Opinion

Gridlock isn’t an option for Colorado’s General Assembly

Author: Kevin Grantham - January 8, 2018 - Updated: January 8, 2018

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Kevin Grantham

Aside from the fact that we all have the privilege of conducting our legislative affairs under stunningly beautiful Capitol domes — one in D.C. and the other in Denver — there’s actually a world of difference between the “Colorado way” of doing things and the “Washington way.” We hope to prove that anew when the gavel comes down on the 2018 legislative session.

Public cynicism regarding politicians as a class is easy to understand. Even those of who are in that “club” or category share those frustrations. But lumping all legislators together, or assuming that the “partisan gridlock” that often grips D.C. also goes on when the General Assembly meets in Denver, ignores the much more collegial, collaborative, result-oriented approach we take in Colorado.

That’s not just an approach that’s been producing good results for Coloradans in recent years, but it’s also frankly a necessity, given political realities at the Capitol, where Democrats control the House and the Governor’s Office, and Republicans hold the Senate. While that might seem like a recipe for stalemate and paralysis, a surprising amount of important work gets done nonetheless.

While any serious talk of a balanced federal budget seems like a pipe dream, the Colorado General Assembly not only balances the state budget year after year, but it is constitutionally required to do so. Unlike Congress, Colorado’s General Assembly cannot deficit spend, amass debt or shirk our budget responsibilities by passing “catch-all” spending bills nobody has read.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (or TABOR) also stands as a critical bulwark against the kind of runaway taxing and spending we see in Washington, as well as in many states, which is why Statehouse Republicans can be counted on to uphold the letter and spirit of that law against overt and covert attacks it constantly faces from big spenders and spending interests.

But those are only a few of the things that make Colorado different.

Unlike the U.S. Congress, Colorado has a part-time citizen legislature, which has to complete all its business in one 120-day session, after which we return to our real-world jobs as ranchers, farmers, business owners and educators. We are just everyday Coloradans, like the folks we represent, living day-to-day under the laws we make and looking to contribute to a state that has given us all so much.

Standing atop a soapbox and grandstanding may appeal to Washington’s politicos, but Colorado Senate Republicans understand that our constituents are looking for results, not rhetoric.

“Gridlock” is not an option at the Colorado statehouse. With a relatively brief session and evenly divided power between a Democrat-controlled House and a Republican-majority Senate, we must continue to find common ground.

And we succeed much of the time.

In 2016, 685 bills were introduced in the General Assembly, and 56 percent of those bills were passed and sent to the governor. In 2017, there were 681 bills, and 62 percent of those bills were passed and were sent to the governor. Legislation spearheaded by Republicans in 2017 led to the expansion of free-speech rights on campus, more attainable housing for all Coloradans, and equal funding for charter school students — to name just a few highlights.

That is not to say there are not major differences between Republicans and Democrats under the Golden Dome. We have plenty of points of disagreement. There will be rigorous, sometimes-heated debate over dozens of pieces of legislation when we meet again in January.

Republicans still can be counted on to defend civil liberties; protect property rights; expand school-choice and innovation; cut regulation and red tape, and further improve the state’s business climate. We will prioritize roads and bridges when it comes to transportation funding; support policies that lower housing costs; direct budget dollars toward core functions of government; safeguard public safety, and draw the line against policies from the other party that threaten to Californianize Colorado.

As always, we will continue to deliver results for all of Colorado, from the Front Range to the Eastern Plains and to the Western Slope.

I urge readers to follow legislative action closely as we start back to work on Wedensday. They will see political fireworks, no doubt; that is to be expected in any legislative body across the country. But they also will see a degree of collegiality and bipartisan cooperation under the Golden Dome in Denver that is rarely witnessed in the fever swamps of Washington, D.C.

Kevin Grantham

Kevin Grantham

Kevin J. Grantham, R-Cañon City, is president of the Colorado Senate.