Saturday, May 22, 2010

Special Interest v Common Interest

I read an editorial in the Providence Journal on Saturday, May 22, dealing with legislation that would "lock in place pension benefits for public employees..." My comments are not related to the relative merits of the legislation but rather to this part of the editorial - "Mr. Lally, for his part, said he repeatedly filed the bill, originally at the request of the teachers unions - The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers."

It is this latter part that caught my eye. Exactly why should a lawmaker submit a bill to become a law? Call me crazy but it seems to me that a lawmaker has as his or her duty, to do what's best for the people whom he represents - all of them, even those who voted against him.

When any group asks a legislator to introduce a bill, the only question to answer is, Is it in the best interest of all my constituents? In my own case, I have been active in promoting changes to property tax law in Rhode Island and was pleased, flattered even, when my town council directed our local representatives to introduce supportive legislation. I do not know if the bill's sponsors agreed with the proposal or if they even fully understood it but this morning's editorial reached me - they should have agreed with it's goals and actively supported it or they should have refused to introduce it.

How many bills are introduced solely for the benefit of the people who lobby the legislator? I cringe at the thought. Let's face it, special interests aren't even special any longer. They're common, too common.

Legislators can't be expected to know everything - their staffs have to help them sift through volumes of data and information. Lobbyists have to present the views of those 'special interests' and that's ok too. The legislator's obligation to his or her city, county, state, nation, is to process all this information and before deciding, answer the question - Is it best for us all? Only then should he or she act. Only then.