In Pa., busi­ness as usual means lit­tle get­ting done

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION -

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.

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