Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Don't watch

Somebody – I think it was Mark Twain – said there are two things you don’t want to see made; sausage and legislation. I’ve never seen sausage being made, but certainly legislation has a disgusting gestation.

I’ve lately been involved in the legislature passing judgment on a rule passed by a state agency. The agency passes the rule, and at the next session the legislature can either axe it or leave it alone. They can’t change it.

Anyway, I listen to the questions the legislators ask, and I see of whom they ask the questions, and it makes me cringe. The legislators struggle to get informed on many issues and have limited time. Learning in a committee hearing is difficult because of the cumbersome process of getting the chair’s approval for every question, and all the formality. So they try, but it’s hard and they don’t really learn much.

The people who know the most about the issue are staff who work with it daily, but they’re not up speaking or being questioned; insufficient stature. So it ends up that the most knowledgeable people presenting to the legislature are the lobbyists who are paid to understand the issue. Unfortunately, they have an axe to grind.

If you really want to understand something, talk to the generals who can see a big picture, but also talk to the privates who know the details. And don't hang around the statehouse unless you have a strong stomach.

No comments: