Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Travaglini Ripe for Advice

Oh, to have been a cockroach under the desk blotter of Senate President Robert E. (Don't Call Me Bobby Anymore) Travaglini yesterday. According to BayWindows and the Boston Globe, he and Governor Elect Deval Patrick discussed the pending ConCon session. Patrick could not convince him to do the right things.

In the late 60s, observers always found amusement watching the faces of school kids attending South Carolina legislative sessions. Having recently studied civics -- and perhaps viewed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington -- the young scholars had raised brows of attention. They knew the pointed and brilliant orations, the clear disagreements and debates over principles, and the struggle for the commonweal were moments away.

Instead, House Speaker Sol Blatt was slow of speech but quick of gavel. Major and minor bills alike rushed by like so many migrating birds. Every vote up or down was unanimous and without debate.

The reporters and other cynics in the chambers knew that the debates had occurred. They tended to come at barbecues and house parties, were the lubrications of overlapping self-interest and liquor eased the otherwise messy process.

The sunshine laws compelling open government have considerably reduced such tactics, even in the original states. Yet, leaders such as Travaglini and Patrick can and should talk privately before and maybe after debates. Understanding what's important to the other can benefit us all.

Unfortunately, the day before yesterday, Bobby had another failure of courage and will. The advisory, but non-binding, comments of the Supreme Judicial Court that the legislature had a duty to vote every initiative up or down scared our little guy. Then yesterday before the ConCon when Patrick visited him, Bobby figuratively plugged his ears during what the Globe quotes an aide as saying was a "cordial conversation."

With a different method, Bobby produced a similar effect to the Blatt era. He did not join House Speaker Sal DiMasi in efforts to sway pro-amendment voters and certainly did not use his power as presiding officer either to use a procedure to block the amendment or to allow a debate that might change minds.

The latter of course, is what those kids in Columbia expected. We don't need that here either apparently. He used his gavel to close off any chance of that. Despite the fact that he controlled whether there would be meaningful debate, he left saying, "There has been discussion on this issue for three years. There was no new elements brought into the conversation."

Bobby has never been much of a thinker and has never led in morality or ethics. However, he does consider his position the pinnacle of his career.

As such, he may be pissed that some upstart governor elect dares to call for him to act with social conscience. On the other hand, he slavishly listens to voters. He most assuredly would love to hear your views on what he should do. Monthly or even weekly contact would be effective.

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini
State House
Room 330
Boston, MA 02133

(617) 722-1500

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