This last week brought about the end of the 2010 legislative session. I must say that this was probably the most intense week of legislative proceedings that I have observed in my four years of legislative service. Much happened in this last week and I could write an entire series of articles about just the happenings of this one week.
Legislators worked late into the night each night trying to meet the Constitutional deadline of adjourning at 5 p.m. on Friday and succeeded with just 5 minutes to spare.
The process came to a standstill on Friday when the House considered a component of the budget agreement to enact a 16 million dollar fee increase. The vote was held open for about an hour when several legislators in an apparent attempt to leverage a favor from legislative leadership joined with those of us who were opposed to the fee increase and voted against the proposal. As you might expect, this resulted in pressure being placed on those legislators who were voting against the fee increase because it was a bad policy proposal. The possibility of a special legislative session was brought up if the fee increase was not approved.
I think it is contemptible that legislators would trade their votes for favors and believe that the public would express significant outrage if they realized that legislators were engaging in these petty politics.
And, the situation risked placing the legislators who were already against the fee increase in a very uncomfortable position as they did want to support a fee increase but neither did they want to de-rail the budget agreement and force a special session.
Fortunately, I escaped much of this pressure. During my time in the legislature I have maintained a policy of voting against debt, fee and tax increases, pork earmarks and the creation of new government bureaucracies. Being known as a legislator whose is going to stand by these four policies and who is not open to trading votes allows me to avoid being susceptible to arm-twisting. Other legislators can predict my voting habit and don't have to worry about what they must give up in order to get my support. My vote will be based on the quality of the proposed policy. This has allowed me to build a relationship with other legislators which is built on trust and consistency and not on a temporary political alliance.
Eventually a few legislators changed their votes and the fee increase was approved on a 52-48 vote.
However, I do believe that our opposition to the fee and tax increases sent a strong message. In the future, the state budget should be balanced by eliminating inappropriate and inefficient functions of state government and not by legislating fees and taxes which will simply add to the cost of living that the citizens are forced to pay.