Friday, June 16, 2006

When Voting Becomes Undemocratic

Representative Dean Kaufert, one of the co-chairmen of the Legislature's powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, wrote in a guest commentary published by the Appleton Post-Crescent yesterday that the recent effort to overcome the actions of legislative leaders to keep the ethics reform measure Senate Bill 1 bottled up in committee was a threat to the democratic process.

Playing by the rules of a democracy, where the will of the majority is supposed to prevail, reform advocates won. Senate Bill 1 passed 28-5 in the state Senate. The governor pledged to sign the legislation. Assembly leaders promised a vote on SB 1 before going back on their word.

Days before the final showdown on SB 1 in the Assembly on May 2, the bill's lead sponsor in the Assembly, Appleton Republican Terri McCormick, announced that conversations she had with colleagues made it clear a majority of state Assembly members would vote for SB 1 if it was brought to a vote.

Knowing the bill would pass if given an up-or-down vote, Assembly GOP leaders twisted arms behind closed doors until they had bullied enough of their fellow legislators into submission. Even Republican sponsors and backers of SB 1 including Kaufert and Representatives Steve Freese of Dodgeville, Eugene Hahn of Cambria and Terry Musser of Black River Falls were persuaded to oppose the effort to pull the reform bill from committee and take it up in the full Assembly.

Now Kaufert is saying such efforts to overcome stonewalling tactics and force votes are "violations of the democratic process meant to embarrass the leadership."

Amazing. Simply amazing.

No comments: