Bill’s intentions need to be clear from outset

Here is a revolutionary idea: If a piece of legislation comes with a misleading title or if its sponsors give a false viewpoint of its intentions, the citizenry should stand up and demand the defeat of the legislation.

If legislation cannot stand up to the light of truth, reason tells you it must be a bad bill. But for some reason, legislators feel the need to try to slip one by the people every few years.

I am fairly certain that both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this, but for the life of me I can only recall such legislation in Indiana coming from the GOP. Feel free to remind me of Democratic legislation that fits this category.

It only stands to reason that citizens should look very closely at a bill’s true intent. My two rules of thumb are as follows: If sponsors hide the bill’s true intent, you must assume it has questionable value; and if a bill’s title disguises its true intent, it probably shouldn’t be passed.

Uni-Gov was passed by the legislature, combining Indianapolis and Marion County governments to make government more efficient and save taxpayers millions of dollars annually. Whether this has been accomplished or not has been debated for decades. Good idea but false intent.

The reason for Uni-Gov was to ensure GOP control over Indianapolis once white flight turned the city over to Democratic control.

Bringing the Republican-dominated outer townships into the mix would keep all of Marion County/Indianapolis under GOP control for decades — until it no longer worked to fulfill that guarantee, that is.

Once the Democrats took control of the city-county council, Marion County Republicans took a bill to the General Assembly to eliminate at-large council seats, the very seats that allowed decades of Republican control.

Sponsors said there was simply no need for at-large seats any more. The true reason is that it is far easier to control a legislative body via gerrymandering without at-large representatives.

Which brings me to a third rule of thumb; if legislation’s true intent is partisan political advantage, it shouldn’t even be considered. Legislative bodies were designed to create laws for the protection of the people and the state, not to ensure one political party or the other gains an advantage.

The so-called “Right to Work” legislation is a prime example. That might be the most misleading bill title in the history of the U.S.

One’s right to work was never an issue. The GOP’s sole argument was this: Why should a worker who doesn’t want to join a union still have to pay union dues?

That sounds like a reasonable question, until you realize that by federal law, any benefit earned by a union’s efforts must go to nonunion workers as well. In other words, RTW allows freeloading.

But the GOP never cared about the poor freeloader. RTW’s true intent was to weaken unions further and reduce the amount of campaign funds unions could give to Democratic candidates.

Likewise, voter ID laws were sold to the public as necessary to stop the massive voter fraud that doesn’t even exist.

Legislators are elected to serve the people, not a political party. If a party’s legislative results can’t speak for themselves to ensure re-election, then the party should be paying greater attention to the problems at hand.

This brings us back to the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I still maintain that as I sit in my Sunday pew or when I pray at home, I am wholly unaware of anyone trying to take my religious freedoms away.

For some Republicans, RFRA was designed to allow discrimination against the LGBT community because the GOP lost the same-sex marriage issue in court.

If you don’t buy that, you need to review the criticism so-called “Conservative Christians” have heaped upon Gov. Mike Pence for having RFRA amended to disallow the law being used to discriminate.

In fairness, not all Republican leaders wanted RFRA for its discriminatory potential. Many, I am sure, saw RFRA as a harmless symbol to give the Religious Right. Reminds me of President Ronald Reagan when asked by an aide what he intended to give the Religious Right. His response was “lots of symbols.”

It would be like a breath of fresh air if legislators were up front and honest with the voters instead of hiding their intentions.

So I am not just picking on Republicans. My next column will reveal a great mistake made by the Democratic Party.

Michael Adkins is the former chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.