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Wisconsin senators are acting childish

Published 8:00am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

For the past several weeks the state of Wisconsin has been in the national news because the state’s government cannot find a solution to its budget crisis.

Republicans have introduced legislation that will ask public employees, such as teachers, to pay more for health insurance coverage and retirement benefits. The legislation would also limit the collective bargaining rights of unions representing those public workers.

The Democratic senators in Wisconsin, which are in the minority party, oppose the legislation and have fled to Illinois to prevent the senate from voting on the bill.

State law dictates that 20 of the 33 members of the senate need to be present for legislation to be voted upon. With all 14 Democratic senators in Illinois, the state’s business cannot get done.

While it is admirable that those senators are standing up for what they believe is right, their subversion of the democratic process is deplorable.

They were elected by the people of Wisconsin — which is a pro-union state — to represent them to the best of their abilities. They should vote no to the legislation and let the record show they voted no.

The legislation will pass anyway since Republicans hold the majority with 19 seats, but let the voters worry about that during the next election.

According to Wikipedia, the annual salary for state senators elected in 2008 is $49,943. That money is given to them in good faith that they will do their jobs, not so they can run off to another state like a spoiled child who is not getting his or her way.

This sets a dangerous precedent. The next time a minority party in a state legislature does not like a bill, it can leave and hold up not just that legislation, but all other legislation that can be voted on while the questionable legislation is debated.

What would have happened if the Republicans in Washington, D.C. left town last year when Democrats put the healthcare reform law up for a vote?

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Many voters throughout the nation who did not support the legislation responded by voting several Democrats out of office and putting Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives. That is how a democracy is supposed to work.

The democratic process is designed so everyone has a voice and the majority opinion rules. It is not just impractical to draft legislation that pleases everybody — it is impossible.

Legislators should do what is best for their district and leave it up to the voters during the next election to decide if they deserve another term in office.

Unfortunately, the Democratic senators in Wisconsin do not trust the voters to remember this legislation during the next election cycle and feel the best way to help the thousands of public workers targeted by this legislation is by impeding the entire state and its 5.6 million citizens.

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