Saturday, February 28, 2015

And they're giving themselves a raise?

I hadn’t wanted to write again about this year’s legislature, but I feel like Michael Corleone in Godfather III. “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

A Facebook friend said, “This session has reminded me of something my cousin used to say. ‘Christianity hasn't failed; it's just never been tried.’ It has been so disheartening to watch our local ‘Christians’ fighting for the right to despise and discriminate against the weak, the poor, the minorities, the powerless.”

If you’ve been to the legislative chambers, you may have noticed. There are neither windows nor mirrors. Legislators who lamely refuse to provide healthcare to low-income working or disabled people should have windows. They could look out and see those about whom they’re so cavalier.

Legislators arguing its time to raise their own pay after repeatedly rejecting minimum wage increases could use a mirror. They say current remuneration doesn’t cover hotel rooms during the tourist season. Well, wages earned by tens-of-thousands don’t cover housing for their families or food for their children. A quick look in a mirror could prove sobering.

Then there’s the disrespect shown Martin Luther King. Reluctantly the legislature created a holiday but King’s birthday is a working day for the legislature. When they work, so do Legislative Service Office staff and hundreds of state employees who have to sit by the phones in case a legislator calls.

Contrast that with what they did for President’s Day. Many of the Republicans in the legislature want to get home for Lincoln Day dinners. So they took a four-day weekend.

Now there’s feigned outrage to comments made by the director of the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI). The Governor vetoed a bill regarding asset forfeiture. The DCI director called on law enforcement officers to back the governor against an effort to override. ”The truth is,” he said, “that many legislators are either on the boards of certain groups or are provided significant political contributions by groups which influence their vote.”

Not politically correct, but the truth. Some legislators are distraught. They say something like Lewis Carroll wrote. “Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.” It’s the Wyoming Liberty Group lobbying to override. We know about them, their money, and influence. So does the DCI director.

Then there’s Harlan Edmunds, president of the Conservative Republicans of Wyoming. CROW believes Wyoming’s Republican Party has veered dangerously to the left. After he was elected to the legislature last November, this column discussed Mr. Edmunds. “We’ll know by the end of the coming session whether Harlan Edmunds is a serious legislator or just another fictional character.”

Now we know.

Rep. Edmunds called Medicaid “socialism.” If that were so, and it’s not, his state-provided health insurance would likewise be “socialism.”  Harlan Edmunds is a state employee who urged his House colleagues to kill a cost-of-living raise for state employees. He explained, “Most state employees don’t work hard enough for what they are getting paid now.” Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall when he goes back to work with the state employees who he trashed.

Representative Elaine Harvey deserves kudos. Elaine chairs the House Committee on Labor, Health and Social Services. She demonstrated more wisdom than a majority of the voters in House District 12. They elected Edmunds despite his outrageousness. As a legislator, he proved so outrageous she booted him from her committee room. I’ve been around the legislature for half a century. I’ve never seen that. Edmunds made a fool of himself and those who voted for him. When they get the chance in 2016, HD12 voters need to finish what Rep. Harvey started and boot him clear out of the legislature.

I can’t get Al Green’s song, “The Snake” out of my head. "You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.” Either the voters like being bitten or just vote the party line. Either way, in a democracy, we get what we deserve.

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