There seems to be a growing trend among our Delaware legislators of not voting on legislation.
Oh they show up and they sit through debates on bills and may have even given their opinion on the issues in the past, but when it comes time to cast their vote, they choose to go on record as “not voting”.
Really ? Not voting? Why you may ask would people who have been elected to go to Dover to represent the voters within their respective districts choose to not vote on issues that are in many cases important and often controversial?
Well while I am sure that there are plenty of cases where Democrats have done this, I am concerned with Republicans doing it. I care more about the Republicans doing it because as a Republican, I expect more from my Republican elected officials. For that reason I will be focussed on a few recent examples of this trend of not voting by Republicans.
The first one that drew my attention was that of Rep. Dave Wilson (my representative by the way) when he went on record as not voting on the legislation to define the powers and authority of the sheriff’s office. He stated that he felt since a law suit had been brought that the issue should be settled by the courts. Okay, I can respect that, but why “not voting”? Why not just vote against the bill? Was he trying to have it both ways? Was he trying to say that he felt the bill was a good idea, since he had been a co-sponsor on the Republican version, but that since it was now a Democrat bill he wouldn’ t vote in favor of it? But he wouldn’t vote against it either. I am always confused by people who can’t come to a conclusion on important issues, but then I don’t have to run for re-election either.
Unfortunately the second example also includes Rep. Dave Wilson, but he had company this time on the bill to expand gambling to the Internet. Along with Rep. Wilson, Rep. Harvey Kenton and Rep. Bobby Outten all went on record as not voting. This time it was due to a conflict of interest. It seems that they are on the board of the Harrington State Fair, and the Fair Grounds owns the casino and receives a share of the profits. One might suggest, that these gentleman, decide which is more important to them, being a part of the Fair Grounds, or being a legislator, since the one seems to be preventing them from fulfilling their duties to the other.
Now the third has not yet occurred. Rep. Ruth Briggs-King appeared on The Dan Gaffney Show on WGMD this morning to discuss an upcoming vote on rent control of manufactured housing. The vote was supposed to happen some time today, I have learned however that the bill did not get worked for unknown reasons. Rep. Briggs-King stated that she would be going on record as not voting due to the possible perception of a conflict of interest. It seems that two of her uncles own mobile home parks and of course they have contributed to her campaigns, unusual for family members by the way.
Let me step out for a minute and say that I hope that Rep. Briggs-King takes the weekend to reconsider not voting. She has always been a strong property rights advocate and has a voting record to show for it. If she were to vote down the rent control bill it would not be out of character for her.
So what are we to do about all of these conflicts of interest of our legislators? Should we only elect retired people? Or maybe we should only elect the self-unemployed . I imagine that if you selected any random piece of legislation, and then picked a random legislator, within an hour you could come up with some perceived conflict of interest.
Those I have named are not the only ones, there is Sen. Joe Booth who has a job with Sussex Tech, leaving his constituents without a vote in the senate on any issue concerning Sussex Tech, like their budget.
We also have candidates who are being challenged based on the fact that they work for the University of Delaware. Glen Urquhart has made it quite clear that he believes that Ernie Lopez cannot fairly represent the people of the new sixth senate district due to the fact that he would have to recuse himself on many votes.
So I ask again, how do we solve this? I think it is quite easy. It is up to the legislators, they should vote on every bill no matter the perception.
Of course many will say that they can’t if there is a conflict of interest. I say they should vote on the merits of the bills and then defend their votes based on the merits of the bills. If anything, voting on bills that hold the potential for that criticism, should force the elected officials to do due diligence and to have their ducks in a row, knowing that they will need to be able to defend against the accusations.
Joe Booth should vote on all bills concerning Sussex Tech, Dave Wilson should vote on all bills concerning gambling, Ruth Briggs-King should vote against the rent control, all elected officials should vote on all bills, that is why they are elected.
It will be easier to defend a vote based on facts and issues, then to defend not voting at all. I can respect someone who has a different opinion than my own, as long as it is fact based and not merely a political calculation.
One has to believe that our Founding Fathers cast a few votes on the issues of tobacco, farming, slaves, and other interest that many of them were involved in, are we to believe that the majority of them went on record as not voting on these important issues of their times? I think not, I think they were men of integrity and they were able to represent the people while carrying on their private lives. I am also sure that there were times when they were conflicted on issues and votes. I don’t know how they came to their conclusions, but they seem to have been able to do so in a manner that has left us with an example that it can be done.
So I say to our elected officials, vote on every bill, no matter the issue, no matter the perception. Weigh the facts, consider the cost, choose the course that leads to the best results for the citizens of the state of Delaware, and then, just vote!