The leaders of the Senate finally delivered what many thought should have happened a long time ago: the death of the not so special session. The House will meet tomorrow, presumably to put their finishing touches on the session, but with the Senate’s Sine Die action yesterday, what the House does at this point is irrelevant. As a former Speaker Pro Tem, that’s not easy to write – but it’s true in this instance!
It was apparent to most in the state that the special session had died weeks ago. However, being eternal optimists (or just not wanting to be the first to say goodbye), the legislature kept the session on artificial life support. Until yesterday, the taxpayers of the state were very much in danger of a last-minute recovery that might have been good politics for some but bad policy for all.
Everyone is quick to assess blame. I don’t think that is really important. What is important is that the legislature actually functioned as it should – sort of. The Aerotropolis/China Hub was a pipe dream that was really no different than past promises of greatness. The difference was that rather than having shallow claims go unchallenged and the masses blissfully unaware of what was happening, grassroots activists got engaged, and the largest part of the Aerotropolis bill was shown to be unnecessary.
In fact, it was shown to not only be unnecessary with millions of square feet of existing warehousing space available but it was exposed to be a nice little fund for just a few developers at the expense of seniors and other taxpayers. The foibles of the proposal with other elements thrown in are numerous but why beat a dead horse. At least dead for now.
There were good elements of the economic development bill. The Senate was on the right track to bring more accountability and caps to huge taxpayer giveaways. I confess to have supported some of these in the past when they appeared to be productive uses. It’s kind of one those areas that you wish you knew then what you know and understand now.
It’s difficult for those on the outside to understand and accept that many of the legislators they malign for proposing what many consider not so good ideas, chief among them of government picking winners and losers are really well meaning. They are sincere in their attempts to make the economic future of our state brighter and more vibrant. The malady many of those well meaning legislators suffer from is that they really think they can accomplish this through government largess. They can’t but they truly believe they can.
The House had a valid point as well. The Senate has increasingly become a body where for good or bad one senator can stop something. The once limited use of a filibuster has now become a common threat. I can understand the reluctance of the House not to give one senator carte blanche control over sunsets.
The interesting thing is there already exists an avenue for addressing tax credits. What members of the House nor the Senate seem to fully understand is that the House Budget Committee or the Senate Appropriations Committee can effectively kill any tax credit program they want just by voting against it. Just ask the sausage casing folks.
Yes, the special session is concluded. We can now rest peacefully. At least until January 4, 2012 when our liberties will once again be in danger as the legislature meets for the Second Regular session of the 96th General Assembly.