19 out of 70

Big frames in the halls of the House and Senate hold photos of law makers since the legislature began. All but the most recent of those photos are in storage. In last year’s photo, (I’m the dork who wore neon green on picture day) mine is one of 19 Democrat’s faces in a very, very Republican sea of eyes. Of course looking at the photos you can’t tell us apart.
    For a decade before I was elected, I was a volunteer for non-profit organizations. I talked to legislators about human rights, tax policy, health care, consumer protection and gay and lesbian issues. Hard issues. I rarely saw anything I worked for get printed by a committee, much less passed into law.
    In my 30s I spent a lot of time angry with law makers who disagreed with me on the issues that affected my life. The year before I ran for the legislature, Jerry Sweet, one of the most anti-gay law makers in the statehouse became one of my best allies on a health care bill I was working to pass for the Idaho Community Action Network.
    It hit me there under the photos outside the Senate Local Government Committee how we humans are pretty multi-faceted. To make it all work we have to remember what we agree on and have in common. We can’t take each other’s stands on legislation personally. With one or maybe two exceptions I genuinely believe that each one of my colleagues is a good person trying to do what’s best for their constituents within the framework of beliefs that they hold. We may debate heatedly on an issue one minute but the next minute on the floor we might have to be allies on a different bill — one which won’t pass without us working together.
    Politics are not as simple as Democrat and Republican or conservative and progressive. Over the past few years Lenore Barrett and I occasionally voted together against the Rev & Tax committee on small business issues. That was a beautiful thing. …and it works because we know not to spend time dwelling on how we feel about wolves or whether people should own automatic rifles.