Baby Steps to Good Government
Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to see any movement toward improving the way the General Assembly does business, but it does seem like a deliberately slow, small-step process:
With the hold-for-further-study language still intact, the new rules ultimately passed by a vote of 63 to 5. Among the changes: House votes must be posted online, lawmakers cannot take up new bills after 11:30 p.m., and the House speaker must propose a plan to make audio recordings of all committee meetings.
The reporting is confusing, but I’m pretty sure the first sentence means that bills can still be held for further study. As for the deadline for new bills, well, 11:30 is still pretty late… and what about amendments. For its part, posting votes online is pretty obvious.
It’s the audio thing that I find truly amazing. For less than $100 each, committee heads could be given digital voice recorders, which they could be required to run during committee meetings. After each meeting, they could hand the recorders off to staff, who within minutes could download the audio to a server and/or upload it to the Internet.
What is the basis for debating to vote to demand a plan to consider the possibility of requesting that committee meetings be recorded? All told, it would be less than $1,000 of technology and less than an hour of cumulative labor for all involved in preserving and posting the files.
You ever try to find committee votes? Of course, they are few and far between as most bills are simply held and never voted on unless the Senate President or the House Speaker gives it a nod.
Last year Paiva-Weed pulled a beauty. When Senator Cote tried to speak on the Senate floor in support of his E-Verify bill, she recognized Majority Leader Connors instead of Senator Cote. she wouldn’t turn on Cote’s microphone. Connors made a motion to recommit Cote’s bill back to committee. Paiva-Weed called for a voice vote on the recommit motion. the nays drowned out the yeas so Cote’s bill never got a floor vote even though 19 senators supported it. When she finally turned on his mike, Cote asked for an electronic vote, but Paiva-Weed refused. This is democracy in RI. Now you know why this state will soon cease to exist.