Thursday, March 03, 2005

Indiana House Boycotted by Crybabies

It’s a different legislative session, but the same old political games are still being played. This time it’s the democrats who want to play a game of kill bill. House democrats, who are in the minority this year, boycotted the General Assembly last week, potentially killing 130 bills.

Last year it was the minority republicans who walked out. That move eventually killed at least 40 bills.

But whether it is the democrats or the republicans who snarl the legislative process by not showing up to vote, the ploy is nothing less than childish and makes everyone involved look like a bunch of crybabies.

The democrats walked out in protest of republicans’ plans to pass a bill that would create a governor-appointed inspector general and another bill that would require a state ID to be shown at polling places during elections.

Democrats have every right to oppose those pieces of legislation. But the proper way to oppose them is to show up and vote against them. If they lose, they lose. That’s the democratic process.

But rather than show up and vote, knowing they would probably be defeated, they simply didn’t show up. Unfortunately, that means a quorum didn’t exist and business couldn’t be conducted. It was an underhanded and immature method of getting their way.

A similar situation happened last year when republicans walked out, preventing a vote on a same-sex marriage bill. The bill would have started the process of amending the state constitution to say that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Two-thirds of House members must be present to conduct business. Although republicans are in the majority this year, they do not have the requisite two-thirds majority.

Do voters in Indiana really want their elected officials to boycott a vote? They get paid, with taxpayer’s money, to do their jobs. But when they refuse to even show up, they are not doing those jobs.

That means important legislation, such as a bill that would finally place all of Indiana on daylight saving time in the summer is in serious jeopardy. It also means legislation providing funding for a new stadium for the Colts is dead. Unless republicans in the Senate can find a way to tack on these bills as amendments, they’re doomed.

Unfortunately, the Senate has rules preventing unrelated bills from being added as amendments to other bills. There is still some hope for the stadium, because there are other funding bills pending in the Senate that it could be amended to. But it looks as though the daylight saving time bill will have to wait yet another year.

Gov. Mitch Daniels blamed House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, for sidetracking the legislative process. In a statement, the governor said, “I shouldn't be surprised that a throwback politician like Mr. Bauer would put party over jobs, reform, public safety, or the protection of children. But it's harder to understand why not one House Democrat had the courage or conscience to stay at work when he told them to walk off the job.”

It probably shouldn’t be hard to understand, given the nature of politics. But it still leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth to know that partisan politics can bring state government to a screeching halt.

Voters of Indiana deserve better than that. They want and need their elected officials to show up and do their jobs. And if they don’t, voters ought to demand that the esoteric rules that govern the General Assembly be changed.

Make a quorum 51 percent instead of two-thirds majority. That would end the walk-outs by those who have lost power but who are not ready to give it up just yet.

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