Advancing a Free Society

In an Age of Collective Bargaining, Can State Governments Govern?

Monday, February 28, 2011

As the extra-legal actions taken by the Democratic senators in Wisconsin persist into their second week, and as Indiana Democrats are following suit, the risk to orderly government in these states continues to intensify.

Quorum calls are essential to a well-ordered democracy.  Unless a quorum is required for the passage of legislation, leaders can pass legislation with only an unrepresentative group in attendance.  “The purpose of a quorum is to prevent an unrepresentative group from taking action in the name of the organization,” says  “Robert’s Rules of Order”  (as translated into plain English in the 19970 by Doris Zimmerman, a professionally registered parliamentarian).

In most state houses, a majority of the members constitute a quorum, so the quorum rule cannot be abused by the minority party. But in five states—Wisconsin, Indiana, Texas, Oregon, and Tennessee—supermajorities are required.  In four of these five states, walkouts have occurred in the past, but in no prior case did it involve one of the two major political parties working hand-in-glove with teachers and other government workers falsely reporting that they were sick and unable to report to work.

Continue reading Paul Peterson at EducationNext

(photo credit: Rob Chandanais)