Monday, January 26, 2009

Democrats try to undo legislative reforms

Emboldened by their five-seat majority in the state House of Representatives, Democratic Party leaders are moving quickly to undo many of the legislative reforms enacted in Harrisburg over the past two years.

DemocracyRisingPA, the reform watchdog group, has issued an "urgent alert" warning that "when the House resumes session on Tuesday, the Democratic majority will propose new rules that will turn back the clock to the bad old days of the Pay Raise of 2005, the slots gambling law and other stealth lawmaking. A summary - not an actual draft - began circulating in the Capitol at the end of last week, but it is not available to the public on the House web site. Members of the 2007 Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform received a briefing on the changes last Wednesday, according to House sources."

Citizens and media who want to know how their representatives plan to vote and why will have to act fast, DemocracyRisingPA says. "Although the current temporary House rules don't expire until February 6, Democratic leaders plan to rush the new rules to a vote on Tuesday. If House Democrats have their way, it may be the last time citizens are able to ask such questions about any important legislation before it's too late," DemocracyRisingPA says on its Web site.

From the DemocracyRisingPA post:
The Bottom Line

The Democrats' proposals will make it much harder for citizens to know what their government is doing in time to express their opinion either for or against proposed laws. They would repeal reforms adopted with great fanfare just two years ago through the Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform. Among dozens of proposals, House Democrats propose to:

* Render meaningless the rule requiring the House to stop session at 11:00 p.m. unless three-fourths of the members vote to continue.

* Repeal the rule allowing citizens and their representatives at least 24 hours to see amendments before voting on them, at least 24 hours to consider bills after their last amendment, and at least 24 hours before a vote on a report by a conference committee. Conference committee reports, such as every budget and the Pay Raise of 2005, are often the most complicated, controversial and important laws proposed in any session. As in the past, the proposal would allow action after as little as six hours.

* Repeal the rule prohibiting the Rules Committee from amending bills after they have been considered by another committee.
Read more and learn how you can fight the effort to turn back the reform movement at the DemocracyRisingPA Web site.

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