Rob Christenson has a great piece in this morning's N&O. It's excellent, but a bit depressing. Don't take my word for it. Please go read it yourself.
Someone else might rip holes through it, but I thought he did a nice job of accurately assessing the legislature's attempts at reform. Among his points:
1. It's an election year and legislators had to look like they were addressing issues whether they wanted to or not.
2. There's a pay to play culture in Raleigh, but it was just as bad in the mid 90's when the Republicans were in power.
More below the fold...
3. The current package doesn't quite go far enough, but it is a step in the right direction and is quite a bit better than the Legislative Ethics Act of 1975.
Maybe I think it's a great piece because I tend to agree when it comes to ethics reform. It's nice they took a step in the right direction, but why just one step? This is the part that I found a bit depressing.
The pay-to-play culture evolved because North Carolina is one of the most fiercely politically competitive states in the country. To maintain control of the legislature, Democratic leaders have created sophisticated political machines that require millions of dollars. The machines are funded by special- interest groups with business before the legislature: power companies, banks, optometrists, trial lawyers, labor unions, home builders, real estate agents, automobile dealers and insurance companies, to name just a few. Things were no different when the Republicans controlled the House in the mid-'90s.
The ethics reform won't change that.
What will it take to change that? Obviously, just putting the other party back in power won't change it. They were just as bad when they had the chance to lead.
Maybe, just maybe, this is where increased attention to the foibles of lawmakers will come into play. Maybe, just shedding a bit more daylight on these transactions is all we need to keep some lawmakers in line. Lawmakers need to be reminded that just because something is legal, it doesn't make that something right.
At first I thought that Andy Curliss' ferrygate was silly. I have no problem with lawmakers getting a few perks because they are so poorly paid to begin with. Yes, it could have been handled a little better - maybe a small price tag to defray the cost of food. Better yet, a contribution to a worthy cause would have been nice. But, it just wasn't illegal, it wasn't a bribe....it was just a perk. (Just my opinion...I haven't seen it claimed that a law was broken.)
However, shedding daylight on it has served a purpose. Lawmakers, especially those involved, have hopefully learned to get a little more information about an event before accepting an invitation. I'm probably being a bit naive in hoping for this and it may take a few more "gotchas" before some of them get it.
Like Christensen says, it's a modest effort, but it's a start.