Democracy Rising Pennsylvania
More Support for the Referendum
More lawmakers and candidates have signed the petition for a referendum this fall, joining the 72% of voters who support a Constitution convention. The lawmakers (still no state senators) are:
• Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, who also is a candidate for lieutenant governor.
• Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe.
The candidates are:
• Michael Slipp, Bristol Township, who is among four Democrats seeking the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Tony Melio, D-Bucks.
• Mark Stevens is running to replace Rep. Barbara McIlvaine-Smith, the first lawmaker to sign the petition.
• Fred Baldwin is the sole Democrat running to replace Rep. Will Gabig, R-Cumberland, who is not seeking re-election.
The highest profile support for a convention (although not yet the petition) comes from Auditor General and gubernatorial candidate Jack Wagner. Appearing on Pittsburgh’s KD-PG television program yesterday morning, Wagner said, "I am fighting the status quo as a candidate for Governor. I want to change the status quo….After more than 40 years, it is time for another constitutional convention in order to directly involve the public in bringing these and other fundamental reforms to state government." Click here for the full interview. KD-PG is a joint production of KDKA-TV and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Judges Suffer from Pay Raise Excess
There is good news and bad news about the budget for the judiciary. The good news is that the Supreme Court is talking openly about its budget problems. The bad news is that the justices apparently don’t recognize this as a problem partly of their own creation.
In 2006, the judges ruled that the Pay Raise of 2005 was unconstitutional – except for themselves. Now they lament a $20 million budget shortfall that arises entirely from the higher salaries they decided to pay themselves.
The raise of about $15,000 per judge is going to 1,058 judges. That’s $15,870,000. Since they have all received the higher amount for four years, compounded by annual COLAs (except last year)…well, you get the picture.
In a pithy editorial, the Altoona Mirror takes justices to task for seeking more money without being willing to cut costs. One idea that Justice Max Baer rejected in budget hearings was for judges to pay 1% of their health care costs. Senators and staff currently pay 1% while Representatives, like the judges, pay nothing toward their top-of-the-line health care benefits.
As the Mirror points out, there are many people making far less money than judges who pay far more for health care that isn’t nearly as good. Click here for the editorial.
• Years since the Pay Raise of 2005: 4.5
• Number of laws enacted to prevent another midnight pay grab: 0
Defending the Indefensible
The Bonus Scandal trial plods along, and the strategy of defense attorneys reveals some startling notions. Perhaps the most startling is the contention that campaigning at taxpayer expense is really just another form of legislative business. Attorney Dan Raynak suggested that since lawmakers’ job is to vote on legislation, and since they can’t vote on legislation without being elected, it’s OK to use tax-funded staff, equipment and services for their political campaigns.
Click here for a column by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ruth Ann Dailey expressing appropriate outrage.
As an incumbent protection strategy, this one is hard to beat. Once elected to office, incumbents could use the unlimited resources (in their minds) of taxpayers to stay in office. No one but the super-rich could hope to compete with people who already have a surplus of at least $180 million at their disposal while they debate what programs to cut that serve ordinary citizens.
But that’s not all. Once you use the "anything-I-do-is-public-business" defense, it’s hard to imagine what’s out of bounds. With this defense, Watergate isn’t even a third-rate burglary. It’s just another way of staying in power to do the people’s business. How about hacking your opponent’s computers? How about filing fraudulent nominating petitions?
Better yet, how about obeying the law and keeping campaigning separate from governance?
• Years since the Bonus Scandal investigation began: 3
• Number of laws passed to prevent future scandals: 0
A New Reality
We don’t have to settle for whatever government lawmakers, judges and governors want to give us.
1. Click here to sign the petition for a referendum on a Constitution convention.
2. Forward this edition of DR News to others and ask them to sign the petition.
3. Donate to keep the pressure on.
A new reality is up to us, because only we can keep democracy rising!
We can be reached at: P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013
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