The Indiana House of Representatives has remained silent going on ten days now. Our work is unfinished. Bills are dead. The legislative process has come to a halt. Why? Because the minority party has decided the time has come to change how a democracy operates. If you watch the news, you will hear all kinds of "reasons" as to why the Democrats abandoned Indiana for Urbana. You will hear them say they are "protecting the middle class," "stopping a radical, right-winged agenda" or "helping to save public education from those who hate kids and teachers." This is an abomination of the truth.
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson penned these words in the Declaration of Independence: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Our new nation started down an unchartered path. We were not going to rely on a King, an Emperor, or a Czar to rule over us, we told the world that we can govern ourselves. We the people. The United States Constitution laid out the details of this grand experiment. When Indiana became a state, we followed the same path.
No issue is too great to be considered by the legislative body. If an issue is one that would significantly change the course of history, the debate intensifies, the positions become more firm and the people become more engaged in the process, but ignoring the issues are irresponsible. Consequently, if my position is not in tune with the governed, there is a solution: an election.
My job as a legislator is to propose, debate and defend my positions. My job is to show up on the house floor and join the debate. My job is to vote "yes" or "no" on the proposed laws. If I think the bills are short-sighted or dangerous, then I vote no and take my message to the people.
The House Democrats have changed the rules. They have chosen to flee rather than defend. They have chosen to throw out sound bites on TV versus debate on the House floor. Our state and our country has faced some very difficult issues over the past centuries, but those issues have been resolved or defeated on the floor of the people's House, not from a hotel room 120 miles away.
Some will say that the Republicans have done the same thing. Yes they have, but two things to note. They never walk out over policy; they walked out over violations of the rules. They also returned before any legislation died. It is one thing to seriously spend time reviewing the impact of proposed legislation. It is a completely different issue when you run away to avoid a difficult vote.
The Democrats need to come back, defend and debate their position, vote yes or no on these issues and let the people decide in 2012 if we are on the right track.