Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Listening to the sausage being made in the General Assembly

During the, ah, Special Session of the Delaware Senate in the wee hours of the morning I listened to two items of interest.

The first was interesting because of the substance:  I was hoping that HB 194, the bill to raise penalties on non-certified non-nurse midwives, would fail.  In that debate, when Senator Karen Petersen brought up the Canadian study published in 2009 (which tracked over 13,000 births at home and in hospitals), either Senator Hall-Long or her witness (it was impossible to tell from the audio), simply lied about the study.  She (I could tell that much from the audio) blandly told Senator Petersen that the Canadian study had only involved nurse midwives, not non-nurse wives.

In point of fact, exactly the opposite was true.  But Senator Petersen lacked the full data on the study right at that moment, and the measure passed, at least in part because somebody simply stood up and lied about the facts of the case.



It never occurred to me that witnesses would or could simply come into the General Assembly and lie during their testimony, not have anybody check, and just get bills passed that way.  It should have occurred to me; in retrospect I'm certain it happens all the time.  Which is one hell of a comment on our legislators that they are either (a) unaware; (b) apathetic; or (c) too intent on getting their own bills passed to point out the obvious:  a lot of people lie in Dover.

The second item didn't inherently interest me:  it was a concurrent resolution to establish a committee to advise the Senate on green buildings and energy savings.  At a guess, looking at the list of state agencies vying to be part of the committee, and the total absence of private entities, I'd be this group already exists in some form and just wants a new title that sounds like they have some influence.

Senator McBride, the sponsor working the resolution, was asked several questions about it, and replied each time with variations of this quote:  "I haven't the slightest idea.  They asked me to sponsor it so I did, and there's nobody here who knows the answer."  To which another Senator replied, "It doesn't really matter; nobody actually has to take their advice."

So then, moments later, on a voice vote, they passed the resolution that nobody knew anything about except that the committee had no actual power.

And we wonder how government in Delaware continues to grow like kudzu.

I know there are some smart people in the House and Senate--some people I respect even when I disagree with them completely.  But by the end of the night this past weekend, they were just passing laws because somebody asked them to do it, and it was evident in the background chatter that nobody except the sponsors (and sometimes not even them) had any real idea what they were legislating about.

This is the best we can do?

3 comments:

Citizen said...

On lying: as I attended several public hearings on H.B. 165 over the past month, I was also (naively) struck by the prevalence of blatant lying by public officials and the reluctance of legislators to call them out on this. Since this was a bill and a larger debate that I had followed closely, I knew (as, clearly, did several legislators) when DOE staff, advisors to the governor, and elected legislators were blatantly lying--but it was rare for them to be directly called out. Sometimes they would be asked the same question from different perspectives, pointedly, until they finally backed down and acknowledged that the questioner had a valid point, or that the proposed law didn't "exactly" say what they claimed (this usually after the text in question had been read aloud to them). So either our paid public figures are astoundingly incompetent and know less about the laws they've drafted than ordinary members of the public do, or they assume that they can snow a credible public with baldface lies about what a law says--even though the text is available online and most voting adults are fully literate.

Among the people whose public pronouncements should be taken with several pounds of salt, based on my recent observations, are Donna Johnson of the DOE and Rebecca Taber, the governor's young ed policy advisor. Lots of misinformation provided by those two, multiple times. If Ed. Sec'y Murphy ever said anything of substance, I'd be wary of that, too--but he speaks in such insubstantial platitudes that there's not much to take issue with, one way or the other.

I would appreciate any legislator who would states, clearly but politely, that s/he believes another public official has just said something decidedly untrue. It is hard enough for voers to sort through the actual complex details of these lengthy bills, let alone discern when they are being told something that is completely untrue about the bill in question. You'd have to bring your own attorney and have her scrutinize the bills ahead of each hearing--who can afford this?

kavips said...

Both Steve and Citizen bring up valid points. What is amazing after hearing these stories is that this country is still alive after all this... Just think how much worse and more corrupt it is in Kansas? Delaware is actually a good state comparatively.

As for 165, (first thank you Citizen for your diligence on this matter), it was a very complicated bill. I don't think the argument against it matured until the day of its final passage....

People always lie when it serves their self interest... Which brings up a good question to ponder later by either Steve or myself: if when we don't lie, we do so because it furthers our self interest...

But it essence, the crime of all the lying, was that it was never given a period of rebuttal... Even in a courtroom, on oath, the prosecution lies. Which is why after they have done all their damage, the Defense has a period to answer all those defaminations and if lying did occur, is given the opportunity to point them out...

HB 165 because of it's speed and not on its merit, never got that opportunity...

And it is not the end of the world that it got passed really. If the facts warrant the public's attention aver the next 6 month, then by inserting and striking existing language, these points too can change...

We need to engage the public... even if just because public schools are what made America great the last century, and if we wish to continue forward as a great nation, great public schools must watered and fed to thrive...

Period.

Nancy Willing said...

I too was listening to the audio of the Senate during the exchange between Lavelle - and who I thought was McDowell not McBride - over the last minute suspension of rules for the unclear, unvetted entity . I will double check.