April 23, 2012 | last updated June 1, 2012 2:01 pm

Disdain for public in full bloom at Capitol

The Legislature is rolling toward its grand climax and it appears the session's major decisions will be left to backroom deals and last-minute shenanigans. Again.

This is just no way to run a state.

The tug-of-war over education reform between Governor Malloy and his labor-friendly Democratic colleagues has been well documented. TV ads make outrageous claims on both sides; hearings and town meetings are held; and negotiations continue in secret. Something will emerge but the stakeholders will be presented with a fait accompli.

Similarly, the hearings have ended on liquor sale reforms and red-light cameras. Bills have moved out of committee but everyone involved acknowledges the subjects are still being debated in private and nobody knows what ultimately will pass the General Assembly.

But the legislators aren't alone in playing fast and loose with public trust.

The governor put a halt to a committee that was spending money it didn't have by withdrawing appointments to the panel. That assured there would be no quorum and thus no new fund promises for cleaning up underground fuel tanks. While it's an effective strategy, it smacks of the ugly politics of places like Texas and Illinois, where legislators have been known to block progress by disappearing across state lines. It's silly stuff, not befitting an enlightened, 21st-century government.

The one refreshing approach comes from state Rep. Arthur O'Neil, a Republican from Southbury. He came out on the wrong side of the death penalty vote and tried urging the governor to veto the bill in favor of a non-binding referendum on the subject. It's a right answer at the wrong time.

We'd like to see the state take the temperature of the electorate on some major decisions. It's not a substitute for representative government. It's not a license to punt everything that's controversial. But it might provide some helpful guidance on how strongly voters feel about, say, teacher evaluation and tenure.

In no case is it an option after the decision is made. The effort to repeal the death penalty has the distinction of being one of the few weighty matters that received a full and fair debate.

While there may well have been some deals made to tip undecided legislators, there was a straight up or down vote and legislators took a stand. The result is at odds with polling data but representative government isn't about pure popularity of an issue. If voters don't like what was done in their names, the recourse is to vote the offenders out of office.

And that's an appealing option given what's likely to transpire at the Capitol in the next few days.

Transparency in all its incarnations is a virtue. It also should be a taxpayer's right. State government needs to change the way it goes about passing laws and setting policy. Most importantly, it needs to change the way it treats the people who pay the bills.

Medical showdown

The contract standoff between Connecticut Children's Hospital and Anthem Blue Cross has all the hallmarks of an Old World labor showdown.

Each side thinks its price point is right; each side thinks it has the leverage. Now we watch both sides squirm and posture until one blinks.

Anthem must guard against setting a precedent it can't live with systemwide; Children's is well-positioned with a niche service and a sympathetic clientele. Each has a case to make and the common denominator is that the current system of healthcare payments is broken and getting worse by the day. Something has to give. And ultimately, it will.

It's just a shame a lot of sick kids and their concerned parents are trapped in the middle. Love or hate Obamacare, cooler heads need to find a better way to solve this kind of problem.


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