DENVER (CBS4) – One recent survey found 78 percent of people know who Peyton Manning is. Only 20 percent know who their state representative is.
It’s probably more important that Colorado residents recognize their state rep.
No, really. Here’s why:
State legislatures passed more than 40,000 bills last year alone, while the 113th Congress passed only 164 bills over the last two years.
That legislation may decide which roads get repaired, whether fracking is allowed in your neighborhood, how education policy affects your kids and how tax policy impacts your budget.
“State legislatures are really where much of the action is,” Metro State University political science professor Norm Provizer said. That is why the current balance of power in Colorado’s Legislature matters.
In Tuesday’s election, Republicans picked up at least two seats in the state House and could take control of the Senate, depending on how one lingering race turns out. That means Colorado would have a split legislature with Democrats having a slim margin in the House and Republicans a one-seat majority in the Senate.
Before Tuesday, Democrats held an 18-17 advantage in the Senate. The last undecided race is in Adams County where Republican Beth Martinez held an 882-vote lead over Democrat Judy Solano. Should her lead hold up, the GOP will take the Senate.
If there is a recount, the race might not be decided until the first week in December.
“The balance of forces in terms of structure really has great impact on what it is you can do and what it is you can’t do legislatively,” Provizer said.
A notable example: the gun control laws passed two years ago under Democratic control.
A divided state Legislature, Provizer said, means more compromise and, unlike Congress, he said Colorado lawmakers have no choice but to get things done.
“For example, on a budget, Congress can go crazy and pass everything piecemeal and never resolve it. But at the end of the year, the state has to have balanced budget,” he said.
The party in charge controls the purse strings, which is why it matters who’s in control.
William Pound with the National Conference of State Legislators said it best when he noted that state lawmakers, like their federal counterparts, have power. The difference is they use it.
Nationwide, Republicans now control more than half of the nation’s legislative seats, their highest number since 1920.