Saturday, January 27, 2007

PA Reform Populists Want Convention Initiatives Referendums

A Pa Convention to alter the PA Constitution, the idea crops up again and again. Why? There's nothing wrong with the Pennsylvania Constitution. The PA Constitution was clear back in July 2005 when the state legislators voted themselves salary increases (completely legal by the way), but at the same time took the increases in the form of unvouchered expenses during the term in which the increases were passed. Unconstitutional.

It was the incumbents, the men and women holding an elected office of public trust who trampled on the already binding and clear tenets of the PA Constitution.

In the meantime, for treatment of the issue of a 2007 PA Con-Con and dangers of an open, general convention and further discussion points visit

good explanation of the sorry affair of the paygrab

What does Tony Phyrillas want again, however, to smack the legislators into reality, yep, a convention and initiatives and referendums. Direct Democracy.

How many times does someone have to point to the framers of the PA Constitution and federal constitution to prove the founders did not create a democracy? Instead, they created a republic, a nation of the rule of law, not the rule of men...

Phyrillas persists in including the convention and initiatives and referendums among a listing of reforms the state legislators should consider as those proposed by the "people."

Actually, the other reform recommendations are not bad, but they can all be done without a convention.

All except for the term limits. Term limits will keep the two-party majority system in place, and shuffling names and faces around every twelve years or whatever the maximum of the term limits will be will only get different names and faces.

The entrenched party ideologies will not change, and those ideologies are exactly where the problems are.

For some reason, Phyrillas just doesn't get it. The same people who have abused the PA Constitution will be the delegates to a convention. Look for PCN to heavily cover the reform recommendations of Democracy Rising, too, with no rebuttal from those who object to convening a PA Constitutional Convention. If it all sounds familiar, it is...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Pa. residents finally get a say on reform
Tony Phyrillas
Here's a switch. Pennsylvania lawmakers want to hear what Pennsylvania residents have to say...

A House panel studying the need for legislative reforms has set up an e-mail address where citizens can send their ideas for improving the lawmaking process, according to The Associated Press.

Here's your chance to tell the members of the Pennsylvania House of Lords that it's time to return government to the people.
Here's a few suggestions for ways to reform Harrisburg.

1) Convene a Constitutional Convention as soon as possible
2) Allow for voter Initiative, Referendum and Recall
3) Cut the size of the Legislature in half
4) Eliminate pensions for elected officials and all other lawmaker perks
5) Term limits on legislators, committee chairmen, legislative leaders
6) Redraw legislative districts to make them competitive
7) Real regulation of lobbyists and campaign finances
8) Eliminate legislative 'lame duck' sessions
9) Ban 'ghost voting' and all forms of 'proxy voting'
10) No more midnight votes; Do the people's business in the light of day

Tony Phyrillas constant refrain...

To make sure that reform is more than just talk, an unusual mix of organizations has formed a coalition that is pushing a "Roadmap to Reform.

"The campaign was announced last week in Harrisburg by nine organizations representing the left, center and right of the political spectrum. The coalition listed 10 ways the legislature can improve the way the people's business is conducted in Harrisburg and it challenged politicians to have the reforms in place before Oct.

1.The organizations proposing the "Roadmap to Reform" are: Common Cause Pennsylvania; Commonwealth Foundation, Democracy Rising PA, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Citizens for Legislator Accountability, Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Rock the Capital, Stop the Illegal Pay Raise Inc. and Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania.The "Roadmap to Reform" includes steps to make government transparent and elections more competitive, according to Tim Potts, co-founder of Democracy Rising PA.

It also includes a call to convene the state’s first general constitutional convention since 1873.

Key elements of the 'Roadmap' include:

• Banning lawmakers from taking gifts and entertainment from lobbyists.
• Posting all legislative votes for the public within 24 hours.
• Passing an open records law for the legislature.• Requiring the posting of lawmakers' expenditures and salary/benefits information online.
• Making lawmakers' health care insurance benefits consistent with the private sector.
• Banning fund-raisers while the legislature is in session.
• Authorizing and funding a constitutional convention to explore further reform.

It's an ambitious agenda, but why not shoot for the moon? The biggest obstacle to these reforms is the legislators themselves (and Gov. Ed Rendell) who like the status quo in Harrisburg.

Now that the voters have the legislators over a barrel, there's no time like the present to make demands for better government.The complete reform agenda can be reviewed at

at Democracy Rising PA

Lobbyist Control
Ban gifts and entertainment
Quarterly reporting for lobbyists with expenses greater than $2,500 per quarter
Restoration of reporting requirements that were modified in the House.
Over by October
End session on or before October 1 by joint resolution
Propose an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit lame-duck session
Open Record
Require the General Assembly and each of its members to comply fully with existing law to the same degree and in the same detail as required of executive agencies
Require the judicial branch to comply with the Open Records Law
Assign a legislative body the immediate task of re-writing existing law to give
Pennsylvania the highest standards of integrity and openness in America for public access to government documents
Legislator Voting Records
All votes by individual legislator – including committee votes, procedural votes and votes on amendment and final passage – must be posted online within 24 hours with links to the language actually voted upon and the final outcome of the vote
Citizen Opportunity Period (COP)
Require a waiting period of at least 72 hours, preferably two weeks, between final amendment and final passage of all legislation in each chamber
Provide a monthly, online accounting for each legislator detailing the cost of all salary, benefits and expenses paid during the previous month
Permit per diems for actual expenses only as documented by detailed vouchers that are open to public inspection via the Internet
Prohibit all forms of unvouchered expenses
Adjust health care insurance benefits for lawmakers so that they are consistent with current private sector practices for ordinary workers
Campaign Finance
Prohibit fundraisers while the Legislature is in session.
Require public reporting of campaign donations one week prior to the primary and general election.
Enact a requirement for legislative districts to be as politically competitive as possible (in addition to existing requirements)
Amend election laws so that they level the playing field for all citizens who want to run for public office regardless of party affiliation

Comprehensive Constitutional Change
General Constitutional Convention
Authorize a general constitutional convention at which all sections of the Constitution are available for amendment and to which all interested citizens have an equal opportunity to become delegates

Ballots & access: Party crashers

Why the need for a General Constitutional Convention? That question still has not been asked by any journalist I've read. Tony just goes along, doesn't ask can all of the reforms noted be done by simple legislation adopted by the legislators?

The answer is yes they all can be done by simple legislation, no need for "Comprehensive" Constitutional Change.

Roadmap to Reform May 26, 2006

Isn't it an eye-opening coincidence that the Roadmap to Reform introduction on Democracy Rising PA is entitled United We Stand – “Roadmap to Reform”?

Ross Perot began United We Stand, then changed the name to United We Stand, America back in 1993, or thereabouts. Shortly after Perot backed out of a bid for President of the U.S. as a third-party candidate, rumors crisscrossed the country concerning Perot's support for a national second Constitutional Convention.

Fortunately, "the people" didn't fall for it, and there was no resounding grassroots push for a call for a federal convention, though Pennsylvania leaders at the time did offer a so-called "Conference of the States."

Russ Diamond judiciary constitutional convention and so forth

Democracy Rising PA Questions and answers

Providing for initiative, referendum and recall

Jim Panyard - "(One of my campaign promises)"
Russ Diamond - "Yes. As with other issues, we must examine systems in place in other states to determine an appropriate way to allow such democratic input while preserving our republican form of state government."

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