Monday, October 15, 2007

Civility and the art of legislative maintenance

Mark Sherouse's editorial in the Great Falls Tribune took the recent Wheeler Conference in Helena as a jumping off point for a more general discussion of civility and the need to rediscover it for ourselves in our political discourse.

One of the most interesting tidbits in the article was this:

Perhaps the most hopeful sign of the conference — attended by Republicans and Democrats in about equal numbers — was the civility of the discussion and the evident working relationship now being nurtured by House Speaker Scott Sales and Senate President Mike Cooney.

Hm. That was where the trouble started last time -- Cooney actually taking steps to negotiate with Republican legislators to find areas of compromise. We remember how that ended up. We are impressed that while Cooney got knocked down in the last session by those who didn't like his willingness to negotiate and compromise, he appears to be getting right back up again, and plans actually to talk to and work with Republicans.

The more partisan voices on the left attempted to undercut Speaker Sales's legitimacy by namecalling and ridicule -- it is good to see that Cooney isn't planning to allow himself to be railroaded into ongoing take-no-prisoners partisan warfare. And we look forward to another session with Sales as Speaker.

We don't know how the next election will work out, but one thing is clear -- regardless of who controls which houses of legislature, things will be close. Cooney understands that Democratic control of the Senate may be very short-lived, and that he who fails to work with people while in the majority can't expect those same people to work with him when he finds himself in the minority.

In spite of the legislative districting, Republicans are figuring out how to run in these new, oddly drawn districts, and stand a very good chance of controlling both houses in the next session.

If so, one hopes that Republicans won't take it out on Cooney -- he seems to have dealt pretty straight with us for as long as he was actually in control.

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