Why the legislature matters

(Denver Post, Sept. 27) “It’s sucking Colorado dry,” a Republican state senator lamented the other day. He wasn’t talking about the demand on our rivers from Arizona and Nebraska. He meant the massive outflow of campaign dollars to Obama and Romney, diverting money from state races in this election. If you don’t have to think about political fundraising, as do state Sen. Bill Cadman, working to dislodge an eight-year Senate Democratic majority, and state Rep. Mark Ferrandino, trying to oust the House Republicans who took over in 2010, count yourself lucky. Even so, you feel the effects in TV ad saturation, where Denver trails only Cleveland and Reno in the air war this fall. Those spots we’re all tired of focus on the presidential race. You see about as many ads for legislative candidates as for dogcatcher. Of course the White House is the world’s biggest political prize. But voter beware. The legislature matters too. Which party controls the Colorado General Assembly can really make a difference in your life

We elect 100 fellow citizens to make laws for our state. If they prioritize individual liberty, personal responsibility, free enterprise, and the Constitution over big government, collective solutions, and progressivism – or vice versa – this becomes a more desirable or less desirable place to raise our families and better ourselves. Ask yourself these questions:

1. How much economic freedom? Republicans favor entrepreneurship and deregulation to spur growth. Democrats like to pick winners and losers. What’s your pick?

2. Who cares about taxpayers? Republicans favor spending limits and voting on taxes. Dems evade TABOR when they can and are suing to annul it.

3. Who says the budget is out of control? It’s stabilized since the GOP took the state House. Maybe a GOP Senate, facing Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), would help even more.

4. Will the PERA pension bomb blow us all up? Not if the party less beholden to unions takes charge. (Hint: it doesn’t rhyme with “bureaucrat.”)

5. Why not unlock Colorado’s energy treasures? Conservatives like the job creation, the revenues, and the non-Arab aspect. What’s not to like? Fracking, say liberals, armed with junk science and groundless fears.

6. Any way out of the Obamacare swamp? The whole unpopular PPACA law collapses if states resist the health-insurance exchange provision. Both parties in Colorado have fumbled this, but the GOP more nearly gets it.

7. Who will put students first? Democrats just caved to the Chicago teachers union. Republicans just de-unionized Douglas County schools and passed parental choice.

8. Is armed self-defense still a right? Democrats cite recent mass shootings to urge disarming us through gun bans. Republicans prefer tougher enforcement of existing laws, and polls agree.

9. Will we become the cannabis capital of America? Polls also suggest Amendment 64 may pass. Either way, marijuana is on a roll here. Which party do you trust to put the brakes on?

10. Is freedom of expression and conscience still a right? Muslims, gays, and Obama’s administration advocate speech codes and church-busting mandates. Your General Assembly has a role here too.

America’s going through a rough patch. Our genius for self-correction needs to surge. Decentralized government, responsive human-scale institutions, and reform from the bottom up are a big part of that – which gives us an advantage over ungainly rivals like Europe and China. The 50 state legislatures not only matter. They matter as never before.

When I was a state senator, it was always funny to have someone who should know better ask us how it was going in Congress. Sheesh, we’d say to each other – is the legislature that obscure? But I’m betting that you, a discerning reader of this newspaper, are a cut above. You can prove it on election day by voting smart for state House and Senate.