What is a legislator’s duty under a state’s constitution?

by Halie Crichton - University student

The state of Wisconsin has been in turmoil the past few weeks because of what started out as a budget cut issue and escalated from there.

As we take a deeper look at the issues and focus on what a legislatorâÄôs duty is as outlined in Article IV, Section 28 of the Wisconsin Constitution, a fundamental question arises regarding the Democrat senators who decided to leave the state in order to stop debate and a vote.

Section 28 states in part that state legislators must “take and subscribe an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wisconsin, and faithfully âĦ discharge the duties of their respective offices to the best of their ability.”

Does leaving the state align with the oath the senators took when sworn into office, namely to uphold the Wisconsin Constitution and the U.S. Constitution?

What should the consequences be for not being present to debate and vote on meaningful business before the body? Those who are sworn to “uphold the Constitution[s]” must consider that oath as a qualification for their continued employment with appropriate penalties for their failure to do so.

Perhaps this is drastic, but the senators should no longer be allowed to continue the privilege of representing the citizens of Wisconsin.

Further questions would lead to who is paying for the legislatorsâÄô lodging, meals, and car and gas expenses while they are avoiding the duties they swore to discharge faithfully while in the Legislature.

They freely made the choice to leave the state, find lodging and incur extra expenses in this case. No Wisconsin tax money or donations from other entities should be used to cover the expenses incurred by their irresponsible actions. They should be covered by the senatorsâÄô personal funds.

The legislators should return to the Legislature, uphold the Constitution as they took an oath and promised to do, and debate fiercely their position for as long as may be reasonable, and then vote on the bill.

Legislators are not given a choice to pick and choose what they debate and vote on and what they can just run away from and ignore.