As you ponder the possibilities of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain as leaders of the free world, forget not the state legislators in your own backyard.
It’s their election season, too. And their taxpayer-funded mailings can be equally as murky as “I think — I’ll have my staff get to you,” as Sen. McCain told Politico about the number of homes he owns. “It’s condominiums where — I’ll have them get to you.”
My New York state Republican assemblyman, Joseph M. Giglio, has sent me and, presumably, the other 51,000 households of the 149th District his latest “Report to Constituents.” It’s filled with typographical bombast signifying nothing.
The “report” contains about 425 words spread over both sides of a two-color, tri-folded, franked, 11-inch by 17-inch piece of paper. The smallest type is actually my address. The remaining type shouts: The copy is 18 point; normal newspaper copy is 9 point. The headlines are 48 point. Apparently, bigger is better in the world of Assemblyman Giglio.
But the hype-size type cannot hide the vagueness of the “report” itself. It tells his constituents squat about what he’s actually done.
In 42-point type occupying about 22 square inches, the “report” touts this:
Joe Giglio supports actions which [sic] will require openness and accountability to ensure a State government that is responsible and responsive to its constituents.
Well, duh. So why doesn’t the “report” actually demonstrate what actions he’s specifically taken to accomplish that?
The “report” is laden with vague verbs and predicates: “supports” (four), “believes” (two), “effectively works,” “has been working on,” “has identified,” “must be tackled,” “reducing the burden,” “combat Medicaid abuse,” and “working to put the Empire State back on track.”
Whew. Well, at least he spends 73 words articulating several issues. According to the “report,” he seeks to:
• “Ban borrowing without voter approval;
• Require that 10 percent of any budget surplus be used to decrease the State’s debt;
• Allow for greater transparency by requiring any ballot proposition that authorizes State debt to include information on both the principal and interest that would be incurred by taxpayers; and
• Require a super-majority (2/3) vote for final passage of any bill that imposes a new tax, or continues or revives an exisiting [sic] tax.”
Hey, I can get behind some of these ideas. He’s on the case, it appears.
But his Assembly Web site suggests a different story. It lists 42 bills naming Assemblyman Giglio as the prime sponsor. Only one of those bills deals with an issue noted above: designating a portion of budget surplus to debt reduction. But his “report” says he wants 10 percent; A02711 calls for only 5 percent. And that bill has been parked in the Ways and Means committee since June 19. No other sponsors are listed for that bill.
Assemblyman Giglio’s record as a legislator is, in a word, modest. Only 11 bills of which he served as prime sponsor have been signed into law. A few actually continued a tax burden: A06952 and A06953 extended the duration of sales-tax increases in two counties he represents. (Did those bills require that “super-majority” the “report” demands on any bill that “continues or revives an exisiting [sic] tax”?)
A few bills relaxed residency requirements for officials. One allowed a dog officer to be a “peace officer.” Two — A10152 and A10236 — renamed bridges, one for a former governor. Another let hunters use rifles in a certain area during deer season.
Assemblyman Giglio also touts in his “report” his signature issue: “Since his election to the Assembly, one of Joe’s priorities has been to eliminate Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse, which costs taxpayers nearly $4.5 billion a year.”
Well, how’s he doing with that? He filed A02741 in January 2007. It’s a bill that would prohibit unfunded mandates in Medicaid. That’s not quite the same as battling “fraud, waste and abuse.” His bill has been stuck in committee since Jan. 9 of this year.
Such a legislative record hardly demands 48-point type in a “report to constituents.” That “report” probably cost New York taxpayers $5,000 to $6,000 to produce and perhaps the same to mail.
The “report” told Assemblyman Giglio’s constituents nothing. It touted his intent but said nothing about what he’s accomplished. And he got us to pay for it. Such is the power of incumbency.
In every state legislative and congressional district in the country, it’s likely that tripe like Assemblyman Giglio’s “report to constituents” flows into mailboxes. I can’t even begin to imagine its cost to taxpayers.
When it shows up in yours, go to your state legislator’s or congressional member’s Web site. That’s all I did. On his own Web site, the links to his legislative record (or the lack of it) undid all the hype Assemblyman Giglio poured into his 48-point type.
Why bother? Because state legislators often grow up to be members of Congress. My District 29 representative, John R. “Randy” Kuhl, R-N.Y., began his undistinguished career as a professional politician by winning election to the state Assembly in 1980.
From what I’ve seen of Assemblyman Giglio’s record, I’d rather he not follow in Rep. Kuhl’s legislative missteps — er, footsteps.