Monday, January 21, 2008

PA state legislators' payraise pension increase stands

The Pennsylvania Pay-Raise still confuses many. Was it constitutional, or was it unconstitutional?

The original vote to increase salaries (of, by, and for) state legislators and thereby also the salaries of judges and state employees and district attornies, was constitutional according to PA Constitution.

The increases the state legislators voted themselves was constitutional.

What wasn't Constitutional was the move by the same legislators to provide themselves wiggle room in taking the increases during the same term in which they passed the payraises.

The voted to adopt the term "unvouchered expenses."

Taking the salary increases in the same term of office as passing the increases was unconstitutional.

On the other hand, the increases to others was always constitutional.

Critics raised the issue validly that at its heart the increases could suffer potential conflicts of interest with the judges hearing any challenges.

However, the judges had no other option than to abide by the PA Constitution.

The Duquesne site goes over the issue, but appears to be biased, in my opinion, favoring the critics on all points.

One bright spot, the pay raise for the state legislators was repealed.

Bad spot: the increases affected the retirement amounts of all legislators. Those who retired or were defeated at the ballot box didn't get the salary increase (some said they gave the increases to charity), however, those retired or rejected found huge increases to their pension-retirement account, annually so.

That was and remains, obscene. Meanwhile, the judges, etc. salaries increased, and so did their retirement accounts. One upside, tying those to federal cost of living increases was nixed.

Net the Truth Online

The repeal of the pay raise was signed by Governor Rendell on November 16, 2005. The next day, November 17, Judge Kelley, sua sponte, entered an order to the parties to brief the issue of the potential mootness of the case in light of the repeal. The order gave the parties 10 days-until November 28-to file briefs on the mootness issue. On November 30, 2005, in an unpublished opinion, Judge Kelley dismissed the lawsuit as moot. A little over a week later, on December 5 and 6, lawsuits were filed by judges challenging the repeal of the judicial pay raise as unconstitutional.

The significance of the timing of the judicial lawsuits lies in the validity or invalidity of the original pay raise. If the original pay raise statute was constitutional, the repeal was probably unconstitutional as to judges. But if the original pay raise was unconstitutional, as Stilp's lawsuit argued, then the repeal was irrelevant. In that case, the judges never received a valid salary increase and, so, withdrawing that increase is not unconstitutional. In other words, without the Stilp lawsuit, the judges might very well win their challenge and get their pay raise...

...According to news media reports, the November 16 repeal of the pay raise did not exempt judges' salaries from repeal. The application of the repeal to judges may be unconstitutional under Article V, section 16(a), which provides, with an exception, that judicial "compensation shall not be diminished… ." Is the repeal constitutional with regard to judges? (There is no question that the repeal is constitutional with regard to the legislative and the executive branches).

The repeal is immediately effective with regard to all three branches. That means that all affected salaries are cut-or do not go up-automatically. If no further action is taken, judges' salaries will go down as well.

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