Saturday, June 30, 2007

No more quack sessions?

Somebody pinch me. Can it be? The Pennsylvania Legislature is moving toward eliminating the infamous "lame duck" sessions that have been part of Legislative tradition since Camille "Bud" George first came to Harrisburg nearly 100 years ago.

In a surprise move Friday, the Senate approved a bill calling for a Constitutional amendment to ban the nasty practice of allowing politicians to vote or pass bills after the voters have shown them the door.

The "lame-duck" sessions happen every two years after the voters have had an opportunity to throw some of the bums out. The next opportunity for political quackery comes at the end of 2008.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Robert Regola, said tax increases, debt increases and government pay raises have passed the Legislature during the "lame-duck" periods, reports the Associated Press. Regola also noted that the pace of bills moving through the Legislature rises to a "frantic" level as the General Assembly closes out its two-year session, the AP says.

"This is not how the framers of our Constitution envisioned the process to work," Regola said during his comments on the floor.

The bill, which goes to the House, passed 41-8. It should have been 50-0. I'm going to find out who the eight Senators who voted against the bill were and share the names with you.

Let's hope those champions of reform in the House greet the bill with equal enthusiasm.

The "lame-duck" sessions are held before the General Assembly's two-year term closes Nov. 30 in even-numbered years. During those four weeks, votes can be cast by legislators who are retiring or were defeated and will not return in the next two-year session.

Although 55 legislators were forced out of office by the voters last year, many of the political hacks resisted the temptation to run amock in a "lame duck" session. I guess the pay raise fiasco really put the fear of God in many of them.

The Senate bill provides an exception for emergency sessions called by the governor. You know, in case Rendell needs to find more money for SEPTA or pass another tax hike before Christmas.

Now for the bad news. Even if the measure passes the House, Bud George may not be around to see the end of "lame duck" sessions.

Constitutional amendments must receive approval from both the House and Senate in two consecutive two-year sessions of the Legislature. Then it goes to the voters for approval in a statewide referendum.

You might get that tax cut Rendell has been promising quicker than a Constitutional amendment can be passed in this state.

No comments: