Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Call for reform spreads and grows

David Shapiro's Volcanic Ash column this morning picks up not only on a crazy bill which is moving through the legislature, but on some of the reform activities you've read about here at Disappeared News.

Thanks, Dave!

I'm feeling encouraged when an experience journalist validates my own observations with regard to the need for reform.

Now there's no going back.

The public pressure on the legislature is increasing. Tomorrow, one or more legislators will speak with House leadership about paying attention to the requests of citizens and organizations for reasonable reform. Asking for clean government is an honorable task, the more so because we're not getting it.

If nothing is done, and if legislators continue to take special interest money in exchange for sleight of hand in the hearing rooms, pressure will continue on them right up to election day 2006. The public does not like to be fooled so much of the time.

The best thing that the leadership could do would be to pull the embedded executives out of legislative offices immediately. There should be laws or rules to prohibit the conflicts of interest that plague the legislature year after year. Passing those laws would only increase people's trust in their lawmakers.

New Hampshire has passed laws restricting volunteer activities. The latest refers to the executive branch, but we could create a similar one for our legislature:
Restrictions on Simultaneous Employment and Public Service. Volunteer service shall not be used, directly or indirectly, for personal financial gain, or to facilitate non-public communications with executive branch officials for the purpose of promoting or advancing any matter on behalf of a third party, or to influence executive branch officials in the performance of their duties.
Does anyone have a doubt that an embedded corporate executive working side by side with a legislative committee chair, can "facilitate non-public communications" with the legislator? They probably talk several times a day, almost every day of the session.

I've asked the Ethics Commission to check on the role of the HMSA Foundation Executive Administrator working as an "intern" in Rep. Herkes' office. Could he have influenced the wording of two bills that were amended, as far as I understand them, to favor HMSA and other health insurers, and which disadvantage small businesses who pay the bulk of insurance premiums and patients who may want to appeal denials of service to the insurance commissioner? I have no idea if any such thing took place, but the bills changed so radically that I am hoping the Ethics Commission will agree to look into it. After all, they say "where there's smoke there's fire. "

And we're talking here about decisions made in smoke-filled rooms.

Help clear the air. Please consider signing the petition if you haven't already done so. And thanks!


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