In every legislative session there’s at least one bill that no one saw coming, and that eventually takes center stage. This year, it appears to be Senate Bill 305, better known as the Mail-In Ballot Bill. It’s also becoming known as the “gift that just keeps on giving,” in a bad way.
This is a bill that would allow counties to opt for mail-in ballots exclusively, in the upcoming special election to replace former Congressman Ryan Zinke. The counties say it would save them money; the Democrats really want the bill; and the Conservative wing of the Republican party believes the bill, if passed, would give a distinct advantage to the Democrat candidate. It’s interesting. Democrats insist that mail-in ballots give them no particular advantage, yet they virtually riot every time the bill comes up for a hearing, at least in the House of Representatives.
The first instance was last Thursday, a day that will live in legislative infamy. It began with a heavy hearing schedule, four bills in four hours, and three of them with the potential to be controversial. The chairman, in an attempt to stay on schedule, limited the time for testimony on every bill. When time ran out for testimony on Senate Bill 305, a proponent refused to stop talking and had to be escorted out by police. The audience, egged on by one committee Democrat in particular, started catcalling the chairman, and the room had to be cleared. When order was restored, the Democrat in question continued to disrupt the proceedings by making motion after motion to reopen the hearing.
The next day a bill of hers that passed second reading 39 to 11 mysteriously died on the Senate floor by a unanimous vote. Many say the Senate was sending a message that contempt for decorum would not be tolerated.
Now, fast forward to yesterday when committee Democrats, again, tried to do an end run around the chairman by forcing an early vote on the bill. It backfired when Republicans who actually supported the bill circled the wagons around their chairman and voted to table it. This set off the Democrat who led the charge last week, and the committee, again, went into meltdown mode. As I said, it’s interesting that there would be this much drama around a bill that the Democrats insist will not affect the election.
The rumor is that the Democrats will make a motion on Friday to have the bill taken from the committee and brought to the floor of the House for a vote. No doubt more drama will ensue. Like I said, it’s the “gift that just keeps on giving.”
The interesting thing is the dynamics that have followed this bill from the beginning. Twice we’ve seen legislators reprimanded because they made a mockery of the process and decorum. Legislators who were planning to vote in favor of the bill voted, instead, to kill it because they refused to reward bad behavior. Anarchy may work on college campuses, but at the Capitol, adults are in charge, and they demand a higher standard.
As I’ve said before, the thing that sets us apart from third-world countries is our ability to discuss tough issues in a civilized manner. If we allow chaos and mob rule to destroy the system, then we all lose. I, for one, applaud these legislators who are rising above the fray. It’s what distinguishes a statesman from a partisan hack.