Tuesday, March 27, 2007

PA Constitution Did No Wrong

Again, the Pennsylvania Constitution is not at fault for the unconstitutional actions of elected members of the state legislature. The law of the PA land is clear on the remuneration of members of the General Assembly. When Republican and Democrat state legislators passed the payraise - salary increase - for themselves back in July 1995 - during their term of office - they were within bounds of the document they swore to uphold.

When overwhelmingly many of those same legislators additionally passed authorization to take the payraises as "unvouchered expenses" in the same term in which they were passed, they did so out of the bounds of the document that tied them to the letter of the law.

Later, that part of the legislation was repealed by legislative action.

It isn't the PA Constitution's fault that the people of PA elected in droves the same people back into office, despite their negligent actions. Oh, some retired in the wake of the public outcry of their actions. According to Brad Bumstead, Thirty incumbents, most of them pay raise supporters, decided to retire this year. (2006).

One of two justices seeking another ten year span of office in retention elections was defeated in the first election held immediately after the legislative payraises. The defeat of one was attributed to furor over the payraise, however, to date, nobody has explained why the Republican justice was retained in the election.

According to a wikepedia entry on 2005 Pennsylvania General Assembly pay raise controversy, Despite the repeal, a total of 17 legislators were defeated in the 2006 primary elections including Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer and Senate Majority Leader David J. Brightbill. They were the first Pennsylvania legislative leaders to lose a primary election since 1964.

The November 2006 General Election claimed several more members who supported the pay raise including House Minority Whip Mike Veon, and Reps. Gene McGill, Matt Wright, Tom Gannon and Matthew Good

Yet, how to explain name after name of incumbents who voted for the payraises and unvouchered expense accounts showed up as re-elected back in to an office of public trust, though the majority of the General Assembly changed from Republican to Democrat, by a slim margin.

What happened in those last few elections after the payraise affront?

Public exposure, including hundreds upon hundreds of articles captured for posterity in blogs and websites on the internet, state-wide publicity of organizations that grew out of the public's frustration with the state legislators' actions, well-publicized lawsuits putting the payraises and unvouchered expenses on trial, pork-pig rallies at the Capitol in Harrisburg.

Still in the next Primary Election immediately following the payraise, when both chambers' membership faced a reportedly maddened and angry electorate of Democrat and Republican voters , only 20-25 percent of those voters registered of one of the two-majority political parties who could have voted showed up or cast absentee ballots. In the General Election immedately following, though some incombents fell in the Primary to newcomers, and it would be expected there would be a groundswell of newly registered voters to participate in the historical changes, only between 30 and 40 percent of all registered voters lined up to throw the remaining bums out.

Even Governor Edward Rendell who didn't veto the unvouchered expenses was sent back to his office of public trust instead of back to his home district. Though Rendell faced no opposition from a challenger in his own party, he had opposition in the General Election from Republican Lynn Swann.

The people simply didn't regeister anew to vote, or arrive at polling places in massive droves to vote him out. In the Primary, Democrats who did turn out - re-elected him instead of giving him his walking papers. Had they been of so mind they could have cast write-in votes since nobody ran as a Rendell opponent then.

It isn't the PA Constitution's fault if voters didn't replace each and every one of the senators and representatives and Governor Rendell who broke their oaths of office to abide by the PA Constitution.

It's the people's fault.

Yet that isn't what reformers who popped up like a Jack-in-the-box singing we want, we want, would have you believe.

After expounding on how they don't expect the sitting members of the PA General Assembly to really take action, or quick-enough action on reform proposals, they are now claiming there are "more than" structural faults in the PA Constitution itself.

They want you to believe the PA Constitution is foundationally defective. They want you to think it's the Constitution that's somehow able to be trumped by members of the legislature - it's the PA Constitution's fault.

What they don't want you to think about is after all of the unparalled statewide attention to their cause to throw all out of office who voted for the payraise, and those who allowed it to happen, the voters kept the majority of the same people in office.

Admittedly, there are procedural items that need to be changed in PA government. Those reform measures can be accomplished one by one or in groups by the current legislative process.

Other weighty measures like reducing the size of the legislature can be proposed by amendments to the PA Constitution. Those would go through the rigorous and deliberative process in the state legislature and then those would be presented to the people in a referendum. The process takes a while. And so it should.

Ballot access to allow for competition by independents and third-party candidates can be changed by the usual - yet deliberative - process already contained in the PA Constitution.

If a soldier can round-the-clock defend these United States of America wherever sent to foreign lands to fight for our rights, the people of this state can wait a while until the the state legislative process for proposing amendments unfolds. They can become engaged in the process and put pressure on the legislators to make changes.

If the legislators bottle everything up in committees, and so forth, there is a next election in two years, and the next two years, more than enough time to continue to educate the public and gain their strong, large numbers to kick them out of office.

The PA Constitution isn't foundationally broken and doesn't need fixed at its base.

People like Mark Widoff of Democracy Rising, PA, and Madonna and Young would have us believe the PA Constitution is broken - all because enough voters who could have kicked all the scoundrels out of office - didn't.

We are being misled to accept the idea that what PA needs are initiatives and referendums. Direct democracy, that's what we need, according to reformers who want a PA Constitutional Convention.

