Saturday, April 07, 2007

PA Democratic Side: Partisanship In the House

DeWeese pledges support for Pa. open records legislation
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard
Updated 04/07/2007 12:05:29 AM EDT

While admitting that he was not initially an aggressive supporter of improved open records legislation, state Rep. H. William DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, said Friday that he is now unequivocally behind the push for reform.

During a taping of "Behind the Headlines" for HSTV, DeWeese accompanied freshman state Rep. Timothy S. Mahoney, D-South Union, to discuss the sea of change sweeping through Harrisburg. DeWeese gave Mahoney full credit for pushing the open records issue to the forefront.


DeWeese said so far this legislative term, the legislature has accepted 31 out of the 32 changes proposed by the Speaker's Reform Commission, of which Mahoney is a member. DeWeese said the legislature will no longer be voting in the middle of the night; thus a pay raise issue will never take place again. Also, DeWeese said there is now a 24-hour waiting period before legislation is put to a vote.

summing up why he has decided to support reform legislation, DeWeese quoted French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. "Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come," DeWeese said. The majority leader said Mahoney was the "crystallizing influence" that prompted him to move forward with changes. "I have enough God-given common sense to know that if I don't lead reform, that reform will go on without me," DeWeese said.

Mahoney said while there are several reform proposals out there, including one by Gov. Ed Rendell, he is glad DeWeese is supporting his legislation. "Governor Rendell has taken my proposal and made it his own, so I'm happy Bill jumped on mine," Mahoney said.

DeWeese pointed out that he appointed Mahoney to the Speaker's Reform Commission despite the fact that Mahoney did not initially vote for DeWeese as Democratic leader. DeWeese also discussed the history of how Dennis O'Brien, R-Philadelphia, became Speaker of the House as a Republican despite a one-vote Democratic majority.

DeWeese said he hatched the plan to wrestle the speakership away from Republican John Perzel of Philadelphia County when it became apparent that DeWeese did not have the votes to win the position. "I was two or three votes short, but Perzel was seven short," DeWeese said.

He said when it became apparent that the Mahoneys of the legislature would be ascending, he made a pact with O'Brien in which O'Brien would be named Speaker and DeWeese would remain majority leader.

Mahoney said he doesn't believe if Perzel had retained the speaker position there would have been any chance of reform. "(Perzel) starting reform would be like me going back to college, where I never went," Mahoney said. He said Perzel did little for reform in the 12 years his party was in the majority in the state House. Democrats now hold a slim 102-101 majority over Republicans.

DeWeese said the only recommendation out of 32 that was not approved out of the Speaker's Reform Commission was a proposal to take away the power to substantively amend bills from the Appropriations Committee. DeWeese pointed out that the power to amend bills in the Rules Committee, of which he is chairman, was taken away at his own behest. "I gave up overwhelming power as chairman of the Rules Committee," DeWeese said.

While the power to amend bills is still preserved in the Appropriations Committee, DeWeese said it is possible that could change in the future. He said it is now a "different world" with access to the Internet than it was when records had to be accessed in person in Harrisburg.

When asked about assertions that O'Brien will be a puppet for DeWeese, Mahoney said O'Brien is not a puppet for anyone. "His heart is with autistic children and Perzel wouldn't cooperate," Mahoney said. "I don't think he's a 'yes man' for anyone."

DeWeese said that historically O'Brien and Perzel never had a good political relationship, although their legislative districts are beside each other. "They weren't rubbing elbows like me and Tim Mahoney," DeWeese said.

DeWeese said helping O'Brien ascend to the Speaker of the House position was a "sweet, sweet victory," even though DeWeese did not get to regain the job himself.


Confident Democrats choose DeWeese to be House speaker
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

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