Wednesday, August 06, 2008

PA: Beware Sen. Piccola Proposal Special Session Will Lead to Convention

The Pennsylvania state legislators are under scrutiny in the wake of "bonusgate." Criminal charges have been brought by Attorney General, Tom Corbett, who by the way is about to make a bid for the governorship of PA.

His investigation is ongoing, and we'll be closely watching that.

A recent poll noted in the Tribune Review shows some 76 percent want the Governor to call a special session on "legislative reform."

76 percent believe Gov. Ed Rendell should call a special session this summer on legislative reform.

But note, is the poll inclusive of a question about a call for a Constitutional Convention, one which will open up the historical and binding document to potential alteration in unexpected ways?

Criminal charges related to the state attorney general office's probe of legislative bonuses have stoked the fires for convening a constitutional convention to clean up the mess in Harrisburg.

The legislators took an early recess which is to extend into September.

Senator Piccola (also see below)

Posted on Thu, Jul. 17, 2008
Pa. lawmakers seek special session on ethics reform
By Christopher Wink and Mario F. Cattabiani
Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG - A week after 289 criminal charges were filed in a wide-ranging government corruption probe, a group of lawmakers yesterday called for a special legislative session devoted solely to restoring the public's faith in Harrisburg.
"There is a crisis of confidence in Pennsylvania. . . . We must respond with action," said Sen. Jeffrey Piccola (R., Dauphin) who was joined by eight other members of the House and Senate who are pushing for a special session dubbed "Governmental and Ethics Reform."

Said Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D., York), "We are under a dark cloud. . . . We need to get back to the people's work."

The group yesterday called on Gov. Rendell to convene such a session beginning in September. Rendell recently made clear he has no plans of doing so on his own, arguing that the legislative agenda for the rest of the year is already crammed with other key bills.

Anticipating that Rendell might not call a special session, the lawmakers yesterday began collecting signatures of their colleagues to force the issue. A governor must call a special session if the majority of the 203-member House and 50-member Senate ask for one.

Update: House rep. latest to propose legislation for a PA Constitutional Convention. He doesn't give any reason why. Just, of course, calls it a citizens' convention, like the so-called "reformers" want.

House bill would call citizens' convention
%%headline%% "The integrity of this institution has sunk drastically in the eyes of Pennsylvanians." Rep. Curt Schroder, R- Chester
Sunday, August 10, 2008
For The Patriot-News

will someone please explain why dissatisfaction as noted in yet another poll with our state legislators translates into the need for a PA Constitutional Convention? Isn't it the state legislators who are ignorant of their Constitutional duties, that's why people are upset with them?

Let's see if the polltakers go out and vote in large enough numbers to send many many more incumbents back home for good over the next few elections. Are the people really as upset as those who are afforded an opportunity to answer a poll?

Update: Actually, contrary to IssuesPA introduction on the idea of a PA Con-Con, there has not been MUCH talk about a PA Constitutional Convention in the towns and cities and rural areas across Pennnsylvania.

There has been much much much talk about the corruption of our PA state legislators.

A PA Con-Con has been discussed on several blogs, including Net the Truth Online, (our position remains, a convention would be dangerous and has every reason to become runaway, despite an enabling act to limit delegates precisely due to the power granted delegates in the Declaration of Rights Section 2) with a mere "handful" of individuals pressing for a convention. One has to wonder about the motives of such individuals who began this push for a convention within the same month back in July 2005 that the furor arose over the state legislators passing themselves a pay increase, and then voting to take the increases, during their term of office, in the form of unvouchered expenses.

All the while crying for the public to "kick them all out," came whispered talk about a PA Con-Con.

The general public has not been informally as of yet asked if they even know what all a PA Convention would be about in any poll that we're aware.

Issues PA has unfortunately done a disservice by claiming a larger faction of the public is desirous of a convention.

On the other side of the coin, Issues PA does indeed raise some excellent questions and concerns about the process.

Those questions and concerns should be specifically addressed before any formal referendum is placed on the ballot to actually call a convention.

To date, our major question has not been addressed by anyone at anytime.

