Monday, March 27, 2006

Let the People Decide?

With the Voter Initiative drive, which seeks to give any group the ability to put questions to a general referendum, gaining momentum, it is becoming necessary to decide which way to go on this issue. The idea of a more direct democracy seems appealing, but a recent action by Matthew Thomas, chief sachem of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, shows how voter initiative will be corrupted by special interests. As explained in the Providence Journal today, Thomas has requested that the V.I. Alliance "announce publicly its unconditional support of a constitutional amendment to 'let the people decide' the Narragansett Indian casino."

This is precisely why voter initiative is a bad idea. Not because the voters can't make decisions about how to run the State, but because the process will be perverted from the idealism that originally fuels it. Legislatures are better ideas than kings, but can anybody really say that the RI legislature has been the epitome of good governance. If voter initiative passes it will give another avenue for the special interests to overwhelm the electorate, but now without the benefit of an established opposition ready to debate the issue. Opponents of an idea will have to scramble like mad under a severe timeline. It will be like a trick play in football; the defense simpley will have no time to prepare to stop it. There will be no way to build in sundown clauses or checks and balances. There is no guarantee that future legislation will control any crazy idea that passes. Someone once said, "there is a simple answer to every problem, an in every case it is the wrong answer."

We have a problem right now with our legislature being controlled by special interests. Why create another tool for the special interests to use against us? Let's fix the problem, not add to it.

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