

When a House Ethics Committee began looking into allegations that state Rep. Steve King improperly intermingled state legislative reimbursement funds and campaign money, the Grand Junction Republican claimed it was a politically motivated attempt to stymie his plans to be elected to the state Senate.

Far be it from us to argue that politics aren’t involved on a committee that, by its very nature, is made up of politicians.

But it appears to us that King is doing his level best to stymie his own election ambitions — or that would be the case if there were anyone challenging King in the Senate District 7 race.

As of Thursday morning, no other candidate had filed the required papers with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. A local Democratic leader said the party is actively trying to recruit a candidate to run against King in the Senate race.

The latest case of King’s creating his own obstacle is his oh-so-critical legislation — a bill that would boost the penalty for masturbating in public from a petty offense to a misdemeanor.

The typical response from most people upon hearing of this piece of legislation is: “Really? Is that a big problem?”

The short answer is: no.

King says the bill is needed to distinguish between those who commit intentionally lewd public sexual acts and those who do something stupid, such as urinate in public.

He also said he was asked to carry the bill by the Colorado District Attorneys Council. However, a spokesman for the council told The Daily Sentinel’s Charles Ashby it wasn’t the state’s prosecutors, but a defense attorneys’ group that is pushing for the change. One local defense attorney said the change is unnecessary, and that it will eliminate judicial discretion available in such cases.

But more than the content itself, the bill goes to the heart of King’s judgment.

In the midst of the worst state budget crisis since the Great Depression, is it really important to carry a bill on public masturbation when there is hardly a public or official clamor for it?

Or take a look at King’s other signature legislations — two bills on safety at public schools.

One would require K-12 schools in the state to hold at least two emergency drills each year, in addition to fire drills, to practice responses in the event of a terrorist attack. A second would mandate that colleges and universities provide a 45-minute session for all new students on safety and appropriate responses for a “critical event” such as a terrorist attack.

We’re all for safe schools. But, when state budget cuts are hitting both K-12 and higher education especially hard, adding another state mandate that will cost schools money and take time away from education indicates poor timing and poor judgment. No wonder, as King said himself in a letter to this newspaper, some college officials aren’t supporting the bill. A representative of college law enforcement officials testified against the bill last month.

Some of King’s agenda makes more sense. He has introduced one piece of legislation to create a rainy day fund for the state. He also has a bill to allow people to register vehicles for up to two years, thereby reducing the likelihood they will get stung by the state’s new late fees for vehicle registration.

We don’t know what will come of the ethics investigation. We’ll wait until the committee takes further action on the case, which is likely to occur today.

But we think it’s appropriate for voters in Senate District 7 — Mesa County and a small part of Garfield County — to ask whether the legislation King is pushing is serving their needs.

Also, as in every political race, we hope there will be more than one candidate running for Senate District 7. Then voters can decide for themselves which candidate’s agendas best serves their interest.


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