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How Should The Legislature Respond To The Historic Floods?

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Mobile homes flooded in a Weld County salvage yard (credit: CBS)

Mobile homes flooded in a Weld County salvage yard (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

With many calling the devastating floods in Colorado a one in one hundred years phenomena, and some even saying one in one thousand years, it’s hard to think about exactly how the state government should respond. But our state legislature must respond in some way because even though the actual event is extremely unlikely to repeat in magnitude, it has displayed and exacerbated many problems within our state’s infrastructure.

Like any problem, solutions will cost a great deal of money, but they will also come with an excellent opportunity for current state leaders. With so much of our state in very difficult straits, and much of it being outside of the Denver metro area, the legislature can address direct issues that can help citizens in rural areas of Colorado.

Bridges and highways need to be rebuilt, waterways need updating and upgrading, but first, farmers and ranchers throughout the Front Range will need help recovering from this devastation.

This will be our elected leaders’ first real test of listening to rural Coloradans. Some of those same rural Coloradans just earlier this week voiced their current dissatisfaction with at least two legislators.

I’m not suggesting that Democrats in the state legislature can simply appease voters in rural areas by coming through with flood aid. But what I am saying is that everyone in the legislature can prove they are indeed listening by coming through for those directly affected by the recent floods.

Disastrous events in the past have dominated the tenor of past state legislative sessions before, but this one must own the next session on many levels. From agriculture to infrastructure and from water management to forest management, responding to this summer’s fire and flooding disasters must rule the day.

Cooperation must also be a popular word used to describe what’s going on in next year’s legislature. Even though Democrats own the majority in both the House and the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans cannot let partisanship become the reason that necessary policy changes do not happen.

While partisan hurdles are usually the fault of both parties, with the Democratic Party being in power, any delay of action will likely be blamed on them. I cannot imagine that is what they or Governor Hickenlooper want to see happen in an election year.

I realize that with river levels still at flood stage and rescue crews still finding those unaccounted for, it may seem crass to look at how partisanship may affect how our government leaders will respond to this disaster.

But the simple fact is that our state mirrors the nation in one important factor, our politics have people very polarized on many issues. If we are to come together to respond to this crisis, it is inevitable that this polarization will rear its ugly head and affect the proceedings.

Hopefully, our elected leaders will take a cue from their constituents and see how to handle a crisis. Our fellow citizens have come together and helped one another, and even put their own lives on the line to save others. First responders didn’t ask what party affiliation the people they rescued were, they simply did their job, and as they did, they made all the difference.

If our elected leaders want to know how to handle a crisis, they should take a cue from Colorado’s citizens and take action immediately, and worry about partisanship later. If they do not heed that lesson, many of them will not need to worry about doing their jobs after 2014.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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