Can a convention called into session and "limited" by an "enabling act" become a runaway convention specifically per Section 2 of the PA Convention's Declaration of Roights?

Here's what the section states:

Section 2. Political Powers
All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.

Now we have raised the potential that even if the referendum question on the ballot to call the convention contains specific language which "limits" the convention, the delegates sent to the convention will still have the full power to "act" on behalf of the people, and if the delegates determine at that time, the government needs not only some more restraint, it also needs abolished, the delegates can indeed do so in the convention. They could also craft an entirely new and different PA Constitution in order to "create" a new and improved government.

So it is our belief Section 2 itself CANNOT BE LIMITED OR RESTRAINED BY ANY ENABLING ACT the legislature devises.

Therein is the unanswered question that will remain unanswered until such delegates act per the Declaration of Rights Section 2.

In other words, there is danger in a convention precisely because the delegates do have power according to the PA Constitution's Section 2 of the Declaration of Rights.

Plus, we don't need a convention to handle even one or any of the proposals deemed so critical to open government or good government. Any state legislator has the power and resources to craft legislation addressing all of the so-called reform proposals, and such can be presented to the public if warranted as an Amendment, or Amendments.

Net the Truth Online

(March 2008) There has been much talk recently about a constitutional convention in Pennsylvania.

Update. Notice a popular statewide website grassrootspa has posted opinions about the matter of a call for a PA Convention. Now really, if the measure were SO POPULAR WITH THE PEOPLE wouldn't the popular site contain thousands upon thousands of similar opinions?

16 posts. Made by a total so far of 9 count em, 9 individuals. That's just such a whimper. Yet, we are to believe there is an overwhelming cry for a PA Constitutional Convention, mind you, because our state legislators are ethically challenged, corrupted, even the newcomers aren't supported as they were when they first took office because they've followed the leader... Isn't it time to roll up the sleeves and talk to our neighbors and family and get them to recall them by voting them out in November?

Net the Truth Online


Before the recess, and shortly after, some of these same legislators were already calling for a special session on "corruption" in the wake of rumors of indictments and subsequent indictments pertaining to "bonusgate."

Bonusgate reawakens call for reform
Published: Sunday, July 20, 2008

It feels like the fall of 2005 all over again with state lawmakers tripping over themselves to introduce a new wave of reform bills. Many are calling anew for a special legislative session on ethics and reform or, more far-reaching, a constitutional convention.

Only this time the impetus for the clarion call is Round One of the Bonusgate charges, not the legislative pay raise.

Question? Why a special session on corruption? What is the legislature going to do in a special session it cannot do by foregoing a recess and pressing on with the public's business throughout the summer? Legislators could have refused to recess at the call of the leadership in order to press on with the reform measures long discussed.

In fact, several bills had been presented to do many of the things reformers wanted, such as reducing the size of the state legislature. Our legislators could have remained in session to take care of the peoples' agenda, not their own agendas.

Senator Jeffrey Piccola is among those who don't think a mere special session on corruption or legislative reform is enough.

7/16/08 - State Senator Jeff Piccola (R-15) discusses his call for a special legislative session on government reform and ethical reform

Previously, just a month ago, before recessing, two state legislators came out pushing for convening a Constitutional Convention.

Galloway, King say proposed special session on reform is not enough

Lawmakers call for constitutional convention, say legislature unlikely to fully reform itself

Monday, July 14, 2008
Pa. lawmakers call for constitutional conventionPhiladelphia Business Journal

Now it's pretty much a given the special session will be intended to encompass more than corruption issues.

Legislative reform is the new phrasing.

After listing a number of measures the state legislators should consider in a special session, Piccola writes

...In my opinion the only hope of ever enacting any of these constitutional reforms is a Constitutional Convention.

Senator Jeffrey Piccola notes he believes a 90-day window before the Fall election is not enough time for the state legislature to pass and enact these reform measures.

He's circulating a petition among legislators to meet in the special session.

And what is the guise of the special session? Ethics.

Piccola has already proposed legislation to call for convening a PA Constitutional Convention.

