Year in and year out, we watch bills pass the General Assembly with little or no opposition, raising the unavoidable conclusions that (1) the General Assembly is a corrupt enterprise, and (2) our elected senators and representatives don’t really get the role that they and government generally should be playing in our society. (That’s a purposefully inflammatory construction; one could say they just have different political philosophies, which is ultimately mere semantic spin.)
A study published yesterday by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity in cooperation with WatchDog RI found a shocking lack of divergence from the preferences of the senate and house leaders. As the following charts show, only 5% of senators and 11% of representatives voted with the leaders of their chambers less than 75% of the time. (The list of legislation reviewed removes resolutions and marriage solemnization bills.)
Even limiting the bills just to those on which there was at least enough controversy for one legislator to vote against the Senate president or House speaker (or miss the vote), 78% of senators and 68% of representatives voted with leadership on at least three out of every four votes.
Given the condition of our state, there are really only two possibilities, here: Either our elected legislators waste our time fiddling with legislation that is so benign that it generates no substantial disagreement or opposition, or they aren’t representing the people of Rhode Island, with all of our diverse interests and perspectives, but rather a narrow band of special interests who can be corralled into agreement on bills that help them while harming the rest of us.