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My experience in the Legislature

Gun control, civil unions, school refinance, renewable energy, Medicaid expansion, single-payer health care, repeal of death penalty, comprehensive sex education, and, of course, marijuana regulation. These are just some of the bills I was confronted with my first year in the Colorado state Senate. I can sum up this experience in one word: “contentious.”

I found myself in the middle of this heated session because I had followed my love for history and my passion for serving the people by becoming a legislative aide for Sen. Ellen Roberts.

I grew up in restaurants and spent most of my life serving customers. My mom’s side of the family is Cuban, and I majored in history to learn why my grandmother left Cuba, never to return. Her story is fascinating and also enlightening. Fidel Castro promised a better life for the poor by eliminating the upper class. This gave me an understanding of why my Cuban side of the family has feared big government. This also inspired me to study U.S. history. I became vice president of the American Experiment, a non-profit that teaches the political and economic philosophy of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution and American history. I decided that I could better serve people by protecting our liberties and educating young people on American history.

Politics, to many people my age, is boring and of no concern to them. It is tough for me to understand that view because politics affects everyone. We the people are the employer of our elected officials.

I made the switch from the private sector to politics last year. I was Dave Kerber’s deputy campaign manager for his race in Senate District 26. This was a competitive race, and unfortunately Dave lost, but he referred me to the capitol where I found a position working for Sen. Roberts.

Working at the Capitol requires me to be on my toes. The moment I decide to take a deep breath and relax, another bill is introduced that could drastically change the lives of Coloradans forever. I am forced to try and stay one step ahead, but that only gets me so far because Republicans are in the minority. This is frustrating for me because I am passionate about a lot of these issues. But I am also fortunate to have Sen. Roberts as my boss. she is pragmatic and keeps our office focused and our emotions in check.

This legislative session is not what I had expected. I originally thought politicians didn’t do much at all. After watching Sen. Roberts work and read every bill, educate herself on the issues and meet with people in the different areas that a piece of legislation would affect, I realized that this is a very difficult job. On top of that, she responds to her constituents’ phone calls, emails, and letters. She is a stateswoman. She votes on how to best serve her constituents and doesn’t take a single vote lightly.

I highly recommend that everyone visit the Capitol at least once. It is our duty as citizens to become familiar with the legislative process. It is we the people that are the employers of our elected officials and we must let our voices be heard. Only we can hold the government accountable. If we are not interested in politics then who is left to hold the government accountable?

Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Sen. Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884, or email ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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