Okay the election is over and it is time for our politicians to walk the talk. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is. It’s time to stop spouting platitudes like these and actually get something done.
If any local government officials want to take this message to heart, that is great, but I’m thinking primarily about our federal representatives.
I’ve been waiting for the campaigning to be over to see what our newly reelected Congressman Rick Nolan does with the resolution he introduced in the waning days of the last session of the House of Representatives. His Restore Democracy resolution was a key piece of his campaign message. While touring the state to gather votes, he said time and again that Congress has become a very “undemocratic institution.”
I heard him talking about the unproductivity of the current Congress when he visited Cook County in August. I think he was sincere in his frustration with the way the system currently works. At that time he said most congressional representatives spend hours every week in call centers, fundraising for the next campaign.
Nolan said things in Washington, D.C. had changed drastically from when he served as Minnesota representative 30 years ago. He said in his early days as a legislator there was a spirit of bipartisan cooperation—and things got done.
Nolan said in those days bills were read thoroughly and discussed and debated in committees, with 7 – 8,000 hearings and subcommittees each year. In that August meeting in Cook County, Nolan said the 113th Congress had only 500 committee meetings. He said what that means is that all the members of Congress don’t get a chance to share their concerns or offer suggestions. He said bills are brought to the House floor to be voted on without having been read by more than a handful of representatives.
He summed up the discussion at the August luncheon with a statement he repeated over and over as he worked his way across the district campaigning, “We’ve got to change the way we do politics in this country if we want a Congress that works and a government that isn’t broken.”
Nolan’s Restore Democracy resolution is a start. The resolution has four tenets: 1.) The House and Senate will work five days a week, on the same schedule; 2.) Every bill brought to the House floor will have an ‘open rule’ allowing for amendments and full debate; 3.) No bill or resolution can be brought to the House floor without first being heard in committee, with amendments permitted and voted on before the bill is passed, and 4.) The House can consider no conference committee report unless the committee has met at least three times with all members present and resolved all differences by vote. The conference report must be available to all members at least 72 hours before the vote.
The resolution introduces common sense ideas that should be in place. The problem is that it is only a resolution, not a bill. Hopefully Nolan is serious and he pushes ahead with the Restore Democracy Act. Hopefully he finds likeminded representatives who will co-sponsor the bill and move it through committee and to the Senate.
Taking a look www.Congress.Gov is disheartening. The website lists hundreds of bills that are in limbo.
Important pieces of legislation that would benefit American citizens such as HR 2692 Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2013, which would restrict the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and evaluate the health of America’s bees or HR 2485 Helping Homeless Veterans Act of 2013, which would fund the Department of Veterans Affairs counseling and veteran reintegration programs.
There are bills that could save tax dollars such as HR 2643 Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act of 2013, which would require federal agencies to reduce travel expenses by the use of video conferencing.
And there are bills that would directly benefit families, such as HR 1527 Student Loan Interest Deduction Act of 2013, which would increase the tax deduction for interest paid on education loans or HR 769 Child Tax Credit Permanency Act of 2013 which would make permanent the child tax credit and would require an annual inflation adjustment.
There are many, many, more. All important. All waiting for our legislators to move forward. It’s time for Congressman Nolan and his colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—to fulfill those campaign promises.
Can any of you seriously say
the Bill of Rights could get
through Congress today?
It wouldn’t even get out of
F. Lee Bailey
Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?
Last month’s photo was apparently too tough. We had no correct entries. The picture was of a new bridge over Swamp Creek in Hovland—on the Hovland Woods ATV trail. Try your luck! Take a look at the November photo. If you think you know where we were when we took the picture, send us your answer.
The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $30 value). Good luck!
Answer to the November WHERE ARE WE? must be received by December 15, 2014.
Send your entry to:
Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604
Drop it by our office at: 15 First Avenue West
I had a lot of fun on Election Night 2014 on air with Jay Andersen and Roger Linehan on WTIP Community Radio. I don’t know how I ended up being part of the WTIP election news team, but I have enjoyed taking part for a few years now.
I hope listeners did too. We know at least one person was tuned in—Sherrie Lindskog who brought us some delicious bread pudding with a vanilla cream sauce. Thanks, Sherrie!
I think we do make a good team. Jay and Roger are much more in tune with the regional and national races and the ballot measures across the United States. They are more hard news—I’m there to lighten the mood a bit.
I fill in the slow spots with information on our local electoral process. I turn to Cook County Auditor Braidy Powers for that information. Braidy is our “go-to” guy for many things, but especially inquiries on elections or financial questions.
So he was happy to provide replies to my questions about precinct numbers and voter registration. I asked how many election judges are there and who are they? Braidy gave me a complete list so I could give a shout out to them on the radio. Of course they were hard at work counting ballots, so they likely didn’t hear me. But I do appreciate their efforts.
Braidy was able to answer the question of whether election judges are paid—yes they are, $10 an hour and mileage.
Asked what the county saves by conducting mail ballots, Braidy had historical data on the last election before mail balloting began in 1994. That election process cost the county $49,175. The next election, with mail ballots in 1996, cost $38,702—a savings of $10,473. However, answer man Braidy said that does not factor in the cost of setting up polling places to be in accordance with today’s handicap accessible guidelines and the installation of new vote-counting technology.
Good information. I also try to lighten the election evening reporting with some “color”— historical voting trivia or silly quotes from politicians or about politicians.
One of the best historical tidbits I found while researching elections this year was a Cook County referendum item in 1933. An article in the September 14, 1933 issue of the Cook County News-Herald reported that the voters of Cook County went to the polls that Tuesday to indicate their choice on the return of the old fashioned saloon. The article went on to list how each township voted—“wet or dry.”
Interestingly, the now defunct township of Mineral Center was tied with 13 votes for “wet” and 13 votes for “dry.” None of the townships voted in favor of staying “dry” and Colvill, it was noted had 16 votes for “wet” and 0 for “dry.”
The measure to bring back the saloon passed in the county, by a vote of 42 to 145.
Some very silly election trivia. But no sillier than the quote I found attributed to Abraham Lincoln. I have been unable to authenticate when and where Lincoln spoke the words, so I’m stressing that it is attributed to him. But it’s a great quote on elections, no matter who said it:
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
This has never been truer than in this election. At press time the county is awaiting the outcome of a tie election. One more vote for one of the east end candidates—Kristin DeArruda Wharton or Frank Moe—and that Commissioner District election would be over. Although a recount would have still been possible, it is now undoubtedly going to happen. And the candidates must suffer for a few more days of wondering if they’ve won or not.
The west end of the county as well—only five votes separate the two candidates, Bruce Martinson and Commissioner-elect Ginny Storlie. If six more people had cast their vote would there be a different outcome?
We need to remember this when the next election rolls around. It’s easy to think your vote doesn’t count in state and national elections where it is one of many among thousands. But it does. One vote by one vote, the tally is counted.
And as you can see in the microcosm of America that is Cook County, one vote truly does count.
There’s no trick to being a
humorist when you have the whole
government working for you.