Pennsylvania, Land of Giants

See? It’s not just me:

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania legislature lives in a ” ‘time warp’ of public corruption” and needs to make sweeping changes to its operations, including cutting staff, instituting term limits, and going part-time, according to a damning report by the long-running state grand jury investigating corruption in the state Capitol.

The 34-page report, delivered to top legislative leaders Monday afternoon, describes a culture that has allowed corruption to flourish, in many cases unchecked. It also finds that campaign-related work consumes an enormous amount of time for many state employees.

Among other recommendations, the grand jury said the legislature could become a part-time body and still complete its work. That, in turn, would allow it to cut staff and salaries, the report said.

The report also proposed that all hiring be done by a nonpartisan human resources department to prevent “partisan hires” by the four legislative caucuses.

Those party caucuses, Democratic and Republican, came in for scathing criticism in the report – especially regarding the source of their funding.

“Taxpayer-Funded Political Caucuses Must End,” says a heading of a section of the report.

In addition, the grand jury recommended that special leadership accounts be eliminated or, at the least, that all expenses be made available to the public.

Some of the changes would require changes to the state constitution.

As the report put it: “The grand jury calls upon the General Assembly to leave its ‘time warp’ of public corruption and pass legislation . . . to address the rampant public corruption of the General Assembly. The people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, whom the elected legislators are supposed to serve, deserve no less.”

The report noted that grand jurors sought the expertise of Alan Rosenthal, a political science professor at Rutgers University who has studied U.S. legislatures for 40 years.

Rosenthal concluded that the Pennsylvania legislature had not caught up with ethics and accountability standards that most other states have adopted.

The “time warp” quote comes from Rosenthal’s testimony: “It’s still doing what all the states did in the 1950s and 1960s.” He noted that the laws against spending public money on campaigning had been enacted by legislators. “For them to be expected to obey the laws . . . is not asking a lot of your legislature.”

One thought on “Pennsylvania, Land of Giants

  1. I scanned it. Some of the recommendations are very good (most of the campaign finance and ethics stuff, lengthening of state rep terms so they’re not constantly fundraising), and some of them really fall apart under scrutiny (maybe the rural reps could get by with being part time, but not the urban ones– the ones I know are in the home office or at the State Capital 40+ hours a week, usually more; getting rid of the per diems in Harrisburg sounds good in theory, but it means you’re going to have to hire half a dozen full time people to go through reimbursement requests from the 253 Reps and Senators if they have to file for reimbursement, which is what the GJ recommends), but it’s an interesting place to start discussions. Let’s see if the Inky or DN actually print the damned thing, or just summarize.

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