Republican-led legislative forum draws large crowd, outspoken opposition

A panel of politicians address their constituents during a Saturday forum (from left to right, Rep. Ken Rizer, Rep. Louis Zumbach, Farm Bureau moderator, Rep. Ashley Hinson, Sen. Dan Zumbach).

Hundreds gathered at Lowe Park in Marion for a legislative forum led by Representatives Ashley Hinson, Ken Rizer, Louis Zumbach and Senator Dan Zumbach.

The lawmakers fielded questions on a number of controversial issues, including voter ID, collective bargaining, and gun rights.

Various topics became so contentious, the legislators would be interrupted, showered by rebuttals and guffaws of disbelief.

One man even balked like a chicken.

"I used to be a poultry farmer -- I recognize the breed," said Joe Stutler, a military veteran who attends legislative forums regularly. "I recognize chickens. I recognize cowards. I recognize the stuff that was being spewed. I've mucked a few hen houses, raised birds. I recognize the breed, and what the breed puts out."

His sentiments were shared by some audience members, who felt the politicians dodged questions, or only answered portions in order to avoid criticism.

Jennifer Tibbetts said she attended the forum seeking answers on how many pieces of legislation would impact women, but said she didn't get those answers.

"I feel some of the representatives don't do a good job seeing these bills through a gendered lens," said Tibbetts, who scheduled a follow-up meeting with Rep. Rizer, adding, "I really hope that we'll be able to have some questions answered, because I feel as though today, a lot of the questions didn't get answered."

Rep. Hinson said the forums are helpful for constituents, but acknowledged the time limitations may prevent some from feeling they get all the answers they seek.

"We had, you know, a number of folks who arrived almost an hour early to make sure that they had a seat, which also gave us the chance to go around and talk to people too, on a one-on-one level, which I think is important," said Hinson, who, like her three Republican counterparts, stayed late to chat with her constituents.

Despite this forum seeming contentious, Hinson said the Saturday morning gathering was not nearly as spirited as some other political events she's attended.

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