Monday, March 05, 2007

Real Progress but Poor Process

In yesterday’s Elmira Star-Gazette, Jay Gallagher reminded us not to be dazzled by the recent bargains that have been struck between Governor Spitzer and legislative leaders:
One thing that hasn't changed, though: All of these deals were negotiated behind closed doors, and lawmakers have no intention of holding hearings on the bills to hear what the public thinks.

When asked about the public being shut out, lawmakers cite the fact that all of these issues have been aired for years around the state, and therefore the public has already had its say.

But they never have had a chance to comment on specific ethics, workers' compensation and sex offender bills that are likely to become law.

And they won't this year, either.
We echo Jay’s sentiment. While we applaud the considerable progress that has been made toward solving some of New York’s most pressing problems, we urge our political leaders to put the breaks on long enough to listen to rank-and-file legislators and their constituents.

Real democracy can be messy. Hearings, debate and public participation may mean deals are amended and legislation altered. But ultimately, we believe, this is for the good. It will make for better legislation and solutions, and ensure that the public and rank-and-file legislators are invested in those solutions (and maybe even come up with a few on their own).

Hearings and public input are crucial elements of responsible government that should not be subject, as they currently are, to the whim of chamber leaders and committee chairs.

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