Winners in political races have it easy. They thank everyone and move forward. The Silver Medalists analyze what went wrong and fade into the shadows. Is it possible to write a post-election column as the loser and not sound self-serving, shrill or sour? I’m going to do my best.
From the beginning, this race was about the way that the legislature hasn’t been working effectively for the citizens, voters and taxpayers.
My analysis of the way the system functions is this:
- On Election Day, 75 men and women are voted into the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
- Shortly after that a number of them meet. They horse trade over issues and bills and power. Then they determine who will be the Speaker. You’re either on the team or you’re off.
- In January, the 75 Reps vote on the Speaker and the Rules of the House. Currently, these rules give the Speaker the authority to set the agenda and move legislation on and off the floor at his or her discretion
- And for the next two years, all of the Reps who are not part of the “Leadership” beg for scraps and line items. The true outsiders get nothing.
The system, as a voter in Mt. Hope said, isn’t broken. It works great for those in charge. But it doesn’t work so well for Rhode Island. We, the people, elected you to be our Representatives, not to give away your power.
The deals that representatives make are supposed to be in the best interest of the state as a whole, not the special interests and campaign donors. Payday lending rates of 260% annual interest are usurious and unjustifiable. Votes on social issues, like Marriage Equality, ought to be held early every session rather than suppressed.
Our State’s business climate is not just dependent on tax rates, tax breaks and loan guarantees. Your business should not depend on the whim of a Speaker and the uninformed consent of the Legislature.
Our children should not be educated in a system that is overhauled in the middle of the night on a budget vote with no public debate, discussion or even planning. Children need more than institutions and buildings, they need books and materials. Students need more than testing, they need teachers who have the time and permission to teach them on their own terms.
I hope that my challenge to Gordon Fox reminds him, and every other Speaker who follows, that the power that they wield derives from the people.
You are not in charge. We are.