Many area residents may be wondering why it seems the legislature suffers from a chronic case of “Can’t get its work done” disease, as we begin yet another special session. I would certainly rather not have to go into overtime, but unfortunately it is becoming more necessary every year.
Consider this: as the state budget doubled in the past 15 years, the amount of time we have to debate it stayed the same. In addition to twice as much money, we have almost twice as many major finance bills to pass today as we did in the mid-1990s. Along with the general dissatisfaction with another special session, many people have the feeling that maybe state government has bit off more than it can chew in its traditional time frame.
Also, we have very principled people who are far apart in their beliefs. It takes time and effort to reach a compromise over a wide ideological divide.
Aside from the increased workload, we also face a divided balance of power. One party controlled the process for much of the last 25 years and trust me it is easier for one group of like minded individuals to agree than it is for two diverse groups to find consensus. Split party government has its advantages, but one of its major disadvantages is it creates a very difficult negotiating environment.
Many of you may also be wondering if I take the per diem offered to legislators during special session. The answer is simple: No, I don't. This is my second special session and I steadfastly refuse to be paid overtime for working overtime. It is simply wrong and an improper use of your dollars.
I hope our special session passes smoothly and productively. There are many important issues left on the table to discuss and I believe we can get them accomplished in a way both parties and the governor find acceptable.