These were all proposed by members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly during its 2021-22 session:
- Resolution honoring the retirement of Villanova University men’s basketball coach Jay Wright.
- Resolution honoring the late Philadelphia Phillies great Dick Allen.
- Resolution designating May 24, 2022 “State Working Animal Day” in Pennsylvania.
- A resolution honoring the life and accomplishments of an 18th-century Pennsylvania botanist named Humphrey Marshall.
We’re big fans of Wright, Allen, and animals. We are sure that Marshall was a marvel of his time.
According to Pennsylvania Heritage, a quarterly journal published by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission and Museum, Marshall has been called “the American father of dendrology, the study of wooded plants.”
This is impressive.
But we are rooting for legislation that would actually improve modern Pennsylvania life and institutions. Like property tax reform. Independent school funding reform. General gun regulation. We want to see safer roads in the state. and improving broadband access in rural areas of the Commonwealth.
Unfortunately, the bloated and weak state legislature does not appear to be in the business of actually introducing the necessary legislation.
As Carol Kuniholm wrote in the Perspective section last Sunday, “Pennsylvania’s full-time legislature is among the lowest five in the country in terms of the average number of bills passed annually and the percentage of bills submitted, according to FiscalNote, an information services company “.
This is despite the fact that it is the largest full-time legislative body in the United States. As reported earlier this year by The Caucus, a watchdog publication of the LNP Media Group, Pennsylvania lawmakers are the third-highest paid in the country, behind only their peers in California and New York.
Despite their already high salaries, state lawmakers are set to receive historic automatic salary increases that are expected to raise their base salaries above $100,000 for the first time.
As The Caucus reported in August, State Republican Representative Brian Cutler of Drumor Township, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, as well as Republican Pro-Timbur Senate Speaker Jake Corman, can see their salaries rise to more than $162,000.
In total, the increases for lawmakers alone could cost Pennsylvania taxpayers an additional $2 million next year.
Legislators also receive generous benefits and can claim – without providing receipts – per diem and flat fee payments covering meals and lodging, for each day of the session traveling more than 50 miles from their homes for legislative work.
A conservative estimate of annual spending by the state legislature: $350 million.
We don’t get much for our money, except for the legislature which is quick to criticize other institutions and parts of the state government for incompetence but is reluctant to do business with its own.
As The Caucus reported in April, the state legislature hasn’t even been able to pass legislation banning pet stores from selling commercially bred dogs, cats or rabbits.
As that post noted, “Being a puppy-fighting mill is the easiest way in politics.”
Despite attracting many co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, the bill (Victoria Law) was struck down in commission.
The assembly article explained why. Lawmakers voted on January 5, 2021 to adopt the rules “that will govern how chambers operate in the next two years. These rules give enormous power to a small group of legislative leaders. They can single-handedly set the legislative agenda, fast-track preferred bills and bury legislation, even if It had the support of a majority of 203 members of the House of Representatives and 50 seats in the Senate.”
Rules are quickly adopted during the post-holiday haze, when most of us don’t care about what appears to be procedural within baseball, but actually has a profound impact on how Harrisburg operates (or not). Committee chairs are given the power to exert control over legislation, so rarely anything gets done.
Köniholm wrote last Sunday that many “good solutions that would benefit all Pennsylvanians are obscured on the panel by presidents behaving like petty tyrants,” ignoring pleas from advocacy groups or repeated requests from their colleagues.
And the prospect of the party’s proposed legislation is out of power — Republicans have controlled the Senate since 1994 and the state House since 2010 — even the expectations most opponents face against the Philadelphia Eagles this season.
As Koneholm noted, “Many part-time legislatures, some with sessions of only a few months, pass more bills with more public input, and address specific concerns without partisan drama or legislative delay. The Pennsylvania legislative process has become a game of party control. Focus on who gets the credit, who stays in power and who gets the biggest donations and gifts.”
In December 2018, this editorial board expressed its desire for our state legislators to work “hard and quickly on Pennsylvania’s interlocking systems of educational financing and local property taxes. There should be a rigorous timetable for the full implementation of the fair, bipartisan funding formula for all school districts. With regard to taxes. On property, there should be an exemption for all (especially the elderly) who receive these often crippling annual bills.”
Blame us for being naive in thinking that state legislators will work “hard and fast” on anything, except to make their lives easier (like automatically raising wages and dividing legislative districts so they can retain power). Because none of those things we wished had come to fruition.
Kuniholm indicated that all of Pennsylvania’s 203 House of Representatives seats and half of the 50 Senate seats in Pennsylvania are up for polling on November 8. She urged voters to ask candidates for the state’s general assembly if they would push for new rules of procedure in January that would actually allow passage. of important legislation. This is an excellent idea.
“When bipartisan solutions are ignored year after year, our economy, our health, and our future are at stake,” Konyholm wrote. “Pennsylvania cannot afford another two years of an unresponsive and unaccountable legislature.”
We couldn’t agree more.
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