Virus lockdowns. Sky-high unemployment. School reopening fiascos. A daily litany of death and malaise. An uncertain future filled with anxiety.

You would think that the General Assembly would be on top of these and the myriad other issues that confront Rhode Island.

Well, they aren’t. The Democratic controlled legislature has been AWOL for months. It’s hard to know where to start. It’s September and voters have no clue as to what tax and spending policy will be. The missing-in-action Smith Hill crowd hasn’t given even a hint as to how they will spend your money this year. All they have been doing is continuing to spend and spend based on last year’s budget -- which should have expired in July.

No one thinks it is easy amid COVID-19 for the Assembly to continue business as usual. But they have had months to figure out how to work during a pandemic. Thousands of businesses have innovated and deployed employees remotely during these challenging times. It’s as if the Democratic pols want to cruise through the election without giving voters anything of substance to judge them on.

Both top leaders on Smith Hill -- Senate President Dominick Ruggerio of North Providence and House Speaker Nick Mattiello of Cranston -- appear to care more about getting reelected than performing the jobs they were elected to. Ruggerio faces a primary tomorrow. He’s a heavy favorite, but that doesn’t mean he ought to get away with doing nothing in the face of a crisis.

Mattiello faces a general election challenger. His recent elections have been close. He’s a Democrat in a conservative Cranston district that supported Donald Trump in 2016. It looks like he wants to tout his signature achievement --phasing out the nettlesome car tax--without telling voters how that can be accomplished with tax revenues declining faster than the Red Sox pitching staff.

Assembly Republicans have rightly pushed to reconvene as have some progressives. But House Republican Leader Blake Filippi and his tiny caucus don’t have the clout to get Democrats back to work.

The excuse the Smith Hill leadership has given is that they are waiting for Congress and the Trump Administration to settle on more federal aid to the states. So far that hasn’t happened, and the state can’t wait on a hopelessly divided Washington, D.C.

What the Assembly abdication has done is give Gov. Gina Raimondo way too much sway over government policies. You can praise her performance during the virus crisis. But our system of government isn’t set up to allow any governor to dictate policy. That’s why we have legislative checks and balances.

The governor has proposed nearly a half a billion dollars in bonded debt. She wants to put this to voters in November. The plan is to spend this money on necessary improvements to infrastructure, higher education, parks and recreation and environmental upgrades. So far there has been no action by the Assembly on this huge new pot of money.

It isn’t just taxes and spending that demand attention. What about the gaps in nursing home staffing and safety that have been revealed during the lockdown? How to deal with racial disparities in policing? Or the issues big and small in education, where everything from the future of the Henry Barnard School to how to handle college reopenings are at stake.  

History shows that lawmakers have met during wars, depressions and the 1990s banking crisis. They are supposed to do the best they can in the worst of times. That doesn’t mean doing nothing.