Lame Ducks Can Be Dangerous

Dear Source:
Election Day will soon be here and voters will make their choice of leaders to govern for the next two or four years. Some of our current elected officials will return to office. Others will not — either by their choice, the voters’ choice, or because of the term limits set by law.
During the period between the election and the swearing in of our new legislature, governor and lieutenant governor in January, we will be governed by some lame ducks. Those who are leaving office often feel that they no longer have to seek the good will of the electorate nor face the consequences of an angry electorate. They are less restricted in their actions. They are free to make the difficult choices; they are also free to make the choices that serve only special interests. Those who are returning to office believe that voters often have short memories. What they do during these next couple of months may not be remembered when the next election rolls around in November of 2016.
What can we expect of a lame duck legislature and a lame duck governor? Past lame duck legislatures and governors have enacted special interest laws, unpopular rezonings and laws such as Act 6905 that sparked a public outcry.
Act 6905 was passed by a lame duck legislature on December 28, 2006 and signed into law by Governor Turnbull the following day. Among other things this act established a new retirement system for members of the Legislature that allowed senators to begin collecting their pensions at the age of 50 after serving three terms in office. It also increased their salaries and those of the governor (from $80,000 to $150,000) and lieutenant governor (from $75,000 to $125,000). In addition, it authorized the PFA to guarantee a bridge loan of $15 million dollars for Golden Gaming. Voters have frequently called for the repeal of this legislation.
There are very serious issues facing the territory at this time including the deficiencies at our hospitals, schools, and criminal justice system. There is a need to balance economic development and preservation of our environment and natural resources. The problems of GERS with its growing unfunded liability has been ignored for too long. Our problems have reached a critical point and public input combined with thoughtful, deliberative action is required.
We, the voters, must always pay careful attention to the actions of our elected officials, and be especially vigilant during the next few months.
Leonard Smollett, St. Thomas

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