Yesterday, the Post published an article on twelve legislators taking a trip to France to view a uranium mine located at a site similar to that proposed for Pittsylvania County.
Since I’m not going, it’s pretty easy for me to point fingers at those who take trips paid for by advocacy groups. If nothing else, the trip divides lawmakers from “contested” districts from those in “uncontested” areas. Because those of us in contested seats are focused on re-election, before we worry about potential 2012 votes.
(disclosure: last year, a non-election cycle, my wife and I went to Turkey on a trip sponsored by the American-Turkish Friendship Association. We bought our own plane tickets but the accommodations were gratis).
Having said that, it’s hard to understand issues like mining, if you’re not able to visit the site and see it with your own eyes. Since the state will not pay for these visits, you can either accept the trip, pay for it yourself or simply skip it altogether. Most folks in Richmond cannot pay for these trips themselves.
The issue is disclosure.
To the extent that lawmakers take trips to France (or anywhere else) paid for by private groups, they are open to praise or criticism by the general public. It’s all there for public view, and voters can factor the info into their voting decision.
Personally, I think that site visits are key for certain science-based issues. My visit to the Virginia City 580 mw plant last summer gave me considerable knowledge of the coal industry in Wise County, as well as the environmental impact on the surrounding community and their economic conditions.
Of course, you can do all that and enjoy the beach on the French Riviera this summer.
As for me, I’m heading out to knock doors this afternoon …