There is perhaps no better time for ethical reform in the General Assembly than now, when voters are disillusioned with politics and politicians, and the fiscal vice is tightening. A good place to start is the General Assembly's Scholarship program.
The program works this way: Each year, delegates and senators get a pot of cash to dole out to students who need assistance to go to college. In theory, that's fine. But politics has crept into the process. A 1988 study showed that lawmakers gave more than 2,000 grants to students from families with annual incomes over $50,000 -- sometimes to children of friends, relatives or the well-connected -- and overlooked 2,700 needy students, many of whom didn't even know about the scholarships.
It doesn't take a political scientist to figure out that the scholarship program has become a cash cow for lawmakers to dip into -- giving a couple of hundred here and a couple of hundred there to ensure loyalty, gratitude and re-election. Now, for the eighth time in the past decade, a bill to end this program will be introduced in the 1992 General Assembly. The legislation, sponsored by Del. Gerry Brewster, would keep the scholarship money intact, but would give a committee of community leaders, rather than lawmakers, the power to parcel it out.