The ‘bad old days’ will be back soon enough

The stench from the state Senate finally got so foul that the denizens of the legislative deep passed a number of rules reforms designed to make things better. The Republican minority, for example, won a third of the pig (otherwise known as pork). The minority party used to get less than that. When they were the majority, the Republicans gave the minority Democrats just a sniff of the pork so they have very little to yell about now, although it hasn’t stopped them.

The problem for the citizenry, of course, is that the infamous member items continue. This is part of what I have always called the IPP or Incumbent Protection Plan. One of the ways in which incumbents have a natural advantage is that they get to give out “goodies” in their districts while their opponents do not. It seems to me, everyone should be allowed to apply for “goodies” from the state agencies. It makes no sense to tell a powerful state Senator with one of the hundreds of titles these people give themselves that he or she can give a Little League field to the constituents while the kids playing in a nearby minority district only have one-third of a chance of getting the same playing field. The truth is, it makes no sense to give these things to give out as “goodies” to any incumbents, Republicans or Democrats. If you want a playing field, you should have to go to the appropriate state agency and apply for it. Everyone should have an equal chance at the dough. The same thing goes for money for your hospital or schools. The whole thing is disgusting and shows what happens when people get into office and make sure that the game is fixed so they can’t lose. This isn’t what we try to teach our children in grade school, and it sets a poor example for them now.

Another of the so-called reforms has to do with how bills get to the Senate floor. In the old days, the leader and his subservient flunkies had total say on which items made it to the light of day. Take, for example, Mayor Bloomberg’s crucial bill restoring mayoral control over the New York City School system. Under the new system, that bill could have been voted on, despite the self-serving senators like John Sampson who were playing the kind of electoral politics that would punish the children of the city who were doing so well under the mayoral system. Theoretically now, such a bill could be brought to the floor. But, you know what? It still will be very hard to do. If the leader tells you not to do something, you’ll listen if you ever want help from the head honcho in getting your bills or pork through the process. It comes down to the character of the players, rather than the rules. Put another way, where there’s a will to be greedy and venal and morally corrupt, there’s a way. Until we change the character of the people supposedly doing the public’s work, nothing will really change. You can mark my words on that. They may be fooling you, but my mom didn’t raise a fool.

I am sure the political scientists and the League of Women Voters and all the other so called “goo-goo” (good government) groups will be taking a lot of credit for all that has been achieved. Too bad, I can guarantee you that we will be back to the regular, insider way of doing things before you can say “Jack Sprat could eat no fat.”

We know that there are enough votes in the state Senate to pass a gay marriage bill, awarding civil rights to a lot of New Yorkers who have been second-class citizens for far too long. After the Democrats won back their tenuous majority status in the Senate, they could have, and should have, passed the Assembly bill making that happen. They didn’t because they were afraid of one Senator Ruben Diaz Jr. On occasion, that guy has threatened to take his marbles over to the Republican side. The collective backbone of these guys to do the right thing is made of jelly. Don’t be fooled, we will be back to the bad old days sooner, rather than later.

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 7/23/09

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