Dee from the Desk: Good Government Crusaders - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Dee from the Desk: Good Government Crusaders

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Now that the “Master Lever bill” has passed through committee and is headed to the house floor for a vote, the Democrat Representatives should pass it.

Why not? They literally have nothing to lose. House Speaker Nick Mattiello said it the best, he is quoted in today’s Providence Journal saying, “I leave the Senate to their judgment.”

So while the House Judiciary Committee looks like heroes of good government for allowing the bill to go to a full vote, every Democrat in the House can sleep easy knowing that the bill has no shot in the Senate.

Earlier this month, a similar bill had a hearing in the Senate and it was “held for further study.” Might as well have just killed the bill because everyone knows that “held for further study” is the point of no return in the General Assembly. But holding it for further study is far too convenient because it allows the Democratic Senators to escape the issue without ever having to cast a vote against it.

Not to rain on all the good government groups and Republicans’ parade, but it is true. This bill is going nowhere. Supporters of the bill should laud the work of groups like Operation Clean Government and Common Cause RI, as well as individuals like Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Block for bringing this issue out into the centerfold of Rhode Island politics, but they also need to be realistic. The bill will not pass.

House members have nothing to lose at this point and they should at least pass it.  Then Democratic Representatives can tout themselves as bipartisan heroes and good government advocates, but it will all be a political show. Ultimately it’s meaningless unless the Senate gives the bill the OK and this is unlikely when you look at the leadership of the Rhode Island Senate. The bill is being reintroduced on the Senate side but it is hopeful at best to think that the bill will make it through this session.

Meanwhile, neighboring states laugh at us for having such an archaic mechanism on the ballot. Literally, people in Massachusetts think it is insane that in Rhode Island you can vote the entire ballot by just drawing one line. Rhode Island is one of fourteen states that still have this mechanism in place. In the past, Ken Block estimated that over 9000 voters pulled the lever for the Moderate Party in 2012 even though there were not Moderate Party candidates in every community. 

It is unknown how the elimination of the straight party ticket would effect the election; would less people turn out, would more Republicans and independents get elected? One thing is clear, the elimination of the lever in a strong Democratic state can only hurt the Democrats.

So while the House Democrats can vote the master lever through and look like good government crusaders looking out for the best interests of the people and not themselves, they aren’t too worried because they know that the bill will never survive the Senate.  If the bill passes the House, all representatives have to do is point their fingers at their colleagues on the other side of the State House and blame them for stalling the legislation.

Who knows, maybe in another few years the bill will finally make it through the entire General Assembly. But right now this can be looked at this victory as one “small step” for good government and perhaps one day the General Assembly will be ready to make the “giant leap.”

Follow me on twitter @Deedequattro

Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.
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