June 13, 2006

A Question for Peter Kilmartin and John Patrick Shanley, Among Others

Carroll Andrew Morse

Usually when the Rhode Island legislature does something to exclude the general public from the lawmaking process, it comes up with some phony, superficial explanation of why it must be done. The public canít have voter initiative because it would give undue influence to special interests; non-binding ballot questions canít be placed on the ballot because they violate separation of powers, etc.

So whatís the phony explanation for why the details of a six billion dollar-plus budget must be presented and voted on all within the span of about four hours, after lobbyists have had full access to the process, but no information has been given to the public? As Scott Mayerowitz reports in the ProjoÖ

Sometime this afternoon, or maybe early this evening, Democratic lawmakers will unveil their $6.6-billion budget for the coming year.

But what's in it is anybody's guess.

For weeks, top lawmakers have huddled behind closed doors hammering out the details and negotiating with lobbyists.

Those talks continued into the night yesterday. Elected officials from both the House and the Senate refused to say anything.

The real reason for the secrecy, of course, is that Rhode Island's Democratic party fears a debate on the role of government and what it might reveal about why Rhode Island is mired in deficits while most other states are running surpluses. The Democrats keep as much information as they can away from the public in an attempt to stifle the civic discussion that might lead to creative solutions to our societyís challenges. They prefer to stay in their comfort zone of treating the process of government as nothing more than handing money to their favored interest groups, a comfort zone that has no place for discussing ideas with the public.