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Editorial: Stalemate leaves constituents without a voice

March 2, 2011

There’s a lot of shouting and political posturing going on, but we’re not at all certain there’s much in the way of listening and compromising taking place.

On President’s Day, most all of Indiana’s House Democrats left the state for Urbana, Ill., to deny their Republican counterparts a quorum with which to do business.

The stated objection at the time was a piece of legislation labeled “right to work,” which would prohibit requiring workers who are not union members to pay representation fees when unions and businesses negotiate agreements.

Republicans have said the legislation is off the table for the remainder of the session, but Democrats have since compiled a list of other pieces of legislation that they strenuously object to. Name calling ensued, and at this writing, Democrats said they wouldn’t return to the Statehouse on the next session day, Feb. 28.

The same thing is happening in Wisconsin, only in that state, it’s the Senate Democrats who have left home for Illinois. At issue there are state workers’ collective bargaining rights.

In both states, voters on both sides of the issues being so hotly contested have filled their statehouses to speak out for their positions.

We wish there was a lot more listening going on, as in politicians listening to the people trying to get their message out.

Many people have pointed out the obvious: that elections have consequences. In Indiana’s case, those who hold that opinion indicate that the House Democrats should come home and take their political lumps.

But we truly see no difference between what’s going on in Indiana now and what happened during the first two years of President Barack Obama’s presidency. Indiana’s Democrats left the state when they could affect no compromise on legislation they object to. In Washington, D.C., they have this little tool called a “filibuster.” From where we sit, it accomplished the same thing – the filibuster, or even the threat of it, brought the legislative process to a standstill.

In Indiana’s case, we have a budget to crank out during this legislative session, and we do not have the means to pay our elected officials to work overtime and complete it.

We’d like to see some indications that there’s actually talking and listening and therefore compromising taking place. In addition to the lawyers who serve as elected officials in the General Assembly, perhaps we need a few mediators to join them.•

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