Friday, January 21, 2011

Bipartisanship starts with oversight

There's a triple-whammy lesson in bipartisanship on the front page of the Denver Post this morning, starting with a call for a state audit of the Public Utility Commission by two Republican state senators.

Sens. Scott Renfroe, Greeley, and Steve King, Grand Junction, want the Legislative Audit Committee to look into the legality of several decisions made by the commission, including one that favored the natural-gas industry over coal interests in Colorado, rate-setting for Qwest, and the delay of a prospective taxicab company's attempt to operate in metro Denver.

Other critics of the commission have also questioned travel expenses and possible conflicts of interest for commissioners.

Renfroe, somewhat disingenuously I think, told the Post he wanted to take these questions about the commission "out of the political fray." But make no mistake, the issues are fraught with political implications.

Ron Binz, chairman of the commission, is an old public-utilities liberal from Texas, and he should be used to conservatives' political attacks on his performance. At the same time, Binz usually has been careful to provide the proper proof to justify his actions and positions.

But Renfroe's and King's request for an audit is exactly what bipartisanship is all about. Giving PUC decisions a "good-government" review allows the state as a people to test the quality of the commission's performance over time.

You will see House Repubicans in the U.S. Congress try to accomplish the same ends, as suggested in a Washington Post story that also appeared on the Denver Post's front page. It was more about the campaign finances of the Republicans who will "test" previous Democratic actions in Congress like the health-care law.

But oversight is a responsibility of any legislative body, and usually a newly gained majority tries to exercise that responsibility by going over the past actions of the party that has just lost a majority. That's politics, and there's no sense in describing it as anything less. The power to review and revise law is an asset we all should be happy legislators possess. God knows they make enough mistakes to warrant taking second looks at what they've wrought.

And bipartisanship in all its forms is finally on the rise. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has recruited Republicans to his new administration. Sen. Mark Udall is inspiring Democrats and Republicans in Colorado's congressional delegation to sit together during the State of the Union address next week. That's the subject of the third story on the front page of the Post.

Renfroe and King are invoking bipartisanship by asking for the state audit. Their move is political, no doubt, but voters sent them to the state legislature to be political and do what's right by the people of the state. The request for an audit ought to be granted.

1 comment:

  1. Have you been following No Labels? Op Ed in the Boulder Camera yesterday. We have another meetup here in Denver on Feb 13. More at