Two years ago, I joined a handful of my colleagues in the Senate Republican caucus and voted in favor of the Democratic biennial budget proposal. It passed both houses with the required two-thirds votes. At that time, there was no talk of shutdowns, no discussion of partisan bullying. Months of negotiations led to a compromise that enough members of both houses were comfortable with and it became law. Not everyone was overjoyed and not everyone was furious. Perhaps that is the best measure of success.

During this session, I have supported and even co-sponsored a half-dozen bills proposed by my Democratic colleagues including Senate President Troy Jackson.

On March 11, I voted with all of my colleagues in the Senate when we passed the supplemental budget by a unanimous vote. Unanimous is as bipartisan as it can be.

As a Republican senator, I have been a part of the emails, caucus meetings, Zoom calls and other discussions among my colleagues over the last year and I can honestly say that not once, in all that time, did I hear a single Republican raise the specter of a shutdown of state government. Not a single time.

To hear Democrats tell their story, however, Republicans fully intended to use their lawful power to prevent a two-thirds vote in order to get things that they want in the budget. This was never discussed among Senate Republicans, but it was a course we had every right to pursue. To prevent this, they say, Democrats used their own lawful power to remove the need for a two-thirds vote in order that things would go their way.

By using the tools available to them to cut Republicans out of the budget process, Democrats acted in the same way they are criticizing Republicans for planning to act. Except there was never any such plan. Democrats invented the shutdown accusation simply as an excuse to act in a way they knew many people would find to be bullying, distasteful and anything but bipartisan.

In corresponding with constituents, knocking on doors, exchanging emails, and just saying hello around the district, the most common plea I hear from my constituents is that they want their representatives in August to work together to get things done. Partisanship is not popular with most people.

Despite the picture they are trying to paint of Republican legislators, this is not Washington, D.C., where members of both parties are all too willing to use whatever tactics they can to win short-term gains no matter the cost.

The elected representatives I know and sit with in the Senate chamber are dedicated folks who truly want what is best for their friends and neighbors back home. To see these people painted as a group willing to bring state government to a halt to gain a few political points is foolish, offensive and completely untrue.

It is a great disappointment that this is what the latest legislative session has come to, especially since much of the budget that Democrats have forced through in an ultra-partisan manner may have passed anyway had they simply allowed the normal bipartisan process of negotiation to play out as it always has.

This approach to legislating has done considerable harm to the processes that lead to positive outcomes in Augusta, and I suspect it may be a long while before the negative effects of this heavy-handed and unnecessary act fade away. Most of all, I sincerely hope it is a very long time, if ever, before something like it is even considered again.

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