2014 Legislative Predictions

Oh, good, state lawmakers are back in session and they promise to be there for at least four months.

After all the fireworks at last year’s session that ended up going into extra innings over same-sex marriage, it’s hard to imagine lawmakers coming up with another issue that could capture the imagination of the public two years in a row.

My first prediction for the new session is that it won’t go into overtime this time around – and for a specific reason: There are some key midterm elections on the political agenda. Many of the lawmakers seeking re-election will be mixing business with the pleasure of campaigning. Over the years, it appears politicians will drop just about everything to campaign for re-election.

It’s almost guaranteed that the budget will be a hot topic, not because we are rolling in dough or financially strapped, but because David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is challenging Gov. Abercrombie for his seat. If not for that, we’d likely hear all about the merits of medical marijuana and how the new law in Colorado is creating jobs and additional revenue.

Also a hot topic will be the minimum-wage issue. Sen. Clayton Hee is talking publicly about a minimum wage where people can make $21,000 a year. This is a hot topic because Hee is one of the most influential lawmakers in the Square Building on South Beretania Street, and if he champions the legislation, there are not many legislators who will vote against the bill.

One of the interesting things about this year’s session is, at the opening, they recognized some of the movers and shakers in the history of the Legislature since statehood. It kind of makes the Democratic idea of rewarding your friends and punishing your enemies come back to life.

On opening day I talked with Sam Slom, the only Republican in the Senate, and he promised he was not going to ride his toy horse on the floor of the Senate. If he had, it may have been the most interesting happening on opening day. In the good old days, there was so much fanfare, music and good food everywhere it made the Legislature seem like a real friendly place.

It’s not. What you see and hear is not reality.

Example: In tough economic times, “spending” money on projects means “investing in the future” – and that’s just the beginning.