Frosh Senator Napoleon Harris: (When the times are tough, we find out who isn’t…)
Last time I talked to Senator Napoleon Harris, it was a return call that began with “I’m not afraid to tell you that I voted for SB35, because that was what I thought what was best.” Newly-elected Senator Harris went on to explain his reasons that he voted for SB35 – the Biss Bill that would have capped cost-of-living, force 401k plans to new hires, increase employee contributions, etc.
Napoleon Harris is a celebrity in the Springfield Dome. Harris was a linebacker in the NFL, and his job for the Oakland Raiders – Vikings - Chiefs was to tackle the guy with the ball. Obviously, he did it well. He was a successful player for eight years.
Then, Napoleon Harris turned his attention to politics at first on the state level; that is, after he dropped the quickly attempted jump to the Federal level. When Jesse Jackson’s seat opened, frosh-Senator Harris was quick to leap into position to achieve that next level. He was evidently swiftly advised to return to his state senate position and concede to Robin Kelly. Perhaps this higher desire will play out for him later.
On the other hand, celebrity money has its perks too. The Senator was able to provide the lion’s share of his monetary needs for running. Like a Senator Jim Oberweis, Senator Harris was his own best supporter, providing well over $200,000 to assure his Senate seat.
Regarding SB35, Senator Harris told me that beyond being unafraid to defend his positive vote, the State of Illinois faced an enormous debt that needed to be addressed. While we both agreed to that starting point, not much else seemed to align afterwards in our discussion. For the new Senator, there was not time nor need for listening to questions regarding structural revenue deficits or alternative revenue streams; instead, his preferred action was to cut as much as possible from public sector employees’ pensions benefits.
For Senator Harris, this was not a matter of being Democratic or Republican; contrapuntally, he wanted to get as much money as possible to return Illinois to solvency. To be fair, the Senator felt compelled to alleviate the pain those in lower economic levels needed. I agreed, but unfortunately our paths diverged there.
If the funds were going to come from those public workers who already paid their share, Harris didn’t care. For Senator Harris, that was just semantics. “You all were able to enjoy the benefits of the money used to keep taxes low, so it’s your time to pay now.” It’s hard to argue with logic like that. Let’s see, you stole my money, used it to pay for a party to which I was invited, and now I must pay again for your party? But, then again, a graduate of Northwestern, Harris sees things far beyond my simple image of thousands of people paying into a system that takes its matching money for other purposes. Of course, when you are making $7 million a year, achieving the cap on social security occurs after making around four tackles or assists in the first game; what other humans scrimp and save for may not ring significant for Senator Harris, the celebrity (http://www.nysun.com/sports/linebacker-napoleon-harris-is-the-real-prize/44049/ ).
“I will tell you that I will vote yes for any bill that comes along to help correct the problem here in Illinois.”
When I asked about Constitutional issues, the new Senator responded, “We make laws and people have to follow them. If we make the law, it has to be followed and we need to make these laws.” I asked if it would be possible for my associate and I to talk to the Senator about these important Constitutional issues and about the Pension Protection Clause.
“I’m going on vacation,” he responded. “I want to have some time with my wife and family.”
I took that as a “no.”
I take his latest vote of “NO VOTE” as a “no” also. I am guessing that, even as a Democratic Senator, Napoleon Harris is not going to side with the fans in the stands, the middle class, those who haven’t the perks he does. He’s a celebrity, and celebrities – like Senator Oberweis – are not subject to rules like Constitutions or errant referees. On the other hand, a “NO VOTE?” Sometimes votes require a real legislator to expose his or her true nature. This is, according to Project Vote Smart, the same way Senator Harris reacted to the marriage equality vote.
C’mon, Senator, where are you? Have you become so tied to future desires that you can’t make the call?
Voter: You Make the Call!
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