This isn’t my first such critique! Much lip service is paid to democracy, and we are all enjoined to be active citizens. Public hearings should be a constructive opportunity to influence policy, but too often they are regrettably mismanaged.
I’m pleased to report this hearing, which dealt with the difficult topic of medical aid in dying, was well organized. It began almost on time. The committee members made only brief introductory remarks.
All citizens and organizations that wished to be heard were required to sign up in advance. In some ways, I didn’t like the fact that a citizen was required to indicate “pro” or “con” at that stage, but the committee plainly intended to balance the remarks.
Speakers were seated at a table for four, facing the committee of seven members. The chairman
- announced a strict limit of 2 minutes per speaker,
- controlled who was permitted to speak and
- intended for the hearing to last one hour.
Initially, four speakers were called in support of the proposed legislation. Then four opponents. Most of the early speakers were affiliated with organizations, generally as officers. They continued to alternate “pro” and “con” until a total of 24 speakers were heard. In three cases, committee members had questions for speakers, but these were brief. In one case, the issue was interpretation of data.
Next, the names and stances of all others who had requested to speak were read into the record. I don’t feel strongly about the fact that I was not called to testify. Other people defended my point of view.
The committee voted. I don’t think the outcome was a surprise. The committee approved the legislation to be sent to the State Senate and Assembly for vote.
I approve of the way the committee handled this hearing. My time was not wasted.
I regret to report that Trenton still looks and feels like a DMZ.
I haven’t told you my position. Stay tuned. It’s too important and too complicated for a quick review.