Thursday, August 10, 2006

189: DR Rates Swann Candidacy

[see # 188: DR Rates Rendell Candidacy for comparison.]
Following up on DemocracyRisingPA's first installment of their evaluations of the Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates, here is the latest from DR, and good friend Tim Potts:
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Democracy Rising PA News
August 3, 2006
tim@democracyrisingpa.com
717-243-8570

SPECIAL REPORT: SWANN RESPONDS

As we did in yesterday’s Special Report on Gov. Ed Rendell, here are highlights of the responses by Lynn Swann to the survey sent to gubernatorial candidates last December. The highlights also include comments by Democracy Rising PA (DR) and by the Commonwealth Foundation (CF).

Attached is Swann’s complete response. Also, for the questions and the full response of every candidate, side-by-side, go to the Democracy Rising PA web site at
http://www.democracyrisingpa.com/bulletins/response.asp.

Overall DR Comment: We’re grateful to have Swann’s response on the record. However, his response contains numerous attacks against Gov. Rendell, the sort of criticism that is conspicuously absent from Rendell’s response. DR made a commitment to put every candidate’s full response, without comment, on our web site. We will honor that commitment. We consider it inappropriate and symptomatic of what’s wrong with electoral politics that Swann uses so much of this opportunity complaining about his opponent rather than explaining his own positive agenda.

Although he says he agrees with “the goal of giving Pennsylvania the highest standards of public integrity in America,” none of Swann’s specific proposals demonstrate that they would achieve that goal. There is no commitment to making Pennsylvania’s government the best in the nation on any standard of public integrity, value for tax dollars, transparency, or earning the confidence of citizens.

Swann’s opposition to a Constitutional convention because he fears its results shows an unfortunate lack of confidence in the judgment of the citizens he wants to serve. Like Rendell, Swann wants the chance to make government in his own image but does not want to give citizens the same opportunity, even though the citizens own the government.

Standards of Public Integrity:
“…[I]t is my commitment…that my administration will work in a way that guarantees open and transparent behavior.”

Regulating Lobbying:
“A lobbyist disclosure measure must indicate what is being spent by whom and there must be strong penalties for those who refuse to comply. Every document filed must be available for viewing on the web.”

DR Comment: By this standard, Swann’s version of a lobbying control law would still give Pennsylvania the worst law in the nation. PA currently has no law to control lobbying.

CF Comment: Openness and transparency must be more than buzz-words and will require a great deal of detail. There are 49 other states with examples from which we can choose, and we hope if Mr. Swann becomes Governor Swann that he will take the very best ideas and implement them in Pennsylvania. However, the fact that a similar kind of statement to this is missing from his answer is rather troubling.

Ending “Stealth Legislation”:
“I have proposed a 72-hour waiting period before I would sign any piece of legislation, provided that it does not deal with a state of emergency issue…. This three day waiting period will allow the people of Pennsylvania to weigh in [on] any piece of legislation…. The General Assembly has the Constitutional power to regulate itself.”

DR Comment: Citizens deserve the ability to “weigh in” on laws before they’re passed, not just after. DR believes any governor should veto any legislation whose passage does not strictly comply with the provisions of Article III of the Constitution. Members of the General Assembly have the Constitutional duty to obey the Constitution.

CF Comment: The 72-hour waiting period, after the legislation has passed both houses, is too late for the people to weigh in. The waiting period needs to be strictly applied in the legislative process, not after the process has already taken place.

Internet Access to All Laws:
“Bills and Acts should be freely accessible to all individuals on the internet or in hard copy. I believe that we should make both available in order to reach all residents…. I believe that state government has for too long made it financially impossible to copy documents from our many agencies. We must ensure that those who request the documents are charged reasonable and affordable rates.”

DR Comment: DR believes that public documents should be available free of charge to citizens in the format most useful to citizens.

CF Comment: We support Mr. Swan’s idea on accessibility, however, this openness should apply to anything and everything state government does, not just bills and Acts.

Support for a Constitutional Convention:
“I am fearful that a Constitutional Convention would present too much of an opportunity for the [sic] some of a particular cause or belief to move items that would harm others…. I am unconvinced that the delegates will all have the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth in mind.”

