My Social Cause for Your Law and Order
Most people probably have an idealized image of the legislative process as one in which legislators draft bills that they desire, other legislators sign on as they’re interested, and everybody votes according to their understanding of the consequences. It seems somehow foreign to everyday life to trade votes on unrelated issues and such, but in a vote-counting occupation like lawmaking, it’s inevitable.
And so, state representative Doreen Costa (R, Exeter, North Kingstown) is surely doing no more than offering a look into the regular processes of the General Assembly by going public with one example:
The bill’s main sponsor, state Rep Teresa Tanzi last week asked Doreen Costa if she wanted one of the five coveted spots as an official co-sponsor. The legislation is meant to prevent people like Michael Woodmansee—who killed a 5-year-old boy in the 1970s—from leaving prison early. Tanzi, a Democrat, represents South Kingstown, where the boy lived. …
“I have to horse trade,” Tanzi replied, according to Costa. “She said, ‘You have to vote gay marriage out of committee.'”
In one sense, there’s nothing surprising about this at all. Tanzi has a desirable legislative property, and she wishes to trade partial ownership of it to remove a roadblock on an issue about which she’s interested, for whatever reason. In a practical sense, also, there’s little to remark. As Costa makes clear, co-sponsorship is not a prerequisite for her vote, so the offer does not affect the likelihood of the bill’s final passage.
Still, when we reapply the context, the matter takes on a distasteful aroma. Tanzi has under her control a sensitive issue concerning the gruesome murder of a young child and the ability of victims to be assured that dangerous killers will not roam the streets again while still relatively young. Using that ownership to buy votes for a long-discussed and still-controversial issue like same-sex marriage is cynical, to say the least.