Monday, September 19, 2011

Missing in Action: State Lawmakers

The function of the state legislature is to provide oversight of the executive branch and its administration of state government.

I read this recently in my son’s social studies textbook and it got me thinking: Are our state lawmakers really providing meaningful oversight of the administration?

A few years ago, it seemed that public hearings were being held on just about everything that Spitzer or Paterson was doing, but now there’s almost nothing.

I actually checked the public hearing schedule for the Senate and Assembly and didn’t find much at all. There’s some activity with gaming and fracking, but it seems like redistricting is the main issue for lawmakers. Numerous hearings are planned on that next month.

But what about all the other program areas that are so critical to ordinary New Yorkers in their daily lives? What about economic development, education, ethics, and health care?

Well, there doesn’t appear to be much happening. And this is despite the fact that the governor has implemented sweeping changes in each area. For example: In economic development, the governor scrapped existing job creation programs in favor of the regional council approach. In education, the governor implemented the largest school aid cut in history. In ethics, he eliminated the scandal-plagued Public Integrity Commission, but hasn’t constituted a replacement. In health care, he redesigned the entire Medicaid system.

To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been a recent public hearing or community forum on any of these topics, nor is there anything scheduled.

So are state lawmakers doing their jobs? Are they closely monitoring developments and checking to see that these new policies are working?

We’d all like to think that they are, but I don’t see much evidence of it.

Sooo…. How does one explain this situation to a young student? How does one do it without sounding awfully cynical? If you can’t explain it to your children it’s time to change it.

No comments:

Post a Comment