St. Charles Herald-Guide

Is civics taught anymore?

By C.B. Forgotston - November 1, 2012

There used to be a course taught in the 10th grade in Louisiana high schools called civics. I donít know if it is even being taught today. Based strictly on anecdotal evidence, it doesnít appear to be taught any longer.

In that class we were taught that members of the legislative branch of government were people who represented the citizens in the law-making process. We also learned that they are a separate, but equal branch of government maintained by a system of "checks and balances."

There is no definition of "legislator" in the state constitution, statutes or lege rules. Nor are there any general duties of leges listed in the law.

Lines blurred

Of late, the line between the legislative and executive branches of state government have blurred.

The blurring was never more evident than the recent effort of the leges to call themselves into a special session. The reason for the effort was because the leges (and we the people) had been left entirely out of major decisions on state spending. Without budgetary oversight the leges have no real power under a system of "checks and balances."

In response to the effort to call themselves into session, a majority of the leges obediently did what the governor wanted and refused to call themselves into session.

The leges gave a lot of phony excuses about wasting money, no plan, etc. Heck, thatís the case with every lege session. To my knowledge, not a single lege indicated that their constituents didnít want them to go into session.

My proposal

Perhaps it is time to pass a state law to define a legislator as it was taught to us in civics before the concept is completely lost on future leges. Here are my suggestions for additions to Title 24 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes:

24:1.1 Legislator, definition, duties

A. A legislator is a representative of the people in their respective district. They stand in the place of the citizens in the legislature as a convenience to those citizens.

B. A legislatorís vote shall reflect the views of the voters in their district regardless of the legislatorsí personal views.

C. To cast an informed vote, a legislator shall communicate timely with their constituents.

D. Upon qualifying for election as a legislator, a candidate shall file a statement with the Clerk of the House or Secretary of Senate, respectively, stating that they have read and understand R.S. 24.1.1. The statement shall be posted immediately on the legislative website.

E. The Secretary of State shall include with the qualifying documents for the legislature a copy of this law.

24:1.2 Failure to perform; public notice

If a citizen believes that their legislator has failed to perform the duties outlined in R.S. 24:1.1 they may file a letter with the Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate, respectively, outlining such failures. These letters shall be immediately posted on the legislative website.

Our job

Purposely, there are no sanctions for violating the above suggested law. We also learned in civics about our duties as citizens. One of those duties is to hold our leges accountable by being informed.

To some, I know this all sounds like common sense, but common sense is no longer common.

Now, if we could just get someone who is supposed to represent the citizens to propose this new law during the 2013 Regular Session.