Our Founding Framers of the original United States Constitution didn't give us a democracy, and warned of the perils of direct democracy.

Our Constitution guarantees a republican form of government to each of the states.

Initiatives and referendums as proposed for one of the alterations of the PA Constitution guts the PA Constitution and its foundation.

There isn't a groundswell of the public that wants a convention to alter our PA form of government just as there wasn't a groundswell of the public that desired all the incumbents be voted out of office. The Great Harrisburg Caper piece recognizes the historical truth that it would take an overwhelming distain of actions of the legislature for there to be a massive change in the "party" people who continue to be elected and re-elected over and over again.

Because that happened again, with some change, some 50 new members elected, many of whom championed reform, doesn't mean the PA Constitution should suffer in the aftermath.

The PA Constitution did no wrong. Don't make it out as the bandit, when it wasn't.

Net the Truth Online March 27, 2007 1pm
revised March 29, 2007 1pm

The Great Harrisburg Caper of 2005
July 18, 2005


A constitutional convention is required
Monday, March 19, 2007

The mere fact that we are seriously discussing meaningful reform in Harrisburg is heartening. For many years it seemed as if no one was paying attention and no one cared about the awful stench coming out of the ornate Capitol dome. It appeared that we had surrendered to the cynics who derided as hopelessly old-fashioned the high ideals, integrity and standards of political leaders like former governors Bill Scranton and George Leader.

One might have thought these reform-minded leaders had served hundreds of years ago, rather than just a few decades earlier.

But there is hope today in Harrisburg, thanks to a handful of heroes who have risked everything to fight the cynics and the prevailing power structure. They have endured ridicule and poverty. They have endured the hatred and the threats of people with power and influence who drafted legislation in secret and forced votes on this legislation in the middle of the night...


State panel hears call for revising constitution by 2008
Friday, February 23, 2007
By Ann Belser, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Voters in Pennsylvania could have a new state constitution to ratify as soon as the next presidential election.

But there's a lot to do if that's going to happen.

The state Senate Government Committee, headed by Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, R-Dauphin, held its first in a series of hearings yesterday on convening a constitutional convention for the first time in 40 years...

...Joel Fishman, the co-director of Duquesne University's Pennsylvania Constitution Web Site, gave a possible time frame for a constitutional convention which called for the current hearings to wrap up in March; the general assembly to pass an act calling for a constitutional convention by June; the electorate to vote for the convention in November; a primary election for the delegates in April 2008; and the convention to run from May through August with the final step being the adoption of the new articles from the convention in November 2008...


The following opinion was published back in August 2005 before the pay raise issue became a major factor in the 2006 Primary election. There were hundreds of articles across PA, including blog published articles and attention to them on radio talk shows, television talk-shows and the Pennsylvania Cable Network for the next sevral months leading up to the Primary election of 2006...

The following stories about the legislative pay raise appeared in the latter part of August. Since then, the pace of such stories has slackened considerably...


Year after pay raise, still no reforms
By Brad Bumsted
Friday, July 7, 2006



The media reported widely on the first of several hearings scheduled by the Senate Committee on State Government on the subject of a possible limited state constitutional convention. The hearing was held on 2/22/2007 at Duquesne University School of Law. The co-directors of this web site, Dr. Joel Fishman and Professor Bruce Ledewitz, both tesified.


The media widely reported the decision in Stilp v. Commonwealth, decided 9/14/2006. The decision upheld most of the 2005 government pay raise and most of the repeal of that pay raise. Notably, the Court struck down unvouchered expense account increases for legislators in the original pay raise, but refused to apply the statute's nonseverability clause. Then the Court struck down the repeal of the pay raise for judges. The effect of these rulings is that judges, and only judges, receive both an immediate pay raise and a change in the method of compensation that ties judicial salaries automatically to increases in federal judicial salaries in the future. Justice Thomas Saylor, who is expected to run for retention in 2007, dissented on the nonseverability issue and would have struck down the entire pay raise, including the raise for judges...


Rendell proposes slew of changes to PA Government
Posted March 27th, 2007 by Stanley in Around the Capitol

In the Capitol-wide race to improve government accountability and openness, Gov. Rendell yesterday saw the legislature's bid and raised it - dramatically.

Limit campaign contributions. Expand access to government records. Set term limits for lawmakers. Shrink the legislature. Change the way legislative districts are drawn. Choose judges through a "merit" system instead of electing them...


The twisting and turning argument for initiatives and referendum


Link to poll whether to limit or not limit or hold a convention


Pennsylvanians for Effective Government hosted speakers on PA Constitutional Convention broadcast on PCN



MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2007 Pennsylvanians for Effective Government Meeting Constitutional Convention


Pennsylvanians for Effective Government


PEG Guide to Legislators


Pennsylvania Prosperity Project (PAP2) is a non-partisan effort that focuses on providing objective, factual information about public policy issues and candidates for federal, state, and local office.



Pennsylvanians for Effective Government Education Committee

Total Grants to Pennsylvanians for Effective Government Education Committee
Total $ Granted: $ 325,000
For Years: 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1988 1985


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