Letter to the Editor: Some legislators have the courage to vote against the tide

Now that our legislators are finished with their late-night wrangling and the dust has cleared, we can now see how the votes were cast on specific bills. As we were sleeping, many bills were voted on that will directly affect you and your family. Not often do our legislators get praised, much less during these late-night sessions, but I wanted to give a shout out to a few.

The beauty of our democratic process is [that it is] designed to hear all sides of an issue, analyze the merits of the arguments, research further if needed, and if it warrants, put it to a vote. But through the democratic process, human emotions get intertwined and can cause a normally reasonable person to become a crazed lunatic and launch personal attacks on a senator or representative if they didn’t vote “the right way.”

Case in point: SB230 was a bill voted on in the 11th hour of this session. SB230 is “Supported Decision Making” and its intention is to have an alternative to guardianship for individuals with disabilities. I got wind of this bill back in April, and with some research, found it to be that “warm fuzzy” type of bill that sounds great on the surface. Who would want to keep individuals from making decisions?

Some national proponents of this bill will say guardianship is a “kind of civil death” for folks with disabilities, saying they are losing rights as an individual and become a “legal non-person” when under guardianship. Having a daughter with intellectual disabilities, [I find that] that comment is completely ridiculous. The bill was very flawed, the language in the bill appeared contradictory, and overall, seemed unnecessary. Nonetheless, the bill title sounds great, and again, who would want to vote NO for that?

This bill, although greatly flawed, had great opportunities for good press and awesome sound bites. But after the great press, and when the cameras go off, it will likely hurt those it is intended to help. Here’s where the praise comes for a courageous vote. Some legislators voted NO. Some said more research needed to be done, and some saw the flaws. They thought this may hurt individuals with disabilities, and we just need more time to think this through more.

There were some legislators from Sussex County and Kent County who voted NO. Ruth Briggs King, Steve Smyk, and Ernie Lopez were some. I wrote to Sen. Lopez to say” thanks for his courageous vote.” He responded with a “thank you for writing” because he was getting a lot of mean-spirited politics saying he’s not supporting the disability community. To his credit, he did not share where these comments were coming from. I’m sure the other legislators who voted NO are hearing the same thing. The bill did pass, so, what’s the deal with mean-spirited politics from the ones who got their flawed billed through?

I am so thankful that we have legislators with strength and conviction to vote NO even if they know it may result in unreasonable, unsubstantiated, and mean-spirited personal attacks. They voted NO because they did their research and saw a bill needed more time to debate.

They weren’t after the warm fuzzy sound bites. There is still hope left in the halls of the Delaware Statehouse where reasonable discussions and thoughtful votes still occur. I actually felt that my concerns were heard. So, when those courageous elected representatives vote against the tide, they also need to be encouraged and deserve a pat on the back. Thank you, Sen. Lopez, Rep. Briggs-King, Rep. Smyk, along with the others. And thanks for caring about our neighbors and loved ones with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Rodger Pearce



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