A good politician has to pick his or her battles.
Despite the fact that he has decided to retire from politics, Gov. Mark Parkinson often has displayed a strong sense of when he should fight and when it is better to compromise.
He also has shown a refreshing sense of candor about his political decisions. That candor was displayed again on Tuesday when he acknowledged that he didn’t like a new law that weakens requirements and enforcement for state licenses to carry a concealed weapon but signed the law because he wanted to avoid a veto session.
“I didn’t want to veto something that would bring them (legislators) back during the veto session and maybe override some of my other vetoes,” Parkinson told reporters.
The concealed carry law had passed by wide margins in both the Kansas House and Senate. It’s possible that Parkinson could have raised enough concerns about the law and changed enough legislators’ votes to turn back a veto challenge, but that probably wouldn’t have happened without legislators returning to Topeka to debate the issue.
Legislators had spent what used to be known as the “veto session” completing their work on the budget and other issues, but veto overrides could have been considered at “sine die” adjournment, which traditionally is a ceremonial event attended by few legislators.
It was “a strategic decision,” Parkinson said, to avoid veto considerations at that session. It was more important to preserve his vetoes on other issues than to veto the concealed carry law and open the door for it and other vetoes to be overridden.
Unfortunately, it appears that at least a few legislators who voted for the bill now are surprised by some of its provisions. They’ll have opportunities to fix the law later, but legislators who passed the bill by such an overwhelming margin bear more responsibility for its content than the governor who didn’t veto it.
Some Kansans probably wish Parkinson had stood on principle by vetoing the concealed carry bill, but he did a good job of defending his choice. He weighed the pros and cons and made a decision that he thought was best for the state.
It’s not the first time Parkinson has taken the pragmatic approach. His willingness to compromise and work through problems is something many Americans would like to see more of at all levels of government.