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SPOTLIGHT
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One-sided debate

Published on -2/14/2013, 9:53 AM

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One-sided debate

After reading the Hawver Report of happenings in the Kansas State Legislature last week, my concern about partisan control intensified. If you are following the votes in Topeka this legislative session, you will notice a much more lopsided tally than in the Legislature of the last two sessions.

Unfortunately for Kansans, when such a lopsided partisan Legislature controls the outcome of many key issues, the debate is often cut short -- if it occurs at all.  

The result is some critical outcomes follow the ideology of the few in leadership rather than getting worked and shaped through challenging questions and debate.  The result of such a Legislature is the best ideas don't come to the surface for debate, because there is fear of even asking the questions to raise a debate.  This is particularly the case when there are many new legislators and the old guard has the gavel and the ability to stifle questions that aren't easy for new, inexperienced legislators to ask.

In my 32 years in the Army, particularly as a senior leader in the last decade of my service, I welcomed "minority ideas" from junior officers and senior enlisted because it could lead to improvements. Even if it didn't, it often led to their buy-in through the explanation or their inclusion in the discussion ... and this strengthened the team effort.  I always knew I had the ultimate decision-making authority at my level, but I was never threatened by other ideas or analysis. I welcomed them when provided in the appropriate setting.

Too much of our government process is based on partisanship and majority/seniority "position-muscling" which cuts the debate off and lessens the opportunity to give the best response for those we represent.  Those in majority rule have an absolute responsibility to be as inclusive as is reasonable for the time and importance of decisions that must be made. Those in the minority must refrain from being of such opposition that they cut their own opportunity for inclusion in the debate and decisions by their interruption or antagonism. It is for the people that we serve, not for the win nor for the defeat of the other side. This is not a naive concept, it can be done. But it will not happen until we demand selfless over selfish service from those we elect to serve.

With so many new faces in the legislature, I hope they (new members) take a stand to force those in the majority to fully explain issues and go so far as to solicit questions from the junior members so there is clear understanding for discussion, debate and decision-making. That will result in better government. Senior leadership is truly a two-edged sword.

The ability to ultimately make the decisions comes with great responsibility to ensure the decisions are broader than the leader's own ideology and reflect the most good for the people they represent.

We citizens and communities pay a huge price, for more than just a few years, when partisanship becomes the primary manner of rule and decision-making.  Just look at the feds.

Allen Schmidt

Hays

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