Thursday, November 17, 2005

Yes on Pay Raise If..... #2

In yesterday's posting I discussed one condition the state legislature would have to meet before I would support a substantial pay raise for them. Today I would like to go over another one:

2) More accountability. Immediate access to voting records. No more of this waiting for the House Record to show up at the law library nonsense. Also, a firm, rigorous system of reporting lobbying expenses by special interests. I want the list of financial disclosure forms to be more readily available. The rule passed earlier this year saying legislators don’t have to be in the chambers to vote but just in “the greater Harrisburg area,” has got to go. For $80,000 a year they could at least show up to vote.

Let me provide two examples of what is meant here. In a comment to the previous post on outside income, someone left this comment:

I supported the effort by Representative Michael McGeehan to adopt the federal formula limiting earned outside income to the 15% of salary allowed for a member of Congress. McGeehan sought to attach it to the pay raise repeal bill, which he believed the Senate would have to pass and Governor Rendell would have to sign. An odd coalition of Republicans and anti-pay raise Democrats opposed the amendment, and ultimately McGeehan felt compelled to withdraw it.

This is intriguing, but how would a voter go about verifying this information? Citizens can't even find out how legislators voted let alone what else happened, until the House Journal comes out. It tends to be published months after events happen. Votes in the federal congress are published in the paper but state legislative matters are not, except in extenuating circumstances. The pay raise vote was one of those so I found an article in the Inky tell me that McGeehan had voted for the raise and had taken the unvouched expenses. (August 2, 2005).

Going to Google I did find a link to a Beaver County Times article that did confirm what the commenter said. It took three search modifications to get the terminology narrow and exact enough to find it, though. If you can't find some reputable source somewhere you have no choice but to take someone's word for it. There is very little accountability.

Last March I wrote about the effort it took to try to find out if a state rep was actually showing up to vote, in other words, to see if there was ghost voting going on. It should not be that difficult to see if your elected officials are doing their job or stuffing a paper clip in the voting machine.

If the state legislature can send me an email every day listing the bills introduced, shuffled off to committee, and voted on every day, why can't I get access to voting records? There is no reason why this information can't be made available. Unless, of course, they don't want us to know. The unfortunate part of this is that the honest hardworking legislators are tarred with the same brush as the pandering slackers.


LVDem said...

You're in luck. The General Assembly does have a mailing list that does send out that kind of information. You will get daily emails if you sign up for this. I've been receiving this email since I was working in the House and still read about every other email sent. Visit the following link:

If the link is broken, go to the Pennsylvania General Assembly's homepage and navigate to the session information.

AboveAvgJane said...

I do get the daily session emails but the other updates only let you track 10 bills at a time. What I want is access to voting records for all bills, with ability to search a legislator, see how they voted on every bill that came up for a vote. That I don't know how to get.

LVDem said...

Ah... I see. I used to have access to that stuff in the House via the Caucus, but that is not easily accessed. Hm... great point. I have nothing for you now but I'm off to see if I can get something.