Every time I refer to Indiana’s General Assembly as “the World’s Worst Legislature” (note capital letters), readers remind me that there are other worthy contenders for that title–Texas and Florida among the standouts.
Granted, the competition is fierce, but Indiana’s lawmakers–not content to rest on their embarrassing laurels–have engaged the contest with what I can only describe as a bravura performance. As James Briggs of the Indianapolis Star explained:
While you were preparing for Thanksgiving, and maybe for a run in Broad Ripple, the Indiana General Assembly’s gobbledygook plot to set a new speed record for bad policymaking ended in a sloppy, embarrassing fiasco.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s understandable, because you were probably supposed to miss it. Legislative Republicans barely a week ago revealed that, as part of a rare one-day session intended to help Gov. Holcomb end the state’s public health emergency, they also were going to jam through severe constraints on businesses that require workers to either get vaccinated or find a new job.
As Briggs patiently explained, this effort was insane both substantively and procedurally. The bill that had been drafted would have required employers requiring vaccinations to adhere to onerous testing burdens. It would have required them to accept any and all “religious objections,” despite the inconvenient fact that no major religion has asserted that getting a COVID-19 vaccines violates its faith.
Perhaps most egregiously, the draft language gives credence to vaccine disinformation by carving out an exemption for pregnant women despite no evidence that vaccines pose a risk to them and much evidence that COVID-19 kills pregnant women at higher rates than women who are not pregnant.
And as Briggs also noted, as ridiculous as the draft language was, the process by which the Republican super-majority planned to ram it through was worse. They intended to pass the employer vaccine mandate ban on Monday, “the first business day after a major holiday weekend, while bypassing normal procedures to establish a consequential law faster than anyone could remember.” Even Kevin Brinegar, CEO of Indiana’s extremely conservative, Republican-loving Chamber of Commerce, testified that in his 42 years interacting with the Indiana General Assembly, he’d never seen anything like what they were preparing to do.
“The chamber and, I believe, the entire employer community is opposed to this legislation,” Brinegar said.
Briggs described the seven-hour hearing as a disaster filled with vaccine lies and confusion, and he noted that the most effective–albeit unintentional– opponents of the bill were the anti-vaxxers in attendance who were urging lawmakers to pass it. Following the fiasco, the Speaker informed lawmakers that the one-day session was cancelled.
One item missing from Briggs’ report was how much that fiasco cost Indiana taxpayers. The last one-day session, held in 2018, cost 30,000.
The issue of employer vaccine mandates could return once the legislature begins its session in January, but the brake-slamming suggests that a critical mass of Republicans either were horrified by what they heard during the committee hearing or they were unwilling to consent to ramming through new rules for employers on an extraordinary timeline.
If you have been reading this and thinking “this is insane–why would the presumably “pro-business” party, a party that has been unwilling to regulate even the most socially harmful business practices, call an expensive special session and ignore their own rules of procedure in order to prevent businesses from safeguarding the health of their employees and customers? Especially as news of a new COVID variant is emerging?
If rational Hoosier voters need any more evidence that the state GOP has gone completely off the rails, this exercise should provide it.
A recent Doonesbury Sunday cartoon captures the moment, illustrating that Republicans are not only willing to infect their families and friends, they are willing to die from an almost completely preventable disease–all in order to “own the libs.”
In the contest for “worst,” I submit that Indiana’s legislature has secured a place in the very top tier…..