Legislative Tyranny- Putting Process Over People
EDITORIAL, Opinion Piece by
By Hank Sullivan
We’ve heard it many times, that we all have the same right to vote and that all votes count the same, right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, friends, any impression that your vote counts the same as anyone else’s is the result of an orchestrated illusion. My purpose here is to take you back stage and show you how they perform the trick.
Let me begin asking you this question: Does the vote you cast for representation in the US Congress count the same as, say, the votes cast by the people of the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin? You say yes? Well I say no. That is because House Speaker Paul Ryan is from Wisconsin’s 1st District. That means that the individual representing the people of Wisconsin’s 1st District holds virtual veto power over any legislation your representative may propose. That means the votes by people of Wisconsin’s 1st District wield more power than the votes by people of your district. Furthermore, the individual who represents the people of Wisconsin’s 1st District decides what legislation may ever come up for a vote. That person also decides who sits on powerful committees, and who chairs those committees. And the chairs of the committees decide which legislation their committee members even consider. So obviously, the individual representing Wisconsin’s 1st District is much more powerful that the individual representing you, no matter where you might live in the country.
I could win my case right there; but let’s bring this discussion closer to home, and look at our state government. The very same considerations at work controlling legislation in the US House of Representatives are at work in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly. In those houses, chief leaders appoint lesser leaders and use the power of appointment to gain personal control over the legislative processes of the Georgia General Assembly. Once they have control, those leaders devise rules to garner even more power over legislation. If your representatives are not in leadership, your vote for representation in state government does not count as much as those whose are. Plain and simple.
But it goes much further than just the pecking order within the houses of the General Assembly. The leaders who control the committees have the ability to make promises to those who occupy lesser rolls. And they make those promises in exchange for additional powers the people never even imagine. Those powers manifest within a system of rules, each legislative house deciding its own rules. While the purpose of those rules should ensure democratic decisions abiding throughout the legislative sessions, the practical purpose of those rules is to concentrate power in the hands of a few. What good is served when the people get equal say in a representative, but the representative lives under a king?
The rules guiding the legislative processes in the Georgia legislature contravene the purposes of the Georgia Constitution, which states, “All government, of right, originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” Now why would any member of Georgia’s elected government aspire to accumulate the kind of power as I describe unless he or she maintains purposes beyond simply acting out the will of the people as the Georgia Constitution requires?
The rules governing the legislative processes in the Georgia legislature subvert the democratic principles of Georgia’s Constitution. Instead of operating in a manner guaranteeing all voters an equal say in the creation of laws under which all are governed, the rules of both houses allow a selected few to control the law-making powers for the entire state.
And so what we have here is a sort of, “tyranny of the rules,” or “legislative tyranny,” a systematic scheme to undermine the purposes of the voting public, in favor of the purposes of a handful of legislators. These rules are the very machinery that allows private interests to supplant public interests in legislation. What I describe is how the Frankenstein monster destroys his creator, how concern for private interests translates into lines of legislation granting favors for the same.
The legislative processes of state government are broken. They should produce laws in keeping with the will of the people, not the will of private interests. Alas, the broken legislative systems I describe will never repair on their own. Power brokers generally die before they give up influence. So how can the people reclaim their rightful power over the legislative processes of state government? That is a very good question, one that I do not have room to explore here. But one thing is certain. The first step in resolving a problem is realizing you have one and understanding its nature. Whether Georgia government returns to the people is really up to the people. Now that you see the man behind the curtain, and how he is disregarding your will in favor of special interests, really friends, what are you going to do? I would like to know.