In Pa., business as usual means little getting done
Our esteemed state Legislature can be accused of a lot of things.
Overworked is not one of them.
While the rest of us have put the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer behind us and returned to our hectic schedules full of work, school and the million other things we try to get done every day, our elected representatives are still kicking back.
Actually, most of them are not simply clinging to that lazy aspect, they’re busy doing something else.
Every member of the state House and half the state Senate will be on the November ballot in a few weeks. So they are preoccupied with what many complain seems to be the primary function of someone holding office in the Keystone State. That would be running for re-election.
Maybe that’s why state House Speaker Mike Turzai scrapped what were supposed to be two voting sessions this week.
That would have given them two up on the state Senate, which did not even bother to schedule any work sessions this week.
Nose to the grindstone these folks are not.
The two chambers now will not convene again until Sept. 24. That in effect extends their summer vacation by two weeks. That comes to more than 80 days off for a lot of these folks. Yeah, nice work if you can get it. Unfortunately, most Pennsylvanians don’t get that kind of vacation time, and they are increasingly wondering about the size – and cost – of this bloated government body, one of the largest and most expensive in the country, which many argue was never meant to be a full-time gig in the first place.
Many state representatives and senators no doubt will chafe at such a description, pointing out the job entails a lot more than simply being in Harrisburg.
That may be, but this is a look at some of the things that await them back in the state capital.
That series of bills targeting sexual harassment in the workplace in the wake of the #MeToo movement? A House panel held a hearing last week, but the legislation remains mired in committee, with Democrats complaining that Republican leadership has no plans to move it to the floor for a vote.
Crucial legislation that would get guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic abuse? Well, the measure sponsored by Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, sailed through the Senate on a unanimous vote. But it’s been bottled up by amendments in the House. A gaggle of folks held a press conference last week to push the measure. It’s still awaiting action.
Then there is the fallout from the scathing grand jury report on sexual abuse of children by priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The damning report identified more than 300 priests as culpable in the abuse of more than 1,000 kids over six decades. The grand jury recommended changing state laws when it comes to the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges in abuse cases, and opening a window for past victims to file retroactively.
The Senate has passed a bill to lift the statute and expand the time a victim has to sue – but only for future cases. It’s now in the hands of the House, where state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, is vowing to add an amendment for a twoyear window for past victims to seek civil redress.
House Speaker Mike Turzai is saying the move would be a “compromise” between a two-year window and those who would eliminate all hindrances to past victims filing suit. If the window is added, it will face staunch opposition in the Senate, where President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati has said it would not pass unconstitutional muster. He is in favor of a compensation fund set up by the church and controlled by a third party.
Then there is Pennsylvania’ seemingly endless education funding debate. This year it plays out against the backdrop of a suit headed to court filed by families from William Penn and other struggling districts against the state’s funding formula, claiming it puts their children at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
It’s long past time when Pennsylvania residents demanded more bang for their buck in Harrisburg.
For too long, business as usual has meant little to none of the people’s business getting done.