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Editorial Commentary: Ken Ciboski

The Messy, Necessary, Legislative Process

mlinksva / Public Domain / Creative Commons

The 2015 Kansas state legislative session is winding down.

Critics complain that the legislature was in session too long to accomplish what it did. At the same time, we need to remember that the state legislature is the most important link between Kansans and their state government. It is also the most representative institution of the state.

A major task of the legislature in a democracy is to reach a consensus on policies from the different views expressed by legislators and citizens. The legislature is a “listening post,” and its members are more accessible to hear citizens’ complaints and suggestions about policies than is any other part of state government.

State legislative decisions have an enormous impact on our daily lives. As citizens, we have an important role in making our state legislature work for us. Voting for representatives is not a sufficient condition for having our views represented effectively. We also need to interact with our elected representatives and express our views on policy matters.

No legislative body in a democracy is designed to move quickly and efficiently, and achieving a consensus on policy is not always easy. All 165 state legislators are up for election next year, so reaching a consensus on the major issue of tax policy during this legislative session was especially difficult, frustrating and tiring. This provoked Senator Les Donovan, Chairperson of the Senate tax committee, to say in a Republican caucus, “Nobody knows what in the heck they want.” Conversation and discussion are important aspects of the legislative process, and they are time-consuming and frustrating when no agreement on policy is readily discernible.

At times, our representative system seems messy, complex and unresponsive. I agree with Winston Churchill who said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all of the others that have been tried.”