Thursday, January 27, 2011

Assorted Articles and Statements on the Brouhaha in the State House Today

There was a big todo in the State House today.

John Micek at the Morning Call's Capitol Ideas blog summarized it as:

State House Democrats ...
... stormed out of a meeting of the chamber's Rules Committee this afternoon, enraged Pennsylvania-capitol over changes in the chamber's operating rules that reduce the amount of minority representation on legislative committees and restrict how amendments can be offered on the House floor.

His full blog post includes video of the event so you can see for yourself.

Mark Scolforo at Phillyburbs has another good article.

PoliticsPA weighs in.

A few individual state house representatives have issued statements. Here are some of them.

Steve Santarsiero:
"Today House Majority Leadership turned their back on both our governor's and our president's calls for civility and bipartisan debate with a proposal to change House rules in a way that will stifle substantive debate on amendments and further limit the minority party's participation in House committees.

"Our scheduled debate on meaningful government reforms was halted abruptly by Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who were unhappy with a number of amendments filed by me and my Democratic colleagues. These amendments, which are intended to strengthen the reform proposals, are a key tool – and one of the few – that the minority has in the legislative process.

"So to strong-arm Democrats into pulling all amendments, the Republican leadership, in a closed-door meeting, has proposed changing the House rules as follows:

· Reducing from 10 to 9 the number of Democrats on every committee (the proportion is currently 15-10 which is a 60-40 ratio despite the fact that Democrats comprise 45 percent of the chamber). This is little more than a misuse of the majority's power and, if anything, anti-reform.

· Allow for motions to table amendments, so that the majority can effectively stifle substantive debate on amendments.

"At best, this behavior is ironic given Governor Corbett's call for civility and government reform; at worst it's a disturbing power grab.

"In either case, the citizens of Pennsylvania have called for and deserve a General Assembly that is more transparent, open and accountable.

"I urge my Republican colleagues – and especially those from my home county – Bucks County – to vote their conscience and oppose their leadership's proposed rules changes."

Pam DeLissio:

"For the past eight weeks that I have been in office, I have been impressed with the reform objectives and efforts being discussed and worked on by members of the House, until today’s events when the Republicans made a series of decisions that eroded the very core of what constitutes democracy," DeLissio said.

"I was appalled and dismayed that the submission of Democratic amendments to reform-oriented good government bills was perceived as 'obstructionist.' My own amendment, to House Bill 103, prohibited public officials and public employees who had influenced the awarding of state contracts to a business or its affiliates becoming employed by that same business or entity before two years had elapsed.

"In addition to reducing the number of Democratic members on House standing committees, the Rules Committee also resolved to adopt a process by which amendments could be tabled independently of a bill.

”It is distressing that today's actions undermine the House Speaker’s Reform Commission efforts from several years ago and threaten to return to a style of conducting business that produced investigations, convictions and indictments of members of the House," DeLissio said. "I came to Harrisburg for the purpose of being a voice for the people I represent -- but now my voice, and therefore my constituents' voices, may be heard only when convenient."

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