EDITORIAL: House fines flap went too far

2013-06-24T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: House fines flap went too far nwitimes.com
June 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last week that fines against House Democrats who walked out on the job should stand. It says a lot about Indiana's political culture that this case got that far.

The court voted 3-2 to reject Democrats' attempt to rescind more than $100,000 in fines withheld from Democrats' paychecks. The Democrats walked off the job for six weeks in 2011 to block passage of a right-to-work law that was eventually enacted in 2012.

"The separation of powers doctrine prevents the courts from reviewing political, social and economic actions taken within the exclusive province of coordinate branches of government," wrote Chief Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native.

Because it was not a criminal matter, the justices believed they shouldn't get involved.

While we understand the court's reticence to tinker with the inner workings of the legislative process, this dispute should not have gone before the court.

The Democrats shouldn't have walked out on the job, and especially not for so long.

In a legislative body with no filibuster provisions, walking out is a form of protest, we recognize, and has been done by both Hoosier Republicans and Democrats over the years.

But this was a long walkout. One of the most basic job skills is showing up each day, but the Democratic lawmakers went AWOL for weeks. Try that with any other job, and you won't be employed for long.

In fact, the House has nine fewer Democrats after the 2012 election. They now number 31.

We understand why the Republican majority saw fit to threaten to fine Democratic lawmakers. 

But when the Democrats returned, the Republicans should have forgiven the fines. The fines were meant to be lever to move the Democrats back into the Statehouse, not to punish them for walking out. At least, that's the approach that should have been taken. 

Someday the Republicans might find themselves in the minority and regret this heavy-handed precedent. Elephants have good memories, of course, but so do donkeys.

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