Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Response from Mike Colona, Candidate for State Representative, District 80

1.    What do you view as the key role, and/or attributes needed for this position?  What experience/attributes do you have that qualify you for this position? 

Key role and attributes needed for this position is that of being accessible to my constituents – and having access to opportunities to serve those constituents. Part of that access comes in the form of being identified by my peers as a member of Democratic Leadership. I have been elected the Minority Whip, which allows me access to multiple levels of government that others don’t have available. I meet monthly with the Governor to discuss policy and budget issues. I protect our democratic core issues by keeping our Democratic Caucus voting in a block. Under my watch, I have only lost one veto over ride vote. In addition, I have access to the majority party to work with them and get some of my issues passed into law; including pension reform, DWI reform and acknowledgements for our fallen heroes.

2.    Why do you think you are the best person for this position?  What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

Simply put – experience. I have worked very hard to develop and nurture relationships with everyone I meet in Jefferson City to allow me access to effecting legislation. I have a voting record and multiple pieces of legislation that have become law to prove as such. My relationship and access to the Governor's office is unlike no other City Representative. As a friend of mine puts it “… unless we have a seat at the table – we are on the menu…”. I am flattered to be at the table representing the City of St. Louis

3.    What do you feel are the most pressing issues currently facing this office and what plans do you have to address these issues? (please be specific)

Most pressing issues are getting our citizens back to work, fixing our schools and returning a safe feeling to our neighborhoods. Please see the answers to the next question.

4.    What three issues are your main priorities and how will you guide them?

Jobs - crime prevention - education. I am one of a few Democrats who work together with the Governor and the Majority Party in developing and implementing a jobs platform. I have consistently worked with my caucus and others to expand charter school options while trying to improve the regulation and evaluation of those institutions but at the same time, strengthen the position and support for the SLPS. My position on the House Crime Prevention and Judiciary Committees allow me access to promote sensible changes in DWI law, sex offender registration, increased penalties and anti discrimination measures.

5.    How do you plan to address the schism between Republicans and Democrats in Jefferson City?  How will you accomplish things as a member of the minority party?

The only way we overcome these differences is by building personal relationships with each member, regardless of party identification. As the only openly gay man in the Missouri General Assembly, I think I’ve done a great job at building those relationships and effecting good legislation. HB 2051 for example, will not receive a committee hearing in part because of my relationship with the Republican Chair of the House Education Committee.

I have already established myself as a Democrat who can work across the aisle on major issues without selling out core beliefs. My status as a member of Democratic Leadership adds credibility to support the Governor on key issues yet at the same time bring Democrats over to vote with moderate Republicans on common policy goals – such as restoring funding for the blind. My profession as a lawyer also gains me trust and respect across party lines. While some people may think my profession is a handicap, I have been able to approach and present some issues from a purely legal/constitutional analysis and without any partisan references. As Democratic Whip, I am proud that I can actually Whip Tea Party Conservatives to vote with my caucus. Finally – no other member of the minority party can say that in their tenure as a Democrat in the Republican controlled Missouri House – they have passed six bills, I have.

6.    How do you plan to increase available jobs in the area and state? 

Under the Governor's leadership, we have actually added 27,000 jobs in the first quarter of 2012. I have been instrumental in working with the DED in identifying programs that work and discontinuing those that don’t. What this has done is allow assistance to small business to remain strong (such as the Manufacturing Jobs Act) while freeing up funds to be allocated towards educating and re-educating our workforce through programs such as the A Plus Scholarship Program and the Workforce Development Commission.  I continue to work with the Governor and moderates on both sides of the aisle to focus our limited resources on helping people get back to work

7.    How do you plan to address the tension between rural and urban areas of the state?

I have the unique ability, as already proven in my first four years in the General Assembly – to bridge the urban rural divide. I grew up in rural Jefferson County but now have the distinct honor of representing one of the most densely populated areas of the state. I have been able to use that dynamic to effectively communicate my understanding – and support, of rural issues which has gained me the understanding and support of some rural legislators.

8.    What broad-based, stable source of revenue would you recommend to fund quality, public services if both individual and corporate taxes were cut?

We have many options available to us that I would have supported: increased cigarette taxes, increased gas taxes and passage of the Main Street Protection Act – which forces on line retailers to pay sales taxes on the goods they sell.

9.    In light of the pending outcome of the Turner v. Clayton case regarding transfer of students from unaccredited school districts to accredited districts, what would you suggest as a solution for maintaining the viability of St. Louis Public Schools?

Our accredited neighboring school districts can’t accommodate all of our city students, therefore we must focus on increasing the quality of education available to my constituents. I have worked with members on both sides of the aisle to allow the SLPS to charter their own schools – and increase accountability to those charter schools  so they that are evaluated by the same methods we evaluate traditional schools. We must also give the SLPS the flexibility needed to copy such successful programs as Kenard Classical Jr. and Gateway High while at the same time, retaining good teachers who are rewarded for their excellence.

10.    How can the legislators from the St. Louis metropolitan area  work together despite party differences to support and protect the interests of the entire area? (please be specific)

Most of us do work together. My position in Democratic Leadership allows me the opportunity to sit down with Republican Leadership to identify regional priorities and map out a plan to implement those priorities. The shortcomings (inability to pass major legislation) can be attributed to philosophical disagreements between Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate – which has led to minimalizing the geographical differences.  Aerotropolis and pension reform have been issues where there is broad based support, but due to two or three Senators (all Republican, one from STL, one from Cape and one from SWMO) have not been able to pass. Short of sending those Senators a message by NOT re-electing them, continued one on one, individual relationship building is the best way to overcome these obstacles. Just one example of my ability to overcome this obstacle is my work with the majority party in the passage of DWI reform.

11.    Do you support or oppose changing the law so utility companies can charge rate payers for construction costs?

I think this will become a moot issue. Ameren has changed its focus from building a large scale nuclear facility to using federal grants and a partnership with Westinghouse to design, build and sell modular nuclear plants. CWIP protects the consumer. If we were to change the law, we should do so to insure that the funds allocated to building any new facility actually go towards the construction of said facility – something similar to a claw back provision.

12.    Describe how you work with, or will work with, others to address your priorities.

My track record recounts how I have communicated with my constituents and tried to implement my legislative priorities. Part of this includes doing things like riding in my float in the Pride Parade. I want LGBT youth not just to come to our neighborhood and feel as if they are home, but I also want them to know that they can follow their dreams and be successful in their pursuits. I will continue to work with other legislators – regardless of party identification – to further better legislation for our neighborhoods.

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