"The object and practice of
Liberty lies in the limitation of Governmental power."
I am frequently reminded of the above truism each day we hold a legislative session. Last week, I was reminded often. It was a difficult week.
Since our deadline to dispose of all committee reports from the Senate was Thursday, sessions were held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. By about Thursday noon, it seemed that we were nearing the end. But more and more floor amendments came on the remaining bills and the session droned on and on. Some members began to leave. In addition to requiring a quorum of one half of the membership (plus one), there is another rule that says that if the attendance falls to less than two-thirds of the full membership, it will require a two-thirds vote to pass anything. That is a difficult hurdle and a number of important bills remained.
So the Speaker issued a "call of the House," requiring all members to remain either in the chamber or, at least, the anteroom. Nobody could leave for nearly five hours. There had been no lunch break so donuts were brought in. That not being sufficient for the ill-tempered remaining members, pizzas were provided along with water bottles. A visit to the restroom required an escort.
Time limits had been earlier imposed limiting debate to no more than 20 minutes per bill (10 minutes per side and 5 minutes per speaker). But ways were found to delay the process anyway. And many delays occurred. We finally departed at about 5:15 on Thursday evening. Throughout all of that, the tough decisions continued.
Frequently the questions arose: Will it cost more money or will it result in more government or will it be a detriment to privacy? One example was the recommendation to adopt a program to create a database for Class II, III, and IV drug prescriptions. The database would be available to doctors, hospital ER rooms, and pharmacists so that each would know what the prescribers had prescribed for each patient and prescription shopping and multiple prescribing could be caught. I became convinced during the debate that privacy controls were tight enough to protect our citizens and there were no problems in the other 48 states that had adopted this plan. I voted for the program.
Another dilemma was a recommendation to adopt an education tax credit for businesses that contributed to a fund to provide scholarship money for families who were not wealthy enough to send their children to other than public schools. Adopting the program would cause state education money to be eliminated from the school the child left. We were able to secure an amendment that no school would lose more than one quarter of one percent of its total budget if any children left. I felt that such a small loss could be covered by the schools without a rise in local taxes. I voted to adopt the measure.
Difficult decisions or not, we are paid $100 per year to make them.
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