Monday, April 8, 2013

Legislative discussion sinks to new low

The statesmanship and decorum shown by our elected officials has reached an all-time low and is an embarrassment to the history of the institutions. Case in point? The comments made during an April 3 hearing of the Senate Governance & Finance Committee, which brought a whole new meaning to boorish and inappropriate behavior.

The committee was receiving testimony regarding SB 614, which would eliminate the landownership requirement to serve on irrigation districts’ elected boards, when a lobbyist representing organized labor stepped to the microphone and proceeded to label directors of irrigation districts as “old white protestant men.” As if that wasn’t enough, he continued to sully those who give of their time to serve on the boards as remaining in office only until their “drunken white protestant sons” step in and take their positions. His derogatory comments served to insult the farmers of our state and distract from discussion on a bill that has merit for consideration.

Shame on him. Local irrigation district boards are made up of those who give their time to their community and I can assure you they include many women and minorities and people with young families struggling to make a living. His “old white men” comment shows a closed-minded ignorance that has no place in the 21st century.

Proper protocol would suggest that the speaker be told to either clean up his language or to take a seat. This is what typically happens. But instead of a rebuke members of the Senate committee openly laughed at the inappropriate remarks.

Shame on them. The backbone of our great state is the irrigated agriculture that runs from the Oregon border to the Imperial Valley. The families and farms that grow the crops are hard-working people of all races and creeds and they deserve our respect, not our derision.

The comments of the labor representative and the reaction of the committee members have no place in the public discourse of a legislative hearing devoted to passing laws that will govern our State. Perhaps I’m expecting too much, but people who conduct themselves in that manner should not be welcome at a Capitol hearing and those committee members who openly laughed should be held accountable for their actions.

I’m calling on the President of the Senate to send a letter of reprimand to the Committee. 

Dan Vink, President
California Farm Water Coalition

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