A special session will no doubt enable the legislators in the special session to craft a referendum question for the Fall ballot to enable calling a Constitutional Convention for PA.

That idea for a convention nicely called a "citizens' constitutional convention" has been circulating for a few years heavily pumped by Russ Diamond and Tim Potts, and a handful of mostly Harrisburg or vicinity based "good government" organizations.

In fact, way back in July of 2005, there was talk of a convention. And when Diamond sought to obtain enough signatures to place his name on the independent category for the Governor of PA, his major platform issue was the convening of a citizens' convention.

We've discussed as many of those efforts as we came across in the past on our site.

The people may be convinced that the state legislators can't pass these reform measures - whatever they may be at any given moment in time - now it's ethic constraints - in a special session or any other way on their own as they have been slow on many proposals such as reducing the size of the state legislature.

But so what if the process is slow and deliberative. It should be.

And for the public servants to act the public must pressure them to act.

Yet, many stay home during elections and complain later how "bad" and corrupt Harrisburg representatives are.

The PA Constitution is not at fault for law-breaking and corrupted elected public officials. What don't reformers and Galloway, King, and Piccola not understand?

Many news editorials have already jumped on the bandwagon of support as well.

At a Brookings Institution forum, according to journalist John Baer, who was invited to attend:

Another thought, from Rick Stafford, a Carnegie Mellon public-policy professor who served as Gov. Dick Thornburgh's secretary of legislative affairs: Create a Constitutional Convention contest, again funded by foundations, among the state's 250-plus colleges and universities.

How about instead of getting students to discuss what some think needs alteration because corrupt people end up in office, we get students to discuss what kind of character flaws apparantly exist in a whole array of elected public officials no matter their background, education, or political persuasion in the two-party system.


We don't need a special session on corruption, ethics, legislative reform, or anything else that will be not only hurried, but will silence for a time critics of the true problem in state government.

The people we elect who do not follow the current state Constitution. They are the problem.

There are dangers in a convention process among which is the possibility for altering our form of government from a guaranteed republican form to something else.

Beware of a special session on corruption, ethics, or legislative reform.

Beware Senator Jeffrey Piccola's Proposal for a Special Session on "Ethics."

Beware the setup.

Legislature's reform efforts get low marks
Sunday, July 13, 2008
By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

Beware of editorials presenting one side but not the full 'revision' side of the PA Constitution - the potential exists as we've discussed here at Net the Truth Online.

End of corruption: Convene a convention

...Legislative wiener weasels want a special session to address "ethics reform." What a joke. It's time for a state constitutional convention to begin the process of decommissioning this corrupt enterprise.

Oh, indeed, such an endeavor could be a double-edged sword. The reprobates might gain even more power. But this is a risk worth taking and a fight worth picking because it's past time for Pennsylvanians to reclaim their government.

We can decommission the corrupt and their corrupt enterprise without a convention. It's called voting in an election against the incumbent lawbreaker.

Maybe the Tribune-Review is ok with the risk of 'retrobates' gaining more power via convention measures, but many of us are not willing to risk drastic alteration of our foundation of republican government via a convention which could become unlimited in session.

Beware of those such as the Commonwealth Foundation who claim nothing bad will come out of a special session on legislative reform. The organization has longstanding efforts to initiative and referendum measures - and states in this release a convention should be called. Don't be shocked when the special session permits the referendum question and choosing delegates during the same election cycle!

They did it when they passed payraises during a session in which they served (which was actually Constitutional) and took the payraises with few exceptions in the form of unvouchered expenses during the same session in which they passed the payraises (which wasn't Constitutional).

Sunday, July 20, 2008
Why have a special session on reform?

A special session forces lawmakers to take a stand. The only reason to oppose a special session would be to stifle any potential reform. If there is momentum to call a special session (i.e. 26 Senators and 102 Representatives signing on), then there should be momentum to enact substantive reform - such as calling a constitutional convention or initiative and referendum.

With the encouragement of the reformers to convene a convention, the legislators would like nothing better than to draw attention to so-called structural constitutional "defects" rather than to their own personal defects and low marks for character.

