One of the best aspects of municipal government is how unglamorous it can be. The nuts-and-bolts work of repairing roads or providing police protection rarely yields much political grandstanding. The notion of a city council being so fed up with state government intrusion that it felt compelled to fire off a “message ordinance” would strike most people as laughable. Ordinary citizens have no appetite for such demagoguery — even if we agree with the message — because if we elected you to fix the sewer system we want you to do just that.
How then did the state Legislature just pull off a 45-day session headlined by impotent shots at the federal government, morality legislation on sex education, Big Brother measures like forcing kids to recite the Pledge of Allegiance five days a week, special-interest bills boosting coyote bounties and making it illegal to take pictures of farm animals, and wasteful discussions on everything from city billboard bans to eliminating daylight saving time?
We want lawmakers to fund schools and help small business, not rail against the feds and sermonize at their constituents. Where were the nuts-and-bolts bills?
We like that Legislators pumped $440 million more into education and balanced the budget. This is the business we elected them for. And we like that they opened the door to linking a portion of future teacher and administrator raises to performance. This too is a macro issue worthy of legislative attention.
However, we can’t help believe that the quixotic plan to reclaim 30 million acres of federal lands is really a grandstanding ploy designed to send a soft message to the federal government — provided anyone is listening — and a loud message to Republican Party convention delegates: Re-elect me, I’m part of the conservative rebellion. And avoiding any action on immigration reform was simple political cowardice.
This session you couldn’t find a lawmaker who wasn’t upholding the Constitution or beating back Big Government. In fact, the only thing belying that bluster was the 891 pieces of legislation pitched this session. Fortunately, only 478 of those passed, meaning the record for most legislation in a single year — 504 bills, set in 2011 — still stands.
Scores of new laws, much fist-shaking, few nuts and bolts — why can’t a Legislature behave more like a city council?