They Just Don’t Get It
This posting builds on a previous posting entitled “Unprincipled, Undemocratic Behavior” and a related posting by Marc Comtois.
Both postings noted how House Speaker Murphy and Senate President Montalbano were going to maintain the legislative meddling in certain executive matters in spite of the 78% voter approval in November of the Separation of Powers constitutional amendment.
Ed Achorn of the Providence Journal has another editorial in today’s newspaper about the June 2004 power grab by the legislature on behalf of Chief Justice Frank Williams.
The editorial highlights the magnitude of our ongoing problem here in Rhode Island. Specifically, it notes how the legislature cut the governor out of future budget decisions affecting the judiciary and did so without going through the Judiciary Committee and without any public hearings at the time.
Achorn raises two questions, the first being whether such a change is even constitutional. Here are his thoughts on his second question:
Does cutting the governor out of the budget — removing one of the public’s protections against legislative and judicial collusion — create too close and cozy a relationship between judges and legislators?
Is it healthy for legislators — some of whom work for law firms whose members appear before the courts — to exclusively set the budgetary parameters for judges’ compensation and working conditions? Can judges who strike budget deals with legislators render impartial decisions on constitutional matters that profoundly affect legislators? Does a direct track between judges and legislators — cutting out the executive branch — contribute to justice, and the perception of justice, in Rhode Island?
There was no time to ask those questions, or obtain answers. Frank Williams got what he wanted, and the public got shoved aside.
Is this the Rhode Island we aspire to? Is this behavior consistent with the principles of American constitutionalism?
These actions are a disgrace and we shouldn’t tolerate more of the same old unprincipled behavior by our public officials.
They just don’t get it. Unfortunately, history tells us that they won’t stop until all of us join in speaking up loudly and clearly against such undemocratic actions.