As you slog your way through a marathon budget session on
a Friday night, it’s nearly impossible not to dream up every possible scenario
in which you could leave the State House at a decent hour. (What if I pull the
fire alarm? Could the Speaker speak if I stole his gavel? Is it possible to pay
the interns to go on strike?)
The best idea I came up with would have to come directly
from press row. It would take a veteran reporter (maybe Kathy Gregg or Jim
Baron or the seasoned pro Ian Donnis) proposing his or her own amendment to the
budget: A gentle reminder to our esteemed State Reps that winning the Capitol
TV face time award won’t get you laid.
It’s true. I’m all for Democracy and whatnot, but if they
could have just done away with every Rep. taking five minutes to talk about
their voting record on a given issue over the past decade, we all could have
made the 10:00 happy hour at McCormick & Schmick's
That’s not to say some of the proposed amendments didn’t
have merit (or at least entertainment value). In fact, the best debate of the
night came when the proposed sales tax came under fire. The Finance Committee was pushing to expand
the tax to, among other things, digital downloads, over-the-counter drugs and
sightseeing tours in Rhode Island.
Well, one of the more diligent Reps, Karen Macbeth,
clearly did her homework, because she decided to question how in the world the
state could tax
the Polar Express tour that takes children to see Santa Claus. This, of
course, set off an hour’s worth of stories about the first time each Rep. took
the Polar Express.
In all fairness to Macbeth, she almost makes a great
point. If, perhaps, the sales tax was only directed at Santa, she would be
correct in her criticism. But it’s difficult to play the “what about the
children” card in this case if you’re going to vote in favor of the other
After all, children’s Tylenol will also be included in
the new taxes. As will the web protection software that blocks little Johnny
from watching porn while you’re at work. In fact, you could probably look at
the majority of bills introduced this year and argue that they’re negatively
affecting our rugrats.
And when “what about the children” starts getting asked
during every hearing, I’ll be the first one looking for the fire alarm.