Carol Costa: General Assembly—Big Finish, Cliffhanger, Or Flop?
Thursday, June 13, 2013
The General Assembly: Great TV?
In June and July there is nothing better on the telly than our General Assembly at work into the wee hours of the evening, the frantic committee agenda postings, and the often times ill-tempered lawmakers whose quips, barbs and jabs roll easily off their weary tongues. It is Capitol TV at its very best. This season of the GA brought new characters, plots and its share of watchable controversies. But, let’s face it, it is the hot and steamy Junes and Julys underneath the famous dome that bring fantastic drama via Capitol TV directly to its faithful viewers. And, yes I am hooked! It is undeniable that lines like, “Give me a break; we are picking the taxpayers’ pockets!” and “You can put lipstick on a pig Governor, but it’s still a pig,” that simply make the hot and sticky finale all that much more compelling to watch.
Here the rub. As entertaining as the end is, it comes with real impact to each and every Rhode Islander. That is why our eyes and ears should be focused on season’s end, as we all pay for it. This is the time when bills will be batted back and forth between committees, chambers and then ultimately to floor votes to either be shot down or sent to Governor Chafee’s desk. It seems on its face that the GA this season has moved many more bills to the Governor’s desk before the inevitable July crunch time. The bill tracking and RILIN resources have also become important and valuable cast members this year.
The End of the GA Session… What will it Hold?
What could the end hold in 2013? As I write this column, 10 of the 11 House Committees have posted agendas and 9 of the 12 Senate Committees have posted agendas. The June 12th and 13th House floor calendars contain 27 bills along with various committee recommendations, ranging from revocation of charters, to prescription eye drops, to taxation, to gambling and parole. It is that time of year where we must really pay attention to the plot, as the season winds down. Happily it has become easier to do so with streaming vote technology, bill tracking and of course Capitol TV. In the last 48 hours the GA has voted on, debated over, held hearings on matters pertaining to casino oversight, social media privacy laws, school choice, a revamp of EDC, approval of 2 tax rates for municipalities, and new standards for septic systems. All of these pieces of legislation have direct impact on the people of Rhode Island and that is why access to the information, calendars, hearing notices and transparency must be front and center.
Believe me, I am not trying to trivialize this important time for lawmakers and taxpayers alike. The real business that takes place on Smith Street requires our constant attention and this time of year in particular. I urge everyone to take some time to keep your television tuned to Capitol TV and set the RILIN as a favorite in your web browser. We are more than casual fans in this production; we are in fact the Executive Producers. Let us work toward a season finale filled with good bills, openness, transparency, and by all means the personalities of the characters we elect!
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