Will Lame Ducks Quack?
Well, no sooner did we tell you that the House and Senate both had agreed not to hold session after the election than House Speaker Sam Smith, Jefferson, breathed life into the old bird.
On July 31, Smith sent a memo to all members of the House adding four session days after the election: November 13, 14, 19 and 20. While the stated purpose of the post-election session days is "caucus reorganization, farewell speeches and other housekeeping matters," there’s far more to lame-duck session than that.
Disrespect for Voters
There’s nothing to stop the House from legislating as long as they’re in session. Its members still will be able to enact any legislation received from the Senate before Election Day as long as there are no amendments.
The office of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, Delaware, confirmed that in the Senate "there will NOT be any votes on legislation that needs to be sent to the Governor." (emphasis in original)
Until the House makes a similar statement, it runs the risk of defying what 86% of PA voters want: their legislators’ complete voting record to be available before Election Day. See the 2012 Public Integrity Poll.
The House and Senate must be in session for lawmakers to charge taxpayers for daily expenses that may or may not exist, otherwise known as per diems. Click here for the IRS "State Legislator Travel Fact Sheet." Lawmakers can only collect per diems for session days, and there are no session days after a legislature has adjourned for four days.
By scheduling session days after Election Day, Smith has made it possible for House members to continue collecting per diems for doing little or no official business. The Senate is in the same posture, having scheduled November 14 as a session day for "housekeeping purposes."
If the House and Senate would simply adjourn before Election Day, taxpayers would be spared the cost of an entire month’s worth of legislative expenses. For per diems alone, the cost could exceed $500,000. Combined with other expenses that attend having lawmakers in town, the cost easily could exceed $1 million.
• Wanna save a million bucks without cutting programs?
• A million bucks for farewell speeches? Housekeeping? Caucus reorganization?
Speaking of which, caucus reorganization must await the outcome of the election on November 6.
However, nothing requires the House or Senate to be in session when they reorganize their caucuses because there’s nothing official about it. Caucus reorganization is pure party politics in each chamber. That’s why lawmakers who retired or were defeated don’t participate, even though they are still sitting legislators. Yet those who are newly elected do participate, even though they’re not sworn into office until January.
Just Too Busy to Finish Before Election Day
The House has scheduled exactly two session days in the entire month of September and just eight session days in October. The Senate has scheduled the same two days in September and two fewer days in October. So it would seem that there is plenty of time for "farewell speeches and other housekeeping matters" before the election.
Then an adjournment motion is in order. They’ll still get an automatic pay raise on December 1.
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