Democracy Rising, PA Newsletter

Member Group : News Releases

Support for a Constitution Convention Just Keeps on Coming
We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: Those who believe the time is right for a Constitution Convention represent the political mainstream of PA. Support for a referendum next year is truly non-partisan, and it spans the Commonwealth’s geography. Here’s what they’re saying:
• State capitol abuse finally being exposed, Brian O’Neill in the Post-Gazette, Dec. 17
• Taxpayers get bill for Pa. pols’ party in NYC, Editorial, Delaware County Daily Times, Dec. 17
• Donate to push for better state government, Editorial, Pocono Record, Dec. 18
• Agents of Change, Editorial, Beaver County Times, Dec. 19
• Power to the people: A state constitutional convention is the way back, Editorial, Post-Gazette, Dec. 20
• Constitutional convention is the best solution to Pennsylvania’s legislative woes, Editorial, The Patriot, Dec. 20
• Incorrigible legislators, Editorial, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 20
• Term limits could curtail legislative corruption, Dale Davenport in The Patriot, Dec. 20
• Scandal doesn’t shake lawmakers to reform, Brad Bumsted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Dec. 20
• Anti-capitol petition fueled by W. PA Ire, Brian O’Neill in the Post-Gazette, Dec. 20
The Bad A
One of our friends this week sent us the response he got from his state representative when asked whether he supports a convention. "I support a convention on issues that are disclosed but if an open convention were offered, you would be opening government to every interest group good, bad or otherwise," the lawmaker said in an email.
The entire point of a convention is to open government to every citizen and, yes, every interest group that exists in PA. It’s everyone’s government, and everyone needs to be represented in order for a convention to propose improvements that warrant ratification by the citizens. This lawmaker’s bad attitude doesn’t merely show that he doesn’t understand what representative democracy is all about; it shows that nothing will happen if every lawmaker believes he or she can decide who’s "good, bad or otherwise."
Send this and other lawmakers a message about whose government it is. Click here to sign the petition for a referendum.
WAMs: Still No Reply
Twice since September, DR has asked our state’s top political leaders to respond to the question of whether they believe WAMs (Walking Around Money) are constitutional. To date, only one, Auditor General and candidate for governor Jack Wagner, has taken the time to respond and to meet with DR Board Chair Mark Widoff and DR President Tim Potts. It was a thoughtful and positive response that we are keeping to ourselves temporarily while waiting for responses from others. Those others are:
• Governor Ed Rendell
• Attorney General and candidate for governor Tom Corbett.
• State Treasurer Rob McCord
• Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati III, R-Jefferson
• Speaker of the House Keith McCall, D-Carbon
• Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna
• House Minority Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson
For background about WAMs and why we believe them to be unconstitutional, click here.
Some lawmakers have begun saying that there is no need to address the issue of WAMs because there aren’t any in this year’s budget. That’s wrong. In the Harrisburg Patriot’s capitol column November 6, House Majority Leader Todd Eachus confirmed at least $100 million in WAMs carried forward from last year. (In other words, while others fell victim to the budgetary axe and even lost their jobs, our lawmakers had more money for WAMs than they knew how to spend.) Other sources tell us that the number is more like $130 million. Click here for a recent edition of DR News devoted to WAMs.
PA Judiciary: Where Nepotism Still Thrives
One of the lingering questions about the "kids for cash" scandal in Luzerne County is how it could go on for so long without anyone in a courthouse full of lawyers, victims, clerks and others blowing the whistle.
Part of the answer, according to testimony to the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, is nepotism. By hiring relatives to work for the courts, judges can reduce the risk that someone will object to any illegal activity in the courtroom or chambers. Click here for an update on the commission and its work at getting to the bottom of what some call the worst abuse of judicial power in American history.
It seems a simple enough thing to fix, but you have to want to fix it. This appears to be a problem for the PA Supreme Court, which doesn’t prohibit nepotism, and for local judges who continue to practice it.
Click here for a story about two Montgomery County judges who just hired their wives for $53,000 jobs.
• When will the PA Supreme Court prohibit nepotism in every PA court?

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