Reform brews in Pennsylvania

May 26, 2006

There's an old expression in politics that says "To the victor go the spoils." In 1832, when it was first spoken by U.S. Sen. William L. Marcy, it referred to patronage controlled by political victors.

In Pennsylvania, however, it is getting a new meaning, as reformers who claim credit for helping to defeat 15 incumbents in the May 16 primary begin a push for better government.

Their stated goals - more lobbyist disclosure, better access to lawmakers' voting records and allowing more time for public comment on pending bills - are worth fighting for.

The Associated Press reported this week that Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn't have a lobbyist-disclosure law. That's true in part because in 2002, the state Supreme Court struck down such a law because justices said it interfered with the court's role in regulating lawyers' professional conduct.


Another lobby-reform bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate has been stalled in the House for more than a year. It could be ready by June, according to staffers for House Speaker John M. Perzel.

Another proposal would require bills be posted on the Internet for two days prior to a committee vote and three days before a floor vote.

Another suggestion by state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, D-Philadelphia, would require legislators' votes to be posted on the Internet in a day's time.

The voters' ire over midnight passage of a pay raise has lawmakers edgy. If citizens want to use that to push for a more responsive and transparent government, now is the time to act.

Call or write to your legislator now and back these reforms.

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