Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to Stop Spread of Special Interests in Government
By Peter Stern


ONCE AGAIN, elected officials are letting the "stew simmer." So many legislative and "special" sessions [at a cost of $2 million each] have gone up in smoke without fixing anything.

The real question is: How are elected officials getting away with doing so little to resolve crisis issues?

Seems like everyone but hardworking Texans got something for themselves. Even now there is lobbying for the gambling industry, but little is being accomplished to improve the quality of our children's education or to find a more suitable source of financing public schools. Meanwhile, homeowners still are in dire need of property tax relief; consequently, home foreclosures continue to rise. Gov. Perry is pointing the blame at legislators for not arriving at resolutions. In part, he's correct. But Perry needs to assume the responsibility for most of our problems - after all, as governor he's our state manager! Furthermore, Perry has called for and wasted more tax dollars on special sessions than any previous governor.

Currently the governor is running for reelection so he's planting "smoke & mirrors" again with his placebo cures, e.g., the implementation of the 15member committee to "study" the home tax/appraisal system. If the state would receive $100 for every "study" Perry implemented, Texas would not be in its current financial mess. Much as with the Texas Tax Reform Commission (which was supposed to find cures to financing public schools), don't expect any brilliant results.

However, during the past five years of Perry's reign special interests have reaped large profits at a huge cost to Texas taxpayers.

So who are the real culprits within our political system?

It starts at the top with an inept and/or special interest-motivated governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker. It dominoes down to most of our legislative members. Elected officials are being "bought" by special interests.

Special interests are relentless and insatiable. They are the vermin and parasites destroying the very lives of Texans and their children.

So what can Texans do to stop the vicious cycle?

First, we need to demand a more open form of state government. While Attorney General Greg Abbott has moved towards open government by hiring one attorney to oversee it and has made it mandatory for officials to attend classes on open government. However, the AG Offices does little to enforce the laws of open government; consequently, there is no accountability and officials continue to run hog wild at the capitol.

We need to hold elected officials more accountable for how each votes on every issue. How a legislator votes must become public knowledge and documented into the public record.

The next step is for taxpayers to take away the power wielded by special interest lobbyists and groups. Voters need to make campaign contributions less powerful. Lawmakers need to put a more rational limitation on campaign contributions and voters need to make the issues the criteria for electing our officials.

Special interests must not be permitted to lobby inside the capital during regular and special sessions - that includes private individuals. After all, we don't permit campaigning within the borders of voting halls and ballot boxes, do we?

Until Texas voters demand accountability and until the laws of open government are fully enforced, the plight of special interest vermin will continue.

By Peter Stern


George Eliot


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