It's unfortunate that it takes a perfect storm like the pension system collapse to finally grab legislators' attention and generate a resolve to act, but that's the sad reality of RI politics. That being said, legislating true pension reform to save our state is going to be the biggest test our General Assembly has faced. With General Treasurer Raimondo's pension reform recommendations on the table now, the real work will soon begin.
The pension reform task force that Raimondo will oversee will actually be the easier part of the process because it will operate (hopefully) independent of politics. When the commission's final recommendations come before legislators this fall, that will be another matter, and politics and the clout of special interests will inevitably enter the situation and try to influence the outcome. It's going to take real independent courage to resist the unions' intent to water down the reform legislation, and Democratic senators and representatives are going to have to weigh the consequences in holding the line, especially with the election of 2012 staring them in the face and the very real possibility of union targeting.
The thing that all of them should bear in mind is that the vast majority of Rhode Islanders expect them to step up to the plate on this, and kowtowing to union pressure is going to be remembered come election day.
In the end, what do our legislators fear more: the unions or the voters?