Put people before party in Legislature

There are a number of key issues facing the Colorado Legislature when it convenes Wednesday to begin the 2012 legislative session.

Tackling the budget, school finance, transportation funding, civil unions and much more are all important for this state. But we think one other item is of paramount importance for the Legislature: To reduce political games.

Of course, this is not only an election year, but recently approved legislative redistricting has increased tension between members of the two parties. Those two factors are likely to increase animosity, partisanship and the tendency of lawmakers to view every legislative action in terms of how it will affect their party.

But imagine if lawmakers asked themselves first, not how something will affect their party or their own re-election effort, but how it will affect the people of Colorado.

Sal Pace, a Democrat who represents Pueblo in the Legislature but is running for Congress this year, put it this way in a meeting with The Daily Sentinel last week:

“You have to decide whether your constituents are your party, or the residents of your district.”

He was speaking of people serving in or running for Congress, but the same equation applies to those in the state Legislature.

It’s no secret that the public’s approval ratings for Congress have fallen to historic lows. A major reason is that most Americans believe the majority of people in Congress put their party’s interests and their own financial and political objectives ahead of this country’s interests.

Coloradans’ view of their state Legislature hasn’t reached the depth of disgust that Americans in general have for the doings in Washington. But there is a feeling among many people that party trumps people in too many instances, even at the state Capitol in Denver.

That’s why Gov. John Hickenlooper urged the Legislature to keep partisanship to a minimum this year. Hickenlooper has set an example by appointing Republicans and independents, as well as fellow-Democrats, to his Cabinet and by working with people of all political affiliations on state legislation and projects.

We’re not suggesting political viewpoints should be abandoned, or that a legislative session should be the equivalent of kumbya, campfire lovefest. Elections are held, after all, and political parties exist because people don’t agree on broad ideology for running government, much less on specific policy prescriptions.

However, we firmly believe Coloradans will be more likely to support and re-elect lawmakers of either party if those lawmakers demonstrate that their first concern is for the people of Colorado and their districts, not the party to which they belong.


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