Thursday, May 25, 2006

Senate Journal Update

As promised I’ve read through the newest group of Senate Journal issues made available. Issues are released mid-month and are one month behind. So for May we have journals for March 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22.

There wasn’t much in the journal for March 14th.

Two items of interest in the 15th. Sen. Tartaglione brings up the minimum wage and wants to know what is going on with that bill (see p. 1357). On pages 1358 and 1359 there is an interesting exchange between Sen. Brightbill and Lt. Gov. Knoll on whether or not it is legal for her to sign a bill on Monday or if it has to be signed that day. You would think she would know this and not have to ask him.

Also on the 15th, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Pat Dugan is introduced as the winner of the National Sean MacBride Humanitarian Award from the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Dugan is a member of the Army Reserves, headquartered in Norristown and served most of 2004 in Iraq. He gave a speech, a very good one that I would recommend you read. One paragraph jumped out at me though. Dugan also wrote about this in a letter to the Inky. He describes his commander, who happened to be Bryan Lentz who is running for the state house seat in district 161 against Tom Gannon. Read:

You have not heard about my commander, Major Bryan Lentz, a Philadelphia attorney and former prosecutor who gave up his practice of law to serve and lead our company in Iraq. One time we were in a village just outside of Telafar, a town that was depicted on “60 Minutes” last Sunday. A small village just south of there, a hotbed of insurgency, an old man there held up a container of water and went up to my Commander to thank him and said every time I drink from this I will thank America. Now, this is a village in Mesopotamia, the land where the Ottomans came through and never took the time to dig a water well for this village. It was the first time they had water running in their village. The Ottomans did not to it, the Romans did not do it, Alexander the Great did not do it, Saddam did not do it, but every time anybody in that village drinks a glass of water, they will remember that Americans were there.

On March 20, on p. 18, Sen. Vince Fumo gave a speech that focused on President Bush and his policies that I thought was ill-timed and out of place with the business at hand.

On March 21, if you look at pages 5-6 you will find some examples of senators doing good, with some heartfelt discussion on the Ounce of Prevention Bill for early intervention in fragile families. I recommend you read through that as well.

On the 22nd, though, I found some very entertaining passages. Again the topic was the minimum wage bill. In the pdf version online check pages 9-17. I have referenced here the official page numbers. If you are familiar with Shakespeare, you may remember his play “Julius Caeser.” When I read it in high school my English teacher pointed out that Marc Antony appealed to emotion and Brutus to reason and that appealing to emotion most often wins out. Many of our political figures seem to have noticed this as well. In any event, after Sen. Tartaglione again brings up the minimum wage bill, Sen. Piccola and Sen. Hughes get into a discussion that reminds me of the dichotomy represented in “Julius Caesar.” You can guess who plays what part.

Sen. Piccola: Madam President, over the last few months I have been listening to the debate on the minimum wage, and while I am a Member of the Committee on Labor and Industry, I am not engaged in that debate. But last week during this part of our agenda, the lady from Philadelphia [Sen. Tartaglione] challenged those of us on this side of the aisle who do not support minimum wage to, I believe her words were, search your souls. I took her challenge to heart, Madam President, and I searched my soul. I looked in every nook and cranny, I turned it inside out, and I also searched the library, because this is not just about feeling good, this is about facts, this is about economics, it is about reality and it is about jobs. After I did that search of my soul in the library, I found that I am on the side of the angels, at least in my view. (p. 1401)

I love that imagery – searching your soul in the library. More of us should search our soul and search the library and perhaps both at the same time. Piccola even includes a chart to enforce his views.

In page 1403, Senator Hughes makes some interesting statements:

So here we have voodoo economics, the costs are going up, the incomes are going down. Look at this spread, look at the spread between the two, and you are telling me that all my people are doing better with less money in their pocket? What kind of drugs are you on? What kind of hallucinates are you doing? What kind of chemical medications are you investing in? That is ridiculous. That is absurd. Okay, if it is that good, you work for less. Why do we not all work for minimum wage around here? Lord knows, if Mr. Diamond and his whole crew had their way, we would be paying people to work this job. Why do we not try that? Let us see how great that would be. Voodoo economics, costs going up, income going down, the spread is greater, the spread is increasing, and I am supposed to be happy. I have $20 in the right pocket, $5 in the left pocket and the left pocket is really going to get me to the promised land. Right? That is the idea?

On page 1404, Sen. Piccola picks up again:

Madam President, very briefly, I just took a couple of Excedrin before I came up, but that is all, no illegal drugs.

On page 1405 Sen. Conti offers this in part of his remarks:

I will be brief, because I know the hour is running late for a Wednesday. Having my good friend from Philadelphia confide how much money he has in his pocket, which is much more than I have in mine, I would like to meet him for lunch shortly, so I will get through this as quickly as I can.

Of course, much of the debate focuses on the particulars of minimum wage and how raising it would affect the state’s economy and again, I urge you to read it for yourself.

Unfortunately I cannot report on anything happening in the House because they don't make the House Journal available online and it takes several months for it to show up in the law library closest to me, where I go to search the nooks and crannies of my soul. [Update: I am corrected on this -- the 2005 House Journals are now online.]

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