EDITORIAL: Legislative fines should take a hike

2013-01-08T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Legislative fines should take a hike nwitimes.com
January 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

After the Indiana House Democrats walked off the job in 2011 to stall right-to-work legislation, the GOP House leadership pushed through stiff fines for AWOL lawmakers. Then House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis got Republican state Auditor Tim Berry to deduct the fines from Democratic lawmakers' paychecks. That was going too far.

This battle has even gone to the Indiana Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, urged House Republicans and Democrats to settle their dispute out of court. Good for him.

Mark GiaQuinta, the Democrats' attorney, argued Bosma should have been required to seek a court order to garnish wages, similar to the process spelled out in the 2011 anti-walkout law. That would allow each lawmaker due process to protect their paychecks.

But it's even more convoluted than that. Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, representing Berry and Bosma, said no court should interfere with the internal workings of another branch of government. So Fisher said he believes the law is unconstitutional.

Fisher and Dickson are right; the Supreme Court shouldn't have to settle petty disputes like this.

This ill-advised law should be repealed.

The Republican leadership ought to waive the fines, recognizing the precedent could be used against the GOP if, as has happened in the past, the Republicans walk out when the Democrats are in control.

Make no mistake, we are no fans of walking out on the job; however, we also see this punishment as a dangerous precedent and counterproductive in an era when cooperation ought to be encouraged.

Let the voters, not fines, provide the punishment errant lawmakers deserve.

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