What is a Leader’s Word Worth?

Every year at the end of the General Assembly session, we see late nights and Representatives getting a little hot under the collar, both literally and figuratively. For some reason, our legislature thinks it’s a good idea to hold all the important bills until the last minute when everyone is tired and just want to go home. According to Nesi’s Notes, even the Speaker didn’t want to be there as seven more Representatives waited to be heard on a bill:

Speaker Fox intervened to quash it. “Everyone wants to go home,” he said from the rostrum. “I want to end this session. … You know what you’re going to do.”

We send representatives up to Smith Hill to propose and discuss legislation but then the Speaker got a little tired and cuts it off? If he doesn’t want to be there, who was forcing him to be there? Why didn’t he simply go home and let everyone else do what they were elected to do?

I get frustrated by this last minute rush and all the mayhem that it seems to include. We’ve seen where bills get brought up at the last minute, even with the ink still wet as they’re being required to vote on the bill. But at the start of this session, Speaker Fox vowed that this would not happen anymore, not under his watch.

Gordon Fox vows: This session will be ‘orderly,’ no last-minute rush

But yet we read reports like this from Ted Nesi:

More disconcerting is the sheer amount of new law legislators just made – unless the governor uses his veto pen – with little public input, considering how many bills were substantially revised before emerging and winning rapid passage. “This eleventh-hour flurry of legislation has become far too ingrained in how the Assembly does business,” [Scott] MacKay argues.

What happened? Speaker Fox vowed back in January that this wouldn’t happen, yet it did. Why? Is that leadership? He has full control over this happening, so why did it happen again?

Add to that, the negotiations on budget night to remove the Sakonnet River bridge tolls from the budget in exchange for a budget vote. The budget only passed the house by a few votes, so this agreement between the Speaker and the Aquidneck Island Reps was necessary. The Speaker got the votes for the budget, the tolls were out of the budget, a fair deal to all, right? Well, until a couple days later when Speaker Fox brought the tolls back to the House. The House and Senate leadership attempted to claim that they received new information between the budget vote and that night. They claimed that it was now or never for the tolls and “never” isn’t an option to make ends meet. They made these claims about new information despite our local media having reported on the fact a week or so earlier, well before the budget vote. So I guess my question there is, how do the local writers know more about this situation and the facts than our state leadership. Or dare I say that there was misinformation spread from these leadership positions? I’m not one to accuse people of lying but when facts are presented in professional news blogs and then days later to claim you only now learned of this, it stretches credibility by quite a bit.

So there we have it. We have vows being broken, negotiated promises being broken and apparent spreading of misinformation among the Smith Hill leadership. The next time you start to wonder where the problems begin with Rhode Island, maybe we don’t need to look much further than the person on the rostrum.

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