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Area lawmaker steps down from workforce panel post

An area Democratic lawmaker has resigned his post as vice chairman of a state House of Representatives committee, citing what he calls partisan and heavy-handed Republican leadership.

     District 91 Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, has sent a letter to House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, dated Nov. 30, formally resigning his post as vice chairman of the House Workforce Development committee.

     “It’s not something I decided to do in a fit of pique a few days ago,” Evans said Tuesday morning. “It’s something that has been developing with me since the start of the 2012 session.”

     In his letter, Evans lodges a number of complaints against Republican leadership in the House.

     Evans decried the decision by Gunn to remove charter-school opponent Rep. Linda Whittington, D-Thrasher, from the House Education committee and lambasted what he sees as an “anti-worker agenda” by the Republican majority.

     Speaking Tuesday morning, Evans described his resignation as an attempt to shine a spotlight on the actions of “Speaker Gunn and his cronies.”

     Said Evans, “This is my little attempt to show to the people what’s happening. I just want the people to know what’s going on. If they don’t care, that’s fine. That’s their right.”

     Evans only intends to resign his vice chairmanship, not his membership on the committee.

     “I will remain on the committee unless he kicks me off,” Evans said, speaking of Gunn.

     On matters under the oversight of the Workforce Development committee, Evans feels Republican leadership is slanted toward large business interests.

     “I saw the efforts going on to diminish the rights of working people,” Evans said. “The tenor is very big business, big corporations, and very anti-union and anti-workers.”

     Evans pointed to changes made to the state’s workers compensation laws during the 2012 session. Among other things, these changes set a 60-day deadline for a worker to file supporting medical documentation for an injury claim and altered the impact of a positive drug or alcohol test for someone seeking compensation.

     In his letter, Evans described his resignation as an attempt to distance himself from the Republican agenda.

     “I can no longer allow even the appearance that I either support or condone the committee’s machinations,” Evans said.

     Evans further condemned the appointment of Rep. Donnie Bell, R-Fulton, as chairman of the Workforce Development committee because Bell switched to the Republican Party after winning his 2011 election as a Democrat.

     “Donnie in my opinion was rewarded for being a traitor to the people that elected him,” Evans said.

     Though Evans described frustration with the Republican legislative agenda throughout the 2012 session, he called Whittington’s removal from the education committee his breaking point.

     Addressing Gunn, Evans wrote in his letter, “While your chicanery will likely now allow you to gain passage of a charter school bill out of the Education Committee … your removal of Rep. Whittington is reprehensible.”

     Evans said House Democrats made bipartisan overtures early in the session, overtures he feels the Republican majority ignored.

     Evans is currently serving his second term in the Legislature. Aside from Workforce Development, Evans also is a member of the Medicaid, Universities and Colleges, Judiciary A and Judiciary En Banc committee.

     His Workforce Development vice chairmanship was his only committee leadership position. The House speaker makes all committee assignments and appoints chairs and vice chairs of each committee.