On December 17th the Assembly Judiciary Hearing released 4 proposals to amend the constitution. Republican Judiciary member Holly Schepisi repeatedly called into question cramming these proposals, each complex and important, into one hearing tightly controlled with limited time for testimony and debate. “It’s government as its absolute worst,” she said. And she was not entirely wrong.
Admittedly it was her role to lead GOP opposition to the Democrats’ agenda in committee. But that doesn’t mean the criticism has no merit.
Process and transparency matter.
In response to Asw Schepisi we could offer that there’s plenty of time to debate the merits of these proposals before their possible appearance on the November 2016 ballot. Hearings last month were just first steps in a long path that likely will require two floor votes to make it to the ballot. Releasing them in committee is a far cry from approving them. It just allows the process to continue.
Looking beyond the immediate political gaming, however, we should consider how the integrity of the process impacts desired victory on the ballot in 2016. Public perception – first impressions – of the initial introduction of these amendments matters. Rushed, last minute introduction doesn’t just invite, but validates, criticisms that this is politics at its worst. And it surely can leave the average voter suspicious of what deals lurk behind the amendments – who’s going to benefit, and whether it’s even about the greater good at all.
One has to wonder though, did Schepisi miss the irony in her criticism? The Democrats are hardly the only ones whose motivation may stray from good government. Gov. Christie’s led one of the least transparent administrations in New Jersey, hiding everything from his American Express bills to the previously posted municipal property tax rebates. Republican Legislators change their votes in response to a Governor’s veto with explanations that defy logic.
As the Dems move toward regaining the Governor’s seat in 2017 it’s a smart move to push a strong agenda. But it would be even better if they demonstrated a different way of governing.