Monday, January 09, 2006

Legislative dropout rate on the rise

Can’t call them the Dirty Dozen anymore. How about the Fearful Fifteen? As of January 9, my count has 15 state legislators calling it quits — 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats. See list below.

Also below is a list of legislators who have given back the money they took as "unvouchered expenses" during their short-lived pay raise in the summer of 2005.

Fichter not seeking re-election

Margaret Gibbons of the Norristown Times Herald reports that a third incumbent Republican state lawmaker from Montgomery County is stepping down at the end of the year.
State Rep. John W. Fichter, a 71-year-old East Norriton resident who was first elected to his 70th District state House seat in 1992, has announced he will not seek re-election this year.
Fichter joins fellow county GOP state Reps. Ray Bunt in 147th District and Jacqueline R. Crahalla in the 150th District in opting out of this year's elections.
Like the two others, Fichter said that the controversial pay hike for which he and others voted and then repealed after sparking the anger of the public did not play any role in his decision.
"That did not even enter into my mind in making this decision," said Fichter, who was born in West Conshohocken, attended the then-Norristown High School and is a graduate of Ursinus College.
Fichter's district includes parts of East Norriton, Norristown, Skippack and Towamencin and Lower Salford and Worcester.
Among those who have indicated an interest in running for the seat include: Netta Young Hughes, a Norristown resident who unsuccessfully in the past attempted to topple Fichter; former county treasurer Jay R. Moyer of Lower Salford; former county prosecutor Sean Cullen of Skippack; and Towamencin Republican Stan Kemp.

The 15 Legislators who are calling it quits:

— Rep. Kevin Blaum, D-Luzerne, minority caucus secretary.
— Rep. Raymond Bunt Jr., R-Montgomery, majority caucus secretary.
— Rep. Thomas C. Corrigan Sr., D-Bucks, House member since 1987.
— Rep. Jacqueline Crahalla, R-Montgomery, leaving after two terms.
— Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, lawyer who has served in the House since 1991.
— Rep. John W. Fichter, R-Montgomery, has represented the Norristown area since 1993
— Rep. Robert J. Flick, R-Chester, chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee.
— Rep. George C. Hasay, R-Luzerne, chairman of the Commerce Committee.
— Lynn B. Herman, R-Centre, chairman of the Local Government Committee, has represented the State College area in the House since 1983.
— Rep. Victor J. Lescovitz, D-Washington, minority chairman of the Local Government Committee.
— Rep. Sheila Miller, R-Berks, chairwoman of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
— Rep. T.J. Rooney, D-Northampton, chairman of state Democratic Party.
— Rep. Bruce Smith, R-York, chairman of the Game and Fisheries Committee.
— Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, R-Chester, majority caucus chairwoman.
— Sen. Charles Lemmond, R-Luzerne, chairman of the State Government Committee.

Pa. House reveals who gave back pay raise

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front-page story and list over the weekend of 61 lawmakers who have repaid the state or garnished their wages.
According to reporter Mario F. Cattabiani, records show that 61 state representatives have either written reimbursement checks for the amount they collected or are having their wages garnished — about double the number disclosed just last month.
Here's more from the Inquirer:
In all, 75 House and Senate members — about half of those who took the unpopular summer pay raise right away — have decided to repay the state. A third of them are from the Philadelphia region.
Rep. Susan Cornell (R, Montgomery), who is one of that group, said she originally took the raise through a legislative expense account to hire a part-time aide in her district office. Her constituents didn't like the idea and let her know it.
"They were loud and clear. They didn't care if the money wasn't going in my pocket or not," she said. "It didn't matter to them. They just didn't want me to take it at all. They just wanted me to give it back."
Soon after the repeal, Cornell sent the state a check for $929.69 —the portion of the raise she had received. Also weighing in her decision is her bid for a second term this year.
"I would be lying if I said it didn't have something to do with it," she said.
The Senate, which had provided a more detailed accounting, updated its list yesterday. It showed that State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo had changed his mind and decided to return the roughly $12,000 he had collected.
Fumo, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and one of the legislature's wealthiest members, becomes the only senator from Philadelphia who took the cash to give it back.
Anti-pay-raise activists yesterday saw hopeful signs in the increasing numbers of lawmakers returning the salary.
"I'd like to have seen them all give the money back by now, but it's showing progress," said Russ Diamond, founder of, a Web site devoted to unseating all incumbent legislators over the pay-raise issue.
Diamond said the numbers were on the rise because of continued pressure by constituents still irate over the raises and efforts by groups such as his to keep the issue alive in the minds of voters. Last month, his site posted a "Hall of Shame," listing the names of all 158 House and Senate members who took any money from raises.
There's still more work to be done, said Gene Stilp, a Harrisburg activist who has challenged the raises in court.
"The members are realizing that they have to pay the money back to get any credibility with their constituents," Stilp said. "But it still leaves 83 people with no credibility, none whatsoever."
Members now make $72,187 annually.
Only Cornell and Reps. Raymond Bunt and Tim Hennessey were available for comment.
In December, Hennessey (R, Chester) began reimbursing the state through a payroll deduction.
"When I made my mind up to vote to repeal it, it seemed the only appropriate thing to do was to return it," he said.
Bunt (R, Montgomery) said he decided to reimburse the state $3,654 days after the vote to repeal the raises. Last week, Bunt announced that he would not seek another term.

Here's the list from the Inquirer:

Philadelphia-area legislators who took at least a portion of the raise and have decided to repay the state:


William Adolph (R., Delaware), Stephen Barrar (R., Chester), Raymond Bunt (R., Montgomery), Mario Civera (R., Delaware), Susan Cornell (R., Montgomery), Lawrence Curry (D., Montgomery), John Fichter (R., Montgomery), Thomas Gannon (R., Delaware), Robert Godshall (R., Montgomery), Tim Hennessey (R., Chester), Arthur Hershey (R., Chester), Tom Killion (R., Delaware), Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), Dennis Leh (R., Montgomery), Eugene McGill (R., Montgomery), Nicholas Micozzie (R., Delaware), Ron Raymond (R., Delaware), James Roebuck (D., Phila.), Curt Schroder (R., Chester), and Matthew Wright (R., Bucks).


Joseph Conti (R., Bucks), Vincent Fumo (D., Phila.), Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), and Noah Wenger (R., Chester).

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