Have you ever wanted to be a major league manager? I have. I can imagine sitting on my perch in the dugout, gnawing on Swedish Fish (I’m not a gum chewer) and telling guys to “find a pitch you can hit” and “hustle” and then patting them on the rear when they return. Of course after reading the Francona book and seeing how they seem to live in no-win situations, spend an inordinate amount of time stroking players’ egos and managing petulant owners, perhaps it’s not a job that should be high on my list.
Another job I know is not for me? Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. I don’t know how he does it. Day after day you have to deal with the endless wants and needs of 74 other reps and pretend to care about the issues they are passionate about. The worst part is that some of the issues they are passionate about are incredibly dumb and a complete waste of time. That’s right—whether it’s passing legislation declaring calamari as the official state appetizer (you knew that was coming) or banning lap dogs from their driver’s laps—an unacceptably high volume of completely useless legislation seems to flow into the House chamber each year.
I give Speaker Fox high marks for his patience. After taking a lot of heat in recent years for the stagnant economy and economic development gone bad, I think I would hurl my shoes at the first state rep who filed one of these “hall of shame” bills and then asked me to support it. Useless legislation, along with the various proclamations and salutations generated for almost any occasion, is a huge waste of time and money. Bills require some attention from paid staff to craft the appropriate language, assign a fiscal note, add it to website and create a press release (if needed). So whether it funds education or declares “Family Guy” as the official state cartoon, each piece of legislation costs taxpayers something even if it does nothing of value. Perhaps even more galling, these bills represent time that is not being spent solving the state’s real problems.
If I were making the House rules, they might look a little like this:
• No bills about “official Rhode Island anything.” Ever. We have a tree, a motto and a chicken. No mas.
• All bills must have 20 cosponsors to get a committee hearing. If you can’t get 19 of your colleagues to agree that you’ve got a good idea, it’s not one.
• Each member can be the prime sponsor of five bills each session. If you have SO many good ideas that you need more bills, pass your bright ideas along to the guy sitting next to you. I can guarantee that someone is running low.
The bottom line is this: Rhode Island faces huge problems and we need our government leaders at every level to buckle down and focus only on the things that will move us forward. Calamari and front-seat fidos are unwelcome distractions from the real business of the state. Perhaps we can ask all our players to help the manager by sticking to just one rule: ßNo beer and chicken in the clubhouse, no calamari and dogs in the State House.