Democracy Rising: DeWeese Guilty
State Rep. and former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, has been found guilty of four counts of theft and one count of conspiracy to use public resources illegally. He was acquitted of one count of theft. DeWeese, re-elected in 2010 while charges were pending, may remain a legislator until sentencing, when he will be required to resign, according to news reports. Sentencing will take place on April 24, which is primary election day.
DeWeese is the second former House Speaker to be guilty of using tax-funded offices and staff for partisan political activity. Former Speaker John Perzel, R-Phila., pled guilty last fall.
DeWeese guilty on five counts, jury decides, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Feb. 6
DeWeese convicted on 5 felony charges, vows to run again, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 6
Dauphin County jury convicts Rep. DeWeese in corruption case, Harrisburg Patriot-News, Feb. 6
DeWeese is the first sitting legislator to be convicted in the five-year prosecution of House Republicans and Democrats in a variety of scandals. One more legislator who was re-elected while charges were pending, state Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, faces trial on February 27. She and sister Janine Orie are charged with crimes similar to those for which DeWeese was convicted. A third Orie sister, Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is the target of an Allegheny County grand jury investigation.
Tomorrow, Gov. Tom Corbett will present his proposed budget for the state’s fiscal year beginning July 1. The administration has been preparing the public for bad news ranging from continued deteriorating roads and bridges to further cuts to education.
Lean budget likely from Corbett, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, Feb. 5
More pain expected in Corbett’s budget proposal, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 5
Gov. Corbett’s spending plan might cut funds for higher education, Harrisburg Patriot-News, Feb. 5
If the predictions are true, the Corbett budget will fly in the face of what the majority of PA voters who are willing to raise some taxes and impose new taxes in order to minimize budget cuts:
• 71% support taxing Marcellus Shale extraction. 21% oppose. Click here. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimates that the delay in taxing Marcellus Shale has cost the Commonwealth more than $300 million in lost revenue. Click here.
• 72% support taxing smokeless tobacco and cigars. 26% oppose. Click here.
• 58% support selling the state liquor stores. 31% oppose. Click here.
• 57% are willing to raise license and registration fees if the money goes for road and bridge repairs. 35% are unwilling. Click here.
Then there’s the legislature’s surplus. Normally the audit of the General Assembly is released in December for the previous year. Sometime in the next few weeks it will come out for 2010-11. There could be another $150-$200 million sitting in legislative accounts that also could be used to avoid program cuts.
• When voters are willing to raise taxes to avoid budget cuts and for specific projects, why won’t government give voters what they want? Whose government is it?
• If Gov. Corbett doesn’t represent what the majority of PA voters want, who does he represent?
The continuing re-districting drama
Finally, two stories about the protracted redistricting dispute. The first describes the potential effects on the election calendar resulting from the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s (LRC) delaying tactic that backed the Supreme Court into a corner, a tactic that backfired on the LRC.
Legislators say rejection of Pa. redistricting imperils April primary, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 5
The second story celebrates Amanda Holt, the citizen who proved redistricting can and, according to the Supreme Court, should be done better. A home-schooled Republican committeewoman without a college degree, Holt is a firm believer in enforcing the Constitution.
Commentary: Convincing a court to re-think redistricting, Harrisburg Patriot-News, Feb. 5
Although the Supreme Court took heat, including from DR, for delaying the release of its opinion, the court’s decision was worth the wait. The decision sets the stage not only for this year’s redistricting but for 2021.
• Will a new LRC plan also be worth the wait?
• Will the LRC spend more energy trying to defend the indefensible than getting down to business?
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