DR Comment: This response discounts that in order for the Constitution to be changed, the legislature must place proposed changes on the ballot and the voters must approve those changes by referendum. Convention delegates have no power to change the Constitution by themselves.

CF Comment: Fears about the end result of a Constitutional Convention are legitimate and understandable. However, if our elected officials refuse to reform state government, it is within Pennsylvanians’ constitutional rights (Article I, Section 2) to “alter, reform or abolish” their government if they deem it necessary.

Proposed Amendments to the Constitution:
Swann proposes five Constitutional amendments:
1. “an amendment which limits the amount of revenue state government can spend from one year to the next.”
2. an amendment to the Constitution’s uniformity clause to allow “eliminating our [property tax] assessment system and moving to a purchase price system” for determining property taxes.
3. an amendment to allow audits of “the funds within the control of the House and Senate.”
4. “I also support shrinking the size of the General Assembly.”
5. an amendment to allow the legislature to enact a “fair and equitable cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.”

DR Comment: These ideas are among the more than 120 ideas submitted to DR by citizens around the state as part of the agenda for a Constitutional Convention.

CF Comment: Unfortunately, only 2 of Mr. Swann’s 5 proposed amendments address the issue of more open, transparent and accountable government. We fully support his idea of auditing all of the legislature’s funds. However, his support of shrinking the size of the General Assembly will not likely result in either cost savings or real substantive changes in legislative operations (as noted in the testimony by Mr. Nathan Benefield before the Senate Majority Policy Committee). We also wish that Mr. Swann would join Governor Rendell’s call for legislative term limits and the establishment of an independent commission for the purposes of redistricting. (NOTE: We do applaud Mr. Swann’s proposed amendments that are specific policy changes, including limits on state government spending increases and efforts to curtail lawsuit abuse in Pennsylvania,)

How to Conduct a Constitutional Convention:
“I do not support a constitutional convention, but … [w]hatever process is determined to give the people of Pennsylvania the most assurance that the electors are representative of the diversity of Pennsylvania and that they are interested in all the people should be the process that is utilized.”

A Constitutional Convention Organized and Operated by Citizens:
“I would be very hesitant to endorse such a process but am unable to say with certainty until all such details would be outlined….[V]oters need also be assured that those who are making the proposed changes have been duly selected and are representative of different philosophies and have divergent views.”

Issues to Exclude from a Constitutional Convention:
“I would not want our families and businesses to pay more in taxes… Many social issues would likely be proposed and opening the door to them may put Pennsylvania in a position that is in conflict with the Federal Constitution.”


Roadmap to Reform

Court Interpretation of the Constitution:
“Three days should mean three days. I believe in allowing the people time to review each bill and amendment as it works through the process.”

DR Comment: DR agrees with this interpretation of our Constitution’s requirements governing how laws should be enacted.

Court Interpretation of “Unvouchered Expenses”:
“Unvouchered expenses should be held to be illegal and it is my hope that the Court will rule in such a manner in the case pending before them.”

DR Comment: DR agrees with this interpretation and disagrees with Supreme Court decisions that have permitted “unvouchered expenses.”

Appointment of Judges:
“Any judge nominated by me will reflect my views to a certain degree. Nevertheless, the individual will be called to exercise his or her own positions when performing the duties of a judge…. Diversity is an important aspect of the judicial branch and I would seek such when making my nomination.”

Swann agrees to appoint and consult with a Judicial Nominating Commission when appointing judges. “Nominating commissions are helpful to ensure that the individuals under consideration are not just diverse, but also possess the highest level of academic and professional expertise…. I will select nominating commission members that will search the Commonwealth for attorneys that have a solid history of exemplarily [sic] work experience as well as a variety of different life perspectives.”

DR Comment: DR agrees that the process for selecting judges should be based less on political considerations and who knows whom and more on the legal qualifications and experience of nominees. A well-balanced Judicial Nominating Commission can produce nominees of that caliber.
Tim Potts, Co-Founder
Democracy Rising PA
P.O. Box 618,
Carlisle, PA 17013
717-243-8570
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[see # 188: DR Rates Rendell Candidacy for comparison.]

Thanks, Tim, for your usual excellence in bringing the facts and pertinaant issue before the voters. It is a sterling service you perform, and the citizens of the Commonwealth owe you a debt of great gratitude for the work you do.

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