An Open letter to Gov. Henry From Co-President Pro Tempore

Dear Governor Henry,

In light of your public frustrations over losing a bill that was part of your agenda, I wanted to take the time to send you a copy of a recent article I wrote. I hope it will be a framework for constructive dialog and a productive, successful session. You see, I don’t define “bipartisanship” as just agreeing to see everything your way and voting for a measure because you think it is the right thing to do. I don’t believe bipartisanship is compromise, as some people would suggest, especially if it means compromising my own principles just to get agreement. I do believe bipartisanship means to collaborate (to work jointly with others in an intellectual endeavor). I feel like you and I began such an effort when you invited me to your office to get my assistance on this measure and two others that had been sent to the Rules Committee. In an effort to work in good faith, I agreed to reassign one of those bills to another committee. Senator Morgan reassigned the other two. Two of the three measures made it out of committee with bipartisan support and are headed to the floor for consideration by the full Senate.

I certainly understand your frustration. When you served as a member of the majority in the Senate, those of us in the minority watched most of Governor Keating’s agenda items die in committee. In fact, every one of us in the minority had to live with our own bills being killed in your committee and others. I learned as a member of the minority that you have to let those things go. It taught me to not take it personally, but rather to work to get the issue done in other ways – often in a Democrat authored bill. As a regular victim of your veto pen, I have had to relearn this lesson many times. This taught me not to worry about getting the credit, but rather to focus on the policy over politics.

I didn’t see Governor Keating complain when you and members of your party killed his agenda items. Instead, he worked hard to find common ground, as he would walk up to the fourth floor to meet with legislators to reach a solution together. As I pledged to you when we met recently in your office, I am committed to just such a process.

Senator Morgan and I have worked hard to keep an atmosphere of civility in these first three weeks as we deal with a most unusual and delicate situation in the Senate. So far it has worked very well. We have encouraged our members to avoid unnecessary partisan rhetoric and to try to make our power-sharing agreement work. The Senate works differently under these circumstances. You have repeatedly and publicly criticized some of the new procedures we have implemented, such as placing bills that can’t get bipartisan agreement in the Rules Committee and the calling of committee caucuses to avoid rash decisions that could lead to conflict if members have questions about the new procedures. I hope you will begin to understand that even though you haven’t heard of these measures being done in the past, they were developed in a bipartisan manner to get the work of the people done. Senator Morgan and I both recognized the difficulty of this task and that it would likely result in fewer bills becoming law. That is why we are trying to focus on the things we can agree on and not the issues that will divide us. I hope you will join us in this process.


Glenn Coffee, Co-President Pro Tempore


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