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Op-Ed: All the King’s Horses

The Harrisburg legislature is broken! We, the taxpayers, pay our legislators $21 Million in salary alone, not including vacation pay, health insurance, committee pay, per diems, office expenses and retirement and get almost nothing in the way of legislative return. In total, we are spending approximately $50 Million dollars annually for a handful of bills that are passed into law.

Doc Clements

Lebanon, Pa- The Harrisburg legislature is broken! We, the taxpayers, pay our legislators $21 Million in salary alone, not including vacation pay, health insurance, committee pay, per diems, office expenses and retirement and get almost nothing in the way of legislative return. In total, we are spending approximately $50 Million dollars annually for a handful of bills that are passed into law.

Four out of five of the proposed bills are never considered in committee. Despotic committee chairs control the bills and prevent them from seeing the light of day. More than half of the bills passed in one house are never considered in the other. Less than 10 % of the bills introduced make it to the Governor’s desk. In recent sessions, less then 1% of the bills introduced by the minority party receive a final vote. In the 2019-2020 session, 285 of the 4,198 bills introduced made it into law or $175k per bill! I ask, “Are the taxpayers getting their monies worth?”

Certainly, one of the issues is that too many bills that are being introduced are garbage. In a recent Fox 43 interview, House Minority leader Joanna McClinton was asked how worthy bills can be identified and make headway. McClinton suggested, “That’s a question for the Republican leadership, as minority leader, I don’t control the calendar.” The House and Senate majority leadership did not respond, when asked.

In truth the standing rules cedes all power to SIX individuals. The six Gatekeepers are: the Committee Chair, the Majority Leader and Speaker in the House and Senate. Unfortunately, the system serves to ensure that most bills are feckless or extremely partisan. The system is designed such that contentious bills that are meaningful cannot get around a despotic committee chair. Leadership’s number one job is to make sure that legislators get reelected and as a result, they do not want members voting on legislation that is controversial. Sadly, the voter is denied the representative democracy we are promised.

How will we fix this? How can we begin to get an appropriate return on the tax dollars we are investing? Certainly, voting for candidates who embrace changing the rules so more bills can be discussed and voted upon. We must take the control of Pennsylvania’s budget out of the hands of the few. We, the taxpayers, should push for a more direct democracy in which we have a much larger voice in legislative initiatives. Term limits would also greatly reduce the power of the gatekeepers and reduce the concerns with reelection. I fear that if we do not begin to take immediate steps to reform the Harrisburg Legislature that like the nursery rhythm says , all the king’s men will not be able to put it together again!

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