Many of you contacted your representatives to ask what they intend to do about the proposed House rules described in Sunday's DR News Urgent Alert. Some also contacted their senator to ask whether the Senate will improve their own rules.
We now can report that consideration of the new rules was postponed until next week. Yesterday afternoon, Speaker Keith McCall, D-Carbon, issued a memo to House Democrats, but not Republicans, announcing the delay and denying that the draft proposal was intended to roll back the reforms of 2007.
Interestingly though, the first paragraph of McCall's memo confirmed that the original plan was to consider the new rules yesterday, even though the actual language of the rules was not available to the public and possibly not to the representatives. In fact as of 3:00 this afternoon, the resolution containing the actual language still was not posted on the official General Assembly web site.
So House members would have been in the position of seeing the actual rules changes on the first day they were being considered and perhaps even voting on them on the same day. There would have been no opportunity at all for public input without the summary of the proposed changes being leaked last week.
After confirming the original plan, McCall's memo immediately complained about "an aggressive and misinformed campaign" to misrepresent what they intended to do. Click here to see McCall's entire memo.
This puts McCall in the amusing position of complaining that people are not informed about something that they had not been allowed to see and that they wouldn't be allowed to see before the House took up consideration. In typical fashion, the House leadership keeps citizens in the dark and then blames us for failing to see the light.
What McCall and other House leaders appear not to understand is that they have so abused the public trust that there is no margin for error in the way they do our business. They have not earned the benefit of the doubt and, as this episode demonstrates once again, they have no plan for earning that trust again.
This is particularly true of the House Democrats, who have treated us to tax-funded bonuses for staff, many of whom just happened to campaign to elect Democrats in 2006. This abuse already has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in bonuses, in attorney general investigations and prosecutions, and in legal fees for House Democratic members, former members and staff.
Remember that this also is the same leadership "team" that bottled up Senate-passed improvements in public integrity, killing them without even the courtesy of public hearings at the end of last year's session. Instead of the best laws in America, they offered mere rules. And now they are working to make the rules less clear and less effective for citizens who want to watch their public servants at work.
Through long and sad experience, PA citizens have learned that legislative leaders will abuse any ambiguity in rules or laws or the Constitution to deny citizens their right to participate in their government. Unless legislative leaders can demonstrate that each change will be an improvement for citizen access and standards of public integrity, and not just for the leaders' convenience in strong-arming members to go along with secret deals like slots gambling and the pay raise, citizens should continue to question whether their representatives support any changes and why.
- When will the public get to see the actual language of the proposed rules changes so that we can judge for ourselves whether they improve or degrade public integrity?
- If, as McCall contends, there was no intent to pull a fast one on Monday, why were the changes assembled and promoted in exactly the way they used to pull a fast one on citizens?
- Why did McCall send his memo only to Democrats?
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