Monday, July 07, 2008

New Elections, Same Old Legislature

Scott MacKay, Projo's political writer, has an interesting article. "Legislators did little more than approve a state budget and flee the State House for the safer climes of vacations, home districts and the usual rounds of election-year electioneering." Expect the same-old, same-old action despite Fall elections. "Despite the endless rumors, most incumbent lawmakers are running again. Just 2 of 38 senators and 9 in the 75-member House have decided against running for reelection.

And why is this?

The Republicans will hardly try to mount an opposition- except here on Aquidneck Island- and provide candidates. Witness Tiverton gaining a new Rep (D- Jay Williams) without even an opposition candidate after Rep. Amaral's (Republican) departure. Not even a faint discussion of State issues affecting not only district members but ALL of us.

"While everybody complains about the General Assembly, the sad truth is that most Rhode Islanders don’t care enough about what happens on Smith Hill to run for office or get involved in a campaign to elect somebody new." Well said, Scott! And whose fault is that?

One problem are the political parties themselves.
"The result is that at the beginning of the 21st century, the state’s once-robust political and civic culture is wasting away. Republican state Chairman Giovanni Cicione and Democratic state Chairman William Lynch don’t agree on much, but both say that it isn’t easy to get people interested in running for the State House."

That could be because they treat the new candidates they do have so abominably- been there, done that. I've spoken to people from both parties who have run for lege office and the help they obtained from statewide parties was negligible. You're on your own, bud.

Another problem is the lack of coverage for the happenings on the Hill. Even our local papers rarely cover it in any meaningful way. You'll see the ocassional write-up for a local lege sponsoring a bill or actually issuing a comment, but little else. A round-up will be done by the "Daily News" on attendance & number of bills submitted, but with no in-depth coverage. I suggest that not only is attendance in general session important, but also whether or not legislators stay and voted throughout the day. How many votes on bills they miss (you'd be surprised at the numbers), whether or not they attend sessions for committees that they serve on (you'd be shocked), how many substantive bills they actually get passed, etc.

We pay these people little but expect a lot in the name of "public service." They get no office, no phone, no staffing. We term it a part-time job but expect them there at 1 PM for committees, 3 PM for general session, etc. How many people can actually do this for 6 months/yr.? With little remuneration & we even complain about that (e.g.; health insurance coverage).

Mounting a campaign is very expensive and time-consuming. You'd better be wealthy, have friends who are wealthy, and groups with funds and election know-how willing to sponsor you- unless you're an incumbent. State regs passed by the lege make it even more difficult. That's one reason I have little time to write now. I'm running around like many others obtaining signatures for candidacy. And I'm luck in that I have friends & family willing to help. Why are so many signatures needed at all? Talk about "Fair Elections"? Public financing? It was all just
conversation.

We pay far more attention to local council & school board elections than those on the state level. We understand what they do. We know them. We treat them far worse than those on the State level for just those reasons. And we usually give them a kick-in-the-pants on their way our. Oh, and in Middletown we give them a town tile.

I LOVED Scott's ending:
Before you complain next time, look in the mirror. We get the kind of government
we deserve. An apathetic citizenry can expect no more. Government’s failure is the collective responsibility of all Rhode Islanders.
As the bard said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
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