It’s a pretty crazy thing when the big story of the week is that there are legislators at the statehouse conducting legislative business during the middle of a legislative session.

The details of the big story — that there are actually just three Democratic House members at the Statehouse because 37 others are off somewhere in Illinois, gathered around the piano in a hotel lounge, singing Sinatra tunes and crying in their martinis — just make it even more ridiculous.

In case you’ve missed it, here’s the recap: Democratic Party House members are mad at Republican House members because Republicans are trying to pass legislation the Democrats don’t like. There are more Republicans in the House than there are Democrats and the democratic process our entire government is built on says that the majority rules. Knowing they are the minority and that things weren’t going to go their way when the votes started being cast, Democrats on Tuesday decided they just wouldn’t go vote at all.  

Apparently, the method to their madness is that under state legislative rules, bills have a fixed timeframe during which they have to be read and voted on. But bills can only be voted on if there’s a quorum — in this case 67 House members — present. If a bill isn’t voted on in the allotted timeframe, it dies. Tuesday was the deadline for more than 20 bills to receive a vote. With all but three of the House’s Democrats on the lam, none of those bills were voted on. So, in effect, they’re all now dead.

Does it sound ridiculous to you yet?

Democrats said Tuesday they would stay in Illinois until they could get “assurances” from Gov. Mitch Daniels and Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma that the bills the Dems had deemed objectionable would not be reintroduced at any time this legislative session. (To be fair, Republicans staged similar walkouts in 2001, 1991 and 1975; Dems also boycotted votes in 2005 and 1995).

Bosma and Daniels both issued statements in response Tuesday night, basically telling Dems where to go.

“The House Democrats have shown a complete contempt for the democratic process,” Daniels said Tuesday. “The way that works — as we all learned in grade school — is that if you seek public office, you come, do your duty, you argue, you debate, you amend if you can, you vote ‘no’ if you feel you should. If you are not successful, you go home and take your case to the voters. You don’t walk off the job, take your public paycheck with you and attempt to bring the whole process to a screeching halt.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Voters should be disgusted, because more than anything this is a big insult to them.

For months leading up to an election, candidates ask us for our support. They hammer at us to get up and go vote for them on Election Day so they can get the job they want. So we go, we vote, they win and, somehow, we all still lose because apparently temper tantrums have become a more powerful legislative bargaining tool than good, old-fashioned hard work and debate.

And there goes the Democratic process.

Basically what the runaway Democrats are saying is: “You weren’t smart enough to send enough of the right people here [i.e. people who agree with us] so what you think doesn’t count. We’re just going to disregard you and the election and do what we want.”

Again, we point to Gov. Daniels’ statement: “If you are not successful, you go home and take your case to the voters.”

Some of our representatives are going to have a pretty weak case to present when they come home.  The argument of, “I was too scared to lose, so I didn’t play” isn’t something you want to hear any leader say.

The bright spot in all of this is that one of the three Democrats who decided not to run away from their responsibilities is Jeffersonville native Steve Stemler. Stemler, who was just elected to his second term in the House, declined his Democratic buddies’ invitation to its slumber party and continued to report to duty at the Statehouse.  

It’s not the first time he’s found himself on the opposite side of his party’s majority this session, and has supported opinions from the other side of the aisle on some pretty major issues. When asked about his reasons for not going along with the rest of his party this week, Stemler said he decided to stay behind out on “principle.”

Principle. Imagine that.

While some think Stemler’s payback is going to come in the form of punishment from his party, we think he did exactly what the voters here sent him there to do: Stand up for them and do what he thinks is right — not to lose his ability to be an independent thinker and become a carbon copy of everyone else in the Statehouse. And, regardless of what the majority of House Democrats might think, it is the voters who decide what the ultimate payback is going to be.
© 2011 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.