The defects which caused an overwhelming amout to vote for unconstitutional unvouchered expenses and actually put the money in their pockets!

Defects which cause an overwhelming amount with few dissents to reauthorize an expansion of the unconstitutional tax-forgiveness program known as Keystone Opportunity Zones.

The same defects that cause an overwhelming amount to time and time again ignore the PA Constitution's restraints in a range of categories from creating public debt in the form of bond issues - notice those have to pass with the people's consent from time to time because the Constitution requires a balanced budget. They have to create debt so they can on paper present a balanced budget.

Send a clear message to them and to the media which is salivating for a historical convention. (something to write about, my dear with travel allowance) Show up in November and kick out any and all who have not followed the PA Constitution in many regards.

Send far more than 50 of them back to other jobs back home. If they can be trusted in any. Maybe we'll be fortunate enough that their like won't be returning to Harrisburg in the guise of new and different reformers who promise whatever reform they think will "satisfy" the people, but don't deliver on upholding the PA Constitution.

They promise to uphold all of the PA Constitution, including the uniformity clause, and don't.

Vote them all out. Then we can start from a new base, without the need of a new and revised PA Constitution.

A new base of people who adhere to their oath of office and the constitutional constraints placed upon them, not us.

Net the Truth Online

Senator Piccola

Constitutional Convention key to legislative reform
Article Last Updated: 07/24/2008

...This session should last only four or five weeks this fall before the elections. We should be in session five days a week and pass bills that will start to restore the people's confidence in state government.

The following are but a few of the subjects we should act upon:

---Require annual and outside forensic audits of all legislative accounts.

---Establish an Office of Inspector General for the General Assembly.

---Prohibit bonuses for any commonwealth employees

--- Ban gifts to legislators from lobbyists and their principals.

---Campaign finance reform.

A number of reform amendments to the state constitution have been proposed such as eliminating sine die (lame duck) sessions, reducing the size of the legislature, reapportionment reform and germ limits.

None of these constitutional proposals have advanced very far in the current session.

Because the special session will be within 90 days of the General Election, they could not be considered due to time constraints contained in our state Constitution.

However, this special session could call for a Constitutional Convention to consider these structural reforms to state government. In my opinion the only hope of ever enacting any of these constitutional reforms is a Constitutional Convention.

This is far from an exhaustive list of the issues that could be considered by the Special Session. The General Assembly does in fact have many good women and men who are there for the right reasons.

Poll: Voters don't believe lawmakers will stop corruption
By Brad Bumsted
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

HARRISBURG -- Three of four Pennsylvanians aren't convinced the state Legislature will fix apparent corruption problems that surfaced in an ongoing grand jury investigation, a poll released today shows.
By a 5-1 margin, voters also say House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene County, should step down from his leadership post in the wake of criminal charges that rocked the Capitol last month, according to the poll by Quinnipiac University.

Attorney General Tom Corbett on July 10 filed theft, criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest charges against DeWeese's former chief of staff Mike Manzo, former Democratic Whip Mike Veon of Beaver Falls, Democratic Rep. Sean Ramaley of Economy, and 10 Democratic staffers.

The poll of 1,580 voters has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points. The survey was conducted from July 30 to Aug. 3...

...The poll also showed:

• 73 percent of those polled blame Democrats and Republicans equally for alleged corruption.

• 76 percent believe Gov. Ed Rendell should call a special session this summer on legislative reform.

Rendell pressed to call Legislature to session on ethics
Monday, July 14, 2008
By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- A state senator from Harrisburg will ask Gov. Ed Rendell today to call a special session of the Legislature for September-October to revise General Assembly ethics and try to restore public confidence in the wake of the widening "bonusgate" scandal.

Rendell Rejects A Special Session on Public Integrity

More talking about corruption but instead of saying hey kick "them" out, people, are intent on a convention call

Need a Con-Con for structural reforms Conservative Goddess

Cohen also voted against a study of a Constitutional Convention supported by most Democrats and opposed by most Republicans.

No comments: