Thursday, August 17, 2006

Democracy Rising Update

Democracy Rising PA News
August 11, 2006
tim@democracyrisingpa.com
717-243-8570

In this issue:
· Tick, Tick, Tick
· Another Repeal Needed

· Can’t These Guys Think for Themselves?


Tick, Tick, Tick
· Days since the pay raise of 2005: 401
· Days until Election Day: 87
· Roadmap reforms enacted: 0

See the complete Roadmap to Reform and its sponsoring organizations: click on the thumbprint!

Roadmap to Reform

Another Repeal Needed
Last year, PA citizens accomplished the impossible by forcing lawmakers to repeal the pay raise (even though lawmakers kept the unvouchered expenses, pension bumps and COLAs).

Now, with two years of experience under our belts, it’s time to repeal Pennsylvania’s slots law, according to none other than one of its architects, Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Philadelphia. Interviewed on the Marty Griffin Show on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, Fumo said he would support repeal as an alternative to simply making changes to the law.

To be clear, Democracy Rising PA has never taken a position on slots gambling. Our concern is, and always has been, that lawmakers violated the Constitution when they passed the law in the dead of night on the 4th of July weekend in 2004. They gutted a two-page bill and replaced every word with 146 pages of new language. Because there were no public hearings on the final version, ordinary citizens never had the chance to see it until it was too late.

A year later, our Supreme Court OK’d at least three clear violations of the state Constitution in the way the law was passed, and two weeks later the General Assembly used the exact same procedure to pass the pay raise. Voters expressed their dissatisfaction with the Court’s misinterpretation of the Constitution by defeating Justice Russell Nigro for retention on the Court – the first appellate court judge to suffer such a defeat in PA history.

Last month, Casino Free PA,
www.casinofreepa.org, launched a drive to repeal the slots law. Coordinator Diane Berlin said, “We’ve seen the ugly underbelly of the casino beast exposed during the last two years in Pennsylvania. Lobbyists and people with shady backgrounds have run the show, the state Gaming Control Board has shown itself to be unfit for its job, and the promises of so-called tax relief get fainter every day.”

“Now is the time to tell our legislators to repeal the slots [law], before any casino licenses are awarded, and, if they still want to dump slots in PA, do it the right way.”

A repeal bill, House Bill 2298, has 33 co-sponsors [click
here for more info
.]

Among the problems with the gambling law and the Gaming Board so far, according to Casino Free PA, are:

· One Gaming Board employee is accused of killing a Harrisburg woman and two others were arrested for starting fights in Harrisburg bars.
· The Gaming Board has already exceeded its budget and now relies on a $7.3 million transfer of funds from other programs, authorized by Gov. Ed Rendell in a way that some claim violated the Constitution. To do this, the state Revenue Department has proposed “temporary regulations.” Not surprisingly, the slots gambling law makes these regulations “exempt from review under the Regulatory Review Act” (quoting a letter from the Revenue Department) so that citizens are shut out of the process once again.
· Lawmakers are still allowed to own up to 1 percent of a casino operator’s business. However, the Gaming Board refuses to release who owns how big a share of the companies seeking slots licenses, making it impossible for citizens to know how big an interest each lawmaker – or anyone else -- actually has.
· The original law prohibited local communities from having any say in where slots parlors are located. While this provision was overturned by the Supreme Court, some lawmakers have introduced legislation to restore control exclusively to the Gaming Board.

Sign up! Speak up! Show up!
Casino Free PA has launched a petition drive. To get a petition drive kit, go to
CasinoFreePA.

Questions:
· Did your lawmakers vote for the gambling law?
· Will they work to repeal it before licenses are issued?
· If they support slots gambling, will they insist that any new law go through a Constitutional process of public hearings and open debate before enactment?

Can’t These Guys Think for Themselves?
On July 23, the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann issued a news release titled, “Roadmap to Reform.”

Sound familiar? It is. It’s the name that advocates for greater integrity gave to our agenda back on May 25. See “Tick, Tick, Tick” above.

We thought we’d let this little bit of plagiarism slide until Harrisburg reporter Michael Race of the Times-Shamrock News reported this item:

When state Treasurer Bob Casey announced a bus tour in June to promote his candidacy for U.S. Senate, his campaign dubbed it the “New Direction” tour. The goal, according to the campaign, was for Mr. Casey to “travel the state and … share his ideas about steering Pennsylvania and the country in a new direction.”In other words, a different direction than the one charted by incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, the Republican Mr. Casey hopes to unseat.This week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann released a book outlining his plan for Pennsylvania as he works to oust incumbent Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. The book’s title?

A New Direction.”

For the full story, go to The Daily Review article.

Tim Potts, Co-Founder, Democracy Rising PA

Thanks, Tim.

Everyone should know our feelings about the Gambling Bill by now. We urge you all in the stongest terms to contact your State Representative and your State Senator and get them off their butts and on board the Repeal Legislation!

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