by Rep. Gail Whitsett
In response to a question posed to me recently, it’s my opinion that public input has no value in a completely controlled and strictly adhered to agenda like we are seeing this session. The outcome is pre-determined and the bills that are allowed to a floor vote will pass.
I still urge people to testify and we minority party legislators still speak up on the floor and in committees and vote “no” – but the outcome is fully predetermined. That’s how it is this session and that’s how it was last session. That’s how it is anytime you have a supermajority or near supermajority.
Even the moderate Democrats are so afraid of their leadership and the loss of their committee chairmanships and committee assignments that they concede to the stated agenda and vote party line.
An exception is when they are in swing districts and the leadership determines they can vote moderately, and allows them to vote their constituency because it won’t affect the outcome of the floor vote. The other times they are expected to vote en bloc along strictly party lines to make a point in the media.
This is how sausage is made, sadly.
Over the course of our first few days in session, certain members of the majority party in the House are even admonishing the minority party representatives for daring to speak up about the predetermined agenda in our limited three minutes at the end of each daily session. It seems as though some in leadership are attempting to silence the only thing we have left to use – our voices.
This results in a total and complete disenfranchisement of most rural voters, and certainly all of those who are represented by minority party legislators.
The legislative process should be open and all elected officials should be afforded the same respect. That means we are tolerant of all speakers and their issues, not just those issues that the majority party wishes to consider. It was really quite embarrassing to view the public attack by a member of leadership on a Republican member for suggesting that he wished we could all sit down to dinner and work on issues instead of being subjected to these many major policy changes being forced on the citizens of the state in an incredibly short session. Short sessions, that by the way, were not meant for major policy changes.
If we are denied our ability to speak about the controversial subjects, through methods of public intimidation and humiliation by the majority party, we truly are existing and trying to govern in nothing more than a one-party authoritarian regime.
Many from both parties are reluctant to speak out for fear of having their bills killed in committee or later on the floor. Whether this fear is real or simply implied, the result is the same. We, and our constituencies, are effectively silenced, and we are no longer a representative constitutional republic.
Rep. Gail Whitsett is the Republican state representative from District 56 – Klamath Falls