by Max Brantley
Short and sweet on Part I. The House voted 89-1 without debate to concur in the recommendation of the state Claims Commission that Fred Smith be seated as a representative from Crawfrordsville. His residency had been challenged. The one? That would be Republican Justin Harris, who may prove a worthy successor in Mark Martin's old seat representing the Twilight Zone.
Republican Rep. John Burris then moved that the House defer seating of Democrat Leslee Post of Ozark in District 83. He said the Claims Commission should interpret results. This was the seat in which the Republican nominee Tom Fite was removed from the ballot in court shortly before the election because of a challenge that cited his federal criminal record. Republicans had wanted votes counted in the race despite his ineligibility. He is also appealing his removal from the ballot. A further controversy has arisen because of allegations that Post might have had a hand in leaking to the press information about Fite's criminal record.
Rep. John Edwards said no injustice would be imposed by seating Post and that an objection to her eligibility could be filed at any time. Republican Rep. Andrea Lea raised a question of whether a court could supercede the House in determining eligibility. Parliamentarian Tim Massanelli noted a difference between ruling on elections and seating. There's ample precedent for courts ruling on candidates' ballot eligiblity, whatever the House's final authority might be on seating people who were elected.
Burris argued that voters would be served by a delay. But he essentially was asking to delay seating a member because of, so far, unsubstantiated allegations. She ran unopposed because a court removed her opponent. She was elected. Whatever happens on the investigation of Post, she stands today as the properly elected representative. As others noted, the House can make determinations about continued service later if a reason emerges for removal.
Burris' motion failed 28-60.
Edwards then recommended that Post be seated. He said there was no constitutional impediment. Rep. Nate Bell argued against it. He contended the judge who removed the Republican acted without authority, though Bell's reasoning on this was hazy. Republican Rep. Ed Garner argued that there was no basis today to argue against Post's seating and thus no need for the motion.
Edwards' motion passed 61-29. I'm looking for roll calls, but the votes indicate most, but not all Republicans voted against Post's seating.
UPDATE: Here are the rolls calls. This gives you a pretty clear flavor of how partisan at least 28 or 29 Republicans intend to be. They are willing to put themselves in place of the rule of law on the strength of tenuous innuendo to deny a seat to a properly elected Democrat. I expected better from a couple of them.