Sunday, April 16, 2006

Lame Legislature

In 2004, the New York State Legislature, which is responsible for managing the state budget and drafting and amending state law, was cited as the most dysfunctional state legislature in the United States by the Brennan Law Center at NYU. It was onyl until the results of that NYU survey of all 50 state legislatures that New York State decided to have a wave of reforms, including the changing of several of its members. It was only in 2005 that the New York Legislature had been able to approve a sound state budget before deadline for the first time in over 20 years. So until this report came out, the legislature didn't even live up to its own standards of efficiency and effectiveness.

So I guess it should've been no surprise to me when I saw that one state's legislature had beaten New York to the punch. That state? Hawaii. I read about it in the Honolulu Advertiser, where that state's politicians are working hard to push through a resolution that will request the director of Hawaii's Department of Health to create a bed bug prevention and education program.

Okay, I know the Hawaiian resolution is non-binding and therefore lacks the teeth an actual law would have, but it's a hell of a lot more than what our own state legislature is up to. New York State has made a lot of progress since that 2004 report, but they have so much farther to go. Part of the problem also lies in the fact that many legislature members represent part of the state that are outside the five boroughs, so they tend not to care so much about something they don't see affecting their own districts.

Here we have one lone City Councilwoman trying to do this, and I haven't heard of much support from other people. I haven't even heard of one hearing for this bed bug legislation that Councilwoman Brewer wants to have passed into law.

Hawaii wants the resolution to be made official quickly because bed bugs affect tourism and tourism is Hawaii's #1 industry. Well, tourism may not be the #1 industry in New York City, but it's certainly a billion-dollar industry, according to the New York City board of tourism, New York City & Co. Even if tourism isn't a big industry in New York City, real estate is. And bed bugs can seriously impact the value of a building infested with them. Bed bugs could very well spell the end of New York City's sky-high real estate values.

What gets me is that the local tourism and real estate industries should be aware of this, and if they are, why aren't they lobbying our politicians to do something about bed bugs? It's not like it doesn't happen on the federal level; the pharmaceutical industry, big tobacco and the HMOs all donate heavily to political campaigns and get the people in Congress to work for them. The tourism and real estate industries in New York City need to pool their money together and buy some good government intervention.

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