October 14, 2011

The Legislative Response Rate on Tuition

Justin Katz

There are two major takeaways from the Providence Journal's poll of RI legislators on the matter of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants:

  1. 55% of senators and 37% of representatives were willing to go on the record opposing it even though there is no vote currently before them.
  2. 24% of senators and 41% of representatives didn't even respond to the question; add in "undecideds" and the percentages are 32% and 52%.

This issue comes up regularly, and it has been pretty heavily covered in the media, lately. How is it possible not to have an opinion?

The third takeaway, of course, is whether your own senator and representative responded in the way that you would like him or her to... whether he or she responded at all is also an important fact to keep in mind next time you're voting.

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Justin, to be fair to people you need to know how this poll was conducted. On the Thursday before the holiday weekend, someone at the ProJo sent an email to all the "official" legislative email addresses asking for a response by the following Tuesday.

Now I can't speak for everyone, but for myself I know that I check that email address about once a week and, when we are not in session, often less frequently. I do this because A. it gets a lot of spam and B. I have a private email that most people who know me, including many of my constituents, know to use.

It was only by chance that I happened to see the ProJo emaail in time and responded. I easily could have ended up on the "NR" list and can guarantee that I would have been mighty unhappy had this occurred. I know at least one of my GOP collegaues was on vacation when the poll email was sent out and didn't return until the day before the article was published.

I know there are Reps and Senators that do not check their email and I am sure there are many who conciously ignored the poll for whatever reasons, but people should not assume that a "no repsonse" really means the person didn't care, has no opinion, or is unwilling to go on record. If they want to know I encourage them to call their Rep or Senator directly.

Posted by: Brian C. Newberry at October 14, 2011 8:13 AM

More evidence that backs what Rep Newberry says above: Grace Diaz NR

Posted by: Patrick at October 14, 2011 9:02 AM

Yeah-Diaz and Blazejewski,whose is considered a progressive,are people I have no doubt ar for it.
I have more respect for a Gordon Fox who comes out and says yes than a gutless creep like Paiva-Weed,who I am SURE read the e mail and did her usual bucky beaver evasion.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 14, 2011 10:45 AM

"I know there are Reps and Senators that do not check their email and I am sure there are many who conciously ignored the poll for whatever reasons, but people should not assume that a "no repsonse" really means the person didn't care, has no opinion, or is unwilling to go on record."

Thanks Brian for confirming what many of us have said all along. Too many in the GA either could care less about their constituents by not checking their email or have total contempt for them by purposely not answering the poll. My favorite is Tanzi's response. Really? It's only come up every year since 2004. Maybe she should read up on it in case she needs to vote next year.

Posted by: Max Diesel at October 14, 2011 11:11 AM

While I don't necessarily believe that Rep. Newberry is part of "The Problem" in Rhode Island, I did find his comment rather humorous.

"Be fair, Justin. You can't expect a high response rate. I check my constituent e-mail less than once a week, and many Reps don't check their constituent e-mail at all."

I wrote Patrick Kennedy a letter once asking a question, and I got a form letter back in the mail eight months later, so maybe that's actually pretty good by Rhode Island standards.

Posted by: Dan at October 14, 2011 12:37 PM

Actually Dan, I check my email all the time. 99% of what I get through the official state email address, however, is garbage. Most people who really want to reach me by email know my private address and contact me that way. Any constituent of mine who has ever contacted me is given that address.

Generally speaking, people who try to reach you by email do not have time sensitive concerns. If they do, that's what a phone is for. The beauty of email is that I can respond to it at off hours. It is simply more practical for me to sit down and get back to a number of people all at once when I have the time to do so. We are a part time legislature - something I am sure you agree is a good idea - which means that at least some of us have full time jobs and other responsibilities, which impact our ability to respond instantaneously. Unlike congressmen we don't have staff people whose sole job is to read our mail and send form responses that we never actually see.

I am sure most members of the legislature check their email, though undoubtedly there are a few who do not. How they choose to respond is up to them and everyone has different views on that.

Posted by: Brian C. Newberry at October 14, 2011 1:27 PM

Is it fair to discriminate against kids who have spent all (or most) of their lives going to US public schools??
I'm talking about the kids who were brought here by their parents. The US is the only country they've ever known. Granted their parents broke the law, but we let them. We've turned a blind eye all along as long as they were useful as semi-visible strong backed farm workers. Hell, even Saint Reagan pardoned 3 Million of them.

Our country created the problem when we didn't send them back home as soon as they got here. Personally, I don't have the stomach to tell some kid who has lived in this country for 16 of his 18 years, screw you, when it comes to higher education.

To sit back and say "He can always go back to his home country (even tough he might not speak the language) is just not right. That country means nothing to him.

"We don't punish the son for the father's sins" Bishop Thomas Tobin

Posted by: Sammy in Arizona at October 14, 2011 2:26 PM

So now you're on the Bishop's side??? Sammy, what's the end game here. They can't legally work in this country. How does that improve the quality of the labor force?

Posted by: Max Diesel at October 14, 2011 4:08 PM

Brian C. Newberry

I am interested to know if you consider such a poll by a newspaper as valid. If a bill that enacted in state tuition for the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants were to come to the body in which you belong ,Do you not think that the vote by members would not reflect careful consideration of each member's calculation of their constituent's attitudes, a political eye towards positive or negative consequences, and ultimately one's own conscience?

Posted by: Phil at October 14, 2011 9:18 PM

" How does that improve the quality of the labor force?"

It doesn't. But it helps certain elected officials delude themselves into thinking that they'll pick up new constituents (... "sometime down the road -- hopefully, they'll remember who got them these goodies").

Posted by: Monique at October 14, 2011 11:08 PM
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