Monday, January 28, 2008

'Laws Optional for Rendell, Political Elite'

From the latest e-mail newsletter sent today by DemocracyRisingPA:
One glaring problem of the pay raise and other scandals is the arrogant attitude of political leaders that the Constitution and the laws they enact for ordinary citizens don't apply to themselves.

He'll Drink to That. Last week Gov. Ed Rendell provided another example of this attitude in an interview with KDKA radio's Marty Griffin. The two were talking about the potential effect on neighborhood taverns and restaurants of the newly enacted 10% drink tax in Allegheny County, which supports public transportation. Hear the interview at and click on "Marty Talks to Gov. Rendell-EXCLUSIVE" on the right side.

Rendell sought to allay the fears of neighborhood taverns and small restaurants in the land of the Whiskey Rebellion by making an astounding admission about enforcement of Philadelphia's drink tax:

Rendell: "In the neighborhood taverns where, you know, it might have had an effect, let me say we have selective enforcement."

Griffin: "You have selective enforcement. What do you mean, sir?"

Rendell: "We don't quite enforce in the neighborhood taverns as well as we do in the big hotels and restaurants."

Griffin: "You look the other way, sir?"

Rendell: "You can say that."

Defending selective enforcement, Rendell acknowledged the Constitution's "uniformity clause" , which requires all taxes to be applied the same on everyone wherever a tax is imposed. But bizarrely, Rendell then claimed that because it's unconstitutional to have a law that treats the same kinds of businesses differently, he simply decided to ignore the Constitution.

"We put most of our enforcement resources where we're going to get our biggest return, and that's in the big restaurants and hotels downtown," Rendell told Griffin.

Among the many problems of selective enforcement is that it can turn honest people into criminals. It is a crime to collect a tax and fail to give it to the government that imposes it.

Questions for Rendell:

If a tax is not going to be transmitted to Allegheny County (or any other government that imposes a tax), why should citizens pay it? Who gets the money?
If the tax is supposed to support public transportation in Allegheny County, what happens when public transportation d oesn't get the tax money? Does Allegheny County call on state taxpayers for more support?
What does a local bar have to do to get enforcement officers to look the other way?

Speaking of the Constitution. Here's the oath all public officials take: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity." Article VI, Section 3 .

Sometimes you wonder whether the public officials who take an oath to obey the Constitution have actually read it. Recently a DR Fan asked Rep. Martin Causer, R-McKean, whether he had attended legislative session on the first Tuesday of January this year, as required by the Constitution.

According to the fan, Causer said he was told he didn't have to show up for session and wondered what the point would be since they wouldn't do anything even if he had been there. Last week, DR called Causer to remind him of Article II, Section 4 and offered to talk with him about it. Causer didn't return the call.

Of course, Causer wasn't alone. On the first Tuesday of January this year, only 7 out of 203 Representatives showed up for work, and only 17 of 50 Senators showed up.


If the Constitution says they have to be there, why can't they also do some work instead of continuing their two-month, all-expenses-paid vacations? Where's the new open records law we were promised in January, for example?
Did Causer take an oath to obey Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, Minority Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, Speaker Dennis O'Brien, R-Phila., or the Constitution?

What's so galling is that these are the very people to whom we have given the power to change the law if they, or we, don't like it. They, and only they, can propose to amend the Constitution and enact different laws if they think current laws are unfair.

But they don't do that. Instead, they arrogantly violate their oaths.

Have they no integrity? Have they no shame?

Why do those who still have integrity and feel the shame of dishonesty sit by and let such things happen? Why don't they stand up and raise hell?
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