Raging Against the Machine

The AJC has recently reported that there is a “feud” going on in the state Senate chambers.  Jim Galloway wrote about the emailed newsletter following the adjournment of the General Assembly from Senator Bill Heath, in which Senator Heath describes Chicago style tactics happening under the Gold Dome.  Feel free to read it in its entirety.  Despite the fact that I am a HUGE fan of Mr. Galloway’s work, I will respectfully disagree that this is a feud, yet congratulate the AJC on the sensational headline choice.

Like Mr. Galloway, I watched as the Senator rose in opposition both to Floor Leader Miller and the Lt. Governor, yet my recollection of the evening’s events were a bit less sensational.  It should be said, I’m a big fan of Senator Heath, Floor Leader Miller AND our Lt. Governor.  Each gentleman is easy to like, the Lt. Governor and Floor Leader have self-depreciating senses of humor, and none of them are camera hogs- sort of a rarity in the Senate.  I got to know Senator Heath a bit when I served as a Senate Aide in 2010.  He has a quiet, stern, yet warm way about him.  He’s as straight as an arrow, and he is not a rabble rouser.  His policy stances and mine could probably not be farther apart, yet I respect the man immensely and it was for all of these reasons his raging against the Senate political machine that evening was eye opening.

As the hours dragged on, and I watched his debate with the Lt. Governor, I could not help but admire him more.  It is difficult to argue with people respectfully, when passions run high and those others have more power than you.  Yet most in the office where I was sitting simply wanted him to sit down, to let the night end as quickly as possible so they might return to their beds and home life.  But not me.

I love rule followers.  I am one. Heath is no different.  I have always asserted that I do not write the rules, I merely attempt to learn them so that I may use them to my own advantage.  So too did Heath.  His parliamentary approach was fitting in decorum, his knowledge of the rules accurate, and he did not speak out of turn, even when overruled.  He was not wrong; he was simply overruled.  Some may say this was for the sake of time and that either way, his efforts were futile.  Yet I will respectfully disagree.

Senator Heath did something much larger than just rail against one bill.  He exposed a problem rampant in the Senate: lack of transparency. 

Unlike the House, the Senate does not broadcast their committee meetings on the web, the Secretary of the Senate’s office does not offer both House and Senate bill copies, as the Clerk of the House office offers, and even in their requirements of fiscal notes (the dollar amount impact an individual bill is estimated to have) are only required if the bill raises “significant” funds, per Senate Rules.  Finally, Representative Mike Dudgeon created a software that allows different versions of bills to be compared, highlighting the differences of each iteration of the bill in yellow (access only granted to members and staff of the General Assembly, not common folk like you and I).  It is my understanding that like the video broadcasts, the Senate does not embrace this technology as much as the House, so the hope that the two chambers will eventually open up this Georgia-born transparency tool to the general voting public is still a relative pipe dream.

Heath didn’t start a feud.  He raged against the machine of the Senate.  A machine whose rust and slow moving cogs are almost as derelict as the idea that the voters will continue to settle for less than complete transparency.

And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control 
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya!

~Rage Against The Machine, Killing In the Name Of

One thought on “Raging Against the Machine

  1. I applaud the House for broadcasting committees, and hell, even some key subcommittees I’ve seen broadcasted too.

    I applaud the Senate for printing floor amendments and handing them at least to the press before a vote. And being on handy pieces of paper, good folk like Jon from PP tweet out pix. So you still have to kind of be an insider to be reading amendments, but it’s a start that they at least exist.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a piece of paper containing a House floor amendment.

    I’ve heard tell of the Dudgeon software too.

    Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound like the world’s most difficult thing to recreate.

    And hell, if Louisiana can publish so much info about a bill, including fiscal info, why not us?

    http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=14RS&b=HB1&sbi=y

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