Monday, November 25, 2013

Looney Tunes in the sausage factory


By Bill Kraus

In Wisconsin as in D.C. we are experiencing a kind of minority rule. The political system is expected to protect minority rights, but a couple of developments have expanded this concept.

The Legislature has abandoned partisan floor debates in favor of rule-by-caucus. The way this works is the majority caucus won’t let anything go to the floor for “debate” until a majority of the caucus has approved it. This almost inevitably means a minority of the entire body is deciding what legislation advances. Part of this deal is that all of the members of the caucus agree to vote for whatever has advanced. The minority party then will vote unanimously against the proposition.

This long series of party-line votes gives the not-unjustified impression that this is kind of a lemming legislature. Does any member, with the possible exception of Senator Dale Schultz, have a mind of his or her own?

Think of the time and rancor that could be saved and avoided by simply eliminating the faux debates and floor sessions altogether and mailing in the preordained results straight from caucuses.

Another aberrant development is characterized by the proposal to turn license plates into bumper stickers, an idea that came from somewhere in outer space one assumes. The Legislature is seriously considering offering for an extra fee an anti-choice/anti-abortion license plate. The extra fee would go not to the state which offers this product but to the organization that favors the message it carries. What’s next? Pro- and anti-gun slogans? How about the much discussed marriage ritual? Anything and everything should get a license plate of its own to join wolves, the Packers, and every clever and not so clever vanity offering that anyone wants. Or maybe we should revert to the numbers the pursuing police can read.

One delightful dichotomy was the rush by a Legislature that doesn’t allow even a discussion of how its members are selected to tell the Supreme Court how they should select their chief justice. Did someone misplace the separation of powers?

I’m not sure how the resolution expressing our regrets for the massacre at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut got on the legislative agenda, but it did. The Senate did the civil thing by passing it without comment, but evidently someone or lots of someones in the more unruly Assembly thought this might offend the National Rifle Association or something, and our sympathies went no further.

I thought the exchange of mutual self congratulations on how smoothly everything went during this session of the Legislature and how they were to be praised for only pulling one almost all nighter when things got somewhat out of hand was a little overdone.

Isn’t that kind of expeditiousness more the rule than the exception that one should expect from totalitarian organizations?

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