Monday, June 19, 2006

175: “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”


In another one of those revelations to hit the papers on a Monday morning, we learn that Pennsylvania Taxpayers are footing the bill to defend in court the Midnight Pay Raise of last July.

Ordinarily we could shrug this off as the cost of forcing our elected officials to do honest, legitimate work in a legal and Constitutional manner, but there are a few things that disturb us about these cases, filed by such activists as Gene Stilp, Tim Potts of
DemocracyRisingPA, and Barry Kauffman of PACommonCause, Citizen-Patriot Heroes all, and how they are being defended (and why?).

What’s wrong with this picture #1:
First, let us understand that these elected officials, who include Governor Rendell, Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, and the Republican leadership of both houses of the General Assembly, are defending their actions because they believe the public’s extreme and severe reaction to the Midnight Pay Raise was because of the size of the raise. Indeed, it was – in part. But this ‘Gang of Six’ (Rendell, Cappy, ousted Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, ousted Senate Majority Leader David J. “Chip” Brightbill, Speaker of the House John Perzel, and Majority Floor Leader Sam Smith) are fighting because they believe they did nothing wrong in the process of passing the Midnight Pay Raise. In an article by Mario F. Cattabiani at the Philadelphia Inquirer online
(
click here to read the article), Floor Leader Smith says, "Do I like hiring lawyers to defend these kinds of suits? No, I hate to do this. I understand why people think it is a waste of money, but if we think we are right about the process, we have to defend it."

The Gang of Six are caught in the crosshairs of an issue where most who read the specific articles of the Pennsylvania Constitution agree that the conspirators (the Gang of Six), crossed the line into unconstitutional territory. Article II, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution quite clearly states:

Compensation
Section 8.

The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise. No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term.

Clearly, with the thinly disguised device called the ‘unvouchered expense’ [invented by Cappy], dozens of legislators were able to take an increase from the Midnight Pay Raise, passed during the term for which they were elected.

Let us continue. The Constitution also says in Article III that bills, once proposed, may not be altered as to their purpose:

Passage of Laws
Section 1.
No law shall be passed except by bill, and no bill shall be so altered or amended, on its passage through either House, as to change its original purpose.

Just as the Gambling Bill, Act 71 of 2004 had been altered [It was first proposed to require the State Police to conduct background checks on persons working in the Barn areas of race tracks. Instead, it was turned into a mammoth piece of legislation that created several new regulated industries on Pennsylvania and the bureaucracy to control them.] the Pay Raise started out as something entirely different.

Further, the Constitution calls for bills to be considered for three days in each house:

Consideration of Bills
Section 4.

Every bill shall be considered on three different days in each House. All amendments made thereto shall be printed for the use of the members before the final vote is taken on the bill and before the final vote is taken, upon written request addressed to the presiding officer of either House by at least twenty-five percent of the members elected to that House, any bill shall be read at length in that House. No bill shall become a law, unless on its final passage the vote is taken by yeas and nays, the names of the persons voting for and against it are entered on the journal, and a majority of the members elected to each House is recorded thereon as voting in its favor.

This article details exactly how bills are to be passed. Again, like the Gambling Bill, the Pay Raise was crafted in secret, and proposed in the wee hours of the morning during the budget crunch of a week-late budget, and passed immediately, then signed into law by Rendell the next day.

My question to Mr. Smith, and the rest of the Gang of Six is, “Just how do you justify the violation of these three articles of the Pennsylvania Constitution?” I am serious. I invite Mr. Smith to write a response to that question and I will publish it unedited right here!

What’s wrong with this picture #2:
The Inquirer article also quotes the Chief Counsel to the Senate Republican Caucus Stephen McNett as saying, "We are not litigators." then ‘adding that the outside lawyers are experts in constitutional law.’ Why in the world would the Republican Caucus hire an attorney who is NOT an expert on Constitutional Law?

What’s wrong with this picture #3:
Cattabiani’s article also details these disturbing statistics:

  • A Pittsburgh based law firm has been paid $450,000 to represent Republicans in the General Assembly. The firm contributed $14,500 to Jubelirer’s failed re-election campaign.
  • A Philadelphia firm, representing John Perzel has been paid $295,000. The firm contributed $37,000 to Perzel’s re-election campaign.

Does no one else see a conflict of interest here? This clearly illustrates what kind of (scuzzbuckets came to mind, but we'll be good here) crooks we are dealing with here.

What’s wrong with this picture #4:
Recently, one of the law suits discussed in the article was dismissed by the Federal Court saying, in effect, the repeal and the election results were the remedy sought by the plaintiffs (among the plaintiffs were those Citizen-Patriot Heroes listed in our second paragraph, Messers Stilp, Potts, and Kauffman). In other words, she refused to hear the case. There is nothing in either the U.S. or the Pennsylvania Constitution that either provides or precludes a path for citizens seeking relief from matters directly involving the Commonwealth Courts, however, Judge Yvette Kane erred in not taking into consideration the Pennsylvania Constitution, which says,

Political Powers
Section 2.
All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.

The conspiratorial actions of the Gang of Six require that the citizens of this Commonwealth exercise their ‘inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.”

It is less than five months until election day. Can you keep the fire stoked? What actions are you taking now to give yourself choices in November? What actions are you taking to assist other citizens in seeking justice for you and all citizens of Pennsylvania in the courts? These suits cost money. Have you given to the cause of reform and justice? Click on their links and find out how you can help “fix the picture”.

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