Monday, February 14, 2011

Constituents provide legislative insight

Bluffton Today

We are still working on our backlog of constituent contacts from last week, in addition to the 412 new calls we had this week. While the bulk of our e-mail challenges both here and in Columbia have been sorted out, we appreciate your patience in allowing us to catch up. Kathy and Mary handle the office and communications duties during session, and really do an outstanding job, often under less than ideal circumstances.

They have my constant and heartfelt gratitude. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Bluffton Tea Party folks last Monday evening and it was truly a great time for me. These good people were kind enough to rearrange their meeting date and time to accommodate my Columbia schedule. They also had a big turnout even though the weather was awful.

As usual, I left knowing a lot more than when I arrived. The Tea Party movement, as many of you know, is about being involved in our government on a meaningful level, and supporting necessary change to the status quo. The reason I get along so well with the Tea Party folks is that I have been asking for voter involvement in government since the day I was first elected. I have been successful in Columbia because so many of you have aided me with your ideas, your criticism, and your active involvement in this partnership.

The first Tea Party event I attended had several speeches urging us to “take our country back.” Indeed, my political career has been almost entirely about making sure the people in “We the People” have a real and influential voice in state government. Judging from what I heard last Monday night, the Bluffton Tea Party gets it.

My only political strategy is to tap the collective wisdom of the voters of District 118, organize that wisdom into a coherent message and take it to Columbia. If even a fraction of my colleagues trusted their constituents enough to do the same, I’ll wager we would be cutting taxes rather than cutting benefits to the disabled and laying off teachers and prison guards.

Since I’m already on the soapbox, I might as well get some other stuff out in the open. This has to do with a constitutional amendment we put before you last November that you approved by more than 4 to 1.

The amendment required that all votes on whether an industry or shop would bring in a union would be done by secret ballot. In my view, this is pretty simple stuff. The secret ballot is a cornerstone of the democratic process. It essentially means the powerful cannot intimidate the individual in matters involving majority rule.

Several weeks ago, the powerful federal government, in the form of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) threatened to sue the state if the amendment is enacted. While the issue is not quite as simple as that, the matter is of such importance I believe we should welcome the prospect of defending the principle in court. Today is, of course, Valentine’s Day.

For all you fellas who might have forgotten, this is a belated heads up. So, in the interest of forming a more perfect union, and to secure your domestic tranquility, let me urge up to get the flowers and candy before any real damage is done.