On four occasions last year unions gathered in the Indiana State Capitol to protest actions beings considered by the GOP dominated State Assembly. In all four cases, the bills were either defeated or postponed.
Indiana officials delivered an end-of-year surprise to state residents on Friday, announcing a limit on the number of people who can be inside the statehouse at any one time. The bill was introduced under expedited rules which pertain to administrative procedures. As a result, there were no public hearings. Democratic and labor leaders swiftly condemned the move as an attempt to quash dissent and reduce the size of public protests.
Effective Jan. 1, only 3,000 people will be allowed inside the building at one time which includes the 1,700 state employees who work there. This means that just over 1,000 others will be able to assemble on a given day.
The rule was drafted by the Indiana State Police, the state’s homeland security department and the state fire marshal’s office. Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) appointed the heads of all those offices.
The action is clearly in response to union action. Last February, for example, thousands of union supporters gathered at the statehouse to protest the GOP-controlled legislature’s push to pass “right to work” legislation, that would have barred companies and employees from negotiating contracts that required all employees to pay representation dues.
With vocal union support, thirty-nine Democratic lawmakers walked out to protest the bill, eventually staying away from the state for five weeks. Daniels was forced to persuade the legislature to postpone the bill.
Even though it’s pretty clear why the restrictive bill is in place, State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell, tells a different story. He told the Indianapolis Star that the capacity limit was being implemented strictly for safety reasons.
“During the last legislative session, several scheduled events were interrupted or canceled, and we want everyone who visits or schedules an event in the building to have a pleasant and successful experience,” he said.
That trumps the Constitution Any Day, right? No?
Let’s consider the 1st Amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Now let’s consider Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, establishes the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Treaties, and Federal Statutes as “the supreme law of the land.”
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Pretty cut and dried. The Indiana Law is Unconstitutional…...It will take time and money to oppose it effectively. Given precedence, the law should be easily struck down. Now if we only had a Supreme Court willing to back us up on that….
The GOP (with the assistance of ALEC- The American Legislative Exchange Council) has crafted a series of actions aimed at sidetracking constitutional protections wherever possible. Block the Vote, Derail the Unions, Limit the Right to Assemble.
The (oh-so-serious) games continue.
HAPPY NEW ELECTION YEAR.
The Year We Better Take the Battle to Them.