Monday, February 14, 2005
It seems we went into the fire from the frying pan after the very recent leadership changes in the Rhode Island Statehouse. Edward Achorn at the Providence Journal has been cataloging as well as watchdogging this issue, among others. God bless the man. He is phenomenal.
I'm not one to dwell very long on state of the state issues, but the state of the state isn't good at all - and the primary cause is a bunch of political punks who are walking all over the Bill of Rights - only either the people in Rhode Island don't know about it, don't care, or, knowing about it, are too much in the minority to have any impact.
I'm telling you folks, it is vital, absolutely vital, that we replace the Democratic law makers in the Rhode Island Statehouse - or at least provide enough Republicans in the House and Senate to give the people a fighting a chance.
Here is a litany of rights that have been or are about to be abridged by the new Democrat Leadership in the House under the management of newly elected Rhode Island Speaker William Murphy -- courtesy of Donald Hawthorn at Anchor Rising:
Possible changes in the House rules being run through mill RIGHT NOW are such ideas as:
- Shorten the time that lawmakers -- and the public -- have to scrutinize bills, including the multibillion state budget, before final votes.
- Ban anyone, other than a "recognized employee of a news organization," from videotaping or taking photographs of House sessions and House committee meetings "without the express permissions of the speaker." This proposed ban on the use of "video or photographic equipment" by anyone except "credentialed representatives of the news media,"...[led to a compromise]...the new ban would only apply to the use, by House members themselves [only], of video and still-cameras in the House chamber and committee rooms. [That leaves regular folk -- and bloggers -- out of the game.]
- Spare lawmakers from having to disclose on whose behalf they have introduced a bill, such as a special-retirement bill.
- "Free" committee clerks from having to keep minutes, including records of who testified pro and con...
- ...a proposal to give the majority leader, the minority leader and the speaker "voting rights" on every committee...
- ...raise the threshold from 30 signatures -- which comes close to matching the number that voted against Murphy's reelection as speaker -- to 42 of the 75 House members.
- The end-of-session maneuvering that has enabled state lawmakers to vote on major pieces of legislation -- without advance public notice or hearings -- could become the norm at the Rhode Island State House, rather than an exception, under new rules approved by a committee last night.
- Early in the session, House committees would still have to give the public 48-hour notice of their hearings on proposed legislation. But even that rule could be waived by "the consent of the majority." It would not apply, after a certain point, "to House bills returned from the Senate with amendment."
- And a committee could, by majority vote, consider bills "not previously distributed in print or electronically to its members."
- And from April 14 on, the 48-hour minimum-notice requirement that the legislature has imposed on all other government bodies, across the state, would go out the window. A one-day notice requirement would take its place and what that could mean is this: A bill approved by a House committee on a Tuesday afternoon could potentially be put to a vote by the full House the following day...
Last year's House rules had a similar provision, but it required "the unanimous consent" of those present -- not a simple majority -- for a committee to take up a previously unseen bill.... The Republicans also questioned the need to make anyone who wanted to know how a committee voted to put that request in writing...The full House is expected to vote on these rules very soon. Rhode Island readers: run don't walk to your telephone and call your State Representative, and tell him these rules are attrocious, and that you will personally see to it that he or she will be run out of town on a rail if he or she dared to support such Byzantine measures.
It is not only an insult to our intelligence, it is an insult to our state that we would dare come this close to acquiescence in such backward and undemocratic measures.
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