According to the April 21 edition of Capitol Notes, It appeared last week that the Republican leadership at the State Legislature, Senate President Karen Fann, and House Speaker Russell Bowers, had an agreement for legislators to return to the capitol on May 1 and then quickly adjourn the legislative session Sine Die.
Democratic leaders and most of their caucus were on board with the plan. So were apparently most Republicans, especially those in the State Senate.
Unfortunately for everyone, as the April 22 and 23 editions of Capitol Notes reveal, some of the more fringe members of the House (including Kelly Townsend, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, and Mark Finchem,) perhaps thinking this would be their last chance to pass pending legislation still on their reactionary bill wish list before Democrats take over one or both chambers next year, went to Speaker Bowers and managed to convince him to renege on his deal with Fann.
According to the April 23 edition of Capitol Notes, one lawmaker commented that the idea of returning to the legislative session, complete with public hearings on pending bills, would “create chaos.”
The return also would not happen on May 1 because of the lack of widespread Coronavirus testing when the state has probably not yet reached its peak in infections.
One staff source indicated that the Democrats are not willing to come back into session unless it is to deal with issues stemming from the public health emergency like shoring up the Department of Economic Security, promoting mail-in voting, and allocating funds to areas hurt by the Coronavirus.
Another issue is maintaining the safety of the legislators and their staffs.
To date, there is not a plan that satisfactorily addresses those concerns.
This is not a time to be playing games with people’s lives just because a vocal minority of the Republican caucus either do not believe in the health risk or want to use this potential last gasp of majority rule to get their extreme dream pet projects to the Governor’s desk.
Public Servants are supposed to be better than this and leaders like Russell Bowers should not cower when the extremists bark too loud against the wishes of the majority of the legislature.
It is time to think about the greater good instead of the narrow-minded interests of the reactionary fringe.
It is time to govern for everyone’s interests and devise a plan to do this either when this legislative session returns in late May or June or in a special session during the summer.
It is time not to ask the question whether or not to adjourn but when will all the legislators in the majority caucus put the people’s interests before the special interests.
It is time for the grown-ups to take charge and run the House.