An Oblique Way of Asking If it Makes Sense to Regionalize, If the Regions Will Be Governed By the Same People Who Made the Original Mess
Lynn Arditi has an excellent article in today’s Projo on the evolution of prostitution law in Rhode Island, challenging the notion that the loophole in state law allowing indoor prostitution was somehow created by accident. Apparently, pro-legalization activists in the late 70s were active in many states…
Margo St. James, the former prostitute who challenged the prostitution law in the 1970s, hopes Rhode Island keeps the law the way it is….Even now, she’s proud of the change she helped bring about in Rhode Island.…but only one state (this one) had a legislature dumb enough to rewrite its law to legalize prostitution without realizing it…
“We tried Massachusetts. California. Hawaii. Florida,” she recalls. “Most of them didn’t get anywhere.”
“We probably vote on 500 bills a year,” Sen. John F. McBurney III, the only member of the General Assembly who served in 1980, said recently. McBurney says he can think of only one explanation for why a bill that decriminalized prostitution would win unanimous approval by the General Assembly: “They didn’t know what they were voting for.”Besides the obvious direct relevance to the legalized prostitution debate in RI, I am also bringing this up in the context of the “regionalization” topic that seems to be on many minds. Are Rhode Island residents really, really sure that this idea of moving more and more government decisions away from local communities is a guaranteed formula for improvement? Of anything? I find it hard to believe, for example, that most Rhode Island city and town governments would have legalized prostitution without realizing it. And there’s no obvious reason to believe that more remote, more centralized government is going to do better in other areas of governance than it has done in this one.
John C. Revens Jr., a former Senate Majority leader and a lawyer who served in the General Assembly for nearly four decades, agrees.
“They would never sponsor a bill decriminalizing prostitution if they knew what it was,” Revens said. “No way. Not in a million years.”