Lawmakers must work together to advance agenda

Democratic state legislators on Tuesday took time out of their days to unveil the party’s 2013 legislative agenda, a retread of their 2012 plan that failed to gain traction in Lansing’s hallowed halls.

Locally, the plan was trumpeted by John Kivela, D-Marquette, and Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, who hosted a joint forum at Peter White Public Library.

During the next legislative year, the pair said, House Democrats will introduce packages of bills aimed at furthering the agenda, which includes increased funding for K-12 education, lower taxes on seniors and the middle class and statewide infrastructure work.

The two legislative freshmen failed to express much hope that the party goals would actually be achieved, however.

“We’ll see how far it goes,” Kivela said during the forum. “A lot of these bills were introduced last year, as well, but we’re going to keep pushing and keep trying.”

He’s right to doubt the chances of success here.

We can see merit in a number of the proposed shifts, but – as Kivela stated so plainly – there is little reason to think much of this agenda will make it through the 2013 House, where Republicans still hold a nine-member majority.

At a time when our national political process is mired in petty party squabbles and inaction, we would hope to see something better from our state officials.

This point is especially important for Upper Peninsula legislators Kivela and Dianda, who during Tuesday’s public forum painted themselves as moderate Democrats willing to reach across the aisle.

Rather than standing in front of their constituents – on behalf of downstate Democrats – and dusting off the same plan that fell last year, the duo should take that moderate attitude to Lansing and attempt to facilitate true bipartisan cooperation on some of these issues.

Maybe the Democrats won’t get the $320 per pupil increase to K-12 funding that they’re after. And maybe they will only get small concessions on middle class tax rates. But we would rather the debate take place than see a legislative lock-up in Lansing.

The legislature is currently on a break, and we hope that by the time they return to work, House Democrats – Kivela and Dianda included – realize that small victories are better than none and that political compromises are better than the alternative.