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Legislative session begins, your opinion important

It’s that time again where I’m back up in Denver for the next four months for the new legislative session. What’s in store is less certain this year as it’s a different political climate with control of the state House and Senate divided as it is in Washington, D.C.

What’s different in Denver at the state Capitol than in Washington at the nation’s Capitol is that we have a balanced budget requirement. That will drive so many of the decisions this session. From the first bill to be introduced to the last, the financial impacts of the proposed legislation will likely determine its fate. If there are savings to be had, short or long term, the bill may make it into law. If, however, the bill is proposing a new program or state expenditure, its chances for making to the finish line are slim to none.

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m carrying only a few bills this year. That’s because I want to concentrate on the budget and closely evaluate the proposals and foreseeable consequences of how we’re going to cut approximately $1 billion from next year’s state budget.

My senate legislative district covers eight counties in Southwest Colorado. While I know the lay of the land pretty well for the counties in the House district I represented for the past four years, there are four new counties to get to know better and have those constituents get to know me. One thing that hasn’t changed in the least is my desire to hear from my constituents and to be able to communicate with you, either directly or through my legislative aide.

Colorado State Senate District 6 is very diverse, geographically and politically. Like my former House District, with almost every issue that presents itself at the legislature, there’s definitely not consensus among the people back home as to how to vote on it or even if a bill has any merit at all.

My approach is to take in as much information as I can, both facts and opinions, combine that with my knowledge of the district and my own principles and values, and then vote. When it comes to voting, there’s only a yes or a no — we don’t get the luxury of voting “yes, in this situation, but no, if the situation’s different.” It’s a pretty stark choice, yet it’s what I signed up to do on your behalf.

I’m excited to be sworn into the Colorado State Senate this week and I’m honored and humbled by the responsibility of the job. I’ll do it better, though, if I hear from you on those issues that concern you. A phone call or an email to the legislative office is the fastest way to reach me and speed is important, given how quickly bills can move through the legislative process. A letter or a fax will still reach me, so please communicate in whichever way you prefer. Keep in touch and I’ll do the same. Happy New Year!