House Republican Freshmen Galvanized for Democracy
We entered the 2011 General Assembly with a passion to serve and a commitment to make a difference. Voters put us in charge to focus on jobs, a balanced budget with no new taxes and education improvement. In November we took an oath to uphold Indiana and our country's constitution. We quickly got to work attending training, submitting legislation that supported our districts, and prepared for the work ahead. We were proud to be part of the largest freshman class, 19 in total, in recent House history. In January we left our day jobs as pharmacists, firefighters, teachers, administrators, respiratory therapists, engineers, managers, veterinarians, financial managers, community activists, realtors, and law enforcers to serve the state of Indiana and our constituents.
After six weeks of working in a bipartisan manner, the Democrat minority changed pace and fled the state, their leadership claiming our agenda is "radical". The fact is Pat Bauer and his Democrat minority were not going to take any chances on democracy. They walked out instead.
They followed this action with a list of demands: 11 bills they wanted removed from the legislative calendar, including the state budget - something that we are constitutionally obligated to pass.
Further, we were told we were "anti-union, anti-family, and anti-middle class". Our leader has been called uncompromising (along with some other unpleasant names). We have been told by Democrat representatives that this would all be solved if Speaker Bosma (R-Indianapolis) would negotiate with Rep. Bauer behind closed doors to take bills "off the table". We adamantly agree with our Speaker when we all say, "NO WAY!" We agree with the Speaker. Changes to these bills can take place on the House floor, the democratic way, through amendments and open debate.
We are a new breed, not old school politicians. We know that democracy should not happen behind closed doors. Democracy, whether a tea-partier or liberal, happens out in the open where ideas are debated, amended and then voted "up or down". Collaboration happens when elected officials from each side sit down together to discuss particular bills valuing each others' point of view and discovering common ground. Consensus happens when both sides give it their best effort and the minority view can at least "live with" the outcome.
Unfortunately, Hoosiers have been denied democracy, collaboration and consensus by the actions of the minority party hiding in Illinois and shirking their duties. The cost to Hoosiers includes $41 million in retiree benefits and dozens of other bills that cannot be enacted this year as they died procedurally. We are required to pass a budget and to redraw the state and congressional House maps based on new census data. Further, we remain firmly committed to hear, debate, amend and vote 50 pieces of legislation that await second and third readings before turning our attention to Senate bills that require our attention as well.
Rep. Bauer and Democrat colleagues - we may be freshman, but we are not intimidated, worn down, or discouraged by your antics. Instead, you have galvanized our commitment to democracy. We will be here, as Governor Daniels suggested, until New Year's Day, if necessary, to fulfill our oath and commitment to Hoosiers. In the meantime, we will continue to study bills and amendments, pass our bills through the Senate, meet with constituents and become strong, capable legislators. We will stay on the "high road".