FROM THE DESK OF SENATOR DAVID LONG

The Senate and House are now at the halfway point of the 2004 Session, which means that the Senate will now hear House bills, and vice versa. For legislation to become law, it must pass through both legislative chambers, and be signed by the Governor.

And speaking of the Governor, I have to say that I am extremely disappointed in the way he conducted himself last week in attempting to get his Full Day Kindergarten bill passed in the House. Regardless of what you think of Full Day Kindergarten, the tactics used were deplorable.

In case you weren’t aware of what occurred, the Indiana House of Representatives was in the last two days of its first half, and the Kindergarten bill was up for final consideration. The House is controlled by the Democrats by the thinnest of margins, 51-49. Illness has struck the House this Session on both sides of the aisle. There are currently two House Democrat members who are absent via heart problems, and one Republican House member who is out, also with a heart ailment. A bill must have 51 votes to pass, and the best the Democrats could muster in the House was 50 because of the absences. In other words, the bill was going to fail. The Governor was calling in different legislators opposed to his bill, trying to find the elusive 51st vote.

The bill was finally called up for a vote last Tuesday, February 3rd. The vote was again stuck at 50, when suddenly, the Speaker of the House, Pat Bauer, picks up his cell phone and asks if Representative Kromkowski could hear him. He then put the phone up to the mike, where Rep. Kromkowski could be heard saying that he voted “Aye”. When shouts of protest cascaded from the floor from amazed and outraged legislators, the Speaker turned his laptop computer around, revealing the face of Rep. Kromkowski, and announced that “he was indeed present and accounted for”. The Speaker then announced that the vote was 51-47, and the bill would pass.

Of course, all kinds of mayhem broke out. There was no precedent for this ever occurring in the Indiana legislature, and in fact the action by the Speaker broke the House rule that all legislators must be present to vote.

 

How did this occur?

Apparently, the Speaker of the House and the Governor arranged for several State Police officers to fly, at State expense, up to Rep. Kromkowski’s home in South Bend, and bring with them a computer and camera that could beam the Representative’s face back to the House floor live. Of course, no one was consulted about this, so it caught even the House Democratic caucus by surprise.

The problem? Well, if this were allowed to occur, you could just take the Session off, and call in your vote from your home. No need to debate, no need to be present to vote. The idea of representative democracy would be tossed out the window. It would make a mockery of the entire process. Hey, I’ll just head on down to Florida for the winter; call me when you need me to vote.

Just as importantly, the institution of the Legislature was undermined by these actions. It showed a complete lack of respect for rules and procedures, and caused many members of the House and the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, to lose respect for those involved. Personally, I am deeply disappointed in the Governor, a man whom I know and like, despite our political differences.

Lets hope that no stunt like this is ever attempted again, and that the people’s vote is treated with the respect and honor it deserves, because last week’s actions we are at an all time low as far as I’m concerned.

The Waynedale News Staff

Sen. David Long

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