This afternoon, Law Dork had the opportunity to sit down and talk with freshman Democratic Representative Jared Polis, elected this past fall to represent Colorado’s Second Congressional District, which includes Boulder and Vail. Polis is one of three openly LGBT members of Congress and the first man to have been elected as openly gay in his first bid for Congress. He was in Columbus on Saturday to support a fund-raising event for fellow freshman Representative Mary Jo Kilroy, who represents Ohio’s Fifteenth Congressional District.
This week, Polis made news by leading 21 other freshmen members of Congress in sending a letter to Speaker Pelosi outlining concerns with the House’s funding of the health care reform bill. For that reason, Polis also was one of three Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee to vote against the House health care reform bill.
Additionally, Speaker Pelosi announced that Polis had been named to serve on the Board of Visitors of the Air Force Academy, located in Colorado. The board assists Congressional and Executive oversight of the Academy through reports it submits to both branches of government.
In the interview, Polis talks about being a new member of Congress, speaks extensively about issues of concern to the LGBT community and concludes by talking about the role he has made for himself in the debate over health care reform.
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NEW TO CONGRESS, BUT NOT TO POLITICS: Polis worked with the state government extensively in Colorado before joining Congress this January, having been elected to serve as an at-large member of the state’s board of education in 2000 and serving as its chairman for a time during his six-year tenure on the board. Polis noted that he “worked very closely with the state legislature on educational policy,” which he said taught him valuable lessons about the legislative process — not to mention a great deal about education policy.
While on the board, Polis also founded two charter schools, one focused on older immigrant youth who might otherwise face difficulties in mainstream public schools, which has expanded to four schools now, and the other focused on homeless youth, which was co-founded with a shelter for homeless youth in Denver. Polis called the experience “one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done in my life.”
As for the transition to D.C. politics from Colorado, Polis stated simply: “Well, politics is politics.” He said the main change is the size, in pure numbers, of getting used to working in the D.C. environs.
“It’s bigger . . . [There are] a lot of people to get to know, institutionally,” Polis said. “While this particular president has been amazingly accessible to us as members of Congress, it doesn’t compare to the accessibility that we would have with the governor in a state.”
Outside of LGBT and health issues, which Polis discussed at length, he also mentioned education improvement and immigration reform as two of the issues he intends to expend his efforts in his first term in Congress.
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CHANGE, CONGRESS & LGBT ISSUES: A wide-ranging discussion with Representative Polis on LGBT issues, from legislation being considered in Congress to the Department of Justice’s brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act to President Obama’s efforts in the past months to advance LGBT equality.
MAKING A SPLASH, DISAGREEMENT WITHIN THE PARTY: Law Dork asks Representative Polis about his efforts this week to oppose a tax in the House health care reform bill and the view of some liberals, specifically Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, that Polis “is shaping up to be a serious pain in the ass.“
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