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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Hive Mind Awakes!

Your Life, as it has been, it is over. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

The Borg are a fictional race of cyborgs in the Star Trek universe. They are characterized by relentless pursuit of targets for assimilation, their collective conscience that enables rapid adaptability to almost any defense, and the ability to continue functioning properly despite seemingly devastating blows. They have become a powerful symbol in popular culture for any juggernaut against which "resistance is futile".

In the Mass. Legislature, The Great Borg Hive Mind is just beginning to come alive. They will debate until 2 am for no reason, hours of inactivity punctuated with spurts of horse-trading, all headed for that final 12 o'clock gong on the last night at the end of this week. Then leadership gives Academy Award-like speeches. One year, Tom Finneran cried at the fine job House Ways & Means Chair John Rogers had done (some of the ‘audience’ comprised of legislators was in tears, too, but it may not have been for the same reason). The Collective Mind of the House Membership has come together to debate their sundry amendments to the Budget, and to reach a collective decision.

There are 1,488 amendments to the House Budget this year - Porcupine’s favorite pork containers are the budget lines for the Mass Office of Travel and Tourism - Line 7007-0900, and a close second in Economic Development - 7004-0099. Call up Ch. 139, last year's budget, and plug these numbers into Find. And read away. And those are the ones that are EASY to find.

First – as the cry goes out to eliminate earmarks, it’s important to realize that those funds are ALREADY in the agency responsible; they don’t change how much is appropriated overall. As we 'speak', agency liaisons are in legislator's offices, begging them to pretty please withdraw the amendment, and they'll DO the project/enhancement/whatever, but they just don't want their hands tied, dontchaknow. REALLY. (This is the time of year when legislators and staff can remind them of all the phone calls they couldn't be bothered to return when called with a request or question from a constituent). That is the theory of all the agencies - that they HAVE priorities, they KNOW what projects need doing, and getting money earmarked for a dance pavilion at the end of a road fallen into disrepair is just foolish. Legislators want more glamour, and don't want to be known as Mr. Pot Hole, but Mr. Pavilion. It's a natural tension (my favorite TV show of all time is 'Yes, Minister', a Brit-Com about the tension between elected and appointed officials). Both sides are right, and both are wrong.

This was not always the case. In the Finneran era, the House budget was often subject to a mechanism called the Holland Amendment - that is, if you had a cash earmark, you had to show WHERE in the budget that money would come from and what line would be decreased, and you would increase the line where you added the earmark commensurately. THAT was fun. (Well, actually, it WAS fun - you'd search for one time capital expenditures in the prior year budget, and suggest THEY be cut this year - like a statue or senior center upgrade – and use that dollar amount in the current budget). The Holland Amendment is not in force this year, so all earmarks are consequence-free. Another Tommy Taxes Trick was to insist on matching funds - East Overshoe would get $50,000 for a $100,000 project, for instance.

Yet this is only the first stage. Next month, the Senate budget will be similarly debated, and then the two versions will be conferenced under the guidance of the most powerful influence in that Collective Universe - The Borg Queen – Former Senate Ways & Means Chair, and now Senate President Therese Murray.

In Human terms, a Borg Queen could be characterized as ruthless. She would do anything to protect the Borg Collective. When necessary she would employ psychological tactics, like extortion or plain intimidation to get what she wanted.

Gov. Patrick may attempt to use his veto pen, but he will meet the fate of others who have tried to flout the Collective. He will be assimilated, or he will be destroyed. The choice will be his.


Blogger capecarver said...

Woo Hoo! Well writ!
Way to go, Peetah!
And thanks for the link. Good to see what are the priorities of the Cape delegation.


9:09 PM  

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