Would the GA Vote Out Its Scapegoat?
Andrew suggested to Jim Hummel, on this morning’s On the Record, that the Democrats in the General Assembly are, in some sense, biding their time until they manage to place another Democrat in the Governor’s chair. I’m not so sure the Democrats are (or should be) desirous of such a visible monopoly on Rhode Island government, and the reason relates to something that Matt Jerzyk of RI Future said on the same show.
Jerzyk took the tack that “the buck ends with the governor” — as the executive — when it comes to government spending. Hummel went to commercial too quickly for Andrew to point out such considerations as the fact that it was the GA’s budget that ultimately passed, and that it is the GA that creates and mandates various government programs, and that it is the GA that throws around lavish gifts such as a brandy new $71 million courthouse, and that it is the GA that passed — as an amendment to a budget that Carcieri proved unable to veto — a restriction on the governor’s ability to, well, govern as an executive. And anybody who’s paying attention (and who doesn’t have a preordained partisan view) must admit that the story of the buck’s actually ending with the legislature goes even further than that. Consider the last paragraph of today’s Projo story about state government salaries (emphasis added):
One “department” is described as “other commissions and agencies.” It includes employees of the Coastal Resources Management Council, the public defender’s office and the Rhode Island Ethics Commission. The highest salary in the commissions and agencies category, $137,779.40, goes to Terrence N. Tehan, director of the state’s Atomic Energy Commission. The Atomic Energy Commission is the federal license holder for the nuclear reactor at URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus. The reactor is used for medical, environmental and physical science research.
As Alan Hassenfeld and Christine Lopes recently lamented :
ON THE LAST NIGHT of this year’s legislative session, 33 members of Rhode Island’s House of Representatives sent a clear and defiant message to state voters. The House moved to re-establish the Coastal Resources and Management Council (CRMC) exactly as it exists today, with four legislative members and four legislative appointees.
That appointment scheme flatly contradicts the separation-of-powers amendment approved by 78.3 percent of Rhode Island voters in 2004. The amendment clearly prohibits legislators from appointing themselves or others to state boards that carry out the laws they pass.
The fact that Rhode Islanders felt it necessary to insist on separation of powers leaves little doubt that our government is riddled with this sort of co-option of the governor’s buck, as it were. Which leads me to believe that the General Assembly (aka the Democrats) might be wary of claiming the governor’s seat as explicitly and undeniably as through an actual election. Whom would they use as their scapegoat?