Monday, October 08, 2007

Josh Shapiro at the PA Press Club Luncheon

PCN made this show available online and I had a chance to watch it. Better late than never perhaps. As always these are rough notes. As always, I apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Josh Shapiro / PA Press Club (Sept 24, 2007)

John Baer, Host

Thanks sponsors

Introduces Shapiro. Selected for an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellowship Only one of 24, first for Pennsylvania [blogger’s note: Shapiro was in the second group of 24 chosen, nominations are underway for a third group. More information on the Aspen Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership]

Shapiro: Thank you for that kind introduction. Yesterday I was building a sukkah for my daughter and a 2 x 4 fell on my head. So if I make no sense that’s why. On New Year’s Eve I spent time on phone with Denny O’Brien, trying to create a bipartisan government in Pennsylvania. This has only been done once before, in New Jersey. The phone call that occurred New Year’s Eve; I was coming home from picking up Chinese food, getting ready to watch the ball drop in New York. I called O’Brien and asked if he wanted to be speaker of the house. O’Brien said yes how will we do that. I said I don’t know, I didn’t expect you to say yes. Over next 36 hours, I huddled with Gov Rendell, Bill DeWeese and Dwight Evans at the West Conshohocken Marriot with OB. Not once did OB ask for something for himself. Not one time was someone looking out for themselves. This Speaker would help usher in new era of reform. Events gave me a little attention and OB a lot of attention. But more important are the events and where they will lead. Set up Speaker’s Commission, with Dave Steil, in 4 weeks hammered out significant reform. Transparency, allowed press and public to watch with microscope, decentralized power. Restoring power to all members of the house, thus more responsibility, access to all people in PA.

The work done in reform commission has created this mantra of reform, now stretched to health care reform, energy reform. Really a government awakening. Most if not all rank and file members and some of the leaders ready to realize we are in a new day. Values accountability and constituent input. Can’t do business as done in the past. People clearly want change. Status quo no longer a viable option. Question is, how do bring about that govt awakening, build upon momentum.

First need to implement 4 key recommendations of Speakers commission: continue progress on house rules and restructure house ethics committee, no longer beholden to majority and minority leader, some members chosen at random, members chose chair. Critical to making sure members policed in a way set forth in rules. Bill DeWeese assures me the rules committee will push this out to house floor. We need campaign finance reform. As we look at energy health care and education debates, all debates hindered by amount of special interest money that flows into discussion. Large contributions have an effect of making legislators think small. I introduced HB 1796, limit contributions to $2500 for individuals, $5000 for PACs, increase frequency of reporting, make sure stealthy 527 groups would be forced to disclose who funds them and how the money is spent. Open Records bill. High time we get this done. Negotiations going on try to make narrow exceptions as few as possible. Expect a vote in early to mid October. Need to build on momentum in house. Size of legislature, PA has second costliest in US. Must trim cost of legislature. Proposed 10% cut in initial year in legislative line item. Issued 13 specific recommendations. One more item, need more aggressive auditing.

Second, show we can lead and be competent stewards of people’s money. Spent a lot time reading about PHEAA, the junkets, bonuses. Their mismanagement reflects poorly on all in state house. Use PHEAA as example of legislature coming together for reform. I will introduce legislation, put PHEAA under right to know law, auditor general can audit, PHEAA can’t use money for retreats or programs that don’t specify a purpose (?), use those monies directly into scholarships, limit board to two 6 year terms. [blogger’s note: background information at “PHEAA spending slammed by auditor general,” by Philadelphia Business Journal 10/04/07]

Set a time table for reforms. On Yom Kippur, look at events in the past but also the future. Learn lessons from actions in the past but recognize future actions that we take that will determine how we are judged. Reject cynicism that stymies action in Harrisburg. That challenge can carry reform forward. Should not be borne out of cynicism but out of optimism. Can’t ask people to look forward endlessly. If we do not enact some of recommended reforms I will lead call for constitutional convention.

Implement changes, show leadership and competence, establish clear time frame. People in PA not talking about how much campaign contributions we receive, or lobbyist access but about taxes, energy independence. Big problems not changed until reform institution. Change the conversation and allow us to solve big problems.


John Baer: How much reform possible under current leadership
JS: movement by rank and file and some leaders to reform. DeWeese says not on train early but on now. DeWeese wants to see reforms. O’Brien has embraced reforms.

Baer: In what ways did any major new law reflect new power in house.
JS: transportation law. Discussion went on for a long time. Less debate before because didn’t see bill far enough in advance to read and digest. Now do and so are willing to speak on it.

JB: How long do you have to pass campaign finance limits?
JS: Some people disagree with it. Vast majority of house recognizes that some reform needed. Bipartisan support for bill.

JB: Should PA consumers be forced to support alternative energy?
JS: Something extraordinary happened over the summer on energy debate. Democrats and Republicans were polarized. Now when you hear the debate and listen to people talk. Many people now agree need to purchase alternative energies. But how much and how to pay for it. Empower consumers and businesses to understand how energy purchase and do so in a more efficient manner.

JB: Pension reform and cola this fall?
JS: Supports COLA for retired teachers and state workers. Pensions, in 2012, skyrocketing costs that will need to be paid, probably by general fund. May not get to this fall because of other bills.

JB: Open records
JS: We passed our rules on 3/14, expenditures and staff payroll should now be available to public, hope process moving along as stated.

JB: association with Bob Guzzardi
JS: heard from him on open records and worked with him and others on getting pa to divest in investments with businesses that do business with terrorist sponsoring such as Iran. Currently PA has $10 billion invested in companies that do business in Iran.

JB: gerrymandering
JS: redistricting reform vital. In my district Republicans outnumber Democrats and yet I got elected. Can be done. Gerrymandering encourages legislative leaders to go to extremes on issues

JB Are Democrats delaying bills on illegal immigrant (refers to Rep Metcalfe)
JS: didn’t hear Metcalfe’s comments

JB: Has the 11 p.m cutoff worked?
JS: unfortunately a small handful of member used 11 p.m. cutoff as de facto filibuster. Should allow any business that starts at 10 go on a little after 11 but not start new discussion then.

JB: best looking lobbyist in rotunda, male or female
JS: can’t answer that question

JB: thanks

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