April 4, 2012 - Legislative Audit Meeting Cancelled
Those who want to see how much lawmakers are hoarding for themselves as they prepare to cut services for the neediest citizens and force higher local property taxes will have to wait at least until after the primary election.
Yesterday, DR received word that the meeting of the eight-member Legislative Audit Advisory Commission, scheduled for 10:30 this morning, was cancelled. Why? Sources cite one primary reason that is so hard to believe as to be laughable: since December the LAAC can't get a quorum of its eight members to a meeting to release the report.
Who are these eight people? By law, four are lawmakers, and four are independent citizens appointed by the four legislative caucuses.
- Rep. Gordon Denlinger, Lancaster, chairman
- Rep. Florindo Fabrizio, Erie
- Sen. Patrick Browne, Lehigh
- Sen. Vincent Hughes, Philadelphia
- Roger Nick, Cumberland, House GOP appointee (former House chief clerk)
- James Stalder, Allegheny, House Democratic appointee
- Mark Freemer, Clearfield, Senate GOP appointee
- Vacant, Senate Democratic appointee
To get a quorum of five people sometime during four months should not be hard to do. The House and Senate collectively have held 26 days of session so far this year (and no doubt have collected their unaccountable per diems for several times that number of business days). That's four, and a fifth from Cumberland County is less than a ten-minute drive from the capitol. The vacant Senate Democratic appointment could be someone even closer to the capitol if only Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Allegheny, had found time in the past nine months to appoint someone to the LAAC.
Although there is plenty of time between now and the April 24 primary election, the LAAC will not meet, sources tell DR. Having put in a grueling three days of session so far in April, the House and Senate now will not return to session until April 30.
Easter and the primary election are given as excuses for lawmakers' absence from the capitol this month. Yet among the four lawmakers, neither Denlinger nor Fabrizio have an opponent in either the primary or general elections, so it's not as though they need to be pressing the flesh somewhere. Hughes also has no competition this year, and Browne's term doesn't end until 2014.
Top 10 Reasons for Failure
The real reason for this failure to act cannot be the inability of five people to meet in the capitol for an hour. So what is the real reason? Here are our top 10 speculations:
10. The Costas, who now have three family members in the legislature, are waiting until they have their own quorum.
9. Someone misplaced the calculator, and no one knows how to add without one.
8. They're waiting for Gov. Tom Corbett to do something about his promise to take some of the surplus away from lawmakers. (Hint: Gov, you can blue line the legislature's budget.)
7. Punxutawney Phil really predicted six more months of stonewalling, not six more weeks of winter.
6. It's hard for lawmakers with a surplus of more than $100,000,000 to complain about the poor struggling to have a few thousand dollars in a savings account.
5. Without WAMs, legislative leaders need a large surplus (in addition to the power to gerrymander) to get lawmakers to vote for things people don't want and to ignore things people do want.
4. Lawmakers are secretly trying to create even more reasons for a Constitution convention.
3. Lawmakers without opponents want to create an issue for independent candidates to get on the ballot this summer.
2. Letting people know how large the legislature's surplus is could create problems for the few lawmakers who have primary opponents.
1. Aristocrats never explain their behavior.
What can we do?
Call your lawmakers and tell them you want to do know what they're doing with your money before April 24. Tell them there's no excuse for failure. And remember on April 24 who is stonewalling your right to know.