Friday, August 31, 2007

Who's governing, and who's the governed?

It's been a long time I took civics in high school, but I'm confident I learned there that the role of lawmakers -- men and women elected by citizens in their community -- is to adopt laws that reflect the will of the people who elected them. I realize that in some parts of our country -- particularly in the nation's capital -- people live in circumstances where the ideology of politicians outweighs the will of their constituents. Though I remember from civics class that the Constitution was drafted specifically to protect the will of constituents from their lawmakers, I know there's a whole industry built up now to protect the will of lawmakers from their constituents.

But I didn't think that was the prevailing wisdom here. We hadn't fallen victim to the political industry like folks have back East.

Then I read articles like Paul Rolly's column in this morning's Trib and I wonder if we're not so far away from succumbing to it, too.

"Lawmakers stack the deck on vouchers" is the headline, and the first sentence tells the whole story. "About 20 lobbyists were summoned to a meeting Monday by legislative leaders who urged them to roll up their sleeves and help save the voucher law."

Isn't a ballot referendum supposed to be the voice of the people? In fact, isn't it the last chance the people have to have their say on a law, after the legislature has had its way? That's what the Constitution provides. So what's wrong with informing every Utahn man and woman of voting age what the referendum says, answer any questions they have, then let them vote on whether to keep this law or discard it?

I know the answer, and the answer goes a long way toward telling me how I should vote on the referendum. The answer is that informing Utahns and letting them decide is too great a risk to the will of our lawmakers. The people may choose to overturn a bill -- a bill, by the way, that passed the state House by only one vote. And it is no secret, as I've discovered in just a few weeks of researching on the internet, that a great many of our lawmakers have been paid -- in the form of campaign contributions -- to do the bidding of a few wealthy ideologues.

Mr. Rolly writes, "The meeting was held at the Utah Board of Realtors office and the lobbyists were put in the position of either committing to the pro-voucher campaign or rejecting a request from the very lawmakers they need to help pass their legislative agendas each year. The legislators hosting the meeting were House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy; House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara; House Assistant Majority Whip Brad Dee, R-Ogden; Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble, R-Provo; and Senate Majority Assistant Whip Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse."

I was going to do this anyway, after getting the idea from Jeremy (http://www.themannings.org/soapbox/2007/08/28/the-money-behind-the-voucher-movement/#comments) earlier this week, but I hope to spend part of this weekend totaling up all of the campaign contributions given to these very lawmakers, one by one, and others by Parents for Choice in Education, and All Children Matter, and the nationwide network of pro-voucher donors.

So these state-paid lobbyists for PCE and ACM -- I'm talking about our elected representatives -- are rustling up an army of their own, not to inform voters and defend their right to vote on the voucher referendum, but instead to protect their masters' investment. And what are these newly-commandeered recruits to say? If they refuse, they risk getting doors slammed in their faces in Salt Lake City next winter. Mr. Rolly is right to call them a "captive audience." They're captive, all right: Detained and forced into labor by PCE and ACM.

"Those summoned to the meeting were asked to help defeat the November referendum that would repeal the voucher bill passed earlier this year. Most were lobbyists for business associations representing manufacturers, mining, homebuilders, small businesses, real estate agents, food retailers, trucking, the Chamber of Commerce, utilities and others," Mr. Rolly writes here (http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_6767098).

"The legislators explained to the captive audience that they were invited because their organizations were part of former Gov. Mike Leavitt's Business/Education Coalition, which issued a report in 2002 recommending various ways to improve education, including tuition tax credits for private schools. Because their groups had already endorsed the voucher concept, the legislators said, they need to step up and help defeat those who want to repeal the law that provides up to $3,000 toward private school tuition."

And what did Speaker Curtis and Sen. Bramble demand from their conscripts? Their money and their names, as if they were holding up an old stagecoach. A hundred years ago, it was called highway robbery. What is it called now?

And worse, this robbery is going to go on for a while, Mr. Rolly writes. "The lobbyists have been summoned to a follow-up breakfast meeting Thursday at the Board of Realtors to report on their fund-raising progress."

That's next Thursday morning. I think it's too bad it's a school morning, or Utah school kids taking civics would know exactly where to find their House and Senate leaders and ask them which is more important, heeding the will of constituents or protecting the million-dollar investment of ideologues from Michigan?

3 comments:

Oldenburg said...

Utah Constitution, Article VI, Section 1.
(1) The Legislative power of the State shall be vested in:
(a) a Senate and House of Representatives which shall be designated the Legislature of the State of Utah; and
(b) the people of the State of Utah as provided in Subsection (2).
(2) (a) (i) The legal voters of the State of Utah, in the numbers, under the conditions, in the manner, and within the time provided by statute, may:
(A) initiate any desired legislation and cause it to be submitted to the people for adoption upon a majority vote of those voting on the legislation, as provided by statute; or
(B) require any law passed by the Legislature, except those laws passed by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house of the Legislature, to be submitted to the voters of the State, as provided by statute, before the law may take effect.
...

The legislature is trying to undermine the public's clear displeasure with this law. The number of signatures gathered and polling makes that pretty clear.

Yet there they go again, trying to use their big money lobbyist friends to con people into voting for voucher. Otherwise gay people will get married...or something.

andbrooke said...

One must hope that the lobbyists are not in the same camp as the legislators. Otherwise, it seems no one is representing their constituents. I've posted about this on my blog, edublahg.blogspot.com. I am most interested to hear what the lobbyists do.

voucher foe said...

While PCE is busy attacking PTA and UEA by falsing claiming that teachers are using government resources (a school district bus that was actually a private rented bus)to advance the pro-public education agenda, these lawmakers are wielding their political clout to extort money from lobbyist pals. I guess they have to show some in-state contributions some way.


I'm sure it will work. The lobbyists will come through, like always. Then, in the next legislative session, public school advocates will once again be treated with distain and disrespect while business and industry lobbyists enjoy their special status among these elected leaders.

I hope the public is listening. Does anyone question why these particular industries even have a position on vouchers in the first place? Who made those decisions? Aren't all of them members of Howard Stephensen's Taxpayers Association?