Tuesday, November 21, 2006

February House Journals

In the second part of a series bringing the Pennsylvania House Journals up to date, this post looks at the journal issues for February. The House was in session for 7 days, Feb. 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, and 15. On the 6th, 7th, 13th, and the 15th nothing much happened.

On February 1, there were a few things of note. For one the opening prayer included a mention of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team is mentioned again on pp. 9-11 of the pdf version. This is a long Journal issue, with 48 pages, much of it devoted to HB 1318 which concerns polling places, voter id, voting by felons, and assorted related issues. The discussion starts on p. 6 of the pdf, p. 114 of the print version, and continues on and off throughout the rest of the issue. It is a very interesting read, believe it or not, and gives a clear demonstration of the breadth and depth of experience and interests across the state. African American representatives, most from urban areas, talk about the racial impact of felons not being allowed to vote even though they are on parole, until the official end of their sentence. Democrats talk about the implications of voter id on rural, urban, poor, and disabled voters. Other representatives talk about the inclusion or exclusion of firearm licenses as a form of id accepted for voting. Any civics teacher who wants to give students a quick introduction to the diversity of political thought in the state should assign these 48 pages (or at least those devoted to HB 1318) as a primary source. Here are a few excerpts:

Mr. Thomas: You can go to jail as an election board official for failure to comply with the basic tenets of HB 1318, but right now, right now, right now, you can run around the city of Philadelphia shooting people just like they are animals. Mr. Speaker, where is the logic in HB 1318? (p. 126 of the print version)

Mr. Surra: Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand why I could not use my photo ID firearm permit as identification to prove that I am a voter. Now, if you do not know what it takes to get a photo ID firearm permit in this Commonwealth, you cannot only just be a citizen, you cannot only never have been convicted of a felony, there are very , very strict guidelines that say you are a law-abiding citizen in good standing in this Commonwealth. And why would we exclude that as an ID? A current utility bill, a current bank statement, a paycheck, a government check, I mean, those are all things that could prove someone’s identification. But a firearm permit? I do not know why we are discriminating against gun owners. And it does seem as if, contrary to the previous speaker, that we are doing a lot of things to disenfranchise people, which is not what we should be about. (p. 130 of the print version)

Mr. DeWeese: Earlier today, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman Mr. Feese, and the Republican majority helped us suspend the rules for the gentleman Mr. McGeehan. Notwithstanding my perplexity on the substance of the gentleman’s effort, I do think they were kind enough to Mr. McGeehan, our colleague, that I would ask our members to vote and suspend the rules, and parenthetically, anything that we can do the screw up this bill with another amendment would be fine with me. (p. 131 of the print version)

On February 8th the governor’s budget address was included, along with statements by majority leader Rep. S. Smith and by appropriations committee chair Rep. Dwight Evans.

The 14th got a little testy, with lengthy discussion on a bill regarding fees for pharmaceutical services in long-term care facilities. Rep. Gannon is questioned by Rep. Vitali and Rep. Casorio. Vitali asks, as always, very good questions. This discussion takes place on pages 12-18 of the pdf (pages 236-268 of the print version). I note that on page 14 (264), Rep. Vitali asks who keeps turning off his microphone. Let’s hope that was a technical error and not an intentional act. On page 19 (269) there is a discussion on mandatory sentences for sex offenders. On page 30 (281) there is a discussion on building contractors and then on minimum wage. Following that the House again takes up requiring identification at the polls. A mixed bag of important topics.

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