Vail Daily editorial: In praise of gridlock
The 2015 session of the Colorado Legislature ended last week. The results were generally positive, thanks to our old friend gridlock.
Partisans often decry gridlock, claiming that two parties at loggerheads over policy and legislation prevent them from doing “work” for voters. In fact, partisan struggle often prevents legislation aimed at special interests.
Want proof? Look back no further than 2013, when the governor’s mansion and both houses of the Legislature were run by one party — Democrats. That was the year that body passed a number of measures, from gun control to alternative energy, while essentially running roughshod over any opposing views.
The overreach on guns resulted successful recall efforts against two state senators — something never before seen in Colorado. Those recalls, and lingering resentment over the gun bills, helped cost the Democrats partisan control of that body. Governor John Hickenlooper’s assent to those bills — instead of standing up to what many saw as pandering legislation passed by mostly-urban Democrats — nearly cost him re-election.
With Republicans in control of the senate and Democrats still in firm control of the Colorado House of Representatives this year, both parties fought off each other’s more ridiculous ideas. Partisan priorities killed a proposed minimum-wage law — introduced in the House — and a Senate measure that would have put the state in control of many federal lands.
That said, the two houses were able to actually come together on a few measures, and those laws are more sensible as a result. The Legislature was able to pass a felony DUI bill, something the state has needed for a long time. The “gridlocked” Legislature also passed a police accountability bill, and agreed to put an item on this fall’s ballot that asks voters to keep $58 million in excess marijuana tax revenue.
Some sensible measures fell victim to the divided Legislature. The House swatted back Senate proposals to repeal 2013’s ludicrous gun laws as well as renewable-energy mandates that were opposed in virtually every part of the state except the Interstate 25 corridor. The Senate, meanwhile, killed what many see as a sensible requirement for motorists to have proper tires on their vehicles while driving Interstate 70 between Morrison and Dotsero.
We hope next year’s Legislature takes a more level-headed look at some of those measures — as unlikely as that may be in an election year.
Despite the death of those sensible proposals, a divided Legislature this year did exactly what it was supposed to do in keeping partisan fevers in check. Gridlock is good.