Columnists, Featured, Gold Dome, Jon Caldara, Politics

Caldara: Why lawmakers should work from home

We all know the great lines from the Declaration of Independence like, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But we overlook its long catalog of grievances against King George.

Many of Thomas Jefferson’s accusations hold today against our current Colorado overlords: “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.” Sounds just like what Polis and his legislature do by labeling tax increases “fees” to avoid voter approval.

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” Do I really need to list all the new regulations and commissions Polis and team have created?

But it’s this grievance of King George that keeps coming to my mind today:

“He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”

You see, I am literally writing this column while sitting in the back of an endless government board meeting. Don’t worry, I have plenty of time. I’m waiting for my turn in front of the state’s Title Board. It’s the bureaucratic version of a refugee camp.

To exercise my right to petition a question to this fall’s election ballot, I must get permission from this board first.

The three members of this committee are good people just trying to do their job as prescribed by law. That said, this uncomfortable process has been designed to make it fatiguing for citizens to bring forward initiatives.

The meeting started at 9 a.m., and the first of my three proposals was heard at 7 p.m. Understandably tired, the board kicked all the other proposals to the next day.

But state law requires it be done this way, and I must physically be here.

A couple of years back the state legislature, in their endless quest to make it hard for uppity citizens to get things on the ballot, required that both proponents of an initiative be here in person, sign notarized affidavits, and show identification (unlike what the legislature requires for people to vote).

But COVID proved there is a much better way. During the lockdowns these tedious processes were done virtually. So, proponents, opponents and the board members themselves could stay in their office or home getting work, or anything else, done until they were needed.

This really hit me when one man came all the way from Grand Junction to “physically” be here in Denver. His initiative was kicked over to the next day, so either drive four hours back home to drive another four hours back tomorrow morning or put yourself up in an expensive Denver hotel.

This issue isn’t about the Title Board. It’s about all governments.

Now that Zoom meetings are mainstream it’s time to end the requirement that people be in person to participate in government, especially elected officials.

Legislators should be able to stay in the home district and work in the legislature.

You see, something terrible happens to legislators when they spend too much time in Denver. In that weird bubble they are wined and dined by special interests, surrounded 24/7 by hot lobbyists and naïve interns while spending 120 days away from their constituents, including the wife.

Legislators pack up and move to what is basically a college campus in Denver. It’s no wonder people demanded term limits. The longer their representatives stay away the farther from their voters they grow.

But imagine if a representative, say from Durango, didn’t have to come to Denver every week to do committee meetings, caucusing and voting. Imagine if instead he stayed in his own district.

His constituents, not Denver’s special interests and lobbyists, would have more immediate access to him. They wouldn’t have to drive six hours to meet with him face-to-face during session.

There is no need for government to be distant, expensive, inaccessible and environmentally damaging to connect with it. It’s time to let the process work remotely so that people can be close to the government that impacts them.

A tech-friendly governor who made paying your taxes with Bitcoin possible should easily legalize remote participation in government.

My guess is voters would love a candidate who pledges to stay in his district during session. Lobbyists would hate it. And who knows, maybe wives too.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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