During the last few months a number of state legislators from Wisconsin and Indiana went AWOL in hiding. They were trying to avoid participating in the democratic process established by the legislators themselves, thus hoping to defeat legislation by boycotting rather than participating in the process.

Every single bill that is offered for possible enactment into law, whether at the city, county, state or federal level, always has a number of legislators who oppose it. According to rules agreed to by the legislators from both parties, bills are debated and voted on and the will of the majority prevails. During passage of the recent Health Care Reform Law, members of the minority party in both the U.S. House and the Senate were almost unanimously against passage. They made their position very clear by debating and voting, but they did not go into hiding in order to prolong or negate the outcome. At the end of the proceedings the will of the majority prevailed.

If the legislators that went AWOL feel that the legislation they were fighting against is too onerous or unconstitutional, it can always be challenged in either state or federal courts, as has happened with the recently passed Health Care Bill. If these AWOL legislators are allowed to use a boycott to obstruct and redefine the legislative process, the precedent will have a very detrimental effect on society. Should we teach the young generation that when things don’t go their way they should hide instead of facing the problem? Should we teach coaches that if during the game they realize their team is going to lose, they can pull their players from the field and hide in the dressing room in order to avoid the loss?

During the process of proposing and passing legislation at the state level, the job of the legislators is to represent constituents in their district, not just lobbyists or special interest groups. The bills being considered in Wisconsin and Indiana were designed to improve economic conditions for all constituents in those states, not a single special interest group.

Today almost every city, county, and state in the country is having myriad financial problems. Policies established by the governor and the state legislature have a profound impact on city and county governments. State policies can help or hurt local governments as they try to deal with financial problems the best way for their particular situations. Whatever the proposed solutions to current problems, there will be no winners in the short term. But if special interest groups are allowed to block solutions designed to deal with the network of interlocking financial problems, then all of us will be the losers in the long term.

The AWOL Wisconsin senators are sacrificing the general interest of the entire state in order to protect the narrow interests of public sector unions. Many may remember the case of the air-traffic controllers during the Reagan administration. They tried to cripple the country but the President called their bluff and swiftly resolved the problem by replacing all of them. Like President Reagan in the case of the country, no governor should allow a narrow interest group to hold hostage the entire population of the state.


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