Skipping legislative forums is bad form

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There’s been some controversy swirling lately over lawmakers skipping public forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

State Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, is no longer attending forums in Black Hawk County because he insists the events “have become a place for left-wing activists to shout at those that they disagree with…,” according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

“Good! LWV is a cover for Far Left liberals!!” wrote Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member from Iowa, on a Facebook post about Rogers’ decision.

My state Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids, says he’ll skip monthly league forums in Cedar Rapids. In an email, he said they don’t draw enough of his own constituents and he doesn’t like the format. He told KCRG-TV9 the Cedar Rapids audience is more liberal.

Rizer recently sparred with Linn County league President Myrna Loehrlein, who said Rizer mischaracterized her stance on a voter ID bill. Rizer backs it. The league opposes it.

While I was on spring break, Rizer and state Reps. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, Louie Zumbach, R-Coggon, and state Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, skipped the league forum and attended a panel sponsored by the Farm Bureau being held at the same time. The Farm Bureau event popped up long after the league’s forum was scheduled.

Offsetting forums. Legislators weighing options. The League of Women Voters, getting its orders straight from Nancy Pelosi, or maybe Havana. It’s all very complicated.

Actually, it’s pretty simple.

If you’re a lawmaker, and you get invited to a local public forum, and you don’t have a genuine scheduling conflict (not some hastily arranged pop-up event) you simply show up. You take whatever questions you get, even if you don’t like the format, and you listen to the people, even if they’re saying stuff you don’t like, loudly. Goes for Republicans or Democrats.

Public officials. Public forums. It’s a match made in heaven, even if you catch hell.

I’m not in favor of shouting lawmakers down or getting belligerent in any way. It’s stupid, rude and disrespectful. Ask lawmakers a question, and let them answer it.

But some people are going to be angry and you’re going to have to deal with it. That’s part of the price paid for getting to work in the fancy, gilded building and make powerful laws. Laws that cover every Iowan, not just your district’s residents, not just people who like what you’re doing.

On some days, you get to help make far-reaching, even historic, decisions. Some days, you have to take heat for those calls. If the second part makes you too uncomfortable, you’re in the wrong line of work. Leave it to someone with a thicker hide.

It’s not the League of Women Voters’ fault more Democrats and other left-of-center folks are packing public forums. It’s the Republican legislative agenda that’s spawning those crowds. You can’t boldly bust public sector unions, defund women’s health care providers, vaporize local minimum wage increases and change the way Iowans vote without triggering a backlash tsunami.

You can evacuate or grab your surfboard. Voters will remember your choice.

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