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Embracing real reform, perhaps a little too late

June 09, 2006

Pennsylvania may soon lose the unenviable distinction of being the only state without a lobbyist-disclosure bill, thanks to a measure backed by House Speaker John Perzel.

If the bill successfully avoids the problems that killed a similar proposal in 2002, it would be a welcome addition to the Keystone State's body of law.

The Associated Press reported that House Republicans were not eager to revive the issue, but got on board in February, when Perzel, R-Philadelphia, announced he would back it.

Citing concerns from rank-and-file lawmakers and the criticism of newspaper editorial writers, the speaker said he would work to craft a bill that would pass muster with the state Supreme Court.

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Pennsylvania's high court killed another lobbyist-disclosure bill four years ago, ruling that it and not the legislature had the power to regulate lawyers' professional behavior.

To deal with that issue, Perzel formed a special committee to explore ways to pass a bill that the high court would not feel compelled to overturn.

The speaker has also taken the unusual step of announcing that he is not wedded to the wording of the bill he has proposed, if compromises are needed to get the legislation passed.

It would be nice to believe that Perzel is making this statesmanlike proposal solely because he believes reform is needed.

More likely it's because Perzel, who was a leading proponent of the midnight pay raise, needs some credentials as a reformer.

If this is truly a conversion on the speaker's part, we applaud him for seeing that the legislature's job is look out for citizens, not to take advantage of them.

Perzel could take the next step in his conversion experience if he would renounce a deal reported this week by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The paper reported that, in November, Perzel hired a public-relations consultant to bolster his image, at a cost of $5,000 per month.

The money doesn't come out of his pocket, or from Republican Party coffers. It comes from taxpayer dollars.

So yes, let citizens praise Speaker Perzel for his lobbyist-disclosure bill. Then they can tell him that those who do good things don't need taxpayer-funded public-relations people to spread the word to citizens that they're good people.

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