Friday, April 21, 2006

133: “Come to the Pay Raise Re-enactment”


You’re thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” right? To which we respond with the words of the late, great Jack Paar, “I kid you not.” Great friend Tim Potts at
Democracy Rising PA forwards his newsletter which we have reproduced here:

DR News April 21
In this issue:
· A Pay Raise Re-enactment
· Another Alternative for Governor
· Automatic Pay Hikes
· Paybacks Are A…
· A Lobbyist’s Tale

A Pay Raise Re-enactment
On May 1, pay raise repeal activist and Democrat Lt. Governor candidate Gene Stilp will host a re-enactment of last July’s pay raise. The event takes place at 10:00 a.m. on the front steps of the Capitol – scene of the “rally for repeal” last September 26.

If you want to represent a lawmaker for the re-enactment, you can sign up at www.rememberthepayraise.org. Like the original July 7 event, there will be no speaking parts. Unlike the original, re-enactors will not get paid – neither a salary nor a per diem.

Another Alternative for Governor
Russ Diamond, founder and former chair of
PA Clean Sweep, last week announced that he is running for governor as an Independent. Democracy Rising PA does not, and will not, endorse candidates for any office. But we can’t help pointing out that Diamond is the only candidate still in the race who has answered the survey sent to gubernatorial candidates by eight statewide organizations, including PA Clean
Sweep
, in December. The survey asked about issues of public integrity, a constitution convention, and the appointment of judges. And Diamond answered it without having to be asked.

In contrast, Republican Lynn Swann’s campaign refuses to return phone calls from Democracy Rising PA asking him to respond to the survey. Democrat Ed Rendell claims he never received the surveys, although the U.S. Postal Service tells us he did – twice. The only other candidate to answer the survey was Republican Jim Panyard, who withdrew from the contest earlier this year.

Look at the survey and both Panyard’s and Diamond’s responses at: http://www.democracyrisingpa.com/bulletins/response.asp

Automatic Pay Hikes
On April 4, during oral argument on the pay raise lawsuits, Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin expressed his approval of a system that compensates state judges on the basis of what their federal counterparts receive. This is, in fact, the same approach to judicial salaries that Chief Justice Ralph Cappy championed in his private negotiations with the executive and legislative branches. It is the scheme
enacted with the pay raise.

In the same way, the pay raise also tied lawmaker salaries and other salaries to those of their supposed federal counterparts. But there’s a problem.

To realize Justice Eakin’s dream would mean that Pennsylvania citizens would never be able to decide for themselves what they want to pay their own public officials without first having to convince the legislature to repeal the law providing for automatic increases.

It is, in other words, a plan that asks for forgiveness rather than permission when taking taxes from the people on a matter of constitutional mportance.

We can’t believe that’s constitutional. The people – the sovereigns – always must have the authority to decide, by specific action and not by default, what they are willing to pay their servants. The General Assembly cannot delegate that authority.

The problem is especially clear with respect to judges. Article V, Section 16 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution prohibits the salaries of judges from being reduced in mid-term. So even if the General Assembly repealed a law tying state salaries to federal salaries, it couldn’t reduce the salaries of judges until the end of their term.

Question: Did Justice Eakin disqualify himself from deciding the Stilp case by his comment in favor of the pay raise scheme in Act 44?

Paybacks are Still A…
Our friends at
Rock the Capital won’t let go. They continue to push for lawmakers to repay to the state Treasury the unconstitutional and piggish “unvouchered expenses” received during the four months between enactment and repeal of the pay raise.

For
RTC – and for every ethical Pennsylvanian – paybacks are appropriate. The repeal, which every lawmaker except Rep. Mike Veon (D-Beaver) supported, means that lawmakers understand they never should have received the pay hikes in the first place.

Keeping the “unvouchered expenses” not only violates the spirit of the repeal, it raises the pensions of those who refuse to repay them.

For a complete breakdown of those who have broken down and put their personal interest ahead of the citizens’ interest by refusing to pay back their unvouchered expenses, go to www.rockthecapital.org.

A Lobbyist’s Tale
This story illustrates another reason why Pennsylvania needs the best lobbyist control law in America. After a presentation about
Democracy Rising PA and our mission, I was approached by a former legislator who is now a lobbyist. He had been in the audience and wanted to ask me some specific questions.

“Suppose I take a lawmaker out to dinner and we talk about legislation. Are you saying that I should have to report immediately where we went, what it cost, and what specific legislation we talked about?”

“Yep,” I said.

“Why?”

“If you’re talking to my legislator about something that affects me, I should know it so that I can present my own views at the same time. It is unfair to constituents for special interests to lobby lawmakers secretly because ordinary citizens get blind-sided with stealth legislation like the gambling law and the pay raise.”

“But isn’t there such a thing as a private conversation?”

“Not when someone’s paying you to talk to a public official and influence decisions that affect the public.”

If we’re lucky, House Speaker John Perzel’s lobbyist control proposal will be announced soon.

When it is, DR will provide a summary for you.

Tim Potts, Co-Founder
Democracy Rising PA
www.democracyrisingpa.com
P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013
717-243-8570

Remarkable stuff, Tim, thank you. Tim, Russ Diamond, and Gene Stilp have been out front on the issue of government accountability for a long time. They are three of the many citizen-patriot heroes that have stepped up to the plate in the face of extreme political anger. Those who run the political machine in Pennsylvania, that is the monied interests that sink billions of dollars into their political mouthpieces that we have carelessly elected in years past are angry and fearful that these citizen-patriots will actually upset their carefully constructed applecart, and cut off their “dolce vita.” These politicians have been getting fat from your tax dollars for decades. Now it is totally out of control, and they, and the parties they represent no longer represent your interests.

We cannot urge you in strong enough terms to get involved. Operation Clean Sweep PA candidates need your support, and your money. Most of these organizations could use your time and talent, and your money. Pick one or two from the list to the right under the heading “Citizen-Patriot Heroes”. It does not take millions of dollars to win a seat in the Pennsylvania House, but it will take millions of dollars to win back your government. Stop sending money to the Democratic and Republican parties. Send your money instead directly to the candidates. Avoid the middle man who always takes a cut (“for the party”).

But most importantly, get out and vote on May 16 in the Primary Election and cast your votes for anyone who is not an incumbent.

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