Here’s something that jumps out at me from Katherine Gregg’s article about Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello’s race against Republican challenger Stephen Frias:
He also says the rules concentrating power in the speaker were adopted to prevent the “wrong things” from reaching the House floor for votes, such as a vote to slash the state’s 7-percent sales tax.
“At some point someone is going to come up with that,” he said. “You are going to force every member to start taking votes to not do something that is terribly irresponsible … [that] will just become fodder for political season.”
One’s first reaction (especially if one has been advocating for precisely that legislation for a number of years) is: That’s the policy that comes to Mattiello’s mind as irresponsible? Really?
A more important reaction, however, is to note that Mattiello is essentially acknowledging that his role as Speaker of the House is to thwart the healthy operation of our representative democracy. What he describes as a problem is how government is supposed to work.
Legislators with incentive to give people what they want bring policies forward, forcing other representatives to take a stand. If voters don’t like the result, they vote for other people who will better represent their interests and their values. Under this system, being responsible in the face of popular demands is supposed to come at a cost; that is what balances the self governance of democracy with the prudence of judgment.
If legislative leaders can kill legislation in an opaque process, the electorate can’t be represented, because we can’t know where our legislators will stand when a bill is before them.