Monday, March 03, 2014

A Few Notes on the Sims / Cohen Situation

You may have read a story in the Inquirer, "Rookie Philly legislator says long-timer is losing it," by Chris Brennan (2/26/2013), in which State Rep. Brian Sims suggested that State Rep. Mark Cohen is not adequately doing his job as the leading minority Democrat on the State Government Committee.   Sims also states that Cohen misses meetings or is late on a frequent basis.

The story found Rep. Sims's comments on his Facebook page.  They are still there as I write this.  Neither Sims nor the paper article mentions the fact that transcripts of committee meetings are on the state legislature's web site.  I checked them.  Before stating what I found, in full disclosure, let me say two things:

1) To state it in the softest terms, I think it would be wonderful if State Rep. Cohen retired, having served his Philadelphia district for over 40 years now.  He could live in the Harrisburg house he has bought with the per diems he is paid by the state for days he has to come to Harrisburg on state business.  (The house he has at times forgotten to pay property tax on.)  He could read all those books he bought with state money.

2) It has been brought to my attention in the past that information found on the state's web site cannot always be taken at face value.  As I have found, and  as Dave Davies at Newsworks wrote recently, one example is the state's campaign finance reports -- those are often filed in paper and an outside contractor retypes the information, a process that could easily lead to errors.  So while I am confident that I am reporting what I found, I cannot guarantee that what I found is correct.

That being said, I looked at all the available transcripts for the State Government committee.  One meeting per month is listed.  The transcripts for March through July, 2013, are provided; there is a search form for more recently months.

For March through November State Rep. Cohen is listed as being in attendance.  He also makes one or more comments.  Some of these comments are made early in the meetings; in other meetings his remarks show up much later in the transcript.  As for the coherence of his remarks, well, that is in the eye of the beholder.  Since I am not inclined to view Rep. Cohen in the best of lights, my views may not be unbiased.  In December, 2013 Rep. Cohen is listed as attending but not remarks are given for him.  The January, 2014 meeting is described as "informal" and no transcript is provided.  No transcript is yet available for the February meeting.

I encourage interested readers to do their own checking on the state's website to verify my findings.

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