After Wednesday's Senate session, it appears that most senators finally understand what was obvious in public hearings held on all three islands on the Senate reduction bill: that substantive changes must be made in the way senators are elected and conduct public business.
Sen. Lorraine L. Berry says she is working on subdistricting legislation. Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole says he would support numbered seats. Even Sen. Adelbert M. Bryan acknowledged that the voters "have lost confidence in us."
With few exceptions one being Sen. Celestino A. White, who said he would not support subdistricting or numbered seats senators agreed with Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd who said "the public has sent a message there is something wrong with the way we conduct business."
Election reform is high on the priority list for most residents. An overwhelming 64 percent of respondents in a Source poll in June said they wanted either subdistricting or numbered seats. Thirty-eight percent voted to reduce the number of senators from 15 to nine. Only 2 percent said they were happy with the status quo.
If Wednesdays legislative debate is any indication, senators may have gotten the message. Though they resoundingly defeated the bill to reduce the size of the Legislature despite an endorsement of that course by a majority of voters in a non-binding referendum in November 2000 many seem to be acknowledging that the voters want meaningful electoral reform.
Now comes the hard part: action.
As we have said previously, we favor numbered seats as a relatively simple and straightforward way to eliminate many of the problems inherent in the way we now elect senators. However, we would also welcome a viable, politically palatable subdistricting plan but only if it is not a smokescreen to delay the issue and ensure the status quo.
If numbered seats or subdistricts are high on your agenda, you must let your senators know this. Call their offices. Write to them. Encourage your friends through calls, petitions and e-mails to make their sentiments known too.
We have seen what an aroused electorate can accomplish. Now is the time for a serious, targeted lobbying campaign to transform the loss on Senate reduction to a victory on more meaningful electoral reform.