Wednesday, May 25, 2005

12: “Redefining Ethics: A Legislative Moral Collapse!”

Ethic. A single word with important sociological and legal meaning. According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company, an ethic is:

  1. A rule or habit of conduct with regard to right and wrong or a body of such rules and habits: ethicality, moral (used in plural), morality. See right/wrong.
  2. The moral quality of a course of action. ethicality, ethicalness, morality, propriety, righteousness, rightfulness, rightness. See right/wrong.

Yes, indeed, “See right and wrong”! As it was partially enumerated in my GettysBLOG number 10: “A Crime Most Foul, in two Acts”, the double whammy shoved down the throats of Pennsylvania’s citizenry with the passage of two acts (71 and 72) is as insidious and damning a set of enabling acts ever passed by a state legislature. They rank right up there with the Black Codes passed in the south in response to Reconstruction and emancipation in the 1860s and 1870s. Act 71 enables gaming in Pennsylvania, and details who will control it, who will grant licenses, and how the money generated will be split off the top from all sources. An estimated $643 to $841 million dollars is earmarked specifically for statewide property tax relief. Act 72 administers this money generated by gambling in Pennsylvania, by allowing the local school boards across the state to “opt in or out” of Act 72 tax relief. In other words, the legislature passed on its moral lapse and forces the local taxing body (School District) to this choice:

  1. Give up taxing authority to your constituents, and accept this gambling money in lieu of higher property taxes (meaning roll back tax rates); or,
  2. Do not give up taxing authority, receive no funds from gambling in Pennsylvania, and be permitted to raise taxes.

So far, Act 72 is being overwhelmingly rejected across the state. In some instances, local school districts are making it quite clear they do not want gambling-tainted money used for educating their children.

This has the governor, and the legislators scrambling! Websites are going up explaining just how beneficial Act 72 is going to be, and meetings among legislators abound! “How could the locals do this to us!”

Further, Act 71 allows the governor, and each party leader in the legislature to appoint members to the governing authority board for gaming in Pennsylvania. Then it allows legislators to own a percentage of a gaming site! As a final insult, the legislators saw fit to authorize the exemption of gaming establishments from any and all local ordinances, meaning, they can, and will put a gaming establishment wherever they want, and local populations can and will be totally ignored, along with their local zoning ordinances.

Look at that definition again. Both definitions refer to “right and wrong”. Now, much like Hugo’s Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables”, when he pointed his finger at Jean Valjean, crying “J’accuse!”, so I point my finger at the Rendell Administration, and the Legislators of Pennsylvania and cry “I accuse!”

I include especially the legislators, every single one of them, in these two heinous acts of ethical nihilism, and moral relativity. Yes, there were those who voted No to one or both of these acts. And their constituents subsequently heard plenty from those who voted no, warning of the ethical lapses and moral ambiguities built into the enabling legislation. Oh, I’m sorry. Did you miss all that? You never heard your Representative or State Senator, or Governor talk about the lack of ethics in the legislation? Well, gosh, neither did I!

“I accuse” the legislators and Governor of gross moral and ethical lapses in judgment. The legislators wrote the acts, then passed them, and the governor signed them. They are, therefore, all guilty by more than association, by a conspiratorial effort to pass bad legislation (The Act 71 gaming enabler) by daubing it with money attractive to voters who pay property taxes, and probably false promises of increased funding for education, and then passing more bad legislation (The Act 72 property relief act using Act 71 money), and dumping the moral/ethical dilemma on the local school boards.

I am not a moral or ethical absolutist, and I do not pretend to know or have all the answers. I do not, for example, know what the solution is to tax relief for property owners. I am one, and on a fixed income, so I would, indeed, like to see some tax relief. That said, I know greed when I smell it. And these two Acts are heinous acts of greed on the part of our elected state leaders. And those who voted no, simply rolled over -- no fuss, let’s not disturb the status quo, lest the party bosses deliver their wrath on them. And make no mistake: this transcends party lines. Both parties are complicit!

Trust me, there is more to this ethical/moral morass involved in these two Acts. Out-of-state newspapers are commenting on them, and noting how lobbyists are vying for the right to be one of the distributors of gaming supplies in Pennsylvania. [sarcasm on] No conflict of interest there, is there? Of course not. [sarcasm off]

What a sorry state of affairs. What a sorry state. And the real sorrowful part is that very few people will do anything about it. Its just far to easy to walk into that booth in November and flick the party switch, then pull the lever that opens the curtain.

Well, it isn’t just your values being trampled here, it is your rights.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


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GettysBLOG said...

Just a note: Act 72 was rejected by 80% of the school districts in Pennsylvania. Governor Rendel now says it was a mistake to allow the school systems the option. In other words, he thinks he should have forced it down the throats of the Commonwealth's citizenry.

The next logical step is to repeal both Acts 71 and 72.

And start over from ground zero.

Neither pice of legislation deserves anything but condemnation and scorn for their unethical, and illogical, and arrogant construction.

And perhaps the Governor should think about not running again. Shoot, after this, he might even deserve a recall vote!